Here's another new chapter of StarCraft AU: Tiberium Galaxy. Sorry for the very late update again. It's not easy to balance between life and writing, especially since I have started working. Then, when the announcement of the cancellation of the newest Command & Conquer game by EA, the disappointment caused me to lose motivation to write for some time. But don't worry, I'm back with another new chapter, featuring the Avatar that many of you are waiting for.
To Blanchimont: That's the 200th review for my story. Thank you for your support! For that, I'll be kind enough to answer your question, even if it's going to be a spoiler for this coming chapter. If you are wondering whether the Scrin will return to do the mop-up, the answer is no. This is because the although the Commander is using the Liquid T missile, there isn't enough Tiberium stashed inside the orbital platform to create the chain reaction that can cause a significant Ichor LQ detonation signal to attract the Scrin. Besides, even if the Scrin do notice the blast, they are currently too busy mobilising on Mar Sara to care. They will take note of it, but won't attack, not yet. Read on to find out.
To Guest: I know. I know that the Avatar is not the most powerful Nod ground unit ever fielded. It is, however, the most powerful standard Nod land unit that can be mass-produced. As for the Redeemer, hmm...
Anyway this storyline will take place more than 400 years after C&C4 and around the timeline of Wings of Liberty, at year 2504.
Disclaimer: C&C belongs to EA while Starcraft belongs to Blizzard.
ACT 28: BATTLE FOR BHEKAR RO: PHILADELPHIA'S FALL
(High orbit over Bhekar Ro... Inside Mjolnir command bridge... 15 minutes before execution of Operations: Philadelphia's Fall...)
Colonel Akira Yamada and his chief computer expert, Ishida, were both still checking on their on-board adjutant, which had recently suffered from a cyberspace attack by a Nod artificial intelligence when it tried to hack and download files from the Nod database network through a control terminal in a Nod controlled main broadcast station. Although Ishida had already fully fixed the adjutant and Akira himself had confirmed that by successfully reactivating it and ordered it to re-establish command and control network across the entire Nova Squadron on the planet, both Japanese descents wanted to make sure that their adjutant did not suffer from any unwanted side-effects that might jeopardise the entire operation later.
Just then, a man rushed into the command bridge. The man was dressed in a fleet engineer get-up complete with a yellow hard hat. He appeared to be in his mid 30s if his wrinkles and messy unshaven chin were any indications. He had a lit cigar in his mouth while holding a blueprint in his hands.
"Evans! What are you doing in the bridge?" Akira asked, noticing the sudden arrival.
"Commander!" Evans called out with a thick Brooklyn accent, "I've found something that you should check it out!"
The engineer handed the blueprint to the Nova Squadron commander, who did not hesitate to take and read it.
"Isn't this the design blueprint of the Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform?" Colonel Yamada asked.
"That's right, commander!" Evans replied, "I did some further analysis on the extra modifications that our enemies had installed in the platform, and I found something interesting regarding the modifications."
"Is it regarding the gravity wells? We are already fully aware of their presences and SCV Team N-09A is now trying their best to disable them. The last time they reported that 3 out of 8 sets of those wells had already been disabled."
"No, sir! It's not the gravity wells. It's the Nod resource stockpile that you should take note of."
"The resource stockpile?" Akira asked, with an eyebrow raised in intrigue. The last anomaly that he would expect from the enemy was something weird about their resource stockpile. "What's so special about their resource stockpile?"
"Well commander, do you know what kind of resource is the enemy storing inside the orbital platform?" Evans asked.
"Based on interior scans and internal security camera footages, the Nod forces seem to be stockpiling modular crates of refined forms of the alien crystals that were first sighted in Mar Sara. Initially I wanted to send another team of SCVs down there to collect them for further studies, but decided to hold off the extraction because of heavy booby trap presence. Also, the presence of enemy gravity wells inside the platform is the number one concern right now so I decide to leave the issue of collecting those crates later after the gravity well issue is settled. So what's the problem about those stockpiles?"
"The stockpiles themselves aren't anything special besides on what they are holding, commander, it's the position of those stockpiles that you should be aware of. Take a look at this..." Evans pointed out the positions of all the Nod resource stockpiles inside Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform listed on the blueprint, with each position marked by a circle. "If you take a closer look at all these positions, you will notice that the position of all these Nod resource stockpiles coincide with critical joints of this orbital platform!"
Akira's eyes widened when he heard Evans' claim. The Nova Squadron quickly scanned through the entire layout of the blueprint and realised that the engineer was right. Although Akira himself was not an expert in architecture, he could tell from the blueprint that the positions of the resource stockpiles did appear to correspond to parts of the platform which seemed to be holding up the entire platform.
"You're right, Evans! These locations do seem to match to the platform's joint positions. Are you suggesting that these stockpiles can be another potential trap for us?" the Japanese commander asked. Evans was the chief engineer on board of Mjolnir and probably had more knowledge regarding on this issue.
"That I don't know, sir!" the engineer in the yellow hard hat replied. "If those stockpiles are truly another one of these Nod traps, then we will have to assume that those Mar Sara crystals are as volatile as nuclear fuel. But if that's truly the case, then the Mar Sara magistrate body back then shouldn't have the problem of purging those crystals if they can just simply blow up entire crystal fields with explosives. If they don't, it's either they're too stupid or those Mar Sara crystals are not as easy to blow up as nuclear fuel."
"So if they're not used for blowing up the platform, then what is the significance of the positioning of those stockpiles?" Akira wondered.
"Perhaps it's all just a coincidence?" Akira's personal Ghost bodyguard, Agent Natasha Volstov suggested.
"I don't know, Natasha. Nevertheless, thanks for the tip, Evans. I'll take this find into consideration. Meanwhile, I want you to return to your post in the hangar. Agent Nova and her team are now returning back from the surface, and I need you to make sure that the hangar is clear for their Dropship to land."
"Understood, commander!" the chief engineer made a quick salute before leaving the bridge, heading back to the ship's hangar bay.
After seeing off his chief engineer, Akira shifted his focus back onto the blueprint. The Nova Squadron commander is getting more and more confused of the enemies' course of actions and the ex-UED captain was finding it more difficult to analyse and predict their next moves. Although the enemy resource stockpiles do seem harmless, what Evans have suggested do seem to be a matter of concern. If all those resource stockpiles really detonate with blast power equivalent to nuclear detonations, the Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform would instantly break apart, destroying everything that were standing on top of it.
"This is troubling indeed. Colonel Thompson must know of this."
Currently, the Delta Squadron commanding HQ and the Nova Squadron's nuclear missile stockpiles were placed on the platform. If the platform was destroyed, the consequences would be unimaginable.
(High orbit above Bhekar Ro... Inside Hyperion command bridge... 10 minutes before execution of Operation: Philadelphia's Fall...)
Jim Raynor and a number of his men and Hyperion command crew, including Matt Horner, Tychus Findlay and Tray Randall, were all looking and observing the current overall battlefield status on Bhekar Ro, while waiting for the arrival of someone. Just then, the hatch to the bridge opened as another person stepped in. Everyone present in the bridge shifted their attention away from the virtual mission map to see the new arrival, who happened to be the hero of the day.
"Well... look at who it is..." Tychus joked, "you certainly prove to have some purpose in this ship, ain't it Tosh?"
The new arrival, the dark-skinned white-eyed Spectre dressed in black and red Spectre hostile environment suit with his long dark dreadlocked hair tied into a single knot behind his neck, just smirked and gave a light scoff to the verbal jab.
"Alright, that's enough Tychus!" Jim cut his friend off, preventing the bigger man adorned in the blue Marine CMC powered combat suit from making any unnecessary mistakes of antagonising the powerful Spectre. Then, he turned back to Tosh and congratulated him, "Good job, Tosh! I thought you almost didn't make it out there. Glad to see you make it through, my friend."
"Oh that's just nothing, brotha..." Tosh replied, "you should have put more faith in old me. I admit those Noddies are truly a challenge to get past, but nothing is going to keep me from getting what I want."
"Indeed, you certainly do prove yourself worthy for your title, Tosh. So, may I?" Jim extended out his right hand, as if asking Tosh to hand in something.
"Oh certainly, brother! You can take it." Without hesitation, Tosh took out the memory drive that he used to store the information and records taken from the Confederate Adjutant 23-46 in the Nod outpost and tossed it to Raynor's hand. "Haven't seen what's inside there, though I do have a guess what it may be; something that Mengsk doesn't wish anybody to find out."
"Your guess is as good as mine, Tosh. So I've heard that you've got us some extra presents from the Noddies. A still functional Nod subterranean vehicle and a Nod biochemical gun, that's something that we don't usually get our hands on easily. Swann and Stetmann are going to be ecstatic. I really appreciate your help for getting some Nod toys for us, my friend."
"Just lucky to come across with them, brother, and find it convenient to bring them back during the rendezvous. I've come across many more of those Nod goodies down there, even got to try some too... especially like those misty hallucinating grenades... just too bad that I have to use them up to keep the Noddies away. Those are all I have left 'borrowed' from the Noddies."
"Sir," Tray, the youngest officer in the room, decided to cut in, "I don't mean to interrupt your chat, but I thought we are to leave this rock after Mr. Tosh had retrieved the records?"
"I agree with Tray," Matt also joined in, "if the Noddies do have gravity wells installed inside that orbital platform and they are planning to use them, maybe we should warp away first before the Noddies activate them?"
"Indeed..." Jim nodded, "Alright everyone... get your butts back to your posts! That includes you too, Tychus... and Tosh, you too! Matt, prepare this ship for a warp jump out of this system immediately!"
"Yes sir!" Matt greeted before directing the orders to the Hyperion commanding crew for the warp jump, "All units return to your posts! Set the warp drives at maximum level and prepare for a warp jump on my mark..."
As Matt Horner gave the orders around and others busy rushing back to their respective posts in preparation for a jump into warp space, Raynor held tight onto a virtual star chart console. Tychus had left the room heading towards the cantina, his favourite hangout spot in the ship. In the midst of chaos, Tosh approached Raynor from his back, stopping right next to him and whispered to his ears.
"Meet me at the cantina after the jump. The usual spot. Just you... and me. I've found out something from the last Nod officer that I'd finished off, and it seems to be regarding on a hidden rodent in your ship. Don't tell anyone about this... not even your young friend Horner!"
Upon hearing Tosh's words, Jim's eyes widened in shock. Although he remained silent and tried his best to remain as calm as possible, the proclamation that Tosh brought in was something too serious for him to remain calm. When Tosh referred the term "rodent", Jim's years of experience as an outlaw was well aware the hidden meaning behind the term... there was a rat in his ship, and no, not that tiny hairy critter that gnawed on anything hard and chewed cheese in the cartoons...
There was a spy in his ship!
Raynor remained silent but with his eyes still widened, either too shocked or worried from Tosh's news. Fortunately for the ex-marshal of Mar Sara colony, everyone were too busy rushing back to their posts and no one other than Tosh noticed their commander's change in facial expression.
Tosh, knowing that Jim had taken in the message, quickly walked away as he left the bridge and headed towards the cantina along with a number of other crew mates, including Tychus Findlay.
Jim spoke nothing as Matt and the Hyperion command crew made their final preparations for a warp jump. However, he knew where would be the next place he would be heading towards and who he should meet next.
With a command from Horner, Hyperion opened and entered a warp rift, jumping away from the chaotic battlefields of Bhekar Ro.
(Back inside Mjolnir command bridge... 5 minutes before execution of Operations: Philadelphia's Fall...)
The gate into the Mjolnir command bridge opened, as Agent Nova Terra and Agent Fisher arrived and entered into the bridge.
"Commander Yamada, this is Agent Nova and Agent Fisher reporting back for duty!" the blonde Ghost greeted.
Akira shifted his attention from the battlefield minimap projected in the battlefield control panel and to the two Ghost agents who have returned from the skirmish in Nod Bhekar Ro Base 10. "Ah... Nova, it's good to have you back! You too, Fisher." the Nova Squadron commander returned the greet.
"Sir, I've heard rumours from Chief Engineer Evans saying that there is a possible set of explosive traps inside the orbital platform that is designed to destroy the entire platform when we got back to the ship. Can you explain about that?" Fisher asked.
"You knew? Did Evans blurt it out or did you find it out from the enemies?" Akira asked in return.
"No, commander." Nova replied for the other Ghost, "We've unconsciously picked up his thoughts after we've disembarked inside the hangar. And just before we've entered the bridge, we've detected even more thoughts about the possibility of an explosive trap inside the orbital platform from you and Agent Volstov. Also, while I was infiltrating inside the Nod base, I'd picked up the thoughts of the Nod base commander and did found out that the highest Nod command on this planet is planning to set a trap for us, with the orbital platform as a key. So I guess it's true that the orbital platform is really a trap."
"Looks like you've figured it out, Nova. Actually we still don't have the full confirmation whether the orbital platform is a trap or not. Other than the gravity wells, we've recently found out that the positions of the Nod resource stockpiles coincided with the positions of the platform's critical joints. We don't know whether those stockpiles are volatile or not, but if we assume they are, the entire platform will break apart if all of them are detonated." Akira informed the two agents.
"So those rumours of explosives inside the platform are actually the resource stockpiles that we've heard about earlier with the gravity wells. I have to agree with Evans, sir. While the stockpiles themselves don't sound that threatening, their positions are indeed a great concern." Fisher voiced out his opinion.
"I second that, commander." Nova agreed with her comrade, "If it's true that the stockpiles can be detonated with enough explosive power, this whole operation will be screwed. The entire Delta Squadron chain of command is based on that platform, and not to mention that we're keeping our Nukes on that piece of hulk too. Have you mentioned this to Colonel Thompson?" the blonde asked.
"I already did, Nova, but again that prideful idiot just dismissed my warning." Akira replied. "That fool even got the gall to accuse me of trying to demoralise his 'ol' glorious and almighty Delta Squadron fighters' and attempt to 'steal all the honour of the coming victory' for myself! Can you believe that?" The Nova Squadron commander slammed a palm forcefully onto a nearby desk, further displaying his frustration of Colonel Gary Thompson's folly.
Upon hearing their commander's rant, all the Ghosts present in the room (Nova, Fisher and Natasha) could only shake their heads and sigh. Like their commander, all three Ghosts agreed that the Delta Squadron commander Colonel Thompson was either too stubborn to listen to others' opinions or too stupid to even think logically. Anyone with a logical mind should already have suspected that something was up when the enemy had placed some strange objects in the critical points of a superstructure, even if the objects appeared to be harmless. Hell, just the presence of enemy-controllable gravity wells was already an enough proof that the orbital platform was not a safe place to set up a base camp.
