The Charge of the Light Brigade

From the Story Arc: Battle Stations!

Previous Story in the Arc: On Home Ground by Mojiotok (Tuesday, April 11, 2006)

(posted Tuesday, April 11, 2006)

Sister Shuma and Shyft scanned the sky for any threats. The rooftop still smoldered under their feet. Off in the distance, new plumes of smoke rose; the tram, Galaxy City, Skyway City, Independence Port... Shuma hated waiting here, doing nothing while her friends and family were out there fighting. They had finished the Council that had been camping out on the roof easily; with their combined gravimetric powers and a couple of Chevys plucked through time and space, she and Shyft had swept most of the Council goons from the roof before the Kitty of Heroes had touched down to make their own mark.

She sighed...then squinted at the skyline. A trio of helicopters was flying straight towards the HQ. After everything that had happened today, this couldn't be any sort of harmless coincidence. They were flying in too organized of a formation; fast and tight, they were skimming over the rooftops by mere feet.

Shyft turned to look as the noise from the chopper rotors grew louder. "Good. We'll be havink company soon."

The door to the roof burst open. A bloodied and disheveled Council trooper, his helmet missing, stumbled out. He pointed his rifle back at the doorway, not even noticing the two heroes just feet behind him. "Hurry up! They're right behind us! The helicopters will be here any--" He didn't have a chance to finish his sentence. Shyft seized him in gravitic chains, dragging him skyward before bringing the bewildered trooper back down onto the roof, hard.

"Shuma, handle the transports. I will take care of these." Shyft moved forward, plucking troopers with her powers as they left the door.

"This is Untermensch. Roof team, be advised. We are driving them towards you."

"Now he tells us! Bah!"

Shuma manipulated the gravity around herself, reducing it severely. The helicopters were almost on top of them. Concentrating, she pulled a forklift into existence through a singularity, and flung it with all of the might of her powers at the lead chopper. The pilot tried to evade the incoming obstacle, but was too slow. The machinery impacted with his rotor blades, shearing them off in an instant before being ripped to shreds and falling to the ground in pieces. The remaining two helicopters spread out, now coming at Shuma from two different angles.

She saw the flashes of a machine gun firing beneath the chins of each transport. Gunships! she cried mentally. She leapt into the air, her small form propelled vertically faster than the Council guns could track her. A Chevy and a cabinet sprang into existence; she hurled both at the choppers, weaving away from their gunfire. Both missed their targets, but served their purpose in giving her a moment for a better, aimed shot. A chunk of a ruined Warcry was readily available, so she didn't bother to conjure anything of her own. She willed the twisted metal body at the right-most helicopter, running to the right as machinegun fire peppered where she had been standing a bare moment ago. The Warcry crashed through the cockpit bubble, disabling the chopper. It immediately began plummeting towards the ground.

Rockets screeched away from the last helicopter; it was too close, and the missles were coming at her too fast. She brought forth a refrigerator, and sending it flying immediately as she landed on the building's roof. The rockets impacted with the refrigerator, completely obliterating it. Shuma was caught in the rush of hot air and shrapnel from the explosion, and shoved onto the roof hard, going out cold.

Up to the second floor....

The staircase, unfortunately, emerged as far from the safe room as was possible in that building. When we rebuild, Moj thought to himself, we make way out of safe room as well as in. All very well to have it, but it wasn't very "safe" if you couldn't extract anyone from it, now, was it?

Meanwhile...this seemed to be the floor where most of the fascists had clustered the thickest. They had fought for every step of the staircase. They had fought twice as hard for the landings. And now, now in the flickering fluorescents, it was clear that every molecule of warn and cracked linoleum was going to be bathed in blood.

From the thumps and vibrations overhead, Untermensch's team wasn't having any easier time of it.

But what did he expect? Given the numbers everywhere in the Zone, the battle for King's Row had been long in the planning and exacting in the execution.

