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Right, this is my most recent short story that I've also been working on the most. Doesn't mean it's good or the best but hey it's here and for your reading. If you want to leave criticisms go for it, but if they're stupid that's on you.

To be honest this story is in bits and pieces and it'll take a lot of time for me to actually piece them all together (if I ever do) and if you haven't read the Freezing manga and/or don't know Warhammer 40K lore this may be a waste of time. If you give it a chance though, you might like it. This is all my own personal fantasy by the way. I hope you enjoy.

Brothers

“Everything, fire everything!”

“Today we go in a blaze of glory brothers!”

“Let them taste our fury!”

The roars of my brothers and their weapons rang through the speakers in my helmet, the flashes of gunfire lighting the night, beams of light cutting down gigantic armored figures, painful and enraged screams, status reports, orders, blood, and several huge beings many times the size of myself and my kin. We died battling the Nova. We died protecting humanity. We died because we were expendable, we were weapons.

We had been volunteered without our knowledge or our consent. We had been conscripted. The military asked, and our parents gave. Our families had forsaken us, stolen our rights to friends, to possessions, to our lives, to our very humanity, to become the weapons of mankind. We sacrificed ourselves so those that already had friends, possessions, families, lives and humanity didn’t. We were the unfortunate scapegoats mankind deemed necessary.

Decades of training and preparation had come before this moment, to prepare several hundred souls for war with Nova, an unknown number and type. We had steel bones, rock-hard skin, two hearts, four livers, acid spit, eyesight an eagle would envy, and more. We were monsters called Astarte. We were weapons. And when we were faced with uncertain odds and potential suicide, we threw ourselves into oblivion willingly. Untested in combat against a true Nova, we were ready because we feared nothing. We were brothers who had lived together since the beginning. We were comrades who had fought in wars and trained together since boyhood. We had killed together, and died together since we could walk. None had stood before our brotherhood without breaking beneath the strength of our bonds and bravery. We were invincible.

We were wrong.

Round 1 The Beginning

Humanity is an enigma. For thousands of years, it has tried to snuff itself out. So why, when another higher power attempts to remove humanity from existence, does humanity suddenly feel the need to live? Using any means necessary, it struggles and claws at life, victory, and happiness. Only when there is a common evil, a greater cause, can humanity unite as one to strike down whatever destructive force, whatever oppressive being is attempting to stamp humanity into the ground. Even then, humanity is fragile.

I am an attempt to remove that fragility, to eliminate the blemishes of mankind. I am a super-soldier, an Astarte, born, bred, raised, and trained to kill. I cannot feel fear. Not because of some mental deficiency or unstable emotional state mind you, but because of the removal of the emotion through some means I cannot fathom. I was not alone, I had comrades, brothers. Though, as all things must, they died for one reason or another in battle before my eyes until I was all that remained of humanity’s latest effort to preserve itself.

If you think about it one way, I am the strongest for surviving the longest. Though, if you think differently about it, I simply stood on their shoulders, and let them sink into the mud beneath me before having my own turn at fighting against the inevitable drowning. Many have told me the latter is not the case, that I am the best of the best, even though I know I learned from their deaths, and benefited from their wisdom and guidance so that I may recount this legacy, however brief. But I’m certain you have had enough of this exhibition, I’m surely boring you.

This is not a story, nor a tale, it is a report, a recounting of true events that I do not exaggerate. It was the beginning of the end for humanity, I suppose, and I was one of the keystones, one of the catalysts for the end. I was younger then, ignorant of the many truths I have discovered today.

High above the Earth floated a large hunk of metal than shone dully in the pure light of the sun. Snugly placed in orbit around the planet, it held a massive cannon that glared down defiantly at the world below and, as if sensing the cannon’s indignance, clouds covered the Earth. Lightning flashed with such frequency and strength one could see the storms clearly with the naked eye from the station.

I myself was wedged in that cannon, watching the storm through a viewport huddled inside a small pod clad in thick ceramite armor, a mechanical male voice buzzing in my ear.

“Launching in thirty seconds. Plotting drop route” Announced a voice.

I shifted in my armor, banging against the inside of the cramped drop pod. I peered through the green tinted eye sockets of my helm out into the void of space, dismissing the tactical readout of the drop plan that appeared,

“Marine four, this is a direct order, recall immediately! The ground forces are of sufficient strength cancel launch sequence!”

“Command, I’m getting interference, communication becoming difficult.” I switched the portable radio installed inside my helmet off, “Computer, set drop location for a quarter of a mile south from the last-known location of Kazuya and Satellizer.”

“Right away sir. I am receiving orders for withdrawal from Chevalier.”

“Disregard.”

“Sir, they are placed at the highest priority. Twenty seconds to launch.”

“Disregard, the survival of any and all Pandoras places higher priority.”

“Sir, that is debateable. Fifteen seconds to launch.”

“This topic is not open for debate.”

“I deduced this sir, Chevalier is ordering you to turn your radio back on. Ten seconds to launch.”

“I don’t care.”

“Sir the repercussions later may be greater than you are currently predicting.”

“Computer.”

“Sir?.”

“Shut up.” I checked my weapons one last time. My bolter was fully loaded, its safety still on. The chainsword at my hip was silent for the moment as it was powered down.

“Sir?”

“What?”

“I expect your return to the station within the next ninety six hours.” I recalled the images and radio chatter I’d received from the Pandoras on the ground,

“We’ll see.” Rockets roared, and I heard the loud metallic bang of latches releasing,

“Launching.” My safety harness strained as it dealt with the sudden G forces of being fired from a cannon designed to fire pods at supersonic speeds. The drop pod shook dangerously, my bones and armor resonating with the violent vibrations and ferocious shaking. I felt like I’d been stuffed into a soda bottle and fired through its throat, erupting out in a massive soda fountain,

“Time to impact?” I asked through chattering teeth,

“One hundred and eighty seconds.” I growled harshly, gripping the safety bars. I had squeezed my eyes shut unconsciously upon launch and now forced them open. The view port I had been looking through earlier was now a virulent fury of orange. I never enjoyed the simulations of orbital strikes, and reality was much worse. I couldn’t recall if they’d safety tested this specific model of drop pod. The radio screamed into my ears,

“What are you doing?!” I recognized the voice of Dr. Aoi,

“S-sir I am doing my d-duty.” I felt a twinge of irritation at my manner of speech, the re-entry into the atmosphere was doing a serious number on the drop pod so it was difficult to formulate coherent sentences without biting my tongue or chattering my teeth,

“Duty?! You are stationed in that orbital base to be used in emergencies!!! You are the last Astarte we have and specialized units have already been dispatched!!!” The computer on my station may have been talking a bit of sense earlier.

“I will answer t-to what-” A nasty jolt banged the wall of the pod against my head, “whatever punishment y-you can come up-” white clouds swallowed the window, and the shaking intensified, “with.” I finished. Dr. Aoir didn’t respond.

“Why are you doing this?” I blinked in surprise,

“It’s the right thing to do.”

“Time to impact, eighty seconds.”

“I be-” another jolt, “I believe that this is the right thing to do.”

“Because you think they’re your friends?” I frowned at that,

“No, nothing so naive sir. They are my comrades.” I heard a chuckle, or was it just a cough? The radio fell silent. “Computer, time to impact?”

“Forty five seconds.” I could hear the landing rockets under the floor firing to slow the pods’ rate of descent,

“Is it possible to scan the landing area?”

“Impossible, stigma fog is disrupting scans greatly.” I growled in response,

“Is it possible to find the location of any Pandora signatures?”

“Affirmative, updating your tactical readouts.” A map of what I assumed was the drop zone appeared on my visual display, numerous blips displayed across the landscape. The area looked to be a very flat and rocky beach with patches of boulders here and there, “It appears certain Pandoras have been taken hostage or changed somehow, I am receiving friendly pings on IFF yet they have been marked as hostiles in previous reports from the battle.”

“Wonderful.” I grumbled, “Where are the resistance pockets?” The rattling and shaking was decreasing steadily now.

“We are landing directly on top of one of the pockets.”

“Can you patch me through?”

“Affirmative.”

“Do it.” After a moment a muted ding sounded in my ear to inform me that I’d made contact, “Pandoras, this is Marine four I am dropping on your position, cleared hot, what is your current status?” Incomprehensible chatter replied to me,

“Impact in twenty seconds,”

“Repeat transmission, coms are bad.” I replied, the incomprehensible chatter was the only response, “Clear drop zone, designating DZ now, clear the DZ.” I cut the line, “Computer, are these Pandoras our own?”

“Unknown, there are anomalies varying in intensity with all the Pandoras, I only know what has already been reported. Impact in ten seconds.” I flicked the safety on my bolter off, rolling my shoulders,

“Make sure everyone can hear me,”

“Affirmative.”

“Attention all Pandoras, this is Marine four. I have landed on the battlefield and am ready to assist.”

“Impact.” I slammed into the seat as the pod hit ground, “Door opening.” I popped the safety straps on my seat and pod door disengaged, hissing as it fell open. Hopping out my boots thudded heavily onto the ground,

“Pandoras please respond, this is Marine four, I am on the ground and require orders.”

“Sir, signatures detected, distance twenty feet.” I stepped out of the steaming crater, and called out,

“Hello?!” I squinted through the dust and fog, picking out three abnormally large and distorted humanoid shapes. “This is Marine 4, I am encountering enemy forces,” I put several rounds into one of the shapes, its silhouette losing a significant chunk. The shapes came closer, becoming giant ten foot tall monsters that stood a head taller than myself and a good bit thicker, even with my two inch thick ceramite power armor and overly muscular build. I resisted the urge to take a step back, instead unloading the rest of my clip into the second monster, “Anyone, respond.” The third monster was on top of me before I could reload.  My chainsword screamed bloody murder as it came to life and gleefully bit into the midsection of whatever it was I was fighting. It’s body was made of some sort of marble from the way it looked, shattered, and cracked, “Computer, what are these things?” I asked as I dodged the swipe of a large claw,

“Stigma beasts is the most relevant name.”

“What the hell are they?” My chainsword tore the thing from head to toe and I noticed the other two stigma beasts climbing to their feet, their recently ruined bodies beginning to regenerate,

“Pandoras, from what I can tell.” That surprised me. I replaced the empty magazine on my bolter and fired on the two remaining stigma beasts, turning them to dust,

“So this is what you meant by the Pandoras having ‘anomalies’?”

“Yes.” I shook my head to clear the thought of me murdering ex-Pandoras from my mind,

“Well they’re tough as nails,” I said as I turned to the third beast pulling itself towards me with its one remaining arm, “I’m seeing the similarities.” I crushed its head under my armored boot, eyeing the pair of breasts on its chest and its enticing curves. “They’re surprisingly feminine, can you run a diagnosis?” Its featureless beastly head with its sizeable jaws plus the giant arms and legs were a stark contrast to its midsection.

The remnants of the beasts stilled after a moment and I exhaled in relief, “How do they function?”

“Unknown, diagnosis inconclusive with current data. It seems they are being controlled by an external source. I detect no higher levels of intelligence from them. Their structures lack neural functions or activity similar to that of a brain, yet they are still able to move. Intriguing.” I looked up and eyed my radar, noticing a dense set of blips,

“What are those blips?” I asked, placing a marker on them,

“Pandoras from what I can tell. Their position matches with that of the company holding out here.”

“So allies?”

