The Battle of Omega
12:42 pm, August 27th, 2202
Dante smiled in exultation, pumping out rounds from his pistols and dropping soldiers left and right. His fighters ran and shouted all around him, sending storms of lead flying through Jahansson's ranks. Armored carriers rolled up the street behind him, bearing fresh cargo of death to the Universal army.
Dante laughed aloud, the ecstasy of his triumph making him whoop and leap with joy. Already they had made astounding progress, advancing to the edge of the Financial District in a mere two hours.
He looked to his left, and saw Sarai leading a squad of Obsidia into an enemy-occupied building. To his right, several of the former Demokratos soldiers were overwhelming a hastily constructed mortar nest. Why the poor fools had chosen to build one there, he would never understand.
But one thing above all drew his attention. He could see anxious-looking faces peering out through windows. A few shouted encouragement to Dante's soldiers, but most stayed silent.
Dante didn't like it. It was an eerie silence, even in the din of the assault. He had always pictured the people of Omega screaming and clapping, joyous at their liberation.
He saw the reality; they were scared, hoping the battle wouldn't touch their lives, their valuables, their families.
I suppose that's just humanity. Let it go, Dante. Let it go.
A rifle bullet barely missed his forehead, jerking him from his reverie. It reminded him there was a battle to be fought. They would thank him afterward.
Sarai finished off the last of the soldiers in her building, and shouted to her own Obsidia to get to the roof. As they ran to the top, she ran to the window and took a quick look around.
She could see their soldiers advancing quickly, several APCs grinding forward as the soldiers kept explosive fire off them.
She could see many Corporation soldiers yielding and joining the resistance forces, several gunning down their own officers. Any who kept up a fight were killed quickly, overwhelmed by the opposition's fury and experience.
She could see blasts of blue and purple light in the distance, a mix of laser fire and Ariel's powers, beautiful and deadly.
She could see Dante, a barely visible grey blur, weaving between squads of enemies and cutting them down quicker than they could scream, death on a pair of superhuman legs.
And all of a sudden, she felt the urge to apologize again.
She jumped out into the street, reloading her rifle and downing several retreating soldiers, and ran over to Dante. He was just finished dispatching the last enemy left in the street, putting a bullet through the poor soul's head.
"Having fun?" she yelled at him over the noise of the oncoming personnel carriers.
"Not really. Corporation soldiers these days… no challenge!" Dante said, grinning.
She chuckled, but her face quickly grew serious.
"Dante… I want to apologize for what I did-"
He put a finger to his lips to silence her and embraced her for the second time, hugging her tightly to him.
"There's no need to apologize, Sarai. You loved me, and acted out of passion. What matters is that you're here now. What matters is that you came back," he whispered into her ear, his voice audible even over the sound of the carriers.
She returned the embrace with every ounce of strength, her face smiling and perhaps a little flushed.
He released her and grinned, reloading his guns and meeting her eyes with a merry gaze.
"But right now we're fighting a war. So get your lovely self to the frontline, and fast. I'll contact you if I need help."
She saluted him, grabbing on to a rung on the outside of a passing carrier and rolling slowly away.
Dante tapped his earpiece. "Seraph Wing Seven, do you read?"
"Loud and clear, Dante! What do you need?" replied Dorian Lien, miles outside Omega, whistling low over the black plain in a six-winged jet.
"It's good to have you back, Dorian," Dante said warmly. He grabbed a map and linked it to the Seraph's system, tapping between the massive squares of the helioscrapers.
"I need a bunch of precision strikes between the helioscrapers. Aim for the tanks and the turrets, and use mass accelerators, low-grade missiles, and the machine guns only. And be careful."
"Will do, Commander. Seraph Wing Seven out!"
Dante nodded in approval and jumped to one of the cube's roofs, walking over to a missile emplacement. Several Obsidia were waiting at the top, falling into step beside him and shouting orders to their comrades.
"Are the missile pods ready yet?" he asked their officer, looking around at the madly scrambling men.
"Yes sir, and standing by on your orders," the man responded, hefting a bag of rockets at an waiting artilleryman and pointing to the foremost of the long, black tubes.
"Tell the other heavy squads that I want a bombardment of the area between the helioscrapers as soon as I give the signal," said Dante, pulling a map up on his monitor and pointing, "If we attack them head on, their heavy armor will cut us to pieces."
"I'll tell 'em now, sir," one in the back said, running over to a transmitter.
Dante nodded in approval and crouched, ready to jump back to the streets below. But just before he began to leap, the Obsidia sergeant called out to him as he ran between the rocket pods.
"Commander, what about the rest of us? It only takes two to man the guns and three to guard them effectively. What should the rest of the squad do?"
Dante thought for a second, looking around at the soldiers and running the facts of the battle through his mind.
"Any of you Black Fox people?" he asked.
Several soldiers looked up from their positions and nodded.
Six men walked forward, hefting their rifles.
"Good. I want you all to get as close as you can to their defensive positions. Kill every officer you can. The rest of you, watch their backs."
The sergeant nodded, saluting and taking cover behind a portable barricade.
