Part 14 - New HavenMature

Captain Wilkes briskly paced through the hallways of Camp New Heaven. Three soldiers snapped her salutes as she passed, but she didn't meet their gaze or even bother returning their salutes. She was nervous.

She should feel safe here, she knew. Camp New Heaven sat on a flat plateau, deep within the ruins of Agra. Outside, there were machine gun turrets for point defense with overlapping fields of fire.

Radar satellites fed data to a battery of automated ATLAS-II surface-to-air missile platforms. A dozen Locust single-man assault helicopters circled the airspace in over watch.

In the barracks was a whole battalion of soldiers within spitting distance to a fully stocked armory. Not a single hostile unit could reach New Heaven without being identified, targeted, then subsequently destroyed.

And yet, cold ice still ran through her bowels. Her eyes darted from shadow to shadow as she paced to the briefing room. She brushed her left hand for the pistol at her hip, just to make certain that it was still there.

This apprehension started one week ago, when they lost all contact with the New Delhi orbital defense platform. Up until then, the Admiral sent a steady flow of supplies to construct Camp New Heaven.

She passed a vacuum seal door to the briefing room. Beyond, a panel of team leaders, logistic specialist and analysts were engaged in heated debate on a central round table.

Captain Wilkes gave a half salute and settled into her seat. Around her, the panel closely watched her, waiting for her to confirm their fears that something was indeed happening to the plague.

"I'd congratulate each of you for making New Heaven a success, but time is short and you'll forgive me for skipping the formalities." She turned to a guard by the entrance. "Lights please."

The briefing room dimmed. The round table's central holographic projector warmed and displayed snap shot views of India. Each picture was shown on a timeline from before their crash landing to now.

Captain Wilkes highlighted the first slide. "The red dots represent infestations of Acolytes. Before we arrived here, they were scattered across India with no discernible cohesion."

She advanced to the day they arrived. "Here, you can see the Acolytes distributed in one area in northern India. At first, I suspected these were on their way to stop Unit 03 at the space elevator."

She brought up the recording from Unit 03's fight with the Cyclops. "This biped appeared at the space elevator and engaged Unit 03. The threat was neutralized and recorded for in depth analysis by the home fleet."

She tabbed forward. The last two slides faded, the third lit brightly, and dozens of new slides appeared after that one.

Blue dots appeared on the highlighted slide.

"The blue dots represent Lotas packs. These were scattered across the skies of India until the week Unit 03 drove into the city of Agra with two soldiers. Moments after a landing zone was secured, this is what happened."

Captain Wilkes played the footage from Unit 03's encounter with the dragon. She fast forwarded, showing a first person view of Unit 03's fist buried into the dragon's neck.

"The Lotas gathered at one spot in southern India, on an island called Sri Lanka, a week before this apparent Dragon appeared. I believe that the biped and the Dragon are each evolved forms of the Acolyte and Lotas strain."

"I believe the pre-evolved forms gather to protect a hatchery for the evolved forms, suggesting a coordinating intelligence is now at play."

She tabbed to the final slide, an aerial view of Sri Lanka swarmed with hundreds of red and blue dots. Some of the red dots were in the ocean. There was an "island of calm" at the center of this infestation.

"I believe this spot is another hatchery for another evolved form, quite possibly for the Locrix strain. The home fleet should be arriving soon, but until then my claims can't be verified by a battle processor AI."

"Jesus," a starship officer muttered. "Our boats can barely stand a fight with the Locrix the way they are now. We'd need damn magical powers to fight their evolved forms."

"He's right," air force Lieutenant Commander Harding said. Captain Wilkes especially paid attention to him. He sat with elbows propped against the table, fingers laced over his lips.

Despite his stout frame, the man had a deadly calm about him. Captain Wilkes had heard of Lieutenant Commander Harding during The Intifada rebellion.

Upon realizing his jet fighters were outmatched during The Battle of New Tokyo, Lieutenant Commander Harding allegedly wrestled his advisors out of the way, marched into the hangars and took to the skies himself.

The reason he hadn't been busted down to Sergeant was because his surprise attack destroyed near all the rebel fighters. He was as tough a soldier as he was an officer, and although his methods were...lacking a certain finesse, Captain Wilkes admired that.

"We have to shut down the Sri Lanka site right now," Harding insisted. I'll arrange for one of my Halberd interceptors to run over the site, drop a SCARAB-II nuke from low orbit--"

"That may not work," Ein Roskva countered. "These apparent dragons may well destroy the bomb, along with your Halberd interceptor, before either get near the Sri Lanka airspace. It's too risky."

Lieutenant Commander Harding listened, considered.

Captain Wilkes feared he might very well take a Halberd interceptor himself. She was about to suggest sending in Unit 03 instead when suddenly, a navy Private First Class pushed through the conference room's doors.

He leaned forward, hands thrown to knees, catching his breath. He could not find the words between the terror and his own fatigue, and then finally spoke: "The outer guard perimeter is under attack!"

The End

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