'How in the name of the emperor does that brainless idiot Thompson even became a squadron commander in the first place?' all of them wondered.
"You know, Commander Yamada..." Nova suddenly voiced out, "if you're the one in charge of this operation, I believe we should have taken control of this planet by now. I would rather have you in command rather than that egoistical fool."
"Thank you, Nova. Thank you all for your support. Sadly, there is nothing we can do to convince Gary. Protocol dictates that the chief commander in a military operation would always have the final say and this can only be overridden if the chief commander was killed in action, then the second-in-command would take over the responsibility. I would be lying if I say that I'm not tempted to have Gary assassinated, but that won't be convenient in this scenario."
"That's because we're not allowed to terminate another Dominion military personnel unless ordered by a direct superior. If we did, we will be executed for treason." Fisher added.
"It's not just that, Fisher." Akira explained, "If Thompson is to perish at this moment, especially when victory is close, the High Command would first suspect me because I will have the most to gain from Gary's demise. If Gary's assassinated now, we would be the ones to be interrogated first."
"I see..." Natasha nodded, "that's why we can't do a thing to that fool. Even if we try to make an accidental death for Colonel Thompson, the High Command will have first thought that we are responsible and will investigate us first. Not a bright idea if you ask me."
"Indeed..." Akira added, "unfortunately right now, there's nothing much we can do except for trying our best to clean up Gary's blunders. Let's hope that our assumptions that the orbital platform as a Nod entrapment tool are wrong..."
(4 minutes later... 1 minute before execution of Operation: Philadelphia's Fall...)
"Sir, we've just received an incoming transmission from our engine room. It's a priority one sir." a junior officer reported to Colonel Yamada.
"Patch it in." Akira ordered.
A side window appeared across the screen of the battlefield control panel, revealing the real-life footage of an unmasked blonde female Ghost inside the Battlecruiser's engine room. Akira immediately recognised the Ghost as Nova, who left the bridge shortly after reporting in and commenting about Colonel Thompson's incompetence in this campaign.
"Agent Nova! I thought you should have reported back to the medical bay by now. What are you doing inside the engine room?" the Nova Squadron commander asked.
"Commander, there's a situation here that I must report to you immediately. Not too long ago, Agent Fisher and I had just caught one of the communications officers heading towards the engine room while holding some kind of an unknown object. We decided to follow that officer because of his suspicious actions." Nova reported.
"WHAT? What happened next?"
"We cloaked ourselves and tracked that suspicious officer with extreme caution. Along the way, that officer had been busy looking around as if trying to make sure that no one was tailing him. We followed him entering into the engine room and caught him setting up the unknown object in his hand. We apprehended him before he could finish what he's trying to set up."
"What object is that guy setting?"
"We aren't sure. Like every other non-psionic personnel on board of this ship, he was wearing a psi-screen, so we could not read his mind. We looked at the object that he was trying to set up and both Fisher and I believed that the object looked like some kind of a beacon."
"What about the suspect?"
"Dead. The suspect appeared to have committed suicide when we were restraining him to the ground. Fisher found a bitten capsule inside his mouth, likely to be..."
"Hold it right there, Nova! Are you saying that guy consumed a toxin when you two were trying to restrain him?" Akira interrupted and asked; that kind of suicide method was beginning to look familiar to the Japanese commander and he was suspecting that something very sinister was going on.
"That's right, commander. I have my suspicion too."
"Damn it!" the worried colonel tightened his fists, fully aware of the implications behind this report. "Nova, I want you to bring that corpse to the medical bay and find out who this perpetrator is. Bring that unknown object to the lab and hand it over to 1st Warrant Officer Ishida for analysis."
(Nod Bhekar Ro Base 2... Inside Construction Yard command chamber... execution of Operation: Philadelphia's Fall...)
"COMMANDER, THE FINAL PREPARATIONS HAVE BEEN MADE. OPERATION: PHILADELPHIA'S FALL IS READY TO BE EXECUTED." LEGION announced.
"Excellent! LEGION, prepare to execute Operation: Philadelphia's Fall. Activate the gravity wells. Launch that missile against the platform. At the same time, order all the other temples to launch their nuclear missiles against their assigned enemy capital ships. Activate all our reserve units for the counterattack. It's time we cleanse the Delta Squadron and Nova Squadron from the face of this universe." the Commander ordered.
"ACKNOWLEDGED, COMMANDER! ACTIVATING BHEKAR RO ORBITAL PLATFORM GRAVITY WELLS... STANDBY... ACTIVATING ALL RESERVE UNITS STANDBY... GRAVITY WELLS ACTIVATED... LIQUID TIBERIUM MISSILE READY... SELECT TARGET... WARNING: NUCLEAR MISSILE LAUNCHED... WARNING: LIQUID TIBERIUM MISSILE LAUNCHED!"
(Outside... Nod Bhekar Ro Base 2... )
Nod Bhekar Ro Base 2 was quite a large military base, with a Construction Yard and all kinds of Nod military structure constructed around it. The base itself housed 4 Hand of Nod structures, 4 War Factories and 4 Air Towers, together with an Operations Centre and Tech Lab. It was powered by dozens of Power Plants, and economically funded by a whopping 6 Tiberium Refineries and their Harvesters. The size of the base meant that it was an important base of operations to the Brotherhood of Nod on this planet, hence making it one of the many high priority targets by the invading Dominion task force. Fortunately, the presence of Disruption Towers, Nuke disruption field generators, Obelisks of Light and multiple defence turrets along the perimeter and inside the base ensured that the invaders did not succeed in taking down this important base.
In the centre of the base, right beside the Construction Yard, was a large Nod structure. That Nod structure was large, about as large as the Construction Yard itself. It was unique in the way that it was shaped exactly like a black metallic scorpion complete with arthropod leg-like support columns at the sides, a scorpion tail-shaped control tower at the rear, with pincer-shaped structures surrounding and 'embracing' a round circular underground silo door in front of the structure. Red windows lined the along the structure.
This was a Temple of Nod, one of the holiest structures known to the Brotherhood of Nod. This structure was frequently visited by faithful Nod pilgrims and followers around the area, as well as soldiers and other military personnel, for prayer sessions and remind themselves their life-long allegiance to the Brotherhood of Nod. Its main purpose, however, was far more sinister than just being a structure of religion. All Nod military personnel were aware that the Temple of Nod was not just a temple; it was also a missile launch site.
Just then, the silo door of the Temple of Nod opened itself, with sirens blaring across the area to signify the oncoming missile launch. In less than half a minute after the silo door was fully opened, a large ballistic missile was launched straight up into the sky, leaving a long trail of white smoke and dust along its trail.
(Back inside Mjolnir command bridge...)
"Sir, we're detecting energy flux originating from inside of the orbital platform!" a junior officer reported.
"WHAT? No... it couldn't be..." before Akira could finish his words, he was interrupted by another officer.
"Sir, we're receiving an incoming transmission from SCV Team N-09A."
"Bzz... bzzz... bzzzzz... Sir... sir... this is A... Agent... West... here... bzz... bzzz... bzzzzz... the gravity... gravity wells... have been... act... activated... bzz... bzzz... bzzzzz... the pressure... we... we can't... hold... hold on any... any longer... bzz... bzzz... G... GRRRAAAHHH..."
The transmission was abruptly ended by a loud sickening squelching sound, followed by an unending buzz along the transmission channel. The crew remained silent, shocked and surprised on the sudden turn of event.
'My god... we're too late! The gravity wells have been activated... and Team N-09A... they must have been exposed to the sudden increase of gravitational pull at close proximity! Assuming if all remaining 5 sets of wells have been activated... they never stand a chance...' Akira thought, feeling sorry for the poor brave men deployed out there to try to disable the wells. They must have been brutally crushed to death by now.
A siren suddenly blared across the command bridge of Mjolnir, alerting the entire crew of personnel present inside the bridge.
"Siren... WARNING: NUCLEAR LAUNCH DETECTED!" Adjutant 111-231 announced.
"Sir, we've detected multiple nuclear missile launches all across Bhekar Ro surface! All of them seem to be heading towards the fleet!" a junior officer reported.
"Sir, we've detected an unknown ballistic missile launched from Bravo area on Bhekar Ro surface. The size of the missile suggests that it's an ICBM class." a senior officer reported.
"Sir, one of the nuclear missiles' heading towards us!" another senior officer added.
"What are you waiting for? Steer the ship away from the missile trajectory!" Akira ordered.
"Sir, the ship's not responding to our control! We can't move her!" the first senior officer reported frantically.
"It's the gravity wells, sir. They are pulling the ship closer towards the platform. We can't control the ship when the wells' active. The heavy gravitational pull is also preventing us from making any warp jumps. We have to do something about this, commander, or else the enemy Nuke is going to destroy us!" Ishida informed.
"I know... now I see what the enemy commander is planning with the orbital platform... this is really a trap for us!" Akira exclaimed, with cold sweat dripping along his head and neck. The situation had suddenly turned very grim for the Nova Squadron commander. Held in place by the gravity wells activated inside the nearby Bhekar Ro orbital platform with a nuclear missile heading towards their ship, the entire Nova Squadron command chain was now facing the threat of total annihilation. Judging by the speed of the incoming missile, it would be too late to evacuate the ship. To the former UED commander, there was only one option left for them to get out of this predicament. "There's only one option left... all units, direct the ship's full power to the engines. We have to maintain control and at least steer the ship away from that missile's trajectory!" the Japanese commander barked out.
"But sir, the wells..." Ishida tried to remind his superior, only to be cut short by the said superior.
"I know, but we have to try. It's either we succeed and avoid the enemy nuke to fight for another day, or we'll die trying, and I'll rather test our luck to try than succumb ourselves to a nuclear annihilation! Now direct full power to the engines and get us out of here!"
"YES SIR!" the crew echoed across the bridge, as they got busy executing their commander's order.
Shortly after the crew inputted the command, a loud ship engine noise echoed across the entire ship as the Mjolnir's powerful Behemoth-class reactor worked overtime to drive the ship engine into overdrive. The engines of Mjolnir were releasing energy several times than its usual output, threatening to burn themselves out. Still, Akira's gamble seemed to pay off, as the massive capital ship began to show signs of movement... away from the pull exerted by the gravity wells in the orbital platform.
"It's working! Maintain control of the ship and steer us away from that missile!" Akira barked out, trying to lift up his crew's morale while maintaining control of the whole situation.
"Sir, that nuclear missile is going to impact with us in just under one minute! We are not going to make it!" Ishida shouted with a panicking tone. Besides Ishida, Akira also noticed signs of anxiety in the faces of the rest of his crew. Hell, even Akira himself was now sweating bullets.
Still, despite the looming threat of a nuclear death, the Nova Squadron commander was not willing to give up without a fight. Looking up in the ship's scanner screen, the ex-UED captain noticed that incoming missile was approaching at an almost perpendicular angle to the ship's port side underneath and at around 8 o' clock direction, so tilting the ship would not seem to help much. The missile was fast, too fast in the way that it seemed unlikely that the ship's downward-facing ATS laser batteries could intercept it in time before the impact. The only remaining option was to steer clear out of the missile's way.
"I don't care if we burn up the entire engine, propel the ship forward at full blast, NOW!"
The crew diligently obeyed to their determined commander and focused all their attention to steer the ship. With the ship's all four engines blowing off at their highest possible maximum output, Mjolnir was finally making progress in propelling itself forward. During this ordeal, Akira turned his full attention towards the missile signal in the scanner screen, monitoring the missile's movements.
Time seemed to slow down, as Akira eyed at the missile signal, which seemed to drift further and further away from the ship as Mjolnir propelled forward at full power. Then, excitement and relief washed upon the Nova Squadron commander as the signal showed that the incoming missile had definitely missed the ship by a very narrow margin.
"We did it, boys! We've dodged the nuclear missile!"
A series of loud cheer echoed across the bridge, as crew celebrated their narrow escape from certain death. From the inside of the command bridge, Akira could see the missile flying off from a distance, heading towards the empty deep space since it had not hit its intended target. The missile seemed to belong to the class that would detonate on impact, hence the lucky break. If it was a timed missile, then it would have ended very differently. The Nova Squadron was very lucky today.
"Looks like we've just dodged a bullet, guys. We're really lucky to have escaped." the spectacled commander congratulated. "Now I know everyone's excited, but don't forget that this battle is still far from over, so let's return our focus back to that mystery missile..."
"Sir, look!" one of the senior officers alerted the Japanese descent, pointing at the scenery displayed outside of the bridge. The officer was pointing at another Battlecruiser, which Colonel Yamada recognised it as Nordic Pride, a Behemoth-class Battlecruiser attached to the Nova Squadron, and one of Mjolnir escort ships.
Akira would have reprimanded that senior officer for interrupting him for such a trivial matter if not for one thing; like Mjolnir seconds earlier, the engines of Nordic Pride seemed to be blasting at full power, slowly propelling itself forward despite the pull exerted by the gravity wells inside the nearby orbital platform. Like Mjolnir seconds earlier, there was a nuclear missile heading straight towards it. However, unlike the situation faced by Mjolnir earlier, the missile seemed to be homing towards Nordic Pride, even though the ship was continuously on the move.
'Wait… wait a second! That nuke's homing towards Nordic Pride? How did…'
Before Colonel Yamada finished his thoughts, the missile struck home, despite the best effort by Nordic Pride to steer away from the missile's trajectory. Unlike the missile that was targeting Mjolnir seconds earlier, this missile had been tracking and homing in towards the other Battlecruiser the entire time, as if it had the massive warship already locked on before being launched. At the moment of impact, a massive explosion engulfed the entire capital ship, instantaneously blowing up the Battlecruiser into uncountable number of smaller fragments while the crew inside Mjolnir could only helplessly witness the destruction of its escort ship. The nuclear explosion sent the fragments scattered and flying off to all directions around its epicentre, with some of them heading straight towards Mjolnir.
"Brace for impact!" Akira quickly warned the others, who had all started grabbing something to prepare for the inevitable collision with the scattered fragments. A series of heavy jerks and banging noises could be felt and heard respectively as the fragments collided with the Nova Squadron flagship. Fortunately, all the fragments were not too large and the flagship was able to survive the rain of neosteel without sustaining too much damage.
"Adjutant, status report!" Akira requested shortly after the barrage of neosteel fragments.
"CURRENT SHIP INTEGRITY AT 79%... MINOR HULL DAMAGE DETECTED ON STARBOARD WING AND BOW… STATUS: OPERATIONAL AT SATISFACTORY LEVEL…" Adjutant 111-321 replied.