As Moj battered and clawed and tore his way through the opposition, a tiny part of his mind wondered how it had been done. Had advance forces come in over the last several months, in disguise and with concealed weapons, hiding quietly until the day? These were the sorts of questions that a leader had to ask himself to avoid making the same mistakes twice. There would have been signs, surely. There could have been communications intercepted, if they had all been watching. The people of the Row themselves would have noticed strange goings-on, if only they had been told what to look for.

They had all been secure in their comfortable complaisance, sure that nothing could touch them on their own ground.

Suddenly all of Moj's senses alerted, caught by a strange gleam ahead. Odd, dark energies that were not like that of the vampires or the Galaxies.

His blood ran cold.

There were not one, but two Kheldians on his team now; a Warshade and the Peacebringer, John Murdock. The first he did not know well, but the second...

Thoughts flashed through his mind. What he knew, on command comm, that Murdock might not know. Murdock's three children hospitalized. And his wife was with them. She would watch her husband fall. He had liked Murdock before, now...

I cannot face his wife and tell her--I was too slow, like an old man.

Because there was no way that even a Warshade and a Peacebringer combined could take down two Dark Novas was too hard to count all the Voids crowded into the hallway, just beyond the wall of Warcries.

But their Quantum energies will hardly hurt me--

With a roar, he launched himself through the air, somersaulted over the Warcries, and attacked both Dark Novas at once. Catching them by surprise, he shredded each of them easily, their hides giving way under his barbed spikes. Each pinwheeled away from him, tattered and torn, flopping onto the ground before expiring in bursts of light-sapping energy. "Come get your fill, running dogs!" He shouted at the Voids and towering robots, flinging himself at the nearest.

"Moj!" Bella screamed, half in fear and half in frustration. She couldn't do things like that--and he was out of aura range. She couldn't heal him, and she couldn't get to him. "Moj!" Battler clawed his way to her side and tried to force a way through the bots for both of them. The entire team was in the middle of fighting; no one could break-off without getting wasted.

Mojiotok laughed in triumph, and was still laughing when the nearest Warcry seized him in its hydraulic arms, crushed him into its chest, and exploded its nuclear heart.

The flash blinded everyone in the corridor.

Robot and commissar dropped to the floor, melted flesh and melted metal fused into one ghastly, unrecoverable whole.

They were too far away and already engaged when it happened. First, Moj dashing forward, then the Warcry picking him up as if he weighed nothing, and then...

"Moj!" John pushed his way past a pair of Council soldiers, sending them flying with staggering overhead blows. He was flying, speeding past Voids and Warcries. "Goddamnit!" Bursts of Quantum energy sizzled over his head, missing him by bare centimeters. John slammed into two of the Council murderers, skidding to the ground with both of them in his arms. He rose to his knees, screaming---

---and burst in a brilliant white-blue flash of energy, multiplying and expanding his Kheldian essence until it was almost breaking through him. The entire base shook with the force of the explosion. The Voids and robots were scattered in every direction, the two directly beneath him disintegrating. Drained of all energy, he fell forward, gasping raggedly for breath.

Krasnaya flew forward, his tentacles trailing as he blasted the foes that started to rise from the floor. Petrograd froze several in place, melting one Warcry with a concentrated lance of flame without pausing. Chug lifted a different bot above his head, ripping it in two and tossing th halves to his sides.

The brick walls and floor were missing several layers; they had been scoured clean of decades worth of grime by John's attack. "Comrade! Here, I will help you regain your composure." The Warshade, Zvezda, removed a stim injector and plunged it into John's body; it was filled with a liquid form of the "blues", derived from Kora fruit harvested in the Shadow Shard dimension. Before the stim capsule had fully emptied, Krasnaya was struck from behind, his back covered in the black and red energy that was characteristic of a Quantum array rifle. With a wordless cry, he fell to John's side, writhing in pain that few beings could imagine.

