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Story Ascension
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Thread: Ascension

  1. #81
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    90ms is a long time for the AI in a Knight... a long time.... Thanks FMJ!

  2. #82
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    Thank you.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  3. #83
    Thanks. Superior intelligence wins battles!

  4. #84
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    Colonel Temple observed the stealthy movements of the targeted Strax pod on the Tactical display within her shield with a rising level of excitement. Even though the terrain offered little in the way of cover for a cautious approach, the remote area would help keep collateral damage to a minimum.

    The plan to eliminate both Trackers and all three Hunters of a Strax pod while intentionally leaving the heavily armed and armored Killer machine intact sounded initially suicidal. However, the intelligence recently translated from their first electronic interrogation of a Strax Hunter indicated only the Strax Killer machines had access to direct communication with the hive mothership. There was actually speculation in higher tactical circles that the Killer machines heavy armament and shielding was specifically designed to protect that vital link.

    If the premise can be accepted that a weak flank should be heavily guarded, then an inference can be accepted that compromising that guard will expose that weakness to exploitation. It was a chapter right out of the Strax’ own playbook if they could just make it work.

    Dominic suddenly braked hard and swerved to affect a complete one-eighty-degree turn in the center of the highway.

    “What’s wrong, Dominic?!” Jenny cried out from within the combat restraint. “We can’t stop now, we’re so close!”

    “Proceeding to secondary target,” the Centurion replied without explanation.

    “What secondary target? What are you doing? This wasn’t part of the plan,” Jenny argued.

    The Centurion crossed the median to the opposite side of the highway and accelerated to sprint directly away from the site of the targeted assault Jenny had been planning for the last three hours.

    “We might not get another opportunity like this for days, maybe weeks! What could possibly make you divert to a secondary target when, in all probability, the most important assault of the war was right within our grasp?” Jenny cried.

    “L2CSY8 has come under ambush.”

    With a sharp intake of breath and a groan, Colonel Temple said simply, “Oh no, Bobby...”

    “An intentional rockslide blocked their escape from a narrow canyon and they are presently taking fire from two different directions. We are the closest of three TVS units available to assist.”

    “Do we have a Tactical assessment yet, Dominic?” asked the Colonel.

    “No, we still have seven minutes at sprint until L2CSY8 appears within our operating horizon.”

    “Faster, Dominic, go, go,” urged the Colonel as the wind shrieked over the nacelle and the drone of multiple fusion engines rose yet another octave in pitch.
    When the assault presently came up on Tactical, it became obvious two Strax pods were involved. Six Strax machines took up a position on an adjacent overlook and used their concentrated fire to dislodge a piece of the opposite cliff face to block the roadway trapping the Knight in the canyon. The other six Strax were firing on L2CSY8 from outside the canyon mouth, but by shear chance, neither pod had yet been able to effectively target the Knight.

    That difficulty did not prevent them from firing railgun rounds randomly into the canyon walls in the hope that falling debris might still crush the hapless Knight.
    The rapidly approaching Centurion, on the other hand, was not encumbered by any of the design limitations of a single stationary gun emplacement.

    The probability of success of the Strax assault was further degraded by Dominic’s build code upgrade that prevented the Strax from even detecting the approaching Centurion. The trump card was played when Colonel Temple demonstrated the capabilities of an upgraded third echelon heavy warrior in the defense of her son in a mechanized assault.

    All six of the Strax machines blocking the Knight’s escape erupted into rapidly expanding spheres of incandescent metal vapor following the actinic blue flare of a hypersonic volley of exotic rounds from the Centurion’s four main railguns. Before the six Strax machines on the overlook could react to bring their weapons to bear on this unseen threat, the Centurion fired a second concentrated railgun volley collapsing the roadway beneath them toppling the remains of the failed assault hundreds of feet into the canyon below where they were crushed by tons of falling rock.

    While the dust was still settling, the Centurion contacted L2CSY8 through the secure Tactical network to inform the Knight and pilot the Strax pods had been destroyed and it was now safe for the Knight to exit the makeshift cover they had taken behind the massive fallen rocks.

    “Is Bobby alright?” Colonel Temple asked Dominic anxiously.

    “He is distraught but physically unharmed. L2CSY8 has sustained multiple hull penetrations reducing her tactical capability to ninety-three percent but she is functional. She is within her design parameters to fully regenerate the damage but the process will require approximately forty minutes to run to completion.”

    “Thank God, and thank you, dear Dominic for diverting us here in time to intervene despite my objections. Wait..., did you say she?” Colonel Temple asked in sudden confusion.

    “L2CSY8 has adopted a female persona complete with a French accent in response to pilot Lawson’s personal preferences. Her internal designation is Lacy..., but we have another problem,” pronounced the Centurion ominously.

    “What?” Colonel Temple responded anxiously.

    “Tactical initiated a condition ‘red’ alert tracking multiple incoming ordnance to the Nevada Maintenance Complex before suddenly going off-line. The timing of the assault here suggests this may have only been a diversion.”

    “What can we do?” whispered the Colonel.

