1. The Battle at Marathon
Ganymede: 10 A.L. (After Lhasa)
The current situation the members of the Elite Strike Team found themselves in was dire. They were pinned down in the trenches by the Arez hordes on the surface of the moon of Ganymede, which orbited the planetoid of Jophiel. Ganymede was the largest moon in the solar system. It had very light vegetation but was rife with natural resources. Particularly the ganizium ore, which could be refined into strong metals. It was a moon of blue rock and purple oceans. There was no animal life to speak of. If not for the battle being waged between the Terrans and the Arez, it would be a quiet, peaceful world.
Edith Deadeye Fafnir examined the nervous smile on Captain Jacob Takeda’s face. It was the expression he got whenever his plans had a narrow chance of success. Edith was a short woman with olive skin and jet-black hair. Beneath her bucket helmet, Edith was wearing her lucky red cloche hat. She had been disciplined for wearing this non-regulation article on several occasions, but Edith wasn’t one to follow orders she didn’t deem important. In fact, she could be disruptive at times. But given her level of skill, she was granted leeway by command. They were willing to tolerate her insubordination in exchange for her talent with a sniper rifle.
The strike team was tasked with leading the local forces to repel the Arez assault on Marathon Base. Like always, the Arez hordes were protected by an energy barrier. Within the barrier, the Arez could fire out but incoming munitions were deflected away. They needed to get the horde’s energy shield down so their air support could bombard the enemy.
“Well, we all have to die sometime.” Edith joked. “Right?” The rest of the team looked back at her with annoyed expressions. “You guys are no fun.”
Sam Gunner Hawkins furled her brow and responded, “I swear to Valhalla Edith, one more stupid joke out of you and I will shoot you myself.” Sam was a statuesque woman with short blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. She was as fierce as she was beautiful.
Edith motioned her mouth for a sassy retort and Gunner stared her down. She shook her head, then redirected her attention back down the scope of her sniper rifle.
The Lhasan Titan (David Assad) was crouched down next to the captain, to their left. “So, what’s the plan Buttons? I know you have something in mind. You’re making that stupid face.”
“Yeah, but it’s a long shot.”” Jake responded, as he poked the bridge of his nose. He was a man of average height and lean muscle. He had his father’s eyes and strong jawline. He had his mother’s brown skin and coarse hair which he always kept neatly trimmed.
“When do we ever take short shots?”
“We’re going to use the pitch maneuver.” Jake grinned nervously.
The entire team groaned in response. Sam spoke up, “Really? That’s the best you have? We can’t rely on luck right now.”
“It’s not luck,” Jake shot back.
David jumped in, “The pitch maneuver is at least 50% luck Cap.”
“Does anyone else have a plan?!” Jake yelled. “I’m the one who’s going to be the most exposed during this move, so I’m open to suggestions people.”
The team fell silent.
“I think it’s a great plan Cap,” Edith said. “But also, I’m pretty okay with you taking one for humanity.” She grinned. Sam punched her in the arm. “Ouch!”
“Fine… It’s decided.” Jake took in a breath then tapped his communicator. “Agi? Agatha, can you read me?”
In the space above Ganymede, Agatha Park was flying at top speed in her starfighter. Beneath her flight suit, both of her arms and the majority of her back, were heavily tattooed. All of her tattoos were of classic starships. She lived to fly and to dogfight. Agatha was most at home inside of a cockpit.
She slapped a switch on her console to open a line. “I’m a little busy at the moment Cap.” There was a battle taking place in the stars. “Is it dire?” Agatha had an Arez interceptor hot on her tail. Whoever was flying it was skilled. It normally wasn’t this hard for her to shake an enemy pilot.
“Yeah. Urgent.” Jake said into his communicator.
“Okay, just a sec.” Agatha took on a collision course towards another Arez ship. As the ship opened fire at her, she corkscrewed her fighter. The laser blasts narrowly missed her craft but impacted the ship on her six. She squeezed the trigger on her flight stick and fired off a missile. It impacted the enemy ship ahead of her. The ship exploded into a fireball as Agatha passed through it. Both enemy fighters were destroyed. “Alright Cap. What do you need?”
A laser bolt narrowly missed Jake’s shoulder as he spoke, “I need you to come in low and draw the enemy’s fire.”
“You’re not doing a pitch, are you? You barely survived the last one.”
Jake looked to his teammates, “Not a word out of you guys.” He tapped his communicator again, “Just come in low Dizzy.”
“Aye, aye Captain.” Agatha barrel rolled, as she dived her fighter down into the atmosphere. “E.T.A. five minutes.”
