General Ostergard was pontificating to some lesser officers about the diligence of the Prime Army and its surface-to-air strikers that were sure to blast The Juggernaut out of the sky as Commander Prax approached. Prax could’ve sworn he also caught something about War Hammer being an impotent tool of the Oligarchy followed by hushed laughs.
As Prax approached, Ostergard dismissed his men and smiled, motioning to a large screen that displayed the vessel of their latest PlanetFaller, Lord Orn, hovering over New Jericho.
“Watch the screen, Prax,” Ostergard said. “This is how it’s done.”
Commander Prax balled up his fists.
10. Fire When Ready
Claxons blared as The Juggernaut’s defense system warned of a target lock and forthcoming attack. Corporal Vyne twirled his finger in a circular motion, signaling for various gunners to take their defensive positions.
“General quarters,” Vyne shouted as the soldiers slid behind the controls of large cannons and missile stations. “Blast all incoming fire out of the sky before-“
“Belay that order,” Lord Marcus Orn interrupted. “Open fire at will on the city. We’re done with the subtleties.”
Both Vyne and a few nearby crewman winced at the order, unnerved by the impending slaughter of countless innocents in the fray.
11. The Third Party
Vander Cervos waited until The Juggernaut’s bombardment began before swiftly darting in and out the shadows towards the smoldering mining facility. With his tattered, green cloak flowing behind him, he stole through the crowded alleyways, full of wide-eyed civilians and shouting Prime Army officers, and crept upon the unsuspecting guards chatting at the entrance, each of whom dropped with the slightest touch from his stun gloves.
“All isn’t lost,” Vander said into a wrist comlink as he stepped inside the crumbling building and noticed a tipped and open crate of refined ore. “This battle’s a godsend. Bring in the loaders.”
12. Plan of Attack
General Ostergard stood motionless with mouth agape as Lord Orn began turning New Jericho into cannon fodder. Not one to waste time, Commander Prax sprinted down the corridor towards the exit as Perius Yurlay, Oligarch Morinth’s sheepish man-servant, held up a finger as if he was about to scold the commander when he passed, but choked back the words when his eyes met the fire in Prax’s.
“We done sitting on our thumbs,” Freego asked as Prax jumped behind the controls of the Arrowhead.
“Ready that railgun,” Prax replied. “We’re dropping that carrier in the water.”
The large alien smiled.
13. Under Fire
Makeshift tabletops tumbled, throwing secondhand clothing and junkyard finds across the Merchant’s Quarter as The Juggernaut unleashed Lord Orn’s fury upon the city. Crushed rock and metallic debris from the nearby buildings rained down into the alley as the few remaining Prime Army soldiers, still maintaining a perimeter around the damaged refinery, tried to keep order, but soon succumbed to their own fears and fled the area.
As one soldier ducked for cover, he heard the Arrowhead boom overhead, racing towards the flying fortress in the sky. He threw up a fist and excitedly shouted something into the growing chaos.
14. Time For a Plan
Oligarch Morinth, goblet full of some forgotten world’s wine in hand, stood at the window wall of his suite atop the Black Spire jutting above the lesser buildings of New Jericho as Commander Prax neared The Juggernaut.
“The gladiators will clash after all,” Morinth said as he took a long sip of his drink and then hastily shoved the cup into the awaiting hands of Perius Yurlay.
He turned back to the window in time to see the railgun of the Arrowhead begin to unload on the larger vessel.
“Summon the Oligarchy,” Morinth told his aide. “We must plan contingencies.”
15. Time To Run
The collective members of Merriment divided their attention between watching the skies as the titans clashed above, and dodging the blaster fire and flying debris below. Their apparent leader, if the band of thieves even had a designated leader, Vander Cervos, sat behind the controls of the heavy loader, bed full of refined ore that they just permanently borrowed from the damaged, smoldering Oligarchy-owned refinery.
“Any chance we reach the ships before this place crashes down around us,” Dixon Krest asked as they swerved around an overturned vehicle.
Vander shrugged and began to accelerate as a building exploded somewhere nearby.
16. A Forced Meeting
“The fools rush to meet death,” Corporal Vyne mused to himself as he stood on the command deck of The Juggernaut watching as the Arrowhead, continuously firing its railgun it what appeared to be vain, altered course and propelled towards the partially open hanger bay of the much larger vessel as it took heavy blasts to its rapidly weakening shields.
Vyne watched the overhead holoscreen, only taking his eye off of it for a moment to nod to his crew, but looked back up just in time to see the Arrowhead punch through the heavy hangar doors.
The Juggernaut shook.
17. Battle Ready
Smoke billowed, claxons screamed, lights flashed, controls sparked. Commander Boren Prax looked back over his shoulder into the cargo hold to make sure the hulking Plotarian, Lieutenant Freego, was still in one large piece before stepping out of the Arrowhead cockpit and into the damaged hangar of The Juggernaut.
“Guns up, Freego,” Prax said as he checked his rifle. “Shoot first-“
“Ask questions never,” Freego interrupted with a slight smile.
They both turned around to see Lord Marcus Orn enter with several soldiers in tow.
“Grab the big one,” Orn shouted holding up a large blaster rifle. “I got Prax.”
General Ostergard stared out the window of the War Room where just moments ago he could’ve sworn he saw Prax crash the Arrowhead through the hangar bay doors of that flying fortress lingering above. As he stood in bewilderment, a technician ran up and informed him that the STA canon was primed and asked, due to the aforementioned Commander Prax now being aboard The Juggernaut, should they proceed.
“Of course,” Ostergard shouted. “It’s leveling the entire city!”
“We just got reports of looting at the refinery,” called out another tech.
“Chaos surrounds you, General,” Oligarch Morinth said as he entered.
19. Tipping Point
Anger surged within him as Freego fell. The alien was his friend and contempt for his enemy multiplied. Prax closed the distance between them, dodging blaster fire and revealing a dagger to plunge it into Orn’s heart as The Juggernaut rocked and lost power.
20. Bittersweet Victory
Oligarch Morinth watched The Juggernaut dip forward and dive into the sea beyond the cliffs of New Jericho. Cheers erupted in the War Room as he turned to General Ostergard and slowly clapped.
“Well done. All the troubled birds in one fell swoop. Bring me bodies.”
21. Second Guessing
Vander stood on the platform watching The Juggernaut sink in the water as Krest and the rest of Merriment’s crew loaded up the stolen Oligarchy ore and prepped for a quick and quiet escape, hoping to slip through the chaos engulfing New Jericho. But now a bigger score formed in Vander’s mind.
A bloodied hand shot up out of the murky water and Commander Boren Prax pulled himself onto the slowing sinking fuselage debris as he gasped for air. The Juggernaut had just been shot out of the sky. He had just been shot out the sky by his own people. Freego was dead. Marcus Orn was hopefully at the bottom of the bay.
He scanned the ridge line above. He saw movement. Looked like Prime Army soldiers heading down. He glanced at the shoreline. Movement there, too. These people were different.