    “We are fifty minutes away from the Depot at sprint speed. We dare not leave L2CSY8 before she regains full tactical capability. Even if Tactical was to come back on-line, the Depot would be justifiably hesitant to call down an Orbital strike on their own position. The outcome of this battle would appear to depend on the forces resident within the Depot. We are effectively in ‘check’, Jennifer. We may have underestimated our opponent.”

  5. #85
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    Thank you...Not good when your AI says you may have underestimated your opponent.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  6. #86
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    Quote Originally Posted by ted View Post
    Thank you...Not good when your AI says you may have underestimated your opponent.
    Ted,

    It seems that old FMJ has thrown couple more curve balls and two biggie kliffs....

    But shouldn't we expect this as normal from FMJ????

    Thanks, I think, FMJ....

    Texican....

  7. #87
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    Hmmm, a pod is destroyed but under a pile of rock, but it did not self destruct, Hmmm....

  8. #88
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    Texican, One should be in full gear for driving a monster truck, five point harness neck restraint and a tether on your helmet.

    Good point Lone Hawk, may not have to take on the pod and a killer unit by themselves.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  9. #89
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    FMJ, You remind me a little of Ursula Le Guin, the famous SciFi and fantasy writer. She had some insect-ish space opera stories that I enjoyed.

    I sincerely hope you get published as you have substantial talent and, the necessary imagination.
    Last edited by JF&P; 03-05-2019 at 01:37 AM.
    JOHN 3:16 / John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you FREE.

  10. #90
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone_Hawk View Post
    90ms is a long time for the AI in a Knight... a long time.... Thanks FMJ!
    So true, unfortunately the wait state still exists.

    And

    Hmmm, a pod is destroyed but under a (big) pile of rock, but it did not self destruct, Hmmm....

    Point conceded, you are correct as usual. It is illogical to assume a war machine damaged in a mere fall, even from a considerable height, would be unable to at least perform a damage assessment and initiate a self-destruct to prevent the intel and technology it contained from falling into the possession of the enemy. Changes made.
    Last edited by FMJ; 03-05-2019 at 07:21 AM.

  11. #91
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    Quote Originally Posted by Texican View Post
    Ted,

    It seems that old FMJ has thrown couple more curve balls and two biggie kliffs....

    But shouldn't we expect this as normal from FMJ????

    Thanks, I think, FMJ....

    Texican....
    You're welcome. I personally dislike the sort of fiction in which I am able to readily anticipate and extrapolate the outcome. I like to believe my readers are drawn to a storyline that involves a twist or an unexpected turn in the name of entertainment. Thanks for the comment!

  12. #92
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    Quote Originally Posted by ted View Post
    Thank you...Not good when your AI says you may have underestimated your opponent.
    This is actually a clue and some blatant foreshadowing on my part. A suggestion that lower order AI devices, massively paralleled could compete with a single higher order AI individual. The four orders are represented by: 1) Strax machines,
    2) Consortium of Worlds machines, 3) the Orbital Weapons Platform and 4) the Phylaetian weapon through The Will of the Multitude.
    A tiny part of the Will of the Multitude was assembled, via the Construct, within the Centurion, Dominic to "level the playing field", so to speak. This is, after all, a very old grudge match.

  13. #93
    TYVM

    D.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  14. #94
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    FMJ,

    Wasn't there some super duper planet killing weapon headed toward earth????

    Texican....

  15. #95
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    Quote Originally Posted by Texican View Post
    FMJ,

    Wasn't there some super duper planet killing weapon headed toward earth????

    Texican....

    Introductions, Chapter 18: The General describes a weapon constructed as the last dying act of the Phylaetian civilization with the power to destroy a world.

    Revelations, Chapter 1, last paragraph: "Tell me of hope, my dear Dominic..."

    Revelations, Chapter 9: At a dinner party at the garage, turned into the Eloysian Embassy on Earth for one night, the Eloysian ambassador, Veyron Nes describes the action and probable capabilities of the Phylaetian weapon as determined by a xenoarchaeological team. When activated, the weapon would open a conduit connecting its location with another in close proximity to a stellar singularity resulting in immense tectonic upheaval and destruction of the planet as it would be crushed and drawn through the conduit by the gravity of the singularity. The tiny scale model constructed by the xenoarchaeological team destroyed an uninhabited planet they chose to test it on. The Phylaetian weapon was estimated to be ten thousand times larger than the scale model and should have correspondingly higher yield.

    Yep, pretty super duper in anybody's book.

  16. #96
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    Lizzy had taken the occasion of Magnus’ full diagnostic at the Nevada Maintenance Depot Complex for a much-needed opportunity to enjoy some R&R using the amenities available at the Depot Complex officer’s barracks. The prospect of hot food, a shower and a clean bed had become the driving force that saw her through the final day of a week-long patrol.
    Lizzy had been pleasantly surprised by an overall change in the character of the technician, Marty Lennox.

    Though still agonizingly precise in his attention to detail concerning anything to do with Magnus, his previous fawning demeanor in her presence had somehow matured into one of quiet self-assured charm.

    Lizzy was baffled by the transformation but found the change pleasant, perhaps even intriguing enough to encourage. When their conversation in Marty’s service bay ranged from light banter with only an occasional lapse into friendly verbal sparring, they unexpectedly found a certain comfort in each other’s company.

