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Reason: Old version of Dark Prophecy.
|Story arcs||Dark Prophecy story arc|
Homecoming is the fourth story in volume 2 of Dark Prophecy story arc.
Chapter 1: Homecoming[edit | edit source]
"Alright, from here, we can go either further down the Perseus Arm to get to either Ashadra or Delse, or we can go straight to Zerevst," Ahrganot said.
"Hmmm..." Tholker said. "I've been wanting to get my hands on that cache for a long time now. I mean, those Titan artifacts we have so far are pretty cool."
"Zerevst, it is then," Etah replied.
"There it is... It's Zerevst," Tholker let his accent naturally slur as he watched his homeworld turn slowly through the Batras bridge's viewport, irregardless of Etah's near-certain annoyance, "I wonder if family... If father's still here." He couldn't help but clench his fists. Any mention of his family would cause him to do so. Only Karla was ever successful in extorting but a miniscule parcel of information regarding Tholker's immediate blood directly. He was, along with Etah, the joker of the team, but this was the one subject that was untouchable. He never made a single joke about his family.
"Tholker... There's no use worrying about it right now. It's best to not even think about it. You know I've had... Issues with family as well." Ahrganot attempted to calm his teammate. This did seemingly little to its desired effect, as the Eteno turned his head sharply at him.
"And we all saw how well you dealt with that." Tholker snapped.
Ahrganot, as with the rest of the team, was taken aback. Zhevhyit was never one to make a stab like that at a friend. Etah shot the offender a scathing glare, apparently enough to bring him a bit closer to his senses.
"Sorry. You ended up dealing with that pretty well..."
"Maybe we should change the subject... A-are we ready to go? Can we leave now?" Galiana pleaded, eagre to bring a quicker conclusion to the GSSOC's latest adventure.
"No reason to put it off. I want to make one thing perfectly clear, though. We're going down to an Eteno Imperial Air Force base in an Eteno shuttle, with an Eteno leader. Officially, I'll be in charge of the group."
"Do Eteno habits die that hard, or are we not infiltrating this place like you said we were?" Etah questioned.
"We are. We can just avoid the trouble of getting around the gun emplacements and assault helicopters if we go in on a tour."
"A tour? They give tours of bases in your military? Is that why the Kklxin got as far as they did?"
"We're military representatives checking out some new aircraft under development. I'll split off from the main group, hack the computers, find out where the cache is, and then meet back up with you."
"Why can't the base just hand the stuff over to us from the start?" Galiana wondered. It was a rather perplexing idea to infiltrate an airbase if the valuable prize within could just be requested.
"Nothing on record says it's here, and this base has large underground facilities. Obviously, the cache has been uncovered. Someone here knows about it and isn't telling."
"You're not going to let us destroy or kill anything, right?"
"No killing. Etah, it's sleeper rounds only. Ahrganot, Sol, Galiana, non-lethal melee tactics, please. We shouldn't be getting into many fights anyway. Some tank ace is coming through this base, and he's got at least a full armoured battalion with him."
"A tank ace... I should hope that Eteno tankers aren't trained to drive into buildings. That'll only be a problem on the outside," Ahrganot folded his arms, "And if the cache was outside, it'd be far too easy."
"My only concern about the tanks is that they'll be around for our exfil. If we carry with us as much starbolt ammunition as I hope we will, we'll be drawing significant attention to ourselves."
While Tholker was certainly disciplined enough to distinguish fantasy from reality, Etah desired some sort of reassurance, "If we're really going to be encountering trouble with your military, that means gunfire. Gunfire that could set off the starbolt, artifacts which we have no details about. The stuff could be volatile enough that a single stray shot would start a chain reaction and kill us all!"
"I understand, Etah. We can figure out how much we take when we actually get to the cache, something we should start working on. Are we all ready?"
"We are fully prepared to begin this undertaking, Tholker." Sol stated, with a characteristic eloquence.
