4 of 6 | Chapter 13

 

“At least we are together, here,” said her father, who wasn't being sarcastic this time.

“That's it. Here Mum, drink this, it will calm you down, it's my own recipe,” she handed her mother a cup of hot tea.

“Let's go down to the basement. Perhaps all the noise is making her too worried,” said Mr Colella.

“Yes, let's go. I don't feel too reassured either.”

Mr Colella picked up yet another cardboard box filled with dried and canned foods and put it under one arm, then he supported his wife, who had become rather too relaxed after Karen's tea.

“Leave the box, I'll take it,” said Karen, as she took the box from her father and picked up another bottle of mineral water.

They went down the thick, hardwood stairs that lead to the basement, which had been converted into a comfortable, cozy haven. There was even a refrigerator.

“What were you planning to do with this room? Don't tell me that you wanted to rent it out because you're not earning enough,” Dora Colella noted, as they reached the warmly lit room.

“No, I don't. I decorated it purely as a hobby. You know, I always wanted to be an interior decorator when I was a kid.”

“I remember. Your poor dolls could never live in their own house because of the constant renovations,” she laughed for a moment.

“Yeah, I never gave them a chance to relax.” Karen laughed a little bitterly as she looked up at the basement ceiling in fear, thinking about the horror that was on its way.

 

Defense

There was a pristine silence in the corridors of ASEC. No sound came from the depths of the laboratories where research and testing had so far been conducted without interruption, but now the whole isolated area was disturbingly still.

Four dark towers reigned over the complex. Each seemed completely lifeless as events hurtled towards them. From outside, nothing could be seen, but one building hid frantic activity that was taking place inside.

Sean Steersman's office was neither dark, nor lifeless. A number of monitors were on and flashing brightly under the load of a constant stream of information while the robots' creator spoke to his units via the CCI system. He didn't touch any of the screens, yet they responded to his voice, answering each instruction and giving him constant status reports.

This time, he had to program a large number of exceptions into the prohibition codes to give the robots the authorization to be able to destroy enemy units, even at the cost of human lives. Deleting this command was the final solution.

*

Fear became a reality. The dark swarm swept nearer projecting a massive tornado of noise. It was no longer just the windows that signaled their arrival. The vibrations spread and rattled furniture and appliances, and even the thickest walls seemed paper thin as the roar of jets swept through them.

The shield-bots above the city began to stir restlessly. Each of them sensed that the fast approaching objects posed a threat and caused them to begin implementing the instructions that they had received. Because they were not bound by constraints, their formations were determined by their own reactions to the threat, so that sometimes they formed a tight groups and at other times they dispersed. They were the city's last defense against attack.

The vault doors over the second sector opened, and as the giant doors ground to a stop, a previously unseen tide of robots flowed from inside out. They had no names, the differences amongst them only discernible by CCI identification numbers that were unique to each. In Steersman's office, where command was centered, live images appeared on the screens from cameras in each of the flying units. It was only a matter of minutes before the threat reached the city limits. That, however, proved to be sufficient for the SRT fleet to occupy their positions in the air above the city.

Steersman's robots were equipped with only a single device that was unlike anything the world had seen before. Lack of any obvious firepower made it seem as if the balance was tipped heavily against them.

*

The planes were about 30-40 kilometers out from the city limits when the giant Iraqi and Irani formation split. Steersman began to fear slightly that he would need to divide his attention.

His memory was awash with all he held dear, those things that he could never allow to be destroyed, which hardened his resolve to not waste a moment more. He ordered the operation to commence with a terse command, unleashing the robot armada.

Countless units flew like lightning directly up into the upper stratosphere, well above the enemy planes. Others were to disarrange their dense formations, but the majority were ordered to directly fight one on one.

They did not wait for the enemy to reach the city limits, but swooped down from high above and from the sides with a speed that far outstripped the opposing fighters, putting them to shame.

The fighter pilots were unable to follow them down as their inboard devices measured the movements of the robots. Using auto-targeting, the pilots launched hundreds of air-to-air missiles, the white streaks of exhaust creating a spectacular design that crisscrossed the sky.

It backfired.

The ASEC units using what they had available, shot out gravitational radii onto the missiles and within seconds they held them like kites on strings.

Some missiles exploded in the air, but the majority were held and some were made to collide with enemy fighters, sending fireballs hurtling across the sky. In the first engagement nearly fifty enemy fighter were destroyed.

Although it was an insignificant amount compared to the whole, Steersman was somewhat relieved as he had gambled everything on one card. He had no idea whether it was going to work or not, but now he knew they had a chance. All he needed to do was give the order, one that he had not yet given. The only problem he could see was the sheers numbers of enemy aircraft facing them.

*

Explosions rumbled out over the city, and falling debris hit the streets, gardens and rooftops. Tree branches cracked as twisted metal, shrapnel, and the wreckage of fighters plummeted from the sky down onto them. It seemed as if hell itself had opened up over the city. The robotic air shields simply could not be everywhere and were making split second calculations to decide where the priorities lay in dealing with unstable and dangerous debris.

Over and over again, they chased fighters down from higher altitudes, using their superior positional advantage. The gravitational radii reached out to pluck objects at the speed of light, but for the gravitational fields not created in a vacuum, it took a few milliseconds to exert power. This meant that the luminous rays appeared several times, harmlessly touching the machine's surface.

At the right moment, with perfect timing, the robots were able to use their gravitational fields to hold a fighter wing or tail and slow it to a stop, then dragging it lifeless from its position. At times, a nudge was enough to put the fighter out of action, which resulted in either the pilot ejecting immediately, leaving the plane to crash, or releasing the bombs at the last minute. In the best case scenario the bombs went off in the air, but those that didn't were quickly rendered harmless by the shield bots, which made sure that the ordinance didn't fall on inhabited or sensitive areas.

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH