Chapter 391: We, The Eleventh Squad
Everyone in the training grounds knew that the situation had gone out of hand when they heard the announcement. In fact, it had gone out of hand from the moment the energy shield had appeared out of nowhere.
It was perfectly natural for the training grounds to be equipped with energy shields and other safety mechanisms to protect the users from harm. However, the A Squad members weren’t able to activate them because the Navigators had shut down the ship’s system. They couldn’t even send an SOS to the Vanguard members flying outside the ship and request for reinforcements. Even if they could, the ship was constantly on the move. Any reinforcement would have a hard time getting into the ship without someone to facilitate the arrival.
It was possible that someone had somehow hacked the local system to turn on the energy shields, but the fact that the lights had turned on could only mean that the ship’s systems were no longer under lockdown.
The question now was: who was the one currently in control of the ship?
Stanley felt a chill crawling over his scalp as he watched the chunk of ice lying next to the energy shield. He wasn’t imagining it after all. The death throes they heard a few minutes ago really did belong to Laton. It was clear he hadn’t died peacefully either. One look at his final expression and recall his death throes told him everything he needed to know.
It took a few seconds for Stanley to realize that he was breathing carefully as if he was in the presence of an apex predator. Who were the ones who killed Laton? Was it really Merciless? It didn’t match what he knew of their shared history though. If it was them, they would never have raised the shields to protect Vanguard.
Stanley wasn’t the only one who recognized Laton. There were several people from the A Squad and the Navigators who recognized him as well. It was why the atmosphere took an abrupt nosedive for the eerie. Somehow, and yet it felt darker and more dangerous than when the training grounds were pitch black.
Is there someone… or something… lurking among us?
A single drop of blood hit the floor and caused everyone to look up. There was a person standing on a metal rod embedded in a wall about twenty meters above the ground. It was usually used for climbing training.
When did the person get here? They hadn’t sensed him at all. If it wasn’t for the blood drop that broke the eerie silence that had permeated the air since the lights came on, they might never notice that someone had been watching them from above like a ghost.
The person was wearing an Armor that Mogas and the others recognized immediately. It was the exclusive Armor only the internal personnel of the Eleventh Squad possessed. The blood didn’t belong to the person though. It came from the lifeless man they were holding by the neck.
Stanley recognized the man with a hole in his chest immediately. He was Tyers the Swiftblade, a Mist killer who wielded a saber that was shaped like a tear. He earned his nickname by moving so fast that most of his victims were dead before they even knew what hit them. Together with Laton, he had caused quite a bit of trouble for Stanley’s group and killed many of his men.
Stanley would regard him as one of the top threats on this ship if not for the fact that the killer was already and currently hanging off from the mysterious person’s hand like trash. His face looked pretty roughed up, and there was an obvious depression where his chest was. A closer look revealed that most of his bones were shattered as well.
First Laton, now Tyers the Swiftblade. That was two Mist killers dead just like that. The Navigators had thought that there was nothing that could go wrong tonight, but even the most arrogant of them was starting to have second thoughts about the operation.
Contrary to Stanley and the Navigators’ worry, Mogas’ group wore a relieved expression on their faces. It was because they knew for certain that their rescuers were friendly.
“Commander!” Mogas jumped to his feet in joy as he cheered, “I knew you would come for us!”
Phoebe and the others were overjoyed as well, though their reaction was much more conservative than Mogas’ as a matter of course.
Mogas was so happy that he started dancing as if he had slain the two Mist killers with his own hands. He continued to perform his silly victory dance even after Stanley shot him a stern look.
Stanley’s eyebrows visibly twitched with annoyance, but now was hardly the time to rebuke Mogas for his silliness. He turned toward the person standing on the metal rod and asked, “Is that you, Cillin?”
The reason he said this was because he recognized the voice from the speaker before as Cillin’s. His usual impatience and annoyance with the commander were now completely replaced by a completely different kind of emotion, however. Why was Cillin here, and how did he enter the ship?
Instead of answering Stanley’s question, the person released his grip on Tyers. The lifeless killer fell in a straight line before hitting the floor with a loud, resounding thud. The noise caused everyone to tense up immediately.
On the other side, a Navigator marksman holding the high ground pulled out his gun and shot at the person almost as soon as they let go of Tyers. The globe-shaped energy shield that blocked their shots earlier only covered the center of the training grounds. The person was out of bounds so to speak.