The Void that had fired the shot was facedown on the floor, propped up by an arm that was twisted in the wrong direction. He pulled the trigger of his rifle, but was greeted with the dry 'click' that signified an empty energy pack. Fumbling for more ammo, he didn't have a chance. John crawled towards the Void; it was a Hunter, the highest of the Void Mercenaries ranks. He clutched at the man's throat. Every memory of being chased, of fighting Voids and Nictus, of feeling their lives slip away when they would refuse to surrender, preferring to die...everything crowded into John's mind. He charged his limbs, concentrating his essence. He threw the Void against---no, through--- the wall in front of him, and collapsed once again.

Damn it...damnit all. Always, they were taken on his watch. He should have been faster, stronger...done something more...

And then John didn't think, didn't feel. Didn't hurt.

With an inarticulate scream, Belladonna Aura used Chug as a stepping-stone and leapt over the heads of the robots to land beside John and Zvezda. It was too late for Moj--but not--

::Sera!:: she cried wordlessly to her "other half" ::We need you!::

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Sera starting to hurtle through the air just skimming the ceiling. This was going to be close....

She did this so seldom...the power of it usually scared her half to death....

But she gathered everything she had and exploded it all outward.

There was no room in the corridor for the 'bots and Voids to scatter, but they were thrown into each other, packed back like sardines against each other, dead, stunned, blinded…those that had been protected still couldn't move, hemmed in by the flesh and metal of their compatriots.

Sera landed as Bella dropped to the floor, utterly spent. "I bring you Fire and the Sword!" she screamed, and her flames exploded outward in pulses. The first pulse washed over Bella's, John's and the Warshade's heads, a fireball impacting the packed circle of combatants who could no escape it. The second licked out and savagely ripped their very life energies from them. The third was another wash of flame as Sera ripped out her sacred blade and spun with it in a tight circle. Whatever had remained conscious through the first two pulses was out now.

Bella fumbled through her aid kit and got a pure adrenaline hypospray out. She shoved it against John's neck and hit the injector button.

Then with Sera standing guard over both of them, she rolled over on her back and closed her eyes. Sooner or later someone else would get here..., wait....

"Social..." she gasped into her mic. "Two...make that pick up."

"Belladonna Aura, prepare for secure medical transport."

She felt the pull of Thanh ha's transporter, and found herself in the medbay, and stumbled out of the surplus regenerator. She fumbled over to the drug cabinet and hit herself with hyposprays, then did the same thing as John fell out of the unit, then the Warshade. Over to one side, was Agn Stratonik, laid out on one of the beds, battered and totally unconscious. And on another....a massive misshapen lump covered with a sheet. Moj...

She averted her eyes, and spoke into her mic. "Belladonna Aura. Anyone with a port, we need to rejoi--

There was a lurch and a disorienting spin of darkness, and she was back beside a weeping Chug. Althea Nagy was just finishing the mystical pass that summoned John Murdock out of the medbay.

Thanh Ha's voice came from the comm. "Warshade is nyet good for fighting. Is leaving with Thanh ha, ngoi ban."

Up ahead, Sera was still raging her way through the packed Council; Bella could feel that now that John was all right, she felt liberated to give vent to her anger.

Untermensch's urgent voice came in over the comm, his older unit crackling with static. "We have reached the safe room, but there is much resistance. Bear!" There were sounds of many, many rifles firing. "Keep shooting! We have rejoined with Commissar Bestial Boy's team, but are needing assistance."

Bella spoke into her mic. "Waitron. Operation Breakout NOW!" She looked to John. "Murdock, you have command."

Waitron's "team," if such it could be called, had been waiting nervously at the door of the safe room for what felt like days. They had their orders. They knew what they would be doing...such as it was...

Then came the call. "Waitron. Operation Breakout NOW!"

Waitron--the closest thing they had to a heavy fighter--slapped the actuator for the door and dove for it. Propaganda Machine--the second closest thing they had to a heavy fighter...well, he was heavy, at any rate...was right beside her. Professor Tempest had already summoned his spirits; they passed through the still-opening door as if it was not there. Behind Waitron and Machine, the ones with ranged powers. Callignous Storm and Shen Fai-Long readying their electrical and energy powers, Domovoy calling up his magics of healing.

And in front of them all, little Drakenaur, so full of anger his fires were white.

