Part 16 - Paradise LostMature

The anti-air missiles impacted the ruins of Agra ten kilometers from Camp New Heaven. A flash of fire disintegrated hundreds of Acolytes, followed by aftershock tremors as the explosion coursed through the planet.

Captain Wilkes studied the destruction on her tactical display. Pinpoints of clouds mushroomed on a surging tide of Acolytes. She spotted Cyclopes in their midst, marching a path through the smoldering corpses.

The radar screen showed thousands of targets in the sky. Lotas packs, led by the dragon creatures, spat brilliant heat into the air. Only a third of the anti-air missiles hit their targets.

"Fire the fifth battery at the Acolytes instead," she said to the weapons officer. "Load the missiles into the sixth and seventh battery. I want updated targeting vectors for the Dragons leading the Loti."

The navigation officer worked to update targets from radar and motion sensors. Captain Wilkes verified the solutions before she transferred them to the anti-aircraft batteries and gave the order to fire. Performing tasks normally assigned to a battle processor AI, they were all woefully slow.

She toggled through multiple screens on her tactical display. New Heaven's cameras showed the plague now stampeding through the ruins of Agra. Paramount on these screens was Unit 03's status report.

Unit 03 was still healing from the extensive burns in the medical wing. The injuries had little effect on her combat readiness, but the young woman was strained enough as it was after the Dragon. The creature was able to outmaneuver a drop ship and the only option had been to fight.

Using her in a wounded state to defend New Heaven ran the risk of her losing consciousness in battle. The self-preservation measure could completely take over and Unit 03 would go beyond any means of control and restraint. For now, New Heaven was in human hands.

"Ma'am," Weapons Officer Ein Roskva said. "The eastern block's point defense turrets have no ammunition left. We have soldiers there, but Acolytes will reach the compromised area in ninety seconds."

Captain Wilkes absorbed the tactical situation. The turrets were the last line of defense. That meant New Heaven would be overrun when the anti-air batteries spent their missiles.

Defending New Heaven alone was a vain tactic, however. This fact became clear when the plague evolved. The New Delhi was out of commission, and the home fleet was nowhere to be found.

She could still wait for the home fleet, she supposed. A valid choice, as the starships were supposed to arrive today. Captain Wilkes steeled herself as she considered the options.

She risked being overrun if she held New Heaven and hoped the fleet would arrive in time. If she regrouped with the fleet and came back with their superior firepower, they had a better chance of retaking the planet.

Captain Wilkes decided the best thing to do was use the anti-air batteries to punch a hole through the Lotas and regroup with the home fleet when it arrived.

"Give the order," she said, "we're closing shop. I want every Raven carrying troops at full capacity. Leave equipment behind if necessary, and delay Raven call sign 'Valkyrie.' We're boarding that with Unit 03."

"Yes ma'am."

Captain Wilkes reduced Unit 03's activation level to ten percent, in case the damaged restraints failed. She then typed a command to the JAW-1221 suit's therapeutic subsystem, infusing a doze of muscle relaxant.

"Flight officers are requesting a destination. Where should they go?"

Captain Wilkes toggled through her display once more. The New Delhi was out of commission, but there was a starship holding position deep in interplanetary space.

"That vessel," she said. "That's our destination. We've lost New Heaven, but we haven't lost the second battle for Earth yet. We're going to take the Vidar and regroup with the home fleet."

The End

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