“Perhaps, I shall attempt to triangulate the original positions when all Pandoras last reported to HQ of their status, as well as their original deployments before the battle. This may assist in our understanding of the current situation.” I nodded, hurrying towards the blips,

“You said that these things are being controlled?”

“Affirmative.”

“So we take out whatever’s controlling them and we can save those already taken?”

“Highly unlikely, the stigma beasts will most likely rampage uncontrollably, though their movements seem to be surprisingly tactical from my scans at the moment. Their commander is extremely adept.”

“Is it possible to save those Pandoras already afflicted?”

“Unlikely, less than 2% likelihood that the transformation is reversible.” I winced at that,

“So we have to kill them?”

“Indeed.” I shuddered, hurrying towards the marker, “Pandoras, I say again, this is Marine 4, I have joined the battle and am ready to assist. I have encountered three strange beasts that hold traces of Pandoras. I am unharmed and continuing towards any and all Pandora signatures I can detect. Please respond.” I trundled across the ruined and bloody landscape until I reached the cluster of blips, my insides churning from what I found.

The remains of human Pandoras and their limiters were scattered all over the ground in a thick layer of blood and gore. I grudgingly checked the bodies,

“Are these wounds caused by teeth?” I wondered out loud, examining the shredded flesh and shattered bones where a leg had been forcefully removed from a Limiters’ body, or an entire torso missing from one Pandora,

“It’s possible those beasts could grow in power by consuming Pandoras. I have also managed to discern the difference between Pandoras and these unknown Novas. Updating your map.”

“Good work, can you contact command?” I asked, studying my map,

“Negative. Something is interfering.”

“Take video of this entire conflict, command needs in-depth evidence of this.”

“I began recording the second you defied orders.” I grunted indifferently in reply, moving onto more important matters,

“From the looks of it we’re heavily outnumbered.”

“Sir, I must remind you that my understanding of the current conflict is not fully accurate, your map has been updated with at least 52% of its data based on-”

“I don’t care, I trust your judgements. Do we even know if the Pandoras have been receiving me?”

“Unknown.” I looked down at a disemboweled Pandora, her face frozen in an expression of horror and fear,

“Can you tell me who killed them?”

“Logic would state it would be the stigma beasts.”

“I know that much,” I hissed through clenched teeth as I stood, “I want to know which ones killed them so I can return the favor.”

“Alert, incoming stigma beasts.” I whirled around, catching a claw across the face of my helmet. I stumbled back in surprise,

“Warn me sooner!” I drew my chainsword, sawing the stigma beast’s arm off. I brought the weapon back around in a single fluid motion to cleave its head from the body. The beast crumpled to the ground, a second darting around it, swinging at me with a loud screech. I deflected the blow and stepped into it’s midsection, slamming my shoulder into the thing knocking it clear off its feet.

“Threat behind.” I spun around with a two handed swing that ripped my assailant open, marble chips peppering me. It had no innards or guts, just featureless white stone,

“What are these things made of?!” I drew my bolter and put a burst into one beast which was climbing to its feet, blasting it’s head into powder and jumped into the air, body slamming it to finish the job. I rolled to my feet, the jaws of a stigma beast snapping shut inches behind me. I retaliated with a jab from my elbow, spinning around,

“Stigma, I have already informed you of this. Warning, you are outnumbered nine to one. Suggest immediate withdrawal.”

“This is Marine 4,” I smashed the head of an oncoming stigma beast into powder with an jumping blow from my kneecap, “Pandoras respond, I am encountering,” I swept a beasts’ feet out from under it, and shouldered another into the ground, “Heavy resistance,” I switched to my chainsword and swung it in several wide arcs, badly damaging several of the creatures, “Latitude 39.02 by Longitude -72.8, requesting aid.” A blow landed on me from behind, I swung my sword blindly, hitting something solid. I balled my free hand into a fist and smashed the jaw of another into dust. I glanced behind me to see the chainsword wedged in the beast I’d swung blindly at, a toothy grin on its face.

It slammed a claw into my back carving deep marks into my powerpack, warnings popping up on my display, and knocking me off-balance,

“Alert, situation critical, situation-” My vision flickered, the world blurred, gravity vanished, more warnings and alarms blared, my body went numb and I could taste blood. I found myself standing suddenly, six of the stigma beasts snarling in front of me, my chainsword in one hand and bolter roaring wildly in my other, blasting the bastards apart. The computer’s voice was saying something but my ears were ringing too loudly to make it out, though I thought the sound dampeners installed in my helmet were still fully functional. It took me a second to realize the ringing was merely mental. Returning to myself I noticed that three of the six beasts were down, amazingly. Deciding upon the easier course of action I plucked a grenade from my belt, set it to “impact” and whipped it towards my attackers, blowing them away in a fantastic explosion of concussive force that knocked even me off my feet due to the short range.

“...ir are you alright? Sir? Sir your vitals indicate you are conscious and your bodily condition is quite admirable considering that encounter.”

“Computer, status.” I groaned,

“Light damage to armor. Locations: torso, helm, shoulders, and primary power supply pack, operating capacity acceptable. Light damage to occupant’s body, cracked ribs, extreme bruising, possibility of internal bleeding, operating capacity acceptable, however withdrawal is advisable. Continued operation may result in critical situation.”

“I’m fine.” I growled, pushing myself up and clambering to my feet, “Activate painkillers and combat stimulants, we can’t afford to take our time.”

“Right away sir.” I brought up a tactical map, eying a blip labeled “Unknown Origin” which I pointed out to Computer, “It is labeled as per the data on it. There is none.”

“Then would you say going there would be our best bet?”

“It is the most logical decision if I were to use your reasoning.”

“What would your reasoning dictate as logical?”

“Stay in the Orbital Defense System.” I glared at the inside of my helmet,

“I’m going to mute you if you keep talking like that.”

“Of course sir, sorry sir.” After several moments of pained jogging I could hear the sounds of battle and the screams of women, “Sir, Kazuya has been located, he is within sight.” I tried to make out anything through the dust but with little success,

“Computer, can you clear whatever this is that’s preventing any good visuals?”

“Negative, thermal appears to be ineffective, as well as echolocation, the stigma cloud is affecting all options greatly.”  The haze cleared as I came closer, until I found myself ten feet from a bloody and ruffled Kazuya Aoi. He was badly beaten, cradling Satellizer, who was in a similar state, in his arms. Several other Pandoras I didn’t recognize were on the ground, most missing limbs as well as the remains of a woman standing on her feet, but with the upper half of her body blown off. At the center of it all was a marble woman with flowing white hair and eyes that held a maelstrom of color, her hands covered in gore. Kazuya gasped when he saw me,

“Wren, why are you here?!” I stepped forward,

“To save you.” Kazuya’s face warped with pain

“No, Wren run! She’s too much for you! Get away while you still can!” I ignored him, bringing my bolter to bear on the strange marble woman labeled :Unknown Origin,”

“Place your hands on your head, and get down on your knees.” She watched me blankly, a thin smile painting itself across her face. I repeated the order. In response she raised one hand and I let loose a hail of bolter fire, each shell exploding before reaching her. I armed and threw a grenade at her, yet the explosion curled around her as if she had some sort of force field surrounding her body. I tossed my bolter aside and charged. Drawing my chainsword I lowered my shoulder trying to ram her, instead colliding with an invisible wall a foot away. I stumbled back in surprise, swinging my chainsword, which also skidded off an invisible wall. I stood there a moment, in complete shock. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I asked dubiously, to no one in particular. The white woman smiled as she raised her other hand.

I opened my eyes to find myself on the ground with my helmet off, I was numb.

It was hardly fair the the Novas were always a step ahead. Not once had there been an easy battle, not once had there been a small skirmish with us easily wiping the floor with the bastards, it was always a near-death experience that left me feeling weak and pitiful. I would not give in so easily.

My body acted on its own, pulling itself up, raising its sword arm, and charging head first at the woman in white. I roared as my arm swung downward with as much strength as I could muster, and broke the chainsword in two on nothing but air a foot above the woman in white. Gears, teeth, and belts burst from the sword like confetti from a balloon. I stared dumbly at the hilt of the broken sword, it’s motor revving uncontrollably without the resistance of the chain of teeth or the flesh it was so accustomed to biting hungrily into. I raised my head, and found myself staring directly into the face of the white woman made of marble. I threw a punch, instead shattering my fist on another wall of nothing. Growling, I tried to knee her in the chin, but again that invisible wall stopped the blow. A force blew me off my feet into the ground next to one of the incapacitated Pandoras and, conveniently, my helmet.

I snatched my helmet with my good hand. A massive hole had been ripped open just above the left visor and blood covered the inside of the helm, “Computer.” I was shocked at how weak my voice was, considering how little time I’d spent fighting this strange woman and how much damage I had apparently taken. I was astarte. Best of the best. High-tech armament and weapons, bio-engineered to the highest degree, and made to feel no fear. They told me I was unstoppable. I should have know better.

“Sir, my unit installed in your armor has been destroyed, I am unable to retrieve any data on your status and situation.” I coughed blood, the white woman was walking this way,

“Situation critical,” I pulled myself up, “Heavy damage sustained, I’m losing consciousness.”

“Sir, reinforcements are ninety seconds out. It’s the legendary Pandoras.”

“Tell them to hurry up, I’ll stall for time.”

“Sir, they are hurrying.”

“I won’t last ten seconds at this rate.”

“In that case sir, it has been an honor serving with you.”

The woman grabbed my neck, hefting me into the air, that same damn smile on her face. I couldn’t help smiling myself, that computer was so professional, it was refreshing to be honest. I told it I was going to die, and it was so matter-of-fact and polite about it. I wondered if anyone would miss me, how the Astartes project would fare without any posterboys or soldiers?

I shrugged to myself, figuring if I was going to die, it was better spent fighting like a dead man rather than conservatively. I swung my good leg around, connecting solidly with the marble woman’s head, freeing myself from her iron grip. I decided to stall in any way possible,

“I am Wren, Astartes.” The woman stood still a moment, watching me curiously, almost expectantly. Shocked that she was letting me live so long I decided to run with it, “We are unstoppable in body, in spirit, and in mind.”

“Sixty seconds sir.”

“I am humanity’s sword, and shield, I die so all may live. If you kill me, you will only be damning yourself for even death cannot stop me, it can only make me more powerful than you can ever imagine.” I seemed to recall a super-villain making a speech very much like this once, though from where and when I cannot say. It was probably one of the few memories I had of my human days. “I will never give in, no matter how many times you beat me down, how many bones you break, how many organs you take, I will win.” I drew my bolt pistol, stumbling forward, “Because my only option is victory, my only goal your defeat, my only reason for living is the survival of the human race.” I plugged several rounds into the marble woman, all of them bursting harmlessly in her hands, “My name is Wren, and I will amount to your end.” The bolt pistol suddenly shattered, and I found myself impaled on one of the woman’s glistening arms. Coughing, I vomited blood onto the arm. I vaguely heard someone cry out my name.

The Nova smiled coldly up at me, being half my height, and brought me to my knees. Her free hand gently touched my bruised and bloody cheek, draining me of all warmth and life,

“The feeling,” She hissed, “Is mutual.”

Suddenly a massive explosion erupted behind her from which stepped a beautiful ponytailed girl with chestnut brown hair carrying a gigantic hammer over one of her shoulders. Her lips curved upwards in a smile that never touched her eyes,

“Won’t you play with me?”