"What the hell… did you see that commander? That nuke had followed Nordic Pride and blew it up! It followed the Nordic Pride!" Ishida exclaimed.
"I've noticed that too, commander." Natasha also voiced her opinion. "Don't you think that it's strange, commander? The Nuke that chased Nordic Pride had followed the ship all the time and hit its intended target despite Nordic Pride's effort to avoid the missile. Even when it propelled forward under the gravity pull, the Nuke just homed in towards the ship and blew it up. The enemy Nuke seemed to have features to track and home in towards their target, yet we manage to escape while Nordic Pride didn't…"
Suddenly, before Natasha could finish her sentence, Adjutant 111-321 made a sudden announcement,
"ALERT: RECEIVING MULTIPLE INCOMING TRANSMISSIONS... STANDBY..."
"Bzz... bzzz... Sir... this is Valhalla... the gravity wells' pulling the ship... enemy nuke closing in... we... we can't shake it... oh... oh shit... it's following us... we're not going to make it... no... no... NOOOOO!"
A huge vibration was felt across the bridge in Mjolnir at the same time as the transmission from Valhalla was cut short. Akira peered to the scenery outside of the flagship, witnessing the complete destruction of another one of Nova Squadron's Battlecruiser by an enemy nuclear missile. The spectacled commander immediately knew what had happened to the Valhalla in the end.
Before the crew in Mjolnir command bridge could mourn for the fallen crew in their escort ship, another transmission suddenly cut in.
"Bzz... bzzz... Sir... this is Axe of Dominion... that blasted nuke is tracking us... and that blasted platform is pulling us... we can't shake it off... oh shit..."
Another powerful shockwave was felt, letting the Colonel Yamada and his crew aware that another one of their Battlecruisers had been lost.
Shortly after the destruction of Axe of Dominion, another transmission cut in. However, by this time, Akira had stopped listening to them.
"Dear... god, how did it turn out this way?" the Nova Squadron commander was wondering what had went terribly wrong. How could they have missed all those nuclear launches across the entire planet? Those Nukes could not have magically appeared; the enemy must had stored their Nukes somewhere on this planet and they should have noticed a few launch sites before they began this operation. How did the Brotherhood of Nod coordinate such an elaborate massive scale precise nuclear strikes?
'No, wait... how did those Nod people even target their Nukes against us in the first place?' Akira wondered. Usually, a nuclear launch strike could only be successfully executed when a target painting unit, usually a Ghost, painted a target area for a nuclear bombardment. Without a painting unit, there was no way to lock on a distant target area for the nuclear missile to strike. The only other method of successful nuclear strike was to blindly bombard an entire region or even the whole planet surface with a barrage of nuclear missiles launched from the orbit, a common practice employed by warring Terran factions during the Guild Wars. From observing the destruction of Nordic Pride and Axe of Dominion, it was obvious to the ex-UED commander that the Nod forces did not fire their Nukes blindly and hoping for a lucky hit. In fact, their Nukes seemed to have some form of target tracking function to lock on towards their targets, as evidenced by the Nukes tailing the moving Battlecruisers before striking them down. If this was the case, how did Mjolnir escape from its tailing nuclear missile? How did the Nod nuclear strike work? Could there by anyway to get around their nuclear strikes?
"Adjutant, check the status of the entire Nova Squadron on this planet. How many ships remain?"
The adjutant made a few seconds of calculation before giving the reply, "STATUS OF NOVA SQUARON REMAINING IN BHEKAR RO SYSTEM: 77% OF FORCES LOST TO THE ENEMY NUCLEAR STRIKES. OUT OF 12 NOVA SQUADRON WARSHIPS THAT HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THE OPERATION, 3 SHIPS REMAINED. THE 3 REMAINING NOVA WARSHIPS REMAINING ARE AS FOLLOWED: MJOLNIR... FENRIR... LYCANTHROPE..."
"Only 2 other Nova ships remaining? How did they survive?" Akira asked.
"LYCANTHROPE SUCCESSFULLY INTERCEPTED AND DESTROYED ITS TAILING NUCLEAR MISSILE WITH ITS LASER BATTERIES. REASON FOR FENRIR SURVIVAL... SUCCESSFUL AVOIDANCE OF MISSILE TRAJECTORY... REASON UNKNOWN..."
"Never mind, I guess I'll ask them later. What about the Delta Squadron?"
"ANALYSING DELTA SQUADRON STATUS ON BHEKAR RO SYSTEM... STANDBY... WARNING: UNKNOWN MISSILE INBOUND ONTO BHEKAR RO ORBITAL PLATFORM!"
"Oh no!" Akira exclaimed, remembering that they still had their entire supply of their own Nukes reserved for this operation still placed on top of the platform. If that unknown missile was designed to take out the platform, the resulting explosion should be catastrophic. Although it sounded unlikely that a single missile could destroy an entire orbital platform, Akira was not willing to take any more risks, especially after seeing so many miraculous feats that his new opponents could pull off. "Maintain full power to the engines! Pull this ship away from the platform as far away as possible!"
(Meanwhile... On top of Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform... Inside Delta Squadron HQ Command Centre...)
'How the hell did this happen?'
Colonel Gary Thompson, commander of Delta Squadron, as well as chief commander of this entire Bhekar Ro recapture operation, still could not fully understand what had just happened to this place. Just a few minutes ago, the heavily bearded Dominion commander was busy coming up with new strategies to try to combat the stubborn Nod defenders on this planet surface, when suddenly, without warning, he felt a massively powerful gravitational pull. Based on all available intelligence, it seemed that the enemy had just finally decided to activate the blasted gravity wells. Those Nova Squadron SCV team sent by Colonel Yamada must have failed to defuse all the wells in time.
'Drat! So is that the enemy plan? Immobilizing us with their gravity wells? Sound like a plan that only a child can think up of...' Colonel Thompson tried to assure himself, despite the fact that he and his entire squadron had been rendered immobile on this platform, being at such close vicinity under the influence of so many activated gravity wells. Unknown to the egoistical colonel, this was just the beginning.
"Siren... NUCLEAR LAUNCH DETECTED!" the Delta Squadron adjutant suddenly announced.
"WHAT? How the hell do terrorists get nukes?" Gary was shocked by the sudden announcement. The chief commander of the joint fleet task force struggled under the enhanced gravitational pull to reach towards the battlefield command and control panel screen in the middle of the Command Centre control chamber. When he saw the screen, it confirmed the adjutant's warning of impending nuclear attack. In fact, there were more than just one Nuke launched, and each of them was heading towards each and every of his Battlecruisers in the orbit. "Im... Impossible! How the hell do those terrorists find so many Nukes?"
"Sir, we have detected an unidentified ICBM heading straight towards the platform!" a senior officer reported.
"Is that ICBM another Nuke?" Gary asked.
"Signature reading suggested that it is not a nuclear weapon, but the energy readings of the unknown missile suggests that it may be some kind of a powerful chemical weapon. Whatever it is, the enemy must have planned to use it to infect the entire orbital platform rather than destroying it! We need to do something sir! We are literally sitting right on top of the orbital platform! If that ICBM is to detonate, we'll be... "
Gary did not listen fully to his officer's words as he resumed watching at the battlefield screen. He did not have to. He knew what his officer was trying to tell. The heavily bearded chief commander was now secretly panicking in the inside; he had finally realised the severity of the situation. With the incoming chemical missile, he knew that this base was now in danger. He was in danger.
"Damn it! What the hell are you idiots waiting for, lift-off this damned Command Centre and get us the hell out of this platform!" the chief commander shouted to his subordinates.
"We already tried that, sir, but we can't. The gravity wells are pulling the Command Centre down. We don't have enough power to lift-off the Command Centre under this kind of situation!" another senior officer replied.
"If we can't lift-off out of here, then get down those damned Dropships and order them to get us out of here!" Gary shouted.
"That ain't possible too, sir. When the gravity wells were activated, all our Dropships were instantly grounded. Some of them just crashed onto the platform, while the remaining ones were just stuck onto the platform surface, as if being glued to the platform surface."
"Damn it!" the Delta Squadron commander cursed at the revelation. Every events happening around him had pointed out the fact that there was no way out for him.
'If it isn't those gravity wells, we should have already on our way getting out of this mess... wait... so that's what those gravity wells are for? Damn it! Why did I not think of that?" Gary cursed himself, blaming himself for his own folly of dismissing the enemy installed gravity wells as a credible threat. Now he had to pay the price for his own folly.
"Sir, we've just lost half of all our ships to the Nukes!" a junior officer reported frantically.
"Sir, Grendel has been destroyed!"
"Siren... WARNING: UNKNOWN MISSILE IMPACT IMMINENT... IMPACT IN T-MINUS 10 SECONDS..." the Delta Squadron adjutant counted down. The crew within the Command Centre had already started panicking, but sadly due to the enhanced gravitational pull, these people could go nowhere. They were all going to die.
'Damn it! This is not what it should be! The Delta Squadron should have ended up victorious for the glory of the Terran Dominion! How could we have lost to a bunch of no-name terrorists! They should be no match against our might... we should have crushed them with ease! I can't accept this outcome... no... I can't!'
In his last final moment, Colonel Gary Thompson, commander of Delta Squadron and chief commander of this operation of reclaiming Bhekar Ro for the Terran Dominion, still could not admit his defeat against the Brotherhood of Nod, not even when the unknown ICBM struck.
(Outside of the Delta Squadron HQ Command Centre... Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform in high orbit above Bhekar Ro...)
Around the Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform, destruction was rampant. More than half of the total amount of Dominion capital ships were blasted into oblivion, courtesy of the numerous nuclear missiles launched by the Brotherhood of Nod from Bhekar Ro surface. Due to the gravitational pull exerted by the activated gravity wells within the platform itself, the Dominion warships could hardly move out of the way, let alone warp away from their doom. Even those that did manage to accelerate forward a bit by directing the entire ship's power reserves to the engines, their relief did not last long when the nuclear missiles seemingly locked on to them, tracked them and eventually destroyed them in the end. The results were uncountable number of burning radioactive neosteel fragments and debris scattered across the orbit.
As for Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform itself, it would soon meet its own turn of destruction. Just then, from beneath the orbital platform itself, a large ballistic missile was zooming towards the orbital platform itself. Then, it impacted.
Although the missile was quite large, its size suggested that it should not be big or powerful enough to destroy the entire orbital platform by itself since it was not even a nuclear weapon at all. However, although it was not a nuclear weapon, it was part of the grand design to obliterate the orbital platform in one shot.
The missile held a Liquid Tiberium warhead. At the moment of impact, the Liquid Tiberium warhead within the missile detonated, unleashing a devastating green explosive yield of more than 200 megaton thermonukes, the same type of explosive that had devastated Earth and Mar Sara before. Shortly after the primary detonation, a chain reaction was initiated within the inner chambers of the orbital platform itself. The resource stockpiles left behind by the Brotherhood of Nod were all comprised of processed Tiberium crystals. As the stockpiles nearest to the impact zone got detonated by the primary Liquid Tiberium warhead detonation, a chain reaction was created. Like a circuit of demolition charges placed inside a building set for demolition, a chain explosion occurred as the Tiberium resource stockpiles detonated and exploded under the influence of the Liquid Tiberium chain explosion. As a result of the chain explosion, the interior chambers of Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform were instantly washed in a sea of greenish explosive flames.
Despite the total destruction of the orbital platforms inner chambers, the destruction of Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform was not over yet. As the interior chambers could not contain the built-up energies unleashed by the chain explosion, the entire superstructure of the orbital platform began to crack. The superstructure damages were especially severe at the locations where the resource stockpiles were first placed, and all these locations happened to be critical points of the orbital platform. As the critical points of the orbital platform took in severe damage, the entire superstructure began to split apart.
During the splitting of the superstructure, enormous cracks began to appear on the surface of the orbital platform. These cracks served as channels for some of the built-up explosive heat and kinetic energy of the Liquid Tiberium warhead detonation to escape out from the interior chambers, causing devastating surface explosions that destroyed the Delta Squadron base structures and units. Although the Liquid Tiberium detonation also destroyed the activated gravity wells grounding the Dominion joint fleet task force, the instantaneous chain explosion meant that there was no time for the grounded Dominion troops to escape. The entire Delta Squadron that had been stationed on the orbital platform itself did not stand a chance.
Just then, a series of catastrophic explosions occurred at one end of the doomed orbital platform. That end was where the Nova Squadron had set up a stockpile of Apocalypse-class nuclear missiles that were supposed to be used for the operation. When one surface explosion struck the area, the stockpiled Nukes detonated, instantly obliterating the area in a nuclear wipe-out. Not only were all Terran structures and units near the area were instantly vaporised, the nuclear explosion shattered the entire affected end of the orbital platform superstructure.
The nuclear explosion combined with the Liquid Tiberium chain explosion within the interior chambers eventually shattered the already-splitting apart Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform. The orbital platform broke down into hundreds of burning fragments. The force of the explosions scattered and shot some of the fragments into deep space, while others were knocked out of the planet's orbit and began to make their fiery descents into Bhekar Ro surface.
Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform was no more. With its destruction, almost the entire Delta Squadron and one-sixth of Nova Squadron were annihilated. Among the casualties were the entire Delta Squadron HQ, including Colonel Gary Thompson, commander of Dominion Armed Forces Delta Squadron and chief commander of this entire operation.
(High orbit above Bhekar Ro... Inside Mjolnir command bridge...)
The crew of Mjolnir remained silent, as they witnessed in shock and horror of the total destruction of Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform. They knew that at the moment right before the impact by the unknown Nod ballistic missile, the gravity wells installed within the interior chambers of the orbital platform were still being activated, preventing any escape and evacuation attempts by the Dominion personnel stationed on top of the platform. As a result, one-sixth of Nova Squadron as well as all of its Nuke stockpiles, alongside with most of the Delta Squadron. Colonel Akira Yamada was also certain that his colleague Colonel Gary Thompson and the entire Delta Squadron command chain were amongst the list of KIA personnel when the orbital platform broke apart.
"Sir, we've just confirmed it..." a senior officer reported solemnly, "Delta Squadron HQ Command Centre was destroyed along with Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform. Their flagship Grendel was struck down by an enemy nuclear missile... we've lost contact with Chief Commander Gary Thompson..."
"Understood..." Akira acknowledged the confirmation. With the death of the chief commander of this operation, the Nova Squadron commander was now the highest ranking surviving Dominion personnel in this battle, meaning that he was now officially in charge in the overall command of this entire operation. As the new chief commander of this operation, his next orders clearly defined his next course of actions.
