Snow Angel: Chapter 26

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Chapter 26: Blackout

Snow's whole life changes when the winter solstice arrives.

 

Even Kelsie looked surprised at that. “What? When did this happen?”

 


 
Author's Note: Hey everyone, here is chapter 26 of Snow Angel. A quick note. I likely won't be posting much of anything until after Christmas, working late hours in a retail job with the holidays coming up is sucking all the energy out of me. After the holiday rush is over I hope to get back to stories like Apocalypse Dawn and I Wish. Thanks to Big Closet and to all my readers for your support. I hope you all enjoy. Further chapters are available on Patreon.~Amethyst.
 


 
Chapter 26: Blackout

The next morning, each member of my team paired off with a member of Phantom Wing to do some one-on-one combat training and help them to learn to get the most out of their weapons. Heather was of course paired off with her fellow sniper and Fay, Orchid, since they used somewhat similar weapons. The pink-haired Fay was passing on some of what she had learned from my grandmother about sniping and I figured that the pair were well-matched physically, especially with both using longer-ranged melee weapons. Heather’s glaive had an edge in reach and the bladed option as well though.

Risha took Maryn in hand and seemed to do well with her. The Avatar might not have had a similar weapon to Phantom Wing’s leader, or any other Angel for that matter, but she did have all of the data on Maryn’s SP-27 Gemini and was able to push her to her limits to try to keep up. The Gemini looked like two separate weapons at first glance, but it was similar to mine in that it had three modes and was very versatile.

When Maryn’s weapon was in melee mode, the Gemini took the form of a pair of short swords for close combat, but the mode that Maryn used the most seemed to be the twin pulse pistol mode. She told us that she liked the freedom of being able to attack while on the move because it made her harder to hit. Risha suggested that she get in a lot of target practice using both hands, with both her Gemini and her new S&W LRX-7 handgun. The Gemini’s third mode was when the weapon truly became one though, in the form of a long-range pulse rifle that packed a bigger punch than the pair of pistols.

Lisbet was working with her fellow Harekin, Peter, who she seemed to be developing a bit of a crush on. Peter used the same M-1 mini-missile launchers that Rose from Shadow Wing used, paired with a regular pulse pistol. Lisbet was becoming very proficient with the pulse cannon mode of her GL-5 Storm and while her other mode launched grenades rather than missiles, she was able to teach him about explosives in general and how to start looking for openings to use them in combat.

I would have thought that my grandmother and Kelsie would have paired Autumn with Fawn since they had somewhat similar weapons and the seamstress was still getting used to some of the quirks of being a full-blooded Fay Angel, but they had her working with Kyle instead. It did make sense since the Deerkin’s S-3 Impulse was a long sword in one mode and a pulse pistol in the other. It wasn’t all that different than her R-8 Light Foil since it was a long blade in one form and an energy weapon in the other as well. Kyle wasn’t nearly as maneuverable in combat as my beautiful Fay girlfriend was, but then, who was?

They paired Fawn off with Karina instead. The Devilkin didn’t have an energy weapon and had never even used a gun before receiving her new S&W LRX-7 as a holdout weapon along with the rest of our team, but she could give Fawn plenty of target practice just by teleporting around. She was also an expert in swinging around those chain scythes of hers before she even became an Angel, so it made sense she would help Fawn with the whip-blade mode of her R-15 Cobra. With her punch daggers mode, she could even give Fawn a taste of close combat while using the whip-blade as a sword.

Of course, I was training with Kyra while they all worked with their charges. I was mostly trying to teach her how to control her large blade’s momentum in a battle without the momentum controlling her, and teaching her what I had learned about using such a large weapon in a fight creatively. She wasn’t as strong as me, but between the HESS that she was wearing and that wool of hers underneath it, she was pretty damn durable. Even if she took a hit that her HESS couldn’t stop the full force of, her wool added an extra layer of protection and kept her safe while the HESS armor’s nanites repaired it.

After a solid two hours of that, we were taken to the shooting range where we all got some target practice with our holdout weapons and the ranged options of our primary weapons. Everyone had the specs and general training instructions of the S&W LRX-7, but Autumn and I had practical experience with them as well (at least on targets) and were able to help the others get used to them. Autumn and I were improving, and the others did decently for their first time, but our two Trainers said that regular practice with the weapons would be important to improve, and then to prevent us from losing our edge once we did become proficient marksmen.

