Ravens of Eternity -
Chapter 441 - 441 Ragnarök, Pt 6
441 Ragnar?k, Pt The ships of the Einherjar charged forward at speed towards the Discordian lines above them. They brought with them the ferocity and tenacity of a well-honed and experienced war fleet. But this time, they were tempered with calm discipline.
All understood the stakes. Not just for the galaxy, but for their own souls. Their burdens were heavy enough with the blood they had already spilled and understood when to stay their hands.
Thanatos and the other Imperial ships in the Einherjar went down the center line with absolute determination in their hearts. At the same time, the Hegemony ships in the Einherjar veered into the swirling mass to help defend the de Jardins.
Although, one of the Hegemony subfleets stayed with Thanatos and the drogar.
“Permission to take the vanguard,” High Templar Sin requested.
The rest of the officers around the tacmap on the Tactical Bridge turned to look at Freya’s holoprojection. Their gazes insinuated a sense of doubt over Sin’s loyalty. He was, after all, a Discordian himself, and so their doubt was palpable.
But Freya only grinned in response.
“What a great way to say hello,” she said. “Show ‘em whatcha got.”
Sin’s portion of the Einherjar then split off slightly from the front, veered off towards their right, and angled towards a cluster of Discordian battleships and cruisers.
Though they were lowest in number among the different subfleets in the Einherjar, they were certainly among the most devastating.
All they had was a single battleship, along with little over a hundred cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. On top of that, they only had roughly four hundred skirmishers in total as well, half of which were remotely piloted drones.
But their weapons were top of the line, and optimized specifically to eviscerate heavily armored ships.
They bore down on the Discordian fleet ahead of them without a shred of fear in their hearts. It didn’t matter that their enemy had 20 times their own strength in numbers. What did matter was their own dedication to their absolution.
And to prevent Eris from gaining control of a superweapon.
“Focus fire on my mark,” he said as he adjusted targets. “Let ‘em taste blood.”
Every ship in his fleet did as asked, and focused their heavily optimized weapon systems on a single enemy battleship ahead. And once they were all aligned, they fired what they had in a single, concentrated blast.
The first to hit the enemy battleship’s hardened nose were their plasma lances. Their thick light blue arcs of energy struck the bow armor and almost instantly eviscerated the plating. The lances tore through the metal compounds hungrily and reduced them down to their atomic structures.
All they left in place were highly brittle carbon meshes barely held in place by leftover metals or plastics. Not that those lasted long.
Mere microseconds later, the rest of the armor was torn to shreds by a barrage of charged rail spikes. They punched through what was left of the armor, down into the structure, and ripped through the decks beyond. The myriad of spikes tore through everything else from machinery and systems to crew and personnel.
Before the battleship could seal its wounded nose, Sin’s cluster missiles came in next. They had flown chaotically every direction, then angled straight for the massive breach.
Then, seconds before impact, each one broke apart and released tens of thousands of bomblets. All of which erupted all around the broken, crumpled nose and blew apart even more armor plating, structure, and decking. Even more crew were blasted to pieces or sent into the void.
And that was just a single volley.
It only took seconds after they fired when Eris herself appeared on their comms, through the holoprojector on the bridge. Her face was red with anger, and got right up to Sin’s face.
“What in the goddamned fuck are you doing, you idiot?!” she screamed. “You’re a Discordian!”
Sin barely even acknowledged her. Instead, he peered through her and continued to issue commands to his officers.
“Stop your bullshit!” Eris continued ranting. “Stop firing on my ships! That’s an order! As your boss, I order you to stop!”
The moment she said ‘boss’, Sin finally turned to her with derision in his eyes. While she brightened up thinking that she had gotten through to him, he flattened his lips in irritation.
“You’re not my boss,” he replied. “Sorry, I mean, you’re not our boss. In case you don’t remember, we joined up with the Einherjar years ago. We follow Freya’s orders, not yours.”
“So what if you’re with them?” Eris retorted. “Didn’t mean you split from me! You’re still a Discordian! You’re flying Discordian ships, ledgers built with Discordian ducats! Everything you are is because of me!”
“You don’t have any power over us.”
Eris’ eyes widened as she took a step back. Back then, when she allowed Sin and his people to join Freya, she was sure that he would never turn from her. He was the most loyal among all her officers, and had followed every single order she had ever issued him, to the letter.
All her calculations predicted that his loyalty would have remained with her no matter what.
The thought that she was wrong angered her greatly – there was no way she could have made any kind of error. She immediately shook the feeling off, and placed the blame on incomplete data.
I’m never wrong, she thought to herself. The data never lies.
But it didn’t matter how much she refused to look at the truth of it, the damage had been done. Her foundations now had a crack in it, and instead of continuing to face it, she decided to deflect. As usual.
“High Templar Merlin!” she yelled out. “Take care of this traitor!”
Then, she winked off Sin’s comms and vanished.
Merlin’s holoprojection appeared in her place only moments later. Being a refugee, his handsome dark-skinned face hadn’t aged. Except now it was marred by criss-crossed scars. The same scars peeked out from beneath the edges of his uniform.