"Order all our ground troops to evacuate and retreat back to all our surviving ships... all Battlecruisers are to deploy their Dropships to pick up our ground forces... Adjutant, try to establish communication channels with the remnants of the Delta Squadron... inform them the death of Colonel Gary Thompson and the orders to retreat from me as the new chief commander of this operation. Once we've rallied what's left of this task force, we'll warp back to Dylarian Shipyards for repairs. We're leaving..."
For the ex-UED captain, this battle was already a lost cause. The near total annihilation of Delta Squadron as well as the loss of the entire Delta Squadron command chain already meant that this task force had lost about 3/4 of its total strength, and that did not include the loss of 1/6 of Nova Squadron. Without an orbital staging area and with only a few handful of Battlecruisers left in the orbit, there was absolutely no way this task force could keep on fighting. Judging by the number of Nukes the enemy had just launched to annihilate the vast majority of their fleet, the Nova Squadron could assume that the enemy Nod defenders stationed on the planet surface would still have plenty of fight left with them. Without the support of the reserve forces and Nukes stockpiled on the now destroyed Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform, and without adequate Battlecruisers remaining in orbit, the task of crushing Nod resistance on this planet became seemingly impossible. If those Nod defenders could hold them off comfortably even before they destroyed the orbital platform, imagine how much easier would they find to defend their strongholds at this point of time when the attacking Dominion task force had lost all of their orbital support. Judging from all he knew about the Mar Sara Insurrection, Colonel Yamada was well aware that those Nod forces would not hesitate to turn defence into offence if given the opportunity. If this was the case, then the ground forces still on Bhekar Ro surface would be in a virtual state of isolation without orbital support and in risk of getting picked off by Nod offensives. He must get his Dropships down to evacuate them as quickly as possible before it was too late.
"Commander, you're saying that we should give up this operation?" Akira's Ghost bodyguard, Natasha, asked.
"We have no choice, Natasha..." the Nova Squadron commander replied, "that series of missile strikes had depleted more than three-quarter of the entire task force. We simply don't have enough personnel left to combat our enemies anymore. If our enemies can launch that many Nukes to wipe out most of our forces, we can assume that the enemy defences are still strong. If we stay along any longer, we may suffer the same fate as the Omega Squadron. No, we can't suffer that same fate! I have to get back to Korhal and report all of these to the High Command. The emperor must be aware that we need every available tools we have if we want to defeat the Brotherhood of Nod. I hope you can understand, Natasha."
The brunette Ghost lowered her head as if in a deep thought. She remained silent for about half a minute before lifting up her head and looked straight into Akira's eyes.
"Indeed, I agree with you this time, Commander." the psionic bodyguard voiced out her own point of view. Although her emperor had given prior orders for her to keep a watchful eye onto the ex-UED commander and make sure that he would complete his mission, she was not an unreasonable person. Even as a foot soldier, the Ghost could see that current situations were dire for the Dominion joint fleet task force and it would be virtually impossible to defeat the Brotherhood of Nod right now and complete the objectives given by Emperor Mengsk. In this kind of situation, the best course of action was to retreat back to friendly territory as soon as possible while taking along with as much intelligence about their enemy as they could. They now knew the reasons why they could not succeed in gathering vital intelligence from their Nod enemies and they must let Emperor Mengsk know about that as well, so that the next time when they attempted another hacking attempt onto a Nod database, they would have the right tool or enough tools for the task. "Let's make this quick... the emperor must be aware about what these enemies are capable of. I'll inform the emperor that you're not the person to blame for this failure. That person's to be blamed is that dead fool Colonel Thompson."
"I'm glad that we've made an understanding, Natasha..." Akira thanked the special agent for her support, before turning his attention back to rallying the surviving units of the sudden Nod Nuke barrage.
(Nod Bhekar Ro Base 2... Inside Construction Yard command chamber... 5 minutes after execution of Operation: Philadelphia's Fall...)
"COMMANDER... THE LIQUID TIBERIUM MISSILE HAD SUCCESSFULLY DETONATED AND DESTROYED BHEKAR RO ORBITAL PLATFORM... THE ORBITAL PLATFORM'S DESTRUCTION HAD DESTROYED THE ENTIRE DOMINION FORCES DELTA SQUADRON BASE OF OPERATION AS WELL AS 1/6 OF NOVA SQUADRON FORCES... NUCLEAR MISSILE BARRAGE HAD DESTROYED 35 OUT OF 40 ENEMY BATTLECRUISERS IN THE ORBIT... EXECUTION OF OPERATION: PHILADELPHIA'S FALL IS A SUCCESS, COMMANDER... WE ARE NOW AWAITING FOR YOUR ORDERS OF FOLLOW-UP ATTACKS AGAINST THE REMAINING DOMINION FORCES..."
"Good to hear that… LEGION, activate all our reserve units. The time has come for us to wipe out the stain of this world that is known as the Terran Dominion…" the Commander ordered.
"ACKNOWLEDGED, COMMANDER… DEPLOYING ALL RESERVE UNITS INTO BATTLEFIELD, STANDBY… DEPLOYMENT SUCCESSFUL, COMMANDER… STANDBY FOR YOUR NEXT ORDERS…"
(Outside Nod Bhekar Ro Base 2…)
Just a few distance outside the front gates of Nod Bhekar Ro Base 2, a series of tremors were felt shortly just before several Nod Transport Drills burst out of the ground. The drills opened up, deploying squadrons of Nod Venom fighters numbering in hundreds. As soon as they were out into the planet surface, the scores of light fighters took off into the sky while maintaining flight formation.
Shortly after the first wave of Transport Drills had submerged back into beneath the earth, a second wave of Transport Drills made their turn to burst out of the ground and deploy out their loads. This second wave of reinforcements were made up of squads of Nod combat infantries and cyborg units, as well as light vehicles such as Raiders and Attack Bikes. Just then, a third wave of reinforcements came in another wave of Transport Drills burst out of the ground from an area a few hundred metres away from the second wave of reinforcements. This wave of drills deployed squads of heavier Nod vehicles, including Flame Tanks, Stealth Tanks and Chameleons. Accompanying them were also squads of Reckoners and Scorpion Tanks, which burst out of the ground by themselves.
As the Nod ground troops deployed from the second and third wave of Transport Drills began to aggregate and march towards their assigned locations, a fourth wave of Transport Drills burst out the ground about half a mile in front of them. Instead of deploying squads of units, each of these drills opened up to release a tall, massive single unit. Each of these units appeared to be a towering, 10-storey high armoured bipedal walker. The legs were heavily armoured, long, sturdy and reverse-jointed, designed to protect these critical points of an assault walker and ensured that they were strong enough to support the weight of the massive walker. The waist was segmented and relatively narrow, giving the walker a slimmer but also taller profile. Instead of guns or weapon systems that were attached to the shoulders like most combat walkers were designed, this walker was equipped with long, slender arms with each arm ending with a set of three grappling digits including an opposable thumb, suggesting designs for actual item grabbing. The head was triangular in shape, with a large single menacing-looking red optic. Ports were seen on multiple parts of the walker, mainly the left side of the head, top of both shoulders, centre of the chest and top of left wrist. Overall, the walker appeared to be tall, slender and humanoid-looking. Despite their seemingly fragile appearance, each walker were heavily armoured, covered with black heavy armour plating all over the entire walker. Each walker were painted in black and red colour scheme similar to all other Nod vehicles, with Nod symbols painted at both sides of the shoulders. Red LED lights flowed across the outline of the entire walker body frame and together with the large single glowing red optic light, gave the walker an appearance of a threatening-looking futuristic alien metallic titan bent for destruction along its path.
These walkers were the latest generation of Avatars, a legendary line of Nod war machines that had helped the Brotherhood of Nod to achieve many victories during the Third and Fourth Tiberium Wars hundreds of years ago on Earth. Now, after 400 years of absence, these legends had returned to terrorise the battlefield once more.
Elsewhere, similar phenomenon were taking place across multiple locations all over on Bhekar Ro surface. The Commander's reserve units stationed Bhekar Ro were all deployed en masse through subterranean insertions, ready to wipe out the Dominion invaders with a sea of zealous Nod warriors and war machines.
(Remains of Nod Bhekar Ro Base 10…)
It had been nearly two hours since the takeover of the Bhekar Ro Main Broadcast Station in Base 10. The sky was darkening, signifying the approach of dusk. However, tonight, there would be something extraordinary appearing in the coming night sky.
In front of the entrance of the Main Broadcast Station, a team of Reapers from the Nova Squadron stared straight up into the sky in awe. Just a few metres away from the Reaper team, the Delta Squadron 2nd Division strike force led by Siege Tank commander Lieutenant Craig Anderson also stopped their actions to look up at the unexpected scenery in the dusk sky.
A bright rain of fireballs could be seen streaking across the dusk sky on Bhekar Ro, leaving trails of flames and smoke behind like a rain of meteorites, heading straight towards various locations on the planet surface.
"What the hell? Meteor showers at a time like this?" one of the Reapers exclaimed.
"Wait a second... isn't that direction supposed to be where the orbital platform is?" Marauder Sergeant Scott pointed out to his squadron mates.
"Damn it! You're right, Sergeant Scott! Something must have happened back in HQ!" Lieutenant Anderson remarked.
As the Delta Squadron soldiers were busy debating on what could have happened, the Reapers of the Nova Squadron were discussing other topics among themselves.
"Hey sarge, you don't think that our HQ could also be..." one of the Reapers asked his superior.
"I hope not..." the Reaper leader replied, "the last time I checked, our HQ's still inside the Mjolnir. That amount of debris looks too much to be from Mjolnir... hold on, I think I've just received a new transmission."
"From HQ?" the same Reaper asked.
"Yes, it's from HQ. At least that confirmed that HQ's still alright." the Reaper leader remarked as he listened attentively to the new set of instructions given from the Nova Squadron command up in the planet orbit. After about a minute of listening, the Reaper leader cut the transmission and turned towards his squad mates. "Alright listen up, maggots, there's some change of plans. Initial orders instructed us to clean up this building and prepare it to be captured by our mech boys..." the leader informed his squad mates, pointing at the Main Broadcast Station behind him, "well you know what? Forget those last orders! Commander Yamada just confirmed us that those Nod bastards had indeed nuked the hell out of the Delta Squadron and more than half of our fleet. Those meteor showers earlier, they're all what's left of the orbital platform that we've just captured hours earlier. We're undermanned now, so the chief just gave us the orders to prepare for retreat."
"So that means we're leaving that thing alone now?" another Reaper asked.
"No, chief wanted that thing destroyed. He said that if we cannot capture that broadcast station, then we're not going to let those Nod bastards use it too. We're to demolish that thing down before our pickup arrives."
"Fair enough." the rest of the Reaper squads agreed to the order. Although it was a shame that their anticipation for a coming battle would be cut short by the retreat order, at least they had a big building to blow up.
"Alright team, prepare your D-8s and G-4s, we're gonna need lots of them to blow that shit up!"
"It's on now!"
"Gonna have me some fun!"
(5 minutes later...)
While the Nova Squadron Reaper team were still inside the Main Broadcast Station, setting up the demolition charges in preparation of destroying the massive broadcast station, the Delta Squadron 2nd Division strike force were stationed a moderate distance away from the building. They were having a heated argument among themselves since after Siege Tank Commander Lieutenant Anderson received the ill news that their chief commander and headquarters had been lost from his direct superior back in 2nd Division base camp.
"What do you mean we've lost HQ? Are you saying that those meteor showers just now were what used to be our HQ?" another Siege Tank commander questioned.
"That's what the major said, Arnold." Lieutenant Anderson replied, "From I heard there's been some new orders circulating around, telling us to fall back and prepare to retreat away from this rock."
"On whose orders? Shouldn't only Colonel Thompson have the authority to give the final orders, and isn't he's dead?" Scott asked.
"On Colonel Yamada's orders. Turns out that the Nova geeks' boss is one of the few lucky ones to survive the enemy's nuking. Protocol dictates that Colonel Yamada would be the next in line to take charge of this operation if our chief commander hits the dirt. Since that has happened, Yamada is now the new chief commander and he has the final words."
"I don't like this." Scott ranted, clearly unhappy with the sudden change in command chain, "Now we're going to follow orders from the leader of those Nova freaks. Isn't he used to be one of those UED bastards that attacked Korhal? Why should we even trust that guy? And look what's the first order he gave us... a retreat order! This is a disgrace! We should avenge our fallen brothers-in-arms and kill all those Nod bastards on this rock, not turning tail! Yamada's a wimp and a coward to issue this absurd order!"
"Relax, Scott..." Anderson tried to calm down his enraged subordinate, "I'm not happy with this either, but this is something that is out of our control. It's all part of the protocol, my friend. Besides, Colonel Yamada's retreat order may be a coward's move, but what he's doing does make sense. Did anyone of you even have any idea how many of our forces have perished when that orbital platform up there blew up? Do you think we can even get anymore fire support or reinforcements? We're on our own out there, my friend, even the major and I have to agree that a retreat order would be wise at this moment."
"But I still see no reason why we should back out just because we're now outnumbered." Scott rebuked, "Those Nod bastards are weak! We've seen what they're capable of and their equipments are all just glass cannons at best. We're just keep blasting them and they'll all be smithereens in no time!"
Anderson was about to counter Scott's argument when he suddenly received another transmission coming from their division base camp. The tank commander frowned when he heard the contents of the new transmission; it was a warning from the base that a new wave of hostiles was now approaching their current location.
"Everyone gear up! Orbital scans just detected a new wave of hostiles approaching towards us. The scans also showed that it seemed those Nod bastards had just busted out some new toys in their arsenal."
"Another never before encountered Nod weapon? After those stunts with the Nukes and anti-nuking energy fields, what else can those bastards surprise us with?" a Viking pilot wondered.
"It doesn't matter anyway, we're just blow them up into smithereens like always!" Scott scoffed.
"Look out boys, they're close... incoming from 3 o' clock!" Anderson warned.
The Delta Squadron 2nd Division strike force immediately tensed up as they prepared for another upcoming skirmish against the Brotherhood of Nod. One of the Siege Tank pilots looked into his tank's rangefinder to visually confirm the enemy presence. What he found, however, was something unexpected.
"What the... what the hell are those things?"
"Err... sir... I think there's something big over there..." a Marine corporal stuttered, pointing at the strike force's 3 o' clock direction; the very direction where the enemy's approaching from. The entire strike force gazed at that direction and just as the Marine corporal stated, they did see something emerging out from a nearby forest, which was still about a mile away from them. The fact that they could visualise the enemy clearly despite the distance clearly indicated that the approaching Nod unit was something massive.
"Damn that thing's huge!" Anderson exclaimed.