The shot was nearly silent, and the marksman was a veteran. His aim and timing were more or less flawless as well. However, the bullet merely bounced off the person’s Armor with a soft plink.
A bullet-proof Armor!?
The thought crossed everyone’s mind at the same time.
The Navigators were still reeling from the discovery when suddenly, their leader suddenly felt a chill blasting against his face like the breath of the Reaper himself. It was the instinct he had honed through countless near-death experiences screaming at him about an impending, immediate danger. Unfortunately, he had just shouted “Care—” before a blur pierced through their formation and—
—pierced the marksman with five sharp, steel-like finger bones that were shaped like scythes.
Shusag chose to pull away instead of pressing his advantage after successfully assassinating the marksman. It was the right call. The Navigators responded quickly and showered him in bullets, but thanks to his lightning fast reactions and his Armor’s protection, he didn’t take any damage whatsoever. He was even running on the walls thanks to the grav-boots of his Armor.
Not every Navigator was shooting at Shusag. Some of them were holding back to keep an eye on the person still standing on the metal rod and the other Vanguards.
Behind the energy shield, the A Squad was watching the event unfold with a sense of growing incredulity. They had come here to carry out a protection mission. They should be the ones fighting the Navigators and the Mist. But now, they were hiding behind an energy shield while the B Squadron they scorned were doing their job for them.
Back to the Navigators, the group quickly discovered that they were unable to do any real damage to Shusag even if they managed to land a hit on the guy. Not even laser weapons could put a dent on that Armor, not to mention that he was dodging all over the place like a monkey.
“Wait!” The leader of the group suddenly ordered while making a hand signal. Something didn’t feel right about all this. The person standing on the rod hadn’t made a move since they dropped Tyers to the ground, and the bastard who killed his marksman was only focusing on dodging after his initial success. Was this really all they had up their sleeves after their dramatic entrance?
The leader quickly came to a decision and ordered, “Withdraw!”
He also performed a “full retreat” hand signal.
Unfortunately, he was too late.
The Navigators hadn’t even gotten close to the breached entrance when a storm of bullets abruptly erupted from the corridor. While the Navigators were also wearing bullet-resistant Armor, it was nowhere close to being bullet-proof. A sufficiently powerful shot behind it could punch through the protection all the same. Their Armor also recognized that the hostiles attacking their rear were invisible, but once again, it wasn’t good enough to decloak their enemies completely. They could only make out what seemed like the outline of a humanoid.
“Watch out! They’re invisible!” A Navigator shouted.
Invisible? Once again, Stanley was confused by the situation. He remembered reading about a girl with the ability to turn invisible while skimming through the Eleventh Squad’s profile, but she was just one girl. It was clear to him that the Navigators were contending with a large group of invisible enemies, and unless he was sorely mistaken, none of them looked like the girl he saw in the profile.
Stanley thoughtfully turned his attention to Mogas’ group. Mogas’ excited expression was all he needed to see to know they knew the truth.
“What’s going on, Phoebe?” Stanley asked. He didn’t ask Mogas because the guy was flighty in the best of circumstances.
Phoebe held her silence for a moment as if she was choosing her words before answering, “They’re reinforcements.”
What kind of answer is that? It was clear that Stanley was dissatisfied with the answer.
“Didn’t you hear what I said earlier? I said that Little Eleven could’ve sent us reinforcements if it hadn’t been locked out. You’re looking at the reinforcements right now,” Mogas explained. “The commander had purposely left them behind so that Little Eleven could mobilize them to assist us in case we’re in danger. Unfortunately…”
Mogas shrugged and stopped talking after that.
It was the A Squad who forced Little Eleven into surrendering control of the ship and giving the Navigators the opportunity to shut down most of the ship’s systems. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have suffered nearly as many casualties as they had, much less be forced to make a last stand at the training grounds.
Cillin had reminded Stanley not to go too far and give the starship some space. Unfortunately, the man hadn’t listened to his advice.
Could he really blame Cillin for this? Blame him for not explaining things as clearly as possible? Of course not. Every B Squadron had their own secrets, activities and development, not to mention that they were a Hunter regiment, not the army. He and his men had already gone overboard by forcefully taking control of their ship and even kicking out the crew because he thought they were nuisances. He only had himself to blame for the consequences.
