Edit: Someone pointed out to me that I made a couple of errors, so I went and corrected them.

Good day everyone. I had planned on releasing this chapter a while ago, but circumstances intervened. If you read my profile, you knew about my computer troubles, but those have largely been resolved now. Most of the delay this time was due to my focusing on finishing classes. As of right now, I have about one week left of classes, and then I graduate with my Bachelor's Degree. So apart from job searching, I shouldn't have to worry about classes getting in the way anymore.

Anyways a couple of things I want to note. First of all, apparently, someone thought my story was good enough to warrant its own TVTropes page. If you visit the site, please do me a favor and populate the page. It goes against my sensibilities to apply tropes for my own story, although I might later on if I have time.

And second, I didn't even realize it until I tried searching for it, but apparently one of my favorite stories has been deleted from the site. That story was Biometal: Ballad of the Floating Belt Buckles. It was a parody of Zx, and it was the story that largely inspired me to write this one, as well as the one that inspired me to add some humor to the storyline. Kudos to you, BotFBB. You will be missed.

And that having been said, I still think I have a shot at being the first to finish a Zx novelization story, despite my own delays. Let's get on with the story, shall we?

-Ainrhyr

Disclaimer: See previous page.


Rise of the Chosen

Chapter Twenty Five

Cannonball


Interestingly enough, in medieval times, clashing of blades was rather rare. Days of caring for a well-used blade could easily be undone with just a few clashes with an equally powerful weapon. Use of the shield was essential to deflect an opponent's weapon, giving you the opportunity to drive through their armor with a powerful thrust. For eastern swordsmen, saving your blade was even more important, as eastern blades like the katana emphasized powerful slashes from a rest position. Extremely skilled swordmasters could begin and end a confrontation with a single slash, all without bringing undue harm to their trusty blade.

Of course, with the advent of energy blades, this practice was rather useless. In fact, beam weapons actually encourage the movie-like clashing of blades, since the magnetic sheath of a plasma saber will repel other swords. Landing a good hit on an opponent's sword is just as important as landing a hit on the actual opponent.


"HIYAAA!"

"GRRAAAHH!"

Two plasma blades, one green the other violet, slammed into each other with titanic force.

Aile held her own for a brief moment before giving ground, backing away from the other sword. She spun to deliver her own strike, but that too was halted by Omega's strong guard.

"Not quite Aile, but you're getting there."

Omega twisted abruptly, turning his sword diagonally against hers, then ripping it upwards, forcing her own blade up as well. Their swords were now held against one another, but over their heads.

But Omega had tried this maneuver already, albeit with his fist, and when he suddenly rammed his head forward to headbutt her in the chest, she had already brought her leg up.

It crushed her leg armor and probably shattered her kneecap, and she stifled a shriek of pain as it registered. But not even Omega could shrug off an armored knee to the face. Especially not since he was the one who'd rammed into it at full strength.

"GAHH!" Omega reeled back clutching his face, giving Aile time to grab her Sub-Tank and regenerate her damaged leg. But as she prepared a slash, Omega had already recovered.

Aile had expected him to dodge, but she had not expected him to jump straight up. He shot up like a javelin, then began rotating in midair like a buzz-saw. "Kūenzan!"

Aile saw the attack coming, steadied her blade, and leapt skyward with a howl of her own. "Tenretsujin!"

Aile's perfected uppercut slash slammed against Omega's spinning blade. The impact shook the entire battleground, and Omega was blasted back by the impact, sprawling on the ground as he landed.

As he flipped upright, Aile whirled around and launched another attack. "Shippuuga!"

The Zx-Saber obediently elongated to thrice its length, and the titanic blade sliced through the air towards Omega with a hiss of plasma.

But the red reploid was no longer prone, and was instead reared back, his sword arcing downwards in a titanic overhead slash. "Juuhazan!"

The attacks collided, the sheer force of it cracking the metal ground upon which they stood.

There was no clear winner. Omega had been forced back by Aile's attack, but his own had stopped her blade short of him.

Omega glanced in Aile's direction, as the girl was not seeking to re-engage him. Rather, she'd pulled further away, and her armor had changed into a blue one with a massive arm cannon; one he instantly recognized.

"X, huh? Going for ranged combat Aile?" Omega smirked as he drew a massive buster pistol, similar in design to Zero's old Buster Shot, only bigger. "I'm game. Let's go."

They both immediately began dashing, massive jets of plasma issuing forth from their respective firearms as they did so, and explosions dotted the landscape.


"Structural breach on the port side, E deck! Shield generators in that section are non-responsive! Get it turned away before they hit the reactors!"

"Understood. Marguerite, bring us to heading 244. Port after section, we are turning to starboard to minimize enemy contact with breach on Deck EL. Prioritize targets that try to follow."

"Bridge, port after weapons sections 14 through 17 Roger. Engaging pursuing enemy targets."

"Bridge, Response Team Delta. We're in port after section 14. We are moving to the shield generators on Deck EL to assess damages."