Jake addressed his team on the ground. “You guys got that?”
“Yes sir,” They all responded unenthusiastically.
Jake turned his attention to the legion of soldiers in the trenches, behind his team. “Lock and load people! On my mark, open fire and don’t stop until that shield comes down!”
“Yes sir,” The legion of soldiers responded.
The strike team assumed their special formation for the pitch maneuver. Edith leaned her back against a large rock, with her leg slightly bent to support the barrel of her sniper rifle. She slid her skull embroidered, black eye patch from her left eye over to her right. Her left eye was a glowing blue cybernetic prosthesis that augmented her vision and provided trajectory data. She exhaled and waited.
Sam Hawkins slapped a button on her hip. She was wearing a metallic device, similar to a weightlifter’s brace, around her waist and over her trench coat. A small robotic arm on this piece of gear lifted a large mini-gun attached to it. She wrapped her hand around the grip and tapped her finger against the trigger guard.
David punched his large metal fists together. His consciousness was currently housed in an upgraded Stauffenberg IV loadout frame. This advanced robotic body was equipped with enough fire power to take down a platoon. “Well. I guess we’re going through with this. You ready, Buttons?”
“As ready as I’m going to be,” Captain Takeda removed his trench coat, revealing his Versatile Layer, as he drew his pulse-blade. The Versatile Layer was an advanced exo-suit that augmented his speed, strength, and agility. It put him on par with Arez warriors who were physically superior to humans in every way. He pulled out his laser pistol and spun it around his index finger before jamming it back down, into its holster.
Agatha spoke to him over his com, “30 seconds out Captain.”
“Copy.” He responded. He bounced on his toes, then looked to David and nodded. David took a knee and placed his large, metallic hand onto the ground, palm up. Jake stepped his right boot onto David’s hand, and placed his right hand onto David’s huge shoulder. Jake tightened his grip, on the hilt of his pulse-blade, with his gloved robotic left hand and a button was pressed. A soft blue glow emanated from the sword; in this state, it could cut through just about anything.
At that moment, Agatha Park swooped in in her fighter, bringing a powerful gust of wind with her. If she had come in any lower, she would have scraped the tops of their helmets. Edith held onto her bucket helmet to keep it from flying off of her head. The Arez warriors, beneath the energy shield, directed their laser fire up towards Agatha’s ship, as she sprayed munitions down upon the shield. Jake pointed his glowing sword towards the enemy line, commanding his troops to open fire. The battlefield erupted into a state of organized chaos.
Agatha pulled back on her flight stick and directed her ship up, towards the atmosphere. As she ascended, she noticed a massive Arez battleship that she couldn’t identify before during the chaotic dogfights in outer space, “No way? That’s…”
“BATTER UP!!!” David yelled, as he hurled Captain Takeda into the sky. Takeda flattened his arms to his sides, to make himself more aerodynamic, as he sailed upwards. His goal was to land within the Arez energy barrier and take out the shield generator up close. David’s com beeped. “Hola?” He answered in a cartoonish high-pitched voice.
“Dave! You have to abort the pitch!” Agatha said in a panicked tone on the other end.
“It’s a little late for that Dizzy.”
“War Chief Daacad’s dreadnaught is in orbit. If she’s here then…”
“Then Golden Archer is here.” David completed her sentence.
Above the battlefield, Jake had a clear view of the shield generator. The grand distraction had worked. None of the enemy combatants had noticed his approach. Which is what he thought until he saw a flickering yellow light near the generator. A red woman warrior, clad in golden colored armor, stood there with her large bow drawn. This was Golden Archer, daughter of the Crimson Death. Her arrow of light was pointed directly at Jake. “This day. In the name of my father. I end you Ta-keh-dah.” She let her arrow loose.
Jake soared through the air helpless, to change his course to avoid the shot. Time seemed to freeze around him. He committed himself to a course of action and this was the result. This was it. This was how his life would end. He thought of Adeola. It would have been nice to see her again. The arrow was upon him. It was almost beautiful in a way. A brilliant shard of light.
A projectile struck the thin armor plating on his shoulder. It spun him away from the arrow, causing it to narrowly miss its target. He fell from the sky and then, rolled across the ground. The arrow of light impacted upon a cliffside and exploded in a vibrant rainbow of color. Burning rocks rained down upon the battlefield.
