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Ravens of Eternity

Chapter 27

27 Hell Week, Pt Although everyone was on high alert, no other attacks happened after that. Everyone quickly regrouped and reorganized their defenses while Eva and Chengli’s squadron stood down to repair and resupply.

All the squad leaders headed into the command tent where Grizz and his lackeys were playing around with the holo-table. Their lackadaisical faces made it apparent that they didn’t have a care in the world.

Grizz watched the squad leaders as they came into the tent uninvited, and frowned deeply. One of the things he hated the most was to get interrupted while he was busy. His work was too important to set aside so casually!

At least, that’s what he loved to say.

“What’re all of you doing?” he asked.

The squad leaders took their time as they took their spots around the holo-table. They made sure to make room for Eva and Chengli as well.

“We were just wondering the same thing about you,” answered one of the squad leaders.

“Did you even know we were under attack?” Sunflower followed up.

It was clear that she was stressed with Grizz, and tried her best to hide her frustration with him. But her body language and her strained voice gave her away.


“Of course I knew,” he snapped. “But you all took care of it, right? So why did I need to go out there? I still had work to do here. Work that you’re all now impeding.”

Sunflower rolled her eyes at him. A real leader would have been out there. Or put together a defense. Or, at the very, very least, reached out and checked in. Grizz just hid in his tent and didn’t utter a peep.

“Anyway,” she said coldly, “we’re here to vote for the unit leader going forward.”

Grizz eyes immediately turned red, and his voice turned hostile quickly.

“The hell you say,” he said. “I’m the unit leader! Me! Got it? I was first on site, so I get first dibs. That’s how the galaxy works!”

The other squad leaders, Eva and Chengli included, flinched as they saw Grizz’ tantrum starting to blow. He was provoked so easily, and only after a few light words from Sunflower. Reasoning with him was going to be difficult, to say the least.

The two of them had experienced this sort of behavior in their lives, many times over. Their reaction had always been to step aside and suffer the indignity of dealing with an aggressive, power-hungry narcissist.

It was a difficult reaction to resist, even now in their new lives.

Eva had to actively fight with herself, to force herself to face this self-centered, self-serving, self-aggrandizing terror.

Her heart thumped wildly in her chest as she egged herself on to confront him. Her hands shook from the adrenaline, so she forced herself to calm down by controlling her breathing.

Inhale. Exhale.


“If you’re so great,” she said, “then you don’t have anything to worry about when we vote, right?”

“And who the hell gave you the right to talk?” Grizz roared.

“We’re all the same rank, squad leader Grizz,” said Chengli.

After Eva had spoken up, he decided to back her up. He had felt the same way, and needed to stand up and help subdue Grizz. Not just for himself and Eva, but for everyone else in the room.

Too many people had been trampled on by men like Grizz. He and his ilk were all too common, and it was up to them to fight back against their bullshit.

He also pushed his anger down and tried to maintain calm rationality, but it was tough.

Both of them wanted nothing more than to beat Grizz into a pulp, but that wasn’t really a solution. It was impossible to try to beat maturity into anyone, especially men like him.

Eva understood that more than anyone.

“We all have the same right to talk,” Chengli continued. “Or are you trying to say that our ranks don’t mean anything? Or that perhaps your rank somehow means more than everyone else’s?”

Grizz was frozen on the spot. He didn’t know how to respond to Chengli. He obviously couldn’t refute that they all held the same rank. Because of that, he couldn’t continue to suppress them. He glanced at both Eva and Chengli, a cold fury whirled behind his eyes.

He held dark thoughts about the two of them as his anger subsided a little.

“Fine,” he said gruffly. “Vote as much as you like. I’ll still obviously be unit leader at the end of it. No-one else can match my strength or my determination.”

The other squad leaders scoffed silently at him. They had experienced Eva and Chengli assault an enemy squadron while outnumbered, or at least experienced the aftermath of it. Those two had displayed true grit, and they inwardly laughed at the idea that Grizz’ temerity could even come close.

“Great,” said a squad leader. “I’ll cast my vote now for unit leader... and I choose squad leader Freya.”

Many of the other squad leaders quickly agreed, and cast their votes for her as well. Even Sunflower and Chengli had put her name forward. By the end, Eva had collected eleven votes, while Grizz received four. Chengli came in last with a single vote from Eva.

Eva’s eyes were wide with shock. Why her? They barely knew her. She was a tried and true solo player. She rarely grouped up, and most definitely never went to do any raids, much less lead one.

Suddenly, she found herself as the unit leader? What the hell?! This wasn’t what she signed up for in the slightest!

