I'm back, and this time with some more backstory! Looking back on what I wrote, I found action sequences difficult to write, with some parts looking a bit forced, so I'd appreciate it if you review this chapter and put in your thoughts on how to improve them for later chapters. (I may end up using your advice if I have time to adjust and rewrite some sections.)
A very late Chinese New Year and a moderately late Valentine's Day, I present chapter eight!
Infinite Stratos: Rise of the Valkyries Chapter 8 – All History is Dead
4 years ago, universe of Valkyria, August of the 4th year of the war, UN age, England, United Kingdom
"Target, 300 metres!"
With a plunk, the mortar tube fired the round. In the near distance a high pitched shriek followed by an explosion sounded as the round reached the apex of its arc, fell towards the ground, and detonated.
"Target miss. Aim correction, 325 metres!"
The mortar crew let loose another round. This time the round flew true towards its target, causing a Murloc to disappear in a pile of dirt.
"Target hit. New target, back to 300 metres!"
Meanwhile, a British automatic rifleman squad had formed around a soldier with a MG49 behind a line of sandbags. With the bipod perched on top of the wall, the soldier squeezed the trigger in short bursts. Lasers streamed around and at the rapidly advancing enemy.
Suddenly, four shells exploded not more than 100 metres from the nearby mortar crew. Each left an incendiary fire burning in their wake.
"Bloody hell! Counter-artillery!"
The mortar crew fired one more round before another barrage about 50 metres from their position compelled them to withdraw to a safe distance with the rifleman squad following suit. Moments later, the exact spot the mortar crew had been positioned just seconds earlier exploded in fiery flame.
The soldiers ran past an upheaved street vendor stall. Coca-Cola cans still lay on the ground everywhere, their drinkers having abandoned them in their haste to evacuate. A dropped teddy bear lay in the middle of the street.
High up in the air, a multi-role fighter jet flew towards the battlefield.
"I have tally on multiple ground hostiles. Requesting clearance to deliver ordinance."
"You are cleared hot."
A barrage of air to ground rockets burst forth from the jet. They landed on their targets and saturated the immediate area with fire and shrapnel. A large group of Murlocs disappeared in the space of a second along with two blocks of houses.
"Multiple kills on target. Ordinance depleted. I'm evac Winchester."
Meanwhile, the soldiers on the ground had retreated to about 3 blocks from the city square. Helicopters were coming and going, trying to evacuate as many people as possible.
"Get that MRAP up!" shouted the captain. The laser HMG equipped heavy transport moved up into position. Soldiers had hunkered down behind sandbags on either side of the vehicle. The captain took up positions with the men. With his laser carbine in hand, he listened keenly for any sources of approaching footsteps.
There was a heavy thump.
And another one…
The captain felt a tremor with every step. He glanced at the antenna of the MRAP, which swayed with every tremor. The footsteps, slow and steady, were growing louder. Whatever they belonged to, the thing must be a monster.
Around the corner of a building, a lumbering giant three headed dog like creature came around the corner. It was a Cerberus. Lining up to face the checkpoint, the three heads roared. It could be heard all the way at the square. A civilian that was arguing with a soldier back at the evacuation site became silent.
The captain saw a cannon mounted on the back of the beast. There was a flash of orange light that emanated from within the barrel.
3 years ago, universe of Valkyria, April of the 5th year of the war, UN age, New Hope tower cafeteria
"Ladies and gentlemen," stated the general in the cafeteria, "I am here to report good and bad news."
A murmur swept through the crowd of soldiers gathered around. It silenced when the general raised his hand.
"Which one do you want to hear first?"
"The bad," came a voice from the crowd. Everyone nodded his or her head in agreement.
"Britain has fallen along with a fifth of the British army protecting it, which means we have now officially lost the entirety of Europe," reported the general.
"Damn it," cursed Charlie quietly. When he first came here it had been Japan that was just lost. And now all of Europe was gone. He glanced at the young blonde haired girl standing beside him that could have been high school right now if not for the war. She was wearing the uniform of a grenadier. Her blue eyes were wide and filled with uncertainty and fear. She noticed his stare and quickly transitioned into her poker face.
"The good news is, or rather, the better news," continued the general, "about 89% of the small remaining civilian population there has been successfully evacuated and will arrive on this island very soon. This of course means however, the civilian quarters will be overcrowded for a couple of months before construction on the lower housing levels are completed. It also means that you'll all be seeing some new faces here as remaining British forces are integrated into the streamlined military structure we're part of. I will like to remind you all again that if you're having this conversation translated quietly by a buddy of yours, you will be in for an unpleasant experience in the coming weeks. English is the official language of our command structure, so please learn it ASAP. That is all the news I have for you today. You are all dismissed."
