Michael tries to save Earth from the Japanese.
The battle of Earth
Some would be angry about what happened on Argos. But I couldn't be happier. Synthia saw what happened, and now she believed me about the sabotage. Finally I knew the face of my enemy: I named him Mr. Wrong. He wanted me to fail; he thought he could break me by constantly killing me.
Let's agree to disagree.
But how do I fight him? He must be another time traveler, who knows my every movement before I would do them. This might be considered as an advantage, although I had my share of these missions, and I knew how difficult they could turn out to be. If I wanted to beat him, I had nothing else to do then getting him in a good old "lose or lose even more" situation. Let's back him into the corner, let him choose between two bad outcomes. Then it won't matter what he chooses to do, I will be the one laughing.
The question is: what would be his choice? Now this is where it gets interesting.
"Earth Command to unknown Coalition vessel. Identify yourself or you will be met with deadly force!" – That was fast. I didn't even get near the planet before the defenders started to warn me about their existence. I guess this is what happens if you get near the center of the decaying Coalition without any cloaking whatsoever.
"Roger that, Earth Command," I answered immediately. "This is special agent Michael Brown on board the Invisible Judgement, identification code: 4RDYH-L1EH." I didn't want sound nervous, and I had to admit: I wasn't.
"Code confirmed. Welcome home, Agent Brown!" – The lady answered. I couldn't make my peace with the name though, it was way too general for the best agent. At least they didn't realize I was on the other side of the sector at the time, killing Japanese with some other agents.
Or did they?
There was one tiny-little problem with these border checks. After the Fleet surrounded the planet with a deadly cloud of nuclear mines, Earth Command gave the green light to any ship that wanted to enter. They always gave a path through the cloaked mines. If they approved of you, then you could get through without any problem, but if not, then that was it for you.
I had high hopes about not dying today. I was pretty sure, Mr. Wrong wanted to see me getting ripped into tiny pieces by a nuclear bomb, but that would have meant some changes in the big game. First of all, Earth Command would double check its defenses, and expecting a Takedan attack, they might even locate the hydrogen bomb placed at the center of Earth Command. I'm not an expert on military, but I think a fully functioning defense grid is not healthy for a surprise attack. Who knows, we might even win the battle, shoot Imahara out of the sky, and turn the course of the war once and for all.
Getting through a cloud of mines is frustrating if you don't even see these mines. I tried to keep calm and watch the horizon as the auto-pilot got me through the nukes. I could see Earth through the windows, it was my favorite dust ball among all the highly polluted planets of our little galaxy. The third industrial revolution made a very nice, gray cloud around the planet, and the fourth added some black patches to the whole thing. In addition the war got a few starships and space stations above the atmosphere. Luckily they were somewhat cloaked from my sensors, and they had the same color as the gray planet behind them. Needless to say, it was an incredibly great exercise to spot them.
After twenty minutes of pure mental agony, I passed through the minefield. Now that I was through the warm welcome of my homeland, it was about time to put the ship down somewhere.
"Earth Command, this is the Invisible Judgement. Requesting permission to land on Earth Dome, Washington D.C," I told them through the com system.
"Negative, Agent Brown. There is no reason for you to land there," she answered. Strange, I sensed fear in her voice.
"Actually, I have information about a possible enemy operation going on at Earth Dome. I repeat..."
"Negative. There is no operation." She interrupted me.
"You never know until you check,” I told her, shaking my head. There was something strange in here. And the woman's shaking voice confirmed it.
"Michael, they are here..." I heard a gunshot, then Earth Command went dark.
Mr. Wrong or not, something was seriously wrong down there. Remember me saying the easy missions are the hardest ones? This is exactly what I was talking about. Looks like the Japanese didn't just plant a bomb down there, they took control of the entire Dome.
Everyone got nervous on Earth, so many ships were approaching the dome that nobody really bothered about the Invisible Judgement. I could make my way to the atmosphere without any trouble. After the landing, I should have a whole hour for finding the bomb and shutting it down for good.
They couldn't blow it up before that. If they took out the defense grid now, the Coalition's First Fleet would be here in ten minutes, arriving before Imahara and his dreaded ships. They couldn't beat the Japanese genius, but they would shoot out a lot of enemy ships before the end.
