Talia De’Zahna stood in Defense Central and crossed her arms. A mushroom cloud, already starting to turn red from the firestorms raging outside ground zero, rose into the sky signifying the death of another city.
She closed her eyes, mourning the loss of a million citizens and a quarter million troops, and then let out a long, drawn out sigh. This day had been coming ever since she’d been created twenty-thousand years ago; a slow, inexorable tide that couldn’t be stopped. Now the final battle had begun and she was helpless to stop it.
“I’ve seen enough,”
Mercifully the screen switched back to tactical display, and she shook her head in resignation. At least the politicians listened to reason and carried out Dannae’s plan. There was a planet orbiting the star Sol that they were attempting to evacuate civilians to. With any luck our people will survive.
Things returned to normal and Talia contemplated the situation. How much longer should I hold them to their oaths? If they leave now maybe they could make it to an escape craft.
“Clear the room and try to get to an evacuation craft. May Cheikra look over you.”
She turned to look at her sisters. “Okay, here’s the plan. Dannae, I need you to keep the civilians moving towards the underground hangers. The last thing I want is a panic driven riot.”
She looked at Methos and Crios. “And you two knuckleheads are coming with me.”
“Knuckleheads? Is that anyway to talk to your sisters?” Methos said.
“Well,” Crios said. “At least this time I don’t have to worry about being cloned. Waking up and remembering how you died sucks.”
Talia nodded. “You’ll get no argument from me.”
She walked over to the armory and then keyed in her code. Rows of assault rifles lined the left wall and shelves of ammunition were on the right. Their blue and silver battle armor was laid out on a table at the end of the room.
It was easy to slip into since it was flexible and form fitting. How many battles had it seen over the thousands of years? Talia moved her arms and legs, allowing it to settle and then ran a hand through her chest length silver hair.
She grabbed a weapon and then tossed it to Dannae before giving her eight magazines. “If you have to use lethal force, don’t hesitate.”
The warrior-healer looked pained. “Fire on our own people?”
“If they run riot than no one will survive,” Crios said pointedly.
“That’s right,” Methos added. “We only have a limited number of ships.”
Talia tossed Methos and then Crios a rifle before handing them as many magazines as they could carry. “Our job is to hold the Dragus back as long as we can. No one runs from the lines. I don’t care what you do but they stay.”
“That’s a bit cold, sis,” Methos said.
“Reality of the situation,”
They exited the armory and then walked towards the lift that would take them to the surface. In no way could the Dragus be allowed to find this facility. It must survive for their future generations to find and learn the truth about their heritage.
She stopped short of the lift and then looked at the ceiling. “Tavork,”
“Activate Code Zeta-Nine,” she said. “Your period of shutdown will be five thousand years.”
“You will only reactivate if a Gahl ship is in orbit and our children have reached the surface.”
She pressed the button to summon the lift and was about to enter the car when Tavork spoke again.
“Talia, I want to tell you that I love you,”
She raised both eyebrows and blushed slightly. An AI in love with a person? Who knew? According to the programmers it wasn’t possible, yet Tavork proved them wrong.
“I know, my friend,” She touched the wall and then ran a armored hand down it as if caressing a lover. It’s the closest I can come to touching the soul within the computer. “I know,”
The doors slid shut behind her and the lift whisked them upwards. It stopped and she led them across the atrium towards the closest exit. Despite all their processing power, the Dragus wouldn’t think to look underneath a minor bank’s headquarters. Conventional wisdom said build it under the Congressional building, but she’d refused. It was the first place someone would look.
Not that they’ll search anyway, she thought.
She loaded the rifle. What started out as a beautiful courtyard, now gave way to litter blowing across it. Panicked mobs had crushed the grass and beat down the shrubs and she mourned over what happened to one of her favorite places.
Methos looked up. “Talia, they’re coming,”
A quick glance told her that was the understatement of their lives. The black craft blotted out the very sun, casting vast shadows over the city. Civilians looked upwards and then started to panic.
Talia sighed. “Dannae! Get over there and try to get those people under control!”
“I’m on it,”
She lead them towards a large number of jersey walls arranged in a squared off u-shape. This was where we'll make our last stand. Five blocks behind her was the Capital and the underground hangers were a half mile away on the outskirts of town.
Multiple panicked transmissions clogged the tac net. This isn’t good. I need the system clear to coordinate things and they’re panicking. I don’t understand why, because we all know the battle is lost.
She thumbed her throat mike on. “Everyone shut up! Now! All units, fall back to the Alamo!”
A chorus of acknowledgements filled her ear. Ok, situation under control. Now, were the civilians organized again?
Talia looked over her shoulder and watched the mad dash of people trying to fight their way towards the hangers. Damn it, there just weren’t enough troops left to fully control to situation. Dannae was trying, she’d asked her to do what was an impossible task to begin with; however, if her sister was to die, Talia wanted her doing something that befitted her caring personality.
The sound of gunfire increased as the enemy troops closed in. Well, they weren’t going to get as many women and children out as she wanted, but that wasn’t her fault. If they’d just followed the evacuation plans three days ago then things would’ve been different.
Easy for you to say, Talia. You’ve died before.
Soldiers joined her and her sisters behind the jersey walls. Each looked exhausted and stunned at the course of events. While everyone knew this day was coming, many deluded themselves into thinking it wouldn’t, and she couldn’t blame them because death was something each person handed differently.
A loud pounding sound signaled the first of the invaders coming into view. Mighty six legged tanks, armed with a thirty millimeter cannon and a chain gun, advanced towards her as the biomechanical monstrosity controlling it picked out targets.
Every time she saw a piece of Dragus technology it made her sick. While their controllers were cybernetic, the shock troops were a sick combination of flesh and machine. The Dragus had genetically altered the bodies of captured Gahl, making it nearly impossible to tell where flesh stopped and cybernetics began.
Smoke puffed from the cannon of the first machine and a shell flew overhead before landing amongst the civilians. An explosion shook the ground, bodies shredding under its onslaught, and the screams made her wince. A quick check showed Dannae climbing back to her feet and Talia found herself letting out a sigh of relief.
Good, she’s not dead yet.
A shell landed fifty feet away and the shrapnel ripped through their positions, taking down those who didn’t duck. The wails of the dying soldiers stabbed deep into Talia’s soul as she struggled to push the emotion from her mind.
Talia looked over her shoulder and watched helplessly as a hail of .50mm armor piercing rounds tore through Dannae’s armor. A large explosion of blood burst from her mouth and chest and then she went down. Talia cried out involuntarily as the tears ran freely.
It always was a suicide mission, she thought.
Soldiers started to run and she gritted her teeth. They weren’t going to hold much longer. It would take a spark, something that the shocked men and women could latch onto, that would help lead them through the valley of death and to the other side.
She grabbed a grenade off the belt of a dead soldier and then looked at her sisters. Methos spotted it and then her eyes grew wide.
“What do you think you’re doing??”
Crios stopped firing. “Are you going to do what I think??”
She placed her rifle on the ground and then the magazines too. “Look at them! They need a reason to keep fighting! I’m going to give them one!”
“And you think this is going to help?” Methos shouted.
“Do you two have a better idea?”
Methos chewed on her lip for a second. “No, I don’t.”
She reached over and pulled them tight in a final embrace. “Don’t cry. We’ll see each other in the next life, trust me. Cheikra will let us in.”
“Make it count,” Methos said. “That’s all I ask.”
“Trust me I will.”
She placed a hand on top of the jersey wall and hurdled it before racing towards the invaders. Crios and Methos shouted at the soldiers before the marines started to lay down covering fire. Bullets tore past her, some close enough to rip through her hair, as she leapt at the lead tank.
The impact nearly knocked the wind out of her as the operator started to try and dislodge her. Battle steel felt warm as she pulled herself up. The chain gun fired and her left eardrum ruptured, send pain racing up her spine, and she could feel the blood running down the canal to drip onto her armor.
An armor piercing round ripped through her side, cutting a path deep into her body. Blood exploded outwards, striking her in the face, turning her hair pinky silver. Burning agony started to fill her mind, quickly racing past her ability to cope, and Talia screamed.
Please, Cheikra, make it stop!
Talia felt her strength starting to ebb as she struggled to pop the cap off the grenade. Each second felt like an hour as she pressed the timer and then reached over to drop it into the open operator’s compartment.
Four more rounds hit struck her, shattering muscle and bone, and her hand went dead. The grenade slipped from useless fingers and then rattled around the opening before rolling in. One final round hit her in the back, destroying her ribcage.
The world spun wildly as she rolled down the side of the tank, leaving a red streak behind on the slate gray armor, and then fell. She slammed into the pavement, the impact causing the agony in her body to triple and Talia cried out as blood ran from the corner of her mouth.
Blood started to pool around her and she felt it slipping between her cheek and the asphalt. It felt warm and comforting, almost like an evening cup of tea or the gentle caress of a lover, before it entered her nose. She coughed weakly, spitting up blood, as the lead tank continued to advance.
An explosion rocked the machine and it vanished in a blinding fireball, as red hot battle steel struck more tanks, adding to death’s orchestra.
I got you!
Talia spit up blood again, and a metallic taste filled her mouth as it seeped between her teeth. A weak cough shook her body as blood started to fill her lungs and she began to drown.
A roar drowned out the battle as transport after transport blasted upwards from the underground hangers and the final ground emplacements fired upwards, blasting open an escape path. If things went to plan, then the last of the cruisers would buy the refugees’ time to reach h-space.
She sighed before the shadows reached out and embraced her.
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