Bitter yet so lovingly sweet
Unlike these tears of solitude
Anyhow, time for some Dawnbringer action!
Editors: MadTix, Foodpenguin
“...They actually fired on the city?!”
I couldn’t believe my eyes. They actually attacked! The ships in orbit fired on the planet! There are millions of hostages here, and they still fired at us!
The cannon fire flew straight from space and landed somewhere in the city. Its power was likely reduced beforehand, but it was still a shot from a destroyer. They had plasma cannons that could charge up to fifty gigawatts of power. At full power, a single shot was far more powerful than Little Boy, a nuclear bomb that was dropped upon Hiroshima sometime in history. They had not charged the cannon to that degree, but I still felt a powerful quake sweep over the city.
“B-but there are innocent civilians here!”
Another light flashed in the sky as if to answer my shout, and another plasma shot landed elsewhere in the city. A giant explosion raged in the distance, and its shockwave triggered the automatic shielding to lower in front of the hotel’s windows. They kept the windows from shattering apart.
I immediately switched on the television to look through the camera on the outer hotel walls. Assault dropships were slowly descending from space. They had just begun entering the atmosphere, supported by covering fire from the destroyers.
“They’ve gone insane! Do they even care about the non-combatants here?!”
“They might be thinking that they’re being careful enough.” Ensign Meihowa answered my question. She seemed just as distressed by these insane acts of terror, however.
Our sense of duty as soldiers was crumbling down. There are countless innocent civilians here, and they’re doing an assault drop into the heart of the city! And it’s a full frontal assault! Have they thought about how many casualties they’d end up with?!
The assault ships continued dropping down. The ships with platoons ejected various equipment and began retaliating against the ground defense on their own. Plasma cannons wildly fired, hitting the defending Alter-Armours and parts of the city.
Those cannons were nothing like the main guns on a destroyer, but they still weren’t something that minor-class Alter-Armours could withstand-- and, just like that, any missed shots had a huge risk of civilian casualties.
One of the Alter-Armours nearby dodged an attack, and the plasma landed on a distant part of the hotel. The plasma burned through the wall and left a huge hole, filled with a cloud of superheated concrete, metal, and asphalt. Any people on the other side of that wall likely suffered the same fate.
“This is just crazy!”
The anti-air guns in the distance swiveled in the rain of assault ships and their drop pods, blowing their parts that crashed into the hotel and other buildings nearby to create a thick cloud of dust. This operation… had absolutely no consideration of civilian casualties. They were only interested in finishing quickly.
Only the insane could think of such a plan. I couldn’t sit there and watch it happen! I dressed up and prepared myself to head outside.
“Lezirth! What are you doing?!”
“Everyone, get to an underground shelter! It’s too dangerous to stay in the hotel!”
“Ensign Meihowa! Pull the fire alarm! We need to bring all the civilians here to a shelter!”
Ensign Meihowa nodded. “Okay-- I mean, roger!”
Determination flared from her blue eyes. The vacation was over. The playful half-Elcro girl was no more, and she was once again an Ensign of the Federation. Though without any weapons, she armed herself with an armour of will and a sword of determination.
“Alright. We’ll need something to start taking control, right?” I kicked a window out. The glass shattered along with the protective shielding in front of it. It might as well have been a sheet of paper against a dropship’s plasma cannon, anyway.
I jumped out of the building. Leaping from at least twenty-five floors above the ground floor, I turned around to slide down against the building’s exterior and reached the first floor lobby.
There, a Tri-Walker was firing upon the panicking civilians who were escaping the hotel en masse. Its three legs, standing over a meter and twenty centimeters, steadied its Colion rifle like a camera tripod and fired on the move. As a mindless drone, it was programmed to prevent anyone from leaving the hotel, and so it was mercilessly shooting at the civilians who fled the building before it collapsed under fire from the invasion.
One of the Tri-Walkers found and confronted me. [Please return to the building. If you attempt to exit the building, we will attempt aggressive persuasion.]
Damn it! I swung my fist in response.
The Tri-Walker was crushed into a metal scrap without contacting with my fist. I used my telekinetic powers, of course.
“That’s right!” I grabbed the scrapped ex-Tri-Walker and threw it at the other walker. They collided and were both reduced to an ugly mess.