My grandmother asked Kyra and me to hold off on using the ranged modes of our primary weapons though. Apparently, she was worried about the destruction we would cause using them inside the base and, while the repair nanites were plentiful and good for what they did, she didn’t want to risk us accidentally hitting something important. With that in mind, she and Kelsie led our two teams to the front gates and then outside of the base so we could get some practice in.

As soon as we were outside the gates and facing the area of desolation and rubble surrounding the base, Kyra and I were allowed to mode-shift. I already knew how to use my weapon, of course, and had figured out already that precision wasn’t really its thing. No, its thing was overpowering destructive firepower to mow down anything in the path of its six barrels. The looks on the faces of the members of Phantom Wing when I mode-shifted and gave a brief demonstration were priceless.

“Where in the Darkness are you getting all the energy powering that thing?” Maryn asked as she shook her head as if trying to deny what she had just seen. “First that shield, and now this? What have you been eating, girl?”

“I’m as lost as you are,” I told her with a shrug of my shoulders. “Sira thinks that I can summon a lot more extra-planar energy than other Angels can because I’m genetically closer to whatever Demon my ancestors were supposed to become before the process halted. I figure it’s probably not as important how I can channel so much, as what I do with it is. And I want to use it to take down Demons.”

With my demonstration finished, I shifted my Goliath back to claymore mode. Target practice wasn’t really as important for me as aiming it in the right general direction, and I had just wanted to show off a bit. I didn’t really want to use a lot of energy though in case I needed to use my gift later. That was when Kelsie looked toward Kyra and said, “Your turn. Show us what you’ve got.”

Kyra nodded and a moment later, her Scimitar began to shift in a cacophony of motion, whirs, and clicks to change from a large and slightly curved sword to a large gun. It wasn’t quite as big as my gatling mode and it almost looked like a rifle but with a slightly shorter barrel. That one barrel was wide though and I found myself wondering what kind of ammunition that thing fired when she pulled a clip from one of the two massive pouches on her belt. The clip was as long as my forearm, and it looked like she could probably fit three clips in each pouch.

Kyra popped the clip into the weapon, carefully pointing the barrel away from everyone and then took a deep breath and held down the trigger. Where the energy that my weapon spewed forth obliterated everything in its path and the only sound was the hum of firing and the target being shredded, her weapon left a chain of explosions in its path. Explosions and flames that were near violet in color. I could feel the heat of those that had hit the closest targets and they were hot. The destruction she left was in a way worse than what I had left a moment before.

Fawn’s eyes were wide as she stared at her sister’s weapon. “Holy crap! What is that thing?! And what were you firing from it?!”

Risha’s look was curious as she looked at the weapon in question. “If I had to guess, it is a jumbo-sized assault rifle that fires anti-tank-sized rounds. I am guessing thirty rounds per clip? It looked like she had it set on full automatic but it can probably go semi-automatic or fire single rounds as well. I have no idea what those rounds were, but they were probably some kind of armor-piercing and high-explosive incendiary rounds. Can you get your NCI to send me the files on the bullets? I am really curious.”

Kyra appeared to be a bit self-conscious with everyone staring at her but she nodded. “My NCI says that they’re explosive-tipped armor-piercing rounds. Umm… sure, just a second, Risha.”

A moment later Risha’s eyes widened in surprise. “Interesting. The exploding tips serve a dual purpose. They damage the target and ignite the micro plasma charges. Yeah, this is definitely a weapon meant to hold the line against massive numbers. You do not want to use it if you have any teammates between you and what you want to hit though. I have heard that plasma burns hurt like a bitch. It is probably a good thing that plasma charges that small should not burn for long. Still, they will burn long enough to really hurt anything that survives being hit.”

Risha was right; the violet flames were already beginning to cool to regular flames and even those would fade soon with nothing out here to act as fuel. Kelsie nodded in agreement with Risha’s assessment. “Yes, Sira suggested only using the full auto mode to hold back large swarms or give your team some breathing room. You’ll likely be using the sword mode the most. You might use the single-shot mode for large or well-armored Demons. If those rounds penetrate, they’ll cook them from the inside, or at least whatever part of them that you hit. As your Wing Commander, Maryn can make the call whether or not you need to bring out the big gun.”