"Sir... I don't think it's alone..." the same corporal pointed out.
Indeed, at a closer look, Anderson's strike force could see that there was not just one of those massive walker-like thing approaching towards them, but three of them. Unlike most Terran-built combat walkers they had seen before, these approaching walkers were tall but thin and fully humanoid in shape. Instead of having weapon systems attached to the shoulders, these walkers appeared to have human-like arms, complete with three finger-like digits in which one of them was fixed in opposite direction like a thumb. All three walkers did not seem to have any cockpits; instead, they had large single red optics, looking more like gigantic combat droids rather than piloted walking vehicles.
"Those walkers are from the Nod side, lieutenant!" the earlier Siege Tank pilot confirmed, after making clear of Nod symbols painted on both shoulders through his Siege Tank's rangefinder.
"Damn it! Here they come again. All tanks, let's prepare to blast those walking tin cans back into the stone age. Transform into siege mode now and pick your target!" Anderson commanded. Upon the Siege Tank commander's order, all the six Crucio-class Siege Tanks present quickly transformed their tanks from tank mode into siege mode, deploying stabilising servo stands and transforming their turrets from twin 90mm cannons into a single 180mm shock cannon. After their brief transformation, the 2nd Division could see that the enemy trio of walkers were still maintaining their approach, steadily and slowly. That was quite a surprise to the team as they had expected all Nod units to be fast, but those walkers appeared to be one of the slowest Nod war machines they had ever witnessed.
"They are getting into siege range!" a Siege Tank gunner exclaimed, fingers poised to press the firing trigger.
"It's now or never, all tanks pound em' flat!"
"Goo-d night now!"
Upon the firing order, all the Crucio Siege Tanks of Delta Squadron 2nd Division under the command of Lieutenant Craig Anderson immediately opened fire with their 180mm shock cannon, raining enemy positions with a barrage of superheated tungsten. Explosive blasts seemingly flooded over the approaching enemy walkers, which was followed by thick heavy smoke lingering after the explosions of superheated tungsten shells.
"Check your rangefinder, Danny, see if they're scrapped." Anderson ordered.
"Can do!" Danny, one of the other Siege Tank pilots in the team looked into his rangefinder to confirm through the thick smoke ahead whether their earlier barrage had taken out the enemy units. Usually, there should be nothing left standing after a barrage of 180mm shock cannon superheated tungsten shells fired by six Crucio Siege Tanks. However, to the horror of Danny, there were towering moving silhouettes still sighted within the smoke. "What's that? All hostiles' confirmed still active!"
"What?" Anderson was shocked with the find. Then, as if on cue, the smoke cleared, revealing that all three enemy walkers were still walking. Though they seemed to have sustained some visible damage on their armour, none of them seemed to be crippling hence all three Nod walkers were still operational.
"Impossible! They should be smithereens by now!" Scott gasped in disbelief.
While the Anderson's units were still recovering from their deep shock, the three Nod walkers took action. The lead walker in the middle raised its right arm and opened up its palm, revealing the projector of its Obelisk laser cannon installed within its right palm. A glowing red light steadily illuminated brighter and brighter within the projector, before unleashing a beam of red laser cannon towards one of the Siege Tanks. Seconds later, the other two walkers on the lead walker's flanks followed suit, firing off their laser cannons upon the same Siege Tank. This time, the barrage shot through the armoured hull of the hit Siege Tank and detonated its stockpile of ammunition shells, resulting in the complete obliteration of that Siege Tank in a fiery explosion.
"No way! They took out Sam!" Danny gasped, stunned by the sudden loss of a good friend.
"Damn it! Everyone, concentrate all fire onto those three things! Give them our best shot!"
Under Anderson's orders, the remaining five deployed Crucio Siege Tanks fired another barrage of tungsten rounds upon the Nod walkers. Once again explosive rounds peppered upon the opposing towering humanoid war machines. However, when facing these enemies up this close, the Delta Squadron combatants could see clearly how their rounds fared against the enemy walkers, which sadly were not as well as they imagined.
"Damn!" Anderson cursed, witnessing how heavily armoured those walkers were when he saw one of the walkers receiving a blast of siege fire right into its chest, only to just flinch for a few seconds before shrugging it off as if it was just a minor scratch and resume its advance, a testament of its toughness.
"They're still moving? I thought all those Nod bastards' vehicles are supposed to be as fragile as glass!"Scott could not believe that the Siege Tanks had still not taken down a single Nod walker after two barrages of siege fire.
"Well, it seemed that not all of them are." Anderson remarked, "Alright guys, looks like we need even more firepower to put those walking freaks down. Everyone, pound em' flat! Let's see how much punishment can those things take from everyone of us!"
"Let's do this!" the Marines responded.
"Frag 'em!" Marauder Sergeant Scott agreed.
"Fortune favours the bold!" the three Viking pilots brandished out their gatling guns of their walkers.
"Engaging!" the single Goliath pilot readied for combat.
"Got em' in my sights!" the remaining Siege Tank pilots were preparing for a third siege barrage.
The Marines, Marauders, Vikings and Goliath quickly closed in and opened fire at the approaching enemy walker trio. However, despite the heavy barrage of gauss rifle, autocannon and gatling gun rounds, the enemy walkers did not seem to be affected by the hail of Terran gunfire. Even the concussion grenades fired by the Marauders, which were usually effective in slowing down enemy advance, did not seem to slow down the advancing Nod walkers.
While the Anderson's strike force foot soldiers and combat walkers were trying to halt the enemy walkers' advance and covering the more important Siege Tanks, the Nod walkers opened fire with their laser cannons again, striking down a second Siege Tank.
"We've lost another tank! Damn it! Are your next round loaded or not? We have to shoot them or they'll pick us apart!"
"All loaded sir!"
"Then give them our best shot! Drop the hammer, now!" Anderson commanded.
In an instance, the remaining four deployed Siege Tanks opened fire once more with their 180mm shock cannon, pounding the trio of Nod walkers hard. This time, the superheated tungsten shells seemed to have great effects against the heavily chipped thick armour of the towering mechanical titans, blowing off chunks of metal from their massive foes. The walker in the middle of the trio seemed to have taken a fatal blow, when a shell blasted through the chest port and right into the core of the chest region. The fatally wounded walker gave a loud, deep moan and staggered back and forth for a few steps, before pitching forward and fell face first onto the ground.
"Yeah! We finally got one!" Scott celebrated, followed by a chorus of cheer from the rest of the strike force.
Sadly, the celebration would be cut short, as the other two Nod walkers fired their laser cannons again, taking out a third Siege Tank. At the same time, their advance did not slow down, walking closer and closer towards the Delta Squadron 2nd Division formation. Eventually they reached a point where they were just a few steps away from the strike force frontline.
"Crap! They're too close to our guys! We can't fire another round without blasting our boys along with them!" Anderson realised, quickly ordering the Siege Tanks to hold their fire. They really should have pleaded harder to their commanders to buy those 'smart shells' developed by LarsCorp for their division's Siege Tanks.
"TACCOM locked!" the lone Goliath pilot tried to stand its ground and block the enemies' way with its own body, while constantly raining autocannon shells upon the closest Nod walker. The Marines, Marauders and the three Vikings in the frontline formation also stood their ground and tried to suppress the enemies with their near endless barrage of gunfire, hoping to prevent the enemy walkers from getting too close and out of the minimum siege range. All of them were aware that none of their weapons were very effective against their enemies, with the exception of superheated tungsten shells lobbed by the Crucio Siege Tank's 180mm shock cannons. The Siege Tanks were their only effective counters against the Nod walkers, and it would be disastrous to the strike force if their foes took all of them out.
The two Nod walkers were resuming their advance when they lowered their heads to find the enemy Terran grunt infantries and light combat walkers had tried to use their own body to form a line of barrier, obstructing their way towards the enemy Siege Tank formation at the back. The eerie red glowing optic of the lead walker stared straight into the cockpit of an enemy Viking that was standing and shooting just a footstep right in front of it.
One of the Viking pilot gulped in anxiety as the large single optic of the leading Nod walker stared intensively right into his eyes. Beads of cold sweat were flowing freely along his head and neck, as the Viking pilot found himself gripped in fear looking right into the 'eye' of a gigantic mechanical monster that had the capability to kill him anytime. As the Viking pilot stared deeper into his opponent's optic, somehow he found himself in an unexplained state of hopelessness, as if no matter what they did they would not going to win this confrontation. It was this state of hopelessness that made the Viking to lose his awareness of his surrounding as his eyes were still staring blankly into his enemy's. His fingers were still pressed firmly to the gatling cannon triggers, and his walker remained still. He was still blindly shooting at the enemy walker with gatling cannons in vain, not aware that his foe had just broken eye contact and raised a foot without warning. Before he could react to the sudden change, the enemy had placed that foot down just right on top of him.
"Clear a path..."
In an instant, that Viking was crushed directly underneath the leading Avatar's massive foot. The once versatile walker/fighter mechanical hybrid of the Dominion arsenal was now nothing more but a heap of squashed metal. Its pilot did not stand a chance.
"W… wh… wh… what…"
Before the Marines could contemplate what had just happened, a foot from the second Avatar had stepped right into the middle of the Marine and Marauder formation. The results, a heap of blood, body parts and broken parts while the few lucky survivors were thrown off from the shockwave of the massively heavy footstep.
"Did that thing just stepped onto a Viking?" Scott gasped.
"Not just a Viking, the other one just squished five of our boys like an ultra squishing carrion wasps!" Danny pointed out.
"Drat! I need all you idiots to spread out!" Anderson barked out to his squadron mates. To the lead tank commander of this strike force, it was now apparent that they were foolish to let the frontline boys to physically block the enemy heavy walkers' advance, when it was apparent that the enemy could have easily stepped and squashed them like squishing an annoying bug under their boots. Besides, with the frontline boys at such close proximity with the hostiles, any siege fire would have splashed their own guys into smithereens besides the enemy. "I say spread out, you morons, we can't get a clear shot!"
"Go, go, go!" the frontline formation of Marines, Marauders, two Vikings and a Goliath tried to scatter and increase the gap between themselves and the big massive Nod walkers that were engaging them. However, before they could get to a safe distance, one of the Nod walkers knelt down and swept its long slender yet powerful arm across its front in the form of a backhand, sending two Marauders a couple of Marines flying. The other walker extended its right arm and its hand grabbed hold onto one of the Goliath's shoulder-mounted Hellfire missile launcher as the aging Dominion combat walker tried to get out of its way in vain. Then, in a show of strength, the massive Nod walker lifted the Goliath fully off its feet, showing the significant difference between the power of the two walkers.
"Whoa! It picked up David!"
It was such an irony that the 12-foot tall Goliath combat walker was first named because it was thought that the walker could tower over and intimidate enemy field infantries with its size and height, just like the mythological giant from the ancient legends that dated back from old Earth where its name originated from. Yet right now, the supposed Goliath had became the 'David' in this engagement, getting 'manhandled' by an enemy that was even bigger, taller and more powerful than itself. Just like David in the same legend, the smaller combatant valiantly put up a fight despite the size deficit, spraying autocannon rounds at point-blank range onto its larger-sized assailant. Sadly, the outcome would not end like the one stated in the legend.
With a loud roar, the Nod Avatar gripped hard onto the Goliath's cockpit with its once free left hand, while its right hand still having the shoulder-mounted Hellfire missile launcher in a tight grip. Then, without warning, the larger Nod walker made pulled hard with its right hand, brutally ripping the missile launcher pod cleanly out of the Dominion walker's shoulder. At the same time, the metallic digits of its left hand compressed hard, crushing the cockpit of the Goliath despite the neosteel frame and plexishield front. It seemed unlikely that 1st Sergeant David Sousa would have survived.
"It... it just tore a Goliath apart with its bare hands!" a Marine private shouted in fear.
However, what the Avatar did later would bring even more surprise to Anderson's strike force. After ripping off a missile launcher pod from its now crushed enemy, the massive Nod walker dropped the crushed Goliath chassis unceremoniously onto the ground in a loud thud. Then, with the missile pod still in its right hand, the Avatar moved the forcefully detached Hellfire missile launcher pod directly over its left shoulder port. Miraculously, cable ports on the Nod heavy walker's left shoulder began to automatically attached and fixed themselves onto the attachment port of the taken missile pod. After a flash of sparks and a sudden illumination of red LED lights on the left shoulder frame, the newly attached Hellfire missile launcher began to swivel along the axis of the Avatar's left shoulder, as if the missile pod belonged to there at the first place.
"What the hell, did that thing just attached a missile launcher onto its shoulder? Does it think that it can take control of that weapon just like that?" many of the Delta Squadron 2nd Division soldiers found the notion pretty ridiculous.
However, in the midst of their scoffing, Anderson's strike force seemed to have briefly forgotten that they were still locked in combat with two oversized humanoid mechanical walking deaths. Before they could shift their focus back to combat, the two Avatars fired their laser cannons again, taking out a third Siege Tank, leaving three left. Shortly after that, the leading Avatar made another backhand swipe across the ground in front of it, sending another several more broken Marine bodies flying.
"Can't hold them alone!" After witnessing the destruction right in front of their eyes, the remaining two Viking pilots in the group had finally chickened out and completely lost the will to keep on fighting as their self-preservation instincts kicked in, choosing the easy way out to get away from the battle. The pair of armoured mechanical hybrids underwent a series of conformational changes as they transformed from assault mode to fighter mode in an attempt to desert the battle through the sky.
"Cowards! Where the hell did you think you two jockeys are going to! Get back down in an instance!" Anderson yelled at the two retreating Vikings through his communication transmission channel in rage.
Fortunately or unfortunately for Anderson, he would not be having the headache of dealing with the two deserters for long. Before the pair of Vikings could fly away, the Avatar with the newly attached missile launcher fired off a pair of Hellfire AA missiles towards the first fleeing Viking, blasting and downing the Dominion fighter shortly after its completed transformation. The second Avatar reached out with its right arm and grabbed hold of a dangling leg servo of the other Viking before it could even fully take off and complete its transformation. Then, to the horror of the other 2nd Division frontline troops, the second Nod walker pulled down the captured armoured mechanical hybrid and proceeded to twist and tear the walker/fighter hybrid apart with its hands. Just like what its ally did to the Goliath earlier, the massive Nod walker forcefully ripped out a gatling cannon from its victim with its right hand before crushing the cockpit with its left, ending that Viking's service to the Dominion Armed Forces permanently.
"It can't be... they can..."