"It's been an honor serving with you, men. Whatever happens next, I'm glad you decided to fight with me," said Dante, walking to the edge of the roof and balancing on his heels.
"We're happy to be fighting with you, Commander," the sergeant called back, cocking another bullet into his gun and popping up with a shout. His rifle cracked and spat automatic fire, and Dante heard the shrill scream of a dead soldier.
Dante smiled and jumped to the street, the concrete fracturing under the impact of his landing.
They're good men, loyal and competent. I hope they survive.
Ariel lifted a soldier into the air from her perch on a battered APC and hurled him into a squad a few yards away, sending the whole lot tumbling to the floor with a collective shout of pain. Her own squad laughed aloud, launching a grenade into the midst of the downed men and pressing forward.
They were making excellent progress as well, the surprised Corporation forces melting away before them, sometimes even deserting their units to join the revolutionaries. Ariel had made sure the little resistance had died quickly.
It was strange to her to think that this was only her second major fight, the first being the Kappa City assault. The air around her was filled with the sound of shouts and explosions and bullet fire, of death screams and warrior triumph carried across the city by the howling wind. Blood speckled her armor, her arms red with it from where she had needed to fight hand-to-hand.
It all seemed so strange. So quick. One mistake could mean death.
A man with a rocket launcher popped up from his hiding spot in a building and fired at her men, screaming at the top of his lungs in a language she didn't recognize. She almost casually diverted the missile in midair with a nimbus of blue light, sending it over their heads to explode harmlessly in the street behind the squad. Within seconds, the attacker's head fell apart, cut to pieces by laser fire from the Ruby Tiger Light Adept's modified rifles.
They began to move up the street, ducking and weaving between any cover they could find, dodging laser and bullet fire with an almost unnatural skill. Ariel jumped over to the sergeant, floating next to her as she ran and letting her shield envelop them both.
"Any word on Dante, Sarai, or the others?" Ariel asked, one of her pistol bullets bursting through the head of a fleeing Corporate soldier.
"Yes ma'am. Dante's ordering some kind of strike on the big defensive positions up ahead. Sarai's acting as spearhead commander with Dante, and Dorian is leading a Seraph run," replied the sergeant, cursing as one of her shots went wide.
"That's all I needed, soldier. Keep a monitor on the command channel," Ariel said, turning her attention back to the situation at hand; several straggler Corporation soldiers, camped in the wreck of one of their APCs. She hit the first one with a disintegration blast.
That got their attention nicely.
Dorian's stomach was a pit inside his Seraph. He couldn't decide if he was terrified or excited. They're very much the same to a man risking his life.
The black plains flew away underneath him, Wraith grass rippling in the wind from the Seraphim's antigrav jets, and he could see Omega in the distance; a steadily growing black dot, growing like the fear in his gut.
"Check weapons!" he yelled over the flight's radio.
"Clear and armed!" responded twenty-five Steel Lion voices, some of them tinny and synthesized.
"Check flaps and afterburners!"
"Check mirror fields and flares!"
"Alright. We're to land some fire on Corporation armor between the helioscrapers. Avoid shooting any buildings, and don't bother with the infantry. We have to take those tanks and turrets out, or Dante is doomed. Anyone think they can't do it?"
There was silence over the radio.
"That's what I thought. Make 'em count, boys, droids, and Orion. The end begins today!"
Twenty-five voices screamed back in response.
"Damn right," said Dorian, setting his jaw and staring towards Omega.
Dante lay on his stomach, hidden under a pile of rubble from a friendly missile gone astray. The sound of gunshots had almost died down, a strange silence settling over Omega.
For now, there was a sudden peace in battle.
He sensed Ariel crawling through the debris, and smiled she drew up next to him. He handed her a pair of binoculars, squinting with those unnaturally keen eyes to catch a glimpse of the Corporate line.
"What are we waiting for?" Ariel whispered, sounding tense and battle-alert, her hands gripping the binoculars tight enough to show bone.
"The opportune moment," Dante replied, tapping his earpiece and linking it to Dorian's channel.
"We're coming, Dante," Dorian's voice said tersely into his ear, "Be patient. ETA five minutes,"
"Since when could you read my mind?" asked Dante, smiling wryly.
"You're getting predictable."
The runner shook his head and cut the connection. Ariel looked away from the binoculars to, her lips pursed and her eyebrows furrowed.
"I don't like this," she said suspiciously, "I can see some movement. But it doesn't look large enough for an attack, or small enough to be a little reorganization. Dante, maybe you should be-"
And suddenly they heard someone speaking through a megaphone, his loud and metallic voice ringing through the street to Dante's proficient ears.
Elric Jahansson himself addressed Dante.
"I know you can hear me, Dante. You've fought a good fight. You took me by surprise, and slaughtered the bulk of my army. I congratulate you on this. But I ask you now to stop this madness. You cannot win."
There was a horrible certainty in Jahansson's voice.
"Already, we fortify and regroup. If you throw men at us, they will be cut to pieces. Surrender, and I won't kill you or any of your friends. In fact, you all could be great commanders, leaders of the most powerful army on Earth."