Stanley tried recalling his conversation with Cillin again but was unable to remember anything specific. At the time, the only thought that dominated his mind was impatience and the desire to kick the Eleventh Squad out of their starship as soon as possible. Of course he couldn’t remember Cillin’s words, much less decipher the meaning behind them.
I’m pretty sure Cillin told me something else that I should’ve paid attention to as well… just what was it?
While Stanley was busy wracking his brain, the Navigators were finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. The front was blocked by the energy shield and the Vanguards, while their rear was under attack by the “invisible people”. It wasn’t purely a firefight either. Whenever possible, the invisible attackers would abruptly close the distance and take out their target before withdrawing. They could’ve believed that the invisible attackers were well-trained soldiers if not for the fact that they could not sense even a sliver of killing intent from them. Already, they had lost a couple more men to the sudden attacks.
“Shut down the system again!” The leader yelled.
“I already did! It doesn’t work!” A man holding an oval-shaped device yelled back. The device clearly showed that the starship’s systems were shut down, but that obviously wasn’t the case.
As expected of the leader of the Navigators, an invisible attacker tried to ambush him only to be severed in half with a blade. Since the firefight began, they had immediately realized that the invisible people weren’t really afraid of bullets. While they weren’t completely impervious, they were largely resistant to most forms of ranged weapons. That was why they used laser blades or other kinds of melee weapons in close combat.
The “invisible person” revealed their true form after being cut in half. Everyone including the A Squad expected to see a splatter of gore and blood, but to their surprise, the cut section of the “invisible person” was packed with machinery!
“What the fuck? We’ve been fighting robots this whole time?”
The questions were, why were there so many robots on this ship, and how was it possible for their movements, speed and even combat techniques to resemble a human’s so closely that they didn’t even realize the truth until they “killed” one of them?
Do they come from the Robert Family?
Everyone not in the know thought of the greatest robot manufacturing family in GAL immediately.
If Mogas was a dog, his tail would be wagging like a fan right now. His reaction when he realized what everyone was thinking was so giddy and childish that Phoebe couldn’t help but shoot him a look of disdain.
She had to admit that even she couldn’t help a sense of pride, however. The Robert Family wasn’t the only one who could create powerful battle robots, Merciless wasn’t the only organization capable of going toe-to-toe with Mist, and the A Squad wasn’t the only one who could be trusted to carry out high-level missions. We, the Eleventh Squadron, are capable as well!
The Navigators thought their luck had hit rock bottom when they realized that their opponents were robots, but no, their woes were just beginning. The fight was still ongoing when the artificial gravity affecting the entire training grounds was turned off without warning. The Navigators weren’t able to react to the sudden change immediately, but the robots could. That brief distraction was all the robots needed to add seven more to the body count.
This wasn’t a fight. This was a massacre.
The Navigator leader tried to mount a charge and was half-successful. On one hand, some of his men managed to break through the invisible robots’ defense line and reach the exit. On the other hand, they were flattened like pancakes before they could take so much as a step out of the exit. As it turned out, a massive “door god” had been waiting for stragglers just beyond the exit.
Snowball was pretty huge to begin with, but after it transformed it was at least several times bigger than normal. Its thick, fat paws were almost as big as the metal plates covering the walls, but they were surprisingly swift and nimble as well. One hit was all it needed to kill its prey. If by some miracle they somehow survived the blow, they would still be dead in a couple minutes at most.
Cillin had tasked Snowball to take out anyone who managed to break through the defense line, but he also said it was fine letting some of the enemies go if they used deadly weapons such as grenades or cannons. There were other robots on the ship anyway. No matter what happened, no enemy was leaving their ship alive.
While Snowball was busy taking out the runaways, Mogas had decided to assume the role of a cheerleader.
“You can do it, Snowball! Flatten them all into pancakes! That guy to your left is getting kinda rowdy, don’t let him—GRENADE! Phew, that was a close one. Oh damn, behind you! Two of them managed to get past you!”
Stanley felt a vein popping on his forehead. The more Mogas yelled, the more the desire to tape his mouth grew.
Just when the vice admiral was about to put his thought into action, Mogas suddenly stopped cheering and muttered, “Weird. Where is that cat?”