At the other side, guarding the entrance to the casino, another Tri-Walker began firing its Colion rifle. I quickly turned around and projected a field of vector reversal.
The barrier could change the vectors of oncoming objects to deflect projectiles, but it required a lot of focus to be able to handle more than one projectile. Trying to use it against an enemy that was out of my sight was a little… risky.
The Colion round smashed against the barrier and changed its trajectory back at the Tri-Walker. Its legs snapped off and the main body crumbled with it. As if it were undergoing rigor mortis, it fired its rifle wildly into the air before dying down completely.
I turned my attention to the scared civilians nearby and the victims of the Tri-Walkers.
The local navy initiated a fight despite the hostages. And the rebels killed off even more hostages in order to secure their control. They were having their own war above this planet’s skies, in place of the Federation and the Alliance.
...Why did the local government’s military attack the civilians?
A little thought produced an answer. The Federation certainly wanted this situation to be over as quickly as possible. The local military was capable of doing just that, and the Federation would owe them a favour. Looking at the sequence of events that led to the moment, there was definitely a secret deal between the Federation and this planet’s government. They were probably promised some financial and political support.
Unlike the Federation-owned planets, the autonomous planets had their own economy and social structure, so they had to be mindful of the Federation government. Unsurprisingly, the winners in politics tended to be the ones with some backing from the Federation. And those people were the type to be unmindful of some civilian casualties if they could continue receiving their backing.
What a bunch of dirty pigs. There are innocent people dying here, all in the name of securing a political standing.
In retrospect, I should have realized this a lot sooner. How could I have been so slow to know that they were going to start firing on the city? Maybe I was subconsciously wishing that the Federation had not reached such a level of corruption. But now, they had fully wronged me.
Then, what about the Alliance? Could I trust the Alliance?
Were they serious about leading an alliance of diverse races? Could it be more than mere propaganda? My instincts were screaming at me otherwise. ‘Don’t trust them, they are all liars’.
After their major victory in the Oden system, they were able to strike a peace treaty with the Federation in their favour. As long as they had the Hyper-Kishin Duskbringer and Tetragrammaton, they were too dangerous to provoke. The Federation Fleet was not in any condition to consider resistance, so they had to accept any unfavourable terms. This was how the universe saw its peace from the war.
Yet, they clearly did not want peace. What they really wanted was the total destruction of the Federation and the full inheritance of their power.
They demanded the autonomous planets to betray the Federation and join their ranks. If they were bringing peace to the world in exchange for the death of their major political enemy, then they could not be trusted to be bringing peace for the sake of humanity and love.
I could feel their hatred towards the Federation.
“Is it really a war between villains? Ugh, I’m tired of it already.”
I scrounged around the fresh scraps of metal for a Colion rifle. The gun was originally designed for infantry, so a little hacking could get the rifle functional for personal use. I tore apart the rifle’s control panel and ripped out the Hyperspace-net communicator, leaving the gun at a factory state where pulling the trigger fired the gun directly. Anyone could use the gun now.
With the gun in my arms, I hopped up a pillar and jumped on the hotel’s walls. As I ran up the building, the rebel Alter-Armours were exploding into fragments around me from the invading ships. Far away in the distance, the government building and the parliament were turned into rubble from the cannons of the ships above. It did not look like there were many surviving rebels.
Was it the end of this skirmish?
Of course, this fight had basically gone off like a hostage situation where neither party actually cares about the hostage. If you just shoot everything that gets in the way, it was surely going to end quickly. It was horrible murder, yes, but I had to admit that it was an efficient solution.
But the fight couldn’t have been over just like that. The rebels had to have expected this.
As if to answer my questions.... something dropped down from space and pierced through one of the landing ships. The ship split cleanly into two halves, and a bluish, metallic board spun through it.
The flash happened first, and then came the deafening blast of sound. I couldn’t help but panic whenever I saw an explosion-- worrying about how much damage it would do this time, maybe.
I jumped through a broken window and returned to my room. Meihowa and Aroha hid behind a pillar to avoid the storm of shrapnel that blew inside.
“Meihowa! Aroha! Take this!”