Originally the bomb blew up when the enemy arrived. They shot out the defense stations from the other side of the minefield, then Imahara set a trap for the First Fleet, shooting their ships down when they arrived on the battlefield. But if the bomb were to be refused, the enemy fleet would fly straight into the fire of our orbital defense cannons. In this way, when the First Fleet arrives, Imahara would have lost half of his forces already, and with a combined effort, Earth Command and the fleet would surely beat the old man. And this is the reason why I had to defuse that bomb at all cost.
By the time I descended into the atmosphere, the whole Dome was a mess. Shots were gazing from both directions of the giant structure standing in the middle of the city. The Japanese couldn't have many troops down there, but we sent a bunch of reserves against them. Few highly trained soldiers could stand tall against the masses of the weak.
Good thing I was here.
"Michael. This is Rush, do you copy?" A familiar voice broke the silence. I was wondering when my old friend would come into the picture. He was an agent just like me, we took part in many operations together – very successful operations. I could say we were unbeatable. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Wrong didn’t have the courage to face us at all.
"Yeah, it’s me. Good to hear your voice, buddy! So you have a bit of a problem down there, as I heard?" I asked, although I knew exactly what was going on.
"Well, we could say that. Wanna shoot some Japanese?" he asked jokingly.
"Why not?" I answered with a smile on my face.
"Alright then. I'm right in front of the building. Land in here as soon as you can, and let's kick some ass."
"Roger, I will be there in a minute," I nodded, as I got back the control from the auto-pilot. It wasn't programmed to land anywhere, there were rules – which I was about to break.
Nobody really bothered about my ship descending into the city. I passed the tall, dark skyscrapers of Washington, and made my way towards the Dome. This place was huge alright, and I could even say white. We painted most buildings that color, but the pollution made a good job at diminishing our efforts to have a beautiful city. Some buildings were cleaned time after time, looked like the Dome was scrubbed clean of dirt just now.
The whole building was blockaded with military and police gliders. I could even see some jets and tanks around it, the defenders must have made one hell of a fight to keep the masses of reserves in check. We didn't dare to shoot the building to pieces, that would be the end of the whole defense grid – and the signal for the First Fleet to get here ASAP.
I could see the large, square entrance of the Dome. I put my ship down next to the building, carefully stomping some police gliders with the hull of the Judgement. I shut the engines down, got a pistol in my hand, and marched down the docking-ramp.
It was a bit warmer than I thought, but it happens, when you make a giant greenhouse of your homeworld. The tall, white Dome looked bright into the cruel, gray atmosphere. Too bad that red and blue shots went across every possible entrance of it.
Rush was standing in front the ramp. He was shorter than me, his longish, brown hair almost made him look like a man – although his beard and his muscles made the decision a bit easier. I knew him to be a good agent, and I had to say, it was a bit strange to see him. Years passed since he died in the explosion that was about to happen... Yeah, time travel can be a bit strange sometimes.
"Hey, good to see you, man." – He greeted me with smile on his face. We firmly shook hands, I saw the Coalition soldiers behind him. It looked like a mess, an organized, militaristic mess. Nobody really wanted to get in after they realized no one got out alive from that place.
Eventually the troops marched into formation, a thick block made out of five lines of soldiers. I was not sure how they would get in through the tiny entrance, but that was not my problem.
"How many soldiers did we lose?" I turned back towards Rush.
"Too many," the agent shook his head. He turned back to the soldiers, and raised his voice. "Alright, bastards, you better listen to what I have to say! We are going in first, you come after us. Don't dare to follow us before we give the all clear. Understand?!"
No answer came.
"You don't have any authority above them, agent. I do." The commander of the regiment said. He was a bit fat to be in command in my opinion – but what can we expect from the reserves?
"And you wanna die?" I asked firmly.
"Alright then, you two go ahead! We will be waiting," he answered instantly. We could say he made the right choice under the mandatory pressure.
"Ready, Mike?" Rush asked, I nodded, and started off towards the entrance of the Dome. It was surprisingly slim, only one guy could enter at a time. We built it like this in order to defend it without any problem – who didn't know, we would have to take it back some day.
