Chapter 21

Cliques have been written about war for years. Lines such as, “99% boredom, 1% sheer terror,” or “Old men talking, young men dying,” litter the landscape. Today, as the tanks roared through the curtain, screams masked the terror felt by every soldier. And the old man talking was not necessarily so old. “Advance and secure a perimeter,” screamed Agent Redd. His words were lost amidst the screams of soldiers rushing through the curtain. Foot soldiers followed the tanks, and other armored vehicles trailed close behind. Then helicopters and jets raced through in single file. Finally, the AC-5 lumbered towards the light. “Take us in,” ordered Agent Redd. Gabe barely heard this. He could do nothing but stare at the curtain of light. Then he looked down at the bottle of “Gabriel Springs” water in his hand. Turning to the side, he saw Ellie’s hand only inches from his. Deep inside, he wanted to hold her hand, to give her courage, or anything. But she seemed as transfixed by the curtain as anyone. And then they hit the curtain. For a moment, everything faded away in the blinding light. … “That’s all of them.” Grandpa nodded. His calculations were correct. Now it was time to end them before he pushed his luck any further.

In the desert, the curtain began to fade. But unlike before when it closed in a slow, controlled manner, it fragmented and faded in a shower of static. At the same time, the exact opposite occurred at the bridge. Static-like light filled the stone wall, and it grew until the wall glowed. Another switch was thrown and a corded antenna rotated into the curtain. This brought scientists out of their seats, but the control boards seemed unchanged. With a nod from Grandpa, a scientist lifted the radio. “Agent Redd, this is command. Do you read?” There was a moment of silence, far too long for anyone’s comfort. But then the agent’s voice came through. “We read you loud and clear.” Instantly, a number of cheers and sighs rose in the room. “How is the mission proceeding?” There was another pause from the Agent. “Messy.” … Gabe had seen battlefields before – on television. The sight of a real battle startled him. There were soldiers, tanks, and explosions, same as on TV. But what jumped out at him was the chaos. Initially, the soldiers took cover behind tanks or buildings. Then as the tanks advanced, they would fan out behind it to another row of buildings or clear rooms. It worked initially, as cannon fire destroyed bunkers and machine guns kept the Kalians pinned down. Plus the buildings stood empty for the most part. The soldier hardly faced any opposition. Instead, the enemy just retreated back, out of the city, and towards the forest.

The soldiers saw the retreat and cheered. “Run, you chickens!” shouted the men as they advanced through the city. Jubilation overcame discipline and many thought the battle would be over soon. But this strategy ended with a single shot. A Kalian gunman took aim at the tank and fired. It struck the tank, which was not surprising given the tank’s immense size. But what happened next surprised every soldier. The tank shattered like glass. Well, not the entire tank, but its entire front end. The armor collapsed, leaving the turret resting on the treads and drive wheels. And then panic set in. Soldiers dashed about, some laying down fire, other screaming for air support. But the plan had now gone out the window and the soldiers needed to improvise. At this time, the AC-5 flew overhead and Gabe witnessed the chaos. And then it got bad. Explosions erupted all around the square. Buildings shattered into dust, sending shards and shrapnel through the air. Tanks dissolved like the buildings, with heavy plates of armor shattering like glass. And without armor, all the soldiers could do was lay down and pray for luck. They were pinned. And losing. Agent Redd wasn’t an idiot. He could easily see this from his box seat above the city. “Their anti-armor weapons are better than I expected.” A growl of anger could just be heard under his practiced calm. “It’s that Bra… something ore,” shouted Gabe. “Steel just shatters…”

But the Aagent wasn’t listening; he was plotting a solution. Fortunately, he had planned for this event. … From a hillside miles away, the Mediator watched the events unfold through the city. The Mayor stood by his side, shaking with nervous energy. Yet, the Mediator seemed calm, almost happy. “Our city’s being destroyed! How can you just stand there?” The Mediator turned to the Mayor with a businesslike demeanor. “Everything is proceeding as I had predicted, is it not? We knew the enemy would cross the gate in great numbers. We evacuated the population to shelters, much like the one under this hill. I predicted that their soldiers would advance with arrogance, moving them away from the bridge. And I have already shown what our weapons do to their machines of war.” “But you are firing on our homes. Our city is being destroyed by our own weapons.” “Our enemies fall at the same time. Would you prefer our homes be destroyed by enemies, who then continue to destroy more of our world? We crafted our plan, and it is successful. Homes can be rebuilt, we have plenty of raw materials.” Suddenly, a fighter streaked just overhead with a deafening roar. From tanks under its wings, a fine mist sprayed into the air. Then just as quickly, the fighter climbed and disappeared into the sky. For a moment, there was nothing. Then the Mediator felt a fine mist touch his skin. And for the first time, fear showed on his face.

