I hustle out of the monorail as it pulls up at the station serving the hub. As my feet hit the platform, the platform's lights begin shutting down in sequence, forcing me to rush down the still lighted corridor that serves as the hub's access point. Behind me is the monorail engine's dying whine as the electricity to the tracks is cut. Emergency lights flicker on, plunging the platform in a harsh red glow, forcing me to squint in annoyance.
"Make haste." The Voice rasps, "Fate and her minions have reached the Inclinator. I have shut down the monorail system to secure our rear and prevent us from being flanked."
"Cool." I mutter while pushing open the doors to the hub with both hands.
As I step into the hub, my boot kicks a metal object with a large clang, causing me to stop in my tracks and look down. The hub could be considered as a fairly spacious area, but now all that empty space has become a distant memory. The facility is filled close to bursting with scissor wolf drones, the machines taking up almost every square inch of real estate, leaving only a narrow path free for me to traverse. The drones have also been stacked high against the walls, all the way up to the hub's ceiling. The Voice had however left the space in front of the bank of monitors empty, probably so that it could perform a last minute briefing with me. A scuttling noise comes from above me and I see the tail end of a trail of spider drones scurrying into a ventilation duct.
"You're really not playing around, huh?" I comment as I squeeze my way towards the bank of monitors, "Sure you don't need anymore firepower?"
"I have more defenses prepared at the Inclinator atrium." The Voice rumbles without any trace of irony, "Putting them on screen now." The bank of monitors buzz momentarily before showing the atrium for the Inclinator. Built to accommodate incoming vehicles travelling down into the Sarcophagus, the atrium is little more than a wide open area. Once again, The Voice had elected to do a bit of impromptu renovation for the welcome party being prepared for Fate.
"Hot damn. You're going all in on this, aren't you?" I breathe while taking in the sight.
The Voice had built a thick, solid wall across the length of the atrium, cutting off access to the hub. Firing ports had been cut into the wall and automated miniguns had been mounted along its length. Another set of sentry guns have been installed on the atrium's ceiling and they swivel about freely, scanning the area. Proximity charges are laid across the floor in the space between the Inclinator shaft and the wall. Coils of barbed wire are placed right in front of the wall, rounding off the defenses.
"You forgot to add a trench." I joke.
"I need you mobile and ready to attend to trouble spots." The Voice comments, missing my sarcasm completely, "A trench would get in the way of that. Now listen closely, I will only have the time to go through the plan once with you."
One of the monitors switches to a wire frame representation of the atrium complete with the installed defenses. Red dots, representing the invaders, begin filing out of the Inclinator shaft and the sentry guns begin open fire in a rough representation of space invaders. Red dots explode into eight bit fragments but a number manage to surge forwards and are promptly neutralized by the proximity charges.
"As you can see," The Voice begins, "The plan is simple. With only one way into the hub, ORPO will be forced to run the gauntlet I have prepared for them. Unfortunately, the wrinkle lies in the overwhelming numbers ORPO can bring to bear against us."
The dribble of red dots on the screen now becomes a flood, pouring in through the Inclinator shaft. The guns can no longer keep up with the increased tempo as more and more red dots slip through the hail of gunfire. The proximity charges blunt this assault but they are quickly exhausted and the red dots begin pushing their way across the wall. At this point, a single black dot spawns on The Voice's side of the wall and begins dashing into the crowds of red dots, erasing the interlopers with the tiny sword it is swinging about.
"Your role is to eliminate any ORPO officers that make it past the prepared defenses." The Voice concludes, "Keep in mind that this scenario is almost a certainty as Fate is guaranteed to be present during the battle as well, forcing me to split my attention. Any questions?"
"How does the black dot swing a sword without hands?" I ask in mock innocence.
"Actual, serious questions." The Voice sighs over the earpiece.
"Alright, here's one." I grunt, "Why aren't you deploying your drones in the simulation?"
"My drones will be held in reserve." The Voice rasps, "If the rush of ORPO officers becomes too much for you, my drones will provide support as required. However, I want to focus the drones on tying down Fate when it appears. So do not rely overmuch on them."
"Fair enough. Here's the big question." I continue, "Are drones and miniguns enough to take down a god?"
"Do not be ridiculous." The Voice snorts, "Drones and miniguns will certainly not kill a god. You need drones and miniguns to the power of infinity to accomplish that."
I blink at this declaration, "Uh, you sure about that? I mean, are you really, absolutely sure about that? Super certain and super cereal?"
"Yes." The Voice reassures, "Remember, ants can devour a man alive, as long as there are enough of them. And I have more than enough bullets and drones to put Fate down. Even if my estimates are wrong, I have another infinity's worth of munitions just waiting in the wings. Fate will regret its foolishness of challenging me directly."