    A short awkward silence was broken by Marty who quickly explained his shift would be ending soon and asked if she would be interested in joining him for dinner in the mess hall. He apologized that today’s entrée in the mess hall was meatloaf while explaining that Depot meatloaf was an acquired taste that needed some getting used to. The leftovers were widely rumored to be recycled for use as a superior brake pad material in the Knight’s drive-train and they both laughed, rather easily.

    Lizzy made a show of considering his invitation, then agreed as she flashed one of her best smiles. Marty’s breath caught and he blushed scarlet but managed to recover without stammering. Lizzy pretended not to notice; making the excuse of stopping by the officer’s barracks with the intention of freshening up first and promised not to be late for dinner. They both hesitated, but stopped just shy of physical touch as Lizzy turned to walk away with a wave and Marty’s breath caught again as he watched her walk out of sight.

    Arriving minutes later at the Officer’s barracks, Lizzy had washed up, brushed her long hair forward before flipping it back. The intention being to soften her ‘look’ by loosely framing her face in curls. After changing into a fresh uniform, she stood on tiptoe, straining to survey the results in the tiny mirror above the sink with limited success. Stopping to stare at her reflection, Lizzy was suddenly struck by the utter senselessness of bothering to primp and put on makeup in the face of an impending disaster. The human cost of waging a planetary war was unknowable and yet, in this case, the cost of failing to wage that war would be immensely higher if the Phylaetian weapon was actually able to do what Ambassador Nes described. The despair of sheer hopelessness tightened her throat just when she thought she might have found a reason to live.

    She choked and tears welled but she wiped them away to stand straight with her chin up and her head held high. Putting on a brave face, she composed herself, smiled and stepped into the hallway.

    “We aren’t through yet,” Lizzy thought to herself as she walked. “I may not be able to look as calm and confident as Mom can, but I’m sure gonna try.”

    She only took four more steps down the hallway before her TVS communicator crackled, startling her with a dire warning.

    “My Lady! Incoming! Take cover, I will come to you!” Magnus exclaimed as the first heavy kinetic round struck the Communications Annex directly across the parade ground from the officer’s barracks with a deafening roar that sent a liquid shower of fat glowing sparks arcing into the street.

    Lights dimmed and flickered in parts of the complex following three more explosions within the Facilities building where it adjoined Power Control. The ground rolled when as many more rounds detonated within the Maintenance depot resulting in secondary explosions in munitions storage lockers. Lizzy couldn’t believe the Complex itself was under attack.

  17. #97
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    Marty had left his room on the second sub-level of the Depot dormitory on his way to the mess hall and was waiting at the elevator, impatiently pressing the ‘Up’ button when the first kinetic round exploded in the Communication Annex.

    His first thought upon hearing the huge “thud” that reverberated through the Depot structure above was that someone must have really dropped something big this time. A few seconds later, he was forced to change his assessment of the situation as the overhead lights flickered and went out leaving the corridor in inky blackness. The emergency lighting in the underground corridor came up slowly but the feeble orange glow that shined from the bottom of the walls failed to dispel the gloom.
    Somewhere in the distance, a loudspeaker crackled intermittently with a frightened voice making a feverish announcement,

    “Attention! ...is not a drill, I repeat, this ..., not a drill. The Depot is under attack and has sustained major damage to many...,” before it was interrupted by another heavy explosion. “...first responders report to your ready stations and prepare to receive wound...,” but a pair of hard concussions silenced the announcement as the very floor beneath Marty’s feet bucked and rolled.

    Lizzy stood still in the hallway for a second debating the wisdom of staying inside the single-story concrete structure of the Officer’s barracks for cover or taking her chances outside.

    A moment later, a violent explosion shredded the entryway of the Officer’s barracks with a deafening crash that took down all the lights. Though shielded from most of the shrapnel by a pair of fire doors separating her hallway from the main entrance, she was still knocked off her feet by the force of the concussion. Lizzy rolled to the wall and army crawled in the darkness through debris towards the rear of the building but found the structure had collapsed blocking access to the outer door.
    Fearfully retracing her path, she discovered the heavy doors of the main entrance had been physically torn from their frames by the explosion. In retrospect, the single positive outcome of the violent destruction of the entryway was the failure of the emergency lighting that saved her from being silhouetted in the doorway and targeted when she left the building to seek cover.

    Taking cover behind fallen debris outside, Lizzy caught sight of a dark machine moving slowly along the street on the other side of the parade ground and she almost stood; so certain was she that her Cerulean Knight had come. The sight of the second and third sleek black machines in the Strax column boldly advancing through the thick smoke unopposed within the TVS Depot itself made her duck back behind her makeshift cover in fear.

    An image of the pale lifeless face of Bonnie, the poor waitress who was killed so horribly by the merciless Strax machines rose unbidden in her memory. She realized then that without Magnus’ help, she was in grave peril and utterly powerless to stop the ruthless invaders that sought to destroy her world.

  18. #98
    TYVM

    Dang ol' cliff ;-)

    D.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  19. #99
    Aww, man! What a cliff. Hope this wait isn't a long one. Thank you.

  20. #100
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    Walked right off this cliff thinking there was another installment...I hope the fall is not a long one. LOL

    Thank you!
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  21. #101
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    FMJ,

    Home base being destroyed, Lizzy pinned down and Magnus headed toward Lizzy....