Prairie gripped her chair's armrests with crushing force as she contemplated their situation.

They'd managed to defeat nearly a full quarter of the enemy's aerial strength with just one ship, albeit an extremely powerful one. And while Slither Inc.'s ground forces were less damaged, they hadn't been able to advance either, thanks to Colbor's people. For slightly less than an hour, they'd held the line.

And it was already costing them too much.

The duo of missiles that had broken apart port Deck EL were just the latest hits the big warship had taken. Unfortunately, however good Lateral's additions were to the ship's survivability, they didn't alter the fact that the Hyperion was hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, and cracks were beginning to form in the defenses.

So far, nearly 33 percent of the control runs were destroyed, severely limiting their mobility. A plasma beam had slipped through a local shield failure and annihilated forward starboard section 3, along with all 22 of its particle beam cannons. Over half of the primary shield generators had gone silent, and the auxiliaries were heavily taxed by the loads being imposed on them. At least two auxiliary generators had already failed, not counting the ones on Deck EL.

And she had 213 casualties, of which at least 60 were fatal. And she could not afford those losses. She only had 2,000 Guardians on board, and they were already stretched too thin.

It had become bad enough that she hadn't bothered stopping Nuppie from deploying her Cyber Elves to help out in any way possible, up to and including using their powers, regardless of the cost. Right now, they were roaming the damaged sections of the ship looking for any wounded, but that probably wouldn't keep for long. Not at the rate they were soaking up damage.

"Prairie, check out that formation at 5 o clock level."

Gardenia's voice nudged Prairie out of her deliberations, and Prairie raised an eye at the odd gaggle of ships at the noted location.

Three ships were almost wedged together in a triangular shape, with one ship directly behind them. They were closing fairly quick towards their starboard flank.

"Ma'am, sensors paint that last ship as a cruiser: one of the old Lambda class ships." Marguerite reported. "They have high structural integrity built into the bow, so they can mount several kinds of extremely heavy weapons there. The Lambda class was never built for endurance though. They might be trying to get it close enough for a shot at the damaged forward section."

"Hmm…" Prairie noted the formation's course, and had to agree with Marguerite's assessment. From what Prairie remembered about the Lambdas, they could mount extremely heavy railed weapons as well as high-yield plasma turrets. Either of which would rip the Hyperion apart if they targeted any unshielded section, and they were flying towards the largest damaged point on the ship.

But they were also rigidly in formation…and the ship was still swinging the starboard flank towards them.

"Bridge to Engineering Bay 4. Hey Lateral, I have some ships closing on the starboard side. They're just about to line up on you." Her smile was fearsome to behold. "You want them?"


"Ja!" Lateral grinned at the targets in question. "Yea, I got them Prairie! Leave it to Lateral!"

"Got it Lat. I'll tell the other guns to ignore that group. They're all yours."

"Sweet!" Lateral spun around. "Everyone, get to your stations! It's time to test fire Lateral's Phalanx!"

Lateral Roamer's hand-picked team sped to their positions around the massive cylindrical weapon that Lateral had installed just above the plasma storage tanks. She and Prairie had already set aside a portion of the tanks' contents for her use just for this occasion.

"Nubtan, get inside and fire up the cyberwave generator. Make sure the frequency stays stable, okay? Nothing else matters if we lose control of that plasma wave."

"Understood." The little cyber elf disappeared into the heart of the device.

"Everyone else, you know what to do. Get moving; we've got 74 seconds before that formation hits our targeting window."


Aile bit off a curse as the ground under her exploded, causing her to stumble. She fired off a full charged shot at her opponent, forcing Omega to veer out of the way and giving her time to recover her balance.

Under normal circumstances, they all knew that X could take Zero any day of the week, and since Omega was basically Zero, she should have a critical advantage with the X-Armor. Unfortunately, X still didn't have his full power back, whereas Omega was at the pinnacle of his power.

Not to mention he had scary aim with a buster pistol.

"Wah!" She jerked to the side, just avoiding another plasma bolt. "Tch."

Her retaliatory shot was a bit wide, and Omega nonchalantly sidestepped it. But he stopped shooting while he did so, giving Aile a brief moment of respite.

Her one saving grace was that Omega's buster was less powerful than his saber, but that was basically it. Some of the damage Omega's earlier attacks had dealt to the Hx-Armor had bled over onto the X-Armor, hindering its defensive abilities. Even worse, despite her buster being decidedly more powerful than his, Omega's aim was far better than hers, and she grimaced as she realized why.

Whenever she hadn't been working to master the use of the various movement systems for her armors, she had devoted herself to mastery of the Zx-Saber. It showed, particularly in her battle with Omega, where she had managed to hold the reploid at bay despite his superior strength. Unfortunately, she hadn't been working at improving her aim, and while she was fairly good at targeting enemies with patterns she could read, that didn't apply towards skilled foes like Omega.

In short, after her battle with Prometheus, she had relentlessly practiced using the Zx-Armor, at the expense of the others. And while she wasn't exactly bad at using them, she wasn't good enough to match up to someone with extreme skill…such as Omega.

