September 1st, 2021

_Fall of Empire_ part 14

This is a basic framework! I will be adding a bunch more blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention explosions, and it is unrealistic to not have people badly injured and killed.

I am trying to talk myself out of killing Ape.  Anyway, discuss what's wrong with the framework but don't wory about the lack of gore.


In the control room, one of the techs was under the desk. “We’ll have the Octagon up in  . . . right now.”

“Good, bring the rings up on standby and I’ll see where we need to go.” He galloped  down the stairs, where the eight top Free Portalist were settling down to put on their helmets.

They looked up, all bright-eyed and eager. Children! Never been shot at, never tried to protect other people from being killed!

“So, we have an alert from Regulus. They’re being attacked through at least three portals. I need you to take a look at the world, and find all the hostile portals, then trace them beck home. Then we’ll decide whether we’ll attack them on Regulus or on the attacking world. I’ll be upstairs and listening in on you.”

Nods. Henrik grabbed his helmet. “We’re on it, Boss!”

Axel grabbed his phone and tapped in a number. It picked up immediately.

“What’s happening?” Evgeny sounded alarmed, the attack must have become public knowledge.

“Regulus just yelled for help. Attacks through three portals. You have a number I can call once I’m over there?”

“Shit. This is Director Zorkin’s priority number. Best I can do. Can I help?”

“Come Up Top, unless you have equipment elsewhere you’d prefer to be manning?” Axel trotted back up the stairs.

“No, I’ll come.”

“Right.” Axel looked around . . . The former head of security, now demoted . . . Seva! Tell the entry guards to admit Evgeny Chernov and anyone with him, he’s a Regulan agent.”

He turned to the big screen with the schedule on it. “Can I get a map of Regulus? Thank you.” He reached mentally for the Octagon and watched through their eyes . . .

“Zoom in on Paree . . . looks like attacking portals . . .” He tapped four spots, an arc outside the line of Regulus’s  three portal facilities. Two miles, roughly, between the facilities. So the Enemy lines are spread out over eight miles. We’ll start with this one, that’s closest to the City Center.”

He turned and eyed the equipment being brought up outside the Bay. “Murphy, you’re going to be the leader of a triple team platoon. Ape another, Mouse the third. Grab your teams, make sure you’ve got people who know the big guns.”

He eye the mentalists. “Edik, Sergey, now you get to put those domes you’ve been practicing into use. Sure, you run the mentalist shield. Murphy? I’ll go through with your platoon and contact some Regulans, and make sure they want this particular Portal destroyed—in as much as they’ve probably called other worlds for help as well—then you can crash the party.”

“Bring the rings up to full power.” Axel spotted the Inquisitor and waved him over.

They walked up to the first rig, a large ATV built for heavy loads. The missile launcher down, the tube empty. The second ATV pulling a rack of twelve six inch diameter missiles.

“Observe the best shield piercing spells in the Alliance.” Axel held out the four impressions and sort of smoothed them out over the nose of the nearest missile.

Grigory whistled, copied the impressions carefully and applied them to another missile.

By the time they had all twelve done, Grigory was nearly as fast as Axel.

Alex left him heading for second Platoon’s missiles, and turned for the portal. Murphy was ordering his people, the ATVs started and pulled up to line up, Flankers and Mentalists out ahead.

:: All Right. I need the Portal right here, facing that way. ::

“Cat! Organize the Mentalists, three each for the platoons, but keep some right here, shielding people working while the portal’s open, because I can guarantee they’ll be shooting back at us. When I get back I’ll have a better idea how to run this.”

“Murph?” He swapped a toothy grin with the Cyborg. “Let’s go.”

The portal sparked and swirled open. Green flag. Axel jumped through shields up and expanding.  Running forward into a smoky desolation, but the enemy portal in sight. Continuous gun fire, punctuated by deeper booms . . . Axel punched the call button for Director Zorkin.

“Zorkin.”

“Axel Vinogradov, can you put me in contact with military command? Siberia Max is here and ready to fight.”

“I’m in the Command Center, are you the new Portal?”

“Yes, East of what looks like a hostile Portal, do you want us to take it down?”

“Yes!” A different voice. “But dammit they’ve got shields . . .”

Axel turned on the send to Murphy. “Fire at will.”

They already had the missile loaded, the launcher raised and aimed.

“Clear!” “Fire!”

They reloaded with practiced speed. “Clear!” “Fire!”

In the air before the first one hit the tank that had just cleared the Portal. The second missile zipped through and the portal disappeared.
 
A cheer from the troops. “Take out some more tanks while we’re here.”

And back to the phone. “First portal closed, shall we take out the rest?”

“Consider that an order.”

Axel stepped over to a frustrated rifleman. “Let me try some shield piercers,” ran his hand down a magazine.

Zilla fired and grinned. “That’s more like it!”

“All right, back home, and we’ll shift the portal.” He walked around laying on shield piercing impressions while Murphy got the ATV turned and back through the portal. The riflemen followed, the mentalist bringing up the rear. Axel even let them cover his retreat.

“Murph, go reload, Ape you’re up. Riflemen hold out your magazines for shield piercing impressions.” A quick run down one side and up the other.