    Just what else could happen????

    Texican....

  22. #102
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    Marty backtracked by memory to an access stairway that lead deeper into the cavernous maintenance complex. Racing down the steps, he emerged on the edge of a wide massively reinforced concrete ramp used for moving pieces of heavy equipment too large to fit in elevators between the depot sub-levels.

    Marty jogged down several flights of the gradually sloping machine ramp to reach the third sub-level of the depot armory. In the dim glow of the overhead emergency lights, Marty could just make out the rows of Mark Four siege units stretching away into the darkness.

    “If Magnus is still functional, and I’d be willing to bet my last spanner wrench set that he is, he’ll come here for these Mark Fours to help him fight,” Marty reasoned.

    Marty jogged over to a comms panel set flush in a wall, pushed the ‘Call’ button below the speaker grill and waited apprehensively for someone from Tactical Control to answer. After too many seconds of silence, he pushed the button again repeatedly with the same result. Another heavy concussion somewhere above caused dust to sift down from the shadowy overhead and Marty jerked open the comm panel door in desperation. Inside the multi-mode comm panel, in a dusty corner in the back hung the archaic handset of a sound-powered phone left over from when the depot was still under construction.

    There were ten lines with a rotary switch labeled simply one through ten and he had no idea where any of them went. He was left with no choice but to try them all.
    One by one, he selected a line, cranked the ringer and then pressed the ‘talk’ button on the old handset before calling loudly into the mouthpiece,

    “Hello, hello? Can anybody hear me?” He waited for a few tense seconds for a response before moving on to the next line as the now near continuous rumble of the assault overhead continued. Marty had just begun his second pass through the lines and was about to give up when he heard a faint reply on line number three.

    “Hello?” came the incredulous response. “Who is this?” a voice asked.

    “At last! This is Marty Lennox, I’m a T9 and I’m on the third sub-floor of the Depot in the armory where the Mark Fours are kept. Do you know what happened? I heard the Depot had been attacked,” he said in a rush. “I’m trying to reach anyone from Tactical Control to authorize manually assigning some Mark Fours to a Knight. Can you help me out?”

    “Sorry Marty, but I’m afraid we can’t help you. We aren’t communication techs. We just came over from the Facilities warehouse with a couple pallets of office supplies. We got off the elevator and heard a big ‘thump’ and then the floor jumped and the lights went out.

    The elevator doesn’t work anymore and the only stairway we found going topside is completely blocked by big chunks of broken concrete. If we hadn’t been walking right past this comm panel trying to find another stairway, we wouldn’t have heard this old phone ring at all.”

    “Thanks for answering. You guys are the only response I’ve gotten so far and I was almost ready to give up. I’ve heard a lot of explosions and part of an announcement saying the Depot was under attack,” Marty related. “That attack sounds like it is still going on so you guys might want to think twice about going any closer to the surface. Judging by what you said though, it sounds like the Communications annex must have been hit. Power Control too, if the lights are any indication.”

    “Okay Marty, we’ll be careful. Hey, my partner just said he found an open stairwell! Good luck with your Mark Fours,” the voice said just before the line went dead.

  23. #103
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    “Well then, if I can’t get authorization from Tactical, I guess I only need to manually hack my way through four levels of operational security on a few of the most heavily armed mobile gun platforms in the arsenal without so much as a valid operation code..., by myself,” Marty thought grimly. “Hey, piece of cake.”

    Sprinting to the side of the first Mark Four in the row, Marty found all its access doors open with several thick cables running to diagnostic instruments on a service cart. “Not this one,” Marty thought grabbing a pair of the special tools used to open the access doors from the cart. The second Mark Four also had a service cart parked next to it in preparation for the same inspection. “Maybe not this one, either,” Marty thought borrowing a trouble light and a logic test display from the cart. The third machine had no test cart parked next to it and he quickly set to work to reach the service panel.

    Loosening the recessed fasteners and tugging the heavy access door open, Marty connected the logic display to a test port and noted with satisfaction the ready status of the armament and power sections.

    Marty exited the diagnostic menu and tried to access a system control menu but this Mark Four’s fusion engine stubbornly continued to request an operation code even while a young war could be heard raging overhead. Marty’s own logic display had all the current codes stored in it for multiple platforms to perform anything from a demo all the way up to a live test with exotics, but this display wasn’t his.

    All the recent operation codes Marty could remember were set up in the same fourteen-digit format identifying the four ‘W’s’, what, where, who and when. The three letters, ‘DMO’ for demonstration or ‘RTX’ for a live test always came first. Then came the numbers, ‘967’, that identified the Nevada Maintenance Depot’s origin code. Next was the last five digits in the designation of the unit the operation code would activate followed by three letters standing for the duration of the operation.

    Experimentally, Marty typed in ‘RTX 967’, and looking to the right, read ‘81923’, the last five digits of the Mark Four’s designation from the inside of the armored access door and picked ‘LIZ’ for the duration code on a whim. After a short pause, the logic display indicated, ‘Operation Code Accepted’.