She quickly came to the conclusion that her headstrong assault was probably what prompted them to vote for her. There was a huge flaw in her assault which they didn’t notice, and she opened her mouth to say –

“This is bullshit!” Grizz yelled suddenly.

He had silently been stewing in his chair as the vote had passed around. When it came time for him to vote, it was already clear that he had lost. But he went through the motions anyway.

He voted for himself, and glared at his lackeys to do the same. In the end, he got his four votes mostly through coercion, and not a single one of them felt satisfying. Deep down, he knew he had lost every vote but his own.

Having reality shoved into his face was unbearable. To a narcissist, the facade was everything. Losing it meant that they often went into damage control. And Grizz was in full-on dissociation mode, and started to deny the reality that was right in front of him.

Narcissists were their own tragic victims.

It’s my right to be the unit leader! he yelled at himself inwardly. I got the orders first! I was here first! That means I was chosen to lead everyone! Now they ruined it all’

“You petty, small-minded, insignificant bitches!” he continued. “You all think she’s so great? That she’s better than me? Why? ‘Coz she’s hot? It can’t be because she’s smarter or stronger than me, that’s for sure! So go ahead and make her your precious leader! You’re all gonna fail Hell Week without me anyway!”

Red-faced out of anger and humiliation, Grizz stormed out of the tent. He cursed and stomped along the way, and projected his temperament like a spoiled child. His lackeys sheepishly followed right behind him.

Thoughts of revenge against the other squad leaders swirled and danced around Grizz’ head as he tromped towards the hangar where his squadron was stationed. He imagined tearing them limb from limb and throwing the parts out into the vast Martian wastes.

He had especially dark thoughts reserved for Eva, who he wanted to pay back the most for having taken his position.

Little did he know that in his own hangar, his own cadets had their own thoughts about Eva.

The six cadets who were stationed in the western guard post were relieved of their duties and ordered to rest. After what they had gone through, the best thing for them was to recuperate and recover, especially psychologically.

People had always been susceptible to trauma, especially in the face of a terrible, brutal, or violent attack. Those who were hit the hardest often fell the deepest, and were never cured of their afflictions.

But these cadets weren’t freaked out, at least not to the point where they were irreversibly traumatized. They shared what they had gone through, and what they felt when they were constantly under fire.

Under the barrage of the drone mecha, they had felt completely helpless and defeated. They felt like they were on the precipice of an infinite cliff, and were on the verge of falling. But right at the end, someone caught them and yanked them back.

And then they recounted their experiences with Eva and Chengli. Cadets just like them swooped in and devastated the drone mecha. They were awestruck by their speed and precision, at how easily they dismantled them.

The other cadets were too curious and asked them every question they could think of – how they fought, what their loadouts were, how long the fight took.

“What was her name?” asked someone.

“Freya,” a cadet quickly answered. “She was like a goddess out on the battlefield, I swear. If they allowed us to transfer squadrons, I would in a heartbeat. I’d follow her anywhere.”


“I’m not a leader,” said Eva.

There were hints of frustration in her voice, and some of the other squad leaders had picked up on it. Still, they didn’t ease up on her and looked at her with pleading eyes.

“Look,” she continued, “I really, truly appreciate your votes, but I’m not... you need a... I’ve got kind of a chaotic mind and an impetuous heart, okay? You need someone straight-laced and strategic, and that’s Zhulong over here.”

Chengli quickly shot her a glare. ‘Don’t use me as a shield!’ it said.

“Suck it up!” said Sunflower. “We all recognize that you’re best suited to lead us, considering what you accomplished with those hostile drones.”

Eva quickly retorted, “I honestly don’t think running headfirst into a hail of bullets is a very wise thing for any leader to do. I really hope you don’t, either.”

She had already prepared to give this argument, and she believed it to be completely true. Only a maniac would willingly throw themselves in harm’s way, especially if others were counting on them.

“Fair enough,” Sunflower replied. “But you didn’t exactly charge in there blindly. We all saw the battlefield – the both of you had torn them to shreds with superior tactics! If you had tried to use blunt force, your wing would’ve been turned to slag.”

The other squad leaders murmured in agreement.

“I voted for you because you had no friendly casualties,” chimed in another squad leader. “Hell, your squadron was barely damaged.”

“According to our intel, we’re facing a numerically superior enemy like you just did,” said yet another. “If they attacked right now, they’d probably roll over us...”

“But we believe with you at the lead, we can make it,” added Sunflower.

“We need the toughest to get us through Hell Week, to be honest,” said Chengli. “And that’s you, by the way.”

Eva stood there with her mouth agape. She was stunned! They all attacked her mercilessly, and forced her to take the unit leader role. Chengli’s compliment combined with his warm smile was like the one-two finishing move that made her kiss the mat.