Ape nodded. “Mentalists, shields ready.”

:: Right next Portal . . . right there, facing that way. ::

Green flag, go.

The target portal was turned almost edge on . . .  A quick two block run and drive, turning . . . it took three missiles, but the rifle men gave them plenty of time. Then it was missiles versus tanks, with  the tank rounds smacking both mentalists flat, but their shields held, that time.

Axel grounded a hard shield while Aped backed his ATVs. Doobie and Nit grabbed the staggering Mentalists and tossed them in the Launcher ATV as they got it turned and they beat a hasty retreat.

Axel holding a physical shield and Juice holding the mental shield brought up the rear.

“Close the Portal!”

Axel staggered over to the side. Popped his helmet off. “Mouse? Do not try a stand up fight with the tanks! We just want to close the portals, right?”

“Yes, Sir!”

Some one handed him a cold bottle and he chugged it. Sludge had never tasted so good.

Mouse had his platoon ready, the inquisitor was finishing the piercing spells . . .

:: Right Portal three. Can you see which directions it’s pointing? ::

A swoop in close to see the traffic heading that way . . . :: So let’s drop right there. ::

Axel sealed his helmet and led out.

A store parking lot. Wide open except for the wreckage of cars . . . bodies . . . The first missile took down the gate, and Axel shoved some wrecks away so the ATV could turn and go.

Murphy was up again. A quick missile barrage and something shredded in transit.

Four shots at various things of interest, yes that truck did explode rather spectacularly, must have been carrying ammunition of some sort. Three tanks, with Murphy and Axel both holding highly angled shields to deflect return fire. Then they retreated again.

A last call to Zorkin. “What do you need the most? We don’t have tanks. But we can hit and run and take some out.”

“How many Armored Cyborgs do you have?”

“Eighty-five.”

A long pause. “Right. Umm . . . I keep forgetting you’re so small . . . ”

“We also have experienced portalists who can watch for any other portal activity.”

“Right, umm . . . Just watch. We got the mop-up under control.”

“Yes, sir. Siberia Max, out.” Axel turned and jumped through the portal, Murphy right behind him.

“Close the portal. All right, all attacking portals are closed. Relax a bit, but we’ll stay armored up in case the attacker’s facilities are in working order, or quickly repairable.”

:: No more portals for now, but we need to keep watch for new attachments. And check Tier Three Orion . . . did you notice any other Worlds coming to help? ::

A collective negative, and they slid through blue bubbles to . . . a world with no portal activity at all.

“That’s ominous.”

Grigory looked over. “What?”

“No portal activity out of Orion. They were down to a single portal after the Berlin Plague attack, right?” Axel glanced over at movement. “Evgeny. We’ve closed the attacker’s portals, now it’s mop up and hope they surrender. But . . .”

The Regulus Agent nodded, cast a glance at the screen, where the locations of the portal attachments were red dots, now with slashes through them. “But what condition are our portals in, after that?”

Grigory hunched his shoulders. “Right. You’d think attackers would want them intact . . .”

“They definitely focused their attack on them.” Axel bit his lip. “Maybe I’d better check Orion?”

:: We looked closer, no sign of an attack. ::

:: Check their other vassal worlds, is anyone moving on them? No, they never had portals. All right, could you tell where the attack was coming from? ::

An apologetic mental wince. :: We were busy, but it was down in close to Home. ::

:: Look down there, where there are beacons but no portal activity . . . ::

:: There’d be dents . . . :: They swooped down on one. Smoking ruins,  and collapsed buildings a few miles away. Across the ocean, one with rescue efforts underway. The other side of the continent, wide-scattered wreckage around a crater.

:: Pull back a little. :: Grigory’s mental touch. A view of the city . . . :: Tier Two Saxony? What were they thinking? ::

Axel winced. :: If they knew Orion’s last Portalmaker had failed, if they were the first to jump in, they could have Regulus with three Portals and Siberia Max with three? ::

Evgeny sighed. :: Orion runs a lot of Recreation Worlds. With access permits from various other Worlds. A government official on a holiday might pick up worry from vacationers from Orion, and started watching it. If they haven’t heard about what happened to Stuttgart, they might have thought that they only had to capture Regulus to gain Orion, the other four prosperous Vassals, one with a Sanctioned Research World as its vassal, and all those Recreation Worlds. ::

Axel pinched the bridge of his nose. “Evgeny, I think you and I should return to Regulus and see how things are going. Find out if the Free Portalists have survived, and if there’s an official from Orion there, we’d have a fig leaf to cover our opening a Portal to Tier Three Orion and find out if they are in need of a Portal Quad . . . and well, it’s none of my business if Regulus wants to rearrange its relationship to Orion.”

The Regulan looked from one of them to the other. “Don’t you want to claim Orion as your vassal? Or . . . Regulus, if we’ve lost our portals?”

“First, explain to me how a population of two million people, that leans rather heavily toward scientists and bureaucrats is going to control even a friendly a world of several billion people. Let alone several! And second, why we would even want to try?” Axel snorted. “We do however need trading partners.”