The Empire 6.8

As a result of the prior battle and Aurora’s destruction of a capital ship, the Black Rose guild was in the clear. Barring an exemplary showing from every other player in the Game, no guild personnel would be deleted. Anyone in the bottom 10% of the population at the end of the crusade could be bailed out with survival points earned by guildmates. Everything from here on out would be a bonus.

The Black Rose guild’s council was conspicuously absent from the leaderboard. Either they were still in the planning stages of an action or something had gone very, very wrong. Alan hoped for the former, but suspected the latter, given Seeker exited from the Abyss Labyrinth where they should have appeared.

Sidestep and Alan were flown up to the Black Rose base. They made their way to the tunnel near the Council’s meeting room. Progress seemed to take forever, Sidestep waiting for Alan to make sure he didn’t trigger any of the traps that led up the entrance.

The halls were barren, most personnel either above in the bunkers on the fourth floor or on the ground floor in the infirmary preparing for a potential retreat into the Abyss Labyrinth. A squad of scouts led by two Knights had been sent into the dungeon to investigate if the way was clear.

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The Empire 6.7

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. You need to start paying more attention, Lambda sent.

What? Alan asked. He was busy reorganizing squads and ordering a group of medics to set up an infirmary on the ground of the cavern.

The Knights have names, the squads have histories. People have relationships. These aren’t robotic units to be commanded about, Lambda sent. I’ve been smoothing over the rough edges, but a leader is more than a taskmaster.

Half these soldiers will be dead by the time first Haxlard wave is finished, the rest soon after. I’m busy evaluating the defenses. My time is best spent figuring out how to save lives, Alan sent.

What about after this war? You’ve talked to four, maybe five people on a regular basis, and only when a mission required you to group together, Lambda sent.

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The Empire 6.6

Why would Seeker come all this way for me? I had nothing to do with it after the Academy, Alan sent.

Remember that there’s a 100-platinum mark and reputation bonus with the Administrators if I’m captured and returned, Lambda sent. It sounds like the Lord of the Abyss is pissed and put a reward on your head too. We’ve made it much harder to break out of the Abyss Labyrinth by restoring the power. You failed a quest. That means consequences.

Alan prepared to order the recruit to ask another question, but there was a blur of motion.

Seeker had stepped forward and crushed the recruit’s head. Before the rest of the squad could react they were wiped out, each blow from the Predecessor punching through power armor like it was paper.

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The Empire 6.5

Aurora sat in a pool of blood and stared at the screen, checking over the calculations and making sure that everything was correct. The Helios’s main weapon was a massive laser cannon, and the ship would soon be in range to fire a single full-power beam. Aurora hoped they would fire as soon as possible. She needed them to.

Aurora had ordered the first few floors of the base evacuated, but not for many of the reasons everyone else thought. There were details that no one else could be privy to. The next few moments would make or break everything. The Black Rose guild was Aurora’s family, her life, and she would do everything possible to make sure it came out of this ordeal intact.

The base had been storing energy for years, gathered in the four towers that stood at the corners of the central keep. Each year her mother would use a fraction of that power to cow new recruits into submission, and that was all that it had been used for recently. The casual use disguised the original intentions. It was a major wellspring of power, hundreds of thousands of points of energy. Power that could not be used lightly.

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The Empire 6.4

A single capital-ship was an army in and of itself. Each capital-class ship required a crew of at least ten thousand, and had a length of over a thousand meters, four Titanic’s put end to end. Each had the firepower to wipe out any city, not counting the escort of hundreds of smaller ships or self-contained armies stowed onboard. The entirety of Earth’s Space Force contained a single capital-ship. Ten were headed towards the Private Quadrant.

But only one of them is targeting the Black Rose guild, Lambda sent. They’ve done their homework.

A screen flickered into place beside Aurora. It came from the communications station, an adjacent room that handled the incoming and outgoing messages.

“A few other guild leaders are demanding to speak with Elissandra to form a united front against the incoming fleet and develop a plan of defense,” the officer said.

“Tell them that the Black Rose guild will see to our own defense,” Aurora said. “What are we facing?”

“A single capital-class ship, the Helios, as well as an assortment of smaller battleships: the Bastion, the Titan, the Rhea, and the Pile of Junk are currently set on a direct course for our location,” the officer said.

“Excuse me, what was that last one?” Sidestep asked.

“Quiet, we need a plan of defense,” Aurora said.

Each guild is being attacked by a set of ships prepared to counter them, Lambda sent. They know the Black Rose Guild has no real fleet. They can just sit up in space and fire off their lasers, saving the smaller fighters to help defend other capital-class ships.

Alan looked over Lambda’s analysis and then said, “We need to evacuate the upper floors and shift the important locations two levels down. The Helios’s lasers will make short work of our surface defenses. The Haxlards will send in ground forces to make their way past the first underground level of the base unless they want to wait a few months burning through.”

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