I threw the rifle at them. Sergeant Aroha grumbled loudly as she checked the remaining ammunition. “Agh, I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. It’s all downhill from here, right? What’s gonna happen now?”
Then, another ship exploded in the sky. After that, a cruiser slowly descended from the sky-- closer look revealed that an Alter-Armour was carrying the entire cruiser. The Alter-Armour was projecting a dark force field that engulfed the cruiser!
That size was definitely a Kishin!
It wasn’t like any Kishin I had seen before, however. It was covered in metal shells, yet retaining its figure and standing at… thirty-eight meters tall? Its reflective, red shell was reinforced by black plating. Its body was slender and thin overall, making it look swift by design.
Around its hips, it wore a skirt made of metallic boards, accentuating its womanly proportions. But that skirt wasn’t just decoration-- it was the object that previously split one of the ships in half. It seemed to be a remote-controlled BIT weapon that could individually send and control each piece, and since it was a Kishin weapon, I had to watch out for special powers that may have been hiding within them.
--Discordant Thundergod, Saika has arrived!
As the will of the Kishin made its presence known, it threw the cruiser down. An eight hundred meter long cruiser was flung at the city without any of it being scraped off by the atmosphere!
Or so I thought-- the cruiser was maintaining its height within the atmosphere. Not only that, the cruiser and the Kishin was working together. It fired its cannons and destroyed the surrounding landing ships, and more frigate halves fell from the sky.
The cruiser was taken over!
“Of course. I was wondering what got them so confident-- this whole rebellion was done with the help of the Alliance.” I sighed.
“A Kishin? Again?!”
“The Alliance probably didn’t have any Hyperspace-warping ships to spare.”
Right, what to do now? The situation had been turned upside down. At first, I thought I would punish the local military for their complete disregard for human life and save the innocents. Then, some other guys showed up and killed off everyone who I wanted to punish. And they weren’t any nicer, either. Really, what was I supposed to do? I may have risen to the rank of Vice Admiral at one point, but when situations change this rapidly, I couldn’t get used to it myself.
Then, Admiral Luise rose from her seat, yawning loudly.
She rubbed her sleepy eyes. “I’ll try to take over the Alliance’s network.”
Ensign Meihowa, Sergeant Aroha, and I stared at her, jaws dropped, while Admiral Luise simply smiled back at us.
What was she thinking?!
* * *
The Kishin of the Alliance, Discordant Thundergod Saika had made its appearance. With it came its supporting troops that quickly captured the cruiser. The local military continued their resistance, only to be destroyed by the overtaken cruiser.
From these events, we came to a conclusion: the Alliance had their own autonomous military AI, and its system was comparable to, or able to outright steal the Federation’s systems. If that wasn’t the case, even if they were able to kill every single personnel within the cruiser, they couldn’t possibly have taken over the ship that easily.
Without the authorization from the military AI, it was impossible to make any militaristic action through the system. The AI controlled every aspect of the Federation’s military, down to the individual infantry-issued rifle. Perhaps in old films you might have seen a boarding crew taking over a ship through force, but such a strategy was no longer possible.
And yet the Alliance managed to do it.
I should have known, however-- the whole reason the Replicant rebellion remained strong was because they managed to overcome the problem with the military AI. And, of course, the rebellion at this moment couldn’t have succeeded without the Alliance’s support with its own military AI.
And now, Admiral Luise wanted to control it as her own.
If anyone else were to suggest it, I would have dismissed it as someone rambling in their sleep. However, she already held the record of gaining the highest level access into the Federation’s systems. Since she could hack into the Federation systems, she should have no problem with the Alliance’s.
“So, what should I do?”
“Hm. First, we’ll need to acquire some communication equipment that is networked with the Alliance’s system. Oh, nothing simple like the Colion rifle. I doubt there is any information to be had from a soldier-level access. And it would be helpful for my hacking attempt if we had something owned by the rebellion’s leader, yes? Or maybe we can get an Alter-Armour?”
Sergeant Aroha waved her hand in disapproval. “Wait, but we only have three Colion rifles! Are we going on a suicide mission?”
But Ensign Meihowa, who had been on board Dawnbringer Minion with me, shook her head. “It’s possible if it’s Lezirth.”