To be fair, her other ranged weapon system had an outrageously simple targeting system. Fefnir's Volleyfire was effectively a spray-and-pray weapon at the moment. And he had assured her that once he got his targeting systems back up and running, she basically wouldn't even have to aim; the Volleyfire would do it for her. Which left her wondering why she was using the X-Armor in the first place.

'Probably because we already saw how effective it was against him.' She thought to herself. 'Plus, it can't do that nifty weapon-change that X can. And its standard charge shot is less than half as effective as X's.'

Wait, now there was an idea. Since she couldn't bring enough experience to bear on Omega, she'd have to play smart. And Omega had probably fought X before; he'd know the ins and outs of X's Buster. How about using a weapon he hadn't encountered before?

Aile shot a half-charged bolt at one of Omega's fully-charged ones, causing both to detonate spectacularly, and mentally ran through what she had.

'The Wraith Missiles are obviously out, since I still can't use them. Lurrere's Ice Arrows are too slow, but the burst-on-impact charge shot might be useful to catch him off guard. Probably only good once though. The Volt Crescent flies forward until it hit a wall, then split in two and spread up and down. Since there are no walls here, that makes it somewhat useless. That leaves Flammole, Leganchor, and Tech Kraken. We deleted Leganchor's Ice Raider, since it's basically the same as the Ice Arrow, and X hasn't finished integrating Tech's data yet. That leaves the Long Flamethrower, but I need to be a bit closer to use it. Come to think of it, I wonder if X has Pandora's data. Maybe I could use her lightning and ice attacks. They seemed pretty effective.'

Omega pulled his sword in his off-hand and launched a Kougenjin at her while she was distracted. Rather than counter it, she stored her charged shot and dove to the side, rapid-firing plasma bullets all the way. Omega merely slashed the offending projectiles with his blade, so she waited until he was in the middle of a swing before she shot her full-charge attack.

Rather than dodge or counter, Omega charged it head-on, piercing the attack with a powerful stab from his saber. The plasma blast, to Aile's shock, simply ripped in half from the force of the attack, and Omega launched himself in her direction, his buster shot blazing away.

'I need to put Omega on the defensive. That means re-engaging him in melee, like it or not. I need to convince him to close to saber range. Hmm…how about…?'

Aile suddenly shifted to the Lx-Armor, its bluish hue immediately changing to orange/red.

"Here goes!"

Omega's buster shots were easily absorbed by the Heat Shield. Undeterred, Omega simply swung his saber. "Kougenjin!"

Aile twitched, but held firm, trusting in Leviathan's masterpiece to protect her as the blade crashed against her defenses. And her faith was rewarded; the powerful wave attack was unable to overcome the artificial heliopause, and was turned aside.

Omega blinked, then stared at her with his eyes altering colors. Was he…scanning her shield?

He must have been, because he gave a low whistle. "Now that is an impressive barrier kid. Levi's work?" He grinned at Aile's short nod. "Yea, about time she figured out how to use her own systems."

He raised an eyebrow at Aile's expression. "What? She mainly uses ice powers, right? Well Aile, there's no such thing as 'cold' in a thermal system: there's only a lack of heat. Her ice generation system uses the same thermal manipulation system as a fire-type like Fefnir, only hers works in reverse. One puts heat into the attacks, the other moves heat away from them. Basic Thermodynamics 101."

Leviathan murmured something quietly. It might have been an insult. Actually, given how X shushed her, it probably was.

"Anyways, a synthetic bow shock, huh? Unfortunately, I bet you can't fire while that shield's up, and movement systems are probably down for safety reasons. So you probably can't dodge this!"

Omega's dash thrusters fired, and he charged straight at her, his saber at the ready. Aile stepped back, hand grasping her halberd in case he did break through.

The tip of the sword slammed into her barrier with titanic force…and slowly penetrated. Just like Leviathan had warned, the Heat Shield wasn't proof against magnetically sheathed energy weapons like a plasma saber, and Omega slowly pushed his sword through her defenses with all his strength.

And that was when Aile did something really stupid.

Aile didn't have the same level of control over the Heat Shield that she did over her own personal shields, but she did know how the shield worked: it got stronger by absorbing heat energy. Energy such as plasma.

And there was an incredible mass of plasma slowly inching towards her, just behind the magnetic sheath of Omega's blade.

So she did something really clichéd: She reversed the polarity of the magnetic sheath on her halberd, and slammed it into Omega's sword.

There's a reason everybody with a magnetic weapon keeps the polarity the same: so that the weapons don't stick together via magnetic attraction.

That in itself isn't bad, but the attraction can also affect the plasma itself. The plasma becomes distorted inside its own sheath, and the interplay between the distorted plasma next to the sheath itself and the stable plasma at the blade's core can cause the plasma to become excited.

Super-dense plasma has a tendency to explode violently if it becomes too excited.

And thanks to Omega's saber, there was only one outlet for that plasma to escape the Heat Shield.