Standing in front of the entrance, I realized the corridor was covered in complete darkness. I could see no enemy at this point. After a bit of consideration, the big question arose:
"Wanna go first?" I turned toward my friend, he shook his head.
"You have the goggles," he answered. I was quite strange to hear it, since both of had a pair of infrared goggles for these kinds of situations.
"What about yours?"
"Badly calibrated. Someone lights a match, and that will be it." I guess someone didn't prepare for the mission correctly. But it was indeed stupid to use them, if you turned blind from every single plasma bolt flying in the air. Mine was a bit more sophisticated, so to say; my vision didn't get all bright from some real heat.
"Alright then. But don't say to me, that I stole all your kills," I laughed a bit, then I took up the goggles.
The corridor looked a bit different this time. I have seen all the soldiers sent here, their dead bodies covered the floor. But I didn't see a single enemy soldier. I only saw some sort of an automated gun at the other end, but it was shot into pieces some time ago.
"It looks like they took it out," I told Rush after a second of consideration.
"Took what out?" He sounded rather surprised.
"The Japs placed an automated gun at the end of the corridor, it took everyone out. But someone managed to shoot it in the last moment."
"So it is clear?"
"We will see," I told him. I stepped forward with the gun in my hand and started to walk straight through the corridor. I had to step through some dead bodies on the way, but it looked like I was in a safe situation.
Then I got shot.
My personal shield blocked the shot in an instant. The filter worked, I wasn't blinded from the heat, and I have seen the barrel of the gun. It was another automated cannon, placed at the top of the corridor.
Smart move, but not smart enough. With a well-aimed shot, I took out the gun before it could shoot me again. Its molten places turned half of the corridor bright.
"So?" Rush asked from the safety of the outside. He didn't disappoint me with the question – who else would ask this after a brief, but intense period of gunfight?
"Now it is clear."
Now that the corridor was safe, Rush got in without any problem. I wanted to invite the other soldiers as well, but they never had a chance to get in. The corridor closed in front of them, separating us from the outside with a thick wall made of duranium; the strongest metal in the whole damn galaxy.
"Really? They are doing this right now?" I just couldn't believe it.
"The guns bought them some time. Now the door bought them even more," Rush shrugged his shoulder. Knowing the situation, some time was all they needed. But we still got in, which made things complicated for them.
"What about us?"
"Didn't expect us. Or maybe they are just confident. Very confident," he said, as we approached the end of the corridor.
We expected some more surprises, but there was nothing in there – except from the dead bodies on the cold floor. The members of the staff were shot in the back, while the trained soldiers had a burned hole on their faces.
"Shadow Agents." Rush said it with certainty.
The Japanese had their own special forces called the Shadow Guard. These guys were almost as good as we were, which explains how they took control of a facility like this. Although something was still strange to me: every single personnel was shot once. Even highly trained agents shot the same target twice, because they were competing for the kills. This could have meant only one thing:
"One guy did this," I declared, scaring Rush a bit.
"Dude... How in the world did one guy slaughter so many people?"
"Like eight?" I asked. There could be more of them, roaming the place separately, making sure everything is under their control.
"I could be one though. If he had a strong shield, and he managed to bring all those guns out of the armory... But that would be way too creepy, right? Insane even? I mean, who would do that?"
Mr. Wrong was my number one suspect. But there was no way one guy was behind this. There must have been more of them.
"We will see what we are dealing with."
We started to march toward the core of the facility. If there was a bomb in here, the fusion reactor will be the place to put it. That thing was powerful enough to power up the Dome along with half of the city. Blowing up a nuke in there could kill Washington within an instant, and without the Dome, the defense grid would be dead for hours.
The closer we got in the corridors, my suspicion raised more and more. Everyone was killed with one shot, and there were no dead bad guys. It really looked like it was the work of a single Shadow Agent.
Strange, but in this case, standing against one enemy was more intimidating then standing against a dozen. I had to admit, I got a bit scared when we got to the entrance of the reactor room. It was the only closed door in the whole building.
I thought it would be impossible to open it, but it wasn't. I walked to the terminal near the door, pushed the open button, and the door suddenly slid away from our sight. Whoever initiated the lockdown from the outside, wasn't very successful with the inside part.
"What the hell?" Rush asked a second later.