    Marty heaved a sigh of relief and keyed the blinking icon for ‘Manual’ control which was followed by the additional selections of ‘Remote’ or ‘Local’. When Marty chose ‘Local’, the screen cleared but was replaced with the question, ‘Authorization?’ with a blinking cursor in another text box. Marty only thought for a moment before typing in, ‘Lennox T9’.

    Marty was rewarded for his efforts with the deep hum of the Mark Four’s heavy fusion engine coming online even as dozens of sub-systems attempted to report their status simultaneously through the seriously limited capacity of the diagnostic logic display in his hand.

    Ominously, a system notification warning appeared on the display in red capital letters, ‘LOCAL OPERATION OF LIVE FIRE ON THE MARK FOUR PLATFORM IS EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS AND STRONGLY DISCOURAGED’ with the addition of two new selection icons below the warning labeled ‘CONTINUE’ and ‘CANCEL’.

    When Marty selected the ‘CONTINUE’ icon, the machine asked, ‘AI SUPERVISORY DESIGNATION?’ with a blinking cursor in a text box.

    Marty suspected there could only be one response to that question and he immediately typed in Magnus’ designation, M2GNS8.

    For about the count of three, nothing happened and Marty was afraid his ruse had failed to circumvent the system security. Then somewhere deep within the gun platform, he heard a series of heavy electrical connections close followed by the unmistakable whine of a traction engine ramping up to speed. Marty took a cautious step back just as the tracks of the ponderous machine lurched forward several inches when all the lash in the Mark Four’s drive train was instantly taken up. A soft chime pulled Marty’s attention back to the logic display in his hand where a prominent green icon flashed, ‘M-4 READY’.

    “Two more to go,” Marty exulted as he quickly stepped in to swing the heavy access door shut and tighten the recessed fasteners.”


    The Tactical alert system had gone active in a defense condition ‘red’ tracking multiple incoming ordnance before it fell stuttering to a static-filled silence following the shock of the first heavy impact in the Communications building. Magnus had immediately brought his fusion engine back on-line and jettisoned the diagnostic cables before closing and sealing his access hatches.

    Maneuvering carefully into the adjacent depot transport aisle that also served as temporary storage, Magnus crossed the second sub-level of the maintenance floor in a series of switch-backs as he attempted to avoid paths blocked by toppled transport containers. He was forced to backtrack and take a different route when a huge section of HVAC ductwork broke loose from the overhead and fell when a heavy concussion damaged its supports.

    Finally reaching the machine ramp, he turned and accelerated up towards the surface. The complete loss of the Tactical system signal following a condition ‘red’ alert could only mean an assault on the Depot Complex was underway and it had become imperative that he reach his pilot.

  24. #104
    TYVM

    D.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  25. #105
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dosadi View Post
    TYVM

    D.
    You are welcome.
    Last edited by FMJ; 03-07-2019 at 08:34 PM.

  26. #106
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    At least we were going uphill so I was not moving as fast as last time...LOL

    Thank you! Can't wait for the next installment.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  27. #107
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    FMJ,

    Thank you, it has been a long week and I really need the mental refresh....

  28. #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone_Hawk View Post
    FMJ,

    Thank you, it has been a long week and I really need the mental refresh....
    MOAR tomorrow.

  29. #109
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    FMJ,

    Magnus is up and functioning and going after Lizzy....

    Lennox T9 (Marty) is firing up M4's to support Magnus....

    Now will Marty ride along in one of the M4's or find another Knight to bond with????

    Getting interesting....

    Thanks for the 2 chapters....

    Texican....

  30. #110
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    TYVM also

    "The T9" is already bonded with all the Knights. After the Mark 4s with out carts are on-line, I bet Marty will be so involved with getting the first two up and running, that he won't notice the battle is over.
    The difference between being smart and being wise:
    Being smart is learning from your own mistakes.
    Being wise is learning from the mistakes of others.
    My life has given others many opportunities to be wise.

  31. #111
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    Even as the first Strax heavy kinetic rounds exploded in the Nevada Maintenance Depot Complex, alarm klaxons were sounding an alert in Ignition Control of the Orbital Weapons Platform two hundred miles overhead in geosynchronous orbit. The repeated requests for a situation report at the Depot were met with an unaccustomed silence.

    When the Communications Annex was hit taking down the primary Tactical node transmitter, Orbital lost all but the most rudimentary communication with the Depot. Orbital’s surveillance capabilities inside the Depot dropped to a single high-resolution security feed uplinked on a small dedicated system powered by a UPS. The video information on that feed came from a single fixed camera focused on the Base Hospital helicopter pad. At the moment, that narrow field of view happened to include the flaming wreckage of the adjacent aircraft maintenance hangar and if the scattered debris visible in the image was any indication, that hangar had been damaged by a violent explosion. More significant than the ruined structure engulfed in flames was the continued lack of any fire-fighting personnel or equipment response.

    General McCready paced nervously behind the Ignition Control technicians sitting ready at their fire control stations. On each pass, he would pause to glower at the live image of the fiercely burning hangar in helpless frustration.

    With Communications and the local Tactical node off-line within the Depot, Orbital’s high-resolution observation systems only yielded the intermittent silent flash of exploding ordnance and the ruddy glow of multiple fires that burned unchecked. The General could only conclude that Orbital had been deliberately blinded with the first strike in the Depot destroying the Tactical node to prevent their retaliation.