The crowd slowly dispersed from the cafeteria. He turned towards the girl.
"Are you ok Charlotte?"
Charlotte Dunois faced him. "I'm fine, don't worry about me."
Charlie frowned, but before he could say anything. A voice called out from behind them.
"Ooh, so how's everyone's favourite royal couple doing? Am I interrupting a romantic moment here? Perhaps one in which you two were about to kiss?" said an albino girl with blue eyes. It was Yuki.
"You know, for a 'saint', you can sure be quite lewd, considering what we've just heard," commented Charlie.
"Hey, I was only joking," pouted Yuki.
"Don't pay her any attention," said Rin as she appeared in her officer's uniform from behind Yuki.
"Don't call your superior by their first name," ordered Rin. She turned to the couple. "I came to inform you all that we're on walk-duty in ten minutes."
"Another round outside in the rain? Where a slip on the metal deck can lead to our deaths by a long fall into the dark freezing ocean?" responded Charlie sarcastically.
"Meh, I'm not too happy about this either, so we'll all do this with a hundred and ten percent effort and minimize the amount of time we spend outside."
Everyone nodded in agreement with Rin.
As the others left to prepare, Charlie turned back to Charlotte.
"Are you really ok? Look, I promise to keep you safe under any circumstances."
Charlotte smiled weakly and held his hand in hers, but before she could reply; they were interrupted by a voice. They quickly let go of each other's hand.
"Excuse me? Are you Charlie Sharp?"
Charlie turned and saw a messenger.
"Yes, I am."
"Mr. Sharp. You've been excused from walk-duty. You're to report immediately to Lab 6-D."
"I'll be there," replied Charlie. The messenger scrambled off.
Charlie glanced apologetically to Charlotte and got going.
Short time later, lab 6-D
Entering the blue colour lighted lab, Charlie saw a Japanese scientist with glasses standing in front of a countertop table. The man turned around at the sound of the doors sliding open.
"Charlie, this is Dr. Akira Laurence," introduced Bill. The scientist gave a short informal bow to him, which Charlie did as well.
"Your uncle has told me all about you young Mr. Sharp," greeted Dr. Laurence in fluent English.
"It is a honour for me to meet you doctor."
"A pleasure," the doctor gave an examining look of Charlie, "You've been chosen to be the subject of a top secret study and experiment."
Charlie raised his eyebrows in surprise. "What's it about?"
"A revival project. The good doctor can explain," replied Bill.
"The goal is to revive a dead person by using a synthetic body to house their soul."
Charlie couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You mean transferring my mind and becoming a robot? How is that supposed to work?"
Dr. Laurence motioned to a shard of material in a petri dish on the desk that reminded Charlie of the moon.
"This material can apparently hold souls. It's quite interesting really. Even I don't know how it's possible, but it was discovered when the computer analyzing another piece suddenly became sentient. It only lasted for a short while though. We're currently working out a way to use it in a controlled manner."
"Where did it come from?"
"The shards were first discovered almost right after the Murlocs appeared. The military believes that it may hold the key to many forms of their power. In fact…" Dr. Laurence paused. "The nanocore powering this installation uses them. The scientific community has decided to call this a nanoshard."
"Yes, in theory, a housing device called a personality module would hold a large piece of the nanoshard, translating mind into function. Of course, it's still a ways off from being realized. So we need someone willing to undergo that option."
"Wouldn't that mean immortality?"
"Kind off, I suppose. So what do you say to my offer?"
Bill entered the conversation. "Charlie, don't you want to keep Charlotte safe for the rest of her life, to ensure that she survives this war. This way, even if you die, you can still protect her."
"I do want to protect her. But…"
"I wouldn't think too hard on it," said Dr. Laurence. "After all, it may or may not work, and it would only be done after you die anyway."
"But what's the purpose to work on such a project?"
"To create a super soldier," said Bill. "Humanity needs heroes, and the only way to do that is to make our own. The entire project is under military funding."
"But why me?"
Dr. Laurence stared at Charlie straight into the eyes. "Because of your previous experiences and the potential it represents. You earned an officer's commendation after avoiding that training catastrophe right? Plus, Mr. Dunois and your uncle have given their full backing to you should you choose to accept. Then of course, there are a thousand political reasons for the UN council to choose you as an icon of the people. In the future perhaps, the idealism you represent could raise the moral of the people."
"Charlie, make your choice now," urged Bill.
Charlie still had lingering doubts in his mind.
"I know you will say yes Charlie," said Dr. Laurence with a faint smile.
