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provided by Adam Keith (lk0001@jove.acs.unt.edu)

Nara Burns, several kilometers away from her family's ruined farm and from the Venusian capital of Vesta, lands outside of the cave used as headquarters for the Venusian resistance. She enters the cave and calls out to her brother James, but is greeted instead by an woman named Linda, an old family friend. Nara is shocked by how malnourished Linda and her son appear, and she gives each of them one of her ration bars. Linda explains that James and the others had just left to trade three exotroopers to the Neosapiens for food, telling Nara how desperate for supplies the whole band has been ever since the occupation. Moved by the sight of her starving friend, Nara throws down an entire case of rations from her E-frame, prompting Linda to tell her that James'rendezvous with the Neosapiens would take place at the Spires of Selene. Nara thanks Linda for her help and then takes off toward the Spires, leaving Linda and her son behind quietly eating the rations.

Just as Nara picks up the Spires of Selene in the distance on her scanner, J.T., Alec, Marsala, and their captors arrive there on foot. Nara lands her E-frame next to the group and leaps out, shouting her brother's name. The resistance leader turns around and sees her, and the two embrace before Nara begins pleading with him not to trade her friends for food. Nara announces that he is her brother James, startling J.T. and prompting Marsala to observe, "It is a small solar system." Marsala's musings are interrupted by the approach and landing of several Neosapien shuttles a few hundred meters away. A door on one shuttle opens and a large Neosapien walks out, giving General Draconis' greetings to the gathered humans. James curtly dismisses the Neosapien's introduction and demands to know where the food is, to which the Neosapien responds by pointing to a large cargo shuttle and stating, "We have brought more than enough." J.T. tries again to convince James that working with the Exofleet is the only way to help his people, but succeeds only in provoking another anti-Exofleet tirade from him. The Neosapien breaks up the argument, reminding James of the transaction to be completed, and Nara pleads with her brother not to go through with the trade. He refuses to back down, citing the fact that the Terrans on Venus are starving. When Nara declares that James will have to trade her to the Neosapiens as well, he calls off the deal. The Neosapien laughs and states, "Did you really think General Draconis would bargain with a Terran?" before walking back to the shuttles.

Suddenly, the side of the cargo shuttle opens, releasing several Neosapien E-frames and well-armed soldiers that move toward the resistance fighters and begin showering the area with laser blasts. Alec flings himself to the ground and grabs a fallen blaster rifle and quickly drops two of the advancing Neosapien soldiers. Another soldier smashes the butt of his blaster rifle into James' chest, sending him flying to the ground, but Marsala rushes the soldier and checks him to the ground. J.T. dodges blaster fire and leaps into the cockpit of Nara's empty E-frame, then blasts a Neosapien E-frame about to crush James underfoot. He fires a missile into another Neosapien, sending the E-frame crashing back into two others, disabling all three. James shouts out for everyone to fall back and retreat, and two of his men pick up Alec and Nara as they blast off with their jetpacks. Marsala finds one of James' men, wounded and unconscious, and removes his jetpack, attaching it to himself. He picks up the wounded man and lifts off, joining James and the others. J.T. starts running and blasts off in Nara's E-frame, leaving the Neosapiens behind.

Saved by the unexpected presence of Nara's heavy E-frame, the Exofleet pilots and the resistance fighters meet back at the cave, where James reconciles with Marsh and agrees to fight the war against Phaeton and Draconis together. Nara observes the still-starving families in the cave with regret, but J.T. consoles her by assuring her that they and the Exofleet will be able to help.

In orbit of Venus, the rest of Able Squad under Sergeant Torres continues circling and awaiting some response from Lieutenant Burns when Bronski, flying DeLeon's "goofy E-frame," is hailed by Marsh from the surface. J.T. records a message to send to Admiral Winfield on the Resolute, and Wolf quickly sends it through to the Exofleet, stationed somewhere between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.

On the bridge of the Resolute, Admiral Winfield and Captain Marcus watch silently as Marsh informs them of the destruction of the farmland and the systematic starvation of those remaining in hiding. When the message ends, Winfield says he did not know how dismal the situation was on Venus. The admiral tells Bronski to relay to Marsh that the Exofleet would gladly help evacuate the resistance from Venus in return for their assistance in taking down the GRAF shield. Winfield orders a section of the fleet, including the Resolute, to proceed to Venus at full speed.