I recognized this girl, Windy May, one of the few friends I’d had back in the research facility my Astarte brothers and I had been bred in. I’d never learned anything about her, we’d only chatted but she apparently considered me her “little brother” despite the massive difference in our size. I’d asked her age before but she had always laughed and told me it wasn’t polite to ask a woman her age.

What was she doing here?

“Would you mind dropping him please?” She giggled, waving at me with a warm, bright smile. To my utter amazement, the Nova removed her arm from my gut and turned to Windy May, that cold smile still painted on her face.

I fell forward and steadied myself with my good arm coughing up more blood. May shoved the pommel of her hammer into the ground, and glowing particles drifted out from holes placed along its exterior. My numbness vanished, along with any pain I’d previously felt. I looked down, to see four fully functioning limbs covered in blood. The only evidence of me being previously injured was the blood and badly damaged armor that I was still encased in.

The Nova vanished, reappearing behind Windy, and held a hand up to her cheek. Raising a hand I called out as a wave of energy blasted Windy on the side of the her head, which vanished in a puff of red smoke.

“WINDY!!!” I roared, clambering to my feet and grasping the top half of my chainsword, swearing to avenge my rescuer, when I saw her standing perfectly fine, smiling at the Nova. Then, with a one-handed swing of her hammer, shattered it into chunks.

I could barely contain my amazement. Several others gasped along with myself. To my bewilderment the others had been healed as well, and were now climbing to their feet. Even the woman who’d had her entire upper torso blown away was healed, and she was now naked. Kazuya stood,

“Are you,” He asked hesitantly, “That person?” He walked over to Windy, raising a hand, “I know who you are. You’re one of the Pandoras from Lab Thirteen. You’re on our side, am I right?” I glanced at Kazuya suspiciously. Sure, his Grandfather was head of Pandra but I found it interesting, if alarming, he knew of Lab Thirteen, one of the labs involved in the Astarte project. Satellizer grabbed him,

“Ka-Kazuya be careful!” She murmured nervously,

“Be careful?” I scoffed, “I’m not sure you noticed, but without her we’d all be dead or worse.”

“Right,” Kazuya said, nodding to me, “She’s our ally.” Windy May laughed melodically,

“Ally? What are you talking about? We’re a family.” She said, looking at myself and Kazuya. I cocked an eyebrow in confusion, “Right Kazuya, Wren?” She was obviously lying. Three other Pandoras appeared behind her, all of whom I recognized.

Lucie, with her red eyes and long flowing white hair stood in the back, looking as aloof as always. Tesland, the second closest, with her otherworldly purple hair and eyes, eyed me blankly while Cassandra, the first stared at Kazuya. They were all eye-poppingly beautiful but one could argue Cassandra was the most...filled out and finely sculpted of them with her proportions, which were enhanced by her beauteous white waves of hair and her muddled red eyes. Kazuya called out to Lucie,

“Lucie-san, what’re you doing here? W-What about the other Valkyries, and Ouka? Did she make it to safety?” Valkyries? Ouka? I’d never heard of or seen them before. I began to wonder if Kazuya knew more than he should, and I lifted my broke helmet onto my head as he and these new Pandoras conversed.

“Computer, are you functioning?”

“Yes, my primary functions are disabled however, since I am separated from your suit.”

“Are you still recording?”

“Affirmative, though video and audio quality dropped drastically after heavy damage was sustained to the helm of your armor. Fortunately, all data is intact.”

“Good, we need to bring this up to Dr. Aoi.” I removed the helmet. I noticed that Kazuya had found his way into Cassandras breasts, where she was tightly holding him. I glared as Satellizer and Rena began screeching, prying Kazuya from Cassandra’s grip, then yelling at each other to let him go. I had always wondered why Chevalier had kept our female contact to a minimum, now I was beginning to understand. They treated you like a possession and turned you into a bitch. I scoffed as Kazuya moaned and whined, gasping for air as if he hadn’t of been able to breath, Satellizer and Rena both fawning over him.

“So, who are these girls?” Asked one of the other Pandoras I didn’t recognize. I turned to answer, but a loudspeaker cut me off,

“I’ll explain this myself.” Dr Aoi stepped from a roaring helicopter and walked over to us. How had I missed that? “They’re Legendary Pandoras, hundreds of times stronger than ordinary Pandora, these girls are the perfect embodiment of the Ultimate Anti-Nova weapon!” He swept his hand in a wide motion that encompassed all of the Legendary Pandoras, “Furthermore, you share with them your own blood and flesh: They’re your family! Kazuya, Wren.” All eyes turned to myself and Kazuya.

Me? Family with these women who’d single handedly won the battle? And what had happened to all the stigma beasts, had they been defeated too? And how was I family with a runt like Kazuya? Was I a clone, or a genetically enhanced variation?

These questions bubbled up within me, but I swallowed them with a significant amount of effort. This was not the time nor the place,

“Dr. Aoi, sir!” I exclaimed. He glanced at me, “Are you providing us with exfil sir?” He smiled deviously,

“As a matter of fact, I am, and I’m personally debriefing you.”

I could not feel fear, so why did my stomach tense when he said that?

Domestic Life

The return flight on the chopper was uneventful, besides Cassandra cuddling Kazuya while Rena and Satellizer fawned over him while trying to repel both each other and Cassandra from Kazuya. Windy May sat next to me and I was able to thank and apologize to her for being such a burden, though she simply smiled and laughed it off.

Dr. Aoi’s debriefing wasn’t terrible, after reviewing the footage my onboard computer had taken. Still, my punishment was severe

I stood before Dr. Aoi, his hands folded, in a sizeable office. Bookshelves lined the walls and papers covered his desk, a massive window was set into the wall behind him. I had been standing there for at least two hours as we reviewed the footage, I reported my experience to him, and he scolded me.

“I am not entirely disappointed with you however. You managed to buy time for the Legendary Pandoras to rescue my grandson and company, destroyed a number of the Humanoid Type Novas, and delivered such useful intel with this video of the conflict.” I nodded stiffly, not from sore muscles but from my own nervousness. “Seeing as you defied orders, launching from a highly classified space-station and putting yourself in harms way, knowing you are simply an emergency asset, I will have to punish you accordingly.” I nodded stiffly again. “You are now stationed as a support unit for the Pandoras, but for the moment you will be guarding the Legendary Pandoras. Your rank is that of Captain, and your equipment will be repaired and enhanced. In addition, you will be attending classes as a potential Limiter.” I found it difficult to deal with all of his orders at once.

“Sir, permission to speak?”

“Denied.”

“But sir!”

“I said denied, Astarte. Oh, I almost forgot. Since you’re guarding the legendary Pandoras you will be living with them. Here is the room number.” He held out a scrap of paper with a room number, floor, and building scribbled on it.

“Dismissed.” I stared dumbly at the paper, “Wren, take the paper.” I jumped, snatching the paper,

“Yes sir, sorry sir.” I spun, hurrying towards the door I yanked it open, ripping it off the hinges. I held the doorknob in my hand a moment, dropping it to the floor and bumbling through the doorway at which point I practically trampled someone. He cried out in surprise as I walked over him and we fell over in a heap,

‘I’m sorry!” He yelped, and I growled. I pulled Kazuya to his feet,

“Don’t be.” I stomped past him,

“Wait, I can show you the room number!” I froze, turning slowly to him,

“You eavesdropped on us?” He blinked, realizing his blunder.

“Only the last part.” I seized him,

“You do realize that’s punishable as treason?! I am now your superior officer and was being debriefed by your grandfather, founder of this organization, while we discussed highly sensitive information!!!” He shrunk deeper and deeper into his coat until I realized I was practically bellowing at him. Sighing I released him, and he landed heavily on the floor, “I’m sorry.” I mumbled, “I let my emotions get the better of me.” I eyed him, “You need to know when and where you should and shouldn’t stick your nose, boy.”

“Well, after you saved my life in Alaska, I figured we were friends!” I realized I’d forgotten the very reason I’d disobeyed my orders in the first place and I smiled weakly,

“Comrades. Weapons can’t have friends.” I coughed loudly, “I have been disrespectful to one offering me his help, will you lead me to the quarters of the Legendary Pandoras?” Kazuya smiled broadly, “Of course!” He motioned for the piece of paper, “Here hand it over.” I passed him the paper, “This is in D-Block of the building south of here, apparently only us and the Legendary Pandoras can be in that section for some reason.”

“To prevent anyone from finding out about us.” I replied. Kazuya turned to me, a perplexed look on his face,

“Why would they do that?” I shook my head at his naivety,

“He wouldn’t want to show the world that he had all the aces, now would he?” I started walking, “Mind showing me the way?” Kazuya’s smile wavered,

“Actually I’m here to talk with my grandfather.” My eyes narrowed,

“About what?” He shook his head,

“Nothing important, just family matters.” I crossed my arms,

“Well apparently I’m family too, what’s on your mind?” His eyes shifted about, unable to meet my own,

“Well I can’t talk to you about it, I need to speak to him directly.” He was acting painfully suspicious, so much so that I wanted to grab him by his hair and personally drag him into Dr. Aoi’s office and question him fiercely. But that wasn’t what a comrade would do. A comrade would trust his fellow and give him his privacy.

But a family member? I hadn’t the slightest idea what a family member would do. I blinked, I had a family. Kazuya was my brother. This brought a whole new wave of...emotions I couldn’t explain. Strange feelings and sensations. I had to get to Block-D and start doing something useful, otherwise I’d start to malfunction. Weapons weren’t supposed to feel, they were supposed to do.

“Very well,” I said, “But be sure you notify me if anything happens,” I paused a moment, “Brother.” It felt good to say that again, though I was unsure how my dead brothers would react if they’d been alive and discovered they were kin to this runt. Kazuya looked surprised for a moment, but smiled,

“Thank you, brother.” A chill ran up my spine, Kazuya’s brother. That would take some getting used to. I nodded to him and turned on my heel, marching down the hall towards Bock-D.

I stepped outside into the baking sun, squinting against its rays, as a flight of fighter jets screamed their way across the sky just within earshot. The distant roar of their engines was loud enough to silence the sounds of the birds and wind, muting the rest of the world. I always found it odd how I enjoyed the sound of a jet engine. It gave me a sense of calm or wonder and I’d always wanted to pilot a jet though it’d have to be specially made for my oversized body.

I couldn’t help but admire the campus of Pandra Academy, tiled paths curving through the trees, birds chirping, and a blue sky with cotton clouds. I think the trees were called Sakura. The trees were in a sort of blooming season apparently, pink and white petals covered them and the wind always swept a number of the petals off their branches carrying them away through the sky.

The utter lack of security annoyed me. No guards, no guard towers, I couldn’t even spot a single security camera. What kind of military facility was this? Grumbling to myself I strode down the path following Kazuya’s direction. I noticed a group of people and, having spotted me, they walked over to me.Not even ten steps from the building I just left and a group of Pandoras and their limiters were bothering me.

There were four limiters and three pandoras, which sprouted a question or two but I kept quiet,

“Aren’t you that Astartes?” Asked one of the Pandoras,

“Yes.” I said, nodding. The boys, Limiters, were freshman while the girls, Pandoras, were all second years judging by their attire. They all looked nervous.

The Pandora nudged one of her fellows, a small girl short even for a human. Her skin was quite tan and her white hair fell down around her knees,

“Um,” She whispered, “I...I was wondering if I could talk to you...?” The rest of the group seemed to be urging her on, if hesitantly. The whole situation was driving a stake into my skull.