“Wha-? It’s possible?”
Then, Admiral Luise arose from her seat. She looked back at the massage chair with a slight look of longing, and then turned away. “Lezirth, could you bring me to one of the enemy Alter-Armours? I feel more comfortable stealing one myself.”
“No need. Let’s call an Alter-Armour to us.” I shrugged and aimed a Colion rifle out of a nearby window. The rifle fired a blinding blast of plasma as I held down the trigger.
When Sergeant Aroha noticed what I had done, she began panicking. “What are you doing?! They’re going to come for us now!”
“That’s what I’m doing!”
About the same time that I replied, a clanking sound echoed from a ventilation shaft. Tsk. I wanted to call an Alter-Armour over, but it seemed that I ended up with a Tri-Walker after us instead.
I waited for the right moment, and leapt as the Tri-Walker broke the vent in the ceiling and dropped down from above. I gave it an uppercut.
The Tri-Walker split cleanly into two metallic halves. I salvaged another Colion rifle from the broken wreck. I took the Colion nanomachine rounds since I had no time to waste on hacking it.
Then I saw an Alter-Armour fly to my direction from outside.
“Alright, then!” Admiral Luise clasped her hands behind her head. And as she combed her hair up with her palms...
Her hazel-blonde, tomboyish hair suddenly extended to great lengths. Various transparent, almost colourless lines peered out from her hair. One of these lines, brightly shining as it reflected the sunlight, shot towards the approaching Alter-Armour.
[Wh-- What?! Why are these sensors going wild?!] The pilot within the Alter-Armour screamed as his vehicle slammed straight into the hotel’s outer walls.
Admiral Luise and I had enough psycho-telepathic powers to shut down any low-ranking Alter-Armours through direct contact alone. Our brains had sensory capabilities that far transcended a normal human-- in comparison, the Alter-Armour was too weak to withstand the sensory overload caused by a connection to our nerves. Normally, the sensory connection was only possible from the pilot’s seat, but Admiral Luise forcibly broke within to knock its systems out.
“What in the world?!”
Aroha and Meihowa were quite surprised by Admiral Luise’s new looks, and even more at the fact that she took out an Alter-Armour with no other means than direct contact. But we still had the pilot within to take care of.
I picked up an emergency fire extinguisher from the room and threw it towards the Alter-Armour’s cockpit. With phase-shifting applied, it flew straight through its outer armour. When it broke halfway through the armour, I reversed its phase. Then, the pilot screamed from within the cockpit as the fire extinguisher popped inside. I approached the Alter-Armour and pulled the pilot out, who was struggling to escape.
“First off-- this rebel Alter-Armour should be… connected to the Alliance’s systems, yes? It should have a networked computer, somewhere. Check the pilot’s rank for me.”
Ensign Meihowa looked at the rebel’s rank insignia. “Oh my, a master sergeant!” She rummaged through his pockets and produced a pistol and a radio, which she handed over to Sergeant Aroha. Sergeant Aroha, meanwhile, used cable ties to restrain his arms behind his back.
The master sergeant tried to spout what probably was a flurry of angry words, but ended up throwing up foam from the fire extinguisher, and…
Sergeant Aroha punched him square on his head, knocking him out.
....Why not at least let him talk? And how did a lady knock out a well-built military man out in one punch? It wasn’t even on his chin or temple, but right on his cheeks!
“Come on. What else would he say in this situation other than insults? What, did you want to hear him bark?”
Bark, huh. Well, I did want to hear him talk. One of my favourite things is hearing useless complaints of P.O.W’s, and… er, I mean, only in war movies, because I’ve only been in major wars with aliens and the Letix, not other humans.
I shook my head and watched Admiral Luise hack through the Alliance’s systems.
“He should have all the basic user rights as a master sergeant, so where should I begin? I need to see what kind of defenses the Alliance has…” Admiral Luise brushed her hair aside and connected directly to the computers.
Soon, she had a master sergeant’s access into the Alliance’s Hyperspace telecommunications network. She fiddled with the computers eagerly to try and gain a higher-level access. But soon, the Alter-Armour’s alarms began screaming.
[Self-destruct sequence initiated. Would you like to continue? If you wish to detonate within the atmosphere, please press the enter key.]