One guy stood in front of the chamber of the blue fusion reactor. He wore thick, black armor. Countless shots were shot fired at it, tearing the metal apart, burning the soldier's flesh. Even if this dude was a cyborg, he must have been barely alive at this point. I guess single-handedly slaughtering an entire facility does take its toll on you.
"Agent Michael..." the guy said, raising his gun towards me.
"Oh, yes. I came here to die again," I answered. It was a quite interesting moment since Rush was standing beside me, but the other dude didn't worry much about it. The Shadow Agent shot me, although the plasma bolt didn't do much damage against my shield.
We raised our guns as well, and pulled the trigger in unison. We were shooting each other for a while, but eventually the beast dropped dead on the floor. I guess the guy was indeed a cyborg
I have to say, I was expecting a bit more from someone who killed so many people. But that's what happens when you get a bunch of injuries and your energy shield gets completely drained.
"Again?" Rush looked at me like he have seen a ghost.
"Let's take care of the bomb first," I stepped to the device, it was painful to see that it didn't have a timer. The guy wanted to do it himself, when the time came. Too bad he was half dead by that time, and couldn't think clearly. Lucky that we didn't run into Mr. Wrong. He would have blew it up at the moment we breached the perimeter.
"You didn't abandon your mission, to help us, have you?" He was more suspicious then I expected him to be. Maybe he knew something already?
Nevertheless, I could still pretend I had more important things to do. I got the command terminal near the reactor, where I could access most of the
Dome's systems. First of all, I switched the light on, so I could get rid of these damned goggles – they were not very comfortable. After that, I managed to shut down the the lockdown, and then I deactivated the defense cannons. I looked at the heat sensors of the building, it really looked like there were no other agents in here; just this dead dude.
"And what about Sylvana? They didn't blow the prison to tiny pieces for fun, huh?" Rush asked. It was nice to hear all the things I have been through so far. The time-line got more messed up with each failed mission, and suspicion rose around me with every step on the way.
"Yeah, you got me, I'm a time traveler," I admitted.
Rush couldn't say a word, he was shocked. I knew he would react like this, that's why I halted this statement for so long. I could have denied it of course, but thing is, admitting it was part of my plan. I wanted to make a lose-lose situation for Mr. Wrong, so I decided to recruit Rush. If we couldn't take the bomb out, the situation would have been different of course. My friend would be dead, and he should have been reincarnated; just like I was. Good thing it didn't happen.
"What?" he managed to say a word after a while.
"I got back here from the future to help you guys," I continued, the agent turned pale from my words.
"So... we lost the war, huh?"
"Originally, yes. But I’m trying to help as much as I can, and I'm just getting started. I will explain everything later on. Right now we better get going."
"You want me to go with you?"
"Why, you don't want to?"
"You are kidding, right? Of course I will go!" Finally, something went right.
Actually, everything went right at this point.
Looks like there were some good days in life after all.
Rush was quite surprised after I had explained everything to him. We were on the Invisible Judgement, the ship was just about to leave Earth behind. I was quite excited about getting back to the Demetreus, and asking Sylvana about all the changes in the timeline.
Then an explosion tore Washington into pieces.
I was shocked as I looked at the large cloud swallowing the so called capital of the planet. The defense grid shut down within an instant, and Takedan ships dropped out of hyperspace in the very moment. I saw the Kegare from the distance, Imahara won this time as well. Fortunately we were far enough from the fight to get away.
What else could we do?
"But we defused it..." Rush was staring at the window with a shocked expression on his face. I couldn't blame him, I did the same thing, when I saw the crater for the first time.
"Mr. Wrong got in after us, and rearmed it again."
"Then he died as well."
"Doubt it," I answered, keeping my eyes of the unfolding battle. Red and blue shots scorched the darkness of space, a cloud of explosions burnt bright above the atmosphere. The Defense Fleet tried to fight off the invaders, but this battle was lost at the moment it began.
"So we will have to kill him."
"The two of us will stand a better chance," I nodded. Mr. Wrong won, yet he lost. He will have a hard time with fighting us from now on. "But we will make one more stop before we attempt to turn the course of the war."
"You want to recruit someone else?" he asked the obvious. "Who?"