“Very well.” I grunted, “What is it you need?” She shrunk away from me in fear, eyes bulging,

“Go on Alice!” Cheered a Pandora. I glared at them,

“Are you all involved in this?” The group froze, staring back at me. Their discomfort became more apparent by making eye contact with me, as if looking only at the little beat sprout put a wall between myself and them, “If not I’d ask you to leave us.” And to my disgust they all turned on their heels and sped off at a brisk walk leaving the short one, whom was trembling at this point,

“So?” I asked. Her lip trembled, her eyes watered and she chewed her nails vigorously as she shook in terror,

“U-uhm...I just...Um well I wanted...t-to ask i-if um...well I wanted t-to ask if….” She mumbled to herself, digging her heels into the ground, shaking her head, her eyes darting about, tears welling. I didn’t have time for this.

“Contact me when you can find the words.” I sighed, waving a dismissive hand, “Good luck to you.” And went on my way, leaving her.

Bah, humans were all such an annoyance. I stopped, staring ahead at nothing in particular. I wasn’t wrong, of course, I couldn’t compare myself to a human or include myself as one, it simply wasn’t biologically correct. Sure I looked like one, if significantly taller and beefier, but my three hearts, four lungs, multiple livers, impervious immune system, acid spit, nearly infinite endurance, lightning reflexes, and overwhelming strength said otherwise. I was a monster, a weapon. But then what were the legendary pandoras?

I cleared my head with a shake, striding forward. There was always something that needed doing. Thinking and musing went nowhere, and I didn’t like what I thought about anyway. I had to be moving, doing, otherwise my mind would stray to places I didn’t like.

Reaching my destination I eyed a plain building, hardly different from the rest save a line of Pandora guards.

The First Day (I regret nothing, don't worry it's short)

“I have been assigned to guard you, but I was not ordered to sleep with you.” I growled at Windy May, who hovered over my bed, “It is approximately 2 AM, and just because I am in a bed does not mean you can join me in said bed.” Windy May laughed musically, jumping on me, clothed only in a tank top and some small undergarments,

“Oh come on we were such good friends back in boot camp!” I struggled to free myself from her iron grip,

“Dammit May, that was years ago! We are weapons, we must be on alert at all times, not cuddling!” May giggled, ripping my shirt apart with ease, exposing my bare chest,

“Well if we’re together all the time I’ll always be able to protect you and you’ll always be able to protect me!” I writhed furiously, her buxom breasts smearing themselves against my chest, nearly popping out from the tank-top,

“Dammit woman I am a weapon, an Astarte, we’re family! Brother and sister! Comrades!” Her face drew close to mine, her eyes drilling into my own, reminding me of a bloodthirsty beast. “RELEASE ME DAMN YOU!!!” A hand darted out, and covered my mouth, blocking Mays lips just before they landed. Her tongue lolled out, licking the back of the hand for a moment before she opened her eyes,

“Tesland,” She whined, her expression deflating, “What’s the big deal?” I turned to see a fully naked Tesland glowering at May, her oddly colored purple hair draped over her breasts like silky curtains.

“GODAMMIT!!!”

War of the Parties

I’d been forced to attend a celebration over our triumph in the recent Nova conflict. Several of the Pandoras and Kazuya had come to me, practically ordering me to partake in the event. So I found myself standing here, in a crowd of people I hardly knew, feeling ostracized thanks to my overwhelming build and height in no small part thanks to my origins. People stared, murmured, and gawked but hardly any appeared to have the courage to approach me. I could count the number of people I honestly knew outside of Pandra duty on one hand in the entire organization.  

“C’mon Wren, relax, everything’s fine. Sit down, have a drink, eat something!”

“I don’t drink.” I grunted, glaring down at a small woman by the name of Ticy Phinyl. A small smile was her reply to my gruffness,

“Even super soldiers need their rest you know?” Despite myself, I couldn’t help glancing at the group of four women gliding through the crowd of pandoras and limiters, as well as other personnel. The Legendary Pandoras, as well as the rescuers of myself and my comrades caught up in the most recent Nova engagement. Hell, the only reason we won was because of their amazing battle prowess. Just one of them made me look like a lost puppy, a waste of space, a liability. Dr. Aoi’s words echoed in my ears,

“Specialized units have already been dispatched.” Ever since that sortie I’d been questioning the point of my development and existence. Why had Chevalier bothered crafting soldiers such as myself while powerhouses were already enlisted that could single handedly destroy a nova? Only once had Astartes ever taken on the nova, ten of us fully armed and equipped against three generic novas. The entirety of the Astarte Project, with all our technology, and superiority, died. Except for myself. I felt inferior to the legendary pandoras.

“Wren?” I blinked, refocusing on my surroundings. To my utter shock the four legendary pandoras stood right in front of me, looking up expectantly. Lucie, the fourth, with her red eyes and long flowing white hair, Windy May, the third with her enigmatically green pigtails and brown eyes, Tesland, the second, with her otherworldly purple hair and eyes, and finally Cassandra, the first. One could argue she was the most...filled out of the four with her proportions, which were enhanced by her beauteous white waves of hair and her muddled red eyes.

I quickly snapped to attention,

“Apologies madams, I was lost in thought. Wren, callsign Marine 4 reporting.” They raised their eyebrows, and Ticy suppressed a laugh. Windy May Leaned forward with an odd smile,

“We’re off duty you know? Relax why don’t you?” I fixated my attention to her eyes,

“Ma’am, I am sorry ma’am, however I have been drilled to never relax ma’am.” I replied stiffly, “I must also thank you, madams, for rescuing myself and my comrades.” With a salute I spun around and marched towards the punch bowl.

I couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief. I was not afraid of the legendary pandoras,I feared nothing, I was just anxious and uncomfortable. It was frustrating to me that for all the training and enhancements we’d received Chevalier never told us how to hold a conversation.

“Everything ok, De-arimasu?” Rana Linchen, I knew that odd form of speech anywhere. I glanced down at yet another highly attractive woman, a strange blue symbol tattooed under her left eye. Her eyes were purple, and her long hair a dark navy blue,

“Fine.” I declared,

“You don’t look fine to me, De-arimasu.” She smiled brightly at me, displaying rows of shining teeth,

“I don’t care how I look, I’m telling you I’m fine.” I fired a glare down at her,

“Oh don’t be so grumpy I know you’re just bad with people.” She gingerly laid a hand on my arm, gazing up at me with a pair of puppy eyes, “I’ll always listen to you De-arimasu.” I growled, shrugging her off,

“Rana, your fighting prowess is amazing, and I value as a fellow soldier, but I’d rather not talk to you about personal matters.” I did not add the part where I believed she was a bit of a fool sometimes, especially with that strange manner of speech she had, ending everything with “de-arimasu.” At my statement, she withdrew her hand with an apology and before she could follow up with anything I quickly excused myself.

I had to keep moving, keep walking, look like I was going somewhere and doing something, otherwise I’d risk someone stopping me, despite them all being scared shitless of me but I didn’t want to risk it. I switched the short wave radio installed in my ear on,

“Guard station, this is Marine 4, what’s the situation-over?” I noticed Satellizer and Kazuya walking off into the residential building. I couldn’t help cracking a grin,

“Marine 4, situation boring. Hey why don’t you enjoy the party? You did get invited after all right? I mean we’re stuck up here on lookout duty and still can’t figure out why you demanded to be a part of the guards. I mean you saved the lives of ten other Pandoras, you deserve some down time-over!”

“If I had a nickle for everytime someone said that…over.”

“Ah, Marine 4 this is Japan you’re using the wrong currency-over.” I growled at that,

“Yen then, anyway I’m going to do some patrols starting with the east gate-over.”

“Oh, hey Wren could you bring everyone some food then-over?”

“Is that an order-over?”

“Ha, I get it nice one. Thanks!” I blinked in confusion, had I made a joke or was she being sarcastic? “Over.” Another thing, why were were most of the people in Pandra women? Well, granted the upper level officials were mostly male, but down on my rank and around it’s general area it seemed more than two thirds of the people were female and all of them highly attractive. I shrugged to myself indifferently. It didn’t matter who was giving the orders really, it was my duty to follow them and it frankly didn’t matter who I fought alongside because it took enough courage for these humans just to stand and fight.

I stopped, staring ahead at nothing in particular. I wasn’t wrong, of course, I couldn’t compare myself to a human or include myself as one, it simply wasn’t biologically correct. Sure I looked like one, if significantly taller and beefier, but my three hearts, four lungs, multiple livers, impervious immune system, acid spit, nearly infinite endurance, lightning reflexes, and overwhelming strength said otherwise. I was a monster, a weapon. But then what were the legendary pandoras?

I cleared my head with a shake, striding forward focusing on the task at hand remembering there was always something that needed doing. Relaxation prompted thinking, and I didn’t like what I thought about. I had to be moving, doing, otherwise my mind would stray to places I didn’t like.

After a few minutes of marching I came within sight of the east gate,

“East gate this is Marine 4, I’m within sight of your position, status-over?” I closed in on the gate waiting for a reply, “East gate this is Marine 4, do you copy-over?” Without warning the gate vanished in a fiery explosion.  “Security breach, Eastern Gate of H Block!” I roared, drawing my bolt pistol and combat knife. Four scantily clad women darked out from the smoke. One of the women had flat eyes and light brown hair, a pair of small knives in her hands. The second had long black hair and wore a taunting grin, she was armed with only her fists. The third, a heavily tanned woman, was charging two large energy cannons while the fourth, a long haired blonde, simply stood by and watched.

What was it with women these days and their outfits? What the hell was wrong with a full set of protective apparel that didn’t show off eighty percent of your skin and left your breasts bouncing this way and that? Was it some sort of psychological warfare? Whatever it was supposed to do it just annoyed and insulted me. What was happening to respect for warfare?

I dived behind a building’s support pillar, capping a few suppressing shots down-range, “This is Marine 4, I have encountered four hostiles, requesting backup at-” A deathly chill wracked my body. I dropped to the concrete, my cover disintegrating above me from an energy beam that ate through the wall and other support pillars behind me. The ground shook as massive cracks streaked up the side of the building as it leaned dangerously.

I questioned my usefulness again, for all my training and enhancements it never seemed to amount to a damn thing in real combat. Why was I always outmatched? I admit the last time was my own fault but lately it seemed command was only putting me in scenarios during training where I was outnumbered ten-to-one against pandoras. Had they foreseen this, or were they simply trying to turn me into a one man army?

I dived out into the center of the pathway as half of the building collapsed to the ground, throwing debris everywhere and kicking up a cloud of dust. The knife user and black-haired ones advanced towards me while the other two hung back. I fired wildly at the cannon-user, forcing her to duck and retreat behind cover. I brought my combat knife up to defend against a flurry of blows from the two women attacking me head-on,

“Eastern gate!” I screamed into the earpiece.

I deflected several slashes and stabs from the flat-eyed one with my knife, barely keeping myself out of the reach of the fist-fighter,

“Make it easier on yourself,” Black-haired one hissed, sending an upper-cut blasting past my face. I side-stepped into her, smacking her with the side of my bolt pistol, producing a satisfying crunch. The blow knocked her off her feet and she crashed to the pavement a few yards away. My triumph was short-lived.

