Chapter 16: The Dawn of Oblivion


"It did not give up"


As they approached the top of the mountain, Vanny of Rochelle was no longer screaming over the sound of the deafening gunfire. It was a waste of breath seeing as neither she nor anyone else could hear herself over it anyway. The voices told her to stop her machine and stay away from the fight. She accelerated.

She could not see much beyond the laser beams seemingly raining from the ground and the smashing impacts of the Skeetos exploding on her windshield, but she could see enough to know things were horrible. Several walkers were being taken down by friendly fire. Powerful drilling lasers fired by inexperienced, terrified girls sliced through teammates, obliterating the battalion from within. Although she hadn't fired her own laser yet, Vanny was sure she had already accidentally unleashed several ballistic rounds into the Redeemer.

"Watch your fire, girls. Watch your fire!" Sanice Rochelle cried out.

Then things got worse. Silhouetted against the furious sky, several Iron Beasts rose above the mountain's fiery skyline. They were not much smaller than the walkers were, but unlike the modified mining and construction machines, they existed only for one reason.

"Okay Cleo group, we're going to have to use blunt force trauma to down those bots."

What? Vanny did not understand. Blunt force?

The Beasts suddenly and ferociously attacked. Vanny could not tell how many they were, the monitor data that displayed this information was way beyond her understanding. It didn't really matter in the end; the Iron Beasts were taking down Death Walkers with relative ease.

"Cleo group, stay close to me." The Redeemer slammed its legs into the wreckage littered mud, planting its weight into the ground. The rest watched the heavy duty Varentra drones smash their way through the other groups toward them. Direct confrontation was imminent. "Prepare for close combat." The Redeemers powerful dual heavy lasers swung around and targeted the inbound threat.

Vanny was having serious trouble keeping track of Sanice Rochelle, even though her HUD was color-coded. There was just too much going on at once. She couldn't believe the windshield was holding up to all the blasts she was receiving. Close combat, she vaguely remembered what it meant, but she remembered it involved her walker's massive manually controlled hands.

As Vanny fumbled around with her switches to get the Wicked Bitch into the right battle mode, something most alarming happened. The Redeemer was tackled by an Iron Beast even as its lasers sliced through it; the sound of their metallic collision was titanic. The force of the impact nearly sent both of them crashing down the mountainside. It's over for you and your friends, Vanny! The voices always had something to say.

The sanice swung her torso around, punching the Iron Beast on the side of its face, momentarily blasting it open and exposing its inner designs.

There was a sudden flash of light, it could have been from an explosion or lightning, she wasn't sure, but it was enough for Vanny to see that the Beast’s exposed hole was sealing - the metal molding back to its original design. Memory alloys!

Vanny had heard of the self-repairing metals and plastics, but had never seen the centuries old technology in action before. The Beast did not let go and maintained its bear hug on the sanice. Rochelle repeatedly punched it with devastating force, violently bashing its face in beyond recognition. Vanny saw Cleo Walker 3 move in to assist her, firing widely at everything. It was Mona's War Manger. "Mona, be careful!" She yelled as she also, albeit vainly, tried to assist.

Vanny had barely finished calling out to her friend before a second Iron Beast rammed into Mona. The War Manger was sent flying back several feet into the soft mud, nearly striking other walkers on its way down. Vanny hesitated. Whom was she supposed to assist first? Both her sanice and her best friend appeared to be only mere seconds away from death. I have to do this right! Vanny pushed the throttle. Her walker went into overdrive as she raced up the slope. A second diving charge by the Beast sent both it and the War Manger cashing down the mountainside toward her and to her horror, Vanny knew she could not avoid the incoming collision. She had no choice but to brace herself. You should not have done this!

The impact felt bone crunching. Metal crushing. For what seemed like a minute, Vanny could hear nothing but a loud whistle in her head. She was suddenly surprised to be looking at Jom-Zayter's smiling face. Those sharp cheek bones, that dark hair. The confidence he always seemed to carry. Vanny reopened her eyes wondering how long her walker had been laying on its side with her daydreaming in it. The Iron Beast approaching Mona's now stationary and overturned cockpit answered her question; not long at all.