"Well, you're the only authority I know of this subject." I say, reluctantly accepting The Voice's argument, "So, you really intend to finish things with Fate today?"
"Indeed." The Voice asserts, "Fate must be getting desperate. This is most likely a last gasp attempt on its part to swing the conflict in its favor. If Fate wants to serve itself up to me, I would be remiss in not taking the opportunity. I am curious though, how did Fate manage to manifest itself outside of its divine realm?"
I raise an eyebrow at The Voice's answer, "I am assuming that you never expected Fate to actually show up like this then?"
"This turn of events took me by surprise." The Voice admits, "Outside of certain components, a god would need an anchor to manifest itself physically in the three worlds."
"Certain components?" I repeat back, not quite understanding what The Voice is talking about.
"Never mind about that." The Voice hastily rasps, "What I meant was I did not expect a suitable anchor for Fate's manifestation to actually exist."
I narrow my eyes at this sudden lapse in composure of The Voice's part. It had slipped up, mentioning something that it did not want me to know. And that little morsel did not just apply to Fate. It seemed relevant to gods in general. Meaning what The Voice wants to distract me from somehow applies equally to itself as well.
Could it be The Voice's secret? The mystery that the antique posters and world map were hinting at?
No time to press the matter for now, not when the enemy is breathing down our necks. I decide to take the conversation back to safer ground.
"I found an empty crate at Matsui's club." I remark, "The crate's original destination had been Hobo Beard's lab. Could the contents have been the anchor you're talking about?"
"Perhaps." The Voice muses, "Though that is really an academic question at this point in time. Look at the monitors, Fate and her minions are about to make their move."
I fold my arms and do as suggested, taking in the video feed showing a long line of mechs, trucks and tanks halted in front of the Inclinator above us. Presiding over the lot while perched on top of a tank is a woman dressed in a scarlet evening gown with a veil over her face.
"Fate's body is regenerating fast." I remark, "She barely had any skin while in ORPO HQ and look at her now."
Compared to the horror show from before, Fate now looks extraordinarily normal, with the exception of a pair of angel wings growing from her back. Not only has Fate's skin entirely grown back across her entire body, the angel wings are radiant and full feathered, a far cry from the bony mess that I saw on ORPO's security cameras. The Voice grunts unhappily at my comment but otherwise holds its peace. I make a mental note that Fate's power set likely includes accelerated healing or something similar.
One of the tanks opens fire with its cannon, blasting apart the Inclinator's shutters. A few of the ORPO officers look down the shaft, confirming that yes, it has been completely locked down. A pair of mecha proceed to drop down the shaft using their thrusters to investigate further and there's a sudden loud boom of an explosion coming from above me.
"Welcoming gift?" I ask The Voice.
"Just a little surprise I left behind." The Voice rumbles, "I had hoped for a larger first wave to be caught in the trap, but at any rate the explosion would have destroyed the Inclinator's tracks, preventing ORPO from bringing down their infantry and vehicles."
Upon hearing the explosion, Fate spreads her wings and plunges down the Inclinator's shaft as well with several mecha following behind her. The Voice switches the video feed to the blast door camera and we are met with the sight of Fate and the mechas hovering aimlessly in place, unsure as to how to get past the thick slab of nuke rated metal.
"A god foiled by a closed door." I chuckle to myself. The screen then shows Fate bending over and tugging away at the blast doors with her hands, her slender body trembling from the exertion.
"This is beyond pathetic." I laugh, "Seriously, this is what kicked your ass before?"
"Fate left military matters in the hands of her lovers during our previous conflict." The Voice says, "Her current showing may be due to their absence."
Just as I am about to fire off another derogatory jab at Fate's expense, a warning klaxon sounds on the console and one of the monitors displays the status of the blast door. Its an intruder alert. The blast door is slowly, very, very slowly in fact, being forced open. The video feed confirms this as well, Fate having managed to open a thin slit through the door.
"Super strength then." I grunt.
"No, I do not think so." The Voice murmurs, "From what the hub's systems are telling me, Fate is exerting a level of force to be expected from an average adult woman. The blast doors should not even be budging. What Fate is doing has to be something else."
"Whatever. Doesn't look unmanageable at any rate." I say while heading out to the atrium, "I should get ready for the battle."
I draw the sword and rest the tip on the ground while standing guard just behind the wall with my feet spread apart. Both hands are then clasped on the sword's pommel and I turn my head downwards with my eyes closed.
"Are such dramatics really necessary?" The Voice grumbles.
"Oh hush." I scold, "Let me have this moment."
I slowly open my good eye and eagerly whisper while squaring my shoulders for a more valiant profile.
"Now come at me my enemy."