"Shit." Omega had time to curse once as he saw what she was doing.

Then everything exploded.


As the Hyperion turned, the tight formation of ships closed on the wounded right side. But it was a bluff, at least to a certain extent. Obviously, the armed cruiser was intended to punch through the weak spot on the Hyperion's flank.

But the ships arrayed in front of the cruiser also masked something else: The numerous assault skiffs tractored to the side of the cruiser, along with the specially designed cannons that could launch assault pods instead of missiles.

Slither Inc. had learned its lesson last time, after all. The weakest point of the massive Guardian flagship was the interior. Once they got a decent sized boarding party into that ship, it was doomed. Even if they couldn't capture the ship, they could easily tie up enough people defending vital points to make the external battle decisive.

But the formation was a double-edged sword. The tight cluster of lighter ships blocked the powerful sensors on the cruiser.

None of them could see the titanic energy signature building up in the Hyperion's starboard flank.


"Contact in 33 seconds! Plasma wave has reached 184 percent of the anticipated velocity!"

"Wave density has reached similar levels! Observable mass is 71 percent greater than expected, and still climbing! Theoretical mass estimate can no longer be measured!"

"Cyberwave generator is running at 112 percent capacity. Nubtan is holding it together though. Frequency variance is less than 2 percent."

Lateral gritted her teeth as her precious Phalanx groaned and hummed under the immense strain she was putting it through. Theoretically, it could hold the plasma wave stable for 58 seconds before it built up too far, but the rapid evolution of the wave itself was well beyond her estimates. If she didn't unleash it soon, it might slip free of the Phalanx and run rampant in the ship's interior, which would absolutely kill them all.

Along with just about everything within 1,000 meters of them…at minimum.

"Plasma containment field breach! The wave is too dense to absorb it! I can't contain it!"

"Crap." Lateral attacked her keyboard with lightning-quick finger strokes. "Leave the containment field to me. Cut the excess into secondary plasma tank 3B, and prepare that tank for immediate purge. That should keep it out of our way."

"Ma'am, that's a good chunk of the ship's plasma supply we'd lose."

"If this thing slips out, we'd lose a whole lot more, and we don't have anywhere else to vent that plasma. Do it." Lateral's tone brooked no argument. The technician in question set to work immediately.

"Ma'am, targets in range in 6 seconds."

"Everyone, get ready to fire!"

All of Lateral's technicians clung to their stations and braced themselves.


In effect, what Lateral was trying to do was break the laws of physics.

See, plasma is the cornerstone of weapons technology in this day and age. Its potential as a weapon has been thoroughly explored and documented, to the point that nearly every potential use for it has been already seen and used.

It is actually so well documented that it can even be used in Cyberspace, due to specific rules being laid in place to govern its use. After all, physical access to Cyberspace hadn't come around until well after the advent of plasma-based weapons like the buster.

But plasma is a physical matter/energy hybrid…and its existence and properties are well-explained by the laws of physics, particularly in the areas regarding to mass, conservation of matter/energy, and the speed of light.

Lateral's Phalanx was intended to change the playing field by taking advantage of three distinct loopholes. First, there is a fundamental rule that matter created in Cyberspace cannot be taken out of Cyberspace, whereas matter created in the real world that is inserted into Cyberspace can still be taken back out. But energy from Cyberspace can be attached to matter from the real world, and it can thus accompany the matter back out. This actually happens all the time during trans-server function, which is why trans-servers are still around. The trans-server device acts as a sink for that extra energy, preventing it from harming the person transferring. But in this case, Lateral had no intention of simply letting that extra energy go to waste.

Secondly, there is a brief instance during the crossing over between real and cyber worlds where the laws of physics become…detached. In the very instant a body stands between the two worlds, some very specific holes appear in the unyielding physical laws. The myriad of laws missing or truncated is best left to a proper physicist to explain in full, but the one hole that Lateral was interested in was the one pertaining to the speed of light. Or, more specifically, the fact that the laws related to speed and velocity were very Newtonian in nature. In short, an object accelerates if it is acted on by a force, and in this case there is no pesky speed limit to stop it. The increase is brief of course, and both Cyberspace and Trans-servers have specific functions built-in to siphon off any excess energy from such an interaction.

And finally, energy is very difficult to divide and transfer in the real world. Things like efficiency and friction get in the way. But in Cyberspace, energy can be transferred from one system to another without any loss. It can also be divided and put back together with absurd ease, so long as one has access to the right programs. While physically in Cyberspace, certain forces, such as friction, still occur with regularity. However, heat buildup from such interaction does not occur, because Cyberspace often siphons off this excess energy for its own use.

But if one were to translate speed into energy, which is simple to do in Cyberspace, this energy could easily be set aside…and put back together at a later date.