The second Avatar attached the new acquired gatling cannon onto the port on its left shoulder. With another flash of sparks and sudden illumination of red LED lights on the left shoulder frame, the gatling cannon was firmly attached to the Avatar's left shoulder. Shortly after the gatling cannon was attached, the multi-barrelled weapon swivelled on top of the Avatar's left shoulder, and began to spin, before spewing a hail of hot lead upon the scattered formation of Marines. Against the sudden onslaught of gatling rounds, many Marines were systematically gunned down one by one in seconds.
"Those things can steal our weapon systems? What kind of terrorists can create weapons like that?" Anderson was shocked with the revelation that those already overpowered heavy walkers had turned out to have the capability of making themselves even more powerful by commandeering weapon systems from their foes. Throughout his entire military career serving in the Dominion Armoured Corp, Anderson did come across some very innovative militia forces that had the ingenuity and skills to upgrade their aging weapons and vehicles with all kinds of additional customisable parts and components to make themselves a more effective fighting force that could at least put up a fight against the advanced technology of the Dominion Armed Forces. However, while those militias had to do their customisation before a battle, these Nod walkers could do so in an instant, and all the tools they needed came directly right from their foes. Right now, these Nod walkers had taken the term 'adaptability' to a whole new level.
"I'm not gonna trust the top brass ever again! They said that the Nod bastards are weak in frontal assault... they said that we can easily crush them with our big guns if we fight them up front... but now this..." Scott stated, disheartened by the wrong intelligence provided by his division commander. Now, he and his men were going to pay the price. Just then, in the midst of Scott's self-mumbling, the multi-barrels of the stolen gatling cannon traced towards the Marauder sergeant.
"Oh hell no..."
Before Scott could react, the gatling cannon span its multi-barrels and unleashed an unstoppable hail of lead upon the large-sized Dominion infantry. Despite the protection from the 5-4 Armoured Infantry Suit, Scott was instantly torn apart by gatling fire. The impact multiple gatling rounds pushed the heavy infantry off his feet for a few metres, leaving the once tough and prideful Marauder dying in a pool of blood. His armour had been breached; his body nearly eviscerated; his breathing hallowed. Scott lay helpless as his body was too broken to even move a single muscle. Stim pack function in his suit had malfunctioned, and even if it did work, the side-effects would have instantly killed him. His vocal cord had been shredded by a single round, incapable of even raising his voice, as he silently screamed when the foot of the Nod walker that gunned him down came crushing right on top of him. The next second, Marauder Sergeant Samuel Scott was no more.
(Meanwhile... in front of Main Broadcast Station...)
The Reaper squad dispatched by Nova Squadron had just finished planting all the charges and had exited out of the building. Before they could detonate the charges, they witnessed the incredible skirmish just a short distance away from their current location, where a strike force belonging to Delta Squadron 2nd Division had engaged with a trio of newly observed massive Nod heavy walker. Needless to say, they were so amazed with the engagement that they had momentarily forgotten their assignment and instead started recording down the battle that they had witnessed. The Reapers knew that with every new sighting of a new Nod weapon or witnessing a new Nod tactical manoeuvre, they must let their commander be aware of these new updates as each of these were all critical intelligence that could potentially help the Dominion to get one step ahead of their enemies.
"Oh man, they're screwed!" one of the Reapers dismissed, showing no concern to their comrades in distress. Typical for a heartless criminal turned ruthless raider.
"Err... don't you think we should give them a little assistance?" another Reaper asked, "After all, those two iron hulks might come after us next."
"And let them screw us all over? Forget it, rookie! If you're confident you have something to put a dent onto one of those things when a Siege Tank couldn't, be my guest! Besides, who in the right mind will want to help those Delta morons? Aren't they're confident that they can take down those Nod bastards by themselves just by taking them head-on? Why don't we give them a chance to prove themselves?" the earlier Reaper replied.
"Yeah right, baby. Let those fools destroy each other, we'll just focus on the mission that commander given to us so that we can get out of this shithole faster." the lead Reaper remarked, "But first, let's record all these down, rookie. The colonel would reward us handsomely with every new enemy intelligence we found."
(Back to Anderson's strike force...)
A hail of gatling cannon rounds chewed up another unfortunate Marine inside out, who like many of his fellow squad mates failed to get out of the Avatar's gatling cannon field of fire. Just minutes since the engagement had begun, the strike force led by Siege Tank commander Lieutenant Craig Anderson had been reduced by more than two-thirds, including three out of six Siege Tanks that had remained after Nod Bhekar Ro Base 10 had been captured by the Dominion joint fleet task force. As for the Nod side, only one out of three Avatars had been taken out despite the severe numerical disadvantage.
With the Avatars wreaking havoc to the Delta Squadron 2nd Division frontlines and threatening to close in right upon the three remaining Siege Tanks, including himself, Lieutenant Anderson finally decided to forget about hesitating to fire just because he would risk hitting his squadron mates who were standing too close to their targets. They had the tools that were currently the most effective in taking out those giant walkers and they would not going to just stay there and do nothing while watching those Nod walkers tearing their squadron apart. They would rather let their squadron mates to die under their cannons rather than dying under the hands of some weird oversized terrorist robot-like contraption.
"To hell with the collaterals, bring down the hammer boys!" Anderson ordered with steel-like determination, shocking the rest of the Siege Tank crew remaining in the strike force.
"But sir, those guys down there would..."
"I say to hell with the collaterals! Bring down the hammer!"
With a heavy heart, the Siege Tanks did just that, firing another siege barrage with their 180mm shock cannons. Just as they had expected, the exploding tungsten rounds struck both the enemies and their own squad mates that were standing too close to the enemy walkers. They bore witness to the deaths of several Marines as a result of friendly fire.
"D... damnnn... I knew those ta... tank bas... stards... can't be... trus..." one of the victims, a Marine that had lost his entire waist down due to friendly fire, muttered in his last words before passing on.
Although there were unfortunate events of friendlies being caught and killed by their barrage, they did manage to achieve at least one profitable result; another one of the enemy walkers, the leading one with the stolen missile launcher on its left shoulder, had sustained so much damage that its engine was unable to circulate enough power to move its heavily compromised body. With smoke and sparks belching through multiple cracks in its armour, the heavily wounded Avatar staggered for a few steps, before kneeling forward and collapsing into a heap like a falling tree.
"Oh yeah! Another one down! One more to go and we're rolling!"
However, their celebration was cut short, as the last Avatar advanced towards the remaining trio of Siege Tanks at full speed. With the frontline 2nd Division troops scattered and their numbers thinned down, there was nothing left standing between that last Avatar and the Siege Tanks in its sight.
"It's coming hot! Blast it!" Anderson yelled frantically.
"It's too late! It's now beyond our minimum siege range. Our targeting computers can't lock on to it!" Danny informed, equally panicking.
"Damn it! Stupid computers! Shouldn't have depended our lives too much on those shit! Transform into tank mode now!" the Siege Tank commander of the group ordered.
The trio of Siege Tanks immediately began to 'pack up their guns' as the turret of each tank transformed from 180mm shock cannon configuration into twin 90mm plasma cannon configuration, the first step of the transition of a Crucio-class Siege Tank from siege mode into tank mode. However, in the middle of the turret transformation, the enemy Avatar fired a shot of Obelisk laser cannon right into the turret, followed by several rounds of gatling fire from its left shoulder. Although the damage was not severe enough to outright destroy the tank, it had heavily damaged the turret to the point that the entire turret had been disabled, when it was still in the middle of its transformation.
"I'm in deep! My turret's jammed!" Danny shouted, revealing the fact that it was his tank that got disabled. Without a functional turret, Danny was now as good as a deadweight in this engagement.
"Damn it! Get out of our way, Danny! We'll take it from here!" Ben, a Siege Tank operator from the third surviving Crucio Siege Tank yelled to his fellow tank operator; his tank already completed its turret transformation and was now undergoing the next step of retracting its stabilising stands and realigning its threads.
Unfortunately for Ben, his time in this battle would also be cut short, though the outcome would be slightly different from Danny's.
The Avatar halted its approach when it found itself fully on top of Ben's tank. Though Ben's Siege Tank had completed its turret transformation, it was still unable to fire a single shot due to a strange design flaw in the tank's firing system. The flaw dictated that a Crucio's guns would be locked up during the entire transformation sequence for safety reason by the tank's autoloader, even though when the crucial turret transformation was already complete. As a result, Ben was unable to defend himself as the massive hands of the Avatar descended upon his still-transforming tank.
"Arrrggghhh! Get it off me!" Ben screamed in fear as the towering walker grabbed hold of the Crucio Siege Tank's entire turret, with one leg servo stomping and holding the tank firm onto the ground. The tank's chassis began to buckle under the heavier war machine's massive weight, while sparks were sparkling profusely from between the attachment point of the tank turret and chassis.
"That thing's gonna rip Ben apart! Do something sir!" Danny shouted in panic, bugging his team leader to quickly rescue their comrade in arms. If his turret was still functional, he would have acted by now.
"Drat! Just a few seconds more..." Anderson calculated, with his tank now undergoing the final step of retracting its stabilising stands after finishing its threads realignment. After this step was done, the tank's autoloader would clear the lock and the twin 90mm plasma cannons would be clear to shoot.
Sadly, Ben did not have those few precious seconds.
Anderson and Danny could only watch in horror as the Nod walker brutally ripped the Ben's Siege Tank turret out from the entire chassis. At the same time, the gatling cannon attached to its left shoulder spin and opened fire right into the exposed joint opening where the turret was originally attached to. The gatling rounds hammered hard into the tank's inside. Combined with the leg servo crushing on top of the chassis, the doomed Crucio Siege Tank finally met its end as a small but powerful explosion occurred inside the tank, spewing out a ball of fire through the exposed joint opening, leaving a burning wreckage. It seemed unlikely Ben would have survived the violent destruction of his tank.
Even though its target destroyed, the lone Avatar was not done with its latest victim yet. Skilfully manipulating the turret in both hands, the towering Nod walker managed to grab hold onto both 90mm plasma cannons before pulling them cleanly off from the rest of the turret, taking care that the twin cannons remained intact. Then, similar to what it did to its previous acquirement of its left shoulder mounted gatling cannon, the Avatar attached the ports of the twin 90mm plasma cannons onto the wrist port of its left hand. With another flash of sparks and illumination of red LED lights along its left arm frame, the newly acquired twin cannons appeared to have firmly attached to the Avatar's left wrist and seemed to be operational once more.
"We're in deep! That thing's getting more and more guns! We have to get out of here sir!" Danny screamed in panic through his intercom. Now with both remaining Siege Tanks finally completed their full transformation from siege mode to tank mode, both tanks were ready to move off.
"Move it!" Anderson confirmed the retreat order.
Before the Avatar could get its hands onto Danny's damaged tank, both Siege Tanks accelerated and drive off at full speed away from the offending walker. While Danny's tank's turret was still jammed and could not fire a single round, Anderson's tank was poised to strike.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Anderson's tank fired several salvos of plasma shells at its larger foe with its twin 90mm cannons. The rounds struck home on the huge target, but failed to deliver any critical damage to the heavily armoured walker. This was expected by the veteran Siege Tank commander, knowing that in tank mode, Siege Tank cannons could only fire significantly smaller rounds though at the advantage of a faster rate of fire and capability to fire on the move, hence delivering a much weaker firepower output compared to shock cannons deployed in siege mode. It would take much more hits to destroy the massive enemy walker in tank mode, but that did not matter to the Siege Tank commander. Their main objective now was to retreat from this skirmish and hopefully slow down the enemy heavy unit's advance with its twin cannons before they could suffer from the same fate as their fallen compatriots.
Seemingly dismissive of its enemies' change in tactics, the Avatar resumed its focus on wiping off its two remaining targets' existence. Since both enemy Crucio Siege Tanks were driving off and increasing their distance away from it, the Avatar regained back to its previous upright posture and lifted up its Obelisk laser cannon armed right arm. Its single red optic locked onto the retreating form of one of the Siege Tanks, the one that could still shoot with its cannons, and fired a streak of laser beam with its laser cannon. At the same time, the gatling cannon on its left shoulder had not stopped firing since the beginning of the engagement. It was not done yet; shortly after firing its laser cannon, the Avatar lifted up its left arm, aiming at the retreating tank with its new acquired twin 90mm cannons and fired salvos of plasma rounds.
"I'm in deep!" Anderson shouted in alarm, realising that his tank had been targeted. While the gatling rounds had not dealt any significant damage to the tank's heavy tank armour, the laser cannon had just sliced off a section of the twin cannon barrels while the plasma rounds had also inflicted further damage to the tank's chassis and turret. Although miraculously Anderson's tank could still be able to move despite the heavy damage inflicted, it had lost control of its weapon systems and its full speed had been reduced by half. Now, like its remaining squad mate, Anderson's tank could no longer engage with its Nod foe.
Seeing one of the enemies severely crippled and in its mercy, the Avatar made its approach. To Lieutenant Craig Anderson, it was like watching a giant iron grim reaper slowly coming towards you to harvest your soul, a sense of fear and hopelessness. He had been painstakingly trying to pull down the throttle to force his tank to go faster, but it was useless as his tank had already been moving at its current fastest. The damage sustained to the tank had significantly reduced its overall performance, which had somehow reduced its top speed. Now, the Nod walker could outpace the crippled tank and eventually catch up with it.
Anderson could only watch in despair as the massive Nod walker made its approach, getting ever closer and closer. The veteran tank commander knew that his crippled tank could never escape its pursuit. His tank's weapon system was down, so was his last remaining squad mate's one. Unable to shoot back at his pursuer, Anderson knew which side was the clear victor in this skirmish. The enemy also seemed to realise this as well, as it had stopped firing its weapons and instead opted to give chase with its fleeing opponents, like a predator toying with its prey, feeling the thrill of the hunt before finishing off its victims.
'Damn! Is this it? Is this my end? After serving 20 long years in the line, I knew I'm gonna kick the bucket someday. But I wish to at least die in the arms of a hot Ghost chick assassin, not mangled by some kind of weird giant terrorist robot...'
After spending five minutes of chasing, already away from the area where Nod Bhekar Ro Base 10 once stood, the lone Avatar had almost caught up with Anderson's tank.
"To dust!" With just one step away, the Avatar was about to bend down and pin down the crippled tank with its grappling hands when suddenly, something unexpected had occurred.
"I never thread lightly..." Without warning, Danny's tank accelerated towards the Avatar, which seemed to be unaware of the second Siege Tank's sudden charge. As a result, the heavy bulk of the Dominion heavy tank rammed itself hard onto one of the leg servos of the towering Nod walker like a battering ram. The impact was so strong that the unwary walker was violently jerked forward, nearly losing its foothold if not the other leg had reacted quickly to plant itself firmly onto the ground just in time before the tall heavy war machine could topple over. Not only did the unorthodox caught the Avatar off guard, even Anderson himself did not expect to get a second chance.
