Chapter 12 - The New Alloy

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GEA Mobile Suit Factory, Crimea

Under the cloak of night, Katja's suit rose from the depths of the Black Sea and turned toward the mobile suit factory on the Crimean Peninsula. Project Ragnarok had been set into motion, but not in the way Vorontsov had envisioned it. Rather than destroying the Earth, the new goal was to hit GEA facilities that fueled their conquests in space. Tonight, she'd destroy the GEA facility making the new space-worthy Galahad suits.

What she'd witnessed just a few days ago on the Jade Colony could happen to any of the independent colonies in space. As a student of history, she'd studied the rise and fall of empires enough to see that the Global Earth Alliance was stretching its conquest beyond its borders. It wanted to become the next Rome, the next British Empire, the next USSR.

And with conquest, came tyranny.

Not if I can stop it.

Katja switched on her targeting software and searched for her first objective—the warehouse storing the completed suits. Dr. S had been adamant she use caution when he'd given her this mission. This was an armed military base, not a civilian factory, and once she'd alerted the GEA forces to her presence, she'd be under attack. Strike the prime targets first and return if needed to finish the job.

She locked onto her target and fired two of the missiles stored in her suit's shoulders at the warehouse. The explosion lit up the night. The loud boom rattled the ground under her and kicked up the waves around her suit's legs. A few seconds later, alarms blared, and every light on the base blazed, turning the night into day. She'd made her introduction, and now that they knew she was here, the clock was ticking.

Katja pressed the pedals in the base of her cockpit, each one stimulating the legs of her combat suit, Yudif. The nine meter robot stomped toward the GEA base in response. The metal fences surrounding the base crumpled beneath its feet. Steam rose in plumes from the smokestacks of the factory, even though no one was supposedly working at this late hour. She locked on her target, but when it came time to pull the trigger, she hesitated. What if there were people inside?

That moment of hesitation was all the GEA military forces needed to form a counterattack. Machine guns rattled around her, but their bullets were little more than annoying gnats that bounced off the surface without leaving a dent. This suit was made up a brand-new alloy, something stronger than the lunocarbonite used in the Lancelot suits. Dr. S called it Valkyrian. Infused with a high-tech plasma core and a new combination of metal alloys derived from the mines in the asteroid belt, it could withstand any weapon the GEA had in their arsenal.

A trio of Lancelot suits rushed out from a hangar and fired their laser rifles at her. Even though her suit easily withstood the blast, the force rattled her teeth. Her suit was strong, but it wasn't invincible. She pulled her up her motion capture gloves and grinned.

Time to show these zhopas what Yudif can do.

Unlike the stiff, heavy Lancelot slots, Yudif was equipped with lightning fast circuits they gave her a dexterity ten times greater than theirs. The motion capture sensors inside relayed her movements as she dodged their volleys, all while maintaining her balance as though she were on her own two feet. But even as she avoided their attack, she was formulating one of her own. She lifted her own laser rifle and fired, destroying two of them before the third knocked it from her grasp with a well-placed shot.

Katja chuckled. They think they've disarmed me.

She paused long enough to fire a missile at the factory, using the distraction to shift her enemy's attention long enough for her to flip the switchblade sword out from Yudif's right arm. Like the ancient sword dancers of lore, she spun around, slicing her blade through her opponent's midsection before he had a chance to realize what she was doing.

The Valkyrian blade cut through the Lancelot suit's lunocarbonite hull like a hot knife through butter. The last suit exploded, but the distant thud of armored feet striking the pavement told her more where on the way.

Dr. S's voice crackled through her com link. "That's enough for tonight. Retreat."

"But I want to make sure—"

"You suit took some damage, and I need time to analyze it. Don't turn yourself into a martyr. Remember, you're still new to this."

What he means to say is that I'm an imposter.

Numerous elongating shadows appeared from the periphery of the base—so many that she could barely count them before they all melded into one.

"Katja!" The normally soft-spoken scientist's voice turned sharp in warning.

Katja sighed at the sight of the partially destroyed factory and retreated into the sea. Once she was beneath the surface, she activated the propellers built into the feet of the suit and sped away. "What is my next mission?"

"Lay low," Dr. S replied. "Perhaps you should look up Carlos. I believe he's in Bucharest."

Her stomach dropped at the thought of asking Carlos for help. He'd been the manager of the circus her parent's had used as their cover before the GEA captured them. Part of her still wondered if he'd betrayed her parents. But Dr. S wouldn't have dropped his name unless he trusted him.

If Carlos is an ally, then I can hide with him as my parents did. But if he betrays me, I will slit his throat.

*Artwork by Ilona Beukers/@ArtsicFox on Twitter

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