The Phalanx works like this. First, a small amount of plasma is ping-ponged back and forth between the real world and Cyberspace. This plasma is accelerated just before crossing over, using the nature of the Barrier to increase its speed. Once crossed into Cyberspace, a program captures the energy siphoned away from the plasma by Cyberspace, and stores it nearby. The plasma is then accelerated (if it can be at that point), and bounced back into the real world. Like before, the Phalanx captures the excess energy released, and uses it to force more plasma into the Plasma Wave being moved. The Plasma Wave is bounced back across the Barrier, and the cycle is then repeated ad-infinitum.

In theory, this would create a Plasma Wave with mass that approaches infinity, an enormous stockpile of energy in Cyberspace waiting to be used, and a weapon that just barely, just briefly, surpasses the speed of light as it leaves reality. And since plasma is easily manipulated by magnetic fields, this wave could then, when ready, be directed at whatever you didn't like, taking along with it all the energy stored in Cyberspace just as it crosses the Barrier.

In theory, it would produce a burst of plasma with near infinite mass, launched forth at the speed of light with near infinite energy to give it strength.

The results of that would be…interesting.


The small formation of ships stood absolutely no chance. Had they had twenty more seconds, they might have gotten the cruiser close enough to score a decisive hit. But they didn't have those seconds.

The instant the starboard flank lined up on them, a titanic river of blue-white plasma erupted outwards from the ship's side. With its impossible mass, and the sudden incursion into open space, it expanded outward at a dangerous rate, taking on the shape of a cone as it spilled forth into the sky.

With that much mass and velocity, there was nothing that had a prayer of stopping it.

In a single instant, almost a hundred ships were simply erased by the unstoppable tide of plasma.

But it didn't stop there. It was too massive for that. The wave continued for miles, the edge of the cone finally reaching the ground and transforming earth and stone into ash and brittle glass.

It finally reached the point where the magnetic field holding its shape was too weak to contain it. 14 miles from Hyperion, the massive plasma wave exploded, turning everything within miles into incandescent ruin.

Gratefully, Lateral had anticipated such, and thus had programmed her magnetic field to redirect as much of it upwards as possible before cutting loose. The explosion transformed into a titanic plume of blue flame that seared the sky, like the fiery breath of a great dragon. But that erupting energy never reached back to the ones that fired it.

The shockwave, however, did.

Two more ships were destroyed as the explosive shockwave slammed them into one another, breaking them apart like fragile toys. The rest were tossed through the air, desperately trying to regain control, and even the massive Hyperion lurched bodily as the shockwave reached it.

The ground forces were, somewhat gratefully, spared the worst of the shock. The highway the battle was taking place upon had been designed with high winds in mind, and thus was made to redirect gale-force winds away from the vehicles that might be traveling upon it. Of course, this meant that the highway itself bore the brunt of the wave's power.

So as the ground forces were merely tossed to the ground, the highway itself cracked and splintered. Pieces broke away, and support columns gave way, causing massive sections to simply collapse under their own weight. Another unlucky ship was downed as what looked like an old abandoned ride chaser slammed into its engine intakes with all the force of a meteor.

In seconds, the battlefield was, somehow, in even worse shape than it had been when they started fighting there.

And it was about to get even worse.


"Why hasn't Tank 3B been purged yet!?"

"The shockwave damaged the control runs! Bringing up secondaries!"

"Too late! The plasma is going critical! Oh, God, It's cycling into Main Tank 3!"

"That's a quarter of our entire plasma supply! If it goes off…!"

Lateral threw commands into her computer, trying something, anything, to keep the tank from going critical. But the secondaries hadn't come up in time, and she couldn't simply turn off plasma that had become excited to that degree.

Only one course of action left. And she had mere seconds to do it.

Lateral mashed buttons like a thing possessed, and someone gasped as the blast panels on the hull blew off. Immediately after, specially build, standalone electromagnetic rails hurled Plasma Tanks 3 and 3B sideways out of the ship.

Lateral overrode all intercom traffic and routed the speakers to her terminal.

"All hands, BRACE FOR IMPACT!"


When the shockwave from the Phalanx had hit them, most of the Guardians had been flung to the ground from the immense force. Of the few who had somehow remained standing, nearly all of them had dropped into cover positions to make sure their enemies didn't take advantage of the situation, or had simply gone to the aid of their downed comrades.

As a result, over 90 percent of the Guardians were either prone or kneeling, and it probably saved their lives.

Lateral just barely got the tanks out the ship in time. They were less than 200 meters away when they detonated.

The explosion was nowhere near as large or as dense as the one created by Lateral's Phalanx, but it occurred much closer…and most of the battlefield was still recovering from the shockwave it had produced.

Hyperion suffered the worst, being the closest, but Lateral had just managed to get them away in time. The rush of plasma and the blast wave smashed through their shields and peeled away armor, not to mention frying all of the sensitive sensors on the starboard side. Three weapon stations were too exposed, and were simply wiped away, along with the two dozen soldiers manning them.

But the thick armor was just thick enough, and Hyperion emerged from the inferno intact, albeit heavily damaged.