Electrifying flashes of violent lightning lit the world like flashing cameras from frenzied photographers and provided Vanny with split second images she would never forget - if she had the chance to live forever.

Rain was still heavily beating down on her windshield; washing the mud away. The clouds now looked like distant oceans, daring the soul to be consumed by their wrath.

The mountaintop leading to the valley was barely more than a hundred feet away. Mona's upturned War Manger lay right in front of Vanny's. Dozens of Skeetos were mounting it and mounting her own Wicked Bitch, searching for weak spots and worst of all, the Iron Beast had a fist ready to go through the War Manger’s cockpit.

I've got to do something! Vanny squeezed her trigger and even over the sound and vibrations of the Wicked Bitch’s powerful cannons firing harmlessly into the ground and air, she heard the sickening crunch of the Beast's fist smashing through the War Manger's windshield in the moment the world returned to darkness. The secret love in Twombles’ heart could not have survived that iron fist.

Vanny could barely see beyond the blur of her own tears. The sounds of battle seemed to drown all her cockpit alarms. She thought about calling for Jom-Zayter; using the direct communication's device he had given her. He said he would come for her, but she knew he was probably fighting for his own life - fighting for the world. Even if he gave up the fight for Earth to save her, there wasn't enough time to reach her; the Iron Beast had already arrived.

She felt her walker tilt as the Beast raised the Wicked Bitch into a better punching position. The lightning flashes helped her to see it. The machine was bearing down on her; it had already lifted its fist, primed to punch.

Time suddenly seemed to slow down for Vanny. She found herself in a state of heightened awareness. The sounds all around her, the flashing lights, they were no longer a distraction. She welcomed them.

Before she closed her eyes, she saw the Beast's fist begin its downward journey. It was coming. She was surprised by how calm she felt, as if she was back in Estmarla where the voices left her alone. She knew this was only taking a second, but it felt much longer. She heard the deafening crash, felt the violent shake and thought of her favorite purple flower one more time.


"He snatched from eternity's cold body, a fiery moment, and claimed it as his own." - Inas Imud, Griot



The Omega Dragoons had finally reached the foot of the mountain where a mesmerizing laser and tracer light show was on full display above. Leon could see the flaming wrecks of several walkers lining the mountainside. Their fires burned with too much intensity for the rain to put out. How are we supposed to make it up the slope if they couldn't? He heard the warning beep signaling an incoming transmission from the colonel.

"Attack configuration. You have speed on your side. Use it."

Leon suddenly realized it was going to be almost impossible for him to tell which machines were controlled by humans and which were controlled by the enemy. He decided that shooting at anything metallic he was in doubt about was the safest way to go.

The colonel's seemingly indestructible battle tank, the Defiant, plowed its way up the mountainside at high speeds. Deafening blasts from its quad-gun turrets sent sonic shockwaves through the air as they rocked Iron Beasts off their balance.

Leon's HUD started auto-targeting hundreds of Skeetos, prioritizing them by threat levels. He put pressure on the trigger and was surprised by the power of his bike's single rapid firing turret. It fired 100 tiny, armor piercing, explosive rounds a second and didn't do it quietly. Its high whistle sounded a lot like a continuous alarm. That's when he heard the voice crackle in his helmet.

"Remember, no matter what you see on the other side, no matter what happens, stop the bomb."

The colonel's words somehow managed to make Leon's heart race faster than it already was. What could they possibly see over this hill that was worse than what they were seeing now? He struggled to maintain his balance as his massive turret swung around, automatically aiming at and blasting away approaching Skeetos. His visor continued to be pelted by rain and shrapnel. Visibility was near zero. He felt like he was going to vomit as the bike bounced over the rough terrain. Smoldering rock walkers lay everywhere. He wondered if any of them belonged to Vanny.

Leon's thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a real alarm as his visor displayed a graphic image of a new high priority threat. An Iron Beast was a mere 30 meters away and closing fast! His targeting computer was asking him if it should concentrate firepower on this new threat or remain Skeeto focused.