    Perhaps then, the more worrying implication became the Strax’ ability to accurately target not only the primary, but the heavily shielded secondary Tactical node transmitter as well; even when they were located remote from their individual antenna arrays and on opposite sides of the Depot.

    “Any response from the Complex?” General McCready asked dreading the answer he already knew.

    “None, Sir. Tactical is still off-line,” a comms tech replied. “We are continuing to request a situation report through multiple modes and channels but there hasn’t been a response.”

    “Keep trying,” the General grumbled returning to his pacing. Being unable to determine whether his daughter and her children were safe was seriously eroding his continued ability to function.

    “General, Sir! I have a voice only VHF signal with a situation update coming from the Depot. They haven’t responded to our reply so they may not be able to receive,” the comms tech added.

    “Put it on the monitor so we can all hear it,” General McCready urged.

  32. #112
    Join Date
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    Hooterville, MI
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    917
    “.... is under attack, I repeat, the Depot is under attack. We have taken multiple strikes inside the base knocking out power and communications...., Strax machines are inside the base. We need help, over!” the voice related breathlessly. “I don’t know if this old VHF rig is working or not but I’ll keep sending on this frequency as long as the batteries hold out. We are trying to bring Tactical back on-line with the emergency backup transmitter but we need to run some power cables from a UPS down the hall to..., what? Okay, I will..., just give me a few more minutes... No, I didn’t realize they might radio-locate us. I was afraid this might be our last hope... The Depot is under attack, I repeat, the Depot is under attack. We have taken multiple strikes inside the base knocking out power and communications. Strax machines are inside the Depot Complex. We need help, over!” the breathless voice repeated again.

    “Transmit an acknowledgement at high power that Orbital has received his message,” commanded the General. “He’s a sitting duck if he keeps transmitting.”

    “I’ve already tried, Sir. They aren’t receiving us,” the comms tech replied. “Wait! Their Tactical node is reinitializing now. They’re bringing it back on-line..., it’ll go live in a second. There! Orbital has access to the Depot Tactical node.

    The fire control technicians were jolted by the live image that suddenly appeared on the main display showing much of the Depot Complex in flames. While they watched, the glowing blue streak of another hypersonic railgun round flashed across the image to detonate beyond the camera’s field of view but still close enough that the blast physically shook the camera. The Tactical node rapidly cycled through multiple images and assessment lists before finally locking on a reverse trajectory algorithm that precisely identified the location of all three Strax railgun emplacements firing from Death Valley in California.

    “Gentlemen,” the General addresses his fire control technicians. “Prepare to fire.”

    Three massive Orbital vertical railgun emplacements in a battery of twenty-four swivel minutely to new firing solutions before the gimbals lock to close another permissive in the ignition sequence. Magazine elevators lower three huge exotic rounds into their breeches and retract as the rounds spin up. The safety interlocks on banks of solid-state switches retract as the firing permissive sequence progresses. Alarms sound as blast shields rise to cover exposed observation ports and the shrill whine of fiercely spinning exotics shriek in the halls of Ignition Control. As the final permissive interlock in the sequence closes, “READY” lights illuminate on each Orbital fire control console.

    The technicians turn to face the General as one awaiting the order.

    “You may fire when ready,” the General states.

    The switches are thrown and as the ignition commences, a vast torrent of energy pours from banks of fusion engines through a network of icy cold super conducting channels to each of the three massive weapons. Tens of millions of amperes at high voltage flash through the giant rails slamming into the madly spinning exotic rounds instantly accelerating them above Mach 17. The brilliant flash of energy envelopes the entire Orbital gun platform as the seething pulse propels the exotic rounds down towards their intended targets and a deep resonant metallic clang shakes the walls like the peal of an immense bell as the recoil of the railguns is shunted away from the emplacements and dissipated in huge hydraulic dampeners.
    The reek of ozone permeates the air from stray electrical discharges that follow a multiple railgun volley and energy technicians dressed in protective silver arc flash suits rush to engage safety interlocks and close railgun safety grounding circuits.

    Sixty-four seconds later, three Strax heavy railgun emplacements dug into a hillside at Furnace Creek abruptly cease to exist when towering columns of blinding violet fire lance down out of a clear pre-dawn sky.

  33. #113
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    nw mountains
    Posts
    3,800
    Gotta know more! LOL I am enjoying this Thank you!
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  34. #114
    Thanks, got in for a few minutes and found MOAR ;-)

    Dosadi
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  35. #115
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    4,178
    Thank you! Hopefully that will take the pressure off of the surviving troops for a moment...

  36. #116
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    SE Okieland
    Posts
    6,950
    FNJ,

    The big guns are back in play....

    Just where are Lizzy, Magnus and Marty????

    Thanks for the chapters....

    Texican....

  37. #117
    Thank you. Now, it looks like our friends may be safe. Patiently awaiting more.

  38. #118
    Thanks for the chapters....