They exploded into the unwary Council just outside the door, screaming mostly-unintelligible battle cries at the tops of whatever they had that passed for lungs.

This was not what was supposed to happen. He had been planning this attack for months; gathering the resources, shuffling the troops around, making sure that everything was in place. They knew, knew that it would work...but it hadn't.

Archon Kreinholz was pinned down with his men outside of the CCCP's communications room, their backs to the blast doors. He was inches away from what he had come to destroy, to strike the cruelest blow to Red Saviour, and he couldn't even manage to breach the door. The highways into the zone had been retaken, and the tram was poised to fall at any moment. The retrieval helicopters had been destroyed; all of his forces, save for those he had with him personally, were either dead, fleeing, or arrested. A bullet spacked against the wall next to his head, forcing him to drop down into a crouch behind a Mech man.

"Shoot them, damnit! I will not be going to the Zig today for your incompetence!" He unholstered his own sidearm, firing several shots past his unwilling cover.

The door did not burst open. It was blown out of the wall, and a large part of the wall with it. The corridor beyond was packed with CCCP...and one lone outsider. Some of the faces he knew intimately from his studies of so many dossiers.

Four of the pack stepped forward, through the gap in the wall. He knew them. Oh, how well he knew them....

Or...he had thought that he knew them.

Bestial Boy...not so soft after all. Untermensch...staring at him with a cold control he had not dreamed the man possessed. Communard, shirtless and looking not like a crazy old man, but like an angry god. Belladonna Aura...glowing with energy, eyes afire with cold fury.

It was the last one that spoke, and somehow, he understood that she spoke with the voice of all of them.

" are under arrest. Resistance is...not advised."

"Fire!" He shouted, discharging his pistol. The four Commissars charged forward...and hell followed behind them. Dozens of heroes, most of them CCCP, poured into the room.

And then the bottom of his world dropped out. The door behind him, the one he had been trying to open for the last few hours, slid aside with a screech.

Caught in a devastation sandwich, he went down in seconds, and was unconscious before he hit the floor.

Archon Kreinholz woke up again. He was in a regenator unit but....

It was not Council. It was not even in the Zig. So...where was it? The lighting was dark, ominous, tinged with a red like dried blood.

He stepped out of the unit. A...thing...with tusks and fangs and protrusions sticking out all over it stepped out of the next. It looked him up and down, and laughed.

He scowled and reached for a gun, only to find an empty holster. "Where am I?" he barked.

The beast smirked. "Welcome to the Rogue Isles. We don't like Council here. I suggest you start running."

The next few minutes of the Archon's life were very painful, and almost mercifully short.

Bella stepped out into the smog-and-smoke-tinged air of King's Row. Today...she wished the smoke was pollution and not smelling of death and cordite.

"This is Belladonna Aura," she said tiredly, groping for Zach's hand and finding it. "The CCCP HQ is secure. I have one more no-revival casualty to report. Commissar Mojiotok will not be catching his plane back to Moscow."

"This is Kid Crisis. Tram is secure." KC sounded as if he was....going to plant himself at any moment.

She keyed the comm to open broadcast. "This is Commissar Belladonna Aura of the CCCP, speaking for all Commissars. King's Row is secure. Repeat. King's Row is secure. You may stand down."

Then she turned off the comm, gathered Zach into her embrace, and let him weep silently on her shoulder into exhaustion.

In a dimly lit bunker in Striga, Archon Meinhoff was raging. He pound his desk, sweeping the contents to the floor. Not satisfied with this, he expressed his displeasure by shooting the two soldiers he had guarding the door.

He turned on the figure silhouetted in the corner.

"You gave us the codes, their strategies, EVERYTHING! And still we are decimated! In-depth knowledge, how they would react....!"

He screamed as he shot another Galaxy trooper.

"How did we fail? HOW?"

Stepping into the light, the figure shrugged. He adjusted his duster, and drew a heavy pull on his cigar.

"Dunno," Rancor muttered. "Next time, try using more tanks or sumpthin'."