Chapter 2: Spangwall[edit | edit source]
The shuttle carrying the team descended smoothly into the atmosphere. Just barely visible below was a cluster of grey and dusty colored buildings, standing out in the expansive light green of the grasslands Spangwall occupied. As the Eteno-made craft broke through the light, scattered cloud layer, the entirety of the base became visible. The walls and above-ground hangars were colored the same as the tall, swaying grasses, making them hard to spot at high altitude above the cloud layer. The base's runways were similarly colored, creating the illusion of thin patches of low-cut grass running for miles horizontal to the main complex. This complex was a collection of dozens of staff facilities built in orderly rows to the west of the runways, hangars, and alpine control tower.
As the shuttle began to descend into the base, some small number of AA guns and missile batteries maintained a bead on it. The status of the shuttle itself was of no question to the crews of these emplacements, as their tracking systems read friendly just as the shuttle's tail flash did. Tholker brought the nose of the shuttle up and eased the transport down onto one of several helipads adjacent to the base's personnel buildings. A scattered few HV-17 and Mi-26 Sylwester helicopters occupied some of the nearby helipads.
Chapter 3: Convention Error[edit | edit source]
Chapter 4: The Cache[edit | edit source]
Chapter 5: Battleship Daimler[edit | edit source]
The small shuttle's door swung closed as a heavy tank crawled over the smoldering fuel station. While Tholker stood in deep concentration in the cockpit, Kleist's Emperor trained its dual barrels squarely on the craft's engines embedded in the rear bottom section of its hull. Just as the tank's commander savored the moment before firing a pair of devastating HEAT rounds at his target, those two engines sprung to life. The shuttle quickly departed from the ground, and Tholker immediately made a hard left turn.
No longer savoring the moment, Kleist ordered the tank's aim up. It was possible for Emperor tanks to successfully hit airbourne targets, but it was difficult. Observing the steady ascent of the escaping shuttle, he finally gave the order to fire. Two orbs of smoke and fire popped out of two tank barrels, disappearing almost as soon as they came into existence. The only proof of their occurance, two HEAT rounds, rocketed towards Tholker and the rest of the GSSOC.
The shuttle tumbled left as its pilot urged it to the side. Only a few feet away from rendering the entire mission useless, the two tank rounds sped past the right side of the craft. By the time the tank reloaded, the GSSOC would be home free.
Within seconds, pockets of smoke began appearing in tight clusters on the ground below. Similar clouds of both smoke and shrapnel soon exploded around the shuttle. Sol, Galiana, Etah, and Ahrganot maintained careful grip on the boxes of Starbolt ammunition seized from Spangwall as Tholker rocked the shuttle back and forth, thoroughly jostling the contents of the passenger bay,
By the time the shuttle had managed to remove itself from the atmosphere, the threat of ground fire was long gone. However, a new challenger to the survival of the GSSOC approached. A light battleship, the Daimler, had waited in geosynchronous orbit over Spangwall. It trained every gun on its port side on the little shuttle fleeing the planet below.
Tholker very well knew a standard shuttle like the one he was piloting could do little to evade the guns of an Imperial Navy battleship. He stopped as soon as he'd received readings indicating that the ship was aiming at his own, awaiting any sort of instruction, or destruction.
"This is ENS Daimler, to the GSSOC. Surrender yourselves and your cargo, and you will not be harmed."
There had been no indication of any sort that whatever conspiracy was going on in Spangwall ran all the way up to the Navy presence in orbit. Touting position and rank would get the team nowhere. Persuasion was the only option, and an unreliable one at that.
"This is Commander Boris Abkumov, Imperial Home Guard. I'm shuttling sensitive documents from IAF Spangwall to the shipyard here. There is a vessel waiting for me." That vessel was Batra, and hopefully, it was still around.
"GSSOC member, I will not give you further warning, surrender immediately or you will be fired upon."
"I agree. We will surrender.
"Fighters are en route to tow you."
Tholker raced out of the cockpit.