Two points on my back erupted with pain as I was lifted off my feet and thrown to the ground, tearing valleys of pain across my back. I rolled onto my feet, catching a slash across the face. This bitch was fast. I struggled to keep up with her as she vanished from my field of view, my gut instincts the only thing keeping me alive. I assumed she was using “accel” or whatever it was called when Pandoras exceeded their normal limits, though if I remembered correctly it could only last for a certain amount of time. I doubted I’d have that time. A blast of energy tore past me without warning. I clenched my teeth in pain as I watched my left arm disintegrate, the smell of burnt flesh dominating my nostrils. A terrific force slammed into my head, sending me tumbling across the pavement and through a concrete support column,

“Payback asshole.” Someone said as stars flashed across my vision, the world suddenly an unrecognizable wavy mass of colors, “You’re cute though.” Something was walking toward me, a multicolored blob, “It’s a shame you’re dead now.”

My vision returned all at once. The black haired woman standing over me, leaning down for my neck, the flat eyed one watching indifferently, the tan one with the cannons had an indignant smirk, and the blonde one was laughing as if the whole situation was a joke.

I kicked at the black-haired woman and she caught it with a hand. I pushed off her, cartwheeling up the wreckage,

“Feisty!” She leapt after me.

Down an arm, I flailed frantically with the knife in my right hand struggling to keep her at bay. She caught the knife after a few swings, twisting it out of my hand with a strength greater than my own, and in one fluid motion buried it in my abdomen. I gasped in surprise, tripping on the rubble, falling on my back. She violently slammed a foot onto my chest and the sound of bones breaking resonated through me, several sharp pains piercing my torso. I gagged, coughing blood,

“How’s that you little shit?” She cackled, smirking smugly, “Think that was a good payback for that lucky shot you got in on me?” I glared up at her defiantly,

“Three on one and you’re the one who gets floored?” I growled through clenched teeth, “Was it a ‘Lucky Shot’ or are you just lucky it wasn’t worse?” She snarled,

“Well don’t you think you’re hot shit? Who’s about to be a pile of mush?” She raised her foot, “You.” A hammer slammed into the side of her head, sending her flying,

“Wren!” Windy May crouched over me,

The Sisters of Battle

“Congratulations.”

“Sir?” I eyed Dr. Aoi suspiciously, “What do you mean?” Again I’d been summoned to Dr. Aoi’s private office, and again I felt cornered and strung along,

“You’ve been promoted.” He said it like there was some ulterior meaning, “As of now your new callsign is Marine 1, and have been attached to a new squad called, ‘The Sisters.’ They are similar to you, born into the military and training, but they have not undergone the same genetic enhancement and manipulation as you.” I stared at him blankly, “They are equipped with equipment similar to yours, only less effective and sturdy, much like the sisters themselves. Which is why you are leading them.” I put a hand to my forehead,

“How long have they been in service?”  

“No real combat experience, we were tempted to put them into action in one of our own wars going on but the risk of losing them was too high, and we’ve invested too much time in them to lose even one. Their ages are all equal to or between seventeen and twenty, each of them has spent their most of their lifetime in military facilities, and have already been briefed on their new commander, you.” I sat in one of the cushy chairs, putting my head in my hands. Commander. Even a special unit.

“How have I not been informed of their existence?”

“Top secret, they were to be deployed in conjunction with your own unit and meant to act as a support unit for your own. Ten other squads are still in training, but they have yet to reach deployment standards.” I shot out of the chair,

“AND WE WERE?!” I slammed a fist on the desk, smashing it in half. I gritted my teeth, stomaching my own anger, “You’re telling me that these...women are combat ready?”

“Not for Novas, no.” Again my anger flared, threatening to become an uncontrollable rage, “Which is why you’re going to train them.” The anger vanished, “We...I need you to train them.” My mouth worked, and I turned on him pacing around the office grumbling to myself.

So I was the one deciding when they’d be combat ready and the one training them? I could control them then, and not risk any more pointless sacrifice? I could make them into what my brothers and I were, no, better?

“I have the final say on their deployment? I am the highest authority on them?” Dr. Aoi nodded,

“Yes, and I am still your commander.” I nodded thoughtfully,

“I’ll do it.” Dr. Aoi smiled,

“Good, these are their profiles.” He handed me a large envelope stuffed to the brim with papers, “Good luck Commander.” I grunted,

“Where can I find my new recruits?” Dr. Aoi gestured behind me,

“I had them summoned, they’re right outside.”

“Alright.” With that I turned on my heel and marched out into the hall.

I walked out into a small crowd, all staring at ten women clad in helmetless full-body black and red armor. It seemed they wore some sort of robes under the armor, for long open-front skirts hung from their midsections and sleeves from beneath their shoulder pads. I pushed through the crowd, “What are you all standing around here gawking for?! Begone!” With some fearful murmurs and curious glances the crowd dispersed through the hall, some lingering until I barked an order at them. Turning my attention to the women I crossed my arms. They looked impressive. All of them had hard expressions, all glaring straight ahead, save each of them glancing at me once or twice when they thought I wasn’t looking. They were all young, and each had a different hairstyle, which I found odd. Their eyes sparkled with excitement, anxiety, worry, nervousness, and pride.

I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic of when Dr. Aoi examined my brothers and I. This was a time to make impressions on the commanding officer, to show him your resolve and at the same time to gauge your commanding officer on his own personality. I felt myself waver slightly, shying away from these young souls and the duty they held on their shoulders. I crushed that indecisiveness beneath the weight of my own duty. I had a responsibility to Dr. Aoi, to my comrades, dead or alive, and now to these young women. This was not the time for emotions. Gathering my grit and charisma, I sucked in a breath and roared with all my strength,

“SOUND OFF!!!” The Sisters stumbled slightly, apparently taken off guard. They all shouted their names back at me, each of them with a different level of energy. I eyed the one in the middle, whose only name I’d made out against the rest of their cry, “Ilyena,” She straightened, raising her chin,

“Sir!” Her voice was strong, it reverberated through the hall demanding attention,

“I understand you are the leader?” Her discipline broke as her expression flashed to surprise,

“Uh, no sir I’m just...just a soldier.” I grunted,

“Really? Just a soldier? What are your specialties then, soldier?”

“Sir!” She straightened again, “Heavy weapons and demolitions specialist sir, bigger is always better sir!” One of her sisters giggled and I appeared before her in an instant,

“Got something to say soldier?” Her expression went blank,

“No sir.”

“Really? Why’re you over here giggling like one of these Pandora girls? See a nice piece of ass?” I swiveled my head, “Only problem is the only things I see are myself and your squadmates. Either way we have a problem.” She didn’t respond.

I stepped back, scanning the line, “Who, among you, is your leader?” No one stepped forward, “Really?” I spread my arms, “So command never assigned you a leader in all of your training and combat exercises?” One of them piped up,

“You are our leader sir!” She looked proud of herself,

“Wrong, I am your commander, I order you because it is my job to do so, and you will follow my orders because it is your job to do so. A leader is someone you respect, someone you trust, someone you are willing to die for.” They all looked at each other quizzically, “You are telling me that you all have been together for the majority of your life times, yet never have you picked someone to lead?” Ilyena spoke up,

“Sir, our squad was formed four days ago we’ve only had one exercise together.” Dr. Aoi had withheld details again. He probably just grabbed the ten best recruits, told them they were a squad, and threw them at me expecting me to turn them into a lethal weapon. I could tell they were already lethal individually but together? They’d be killing no one but themselves. Admittedly I was a bit excited, getting to train a number of trainees who hadn’t known each other for a week. It was like those war dramas Kazuya showed me. I shook my head returning to myself,

“Alright then, lets see what each of you can do.”

Basic Training

These “Sisters” weren’t terrible with their physical attributes, in a one on one they could be any human. A Pandora, however, would probably demolish a Sister in a one on one. The Sisters had excellent fitness, capable of maintaining a full sprint for a least a minute, sleep deprivation would start to begin to affect their performance only after two days without rest, their aim was solid with most any weapon, and all of them could take a hit or three.

But they could not work together. Apparently ten Sister squads were in development, and these ten were their prodigies whom had been through all the hardships and exercises with their own respective squads, and been leaders. I recalled a certain saying, “Too many cooks in the kitchen” being said by one of my old instructors, and by our commander. This was eerily similar. Once placed on any exercise usually Ilyena, the most fiery and energetic of the bunch, would try to lead the pack to be quickly shot down by two others, Ryoka and Kaya, whom had their own quirks. The three would bicker and argue while the other seven split off individually to complete their goals. The ten turned into three groups of three, and one outlier named Tali. The first group, Ryoka, Kaya, and Ilyena, were all of different nationalities and hardly succeeded at anything, always flunking out. The second group, Sarah, May, and Shelby were all from the United States and, upon finding a common group, worked fairly well together. The third group, Teia, Venny, and Cassie were from Europe, so it was a similar situation to the second group of Americans. Then there was the outlier, Tali. She hardly spoke, and nine times out of ten it was  “yes sir” or “no sir” but she was probably the deadliest of them all.

I myself was getting bored of watching these “prodigies” fail time and time again. Two weeks passed before I decided to take drastic measures. These Sisters had heard of my brothers and I, but more of me. How I was the lone survivor of the Nova clash before the most recent, of both I was one of the heroes. I did not know if I lived up to their expectations, and I did not overly care. It was time for a wake up call.

So one early morning I marched them all to the test range.

Heavy forest surrounded us, nothing but trees and hills, the sun just beginning to shine light on the cloudy sky. Leaves and fallen trees littered the ground, rotting away. A light breeze was blowing through and the trees “shushed” as their leaves rubbed one another.

The Sisters stood before me wearing their heavy plated armor and bolters, each of them carrying enough supplies to survive several weeks in the brush. I myself was armed with a single Barret M-82 sniper rifle and wore a ghillie suit with a satchel inside of which were two MREs (meal ready to eat). The Sisters seemed confused, fueling my excitement,

“Good morning.” I said, “And welcome back to the test range, which I’m sure you all already know very well.” They all replied in unison,

“Yes sir!” I nodded,

“Well this time is going to be a little different. For the next few days or weeks, however long it takes, I will give you one objective. Should you complete this objective I will let each of you tell me one thing you want, and have it done. It does not matter what it is. A yacht, a mansion, a million dollars, to be sent back to your unit, to be leader of this unit, whatever it is, it’s yours.” The Sisters perked up excitedly, the groups mumbling to each other. Tali was the only one who seemed indifferent, “And your objective is to capture, incapacitate, or kill me.” The Sisters froze, “There is no time limit, and there are no rules other than today is a freebie. There will be no hostile actions today and you will not be allowed to attack or attempt to capture me.” And with that I turned, marching through the forest.


The odd girl, Tali went after Wren almost immediately, casually following behind him as Ilyena and the rest of the Sisters were left gawking.


The night was pitch black, the moon’s cycle had reset. Nothing could be discerned from the darkness, and little could be heard other than the rustling of leaves or the swaying of the trees. At least that’s how a human would have described it.

Myself, I was busy eying the three-man squad of Sisters sneaking through the forest. They’d swept this area three times already, and I’d been tempted to take a shot at them once or twice, but the point wasn’t to kill my trainees it was to make them learn. I’d barely managed to avoid putting Tali down, she’d followed me like a hawk on the first day, and the second midnight hit came after me. She was impressive in combat, but not impressive enough. To her credit though it had taken considerable effort not to kill her and just knock her unconscious, she made it very hard on me.

