29 Apr 2011

The War of the Artilect: Chapter 14

Posted by joncooper

Elder Lane abruptly felt himself pulled back into the physical world. As he slowly regained consciousness he opened his eyes and saw Adrian Garza was standing over him, a look of trepidation on his face.

“What now?” Elder Lane said irritably. “What has gotten into you? Must you keep pestering me?”

“It’s war!” Adrian gasped. “The Sentinel just contacted me. They’re going to war against the swarms!”

“Right now?” Elder Lane asked, concerned. He sat up in his pod and looked at Adrian. “Do you mean to say that they’re launching their war right now?”

Adrian nodded. “That’s what they said! The war has already begun. The Sentinel told me that they noticed unusual activity and decided that they had to act. They had wanted to spend more time building up their forces but they decided launch a preemptive strike immediately in order to protect us from the swarms.”

“To protect us?” Elder Lane asked, confused.

“They think we’re the target. They don’t know for sure, but that’s their guess, and they’re probably right for all I know. They did tell us that our Wall should protect us and that we should be safe, but just to make sure they’ve sent part of their fleet here to guard us. They’re hoping that by launching their strike now they’ll be able to draw the swarm’s attention away from us.”

Inwardly Elder Lane smiled. So they had to launch before they were ready, he thought to himself, and on top of that they diluted their forces by sending part of them here! What fools they are! This attack just might work after all.

“Thank you for letting me know, Adrian,” Elder Lane said aloud. “Will you inform me when the battle is over?”

“You’re not going to stay out here?” Adrian asked, confused.

Elder Lane shook his head. “I’ve done all that I can do, and from what you have told me our defense is in good hands. Staying out here would not change anything. Just let me know what happens, will you?”

Adrian nodded. Elder Lane laid back inside his pod and pressed the button to reseal it. So they were unprepared, he thought excitedly. Unprepared! Maybe we have a chance of winning this after all.

* * * * *


A group of nearly two hundred warships suddenly appeared about a quarter million miles away from New Caldwell. Thousands of years ago this planet had been home to the Ranger’s most distant colony, but the swarms destroyed it long ago, leaving the world in ruins. Now it was the closest system to the network, and the Artilect took advantage of this.

The ships that appeared were not the Alpha or Beta-class vessels that the Artilect had spent the past week fabricating. Instead the Artilect had hastily fabricated a small number of much weaker ships that were highly vulnerable to the swarms. It wanted to make sure that this group was heavily damaged in the attack – thus giving an incentive for the swarms to follow as they retreated in disarray.

As soon as the vessels appeared in space they began attacking, firing beams of searing blue energy at the planet below. The beams cut through the planet, turning large chunks of it directly into energy. The resulting explosion blew the entire world into fragments, scattering the swarms and destroying a great many of them.

Yet more than half of the swarm survived the initial assault. The bots quickly regrouped and ferociously attacked the invasion fleet. The invaders continued to fire into the dense swarms of bots, blasting them into energy, but there were simply too many of them. The relentless bombardment of trillions of bots wore away at the invasion feet, and one by one their ships were vaporized.

When the fleet was down to a quarter of its original size it turned around and disappeared into hyperspace. The swarms eagerly followed.

* * * * *


“It’s working,” Sergeant Howell commented. The entire group from the Sparrow was in the core of Tonina, watching the holographic display that the sergeant had set up. The Artilect and the Sentinel were not there, but everyone else was present except for Amy Stryker. Amy had bitterly protested at being excluded, but in the end she was forced to accept her fate and remained on her planet. Amy was not kept in the dark, however; the Artilect created a similar display for her on her world, and she watched it alone. Amy understood the need for security but she was still upset about it. She hated being alone and cut off from the rest of her family.

“It certainly is,” Captain Max agreed. The group watched as the blue and red dots hastily abandoned all of the Ranger planets and jumped into hyperspace. All of them had plotted a course that would eventually intercept the invasion fleet.

“It looks like they’re all leaving,” Richard said in surprise. “I don’t see a single dot staying behind!”

“That’s poor strategy on their part,” Sergeant Howell commented.

“Maybe they’re not as smart as we think,” Captain Max replied.

“Or maybe they’re a lot smarter than we realize,” Jones said.

Captain Max looked at Jones in surprise. “Why would you say that?”

“The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light,” Jones replied. “This isn’t over, sir. We may win this battle, but winning the war will be very difficult and very costly. I fear that they are very much more clever than we are.”

“I sincerely hope not,” Reverend Knight replied quietly. “At this point we are the only hope that Tau Ceti has.”

* * * * *


Amy Stryker was alone, standing in a nameless room on her nameless world. She knew it would make her feel better if she gave her planet a name, but she refused to do so. I’m not going to fall in love with this place, she decided. I hate it here. I hate being away from my family and I hate being away from Atzi. I’m going to leave this horrible place the first moment I can.

The teenage girl stood in the dark room and watched as the scattered red and blue dots merged into a single force. By now the giant army of bots had almost caught up with the invasion fleet and was on the border of the Artilect’s territory. Andy is playing this well, she thought to herself. His ships are retreating slow enough to allow the swarms to catch up, but just fast enough to stay out of range. It won’t be long now.

Amy looked at the distance on the map between the swarms and the giant armada that the Artilect had hidden in space and began counting down. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six…

Comments are closed.