“Wh-what is that?!”
Everyone began panicking and backed off.
Admiral Luise quietly sighed, and nimbly moved her fingers around. “A systems administrator from the Alliance must have found out what I was doing. I thought I had already shut down the automated system.”
And when Admiral Luise pressed the enter key, the Alter-Armour flashed brightly in a violent, nuclear reaction…
....In my mind, that is, and the Alter-Armour merely restarted its systems instead.
“It’s under the Alliance’s radar, now. It looks like I lost the master sergeant access, though. Hmm? Is this counter-hacking?” Admiral Luise asked herself as she turned on the Alter-Armour’s pilot computer.
On the screen was a zoomed-in face of a young girl. After recognizing that the video feed was on, she backed away and smirked. [I was wondering who dared to hack into my system, and what is this? It’s just a little girl!]
To my surprise, she was the girl from the television a few moments ago: the self-proclaimed Luise Maynard, a chief of the Alliance.
“Oh, my, aren’t you glad that you’re so much older? I can see from those wrinkles on your forehead.” Admiral Luise retorted, calling the girl old. ...Please, you should know better than to say that, Admiral.
[Kya! Wrinkles?! For your information, I look so incredibly young for my age that lolicons would be drooling and praising my looks! I look younger than you, you know!]
“Wow, is that so? You must be happy that you’re loved so much by lonely perverts! I’m so jealous of you! Golf clap!” Admiral Luise’s words were very clearly laced with malice. She was smiling and clapping for the girl in the screen, but it was nothing short of a blatant taunt.
She was angry that she wasn’t successful in her hacking attempt. Normally, a hacking attempt consisted of stealing and breaking apart an enemy computer or equipment so they could be repurposed for allied use. No one tries to take over an entire military network. So, even if she wasn’t able to take over the Alliance’s network, she was at least able to commandeer the Alter-Armour.
But the fake Luise must have felt that the hacking attempt was a personal challenge to her, and so she took it upon herself to counter-hack despite being in the position of a chief. Still, the real Luise was able to skillfully deny her efforts.
[Ugh. You’re such an annoying little brat, you know that? Who are you, anyway? Federation hacker? Maybe a freelancer?]
Admiral Luise hummed to herself and replied half-heartedly. “Who knows?”
[Fine, that doesn’t matter now. Hey, do you want to come work for us instead?] The fake Luise bravely offered the real Luise a scouting offer.
Admiral Luise smiled. “Depends on the conditions.”
[Oh? Alright, you can be my personal advisor. If you want, I can get you assistants. I’ll even give you an officer’s rank! We’ll go into details in a meeting later, but I’ll guarantee that whatever it is, it’ll be a lot nicer than the crap you get from the Federation.]
“Is that so? Could I also bring over my friends and family? It’s going to be awkward with me alone.”
[Are they all on Critik-4? If so, sure.]
“My family is a kind of a big family… Will that be okay?”
[Sure, that won’t be a problem. So, if you want to accept my offer, surrender yourself to the next Alter-Armour or soldiers in the area. I’ll send one of the rebel soldiers to your location.]
One of the soldiers, she said-- but from a distance, two Alter-Armours were approaching. One of them stood behind the hotel to keep watch while the other flew over to receive our surrender. As if that wasn’t enough, a battalion of Tri-Walkers barged through the corridors nearby. It seemed that we weren’t being trusted just yet.
“Oh, my mistake!” Admiral Luise exclaimed in a very unconvincing way as she began moving the Alter-Armour. She moved its arms to quickly fire its rifle at the forehead of an approaching Alter-Armour, and another strand from Admiral Luise’s hair shot towards the other Alter-Armour to knock it out.
Meanwhile, I fried the creeping Tri-Walkers with my psychic bolts.
[Hey! You brat, what have you done?!] The fake Luise exploded in fury as her offer got denied. Her anger was fully justified this time, I felt.
Admiral Luise scoffed. “It was just a mistake! Could you send another for us, please?” She jumped out of the open cockpit of the Alter-Armour and jumped to my side. At the same time, it projected a psychokinetic barrier that was too powerful to be maintained by an Alter-Armour of that class.