But these three Sisters, the Americans, they were just pitiful when it came to stealth though to be fair the other two groups of three weren’t exactly role models either though. I couldn’t help wondering what their instructors had taught them, wondering who had taught them, because this was a joke. Four days had passed since the beginning of the test and all of the Sisters had yet to catch on to the real point in this test. Sure they’d encountered one another from time to time but never to help, just as a coincidence. I was getting sick of their close-mindedness and lack of coordination. They weren’t learning, no matter how much leeway and restraint I gave them.

So with these three unfortunate souls in my scope I decided to start letting loose. Two hundred and forty one yards separated us and I was up in a swaying tree. They had their helmets on at least, and I knew the M-82 wouldn’t be able to puncture their armor if I hit on of the armored plates or even their helmets. I had the option of shooting their joints but again, that would prevent them from learning and for the moment I was still willing to be patient and wait for them to get their own teamwork going.

So, I rolled my shoulders and cracked my neck, drawing a bead on the one in front. I inhaled, and fired. To my surprise my target, in a split second, jumped backwards causing the shot to ricochet off of her shoulder pad. I couldn’t help sucking my teeth in annoyance. Next thing I knew Bolter fire began shredding the branches around me. Interesting! So these girls had some fight in them.

I jumped from my perch, landing heavily on the ground. The bolter fire ceased, and I could hear heavy footsteps coming towards me. I drew my hidden bolt pistol, laying flat on the ground and held my breath. I was glad I’d switched out my original grass ghillie suit with this new leaf suit, much more effective with the current environment. I heard the Sisters run up to me, stopping next to me.

“I saw him fall here.” One of them said through her helmet, “I don’t think we hit him either.” A different one scoffed,

“You know for a great war hero he certainly isn’t all that heroic.”

“Shut up Sarah, I didn’t see you on the news report saying you’d killed a nova.” The third cut in,

“Cut it out, both of you. The fact that we found him means we’re on the right track. We’re a good team, better than the others, so when we do catch him we can get those wishes of ours.” I thumbed open the detonator in my hand and squeezed the button.

A massive explosion went off several feet away, the Sisters stumbling. I jumped up, activating an energy sword I’d had made specifically for taking down the Sister’s in their armor without harming them. It was essentially just a blade of electric current, and could phase through any armor to electrocute the soldier inside.

I impaled one of the Sister’s on its blade, kicking her aside. The other two were looking in the opposite direction, towards the explosion. With a swing that would have beheaded her I incapacitated the second Sister when the third finally turned around. With a loud exclamation of surprise, she raised her bolter as I swept her feet out from under her as she squeezed the trigger to send a burst of rounds into sky like fireworks. I kicked the weapon out of her hand and grabbed her by the throat hefting her into the air until her feet dangled,

“Always be aware of your surroundings. You may know this area well, but I have studied it’s every nook and cranny.” She drew her blade and I smacked it out of her grasp with my free hand, “Everything is your enemy here, so what do you do when you’re outnumbered?” I pulled her close, “Get some allies.” I dropped her to the ground, slicing her as she fell. The three Sisters lay on the ground unconscious and I could help shaking my head. “Too much time and research” he’d said, and this is what Dr. Aoir had gotten from it. It certainly was a sight to behold.

My gut twitched. I dived behind a truck, snagging my M-82, chunks of soil popping up as bolt rounds riddled the ground and detonated on impact. I poked the M-82 out from under the trunk, spotting three points of fire spread across the hill above me. Again, I was impressed. A very tactical move, the points of fire were moving slowing, and taking turns to keep me pinned. They were trying to keep me down and flank.

The Beginning of the End

I exhaled slowly, watching the Earth rotate sluggishly hundreds of miles below on the personal display screen within my helmet through cameras installed outside the station. I wondered how the planet had looked like before the Nova clash, without all the black and gray patches that now peppered its surface like bruises? Were people happier? Was life easier, more relaxed? Was there peace? I’d never learned of the world before Novas, nor had I thought to ask. The only thing I knew for sure is that there was never a need for things such as I, living weapons.

Regardless, even now with all it’s scars and wounds, I couldn’t help marveling at the beauty of it all. How many had been fortunate enough to see what I was seeing now? The planet upon which mankind had been born, lived, and now struggled to survive. How many had died trying to spread their wings and witness this? And who had made it here, to space? Who’s shoulders had they stood upon to get here? Why had they felt the need to journey up here? How much had been sacrificed to do so?

So many questions, and how many would I live to answer?

“Sir?” A hand touched my shoulder pad, “Is something the matter?” I shrugged Tali’s hand off,

“I’m fine.” I replied gruffly My vox transmission device crackled to life,

“Attention strike team, this is HQ, how copy?” I clicked my vox on,

“This is strike team lead, Marine 1, good copy.”

“Begin final checks for launch, we will notify you when to launch, out.” I switched to our private channel,

“Alright ladies, this is it. Check your equipment and make sure it’s ready for launch.” I glanced at the Sisters as they cocked their weapons, tested targeting systems, and ensured they and their equipment were firmly secured for the drop. They all sent an affirmative ping, “HQ this is Marine 1, strike team is a go, repeat we are a go. We are prepped and ready for launch.”

“Roger Marine 1, standby.” The drop pod fell into an anxious silence. Secure in the privacy of my air-tight combat helm I asked,

“Computer?”

“Yes sir?”

“Where you being honest with those victory calculations?”

“Sir, I am never honest, I am logical. Those calculations were based off of previous data I have collected and compiled quiet painstakingly.” I cocked an eyebrow,

“Was this information manipulated at all?” There was a pause.

“Not greatly.”

“So, from the raw data, and between just you and me, what are our chances?” After a few tense seconds statistics appeared on my Heads-Up-Display, or HUD for short,

“70-90% of the squad will most likely perish due to enemy strength, squad cohesiveness, and tactical knowledge.”

“Why did you not give this estimate then?”

“I determined it would disrupt morale, and possibly increase the likelihood of mission failure.”

“Won’t argue with that.” I rechecked my armor, finding no problems,

“Sir?” I turned to Tali, whom was seated to my right fully armored, her streamline helmet already on,

“What’s on your mind Tali?” I asked, scanning the squad’s vitals,

“Wren, I’m scared.” She whispered, leaning close, and my mind blanked for a second,

“Two things,” I said, raising my gauntlet and extending a finger, “One, right now I am your commanding officer and we are on duty, you are to refer to me as sir.” A second finger, “Two, every human is scared of death, it’s what keeps you alive.” I dropped my hand heavily onto her shoulder, “So if you weren’t scared there’d be a problem.” Removing my hand I settled into my seat. Tali watched me expectantly, as if I had more to say,

“And are you scared?” I glanced at her,

“No, I’m not scared.” She nodded to herself and Ilyena raised her fist into the air,

“Our Wren, scared? Course not, he’s faced Novas all on his own and come out on top! He even took one of the four intruders down, and we’re his invincible team!” Ilyena had yet to wear her helmet, allowing me to fully witness her overflowing pride and confidence displayed upon her scarred face. The others voiced their agreement, cheering heartily,

“Nothing can stop us!” They roared, spouting all sorts of encouragement. At that moment I saw my brothers cheering and singing their own praise, predicting a glorious victory. A dark pit began forming in my stomach. I was glad my face was hidden behind the stoic visage of my helm.

Sarah punched my shoulder, “Ain’t that right sir!?” And everyone beamed at me expectantly,

“Sir, remember the morale.” Computer reminded and I growled to myself,

“Well-”

“Attention strike team, this is HQ, prepare for launch.” I couldn’t help feeling relieved,

“You heard them, this is it ladies!” I tightened my straps, “Computer, begin drop sequence!” The pod shook as safety latches disengaged. The Sisters continued their banter nervously, “Cut the chatter! Helmets on!” Those who had yet to don their headgear did so, “Vitals are good, safety precautions are good, computer, pod status?!”

“Sir, all systems green and ready for launch. I am ready on your mark.”

“This is Marine 1, strike team ready for launch!”

“This HQ, solid copy Marine 1, begin operation.”

“Roger HQ, drop pod away.” Engines roared and my stomach was shoved up into my throat as we were fired from the station’s cannon,

“Impact in one minute.” The Sisters clutched their straps and held their stomachs, their vitals spasmed violently on my HUD. I watched as their heart rates climbed into the 200s. None of them were coping very well with the re-entry and I thanked whoever’s idea it was to give them extensive training in resisting high G-forces, “Impact in thirty seconds.” I squeezed my eyes shut, uttering a silent prayer to myself, hoping for the safety of my squad, “Impact in ten, nine, eight…”

“Brace yourselves!” I shouted as the safety rockets beneath the pod ignited and, with a terrific slam that dragged my innards down into my feet, we made landfall. I instantly popped my straps and hopped up from my seat, “Move it people! Pull yourselves together, you’ve been through worse!” Venny removed her helmet and vomited onto the floor. I disengaged her harness and pulled her to her feet, “Wipe your face Venny, you look like shit! That’s no war face that’s a bitch face!” She nodded shakily, her lower lip trembling. The others weren’t faring much better, though they had managed to avoid vomiting from what I could see. None had removed their helmet to do so. Releasing Venny, who nearly fell over, I deployed the exit ramp and disengaged the door, “Marine 1, deploying!” I stepped out into a hell I had not expected to see.

Obviously someone at command had fucked the drop coordinates judging by the screaming humanoid novas that surrounded me. We were supposed to have landed just behind the frontline when instead we had apparently landed right on the front line in the midst of the enemy. I could see the Pandora line, their distinctly colored uniforms just barely visible over the tide of Novas. Human screams filtered through the speakers in my helmet, they were close enough to hear at least. A Pandora was throw into the air her and landed a foot away, spraying me with blood. It was just a pair of legs and half a torso, organs spilling out.

I suppressed the Novas with my bolter in one hand and tossed several grenades with the other shredding the immediate enemy line to pieces. I had been granted an advantage, thanks to being fired from space via drop-pod, the Novas were dazed and confused, though that advantage was wearing off quickly, “Squad deploy!” I roared, struggling to carve out an opening for the Sisters to fill, “Squad!” I risked a glance behind, and saw an empty door, “SQUAD!!!” Several Novas rushed me. I dispatched them as quickly as I could with my chainsword and the bottom of my boot. By that point nearly every Nova realized something had exited from the large metal cylinder that had fallen from the sky. I was about to run back to the pod and seal the door when an explosion of energy forced an opening in the Novas. A Pandora dressed in an officer’s uniform and carrying a massive rifle stood where once had been a solid line of Novas. I assumed she had obliterated the clutch of humanoids between her and myself and she came storming up to me.

“What the fuck was that?!” She roared over the noise, waving a hand erratically, “I thought you were dropping half a klick east of here to rescue us, not the other way around!” I exhaled in relief, spraying the Novas,

“Apparently not, and thank you!” I called, unloading into the oncoming humanoids,

“Don’t thank me yet, I counted on you being able to help us hold this new line because I thought you were a squad, but if it’s just you we need to retreat!” She warned, annihilating another group of Novas. Other Pandoras had flooded in after her, reforming into a thin defensive line,

“We are a squad!” I glanced back at the pod as Ilyena, Ryoka, and Kaya stumbled down the exit ramp clutching their weapons tightly. Their heads darted back and forth, I could almost see the terror beneath the faces of their helmets.

