As you can see, I'm basically treading water here. Once I clear the next...three chapters, there should be an uptick in the rate of content as we get to the interesting stuff. But when I have to write about Ethan...yeah.
: Let the Battles Begin
Are you finished, Johann? You sure? I wouldn’t want to interrupt you while you’re fluffing your ego.
Everything was going to get settled in that day. Our enemies would be beaten, Gurhal would be saved and everything would just be sugar and rainbows. But, the time in between our meeting and Colony and the credits roll was going to see a lot of grief. We thought we were prepared for it, but it was just one rough situation after the next.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. We do that a lot, don’t we? The day actually started off pretty all right. I returned to Neudaiz. Looking back, maybe it was a little wasteful for me to go to Colony for a five minute pep rally, but those things are important, you know? When I did get back, the situation was pretty much the same as I left it. The Communion’s forces were dispatched across the Agata archipelago, where Neudaiz’s confinement system was, and our engineers were busy getting everything ready for the Unification Point.
The big difference was that I was alone. Yeah, yeah, Johann had that whole nice speech he ripped off of TV, but realistically, I was on my own on Neudaiz. If something went wrong, or if we got a powerful opponent, it was going to be on me to handle it. I had taken and dealt with a whole lot of responsibility up to that point, but it was still just a little scary to think about. But it was also exciting: I mean, just a year before, I had been a pampered princess doing glorified volunteer work and now, I was in a position to make a real difference in the world.
Anyway, Neudaiz was actually pretty boring for a while. Since it’s just me and Johann telling this story, we might as well tell you about what happened on every planet and not just our posts. Let’s see, I think Rykros was the first to heat up if I remember right. Johann had already left to go camp at his reactor, so it was just Stacy and Ethan at the base camp. Well, them and a bunch of Guardians.
Rykros was a planet that was always crawling with SEED, so their presence there didn’t raise any alarms. Most of them were so weak that Stacy didn’t even bother herself keeping the camp clear and left that job to Ethan and the Guardians she assigned to Rykros. Just like in Dezolis, there was a perimeter set up with barriers and inside were the tents. It was a big base; it had to be since it was the only safe place on Rykros.
The way Stacy did the assignments, our best and most experienced Guardians went to Rykros. Parum and Moatoob split the fresher recruits, with Parum getting the larger share. Still, she had to spend a good chunk of them just keeping the perimeter clear. Johann only got about fifty or so Guardians to help him defend the reactor. To give a little perspective, I had about five hundred Communion servants with me at Neudaiz’s reactor. So yeah, it was pretty rough up there for them.
GRM, opportunists they were, even set up shops for everyone there to use for resupplying. You’d think we’d have gotten at least a discount under the circumstances, but no, they charged full price from everything from monomates to photon charges. It sucked, but what could we do? But you better believe I stuck a gigantic tariff on their butts when it was all finished. People said it was tyrannical of me to impose a tax on a single corporation. To that, I say ‘pbbbht.’
Right, so, Stacy was doing her thing in the command tent. She had a bunch of screens active, showing the movements of pretty much every active Guardian in Gurhal. She had delegated command to the other aegii in their respective locations, but she still wanted to keep track of everything. I’m not sure how she was managing the ridiculous amount of information that was coming her way, but it wasn’t surprising: it was Stacy, after all.
I guess the best place to start with the day’s events would be with the first speedbump we encountered. A lot of things had to be done that day so we could activate the Confinement System and Stacy had just gotten news of a complication.
”Freaking hell,” she said as she dragged her palm down her face. She stewed in her seat for a few seconds, adjusting her glasses, and then hit up her comm unit. “Ethan? Could you come in here as soon as you can get away?”
”Sure thing, just gimme a minute,” he said with the sound of some SEED guts going squish in the background. Ethan had been playing errand boy for Stacy around the base camp. When she called, he was helping the other Guardians fend off a surge of SEED coming at the base. He managed to get over to her tent about ten minutes later. “What’s up?”
”Problem,” she said. She beckoned Ethan further in with her finger, while never taking her eyes off her displays. “I dispatched a team about half an hour ago to plant the power relays Rykros reactor.”
”Power relays?” he said, closing the flap of the tent behind him.
”You remember how we talked about linking up the power generators on all three planets so that the Illuminus would have to split their forces, right?”
”To do that, we needed to set up a trail of circuits from here to the reactor, but the most efficient path goes through some pretty rough territory. The team couldn’t complete the mission.”
”Are they okay?”
”Heavy injuries, but no deaths. They had good judgment about pulling out, luckily. That still leaves us with an incomplete mission though.”
”Ah ha, so you want me to take care of it!”
”If you understand, then get to it.”
”Eesh, a little bossy,” he said. He was probably just kidding, but when he saw Stacy turn her head over her shoulder and give him a glare, he very quickly added, “on my way, ma’am! Sir! M-ma’am! Sorry!”
...Johann, do we really even need to tell this part? I don’t think anyone cares. ...Yeah, yeah, fine. So, Ethan went out to do as Stacy ordered. Might have been better if he hadn’t gone out alone, but like I said, we were stretched pretty thin. Besides, he was making good progress with the beacons. He ran into a problem with setting them up in an efficient order, but that being the most of his problems, he was pretty lucky.