"Intuition. There's something about you that makes me certain about your reply to my offer."
Charlie supposed that there was only one reasonable answer at this rate.
Charlie had just met up with his squad at the lockers when the raid alarms sounded. Quickly strapping on his armour and securing his weapons, he followed after Rin with the others.
They ran to the southeast entrance. The tower platforms only had four entrances at the 22.5-degree positions in order to limit the number of entrances that had to be defended from Murloc boarding parties.
Running out of the entrance, Charlie spotted a group of three combat engineers waiting with crates of equipment and tools.
"Sir," saluted the head engineer. The other two followed suit. "You're our escort?"
"Yes sergeant. Where's your battle station?"
"We're due to perform repairs on an on the eastern side AGM site. Some parts have to be replaced."
Rin nodded. "Charlotte, on point! Charlie and Yuki on the left and right. I'll take up the rear."
The group ran as fast as the engineers could carry their equipment. A wall in front of them directed them up a flight of stairs on the right to the main platform. Stepping out of overhead cover, Charlie was immediately drenched in heavy rain. The Murlocs had to be insane to attack the tower in the midst of an approaching typhoon. Pulling on his goggles, he glanced at the warning sign.
'Caution: Falling debris. Keep behind the deflector shields and ensure harnesses are strapped to the safety lines at all times.'
An explosion came from above. Charlie looked up and noticed a burning ball bounce down the side of several platforms before rushing past them. He hurriedly clipped on his harness to the safety line stretched out along the wall before running after the others. The ground was wet with rainwater, causing them to have to be especially careful with their footing.
Charlotte and the engineers turned the corner up ahead. Charlie ran to catch up with them when he felt something slam into the metal deck right behind him with a boom.
Charlie was knocked over facedown to the ground. His helmet landed on the wet metal platform with a smack. Behind him, a red-scaled pod burst open as a Murloc stepped out of it. It didn't notice him as it ran for cover and took a few shots at Rin and Yuki. The shots flew wide of their targets as Rin responded with multiple laser fire and reduced the Murloc to a corpse. Then one after another, a large group of pods hit the deck with pinpoint accuracy. Murlocs burst forth from them in large numbers.
"Charlie, catch up with Charlotte and the engineers! We'll meet up back at the AGM launcher!" ordered Rin as she and Yuki sprayed death into the mass of Murlocs. Another squad of grenadiers behind them moved in to help engage the threat.
"Copy that." Charlie hulled himself up to his feet and sprinted with his rifle left around the corner and out of sight of the skirmish.
Turning round the corner, Charlie was greeted with a virtually empty stretch of walkway. A set of staircases on the left led up to the assigned AGM position, so Charlie quickly ran across the slippery floor and made his way up the east side of the tower. At this point, the rain began to poor even harder. His pants where now drenched with water as he made his way up.
Making his way up, he almost didn't notice the silhouette of the AGM launcher through the rain until a missile blasted out from it. The rush of air tilted him backwards. Quickly, he grabbed the handrail and managed not to fall down the steps on his back. Stepping onto the AGM platform and wiping his goggles, he spotted the engineer team trying to set up tarps to cover up the missile ammunition containers. The AGM crew didn't want their hands to slip on a wet metallic surface of the missile and drop it of the side of the tower. Charlie didn't see Charlotte anywhere.
"Where's Charlotte?" he yelled.
The combat engineer leader looked at him. "What? The sound of the rain is drowning out your voice, speak louder!"
Charley made his way beside the engineer. "Have you seen the female blond haired grenadier who was escorting you?"
"Her? She got…" The firing of another missile overwhelmed the sound of his voice. Charlie could see his lips moving, but all he heard was a loud whoosh.
"Can you repeat that?"
The engineer grabbed him by the shoulders and leaned over to yell in his ear. "I said: your squad mate got separated from us. An officer came by with a large group of grenadiers while we were making our way over here and commandeered her. They were making their way to the north side of the tower over there!" He pointed with an arm towards the far left side of the platform. The rumbling sounds of explosions making their way through the sound of the rain could be heard coming from that direction. The northern side of the tower faced the largest coast of land where the Murlocs could place their artillery and pod launchers. The eastern side faced the sea, which had much less aggression, since the navy engaged Murloc vessels. The missiles that the AGMs on this side fired were redirected towards designated targets by spotters on the north, west, and south sides.
"Shoot. Will you be okay here?" asked Charlie.
"Yeah, we'll be fine. There's an auto cannon crew that got set up on this side. Go get your mate!"
Charlie ran down the steps and turned left towards the northern side.