“If she can’t make the call for some reason though, and things are desperate, don’t hold back, Kyra. Just try to make sure not to hit your allies. You should be able to control your shot grouping a little easier than Snow can with her Goliath, especially if you use the semi-auto mode rather than fully automatic,” my grandmother added to caution the Sheepkin.

“Well, is this terrifying power exhibition over, or is there more that we need to be outside for?” Karina asked. The Devilkin was glancing cautiously at those fading flames but her tone was joking.

“Yes, we’re done here, unless anyone has any questions,” Kelsie replied.

“Couldn’t that thing use regular anti-tank rounds? Maybe armor piecing with Razorwing metal?” Risha asked thoughtfully.

My grandmother shook her head. “Sira said that these rounds were specially made for this weapon in the research lab. The gauge is a little bigger than a traditional anti-tank round and both the gun and the rounds were prototypes. Once Eden Base was closed down and the old world fell, she lacked the materials to produce more rounds, particularly the micro plasma charges. The nano-weave factories couldn’t reproduce them, but the food dispensers could once one was scanned. Sira never considered making regular rounds for it because the weapon’s whole purpose was to fire these special anti-Demon rounds. We could have the Tinkers and Alchemists work on creating some regular armor-piercing ammunition in the right size if it’s an option that Maryn and Kyra would like available.”

“Would it take long?” Kyra asked as she looked uncertainly toward the nearly extinguished flames

“They probably wouldn’t’ be able to get started until everything from Eden Base has been relocated. The hardest part will probably be getting the gauge the right size, but I’ll let Sira know that you’ve requested it,” my grandmother offered.

“Thanks,” Kyra said with a faint blush. “I mean, I know that these rounds will be useful if things get really bad, but if I tried to use these in a forest or something it could set it on fire around us and put the team in more danger.”

“Yeah, we need a simple alternative available, for a variety of reasons,” Maryn agreed, causing both Kyra and Orchid to nod.

Kelsie looked pleased with her trainees as she smiled and nodded as well. “Good thinking, girls. Now, let’s go get some lunch. We still have a lot of training to do today.”

~o~O~o~

After lunch, we were off to the simulator room for more training on how to pilot the MISTs and REVs, followed by combat simulations that pitted us against a wide variety of Demons. The time variance on the simulations was mentally exhausting, but it did allow us to get a lot more training in during the day than we would have been able to otherwise. We were exhausted that night though and barely got through the first Lord of the Rings movie after dinner before needing to go to bed.

The next four days followed much the same pattern as the day before; endless training in every way imaginable to become proficient in combat, at piloting our new vehicles, and at using all of the weapons at our disposal. Then we would go home and relax, sometimes with a movie. We managed to finish the Lord of the Rings.

It was on the seventh morning after our return to Woodbury base that things changed. We had all gathered in the mess hall for breakfast, expecting another long day of more training, but something had changed. My grandmother looked grim as we ate and she suddenly announced, “We’ve lost contact with Sira and Eden Base.”

Even Kelsie looked surprised at that. “What? When did this happen?”

“Roughly three hours ago, while you were all still asleep,” my grandmother informed us. “Sira and the veetols that we had moving things from Eden Base returned there before dark to load up the last of the important gear to be moved tonight when communications suddenly cut out. I can’t be sure what’s happening there or if we’ll even get comms back or not. This was exactly the type of thing that Sira’s programming prevents her from learning about so I’m going to have to assume that she won’t have the means to restore it.”

“How did we lose communications? Do you think that my parents and the nobles might be responsible somehow?” Heather asked. It didn’t really matter how or why communications were down though. We needed them to coordinate and nobody would be able to approach the base without the comms online. I tried getting Connie to send a message to Sira, or any Angel not currently at the base but we got nothing in response.

“I don’t know,” the first Angel admitted. She wore a frown and I knew all too well that she didn’t like feeling a lack of control. “Either Eden Base has been attacked somehow or something else has caused this.”

“It is not just Eden Base, I tried sanding a simple burst message to the Academy but I am getting empty air there too,” Risha contributed thoughtfully. “Line of sight and base-wide communications seem to work fine; I can reach the comms room here at Woodbury. I think one of the FTL communications relays could be down; probably whatever one is closest to us. It would explain a dead zone in the global communications network.”

My grandmother’s attention was instantly on the AI as she asked, “How much do you know about this communications system, Risha?”