  39. #119
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Hooterville, MI
    Posts
    917
    (14)


    For a Knight, operation without the benefit of the Tactical network was similar to the risk a human might take driving fast at night without headlights. Magnus used the entire width of the wide machine ramp as he accelerated hard; drifting through the hairpins and increasing power with every successive level in his desperate attempt to reach the surface. Essentially flying blind, he had received no update of the ongoing battle raging overhead since the Tactical node had gone down. His single goal had narrowed to finding his pilot and using all his remaining resources to protect her. The last positive location fix Magnus had for Lizzy’s communicator was close to ground level within the TVS Officer’s barracks and he fervently hoped she had managed to somehow avoid the conflict unharmed.

    Magnus topped the last ramp at the surface level of the dark Maintenance Depot and accelerated towards an outer door without any firm plan of action. Half way to that door, the Tactical node emergency transmitter came on-line delivering a torrent of information about the Strax railgun bombardment, the ensuing loss of vital Tactical communications and the invasion by multiple Strax pods operating virtually unopposed inside the Complex proper.

    Regenerative braking to a full stop, Magnus quickly reviewed the startling real-time situation report he had received. Far more important than the rapidly mounting damage assessments to multiple base structures, the Tactical threat overlay revealed the presence of a Strax pod lying in ambush just beyond the open equipment bay door he now faced. Their deployment indicated an intent to attack any TVS personnel or machines attempting to escape the Depot via that route.

    Magnus brought his railgun on-line and prepared to fire point blank on all targets of opportunity until he either won free of the ambush or was himself destroyed in the attempt.

    With only a moment to savor the wild exhilaration of preparing to engage a mortal enemy with overwhelming superior numbers in open combat, he accelerated hard to burst through the outer door of the Depot landing in their midst as he rapid fired a continuous barrage into the unsuspecting Strax pod.

    Magnus collided with and overturned a Strax machine in the course of his high-speed assault carrying him into the middle of the pod waiting in ambush. From this central position, the pod seemed unable to target him, in all probability due to their target acquisition programs preventing them from accidentally firing on an adjacent Strax machine. Moving quickly to exploit his new-found advantage, Magnus spun to bring his railgun to bear on multiple targets executing the enemy machines while firing his railgun nonstop.

    Alone and unchallenged, he left the scene of the ill-fated ambush now totally obscured by the acrid metallic smoke of furiously burning Strax machines. Utilizing the element of surprise and the fog of war, Magnus had managed to destroy all six machines in the Strax pod including the heavily armed Killer without the loss of a single percent of his operational capacity.

    Stealthily moving away from his surprise assault, Magnus notes with approval the Tactical threat overlay still indicates little change in the overall defensive posture of the Strax pods still in the area. With steely resolve, Magnus plots a course to the Officer’s barracks and hopefully to his stranded pilot.


    The primary Tactical antenna array had been blasted away from the top of the Communications building in the opening salvos of the Strax heavy railgun bombardment. The heavy rounds had also struck the shielded buss duct running between the Facilities building and Power Control and cut the dedicated feed that supplied the Primary Tactical transmitter. Electrical fires burned ferociously inside the duct where the buss had melted and gone to ground.

    The tall structural steel antenna array had crashed to the ground littering the central square with high tech debris and twisted wreckage before finally coming to rest on the street outside the Officer’s barracks. Lizzy watched in horror from behind the meager cover provided by the twisted steel I-beams as the Strax column steadily advanced. She could easily see the arrays of tiny blue lights flashing communication between the sleek black machines as they moved.

  40. #120
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Hooterville, MI
    Posts
    917
    The Strax column rolled forward relentlessly pouring deadly antipersonnel rounds and explosive shells into any base structure showing the slightest sign of resistance. Once, Lizzy saw someone fire on the Strax column with a pulse rifle resulting in a barrage of return fire instantly silencing the valiant but futile retaliation. She was horrified to see two men in dark blue TVS coveralls attempt to run from the ruins of the Communications building in the midst of the assault. Their movement drew the attention of the Strax column and a stream of hyper-velocity fleshettes shredded them down in a gory red splash.

    When the second Strax column abruptly appeared on the near side of the central square, Lizzy realized she was cut off from any retreat back towards the Officer’s barracks. If she held her position, she would soon be in plain sight to the advancing second column. If she left the cover provided her by the wreckage, the first column would detect her almost as quickly. Judging their rates of advance, she decided the second column posed the more immediate threat and Lizzy started edging toward the end of the twisted girders, moving slowly and trying to stay low. Trying to make a run for it wasn’t an option; the Strax were too fast. Playing dead wouldn’t work either; they could detect body heat and probably her heartbeat as well when they were close enough.

    Lizzy slowly reached up to the tiny communicator in her ear, knowing full well that keying the device could give away her position, but she feared she was running out of options.

    “Magnus? If you can hear me, I’ve got myself a little problem here in front of the Officer’s barracks,” she whispered peeking between the twisted steel beams. “I’ve got Strax columns approaching from two different...” Lizzy trailed off when the lead Strax machine in both columns came to a full stop and pivoted to face her concealed position.

    “A moment more, my Lady,” replied the Cerulean Knight in her ear.

    “Maybe not actually such a little problem now,” Lizzy added. “The Strax may have detected my comms.”

    “Run silent,” Magnus advised.

    “Understood,” Lizzy mouthed silently without keying her communicator.

