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.The warships swooped in over machine strongholds, dropping swarms of pulse explosives that emitted bursts of destructive Holtzman energy.“All scramblers deployed, Primero,” Faykan transmitted.“The main city is ready for our second phase.”Quentin smiled.In orbit, the first group of robotic warships ineffectually slammed into the Jihad ships, more of a nuisance than a threat, so long as the Holtzman shields did not overheat.He redeployed his forces.“Javelins, descend into the atmosphere.All projectile batteries prepare for bombardment from above.Tell the Ginaz shock troops to gather their pulse-swords and get ready to scour the city.I expect them to remove all vestiges of machine resistance down there.”His subcommanders acknowledged, and the primero sat back in his command seat as the huge battleships closed in to secure their conquest.* * *QUENTIN BUTLER’S ARMORED vehicle crunched through the debris in the main machine city, carrying the conquering commander forward.He surveyed the devastation, saddened by the waste of a beautiful planet.Factories and industrial lines spread out across a landscape that once had been agricultural fields.Liberated human slaves ran about in the streets, dazed, seeking shelter, breaking free of their holding pens, abandoning labor lines where guardian robots now hung stunned and useless after the pulse bombardment from the skies.Quentin was reminded of the liberation of Parmentier, early in his career.On Parmentier, the stricken people had been unable to believe that the thinking machines were finally vanquished.Now, in the years of prosperity since he’d ceded temporary governorship of the reconquered planet to Rikov, the people worshipped Quentin and the Butler Brothers as saviors.But these Honru survivors did not shout or cheer as Quentin had anticipated; they seemed too surprised to know how to react….Groups of sharp-eyed mercenaries and swordmasters raced forward into the remaining battle zones.Too independent, they would never make a good organized combat unit, but the mercenaries were effective solo fighters and crack demolition troops.They sought out any robot that still functioned.Unprotected work machines and sentinels, considered expendable by the evermind, had been destroyed during the first pulse bombardment.But now combat meks came out, still fighting though they were clearly damaged and disoriented.Wielding pulse-swords, the swift and deadly mercenaries eliminated their enemies one by one.From his jouncing command vehicle, Quentin could see the armored citadel through which the Omnius evermind linked itself to the city.To reach this primary target, the Ginaz mercenaries fought like whirlwinds, pushing their way closer and closer, heedless of their own danger.Quentin heaved a sigh.If only he’d had more men like that fifteen years ago for the second defense of Ix, he would not have lost so many fighters and civilians.Vowing that Omnius would not retake any world that the Army of the Jihad had freed, Quentin had driven back the machine incursion at great, but necessary, cost.He had been trapped in an underground cave-in himself, nearly buried alive before his rescue….That battle had strengthened his reputation as a hero and earned him more accolades than he knew what to do with.Now, as the mercenaries swept through the Honru city, another ragtag group of humans came forward, surprising him.These people carried hastily created banners, thrown together from rags, paint, and whatever they could scrounge from the city.Chanting and cheering, they cried out the name of martyred Serena Butler.Though they had few effective weapons, they threw themselves into the fight.Quentin watched from his command vehicle.He had encountered Martyrists before.Apparently, even here on oppressed Honru, captive humans talked quietly of the Priestess of the Jihad, her murdered baby, and the first Grand Patriarch.News had probably been carried to them by new prisoners from recently conquered League Worlds.In captivity, they had secretly prayed to the Three Martyrs, hoping their angels might come down from Heaven and strike Omnius dead.On Unallied Planets, free League Worlds, and even here under the oppression of Omnius rule, people swore to sacrifice themselves for the greater cause of mankind— just the way Serena, Manion the Innocent, and Iblis Ginjo had done.Now the Martyrists surged forward, galvanized [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]