As for the Slither Inc. airships, many of which were barely armored at all, they received far worse punishment. Most of the ships on the starboard side had already been destroyed by the Phalanx, but only a handful of ships were protected from the explosion, with the Hyperion sitting directly in the way. Of the 30 or so ships in range, all but one were simply smashed by the catastrophic blast, and the orphan began to descend slowly, its bridge destroyed and most of its weapons and engines smashed to ruin.

As for the ground forces, had they been simply standing at ready, the force of the explosion would have probably smashed them into the ground, potentially at fatal speeds. But since they were already braced against the ground due to the shockwave just moments earlier, they were well braced against the ground to resist the second shockwave as it hit them. There were numerous bruises and cracked limbs, and at least seven or eight did indeed hit the ground hard enough to do fatal damage, but that was it. And the burst of plasma had dissipated enough at that point to not pose a threat to them.

There were also several maverick casualties, despite them being further away. Many of them were still mass-produced units like Galleons, and their components weren't built to withstand such tremendous impacts, let alone two of them in short order. But only a couple hundred mavericks were disabled by the two blasts, and still thousands remained.

For those on the ground, the explosions did not affect the battle much. Aside from the ruined highway, which admittedly gave the Guardians additional cover, all the blasts did was temporarily halt the mass of projectiles flying from one side to the other and heated combat would simply resume once both sides collectively got their shit together.

But in the air, the result of the explosions was decisive.


"PAIN!" Omega's outraged roar was finally audible over the ringing in her ears. Of course, he sounded less in actual pain, and more annoyed that Aile had managed to do what she just did.

She'd barely managed to siphon enough energy from the Heat Shield to her own Lx-Armor's personal shield to protect herself. With the explosion trapped between the inner shield and the false heliopause, it had only one possible exit: the hole in the shield formed by Omega's sword. As such, he'd received the vast majority of the explosive force.

Although she doubted his sword was badly damaged…despite the terrible damage done to Levi's halberd.

So Omega was recovering from that, and Aile was slowly getting back on her feet. Too slowly…

'I'm running out of steam here.' She thought to herself as she panted for breath. She was lucky Leviathan had had the foresight to activate her armor's life support system, or Aile might have flash-burned her lungs when the explosion went off.

But she was still tired. She'd been fighting Omega for a while now. Maybe…It felt like she'd been fighting for days, but it was more likely she'd held him for half an hour or so. Then again, Zero's heart gave her more stamina, so who knows how long it had been.

It didn't matter. What mattered was that she was rapidly tiring…and Omega would instantly take advantage of her growing exhaustion if she didn't finish things quickly.

'X…Harpuia…Phantom…maybe Levi if he reacts too quick…Zero…okay.'

She needed to act immediately, while Omega was still off balance from the explosion. And hopefully, while his sensors were still recalibrating.

'Got to time this perfectly.'

Her plan clicked into place in her head. Every move was laid out before her with perfect clarity. Now she just had to implement it.

'And…now!'

Aile stopped thinking and moved.


'Stupid, ignorant, suicidal, clever, irritating little…'

Omega's thought process finally managed to stop focusing on his broken face, as his repair systems finally got around to fixing it.

"That's it. Now I'm really going to kick her ass." He groused as his other injuries finally started repairing. "Reversing mag polarity on a beam saber. That's the stupidest idea I've seen since Zero jumped on that missile. And he didn't even bother to give Weil the finger while he did it. Now, where'd she go?"

That was when Aile struck.

A hail of ice arrows cascaded into the ground around him, forcing him to leap up and away to evade them. It was an instinctive reaction, almost as natural as breathing to the red warrior, and only when he was in the air did it occur to Omega that Aile was hoping he would dodge that way.

Her twin charged shots shot towards the area Omega would ultimately land. The two Glacial Crashes detonated against the ground, sending sharp blades of ice scything into the air and ground, turning a very small area into a close approximation of icy death.

"Cute." Omega noted, using his dash thrusters to midair dash away from the icy hazard. "Not good enough though."

He turned just enough to catch sight of Aile, her X-Armor now a bright orange.

"Long Flamethrower!"

The weapon was aptly named. Despite being a flamethrower type weapon, it boasted considerable range. And while it was slow enough that Omega could practically walk out of the way, Aile wasn't aiming at him.

The ice scattered across the ground was instantly vaporized by the high-temperature weapon, and Aile had layered the ice thick enough to make it work. Thick steam suddenly covered the area, just barely masking the two combatants from view.

"Tch." Omega held his gun at a ready position as he carefully scanned the area. His proximity sensors were still down, but his aural sensors picked up a powerful thruster emission, similar to that of Harpuia's armor. Since he couldn't see her, he carefully tracked the sound until it vanished.

Omega slowly looked around. There was no sound of her landing, so she'd probably used stealth. That meant Phantom's armor, and he knew what to look for…and what to expect.

His hand shot out and closed around nothing…which then materialized into a familiar girl in purple armor. But she was unarmed. Her movements were short and spasmodic, and her eyes were calm, almost blank even; a drastic shift from the girl he'd been fighting.

'One of Phantom's shadow clones. Probably letting her know where I am. Guess she didn't know I know how to use this against her.'