"Danny! Whotcha' doing boy?"
"Lieutenant! Get out of here! I'll hold that thing off! You need to get back to base and warn the others! There's no time... oh shi..."
Before Danny could finish his words, his transmission was cut off as the Avatar, having recovered from its initial shock and had fully regained its whole footing, had gotten it right hand onto Danny's tank turret in a firm grasp. Without warning, the vengeful Nod walker lighted up its Obelisk laser cannon on its right palm, which was still touching the Crucio-class Siege Tank in its grip. The result... a blast of Obelisk laser cleanly through the Siege Tank at point blank range, igniting the fuel and stored magazines within the tank, blowing it up completely in a fiery ball of fire.
"Danny!" Anderson screamed in despair, not only because of shock of losing another one of his comrade-in-arms, but also fearing for his own life, knowing that he was now totally alone after the loss of his last remaining squad mate. "Shit! Shit! SHIT! How could this have happened? Those Nod bastards shouldn't be that tough! Where the hell are those Nova freaks when you need them!" the now frustrated Siege Tank commander cursed.
Suddenly, without warning, Anderson's Siege Tank was struck again. The lone tank commander suddenly realised that his tank had completely came to a halt; the result of plasma rounds penetrating and jamming the thread gears. Anderson peered back through the rear view porthole of his tank, only to see his pursuer already lifted its left arm, with a faint amount of smoke flowing out of the barrels of the wrist-mounted twin 90mm cannons.
'Oh hell no! Looks like that thing is finally tired of the cat and mouse game. I must get out of here... damn it, move!' Anderson mentally cursed, trying in vain to move his tank despite the schematic diagram of the tank, shown in the side interface screen, had revealed that both threads and the turret had been critically damaged to beyond functional state, meaning that his tank could no longer be able to move or even fight. Alone and without backup around, there was nothing he could do to stop the enemy from taking him out like it had done to the rest of his team.
The Avatar lifted its right arm, revealing the glowing orb of red light on its Obelisk laser cannon mounted in its right hand palm. The last sight that Lieutenant Craig Anderson of Delta Squadron 2nd Division Armour Corps saw was a streak of red light shining right into his eyes through his rangefinder.
The streak of laser penetrated through the tank and struck the stored ammunition inside the Crucio Siege Tank fuselage, resulting in a fiery explosion that completely tore the tank from the inside out, leaving no survivors.
"They're done..." the Avatar announced, confirming its latest kill. With all threats in front of it neutralised, the mighty Nod combat walker lowered its both arms.
Just then, heavy footsteps could be heard and felt, coming from behind the Avatar. The towering black and red walker glanced back, to find two more Nod Avatars joining the fray. Surprisingly, one of them sported a Hellfire AA-missile pod on its left shoulder. Both the two newly arrived Avatars appeared to be heavily combat-scarred, but still remained operational and ready for combat. The three Avatars nodded as they greeted one another, before heading out towards the nearest Dominion base together.
(Meanwhile... outside Main Broadcast Station...)
"Alright, all charges are set. Let's get going boys." the lead Reaper called out.
"I'm going! I'm going!"
The Reaper team despatched by the Nova Squadron had done setting all the D8 and G4 explosive charges around the Main Broadcast Station. Now they were focused on leaving this area.
Just at the right moment, a G-226 Medivac Dropship, bearing the insignia of the Nova Squadron, arrived the scene.
"Strap in boys, and better hurry up. Newest intel stated that this sky's about to be filled with Nod fighters. We have to head back to HQ before those fighters cut us off." the Medivac pilot informed.
"You heard the lady, let's get going!" the lead Reaper also told his team to hurry up, well aware that none of them in this group had any capability to defend themselves from a swarm of angry Nod fighter pilots. After watching what these fighters were capable of during the earlier space battle, none of them wanted to find themselves surrounded by dozens of speedy, deadly rocket-armed multi-role VTOL fighter.
In less than a minute, the entire team of half a dozen Reapers had all loaded themselves up into the Medivac passenger bay. After the last Reaper boarded, the Medivac quickly closed its hatch and slowly began to take off towards the orbit. Before the hatch was fully closed though, the lead Reaper decided to end the mission with a bang.
"Here comes the pain!"
With a click of his remote detonator, the lead Reaper detonated all the set demolition charges that he and his team had placed earlier inside that massive broadcast station. The results; a series of deafening, fiery explosions that ripped apart the huge civilian structure at multiple critical points. The charges worked well in demolishing the entire structure, causing it to collapse immediately into a pile of rubble.
The site deemed holy ground by the late Black Hand officer Archdeacon Ricardo; a site where Kane used to hold and broadcast his debut public speech across Koprulu Sector shortly after Mar Sara Insurrection... was no more.
It was a successful mission for the Reaper Team RCT-N077.
(Undisclosed location... Nod Bhekar Ro Base 2... Construction Yard command chamber...)
"COMMANDER, WE'VE JUST LOST THE MAIN BROADCAST STATION. ALL UNITS IN BASE 10 HAVE BEEN LOST TO THE ENEMY FORCES." LEGION announced.
"I see..." the Commander nodded solemnly. This would be a huge taint in his military career since Kane did give him the order to keep the broadcast station standing at the end of this battle. He had failed the messiah, and this was a big failure. As a member of the Inner Circle, the Commander was well aware that the great prophet disliked failures, regardless of who you are or your ranking within the Brotherhood of Nod. "I will personally inform Kane about the loss of the broadcast station later, but first, we still have some vermin left to crush. Through their deaths shall we avenge all our fallen brothers who had fought valiantly against the tyrant forces till the bitter end. We'll not let the blood of our brothers flow for nought... LEGION, order all units to destroy all remaining Dominion Battlecruisers that had escaped our nuclear strikes before they can escape."
(About 30 miles north of Nod Bhekar Ro Base 10 remains... Dominion Armed Forces Delta Squadron Bhekar Ro Forward Base 2...)
Forward Base no.2 was one of the largest Delta Squadron base camp set for this joint fleet task force in this mission to recapture Bhekar Ro from the clutches of the Brotherhood of Nod. Set up by Delta Squadron 2nd Division, the main objective of this base was to provide a resources and function as a staging area for the 2nd Division to attack and destroy the nearest Nod base, where the galactic main broadcast station of this planet stood. However, although the base was massive in area, the insides were of a different story.
Resources were running dry for the 2nd Division, as all harvestable minerals and vespene gas in had been completely depleted a few moments ago. In fact, this base had found little resources for the SCVs to collect with when the base was first constructed. If not due to the fact that this was the only site with harvestable resources within 30 mile radius of the outskirt of their primary objective site, they would have already picked a different spot to set up camp.
With limited resources, Major Roland Lee had decided to dedicate all resources for offense rather than defence. Since his base had been completed, Major Lee had ordered waves and waves of his troops to take down the nearest Nod base in a desperate gamble to end its existence before his forces run out of steam. His only line of defence for his base was the last remaining pair of Battlecruisers cruising the sky above his base: Minos and Cretan Bull.
He had a third Battlecruiser, Manticore, but it was unexpectedly destroyed by tough Nod defences when the 2nd Division commander thought that the might of a Minotaur-class Battlecruiser was enough to bring the terrorists down to their knees. When those Nod 'laser obelisks' cut the mighty capital ship down into smaller sections from the sky, Roland did not want to risk losing anymore ships under his command.
When news of the loss of almost the entire Delta Squadron fleet to a sudden nuclear ambush reached Roland's ears, the major knew immediately that this battle was a lost cause. Without Battlecruiser support or reinforcements stationed in the orbit, there was no way his limited forces could take out all the local Nod presence in the area.
While Major Lee had no qualms of retreating from a battle that seemed impossible to win, the commander of the Delta Squadron 2nd Division had issues of leaving a fight without accomplishing anything during the battle. If he had to pull out his forces from this battle, he reminded himself to at least destroy one terrorist base before leaving. His target: the closest Nod base 30 miles away which he was initially tasked to destroy.
Hence when Lieutenant Craig Anderson made a report half an hour earlier that the enemy base had finally been overtaken, though with small assistance from the Nova Squadron, the major was happy that he had at least accomplished an achievement of taking down one enemy base before pulling his forces out. Now he would not leave any shame of leaving a lost battle without inflicting some significant losses to the enemy.
Unfortunately, Roland would suddenly find himself in a very sticky situation. It all started when he suddenly lost contact with Lieutenant Anderson's forces, who were supposed to be still patrolling around the ruined Nod base to eliminate any survivors. Before the entire strike force went dark, his adjutant received multiple distress calls before turning static, a clear indication that something had gone terribly wrong. These distress calls varied from this...
"Impossible! They should be smithereens by now!"
"Did that thing just stepped onto a Viking?"
"Arrrggghhh! Get it off me!"
And finally this...
"Lieutenant! Get out of here! I'll hold that thing off! You need to get back to base and warn the others! There's no time... oh shi..."
Based from what he had heard from the distress calls, the experienced major instantly knew that Lieutenant Anderson's strike force had encountered another enemy attack, and this time the enemy had definitely triumphed. What he could not understand was how did his men meet their end. From the hours he had spent observing the enemy's actions since this battle had begun, Roland knew that the main tactics employed by the terrorists of Brotherhood of Nod were stealthy, lightning-fast ambush in order to catch their victims off guard and finish them off with a sudden barrage of overwhelming firepower before their victims could counterattack. If this was the case, he would have expected to hear some sudden cut in transmission and probably loud explosions before the team went dark, with little or no distress calls being sent in time. This time, however, it was obvious that his team had been battling the same foes for an extended amount of time and they seemed to have lost, overwhelmed by something powerful, something that could withstand tremendous amount of punishment, and something that was strong enough to easily crush objects as big as a Crucio-class Siege Tank.
This was a baffling puzzle for Major Lee. Whatever thing or things that had vanquished Lieutenant Anderson's team, they had to be some kind of massive, heavily-built object similar to a Thor heavy assault walker or a Zerg Ultralisk, but Roland found it difficult to associate them with the swift and light tools that the Nod terrorists had favoured.
'Could there be a third enemy faction out there?' the 2nd Division commander wondered, thinking that this was the most logical explanation available.
Sadly, before Roland could make any final conclusion to the mystery, his thoughts were cut short by a sudden blaring of the base sirens.
"Siren... WARNING! LARGE NUMBERS OF ENEMY FIGHTER-CLASS AIR UNITS APPROACHING BASE FROM EAST, SOUTH AND WEST. ENEMY AIRSTRIKE IMMINENT... ETA 1 MINUTE!" the base adjutant warned.
Roland immediately the minimap of his battlefield command and control panel, augmented by advanced sensors of his Orbital Command and early warning detection system by a few Sensor Towers scattered across his base. To his shock, he saw multiple red blips appearing in the scanner screen, numbering at more than a hundred units, approaching and surrounding his base from multiple directions.
"What the... how the hell did those bastards retain this many fighters? I thought we had taken out a bulk of them during the space battle?" Roland cursed. As he had been focusing on sending waves and waves of his troops to attack the nearest enemy base, the commander of Delta Squadron 2nd Division had neglected in reinforcing the defences inside his base, feeling that his two Battlecruisers were enough to do the job so that he could dedicate the limited amount of available resources in offensive operations. After sending unending waves of his troops to pressurise the Nod defences, Roland now had very few resources and time left to muster what had left of his division for defence against massive airstrikes like these. In fact, Lieutenant Anderson's strike force had been one of the last wave of units he could pull off and send to crush the enemy defences before the resource stockpile in his base completely run dry.
"Siren... WARNING! ENEMY FORCES SIGHTED..."
"Oh hell no! Adjutant, inform the captains of the ships Minos and Cretan Bull to engage the enemy fighters! I want the sky clear of those pests, PERMANENTLY!" the 2nd Division commander bellowed in frenzy.
(Back outside... sky above Forward Base 2...)
Under the darkening twilight sky in Bhekar Ro, sirens could be heard blaring across Delta Squadron Forward Base no. 2, with beams of high-powered searchlights flashing across the sky from the ground and from the pair of Minotaur-class Battlecruisers cruising above the base. With warning of an imminent enemy large-scale airstrike, the few remaining troops of Delta Squadron 2nd Division prepared for the worst.
Soon enough, silhouettes of multiple tiny aerial object could be seen converging towards the base from almost all directions. These silhouettes were barely visible under the twilight sky, but many Marines stationing outside could see the faint red lights illuminating on the silhouette forms. For some of the smarter Marines with good memory, they instantly recognised the forms of these specks in the twilight sky as those pesky Nod single-seated scout fighters, which they had witnessed shooting down many of their Dropships during atmospheric entry in the early phase of this battle on Bhekar Ro. In huge quantities, these fighters were also known to be capable of overwhelming and downing any combat aircrafts and ships, including entire Battlecruisers.
"Holy sh... there's too many of them!"
The defenders of Forward Base 2 looked up in the sky in despair, knowing well that they were heavily outnumbered this time. Their base did not have a lot of defensive structures erected, and the number of troops stationed to defend the base were already too few to begin with, and even fewer units that were capable of defending the base from aerial threats. When this area had been captured and the base being set up, Major Roland Lee had expected that the joint fleet task force should have established air superiority across this planet by that time, and theorised that the main threat to the base security were from the ground or underground. However, since Major Lee's main objective was to eliminate the nearest Nod base in the area with few limited resources available, the 2nd Division commander decided to invest all his resources in building up and sending waves and waves of units in an attempt and rush and overpower the enemy before they could react and counterattack. The battleplan cost the lives of hundreds of brave Dominion soldiers, but Roland did eventually succeed in levelling down the base, albeit with a little assistance from a team of Nova Squadron soldiers that had managed to infiltrate deep into the base and do some major damage to the base from the inside-out. Since offensive tactics had been favoured instead of defensive tactics, Roland did not build a lot of structures or units to defend this base. Although he did deploy some troops and defence structures for base defence, these were mainly suited in combating threats on the ground such as enemy infantry waves or tank rushes. They were not deployed with air defence in Roland's mind, as the 2nd Division commander felt that there was no need to. Now it seemed that Major Roland Lee had made a grave mistake of assuming that his enemy no longer had aerial supremacy on this planet.
As the swarm of Nod fighters closed in towards their quarry, streaks of laser bolts were fired towards the Nod Venom swarm in heavy barrages. The Battlecruiser Minos and Cretan Bull had quickly reacted to the airstrike and were putting their all to repel or eliminate the hundreds of aerial threats flying above and towards their base. These two Battlecruisers were the main defence units tasked to guard and protect Forward Base 2, and now they were also the best chance that the Delta Squadron 2nd Division had to combat this massive scale airstrike.