"Everyone, it seems that one of our battleships is working with the officers at Spangwall. They're picking us up. Now, we need a plan."
"A plan to escape our captors, steal back the Starbolts, steal a ship, and steal away for the Batra?" Etah replied.
"Yes. Now, the holding cells we'll be in are all in one central location. We'll most likely have ten to-" Orange, green, and blue light emanating from the front viewport interrupted the Eteno, drawing him back into the cockpit. The rest of the team bunched up at the open cockpit door.
Three battleships and a supplementing fleet of no less than sixty ships had gathered at the Daimler's flank, and unleashed a punishing barrage of fire on the vessel. Brilliant bolts and beams of blue, red, and orange filled the GSSOC's eyes as a seemingly-spontaneous one-sided battle unfolded. Bright blue beams ran up and down the Daimlers hull, tearing it apart alongside immense railgun broadsides. Less than a minute after the titanic curbstomp began, the fusillades of gunfire from the larger fleet and the comparatively meagre replies from the Daimlers guns ceased.
"This is the ENS Bodenicharov, Captain Filipovic speaking. We're here to help you. We have two cruisers escorting the Batra out of the system as we speak. Allow my ship to bring your shuttle aboard."
"There's no time! That battleship's got reinforcements on the way! Cruise up to my ship's starboard side, and we'll guide you in."
"R-roger that. On the way." Tholker turned to his comrades.
"Do you care to explain what just happened? Why did a battleship just attack us? Why did these ships attack the other battleship? Why did-" Ahrganot began, feverishly questioning the situation that had unfolded within record time.
"I don't know, Ahrganot. All we know is that these ships are helping us, and the other one had no intention of doing so. We're going with them."
"How puny I, and many of us may truly feel now that the tables have turned so wildly." Sol considered the GSSOC's curious predicament.
Etah folded his arms, "I think we all know the feeling."
The team contemplated the recent turn of events as the shuttle hastened into the Bodenicharov's hangar's comforting embrace. Marines formed a loose but watchful shield around their captain, who was wholly absorbed in an arrangement of data devices and paper packets held up by a cluster of aides. Upon the GSSOC's exit from the shuttle, the team noticed that the aides and Marines were the standard Eteno-dominated menagerie of species. However, Ahrganot took notice of the single enthusiastic Dhragolon clutching a plain, blue folder to his chest. Occassionally, Filipovic would whisper a few words to the Dhragolon (who, humorously, was forced to bend down each time). The aide would acknowledge these words with a nod, before returning to vigilance.
When the team gathered beside the shuttle, Filipovic disengaged from his prior occupation and approached them.
"I'll explain. Don't worry, we have a bit of time. We're off to a staging point. You'll get back together with the Batra soon enough. I suspect the situation as-is isn't too clear. The information on Spangwall you sent back to your headquarters got your intelligence analysts quite suspicious. They thought that the conspiracy was bigger than you yourselves had estimated. We were re-routed to pick you up."
"Conspiracy. Chaos." Etah was first of the GSSOC to make the vital connection.
"Conspiracy. Coup. Chaos." Filipovic corrected.
"A coup... Against the Supreme Commander of the Eteno Imperial Triumvirate... How many officers? How many divisions or ships?" Tholker questioned.
"We don't know. All we know is that it's in its infancy, and far too spontaneous and disorganised to be planned."
"What's the impact? Details, details!"
"Sporadic cases of intentional friendly fire on the ground, vessels turning on each other, artillery batteries firing on friendly positions, the like. It's nowhere near as dangerous as it is perplexing. Units that turn on their own don't have any dissenting members, to our knowledge. When a ship fires on its own fleet, the whole crew is behind it. That just doesn't happen."
"Infra," Ahrganot began, piecing together the full extent of the villain's treachery, "He's doing all of this. Everything that's happened, and now this coup. It's all just to create chaos, and now that he knows we're coming, he's turning some of that chaos on us. Time is on our side even less than before. Captain, we're out of here the moment we reach that staging point."