The single biggest weakness of Phantom's ability to generate solid illusions with his Stealth Drive was that it had to be able to connect Phantom to his clones. The Stealth Drive did this by generating a heavily encrypted, very stealthy tunnel through Cyberspace. It was actually so well-hidden that not even Omega could detect the connection, allowing Phantom to command his clones with absolute secrecy.

But if Omega had his hands on one of the clones, like he did right now, he could use his mastery over Cyberspace to identify the connection, and follow it to its destination. If he lost the clone, he'd lose the constantly-changing channel, but as long has he had his hands on it, he could keep up with its updates and isolate the other signal.

Had Aile known that, she would have immediately dismissed the illusion the moment Omega grabbed it. But she clearly didn't…and now he knew where she was.

"Gotcha."

Omega's buster snapped around and fired at nothing. It was a mid-power shot, but it was still enough to punch through Phantom's lighter armor, and Aile wouldn't be expecting it anyways.

It slammed against an empty region of space, and the Stealth Drive failed, revealing Aile, with a startled look on her face, her armor now rent and broken.

And frozen in midair, unmoving.

Omega's thoughts froze for an instant at the sight.

'Oh shit.'

He instantly realized how she'd fooled him. But even as he turned his gaze from the girl, no, the illusion, he knew it was too late.

He just caught sight of the helmet still clutched in his hand…the empty helmet.

Just under it, Aile sans helmet swung her hands towards him, the Zx-Armor forming around her as she did, and the Zx-saber flaring to life as it scythed towards him.


"Unghh…"

Prairie groaned as Marguerite carefully nursed the gash on her forehead.

"It doesn't look too bad. Lucky you fell out of your seat, huh?"

"Y-yea…I guess." Prairie glanced at where her chair used to be with a forlorn look.

The first shockwave had been a surprise to the entire bridge, and had knocked Prairie out of her seat. She'd been moving to get back in when the second wave had wrenched Marguerite's panel out of its housing and launched it at her.

The console had smashed her chair out of its seating, and the edge of the chair had smacked the youthful Guardian right in the head. But had she been in the chair, she would have likely suffered a far worse fate.

"Tch. Hopefully, the other ships are as disoriented as we are. Gardenia, Tulip, keep an eye on them and try to get in touch with any available stations. Marguerite, help me here."

As the other two operators started their task, Prairie and Marguerite carefully righted Prairie's panel. Prairie made sure everything still worked, and activated the intercom.

"All hands, we still seem to be in one piece, although I'm sure we're all pretty shaken up. Everyone, check your stations for impact damage, and report back to the bridge ASAP. Nuppie, wherever you are, I want you and your cyber elves going through the starboard side. Make sure nobody gets left there. Everyone else, keep an eye on things; there are still ships up here, so if you can get to a weapon station, please do so. Prairie out."

Prairie shut off the intercom and rubbed her head. Then, she called up Engineering.

"Engineering Bay 4, Bridge. Lateral, what the hell just happened!?"

A series of coughs answered her.

"S-sorry Prairie. Lat'll explain the specifics later, but Plasma Tank 3 was compromised. Had to eject it. Sorry ab-" she cut off with a string of coughs. "s-sorry about that. Wasn't time to clear it."

Prairie twitched. Rather than have a chargeable plasma weapon, Lateral and Colbor had instead opted for a storage tank for plasma, which could then be used to fire charged blasts constantly. But if it was punctured or compromised (like it had been), the results could be absolutely catastrophic.

"Understood. Given the circumstances, I don't mind. But we still have enemy ships left. What is the status of the Phalanx?"

A burst of static cut off Lateral's first few words, but Prairie raised an eyebrow. Unless she was mistaken, Lateral had just cursed.

"-ing screwed, I'm afraid. The starboard unit was trashed from the shockwaves, and until I figure out how to tone down the plasma buildup, I can't use the port unit without the same thing happening. And even if I could get it to work, Nubtan is out cold, and I haven't figured out how to stabilize the cyberwave generator without her yet. I'm afraid you'll have to make do without it."

"Understood. Do your best to get things stable down there, and then I want your section out and working on repairs."

"Copy that. Lateral out."

Prairie closed the intercom. "Gardenia, what's our status?"

The operator in question suppressed a grimace. "Frankly Prairie, I'd say we were screwed if it weren't for the fact that our enemies are in worse shape." She tapped a button, and a wireframe of the Hyperion flared to life on Prairie's panel.

A lot of it was colored red. And several small sections were rather distressingly colored black, signifying fatal damage…or areas that were simply gone.

"The starboard flank is completely toast. I've got system failures all the way down to the keel. I read three…maybe four weapon stations, and one sensor platform that are still working. Nothing else is responding."

Gardenia turned back to Prairie. "Good news is that most of the second-layer armor is still intact, although I wouldn't recommend getting hit there again. Vital systems like life support and engines are still online, and the port side of the ship is more or less okay. Plus, we've still got three total Plasma Tanks left, which is more than enough to spare for just one side of the ship." The operator suddenly grinned. "And that's on top of the enemy status. Tulip?"