Some of the Venoms at the front of the Nod flight formation did not react in time and ended up being shredded apart by the barrage of laser fire, though most managed to manoeuvre and dodge the heavy barrage thanks to the Nod fighter's superior speed and manoeuvrability performance in the sky. As the surviving Venoms swerved and dodged the laser barrage, they strike back with volleys of Tiberium-core Stinger rockets. The barrage of rockets sailed through the twilight sky and easily hit their massive targets, detonating and blasting the thick neosteel hull of the Dominion capital ships.
The struggle of the Delta Squadron's Battlecruisers, Minos and Cretan Bull had begun...
(Meanwhile... 10 miles away north of Delta Squadron Forward Base 2...)
On top of a hill about 10 miles away of Delta Squadron Forward Base no. 2, a large Nod forces was approaching the besieged Dominion base.
While the defenders of Forward Base 2 were distracted and busy defending the base and themselves from the large-scale Venom airstrike, none of them were aware that a large number of Nod combat vehicles were making their approach towards their base, with the aims to wipe out their very existence.
An Avatar made a temporary stop at the summit of the hill overlooking Forward Base 2, while the rest of the armour column resumed their march. The single red optic of the Avatar gazed ominously at the entirety of the enemy base at the distance, as well as the pair of Battlecruisers battling in the sky above the base, as if it was gauging its next prey.
Next Act: Battle for Bhekar Ro: Clean-up
With the destruction of Bhekar Ro Orbital Platform, a large proportion of the Delta Squadron and Nova Squadron Joint Fleet Taskforce had been lost. As the Nod counterattack began, the Battle of Bhekar is about to reach its end. Will the remnants of the broken taskforce escape the wrath of Kane and his Brotherhood?
Nod Unit Profile: Avatar
Role: Multi-purpose heavy assault walker
Armament: Variable (Default: Obelisk laser cannon installed in right palm, Grappling claws on both hands, Multi-purpose adaptable ports on left wrist, chest, head, left shoulder and right shoulder)
Appearance: Similar in shape and appearance of TW3 Avatar but with two 'hands' and the default laser cannon installed on the palm of right hand. Size is about 10-storey high, around the same size of Tib Twilight Avatar. Head design is similar to that of Tib Twilight Avatar with triangular shape as well as a large single red optic. Ports can be seen on side of left side of head, shoulders, chest and left wrist, where various weapon systems and upgrades will be attached to.
Throughout the history of Brotherhood of Nod's confrontations against their enemies, regardless whether they are GDI, rogue Nod factions, Scrin or Terran Dominion, the Brotherhood often preferred asymmetrical warfare against their foes, employing unconventional tactics such as ambush, hit-and-run, espionage and cyber-warfare. Despite their vast arsenal of advanced technology and weaponry, the Brotherhood's foes were often better armed and armoured, hence making direct frontal engagements often ill-advised by every Nod military instructors. However, in the event that a direct frontal confrontation is inevitable, the Brotherhood of Nod would not hesitate to bust out a secret trump card that is capable of engaging their foes head-on and winning unlike most other Nod units. The trump card: the Avatar Warmech.
The brainchild of decades of research and reverse-engineering of discarded GDI walker technology after the end of Second Tiberium Wars, the Avatar line of combat walkers is the first ever 'heavy' unit fielded by the Brotherhood of Nod that is capable of standing toe-to-toe to any GDI combat vehicles head-on in a conventional frontal assault, including the notorious armoured beast known as the GDI Mammoth Tanks. Unlike other Nod vehicles, which are mainly built for speed and firepower with heavy sacrifice of size and armour, the Avatar is a large, heavily armed and armoured bipedal walker that is designed with firepower, durability and versatility in mind. Though significantly slower than other Nod vehicles due to its size, the Avatar has no need for speed as it is a unique Nod unit designed to engage its enemies directly upfront. Since its introduction during the Third Tiberium Wars, this line of towering steel titan has struck fear to the hearts of countless GDI soldiers, as well as serving as a grim reminder to the GDI that they are no longer the sole faction that has armour superiority.
Since the arrival of Terrans onto the Koprulu Sector, after the Brotherhood's ascension, the Inner Council knew that it would be necessary to include a new Avatar model in their growing Nod Armed Forces to counter the Terran threat. The question was which version would the new Avatar design be based on. The Inner Circle reviewed all the predecessor models that had served during past Tiberium Wars on Earth, which included the predecessor 'Purifier' model, the Mk. 1 Avatar and the Mk. 2 AW-30 'Avatar'. In the end, it was decided that the newest Mk. 3 Avatar would be designed with the adaptability of the Third Tiberium Wars Mk. 1 Avatar as the main reference. The Mk. 2 AW-30 was deemed to be "over-specialised" and not suited to the role of Nod's only frontline heavy combat unit. The new Mk. 3 Avatar is a 10-storey tall heavily armoured humanoid-shaped bipedal walker with similar shape as its predecessors. Like the Mk. 1 Avatar which its design is heavily based on, the Mk. 3 is armed with a single powerful Obelisk laser cannon installed on its right arm by default, capable of heavily damaging or even destroying heavy armour from long distance in both air and ground. At close range, the massive size of the Mk. 3 Avatar means that the huge walker is more than capable of crushing smaller foes under its heavy legs, in which even Crucio-class Siege Tanks can be flattened instantly by an Avatar's footstep. Even if the victims manage to evade the heavy footsteps, they will still have to beware with the Avatar powerful pair of arms, which can swipe, grab or crush any unlucky foes within its reach. The Avatar's most unique ability, however, is its ability to adapt in the midst of the battle itself by upgrading through commandeering technology, ripping off weapon systems and accessories from other vehicles and attaching ripped off parts onto itself through the multiple ports on its body. Through the years of perfecting this technology, the Avatars are now even capable of ripping parts off from defence structures such as Viper turrets and SAM Sites and use these parts to upgrade themselves (See Avatar's Commandeer Technology).
While the new Mk. 3 Avatars appear to be an invincible fighting machine, designers have noted that like its predecessors, the newest Avatar model has a potential Achilles' heel in the form of its legs. Although the legs have been heavily reinforced in order to support the walker's massive weight, any significant damage dealt to the legs, for example a well-placed high-explosive charge, can cause the advanced walker to lose its balance and topple onto the ground. Fortunately, due to its durability, a disabled Avatar can still leave a husk in the battlefield, ready to be reactivated by Saboteurs if they can reach it in time before an enemy destroys it permanently. In order to improve the chances of Avatar husk reactivation, the Enlightened Cult of Scientific Research have recently released a new backup program upgrade in the Avatar system, which contains programmed instructions for an array of nanomachines installed within the Avatar body to undergo gradual repair of the husk until it is fully repaired. Once fully repaired, the program automatically establish reconnection of the repaired Avatar to the neural control pod, reactivating the Avatar.
The Avatars are maintained and controlled in its own unique military branch, known as the Shrine of the Avatars. Specially-trained engineers are tasked to repair and maintain these mighty war machines. The heart of the Shrine of the Avatars, however, is a team of specially-trained neural pilots who are tasked in piloting the majestic walkers themselves. Unlike most piloted vehicles, Avatars are not controlled directly by their pilots inside the machines. Instead, the pilots are housed safely within classified underground compounds where they remotely control their war machines through a direct neural link inside a specially designed remote control pod, similar to the Mk. 2 AW-30 Avatar of the Ascension Conflicts. In this way, it earns its namesake as it becomes a remote controlled body for the neural pilot, which the pilot can command the walker to perform actions as fluid as if like he is inside his own body. If an Avatar is to be lost during a battle, the remote control system of the war machine means that the pilot will be still perfectly safe inside his remote control pod, far away from the actual site of conflict itself. However, as neural-linked remote control process requires a specific set of compatible brainwaves to control an Avatar warmech, selection process for Avatar neural pilot is extremely strict with a much higher dropout rate compared to other Nod branches, as incompatible brainwaves may sometimes result in potentially fatal neural feedback that can destroy brain cells of cadets. Due to the strict selection of neural pilots, Avatar numbers are not as numerous compared to other less durable Nod units, hence commanding these powerful war machines are usually reserved for the more senior Nod commanders.
Avatar's Commandeer Technology
One of the Mk. 3 Avatar's unique trait is its ability to upgrade itself in the midst of a battle by ripping off weapons or accessory parts from other vehicles and defence structures, installing them by attaching them through multiple ports on the Avatar's body. This ability is available as soon as the Avatar exits out of the War Factory. As long as the Avatar is able to come to a close proximity to its target, it can use its grasping arms to grab hold of its target and tear off the part that it wants to use. This action will always instantly destroys its target, regardless of how fresh the targeted vehicle is.
By default, the Avatar's ports are only compatible to Nod systems, hence an Avatar can only upgrade itself by sacrificing and ripping off from Nod vehicles. This means at an Avatar usually starts its first upgrades by commandeering technology off from friendly Nod vehicles. Due to this trend, LEGION and some of the senior commanders of the Nod Sect of Engineering are concerned that Avatar pilots may unnecessarily scrap large numbers of perfectly functional Nod vehicles for their own self preservation, a concern that had once forced the scrapping of Mk. 1 Avatar and creation of AW-30 before the Ascension Conflicts. Thankfully, the implementation of neural remote control system means that Avatar pilots do not need to fear injury or death with the destruction of their machines, hence the thought of self preservation is never inside the minds of Avatar pilots. Also, many pilots and commanders have also observed that Avatars can lose speed and agility the more upgrades they put on, prompting most Avatar pilots to prefer not performing upgrades in the battle unless being commanded by their superiors to do so. This trend, however, soon changes when the Enlightened Cult of Scientific Research released the Tacitus decryption program software upgrades, available through Tech Labs. This upgrade enables Avatar systems to synchronise with technology of other factions, including xeno technology such as Protoss and Scrin. This allows Avatars to rip off weapons and accessories from non-Nod vehicles and structures, attaching these non-Nod parts to their ports and use them. With this upgrade available, Avatar pilots begin to enjoy crushing and tearing off enemy vehicle parts and use the enemy parts to upgrade themselves, causing terror to enemy mechanised divisions.
The list of available upgrades that the Avatar can use is shown below. Note that each port upgrade is irreversible and only one part can be attached to each port for each Avatar.
Port: Weapon/Accessory (Source)
Head: Advanced Sensor (Attack Bike, Seeker, Sensor Tower)
Chest: Stealth Generator (Stealth Tank, Chameleon, Nod Harvester, Disruption Tower); Heavy Armour Plating (Reckoner, Armoured Personnel Carrier, Bunker); Guardian Shield (Sentry); Self-repair Nodule (Slave, SCV); Ion Storm Destruction Bomb (Scrin Harvester); Buzzer Hive (Buzzer Hive)
Left Shoulder: Machine Gun/Gatling Gun (Raider, Auto-Turret, Viking); AA Missile Launcher (SAM Site, Missile Turret, Goliath); Haywire Missile Launcher (Warhound); Sentinel Missile Launcher (Widow Mine); Photon Cannon (Photon Cannon, Dragoon); Particle Disruptor (Stalker); Plasma Cannon (Gun Walker, Mechapede); Plasma Disc Launcher (Plasma Disc Battery, Mechapede); Plasma Missile Launcher (Plasma Missile Battery); Tiberium Shard Launcher (Shard Walker, Mechapede)
Right Shoulder: Flamethrower (Flame Tank, Flame Column, Hellion/Hellbat, Perdition Turret); Liquid Tiberium Sprayer (Corruptor; Mechapede)
Left Wrist: Laser Cannon (Scorpion Tank, Viper Laser Cannon); Fragmentation Grenade Launcher (Vulture); Railgun Capacitor (Diamondback); Twin 90mm Cannon (Siege Tank); Phase Disruptor (Immortal); Scarab Launcher (Reaver); Proton Cannon (Devourer Tank); Plasma Cutter (Mechapede)
As powerful as this technology sounds, there are some restrictions in this technology, mainly some parts that Mk. 3 Avatars are unable to tear off and upgrade themselves with. Any other large massive mechanised units such as MCVs, other Avatars, Terran Thor heavy assault walkers, Protoss Colossal combat drones and Scrin tripods, are too big and too strong for an Avatar to overpower. Advanced defence structures such as Obelisks of Light and Scrin Storm Columns have functional parts that are too big and too complex for an Avatar to attach to. So far, despite their advances in genetic studies, Nod scientists have also yet to find a way to integrate Zerg fully biological weapons and armour as part of the Avatar's upgrade pool.
Nod Structure List
Temple of Nod: Large holy superweapon structure fielded by the Brotherhood of Nod. Primarily functions as a launch bay for intercontinental ballistic missiles. Once operational, a countdown begins before the Temple is fire its load. If countdown has reached halfway at 5 minutes, a Nod commander can choose to fire prematurely by launching a multi-missile onto a selected area, which deal medium to heavy scattered damage across a large area. If countdown has finished after 10 minutes, the Temple is ready to launch a fully operational thermonuclear missile onto a selected area, dealing massive damage across a large area. Each launch, regardless a multi-missile or nuclear missile, will reset the countdown timer. Countdowns will stop if the Temple of Nod is underpowered.
More structure list coming soon...
Hey guys! Sorry for the long downtime. I have started working after my graduation and together with other things in life, leave me little time to update. Getting hooked into more video games and reality show series isn't making things better.
For some unknown reason, I find writing my most favourite Nod unit in this story very difficult. I think it's mainly because I'm trying to find the delicate balance between making the Avatar shine in the StarCraft universe, while not trying to make it too overpowered at the same time. The Avatar itself is already a pretty complex unit, so I also did spend a long time thinking and revising my new Avatar unit design. It's not easy trying to make up a new Avatar version that has to be better than all the previous versions like how it should be after more than 400 years, yet still retain the characteristics of the previous versions to make it recognisable as a Nod Avatar and not something entirely different. Hope all of you like this new Avatar.
As you've all noticed that there's no vs. section in this update. Well, that's because with the long section regarding on the Avatar and its upgrades, with the Temple of Nod, I think the extra section is going to be too long if I also add in a unit vs. section. Hence I've decided to drop it this time. It'll be back next time.
The idea of the Temple of Nod able to use two kinds of superweapons depending on status of its countdown during activation is thanks to MegaAuthor. Thumbs up for him guys!
I won't know when, but I will assure you like always that I'll not abandon this story, though updates may be irregular. Stay tuned for the next update!