As terrified as he was, Leon still had enough sense to know that his gun would not stop that monstrosity. He kept his turret on the Skeetos and accelerated to maximum speed. The top of the hill was close, but the Beast was much closer. The pain in his chest was almost unbearable. The robot charged on toward him, smashing through anything in its way. Leon suddenly realized he was screaming, he had no idea how long that had been going on, but he didn't care. The earth was shaking and keeping his balance was starting to feel impossible. As the bike flew over the top of the incline, Leon found himself suddenly airborne. It took him a moment, one horrific second, to realize he had just been thrown clear off his bike.

The boy from Clarra hit the mud hard, sliding and rolling for a while before stopping. Wiping the mud from his visor, he saw his bike several feet ahead of him still sliding out of control. It was heading toward the far edge where the drop leading into the valley began.

He tried to get up, but slipped back down into the mud, still vainly reaching for the drifting bike that was now almost over the other side. That was when he almost succumbed to the fear and let it completely paralyze his body. He couldn't see it yet, but he still felt the presence of the machine that was pursuing him up the mountainside.

Leon didn't want to die. At least not yet. As the deafening explosion of thunder filled him with adrenaline, his reflexes decided to take matters into their own hands.

Leon aimed and fired his wrist-mounted grappling hook. It flew fast with its high-tension cable snaking just inches over the ground. There wasn't time to hope, only time for instinct. He looked up in time to see the Iron Beast towering over him; its yellow eyes shone like distant fires. It raised its massive open hand and brought it down with enough force to shatter 3 feet of concrete.

Leon's bike had now flown over the mountainside and entered a freefall, but not before his grappling hook had attached itself to its handles. Once the cable reached its maximum length and became tout, the weight of the massive bike almost yanked Leon's arm clean off. Instead, it yanked his whole body through the mud clearing him from the immediate danger of pulverization with less than a second to spare. The Beast's powerful hand sent a wave of mud flying in all directions just millimeters from his feet, but it did not give up on Leon. It chased him.

Leon felt excruciating pain in his arm as he was dragged along the ground - slapping through the mud. He hit rocks and machine parts and hoped above all that his armor was not breached. Dying from the radiation and the toxins in the air would be much too terrible.

It was just after that thought that he felt a sudden sense of weightlessness. Leon had gone over the edge and entered an upside-down freefall. Looking beyond his feet, he could see the battle unfolding in the sky. He saw the edge of the mountain he had just been dragged over and to his disbelief, he saw the Iron Beast fly over that edge, still in relentless pursuit.

Leon looked down just in time to brace for impact with the muddy slope. The collision was not as painful as he expected it would be. He just found himself, rolling and bouncing off boulders.

The Iron Beast was demonstrating surprising agility, leaping off boulders and managing to keep its balance as it crashed its way down the hill. It was rapidly closing the distance between itself and its prey.

Leon looked to his side and saw other riders continue their descent with Colonel Jon-Azon’s incredibly fast Defiant trampling every obstacle even as its turrets brought devastation to the enemy.

Tiny explosions started to erupt in the mud around Leon. Once he realized their source, he wasn't sure whether to be relieved or horrified.

A mysterious black hovering aircraft he had never seen before was firing wildly at the Beast. It looked unlike any of the Terra-Actual US aircraft designs he had ever learned about. It was more likely from Tami-on-Asia. Still, dozens of its bullets hit the mud only a few feet from the young Clarra boy. The several that did hit the Beast would pierce its armor, but the quick healing 'wounds' hardly seemed to slow it down. The fighter’s rapid streams of small rockets were just as ineffective.

Leon knew he was going to have to do more to live through these next few moments. He started retracting the grappling hook, pulling himself closer to the sliding Omega cycle. Another vertical drop was quickly approaching and something told Leon that he should be on his bike if he expected to survive this one. The mysterious aircraft continued to hover over them, keeping pace as it unloaded round after round, rocket after rocket into the descending Iron Beast.

Leon felt his fingers touch the solidness of his Omega cycle. He was able to grip it just as the ground beneath him disappeared once again. As he tried to remount his bike in midair, he finally saw what awaited him in the distant valley. After everything he had just been through, after every horror story he had heard about the Over-world, not even his worst nightmares could have delivered a scene more unbelievable - a scene more brutal than what he was seeing in the valley below. It was the last event of the human/Varentra war.

It was the Battle of Oblivion.



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