Below him, a rail artillery cannon fired from its bunker, annihilating one of the Murloc ships responsible for launching the boarding pod that attacked Charlie's group earlier.
Getting to the northern side of the tower, he was met with the sounds of a hundred different weapons firing. He saw a fireball arc up and hit an AGM in the higher platforms above him. Throwing himself against the wall, he watched as debris roll down the side of the platforms. One hit an unlucky soldier, his safety line snapping as he fell past Charlie's view. His screams continued as he plummeted towards certain death. A chunk of burning metal the size of Charlie's head bounced off the deflector metal shield in front of him, creating a sizeable dent in it as it continued its journey downwards.
"Shoot," cursed Charlie. He had to find Charlotte and get out of the open. Glancing around, he noticed a private and his sergeant yelling from behind some deflector shields.
"Where's the air support?" yelled the private.
"You idiot, air support's trying to bomb the Murloc artillery positions along the coast. They don't have time to help up here!" replied the sergeant.
Charlie saw a spotter leaning on the deflector shield. Moving up to the fellow, he asked, "Excuse me, have you seen a blond haired, blue eyed girl. Rank of corporal."
The spotter didn't move.
"Excuse me…" Charlie tapped the guy's shoulder.
The spotter slumped over limply. There was a hole straight through where the right eye should have been. The right lens of the spotting binoculars held in the dead man's grip was smashed.
"Schieze!" cursed Charlie. He flinched back his arm and allowed the body to drop to the ground.
"Murlocs!" shouted a voice. Charlie's attention was drawn to a group of Murlocs running up some stairs on his left.
He opened fire on the group and sent multiple laser shots their way. After hitting one, the others turned to face him before a rocket that seemingly came from nowhere flew into them and blew up. He shielded his eyes from the explosion with an arm as an intense light flashed. When his ears stopped ringing from the sound of the explosion, he continued cautiously moving along and avoiding strewn scaled limbs. He was heading down the steps to a more secluded area with fewer soldiers when he spotted Charlotte. She was backing away from a Murloc. The Murloc was weapon less, but the claws on its hands still proved deadly.
They must have had a struggle that resulted in both of their weapons being lost. Charlotte was rushing to pull out her laser pistol from her side holster when she stumbled and fell over.
Charlie quickly aimed his carbine and pulled on the trigger, but nothing came out of his laser carbine. Shoot, he forgot to check his mag and reload.
The Murloc heard the click and whirled around. It rushed at him, body checking him into the wall. It's face, with its yellow eyes glowing and carnivorous teeth bristling, was inches away from Charlie's face as it screamed at him.
There was an explosion as a large piece of metal struck the Murloc from above. The metal and the body bounced off the platform as Charlie was knocked off his feet. The momentum caused him to slide towards the edge of the platform. Everything he tried to grab slid under his combat gloves from the water that covered every inch of the surface. Suddenly, his safety harnesses' line became taut as he jerked to a stop. The line had reached its maximum length, saving him from going over the side.
With a struggle, he pulled himself up and walked towards Charlotte.
"Charlie, behind you!"
Charlie heard the sound of bones breaking apart as he felt a sudden shock through his body from behind.
He glanced down at his chest. A scarlet sword was stabbed through his back and the pointed blade had appeared on the other side of his body.
With another slide, the sword was pulled back as he fell back to the ground. His blood was mixing in with the rainwater, slowly spreading out along the deck.
With a flash, a single laser shot hit the Murloc with the sword in between the eyes. There was a thump as the body dropped. Charlotte had pulled her laser pistol out from her position on the ground and crawled over to Charlie.
"Charlie. Charlie," she murmured as she grabbed him.
Charlie felt lightheaded and dizzy.
"I feel like crap. I think I'm done for," he muttered.
"Don't say that!" shouted Charlotte. She was sobbing.
With his vision starting to blur, a thought popped up into his mind. "I kept you safe. Didn't I?"
Charlotte was crying. He weakly wiped a tear from her cheek with his right hand.
"Don't be sad Charlotte." Charlie gave a reassuring smile, despite the grim circumstances. His eyesight was failing him as he realized he couldn't differentiate between the water on the cold hard metal floor beneath him and the blood pooling out from his body. He also noticed that he felt cold, as if all of his body's heat was leaking out into his drenched clothes. He could faintly hear chatter from the communication receiver on Charlotte's uniform.
"Enemy forces have started withdrawing. The airstrikes on their artillery positions have been successful. It's a full retreat. The battle is ours!"
He stared at the grey stormy sky. There wasn't a speck of blue visible.
"I repeat. Enemy forces have withdrawn."
With one final breath, Charlie passed away from the world as his arm dropped limply.
"Victory is ours!"