First there was the sound of cracking, like stepping on dry twigs. Then the cracking grew louder, coming from behind as well as the valley below. The Mayor opened his mouth to speak, but no words could escape. From behind them, the jungle melted away with a crash, with trunks, leaves, and branches falling to the ground in a dying pile of dust. The line of death grew and cut across the whole valley, placing a line of brown dirt against the verdant green backdrop. The Mediator’s anger grew as he saw his world dying before his eyes. But it grew further when he saw that the line of dead trees revealed some of his hidden artillery. … “There, fire!” The order from Agent Redd was hardly necessary. 120 mm cannons mounted of the side of the AC-5 immediately sprang to life at the sight of the Kailan guns. And thanks to computerized aiming systems, they were deadly accurate. Artillery exploded in a shower of steel, sending Kalians running for safely or flying through the air. Secondary blast from ammunition explosions started fires around the jungle. To add insult to injury, the fighters continued making pass after pass, carving lines of brown dirt into the jungle like swings of a sword. One doused a fire, replacing a burning grove with nothing but the dust of death. As more of the jungle disappeared, more of the Kalian artillery became visible. But these were quickly destroyed by gunfire from helicopters and jets. … “We only have 5 more artillery units.”

The Mediator nodded to the runner giving the message. “Tell them to cease fire. And give the order to return.” The runner nodded and sprinted off. Down in the jungle, the aircraft tore gaping holes of destruction into the plant life. But the Mediator looked past this to the city, where it seemed there was very little life. … In the ruins of the city, the soldiers slowly lifted their heads. Dazed by the artillery’s concussion or bleeding from wounds, all moved slowly and tried to reorient themselves. Fear still racked their minds as they looked about, wondering when the shelling would return. A few shouts came from the commanders. “Form a perimeter. Eyes ahead.” But these were quickly drowned out by a roar. It started as a rumble, a faint sound from the jungle. Quickly, it became a roar from the nearby treeline. And then it arrived in the form of thousands of Kalian Elite troops. They rushed out of the jungle in a massive drove, advancing on the disorganized soldiers. Huddlings behind whatever cover they could, the soldiers tried to hold a line, but there were too many elites. Within minutes, the attackers surrounded the solders, trapping them in buildings away from the square. This was what the elites wanted. Several launched wires from trees or other buildings to the ones manned by the soldiers, and slid to the upper levels and the roofs. Then they entered the buildings and attacked from both above and below.

The better-armed soldiers held off attack after attack, but outnumbered ten to one, it would only be a matter of time. The elites had other plans too. Rushing past the soldiers, teams of Kalians rushed to the bridge, which still glowed bright. Any support would have to come through here, so holding the bridge would be key. All they would have to do was cross the curtain and hold it on both sides. Optimism filled their heads as the first elites crossed the curtain. The optimism ended with the sight of hundred of guns – the last thing any of them would see. Tanks, machine gun nests, and other heavy weapons released gunfire, which tore through the elites as they crossed the curtain into earth. Bullets shot through the curtain and devastated all elites near the bridge. … Agent Redd watched his trap unfold from above. Taking the radio, he said, “Cease fire. Targets immobilized.” As he watched, a second wave of troops came through the curtain and reinforced the soldiers. Thanks to the trap, the elites were disorganized and being overwhelmed despite their numerical advantage. Agent Redd turned back to the kids and said, “Looks like the worst of it is over. We’ll have everything under control.” But Ellie didn’t seem as confident. “Remember, Agent Redd, not all fights can be won simply with brute force.” “I know. Our trap worked better than their trap.” “But perhaps that was only their first trap. …

The Mayor dashed about in the midst of panic. “We need to negotiate. Perhaps we can come to a treaty if we surrender now.” His panic infected other Kalians, and a buzz rose from the elites around them. Yet, the Mediator seemed as calm as could be. He walked to the Mayor and placed his arm around him. “Take care of this location,” he said to his elites. Then he tapped a bridger on his belt, and he was gone. A moment later, the Mayor found himself in a base built into a cliff, much like the one he had just left, though larger. The roof stood over a hundred feet above his head. Yet something else seemed very different here. “I do not know what you still have, but we need to negotiate.” The Mediator walked ahead, seemingly ignoring him. Reaching the wall, he patted a large cylinder that wasn’t quite steel, stone, or glass. “Do you know what this is?” “No, I have never seen anything like it. But it does not change my point.” The Mediator just shook his head. “This is a gift from our brothers on Lain.” “Lain is not our brother.” “Neither is this a gift. But it will help us at our time of need.” Suddenly, the Mayor noticed a contingent of elites around the room. They all sat around the foot of something very large. Yet, in the dark room, it could not quite be seen. The Mediator nodded to his men, and a switch was thrown. Slowly, the roof opened, letting in a crack of light. And then the Mayor saw the room clearly. And he saw the 300 foot structure that appeared to be a cannon, except that the barrel was a solid piece of that strange substance.

