After arming up with some new power armor and out of suit equipment (including a colossal anti-material rifle for Rayne), Iota 4 was ready for its next assignment (although their dropship’s main weapon remained quite broken). In response to the rapid advance of Thinker forces, Belltower Station, the largest orbital colony in The Hills, declared independence in hopes of evading the wrath of the crusading Thinkers. All did not go according to plan, however, and they instead fell victim to the latest provision of Operation Windfall.
Iota 4 was asked to assist in the seige of Belltower station. All of Iota wing would play vital roles in the attack, each tackling a seperate section of the station’s defenses. Iota 4 would insert into the largely-unprotected interior, disabling the secondary generator so that the shields would fall and a waiting Shark could fire on and destroy the primary reactor. Iota 1 would land on the stations large top platform and destroy external defenses with the assistance of Iota 2, allowing Iota 3’s support ship to dock with the station and take any and all useful intelligence from its computers before its destruction. The catch-at least for Gerrard-was that the station was home to over ten-thousand civilians, only half of which were estimated to be in support of its new independent leadership.
Desai pleaded with Gerrard to go, explaining that many of the civilians would have time to evacuate, and that he could delay the strike to allow for more lives to be saved. After all it was not the population they were after, but the station itself and a large pirate vessel docked nearby; both of which could act as vital staging areas for a Thinker advance. Reluctantly, G.R.A.V. accepted the mission, and Iota 4 headed into the Hills to rendezvous with the rest of their wing and the Keeper strike force.
The pirate carrier docked at Belltower Station. Art by Henry Pashkov.
Within an hour of their arrival, Belltower station was surrounded by Keeper Forces. Within a minute of that, the attack began. Searing beams of light from the main particle projectors of a Shark-class destroyer bore down on the docked Pirate Carrier, wreathing the vessel in flames and debris as it attempted to break away from the station. As it disgorged a cloud of aerospacecraft to cover its escape, Iota 2 launched from Desai’s Seadevil cloaked nearby, intercepting the hostile squadron. Heavy flak projectors and other crudely installed weapons opened up on the surface of the station, shaking Iota 1’s dropship as it plunged towards its target. With the heavy armor of Iota 1 ripping into the station’s defense turrets, Iota 4 began its approach on Belltower’s central access shaft.
Gerrard managed to bring his dropship into the station unscathed, only to be confronted by an array of hastily installed weapons platforms, repair facilities converted into defensive weapons, maintenance Synths wielding their tools as instruments of death, and power-armored soldiers scrambling for cover. Iota 4 leapt from the ship, and into a hail of fire.
The squadron began their ascent through the huge cylindrical body of the station, with Adrian and Clint remainging on the bottom level to provide support. Three shield projection towers were casting a protective field across the secondary generator, but the group chose to focus on more threatening targets. A hail of missiles tore one large particle turret away from its housing, while repeated and liberal application of Lira’s mining drill ground another to a bloody pulp. Clint and Adrian began firing on the construction Synths, their armor-piercing. A large defense platform seemed to be using the reactor’s extra energy to manifest deadly arcs of power, which crackled across the surface of Gerrard’s dropship. Rayne poured shot after high-caliber shot into the installation, blasting it apart piece by piece but taking heavy fire from weapons manned by power-armored infantry on either side of the emplacement. Lenne came to her aid, boiling the unfortunate unsurgents inside their armor with her Glaive.
At the top of the chamber, another pair of enemy infantry, clad in a strange new variety of armor, awaited the squadron’s arrival. They latched on to the outside of an unfortunate Veronica, jacking in to her systems and triggering a fight for control inside and outside her Synth. Meanwhile, Adrian was siezed and sent careening across the battlefield by an unusually hostile docking claw, which used its immense gravitic manipulation system to grip and hurl his Synth. After regaining his footing, a shot from Adrian’s immense primary weapon reduced the claw to so much slag. The psychological damage from the encounter remained.
Just as Iota began to clean up the remaining ground forces, their comrades in the air informed them of an incoming enemy dropship. Friendly forces failed to disable the craft before it hurtled inside the generator chamber. From its bay came six terrifying new opponents. Sharing patterns with the sole Thinker vehicle the group had encountered before, their new foes tore into them with an array of devastating weapons. Globs of searing plasma vaporized armor on contact, and heavy thermal loads fired from a strange new Panther class threatened to tear them limb from limb. At the top of the station, Gerrard vied for control with a Jaguar which had begun to sieze control of his ship with a weapon similar to that utilized by the power armor that attacked Veronica.
A pair of explosions sent Lenne’s Synth tumbling to the ground as det charges planted by infantry that had boarded her in the mayhem finally went off. Gerrard sent missiles flying wildly into his friends, ripping out power cords in a desperate attempt to stop his enemies from gaining complete control of his ship. Plasma reduced Rayne’s Synth to slag as it locked a Lynx in close combat. Beam after brilliant emerald beam of Adrian’s main weapon ignited the air around the Panther taking refuge at the top of the chamber, with a barrage of fire from its twin mass drivers cutting into his allies. While the rebel dropship met its death at the hands of Lira, its cargo had caused considerable damage to Iota 4. And to make matters worse, the secondary reactor finally gave way, filling the chamber with an incredible electromagnetic pulse as it fell from its housing.
Before the potentially devastating pulse washed over his ship, Gerrard manually disconnected the feed from his generators to prevent its total destruction. The rest of the squadron attempted to do the same, powering down so that their vehicles would not be permanently disabled. As they began to power back on, it seemed their new adversaries were immune to the effects. A single Lynx still stood, towering over Rayne’s mangled Synth and preparing to finish the job. Thankfully, Rayne’s earlier investment payed off, and the insurgent pilot was surprised to see her leap, clad in powered armor and wielding a terrifying rifle, from her Essence Pod. A wild burst of five armor piercing rounds sent the gun-barrel molten-clattering across the catwalk behind Rayne. The Lynx, however, had suffered far worse. It’s pilot compartment a sparking mess, the Synth fell to the ground. The rest of the group ensured the demise of their opponents before carrying their (and some of their enemies) remains into Gerrards barely-functioning vessel and surging through the hole left by the generator’s passing. The pilot wove haphazardly through the collapsing superstructure of the station, soaring out through a smoking breach in the hull and past the bisected remains of the pirate carrier. The Shark outside locked its particle beam onto the remaining reactor, as the last Keeper forces were pulled out. A second later, Belltower station, and the thousands of souls still inside, ceased to exist.
The group returned to Hope weary and weathered, relaxing only breifly before restocking their weapons and repairing their vehicles. Though the damage was extensive, both physical and emotional, within a few days Iota 4 was ready for whatever assignment the Administration would throw at them next.