It was a bloodbath. Eva was dismantled so easily.

She closed her mouth and pursed her lips as she looked down at the round holo-table. She watched as wings of holographic drone mecha patrolled around a holographic drone hangar.

Then she looked up at all the other squad leaders, all of whom stood around the holo-table as well. She saw the lines of worry they had on their faces contrasted against the hope set deep in their eyes.

Eva sighed deeply.

“Alright,” she said. “But I’ll need all your support! I’m not the best at this, in fact, I’m probably the worst.”

“We’re here for you, unit leader,” Chengli said with a grin. “We’re your humble, obedient, loyal squad leaders. Just tell us what you desire, and we’ll use everything in our power to make it true.”

Her face flushed as he teased her, the obvious over-the-top pseudo-fawning clearly dug into her. The other squad leaders chuckled at the sight as she tried to ignore what he said. But deep down, Eva felt incredibly frazzled and disarmed.

She vowed to make Chengli pay for it later...


“Quit teasing Freya,” said Sunflower, “and besides, we need to get to work.”

“Yes, right,” Eva blurted out. “How about we discuss our squadrons first? Once we all get a better idea of what we’re fighting with, we’ll be better suited to deal with what we’re fighting against.”

Eva and Chengli went first and broke down their squadron. They were essentially a light assault squadron that could adapt to situations quickly. Flexibility and speed was their key.

Sunflower’s squadron was mostly designed to support. They had three wings, two of whom were reconnaissance, while the other was infiltration.

The other two squadrons had also revealed the training they had gone through, and they had seven wings between them. Four of them were standard infantry, while the remaining three were dedicated to cyberwarfare, demolitions, and repair/resupply.

All in all, they had a very wide array of skills they could utilize, and Eva found it rather enlightening.

While the enemy drones were powerful, they were also severely limited. There were only a handful of types, and their defensive capabilities were average at best. Even their evasive maneuvers were easy enough to predict.

The cadets were the opposite. They had middling firepower, but had greater flexibility. This gave them the ability to respond to any threat. More than that, they could create threats that their enemy couldn’t respond to, or even counter.

This was their key to beating Hell Week.

As a group, they quickly reorganized their wings and squadrons to fully take advantage of their strengths and weaknesses. They quickly loaned their cadets to the specialized wings to reinforce and strengthen them.

For example, all the units pooled their repair/resupply units into the one r/r wing. Not only did this help concentrate their efforts, but it significantly expanded their expertise. They were able to share their knowledge with each other, and this boosted their capabilities many times over.

They also designated names for their squadrons in an attempt to help delineate them from each other. Unique names simply helped them stay organized, which was especially helpful on the battlefield.

They decided on a theme of mythical flying creatures. They liked the idea of filling in the shoes of ancient beings.

“I’ll take Gryphon,” said Sunflower. “I’ve always liked the whole lion and eagle vibe.”

“Should we name Grizz’ squadron for him?” asked a squad leader. “We could name it cockatrice. Loud, obnoxious, has a death stare...”

“Anyone gonna claim Thunderbird?” said another squad leader. “If not, my squadron’s taking it.”

The three squadrons quickly decided on Roc, Gryphon, and Thunderbird. If Grizz’ and his lackey’s squadrons joined them, they were free to choose their own.

Eva and Chengli had decided on Nightraven. When Nightmare had called her a raven along with Miko, it kind of stuck with her. In the back of her mind, she had been ruminating on ravens, crows, rooks, and other corvidae.

She loved their intelligence and cunning, as well as their symbolism across multiple cultures.

The nightraven specifically was an ancient beast in Norse and Germanic mythology. In those myths, anyone who saw a nightraven either died instantly, or fell ill from infection. And if children spotted one, they would have been abducted, dismembered, and eaten.

Eva didn’t quite feel a kinship with that image, but the name Nightraven resounded strongly with her, plus it fit with the theme. The name worked for now, but she was certain that she wasn’t going to keep it.

After they had picked out names, they quickly moved on to more important things. They quickly organized a new defensive perimeter, increased fortifications, and upped the guards at the posts. They also implemented regular patrols to keep them alert at all times.

They needed to do two things most. The first was to get the other two squadrons to let go of their bullshit and work with them. The second was to fully understand their opponents’ numbers before they could commit to any attack.

The squad leaders were adamant that both of those criteria needed to be achieved in order to make it through Hell Week with little to no casualties.

On one hand, they needed to convince a narcissist to gain humility.

And on the other, they needed to infiltrate deep into the enemy hangar, which they feared was filled to the brim with drone mecha.

Eva honestly believed she could do the second without doing the first, but none of the others were having it.

Like a good leader, she listened.

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