    The lead machine in each column, apparently a Tracker, began actively pinging the area of twisted debris with multiple sensors searching for the source of the anomalous signal. Tiny blue lights situated low on the Tracker’s flanks flashed rapidly updating the rest of the pod with targeting data. Lizzy held her breath when a trio of brilliant green targeting lasers probed between the steel girders at the spot she had crawled away from only moments before.

    With a raucous buzz, two of the Strax machines fired a hyper-velocity burst of viciously barbed fleshettes into the steel girders where they erupted in a shower of white-hot sparks. Lizzy felt a sharp sting on her forehead and a warm trickle run down her cheek. She reached a hand up slowly in confusion and was horrified to find it covered with blood. From her position at ground zero, Lizzy could hear the spent fleshette rounds ricocheting off the concrete barracks behind her and whining away in the distance. In a rising panic and biting her lip to stay silent, she fought down the desire to call Magnus again on the comm.

    When the trio of targeting lasers reappeared and began to probe ever closer to Lizzy’s hiding place, she cringed away and shut her eyes tight fearing the barrage that would quickly follow. The shriek of advanced electric traction motors penetrated the thickening fog in Lizzy’s head and her eyes flew open in recognition. The near instantaneous appearance of the Cerulean Knight had presented the Strax with a broadside target and ignited a concentrated fire storm of ordnance in response.

    As Magnus was shielding his pilot, he quickly discovered the new-found ability to activate single specific quadrants of his energetically supported armor. While boosting the level of energetic support to the armor on his starboard side to help repel the assault and energizing an aperture frame to form the pilot’s door on his port side, Magnus called over the TVS comm in Lizzy’s ear,

    “My Lady, we really should stop meeting this way.”

    “Yeah, yeah, funny, big guy. I think I’ve been hit, I’m a little dizzy,” Lizzy replied, her words slurred.

    “My Lady! Can you walk?” the Cerulean Knight calls out anxiously as Strax ordnance continues to impact and crater the armored hull on his starboard side.

    “I think so, but guide me, please,” Lizzy replied standing on wobbly legs and holding on to the twisted steel girders for support.

    Magnus projected a line of brilliant blue laser dots on the ground to lead Lizzy to the open door where she collapses onto the soft leather pilot’s chair and is gathered into the silvery embrace of the protective combat restraint.

    As soon as Lizzy is safe within the pilot’s compartment and his hull is sealed with all the active armor reenergized, Magnus lurches and fires an exotic round point blank into the boldly advancing Strax Killer that has managed to destroy his forward starboard traction engine. Decoupling the engine from the drive-train and allowing the destroyed assembly to freewheel, Magnus backs laboriously down the street as the summarily silenced Killer detonates with a roar. The incandescent sphere of super-heated metal vapor propels jagged shards of black hull metal into the close ranked pod of Strax machines destroying two and disabling the rest.

    “Right front traction is off-line and decoupled?” Lizzy asks incredulously. “Is this propulsion system data current, Magnus?”

    “It is current, my Lady. Offering my exposed flank to the Strax pod was costly yet I remain above my operational cutoff level and we can still fight to a lesser degree despite a fractional loss of mobility.”

    As Magnus approaches one of the cavernous doors of the Maintenance Depot, an active recognition query opens three new windows in the Tactical display Lizzy has never seen before.

    “What are you doing, Magnus? What are these?” she asks uncertainly even as status data scrolls rapidly down each of the new windows. In less than a moment, an operational control hand-off is completed and the windows go active with video and targeting data from an odd new perspective.

    “Allow me to introduce Mark Four siege units 81923, 81924 and 81925 my Lady. These units have been preloaded with operation codes and bear the authorization of ‘Lennox T9’ and myself as the supervisory designee. Obviously, the T9, Martin Lennox has been quite busy preparing a suitable arsenal to help us respond to the Strax threat.”

    “Marty got us Mark Fours? How? Where is he, Magnus? Do you know?” Lizzy asks in a rush.

    “I do not, but I would hope someplace safer than where we are, my Lady. With the addition of the Mark Fours, I believe we possess the tactical ‘high ground’ and are physically able to deliver a response to the Strax they may be totally unprepared to counter.”

    Magnus entered the door of the darkened Maintenance Depot and Lizzy briefly experiences vertigo as she sees both an image of the huge road wheels and wide metal tracks of a pair of massive Mark Four Siege units pass to either side and an image of a Cerulean Knight with obvious battle damage to the forward starboard hull in two of the Mark Four tactical control windows.

    “Wait, was that us?” Lizzy asks in confusion.

    “Correct, my Lady,” Magnus replies as he laboriously maneuvers to take cover between a pair of massive earthmoving machines awaiting maintenance overhauls and shuts down his damaged propulsion. “As part of my AI matrix becomes resident in each of these Mark Fours and I am directing active fire on three separate fronts, my reaction time will slow perceptibly. Lizzy, I need you to take a supervisory position on the Tactical overlay and warn me if my siege units are being flanked, trapped or lured into areas of concentrated crossfire. Can you do that for me?”

    “Yes, Magnus. I’ll do my best. Go get ‘em, big guy!” Lizzy cheered as she watched the view change through each of the Mark Four command windows as the huge tracked war machines rolled out through the Depot door and instantly begin to receive offensive fire.

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