“They sure as hell don’t look like the ‘best of the best!’” She spat,

“They’re the best they had!” I shouted back, and the Pandora officer coughed a laugh,

“Here Sir!” Ilyena yelled through her helmet, voice cracking. She heaved her heavy bolter to bear on the enemy line and it roared to life with a terrifying ferocity, some nearby Pandoras instinctively moved to cover their ears. Kaya braced herself, shouldering her bulky plasma cannon to let loose a sizeable fizzling ball of energy that incinerated multiple humanoids, giving several Pandoras a brief respite. The cannon hissed as it vented heat, the powerpack on her back glowing brightly as it recharged. Ryoka herself had a bolter firing at full-auto and a large backpack of high-explosive warheads reserved for larger targets, a shoulder-launch portable missile launcher latched just beneath her pack.

“Ryoka, Kaya, Ilyena, glad you could join the fight! How are the others?!” Ryoka jogged up to me, cranking off several rounds as she went,

“Fine sir, just woozy, they’re right behind us! I thought we’d be dropping in the forest?!”

“War happened, and I could’ve sworn that a year ago you three were my worst students! Be proud ladies, you’ve earned my respect!” Kaya saluted, struggling to hold the plasma cannon with one arm. A deep regret began to smolder within my chest,

“Proud to be here, sir!” Tali appeared at the top of the ramp, sniper rifle in hand, steadying herself on the doorway,

“Tali, get your fucking squadmates out here!” I ordered, jabbing a finger at her,

“This is fucking insane!” She voxed fearfully and gestured behind her, “Come on you guys, lets go!” She snapped off a shot that pulverized the skull of a humanoid and punched through four others behind it, “Sir,” She yelled, “This is too close for me to be combat effective!” Sisters began filing out behind her, firing as they came,

“You’re going to have to deal with it for now Tali!” I motioned widely with my hand, “Squad, on me! Ilyena and Kaya suppressing fire! Ryoka, keep those two covered!” I grabbed Shelby as she stumbled past, “You, Sarah, and May,” I point at each of them, “Take point, we’re moving up!” The three looked at each other, I didn’t need to see the faces under those helmets to know their expressions, “We need to find the Nova controlling these bastards, now move it you three!” I shoved one forward and they hurried to the front, “Teia, Venny, Cassie, reinforce the pandoras on our flanks spread out!” I gestured toward the Pandora officer, “What’s your name?!”

“Roxanne!” She replied, nodding her head to me while blowing away another couple of humanoids, “What’re you gonna do then, Mr. Heroic Commander sir?!”

“Win this!” I declared, drawing my chainsword and charging the front with a warcry. I charged past Shelby, Sarah, and May, shouldering into the thick of the Novas trying to take as much heat off the three Sisters as possible, “Ilyena, Kaya, watch your fire! Ryoka, try and see what they don’t!” I ordered, hacking through Novas,

“Marine 1, this is command, you are not in your indicated drop-zone, status?”

“This is Marine 1, we are heavily engaged with enemy forces and have linked up with the Pandora line our drop pod went off course and we have improvised! No casualties of our own to report!”

“Marine 1 we are retasking you, break, commander-type Nova has appeared a quarter-mile to your northwest, break, you are to disengage enemy forces and redeploy to respond to new threat, break, effective immediately.” I swore to myself,

“Affirmative command but we’re in deep and a retreat may not be possible! Our absence leavines the current Pandora force on their own and--!”

“Marine 1 you have your orders.” I bit my lip, venting my frustration on the Novas before me, “Marine 1, do you copy?”

“Solid copy, out.” I growled, “Squad, we’re pushing forward! Computer, you functional?! You’re awful quiet!”

“Apologies sir, just observing. What do you require?”

“Get me a tactical map of the area, most up-to-date you got, I want a dedicated satellite if possible.”

“For a retreat, correct?”

“No, for an assault.”

“Need I mention your actions are not in-line with orders?”

“If you want to waste my time, sure.”

“I have the satellite sir.” An image appeared on the bottom right of my HUD depicting a birds-eye view of myself, the squad, and the nearby Pandoras. A dark hole dug its way into my stomach.

A flawless ocean of white broiled between our position and the Nova Commander, an S-type, essentially a Nova who looks like a woman. What was it with women, and  for that matter why were there so few men fighting? I glanced back at the Limiters supporting the Pandoras, all of them male teenagers deep in concentration from their focused expressions. Apparently they could “Freeze” Novas, and counter the Freezing of Novas. To the best of my knowledge, Freezing is exhibiting some sort of force on an individual to literally “Freeze” or slow them. Myself, I’d never been able to be affected by this “Freezing.” They were pointless troops in my opinion, needless casualties. The fact that they were unarmed only added to their uselessness, they only dressed the part of a soldier. I shook my head, “Roxanne, command wants my squad and I to relocate, I advise a retreat!” Roxanne scowled,

“Really? Well that blows! Alright ladies, we’re backing up!” She hollered, slowly stepping backwards,

“Ilyena, Kaya, Ryoka, you three haul ass back to the primary defense line and get set up, we’re pulling out! Everyone else tactical withdrawal!” Kaya and Ryoka disengaged and pulled back, but Ilyena continued firing. Worse, Kaya and Ryoka didn’t notice, “Ilyena!” I called. No response. I fired a shot past her helmet and she jumped in shock, “Pull back!” I roared, gesturing with my chainsword. She bobbed her head dumbly, hefting the heavy bolter. Turning, she fell flat on her face as her legs gave out. “For fuck sake.” I hissed, “Tali, Ilyena’s down, help her!” Tali practically jumped out of her suit when she saw Ilyena face-first in the mud and blood, struggling to pull herself up. Tali cried out in horror and sprinted over, pulling one of Ilyena’s arms over her shoulders,

“Ilyena, Ilyena talk to me! Ilyena!”

“I’m fine, I’m fine! I don’t know what happened, my legs….” Tali dragged her back as we slowly withdrew,

“Sir, what happened, is Ilyena alright?” Cassie voxed as her flamer turned several Nova to melted butter,

“She’s fine, just out of it” A bright red light behind the Novas caught my eye. To my shock and horror, a column of energy blasted a fissure down the middle of the battlefield throwing dirt, smoke, and limbs into the air. My HUD became static, and all of the squads’ vitals flatlined, including my own. Women and men screamed in agony and dust obscured my view.

“Sir, nearly all non-crucial systems are down that red energy beam must have had EMP properties. You are still fully-functional, I have protected all primary suit functions.” My HUD reappeared, the only thing missing being the squad vitals. I couldn’t see anything through the dust except Shelby, May, and Sarah who were picking themselves off the ground a few feet away. Novas lay motionless on the ground.  I glanced at the satellite image, the laser’s path was dangerously close to where Venny and Teia had been, “Venny, Teia, respond!” I held my breath for several seconds,

“We’re fine! Our armor is a bit melted but we’re fine! It just barely skimmed us!” I sighed in relief,

“Pull out, is you armor functional?”

“Perfectly sir! Just some of the decoration ate it!”

“Good, rendezvous with Ilyena, Kaya, and Ryoka.” I searched for the source of the red light, “Squad, status?”

“Ilyena here, we’re fine. Tali’s still with us, we can’t see you sir!”

“Teia here I’m good, systems are scrambled though.”

“Shelby here, May, Sarah and I are fine just shaken up where are you sir?”

“Right here.” I pulled Shelby to her feet, the dust clearing. More Novas were inbound to our position, “Squad, regroup on Ilyena while I--”

“Marine 1, this is command, there is a large Nova located just to your west! Engage it before it does anymore damage! Rep-wait, MARINE ONE INCO-!” Another burst of red light, and the ground rose up beneath me. I was thrown back with Shelby. Sarah and May were at the center of the blast and it sent them flying off behind the Novas. In the split second I saw them, their armor seemed intact.

I twisted in mid-air, hitting the ground hard on my should I rolled, binding my bolter to my side with the magnetic lock, scooped Shelby off the ground, hurled her towards the Pandoras and, with all the strength I could muster, jumped over the heads of the Novas after May, one eye fixed on Sarah as she fell. I landed roughly fifteen feet from where I guessed May was going to hit and, kicking off the heads of two Novas, caught her in mid-air with one arm.

She was fine, her armor had taken the blast admirably, and other than a few smudges and dents she was intact.

Sarah fall amongst the Novas at least twenty yards away, so I kicked off another Nova closing the distance by half. Preparing to jump again, something caught one of my legs, dragging me face-first into the ground. I cradled May safely within my arms so I took most of the fall. Without pausing for breath, I braced, digging my heels into the Earth, and threw May in the direction of allied forces.

Blows landed on me from all sides, but I kept my footing. Yet again, mustering all my strength I stiff-armed, juked, weaved, and chopped my way through the Novas. Amazingly, I found a screaming Sarah two handing her chainsword and slaughtering her foes. I sheathed my chainsword, snatched her up, and threw her to what I hoped was safety,

“Computer, ideas?!” I quickly redrew my sword, frantically keeping the Novas at bay,

“Detonate all explosives?”

“Anything I can survive?!” I ducked under a claw, stumbling as a pair of jaws crunched down around my shoulder plate,

“Good luck.” I sliced at the jaws, elbowed a torso, batted away a claw, kicked a shoulder, and headbutted a snarling face. The world slowed, and my focus was of nothing but the fight and survival.

It wasn’t going to be one of the most glorious of deaths, but I suppose I shouldn’t be picky, I wasn’t going down without taking as many of them with me as I could.

Detaching my grenades, I hurled them out into the mass of Novas. The detonations bought me several precious seconds. I reloaded my bolter and unloaded as many rounds into my assailants as I could, which was a mistake. A Nova jumped over its companions, catching me completely off guard, and fastened itself around my throat. I seized its jaws, desperately struggling to prevent the beast from closing its jaws. Another pair of jaws clamped around my arm, a claw tore across my torso, and one tackled me from above to tear off my helm. Buckling, I fell to my knees. With the last of my strength I heaved, ripping the jaws of the beast clamped to my neck apart, shook my arm free, and smashed the beast on top of me in the throat.

I stood proudly and roared with animal-like defiance. The creatures hesitated for an instant, just the smallest of instants, and in that instant a flurry of blades turned them all to mince meat. There is a god.

Satellizer herself stood before me, scowling ferociously. A hail of bolter fire carved through the Novas, blasting them to dust,

“Wren, Wren, Wren!” Cassie and Tali appeared before me accompanied by several pandoras wielding all manner of weapons. Cassie had a claw mark across one of her arms and Tali was favoring one of her legs, a large dent in her thigh armor. Cassie embraced me, rubbing her helmeted head against my armor while Tali stared at me, spraying with her bolter,

“When we saw you jump after May and Sarah we couldn’t believe it! More so when they came hurtling back to us!” I pushed Cassie off of me, retrieving my helmet I replaced it on my head,

“Lets move.” I grunted, one of Pandoras motioned to me,

“This way!” I lumbered after her and her comrades as they cut through the Novas. Cassie and Tali inserted themselves under my arms, attempting to carry me. I pushed them off,

“Cover us.” I ordered. They recoiled, but followed the order. It was getting hard to see, my vision was cracked and warped, almost as if my lids were glass. I then realized my helmet was warped and dented so badly it couldn’t properly fit on my skull. We broke through the Novas to the Pandora line, whom parted to let us through and I removed the ruined helmet,

“Wren!” Kazuya ran up to me just as the Pandoras closed behind us, the Novas screeching in rage, “Oh my god, Wren!” Kazuya’s face paled, “You’re hurt!” I coughed a laugh at this,

“Injuries happen Kazuya, thank you for sending you girlfriend in to save me. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got a Nova to put down.” Kazuya shook his head, stopping me,

“Someone else is taking care of it, we were here to destroy the type A Nova, which we did, and then Roxanne called for help.” He pointed at my face, “And that’s going to leave a scar if you don’t get it treated” I glared at him,

“Who cares about a scar?” I scoffed, “I don’t see myself as being a super-model anytime soon.”