The purple haired Guardian turned at the prompt. "Ma'am, there are 37 enemy ships fully operational. Another 9 are intact, but show heavy damage to weapons and systems. Two of them appear to be fully silenced, and are headed for the ground. Their trajectory points them away from the battlefield, indicating a loss of main control."

"In other words, we can probably take them." Gardenia stated firmly. "Most of the heavy weapons on the port side are intact, and most of the enemy ships are well above us. The deck guns are still online, so if they try to move over, we can take them out."

"However, part of the reason we are lower than they are is because we have moderate damage to the lower sections and the keel." Tulip continued. "And we've lost connection to the heavy guns on the keel and dorsal platforms. So even if we can defeat the warships, that still leaves Colbor and his forces on their own."

"…" Prairie rubbed her forehead as she considered her options. It was true, they could probably take the remaining ships. In fact, she was certain of it. But she couldn't roll the ship very far, meaning she couldn't bring the remaining heavy weapons to bear on the ground.

So the original plan to defeat the air units and provide top cover to Colbor's team was effectively ruined.

Still, it was far better odds than what they'd started with. And there were still some other options available to her…

"Marguerite, my terminal in my room has a backup bypass into the weapons control. Grab whatever guns that aren't manned, and use them. Gardenia, I want you on the helm. Keep us in range of the enemy, but don't let anything slip past us to the starboard side. And Tulip, you are on what sensors we have left. Keep an eye on the enemy ships, but also get a good look at the enemy ground forces."

"And somebody raise Colbor on the comm. He should at least know what he's up against."


"…so basically, that's what we have to work with."

Colbor nodded, and tried, honestly he tried, not to look irritated with his old friend. He knew it wasn't her fault, but that didn't change his odds one bit.

Prairie's image frowned. "We can probably take the ships, after which, I can probably rig up something to drop on their heads, but you're basically on your own, Colbor. If I still had four plasma tanks, I might try bombing them with one, but I don't. And if more ships show up, we'll need every scrap of plasma we can scrounge up. In the meantime, I've got Tulip reconfiguring the sensors to slot into your own. I can't do much else, but at least you'll be able to see where your enemies are. And once I've cleared out our own wounded, we can trans your own up here and out of the way."

Colbor nodded. "Sounds good. At this point, I'll take what assistance I can."

Prairie turned to answer someone, then addressed him again. "We're moving out now, so I'll make this quick. Lateral thinks she can restore functionality to the keel guns, so we might be able to help you out. Until then, hold firm."

He saluted. "Understood. Swing by later on Prairie, we'll still be here."


Metal shrieked as the plasma blade tore through it, just barely muffling the sound of Aile's sharp cry as Omega's hand smacked her in the face.

Aile cursed in her head as she leapt back. She'd had him. She'd had Omega dead to rights, and he'd dodged it!

Not entirely though. Even Omega couldn't have slipped away from her entirely. He'd instead turned towards her, lashing out with his outstretched arm as he did so.

He'd lost that arm doing so…but he'd survived because of it.

"Tch…you got me." Omega growled, the stump of his left arm sparking fitfully. "You actually fooled me. Me! You deliberately led me into thinking you didn't know how Phantom's Stealth Drive worked, and you played the part of a mindless illusion so well it even convinced me." His gaze was angry, but there was a hint of a grin as well. "A bit more practice, and you'd make a great sneak. That was a maneuver worthy of Phantom himself."

Omega coolly readied himself with his sword in his remaining hand.

"Still, I'm not done yet. Let's see if you've got enough left to finish it, Aile!"

And Aile realized immediately that this would be the last stroke of the match. If she didn't defeat Omega with her next attack, she was done.

Which probably meant doing something stupid again. An idea formed in her head, and Aile slowly matched Omega's stance.

"Alright. I'm ready."

Silence. Both combatants stared at each other, waiting for the unspoken signal to attack.

This time, there was no convenient signal. No building waiting to collapse, or a leaf floating slowly to earth.

There was just the two of them…looking each other in the eye.

Then…as if in unison, they moved.

Omega launched towards her, his sword poised to stab. Her own sword matched his.

"HIYAAAA!"

"URYAAAA!"

TSHHIIIINNNGGG!


...

...

...

...

"…Hah…not…bad…"

Omega's face was inches away from her. The pain on both of their faces was evident.

One was merely from pain: The result of forcing the opponent's blade aside with their fortified arm, taking the blade in the shoulder.

But the other was from defeat.

"Well…done…Aile…" Omega rasped, the Zx-Saber buried in his chest.

It was over.


AN: Writing Omega turned out to be a lot harder than I thought.

Anyways, next chapter may hopefully take less time, but that's no guarantee, especially after this chapter. It took less time then I usually take, but still longer than I had planned for originally.

I think I'll try for the two month timetable again. Since I do better with a schedule, it may help me push out updates faster. I again make no guarantees, but it sure beats waiting half a year for an update, right?