The blonde avatar shrugged. “Probably more than anyone else alive right now. Since I spent a lot of time with Kylie and needed to be able to communicate with her as part of my duties, so they could not really program me not to learn about that stuff, at least not as well as they shackled Sira. We had internet and television so I knew about as much as anybody else alive at the time that the system was brought online.”

“What can you tell us then,” Kelsie inquired, looking as uncomfortable about the lack of comms as my grandmother.

Risha explained as quickly as she could, which wasn’t as quick as most of us would have preferred, given that she had to explain how the technology itself worked as well. She started by telling us that it replaced the old satellite communications system. Apparently, they had these things called satellites up in orbit around the planet that used to do something similar.

The idea behind the FTL relay system was that the colonists heading out to New Terra would be able to send faster-than-light messages back to Earth and it would allow instant global communication as well. There is a relay station on the moon to send messages out into space from Earth and vice versa, but any of the relays on Earth can send messages through the relay on the moon or along the earth side relay network to other areas, so long as they are online.

The problem was that those relays were what take our comms signals and relay them faster than light; if one was offline then it would limit the communications signals in its area to short-range or line of sight because comms would try to send the message directly to the other party rather than through the dead relay. The problem that we currently faced was that there were a lot of ruins and other stuff that could block or disperse a signal between Eden Base and us. At least Risha was able to assure us that line of sight would allow incoming veetols to send the necessary confirmation code to Woodbury Base and prevent the defenses from activating automatically.

Risha said that these relays were giant metal towers reaching miles up into the sky and placed in a grid around the entire planet to provide full coverage. There were even towers made in the middle of the oceans to keep the grid exact and the relay towers each had onboard repair nanites to repair damage and prevent long-term communications blackouts. My AI teammate figured that the relay closest to us had been recently damaged somehow and was currently being repaired.

That left us with essentially two options. The first option was that we could wait things out and hope that nothing bad happened in the meantime that would require us or the other Angels; like a war breaking out, a seed storm, or Demon attacks on populated areas. I didn’t like the idea of just sitting around and waiting while we were essentially in the dark though, and I was sure that nobody else did either.

Our second option was to try to do something about it, or at least confirm that Risha’s guess was correct. That was when she revealed that the base comms room would have a diagnostic for the communications system and a map of the relay grid. Using those, she would be able to determine if we were facing some sort of issue in the comms system itself or if one of the relay towers was down. If one of them were down, she would be able to find out where it was.

Still, we sat and talked it out as we finished our morning meal, so I guess we were going with both options, at least until we could confirm Risha’s theory. The talk was tense though and I didn’t contribute much, preferring to finish my meal as quickly as possible so we could stop talking about doing something and actually do it. The others seemed to be just as antsy as I was though and Risha, my grandmother, and Kelsie carried most of the discussion.

Finally, both our food and debate were finished. Not that it was much of a debate since we all knew what needed to be done and the comms hadn’t been magically restored during that time. With that in mind, my grandmother, Kelsie, Maryn, and I accompanied Risha to the comms room while she went to investigate the matter.

As for the others, they waited for us in the mess hall and tried to fill the awkward silence with some more food and talk while they waited. I think they were worried that it would take a while and that we could be without communication for days. I knew that I was. Fortunately, less than fifteen minutes later we had an answer.

Risha frowned as she held her hand on the communications room computer and interfaced with it. Once her eyes were focused again she looked toward us, nodded, and said, “Yeah, the closest relay tower is in the red right now. It is due east of us, just past what used to be the Wisconsin border along the old I-94.”

“Does it tell you anything about how bad the damage is?” Kelsie inquired. “Or how long it will take to repair?”

The Avatar shook her head. “No, the whole point is that it is not communicating with the rest of the relay system right now, so it is impossible to know the specifics from here. All that I can tell from here is that it is not currently connected to the rest of the global system. I am not sure what could have damaged it either. Maybe a rockslide or something? I would have thought that nothing short of an earthquake could damage one of those things, and we probably would have felt that here if it was bad enough to damage a relay tower.”

“Could it have been damaged on purpose?” my grandmother queried with a dark expression.