However, a metallic plate from the skies roared through the air, penetrating the barrier and splitting the Alter-Armour in half.
I grabbed Admiral Luise mid-air and pulled her back. The angry chief of the Alliance, the fake Luise, had informed Kishin Saika of our location.
“Ugh… What were you thinking, provoking a Kishin?”
“But Lezirth, we can’t go to the Alliance! The Federation might not be any better, but it’s at least…”
“... Yes, you’re right.”
I realized that Admiral Luise had figured out the contradictions in the Alliance’s promises. Well, I was never particularly smart, but Admiral Luise was a certified genius-- she should have already realized it long ago.
“... At least, I already have the Federation’s systems under my control.”
“... … … … Oh.”
Okay, never mind.
For her, it seemed, the importance lay in whether or not she controlled them rather than the actual intentions of either faction. That’s… scary.
“Run!” I yelled at Meihowa and Aroha as I ran away with Admiral Luise in my arms.
The wall crumbled apart as Kishin Saika reached into the hotel with its arms, and swept across the hotel’s hallways. Ensign Meihowa, leading us forward, shot her Colion rifle at the elevator door in front of us, and she jumped into the elevator shaft to hold onto the elevator’s traveling cable.
“Lezirth! In here, quickly!”
I lowered my body to slide on the ground under the broken elevator doors. I flew right through, and grabbed the cable firmly with my legs.
Kishin Saika felt around the hotel floors with its arms, looking for us, but retracted its arms after many futile attempts. Fortunately, it was quick to give up on us.
I stood against the walls of the elevator shaft using my powers, still holding onto Admiral Luise. Meihowa and Sergeant Aroha stuck their Colion rifles between the cables, sliding down the shaft with slowed descent. The way they rappelled down without any proper tools but some rifles was… quite professional, even from the perspective of a vice admiral. Maybe my personal relations with the two ladies affected my judgment, but they were definitely skilled nonetheless.
Suddenly, the walls of the elevator shaft exploded apart as an arm of a giant Alter-Armour broke through. It tightly gripped onto Sergeant Aroha and pulled her out of the building.
“Kyaa!” Sergeant Aroha screamed. Her cries soon faded as she was fully pulled away from the hotel’s interiors.
‘Did they throw her out of the building?!’
I had to rescue her! I prepared myself to burst out of the building.
But then, a soft, warm hand pulled my arm away. It was Admiral Luise. She quietly shook her head.
I quickly came back to my senses. Maybe I could have gone out if I were by myself, but I had Admiral Luise in my arms. Ensign Meihowa had her rifle to rappel down the shaft, but Admiral Luise had no such means. Facing the Kishin with her in my arms wasn’t an option, either.
But what about Aroha?
[Chi! Tarsus! Apimel, Inuit!] I heard a woman mutter.
Curious, I tried to look outside through the hole. Admiral Luise stopped me, connecting her strands to me, changing my sight to the eyes of one of the security cameras on the outer walls of the hotel. The mutterings of the woman, the pilot of Kishin Saika, was also translated from the Asa tongue to what I could understand.
[Damn! By the name of Tarsus! Did I only get one of them?]
In her hand was Sergeant Aroha. She was laying still, unconscious.
[Maybe I should crush her right now? … But wait, she’s the same race as I am. What is happening? Have I made a mistake?!] Kishin Saika scratched its head-- without any hair, it was only mimicking the pilot’s habits.
I leapt towards Ensign Meihowa, grabbing her too as I dropped down the shaft. At that moment, Saika rummaged through the broken elevator shaft with its arms to inspect further inside.
‘Shouldn’t an Alter-Armour have advanced sensors like heat detection?’
Having a Kishin rely on ‘eyes’ for vision was extremely primitive. As I had suspected, they had no clue how to operate Alter-Armours. It resembled the way primitive humans would act when faced with computers-- they would operate it only by memorizing input and its matching output, rather than having a complete understanding of its inner workings.
[I suppose this will do. This woman will have value after interrogation. We are done with the suppression of the counter-attack, so we must retreat and regroup with the rebels!] A young woman spoke from within Saika.
And throughout, we hid in the shadows, powerless and defeated, while being forced to watch Sergeant Aroha get captured and taken away by Saika.