Jahansson paused, and Dante thought he could feel an itch where his gaze swept for the runner.
"I'll put it to you this way, if you aren't persuaded," rejoined Jahansson, speaking as if he were a father educating his child.
"You can have everything. Or you can die."
Abruptly, Dante stood up and jumped to street level, landing silently and with the poised grace that few lived to tell to see. He could now see Jahansson, standing in the very center of all his men, his voice amplified by the walking hospital bed he was tethered to.
"You're offering to make me a commander. After I've killed more than half of your men and made a fool of you repeated times in the past. If that's your offer, tyrant, you're losing your business touch."
Dante saw a ripple of anger cross the old man's face, but continued nonetheless, his powerful voice ten times as clear as Jahansson's speakers.
"When I started out, I was motivated by revenge. You killed my mother, you zombie. You took the light of my life from me and tried to take me prisoner," Dante said, the cold fury in his voice lending a fear to his words that the Corporates had never felt before.
The Seraph pilot's fingers twitch dangerously, hovering over the FIRE button. Omega has grown to a hand-sized black mound.
"Eventually, though, it became much more than a revenge mission. I started to see the suffering of the people around me, and I can trace it all back to you."
A cold sweat begins to break out on Dorian's forehead. He can see the helioscrapers glimmering softly in the distance, icy and hard spires that promise nothing but death should he fail.
"I'm here to kill you, old man, and topple your empire forever. I'm here to tear down everything that you ever built, and undo your twisted vision of the world. I'm here to lead the people against you, and to end their suffering at last. Not for revenge; I'm beyond that. Not for glory; the glory should go to the people who made your ruin possible. Not for power; everyone who knows me knows that I hate governing."
There was no doubt in Dante's voice.
"Prime 'em, gentlemen." Dorian rasped, flicking the switch.
"I'm here to kill you because you deserve nothing better than a ruinous death, watching everything you ever made collapse around you. I'm here to kill you because you are a tumor, a cancer on the human race. I'm here to kill you for the lives you've taken, for the lives you've ruined, and for the lives you've controlled," Dante said, unhooking Blaze and walking forward.
"But in the last minutes of your life, I want you to think about everything you've done. I want you to remember whatever hell you crawled out of," he growled, striking Blaze against a lamppost and nodding as the metal fell clean in half
"Because I am the wrath of the righteous and the oppressed. You are everything wrong with this world," Dante said, stopping halfway to the Corporate line and staring at Jahansson with eyes like blue fires.
"I've been sent to end you all. To bring the anger of the people to you. And you know what?" He grinned, crouching and tensing for a leap, readying Blaze behind his back.
"I couldn't have done it without you."
Dorian screamed into his radio, but the orders had already been followed.
Dante propelled himself into the air with all his strength, hurling himself to the center of the army of night, lifting Blaze above his head as he flew.
Ariel let a torrent of purple darts fly from her hands with the roar of a lioness.
Sarai shouted in mixed triumph and fear, pumping out rounds from a mounted gun as it rushed forward into the fray.
Jarred, Dominic, and Jacinto blurred forward, whipping their own weapons forward, a song on their lips and a prayer in their hearts.
The rain of fire descended on the Corporation forces, carrying a payload to topple Olympus, fuelled by righteous anger and a world's vengeance.
And Dante hewed downward with Blaze, slashing down on Jahansson, intending to open him head to toe, diasteel flashing in the wan Omega daylight.
Ariel's darts connected with the second line of soldiers, exploding violently and tossing men left and right, the energy eating its way through their skin and bone.
Sarai's bullets had torn through the first line.
The three lieutenants hewed left and right, felling soldiers with each swing of their blades.
And the rain of fire hit the ground, the explosion of their combined wrath tossing Corporation soldiers about like ragdolls, their screams caught in their throats. The Myrmidon tanks and the R.I.O.T Pods and the turrets and the artillery and the Scorpions, those old symbols of Jahansson's rule, vanished into the fire one by one, their fuel and shells catching and adding to the blaze.
The slaughter was over in exactly a minute and thirty seconds.
Dante turned around slowly, peering through the haze of ash and dust, blood running down the edge of Blaze. Jahansson stood before him, frozen on his life support rack.
Dante walked over and stood in front of the old demon, staring at where his weapon had connected. He had missed; only Jahansson's pale arm had fallen off, cut clean away from his body, the joint leaking blood slowly into pipes and tubes.
Jahansson stared at the arm as if he had never known it had existed, the pain not yet registering in his disciplined mind. Then his gaze returned to Dante, and a soft moan escaped his lips, his other hand reaching out for the runner.
"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang… but a whimper," Dante whispered, lifting the chakram high above his head.
Jahansson's mouth, two lips that had doomed men and nations for over two hundred years, worked frantically and silently, trying to make his last judgment on his executioner.
For a brief instant, the sun came out from behind the perpetual cloud of pollution Omega labored under. It seemed to Elric that it was framed in the ring's center, and strange symbols formed in the glare.
The chakram flashed down. And Elric Jahansson thought nothing more.