It was as though he had been whipped mercilessly, and from every angle.
Sin winced every time he saw Merlin. More now that he enjoyed some distance from Eris. He was never fond of her cruelty, and did everything exactly as she had ordered him if only to avoid her violent fury.
“If you surrender now, I’ll make your deaths painless,” Merlin said flatly. “But if you continue to resist, then I’ve got no choice but to rip you apart slowly.”
“Hmph,” taunted Sin. “You of all people oughta know what that feels like.”
Merlin sneered with anger. Like Eris, he too didn’t want to look at the truth etched onto his face.
“Just die, traitor scum,” he replied.
A handful of battleships veered from the main Discordian fleet and headed to intercept Sin. They were escorted by a couple hundred cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. Hundreds of skirmishers followed suit, though most were drones.
Almost all of them opened fire on Sin’s vastly outnumbered fleet with a motley array of weapon systems. Plasma lances and thermal beams came raining down, along with rail slugs, cannon shells, heavy missiles, corrosive rockets, and anti armor flak.
Even the frigates and skirmishers opened up what weapons they had, from chainguns to repeaters to dumbfire rockets.
Merlin and his fleet literally threw everything they had at Sin’s fleet and practically bombarded every visible square meter of their armor. But despite how much firepower they threw at them, they left only meager amounts of damage.
It hardly mattered if the Discordians had struck battleship armor or skirmish armor – the results were more or less the same.
Simply, their standard weaponry was no match for the Einherjar’s omnitronium-laced heavy plating. The thermal beams did little more than leave barely-glowing residue. Any cannonfire merely bounced off and left scratches and tiny dents.
Missiles exploded on the surface and left soot marks that were practically invisible on the black metal armor. Only the more advanced weaponry could even do anything, but even then their effectiveness was vastly reduced.
The plasma lances left small glowing scars on the armor, while the rail slugs were able to cause dents and craters to the plating. Even the corrosive rockets were able to slag the armor to some degree, but not to their full potential. Their caustic chemicals barely sizzled the surface of the armor itself.
All while the Discordians’ weapons rattled Sin’s armor, the highly optimized repair systems and modules beneath were busy working their technological magic. Swarms of nanites flowed through the alloys and composites, where they stitched the plating back together as best they could. At the same time, Einherjar energy shielding modules worked overtime to neutralize any destructive forces still at play.
Sin exhaled at length as his fleet weathered Merlin’s anger. They shook off whatever damage he could muster with incredible ease.
“Shift overcharge from defensive systems to offensive,” Sin ordered. “Let’s offer our best riposte.”
The energy signatures on his ships immediately shifted from the energy shielding and repair modules to the guns and turrets and emplacements. More than half of their excess overcharge went straight into their plasma lances, which erupted with blinding light blue arcs of plasma.
Furious electrical energies collided into Sin’s forces and almost literally dissolved swaths of their armor with unrestrained power. They carved their way through the plating as though they were made of paper, and tore deep into the structure below.
Fighters and mecha that were struck were instantly annihilated, while frigates and destroyers erupted once their innards were vaporized. A few cruisers took a few hits from any rail spikes before they began to tear themselves apart from the inside.
Explosions literally blasted them apart as they took on a single volley of Einherjar weapons fire.
One of Merlin’s battleships was wrenched wide open and heavily damaged. Its interior was opened up to the point that numerous decks and passageways and rooms were exposed to space. Much of their crew had also been utterly annihilated, or were thrown out into the void of space.
“I’d rather die than be Eris’ slave,” Sin retorted.
“Slave?!” Merlin scoffed. “I’m no slave! My ledger’s the fattest it’s ever been! I’m richer now than at any other point in my life! Both my lives! This is the best I’ve ever had!”
“The scars on your face say otherwise.”
“These things? A small price to pay for my own stupidity.”
Although Sin had been mostly stoic throughout this entire fight, a flash of anger swept across him. His face scrunched up briefly because of it. And the anger wasn’t directed at Merlin, but rather at Eris herself.
Her authority was based on violence, and the threat of it. Worse, she convinced everyone around her that violence was a natural punishment for their own faults and weaknesses.
“Remember your best buddy Valos?” Sin growled. “Did everything he was ever asked, right? What happened to him again?”
“Valos was too stupid to live,” Merlin said with a sneer. “If he was smarter, more careful, Eris wouldn’t have had him beaten to death. He’d still be around, maybe even as a Right Hand rather than just a High Templar.
“Instead, he overreached and tried to take out a high security Federal science facility. In hindsight, it was obvious his play was doomed to fail. He deserved every punishment he got for fucking up that bad.”
Sin merely shook his head in disappointment.
“You honestly believe that, don’t you?” he sighed. “That he died because he was too stupid. Because he made a mistake. Well, guess what? Making mistakes is what being human is all about. Learning from our countless mistakes, and growing from them. Making ourselves better over time.
“We don’t need a violent, psychopathic tyrant to whip that idea into your head. If you think that having a fat ledger balances out the scars on your body, you’re dead wrong. And if you keep going the way you are, Ain’t nothing gonna be left of you!”
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