Edith watched the scene play out through the lens of her sniper rifle. It was her shot that saved the captain’s life. She flipped a switch on the stock of her rifle to switch it back into particle beam projectile mode. Energy based weapons were the only thing that could get through an Arez barrier. She then struck down several enemy troops in succession, who attempted to rush the captain’s downed position. She called out to her teammates, “Are you guys just gonna twiddle your thumbs or are you gonna pull the captain out of there?”
“We’re working on it,” David called back.
Sam stepped from out of cover and began spraying her mini-gun across the battlefield, “David Go! We’ll keep you covered!”
David leapt from the trenches. His hulking frame soared 10 meters forward as he fired his arm canons at the approaching Arez hordes. Two more leaps were required for him to make it to Jake, who was lying unconscious near the center of the battlefield. “Sleeping on the Job Buttons? That’s unlike you.” He landed next to Jake, then scooped him up from the ground and held him under his left arm. An arrow, composed of light, struck David’s right shoulder. It exploded, ripping off layers of David’s armored plating. He fell to one knee, “Damnit!!! Keep Golden Archer offa me!”
“I’m on it,” Edith replied over their shared com frequency. She searched for Golden Archer’s position and finally spotted her. “There,” Edith fired a particle beam through the Arez barrier at her target.
Golden Archer noticed the flash of blue light as Edith opened fire, but it was already too late for her to react. Oddly enough, she didn’t flinch. She grinned. The particle beam was deflected upwards before it reached her.
“What the fudge?” Edith said in disbelief. She scanned Golden Archer’s immediate surroundings. “Don’t tell me.” She saw another Arez woman with bushy, dark blue hair wearing a blue cloak. There was a glowing sphere floating above the woman’s open palm. The device was reminiscent of a fortune teller’s crystal ball. “Dave move your ass! Phantom Shield is here too! She’s protecting Golden Archer! There’s no way I can shoot through a barrier and a focused energy shield! You’re sitting ducks out there!”
David dashed back towards the trenches, “I’m running as fast as I can.”
Sam Hawkins looked through her binoculars at Golden Archer and Phantom Shield, “What the void? We have two of the Daughters of Death in play right now? There’s no way we’re this unlucky.”
Edith could see Golden Archer, taking aim at David and Jake, through the scope of her rifle. “Damnit.” She was powerless to stop Golden Archer from attacking them but she continued firing her rifle anyway. Golden Archer had David and Jake dead in her sights. Her next shot would be devastating. Just then, Agatha Park swooped down in her fighter. She fired upon the Arez barrier. As Golden Archer released her arrow, it was caught in the barrage and detonated just outside of the barrier. The resulting explosion shorted out the
Arez energy barrier, leaving their forces exposed.
“What the void was that?” Edith shouted.
“I called Agatha in for an air-strike as soon as the captain went down!” Sam yelled over the loud, chaotic noise of the battle, “Keep them covered Edi!”
“Aye!” Edith fired shot after shot into the hordes of Arez soldiers.
“Bliksem.” Golden Archer growled under her breath. With the barrier down, her soldiers were too exposed. She was so close to her prey but her warriors were of more importance. She called out to her troops, “Fall back!” She watched as the Lhasan Titan escaped the battlefield with the captain. “Next time, you will not be so lucky Ta-keh-dah.” She whispered. The Arez hordes retreated from the field of battle.
In the trenches, Captain Jacob Takeda finally came to. He leaped to his feet then fell to one knee, holding onto his shoulder. “Golden Archer is here!!! Hold the… What? How did I get…”
“The battle’s over Jake. We won.” Sam said.
“You did good Cap,” David said, as he patted Jake on the back. “You beat the Reds in your sleep.”
“Very funny,” Jake stood to his feet. “Alright. We have to prepare for the next enemy advance. Dave…”
“Not so fast Captain,” Sam said. “You’re going up to the Sword of Justice to get looked at. Edith and Dave are going with.”
“I’m needed here.”
“No. You’re not needed here right now. You’re more useful to the war effort at 100 percent. Plus, Dave needs repairs.” Sam touched Jake’s arm and he winced in pain. “I’ll handle things down here until you get back.”
Jake didn’t want to leave but he knew she was right. He also knew that Sam wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Fine.”
“Alright.” Sam said, as a transport ship descended down from the heavens to take the rest of the team up to the Sword of Justice. “Get your asses out of here.”
Jake shook his head, “roger that.” He walked up the ramp onto the transport, with Dave and Edith in tow. He looked back at Sam as the port closed behind him.
Sam watched as the ship lifted off, then flew away towards the stars in the sky. She looked to the legion of troops catching their breath all around her. The battle was hard fought but far from over.