Phoebe and the others were wondering the exact same thing. Knowing Wheeze, there was no way the cat would allow the chance to show off and bring wrath upon its enemies to slip through its grasp. If Cillin was here, then Wheeze had to be on the ship as well. So where was it? And what was it doing right now?
“What cat?” Someone from the A Squad finally couldn’t hold back their curiosity and asked. It was because everyone in the Eleventh Squad—especially the ones who were explicitly not human—was impressive to say the least.
Various questions surrounded their mind right now. For starters, they could not understand why someone strong enough to kill a Mist killer would choose to stay in a newly formed B Squad. In their position, they would’ve entered the A Squad a long time ago. After all, it was practically guaranteed that they would be awarded a prestigious position in the squadron. Second, why was there no information about the Eleventh Squad in their database? Nothing that was revealing at least.
“What do you mean, what cat? There’s only one cat on this ship, and it’s our commander’s pet,” Mogas answered.
“Ah… do you mean that gray cat who’s only this big, but is also as fat as a house?” Another A Squad member exclaimed in realization while approximating Wheeze’s shape with his hands.
“Yep, that’s it! Sir cat is incredible, man. I’m not kidding you, it’s the strongest combatant on our ship besides the commander… oh, I shouldn’t forget Czedow. Anyway, the three of them are the strongest combatants in the Eleventh Squad!”
“Czedow? Who’s Czedow?” Someone asked.
Mogas was about to answer when Phoebe struck him with a whip. “Control yourself, you blabbermouth!”
The young man finally realized he was in danger of oversharing and fell silent. He then turned his attention back to the battlefield once more.
By now, there weren’t many Navigators left on the training grounds. Eight people had managed to break through the robots and Snowball and escape, but everyone else were mauled to death one way or another.
The leader who led the squad was still at the training grounds. He and the few remaining members had not only succeeded in stopping the robots from pursuing the stragglers, but also taken out some of them. It must be said that the leader was quite the capable combatant.
It was at this moment the mysterious person on the metal rod finally made a move. Stanley was the first one to notice their movement.
Since there was no gravity in the training grounds, the mysterious person was able to reach the Navigator leader in just the blink of an eye using the propellers of their Armor.
The leader just barely managed to block the punch with his saber, but his body visibly rocked from the sheer force behind the blow. If it wasn’t for his grav boots, he was pretty sure that the punch would send him flying through the air like it was a movie. Not only that, there was a visible fist-shaped dent on his blade. It hadn’t snapped from the first blow, but there was no way it could handle a second.
The remaining three Navigators on the training grounds tried to rush to their leader’s rescue, but one of them was skewered in the heart before they could even turn around. Shusag flung the guy away off his finger bones like trash before taking out the other two Navigators.
Meanwhile, the mysterious person had slammed the Navigator leader against the wall. Anyone with eyes could tell that the poor guy was completely outmatched. The mysterious person hadn’t just snapped both of his arms. They had also shattered some of his ribs.
The sound of snapping bones rippled across the training grounds again as the mysterious person snapped the leader’s neck. Then, before anyone could figure out what was going on, they abruptly backed away from the dead man.
In fact, the Navigator leader had wanted to detonate a different bomb; specifically the one that had been installed in the reactor room. It had been set so that his order or his heart stopping would automatically trigger the bomb to explode and destroy the whole ship. He had given the order the second the mysterious person had grabbed his neck, but to his surprise, the anticipated boom did not happen. After that, well, there was no after that. The mysterious person snapped his neck before his surprise had the chance to morph into incomprehension.
There was another bomb inside his heart, but for obvious reasons it was small and nowhere powerful enough to destroy the ship. Even so, it shook the training grounds hard enough that it would’ve inflicted some injuries if not for the energy shield. As for Shusag and Snowball, they had been warned about the bomb earlier and managed to duck behind cover before the bomb went boom, so they weren’t injured either.
“Commander! Are you alright?” Mogas yelled in the direction of the explosion.
Everyone else was looking in the mysterious person’s direction as well. At that range, it was highly unlikely that they were unscathed even if the Armor was bullet-proof.
The artificial gravity system in the training grounds had been reactivated. The dust was slowly clearing as well.
A humanoid figure slowly walked out of the dust cloud after Mogas’ cry. Their figure grew clearer and clearer until they could see even the electricity flashing across their body.
Mogas’ jaw hit the floor.
He had thought that the mysterious person was Cillin. If he wasn’t, then where was Cillin?