The First Time

Tali suppressed a sigh, her hands clasped together between her legs as she sat hunched over on one of the metal benches in the Sister’s armory. Suits of power armor hung from the walls on racks, the equipment accompanying each suit installed within niches around the suit creating a complete loadout for a sister. Name plates were placed above each loadout. Tali recalled when the massive space of the armory only held ten such name plates and loadouts. Back then the armory was a dark and lonely place, one that filled her and her sisters with a strong discomfort but now, now it was very different.

A full company of one hundred Sisters of Battle were now stationed with her and the original nine sisters. Tali’s original squad was among those one hundred sisters, and now she was expected to lead it due to her battle experience and training under Wren, her commanding officer. Wren had assigned her this position though she was not a leader, she believed Wren knew this, but he was adamant that she take the promotion.

With all the new sisters unexperienced in real battle, simulations and scenarios being their only guides to war, each squad needed a veteran, no matter how fresh or unprepared the veteran was. What frustrated her the most was that Wren believed she was prepared, and to her knowledge Wren never lied. He was always blunt and honest, he always gave the facts, never letting emotion distort his words and orders. Wren was the perfect commander, he fought with a skill and fury that surpassed most Pandoras and even when the situation was at its worst or his body exhausted and broken he pressed onward.  Everyone in Pandra and Chevalier believed this was why none of her or her nine sisters had perished in the recent Nova clash, thanks to his tactical and martial prowess, as well as his devotion to his subordinates. He rescued each of her and her sisters at least one during the battle. He--she stopped herself.

Tali was doing it again. Lately she had been catching herself thinking on Wren more than she’d liked, “You was a soldier, and I your commander. It is my job to keep you alive, and your job to stay alive.” As he always said. Now he expected her to take his place though, to lead her old squad in battle, follow his orders while issuing her own, and keep her squadmates alive at the same time. During the month she had run drills with her new squad they struggled to achieve much of anything, and it didn’t help that-

“Tali, what are you doing?!” Ryoka shook her roughly, “Are you deaf?!” Tali looked around in bewilderment. Sisters milled about, donning their armor and equipment, “We’re being scrambled, the alarm sounded a couple minutes ago!” She pulled Tali to her feet, “Get suited up and ready to move!”

*filler*

“Tali, is it true that the Commander is off-duty?” Tali glanced at one of her squadmates,

“Yes Emily, that is correct.” Her subordinates all looked at one-another through the red-tinted eyes of their helmets,

“Then who’s in command?”

“That’s not your concern.” Tali snapped, latching her helm onto her head,

“Are they good?” Emily pressed, leaning close, “You know, at war? Will we be alright?” Tali stifled her anger and anxiety,

“Yes.” She lied. In truth she had no idea who would be commanding them, but she assumed it was one of the military officials of Chevalier or Pandra, whoever gave the Pandoras orders in combat.

*filler*

“Transport two is going down, some sort of energy we-”

“Transport three respond, transport three? No contact from transport three, any units have a visual?”

“This is Transport seven, no visual!” Tali stared past the pilots seat of the Osprey ferrying them to the battle, clutching her safety straps with a white-knuckled grip. Outside the cockpit beams of red light struck down Osprey after Osprey, she had see three go down and so far only heard two confirmed crashes. Pandoras had already deployed and diverted the worst of the Novas and Tali shuddered when she thought of what it must have been like for them if this wasn’t the worst that the Novas could do.

“Sisters!” Their pilot called, “Thirty seconds until deployment!” Tali looked down at the trap door beneath her. The pilot would warn her squad five seconds before opening the doors, at which point the sisters would disengaged their straps, fall about fifteen feet, and carry out their orders. Tali damned whoever had conceived such an overly flamboyant means of disembarking a moving air-vehicle. Whoever thought of a drop pod being a clever means of deployment must have been in the same design team.

The pilot turned, “Five se-” A red beam of energy vaporized the cockpit five feet from her, the beam itself carving through the metal of the Osprey inches above her head. Vanishing as suddenly as it came, the energy beam dissipated leaving a smoldering half-moon hole from one end of the Osprey to the other. She watched through the hole as the Osprey barrel-rolled and nose-dived past their drop point and straight at the Pandora line.

Ten voices cried out in terror as they plummeted toward their objective.

Tali opened her eyes.

The metal interior of her Osprey arched above her, twisted in several places. Holes torn in the hull allowed light in, giving her full view of the aftermath. Sisters, her sisters, had not stood  chance. They were all in a heap of metal and weapons. Blood flowed out from the heap and pool around Tali. Slipping on the blood she stumbled to her feet, she calling out, yet she did not hear herself speak. Her helmet’s HUD flicked on, her sisters’ vitals displaying nine flat lines.

*filler*

“Attention all forces, attention all forces,” Tali and her sisters all froze for an instant, “This is Wren, callsign Marine 1, I am inbound to your location. In addition, I have a new rank and callsign. You will, from now on, call me Goliath 1, and my rank is that of general. I will be taking control of this botched operation and salvaging what I can.” The Sisters roared, surging forward as one, pushing the Novas back, “I will be dropping in shortly. All sisters are to form a defensive line and hold out until my arrival. This is Goliath 1, beginning atmospheric re-entry and preparing for ground-based operations.”  

*filler*

With a terrific boom a huge drop pod slammed into the ground among the Novas, crushing all those unfortunate enough to be beneath it and forcing the rest to their knees. An unrecognizably deep voice boomed from unseen speakers on the pod,

“GOLIATH ONE, DEPLOYING.” The pod’s walls fell to either side. Pandoras and Sisters gasped in shock and awe at its contents. A gigantic two-legged machine, one of it’s arms resembled a gatling gun, the other an arm with a strange gauntlet that pulsed with electrical energy. Everything about it was needlessly massive and bulky, as if several tanks had been smashed together and turned into a god of death forty yards tall and thirty yards wide.

“BEHOLD COMRADES,” The machine’s gun spun up and roared deafeningly, a solid bar of gunfire shredding the Novas into confetti, “I AM THE WILL OF MANKIND,” The machine’s arm began to swing, smashing ten Novas to dust with each mighty blow, “AND YOU ARE MY EQUALS.” The machine roared, belching black smoke, and with a ground shattering step pushed forward through the Novas, “NOW PROVE TO THESE NOVAS THAT MY STRENGTH IS NOTHING, COMPARED TO YOUR OWN.”

The Betrayer

“Commander?!” The scarred Astarte barring our way chuckled,

“You know him?” Roxanne gasped, clutching to my arm,

“We were brothers.”

“Indeed.” He hissed, “Though you may not recognize me. I was salvaged from that battle so long ago, but the others were not so lucky. I have been reborn, as a Nova.” I winced,

“Reborn? How?” The Commander cackled,

“That is not for you to know. What you do need to know is that this is where your little hero-act ends.” A bone-white sword extended out from the palm of his hand, it hummed to life as a field of energy formed along it’s length, lightning crackling along its surface, “Now we shall finally see which of us was really the better.” I drew my own power sword, thumbing the activation rune,

“Roxanne, take Kazuya and Satellizer out of here. The facility is coming down around our ears and it sounds like the others need your help.” Roxanne grabbed me by the chin, forcing me to look at her,

“And what about you?!” She screamed, “We leave you to die here?!” I glanced back at Kazuya and Satellizer, noticing they were just beyond the blast door,

“If that is my fate, then so be it.” And with that I scooped her up and tossed her through the door, punching the emergency lock button. The ten ton metal slab slammed down behind me, and I could hear someone screaming, pounding on the door,

“How touching.” In one fluid movement the Commander covered the distance between us, bringing his sword arm around in a wide arc. I deflected the blow with a flick of the risk, slamming a shoulder into him to send him stumbling back,

“How could you?” I spat, “I thought you were dead, not turning traitor and destroying we we swore to protect!” He paused,

“Protect? Swore?” The commander laughed, “None of us swore anything, we were all manufactured, they told you that you had a family didn’t they? They told you, you were human once didn’t they?” He gestured widely with his hand, “THEY LIED!!! WE WERE BORN IN PETRI DISHES!!!” The commander stabbed a finger at me, “They told you we had been changed, that we had been removed of our weaknesses, our faults, that we were perfect! They couldn’t have been more wrong.” The commander stretched out his arms, armor surfacing from beneath his skin, covering his body with metal plates, “I am true perfection. The finest genes and traits of mankind, with a healthy dose of Nova.” He smiled devilishly, “You, however, are weak. So weak in fact that you can hardly stand against my brethren.”

“You’re wrong.” I hissed, “I have discovered human compassion, brother. I have discovered that war and power is not all there is.” He laughed, becoming a whirlwind of blows. I repelled his attack, side-stepping around him and running up the hallway, “Still trying to shut down the reactor are we?!” He bellowed, giving chase, “Coward! Fight me!” I turned, delivering a slash meant to behead him. He ducked under it deftly and retaliated with a low jab that I jumped aside from.

We both stood firm, hammering one-another with cuts, jabs, and slashes,

“YOU WILL FALL THIS DAY, BROTHER!” Spat the Commander, smashing the pommel of his sword onto my forehead, sending me tumbling. I rolled back onto my feet, nearly into the crackling blade of a power sword as I just managed to dodge a slice meant for my neck. With a yell, I hammered my elbow into his stomach and headbutted him, following with a low kick to the groin which found its mark, producing a satisfying grunt from him. I raised my sword to finish him, but the wall to my left suddenly exploded knocking me off my feet and dazing me.

The reactor, this was my chance. Picking myself off the hall floor, I scrambled down the hallway.

Sacrifice

“All units fall back, revert to defensive tactics, do not engaged unless absolutely necessary.”

“Right away commander, where can we expect you to be?”

“Kazuya, Satellizer, you’re in command. Hold the line.”

“What? Wr-Wren, what are you talking about?”

“This is Marine 1, engaging the single enemy Nova, all forces are to create a perimeter and defend unless ordered otherwise by myself.”

“Wren!”

“Commander!”

“Marine 1, what the hell are you doing?!”

“Winning this fight.” I activated the thrusters on my pack, “Any forces who attempt to join the battle are to be shot on sight for high treason.” My targeting reticles tracked the single bulky figure as it rose from the crater, steam peeling off of it’s armor, “Marine 1,” The Jumpack’s thrusters fired, “Engaging.” I cut communications as I shot into the air, raising my thunder hammer over my head. The figure turned to look up at me, raising its large towershield, “In the name of humanity,” I whispered, “I SHALL DESTROY YOU!!!” I slammed into my opponent, plowing him into the ground and shattering his shield. I brought the thunder hammer around in a full swing, smashing him to pieces. Others began to rise from the crater, “Computer,”

“Sir?”

“I need a tactical map. Show me the exact point of origin of these things.”

“Of course sir.”