Right when he was done setting up the last beacon is when things started getting stupid. There were plenty of SEED on Rykros to start with, but the rest of us were just sitting on our thumbs, waiting for something to do. That was when the SEED started spawning everywhere. Just straight out of thin air. From Moatoob, from Parum and from Neudaiz, reports of SEED sightings were flooding in.
”At once?” Zoe asked. The seven of us were linked up on comms, naturally.
”The Illuminus have been orchestrating the SEED for sometime now. It’s not much a surprise that they’d put up a concerted front,” Johann said. “Elyham, what’s Colony’s status?”
”All clear so far, here,” she said.
”Awesome, time to kick some ass!” Sable said.
”No,” Johann said.
”What the hell do you mean no?!”
”Well, it’s the commander’s call in the end, naturally, but my thinking is this: these are just mooks. Minions. Our rank and file can cut them down. If we enter the fight now, we’ll just needlessly expend energy on something other people can do and be that much worse off when the real fights come our way.” It turned out that Johann knew we exhausted ourselves fighting endless waves of SEED and went into our fights with Illuminus agents in sorry shape, so, he was making another ripple.
”That is sound strategy,” Stacy said. She was quiet for a little while. She already decided it was a good idea, but she was deciding if it was worth the increased casualties that the Guardians would occur without our assistance. “All right. We’ll do that. Intervene if our forces are looking overwhelmed, but hang back and conserve your power.”
”I don’t like this plan,” I said. “We’re just going to throw them to the wolves?”
”Keiko. In Dezolis, we agreed that everyone has the right to fight for their own sake, didn’t we?” he asked. We did. That was a very enlightening time for me. It really was the high point of this story. ...Shut up Johann, I don’t like it just because it was about me, no one asked you.
”I really hate when you use my words against me.”
”Then don’t talk so much.”
”That’s no way to speak to your empress!”
”It’s a perfectly acceptable, nay, appropriate, way to speak to a sixteen year old girl.”
”Okay, okay you two, you can hash out your little sibling rivalry after the fight. Get back to work,” Stacy said.
”Who are you calling siblings?!” Johann and I both yelled.
”Ah...well, I’m already out in the field. What should I do?” Ethan asked.
”Get back here. Help any Guardians you see on your way in though, but make your primary goal returning to base.”
”Gotcha,” he said. ...Seriously, we can totally skip this part Johann, no one will care. ...Geez, when did you become so diligent about details? So, Ethan was on his way back when he ran into his fight. He wasn’t that far out from camp, but he was far enough that he only had himself to count on. He might have had some help if he had gotten there sooner, but when got to the scene, there were nothing but cold bodies on the floor.
”What the...” he muttered as he looked over the Guardians. We had all been expecting casualties, but a whole team had been wiped; no one was expecting anything that bad. He opened up his comm link and said, “hey, I think there’s something nasty out here.”
”We’ll worry about it when you get back,” Stacy said.
”I’m already out here. I can take of whatever it is.”
”We don’t even know what it is. Come back!”
There was silence on the comm for a few seconds, but we could all just about hear there was something on the tip of Ethan’s tongue, like it was caught in his throat. He managed to pull it out and say, “I get strategy and everything, but if it’s right in front of me, I’m not gonna ignore it!”
”Dammit Johann, what’s so funny?!” Stacy said.
”Oh, nothing really. Ethan’s just more manly than I thought, that’s all. He raises a good point though. If he’s in a convenient position to prevent more Guardian casualties, we may as well take advantage of it.”
”It was your idea for us to hang back in the first place!”
”I’m making a small tweak. You have to be able to adapt to changing circumstances, Eustace.”
”I’m juggling data from four planets and Colony right now, but I’m taking a second right now to write a note to myself to kick your ass when this is done and over with.”
”I’ll look forward to that.” It turns out that Johann knew that Ethan was going to have to fight this battle one way or another. He’d spend a good chunk of the day subtly giving us advice to assist us in our fights. It was kinda like cheating, but, that’s not really a surprised, considering who I’m talking about.
”Anyway, Ethan may be our newbie, but I think he’s grown enough as a man to decide where he’ll die,” Johann said
”W-wait, what?” Ethan said.
”It’s kind of a relief when you put it like that,” Stacy said.
”If you ask me, eighteen years is plenty of time to live, as long as he got laid at least once,” Sable said.
”C-come on you guys, quit screwing around,” he said.
”If you die, I’ll arrange for you to have a nice ceremony in Ohtoku!” I said.
”It’s a really brave sacrifice you’re willing to make, Mr. Waber,” Elly said.
”Do you have a last request?” Zoe asked.
”Yeah, okay, make fun, but I’ll handle this, no sweat!” he said. And wouldn’t you know, his chance to make good on those words dropped in right after he said that. I’ll be honest; Ethan lucked out and got the second easiest fight that day. Unlike almost everyone else who got a sentient enemy, he just got SEED. Sure, it was a big SEED that none of us had seen before, but still.
The SEED Venas dropped in from above and behind him. His head would have gone boom from one punch of its rocky arm if he didn’t duck and tumble out of the way. He scrambled to get up and get some distance between it and him and got his weapon out.
”Hey, Johann, did you ever finish Ethan’s custom weapon?” Stacy asked.
”He broke my family’s heirloom, so I didn’t see the need.”
”You said it was cool!” Ethan said.
”You can make it up to me by doing us the honor of drawing first blood for our side. Hop to it.”