An elite flipped another switch and the cylinder began to hum. This in turn caused the barrel to glow with a dull blue light and expel the occasional spark. Even though he didn’t totally recognize it, the Mayor knew this was a powerful weapon. He could feet it from his gut the tingling in his hair.

Chapter 22

“This cannon was the revelator of the truth to our worlds.” The Mediator spoke loudly to no one in particular. “The deserters of Lain created a great power source as well as a powerful weapon. But in their foolish short sight, they failed to realize its true potential.” The Revelator cannon now glowed brightly. From outside the base, blue light from the cannon poured out of a crack in a hill miles away from the bridge. The crack grew wider, revealing more of the powerful weapon. Yet thanks to the forest cover, no one either in or flying above the city had any clue of this machine. … Strapped in his seat, Gabe watched the battle unfold beneath him. The soldiers would point their rifles in the direction of the Kalian Elites, but not fire. There would be a pause. Then missiles or shells would strike, utterly destroying the Elites. They wouldn’t even know what hit them. The only thing worse would be if they knew, thought Gabe. … “We are ready to fire.” The Mediator showed no emotion and kept his eyes on the sky. “The small warbirds are the fastest and most difficult to target. Hit them first.” With a nod, Elites tapped on computers and the giant cannon swung quickly over them.

The Mayor watched all of this with amazement. “What are these machines? These are not from Kalia.” “Nor from Lain,” responded the Mediator. “We are now using our enemy’s own technology against them. Then, with a loud whoosh, a wave of energy flew from the cannon. … Gabe looked outside at a fight preparing for another approach. It seemed to pause and collect itself. But as it began to turn, a wave of light engulfed it, and a moment later, it was gone. “What was that?” screamed Agent Redd. Before anyone could respond, another wave of light incinerated another fighter. … “All of the small warbirds have been destroyed.” “Target the smaller remainders. They will escape easier than the large one.” … Wave after wave shot across the valley, destroying fighters and helicopters. Panic was rising inside the AC-5, as well as inside Gabe. Even Ellie looked nervous. Agent Redd jumped from his chair and hit a button under a glass panel. Then Gabe felt the floor under him give way. As he fell, he heard the Agent yell, “Fox 7, 8, 9, and 10.” A moment later, Gabe found himself falling through the air, with the AC-5 above him. Looking to his right, he saw Ellie falling in her seat 20 feet away. Then bright parachutes billowed from his seat, slowing his descent.

On the plane, a bay opened in its belly. Then a giant missile fell and shot off into the distance. A cylinder rotated inside the bay, dropping missile after missile. … “Enemy projectile’s approaching!” The Elite’s scream was hardly necessary as warning lights screamed all over the base. The Mayor and the Elites were panicking. Only the Mediator seemed calm. “Fire at will and strike them down.” The giant cannon fired wave after wave. One missile fell, and then another. Elite’s struggled to aim at the small targets, but they managed to bring down the third. The Mediator turned from the sky and hung his head. Amidst the chaos, he simply said, “All will end after the Demon’s blight. All will perish to the fiery light.” … Floating through the air under a bright red parachute, Gabe saw a flash of light out of the corner of his eye. It must have been 50, perhaps a hundred miles away, but it was as bright as the sun. … “We’ve lost contact, sir.” “It is a malfunction? Get us back, now!” Around the bridge, soldiers kept their guns trained with anticipation, but inside the bunker, soldiers raced about, confused about what had happened. Grandpa walked to a conversation and listened closely. “It should be working, but it’s not. Like it just decided to stop working.” “Retract the unit and take a look.”

The radio antenna pulled away from the bridge and rolled back on a track behind cover. Soldiers ran out to it and opened it. “Everything looks good, but it just doesn’t work.” “How is that possible? There’s nothing broken?” “No, sir, the only thing is if the circuits are fried. Like from an EMP or something.” Grandpa jumped into the conversation. “EMP, as in electromagnetic pulse? Like from a nuclear weapon?” “That’s right. Maybe the Agent Redd ordered its use. He just fired some missiles.” Grandpa’s face turned white and he looked like he had seen a ghost. His eyes focused on some far away place and he murmured, “Oh my god…”

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