Risha quickly shook her head. “No, I do not think so, Wingleader. Someone damaging it on purpose to silence communications in the area would have to know what it was, exactly where to damage it, and how. Nobody would have the capability to damage it outside of the Corps, and I do not think even any of the Corps would have the technical knowledge required. Besides, the only people I could think of who would want to take down our communications network temporarily would be the nobility, and they would have to pass right through the Twin City ruins to do it. I believe that this is just an unfortunate coincidence. However, if they somehow discover our communications issues, which is unlikely at best, I would not put it past them to attempt to take advantage of it somehow.”

“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do,” my grandmother said grimly after a moment of silent consideration, catching everyone’s attention. “Your teams are both doing well enough in the simulations that you’re ready for some real-world flight experience now, I think. Kelsie and I will monitor things from here in case Sira sends anyone to find out why we’ve lost contact. Maryn, your team will take your MIST to Eden Base to apprise them of the reason that our comms aren’t working. Go in cloaked so nobody sees you and assist Sira and Eden Base as needed until comms are back online.”

“What about my team?” I asked as she looked at me and paused, her lips set in a grim line that told me she was worried about something.

A deep sigh escaped my grandmother’s lips and she gave me a long and serious look. “Your team is going to take your MIST to investigate that tower and whatever managed to damage it. Go in cloaked and be extra cautious. I have a bad feeling about this.”

© 2021-2022 Amethyst Gibbs
All Rights Reserved

Further chapters are available to the public on my Patreon page.

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Comments

New Cliche

Ever since Star Wars 'I got a bad feeling about this' and variations have become a cliche. When you hear or see "I have a bad feeling about this" you know the shit is about to hit the fan!


"Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”
George Carlin

Sometimes

Amethyst's picture

You just have to say, "What the hell," and lean into the cliches. They become cliches for a reason, after all.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Yup

Amethyst's picture

Really, how often do these types of things go well?

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Bad feeling

It sounds like Snow's Goliath's gatling mode will likely get a workout on this mission.

This comm backout is a bit perplexing imho. Hasn't anybody heard of shortwave radio or even low frequency AM radio as a backup? Crap happens and to only have one means of long distance communication, reliant on an asset that is not being guarded is not good military doctrine.

These backups have the huge

These backups have the huge disadvantage that the position of the sender can be determined using triangulation. And poof! The cover of Woodbury base is blown.

Triangulation

Maybe.

Shortwave radio is known to be bouncy, skipping over long distances. In theory a directional antenna may be used to bounce around, go to a repeater, bounced around a bit more to obfuscate its origins.

It is not ideal but it is surely better than nothing.

Finally, triangulation takes time and assets in position, expecting such a signal. A short burst 'I am alive message' broadcast over a wide area, well dispersed, that is not expected is very unlikely to be caught let alone be traced to its origins. In this case, Eden base is known, Woodbury base is not, so a signal sent out from Eden base that is one way only, with Woodbury base not responding would be safe enough.

Then there is ultra long wave transmission like what submarines use for transmitting over very long distances albeit at low data transmission rates.

Goliath

Amethyst's picture

Yup, it does see some use, and we'll see Risha using her Minimax too. Should be fun ;)

They were made to be very hard to damage or tamper with and they self-repair so blackouts will only be short lived unless the site is eviscerated completely down to the nanite vats underneath. We'll find out later that there are reasons why a redundant system isn't in place.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Great story

I know it’s a story and the blackout is needed, but surely if you’re building a global grid of these towers you would not have spots where only one tower is visible, indeed Risha determined which one it was so presumably she could contact others and the system should have been able to reroute message and communication should not be lost. So maybe it is more serious

Another possibility is that

Another possibility is that sub towers existed at one point to handle this sort of situation when it occasionally happened, where uninterupted comms was essential, but those sub towers weren't self repairing, or otherwise wouldn't be in position now.

Could be

Amethyst's picture

Or perhaps those sub towers were planned but never finished for some reason.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Hopefully

The demons haven't become intelligent. That could always be bad.

That would be bad

Amethyst's picture

There haven't been any signs of that happening yet, but it's not out of the realm of possibility either.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Portable repeater package

How about a portable repeater package that could be suspended from a high altitude ballon, aka skyhook, to fill in while a more permanent repair is effected at the tower site?

Damaged people are dangerous
They know they can survive

That's a possibility

Amethyst's picture

and it's probably something that Risha and Sira could come up with, with a bit of help in case this ever happens again.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3