Inside the central GRAF facility in Vesta, a Neosapien guard escorts the captured Diana to the laboratory of Xenobius and Algernon. Outside the chamber, Diana complains to the guard about Draconis' unwillingness to let her talk to Xenobius, asking, "What's he afraid of, that I'll kidnap Xenobius?" She snatches the guard's blaster from its holster and shoots him, and then adds with a bit of laughably unprofessional dramatic flair, "He'd be right." Diana enters the lab and blasts the keypad inside, then turning her blaster on Xenobius and Algernon. Xenobius recognizes her from his captivity on Earth and asks what she wants; Diana replies simply that the GRAF shield must be stopped, to which Algernon scoffs, "Science cannot be stopped!" Diana swings the blaster into his face and counters, "But a scientist can."

Minutes later, with Xenobius bound to a chair and Algernon still at gunpoint, Diana tries to come up with a plan. Algernon interjects his rough calculation of Diana's odds of survival being close to three hundred million to one, but Diana silences him and tries to contact someone from Exofleet. Marsh responds and Diana informs him that she has Algernon inside the GRAF facility, asking him to look for her outside the building in less than an hour. Diana then becomes aware of a large hole slowly being melted through the door to the lab and cuts off the communication with Marsh. Algernon informs Diana that the door she came in through is the only one out of the room, but before she can respond, the door gives way and several Neosapien guards jump in, blasters flaring.

Diana fires back at the guards but is quickly downed by a hit to the shoulder. Shortly afterwards, Draconis steps through the slagged door and announces, "It is as I suspected. Shiva's Terran spy turns out to be a saboteur." Hoisting her into the air, he informs her of what is done to traitors, adding, "I promise you, your death will be particularly unpleasant." As she is dragged off by Draconis' men, Diana calls out promises of human victory over Phaeton's regime, but Draconis reminds her that she will never see such things, even if they do come to pass. The guards remove Diana from the room, and she is never seen again.

Draconis approaches Xenobius, freed from his bindings by one of the guards, and explains to him that Diana's actions have proven his point that humans cannot be trusted. He informs Xenobius that, effective immediately, no humans will be allowed in the GRAF laboratory and that Algernon will be confined to his quarters. Xenobius, fearing being exposed as a fraud, protests and insists that Algernon's assistance is valuable to his work, but Draconis refuses and informs him that "Neosapiens do not require the help of Terrans." Draconis leaves and Algernon tells Xenobius that the shield has been completed, and that all that Xenobius needs to do is to find the switch. The guards escort Algernon out of the laboratory and to his quarters, leaving behind a terrified Xenobius.

Meanwhile, as night falls outside the GRAF complex, Marsh searches for Diana and Algernon with his field binoculars, but finds no trace. Assuming that she was unable to escape, DeLeon radios the resistance and orders them to proceed with plan B. On the other side of the base, James Burns and his men blast off and fly to the central dome of the complex. Two of the resistance fighters shoot out a catwalk from beneath one patrolling guard, who falls to the ground hundreds of meters below. James slaps a mine on to the surface of the dome and blasts away from it seconds before it explodes, causing a section of the dome to collapse and drawing the attention of every guard in the base.

From his position on a ledge just outside the GRAF complex, J.T. sees the explosion and orders his troops to attack, with himself, Alec and Marsala on foot followed closely by Nara in her heavy E-frame. The four break through the perimeter, dodging fire from a massive gun tower atop one of the smaller domes. Nara pulls up below the tower and fires a missile into its base, breaking its supports and causing it to topple to the ground.

Several buildings away, James and his men take up position outside the main entrance of one of the complex's buildings, picking off Neosapien guards as they dash out. Several guards make it out of the door and shoot back from behind nearby walls and crates, and James tells his men to keep holding the Neosapiens off in order to give J.T. enough time to capture Algernon. Back by the fallen gun tower, J.T., Alec and Marsala blast their way into one of the main buildings, leaving Nara behind in her E-frame to cover their escape. The three troopers blast their way through several guards and begin searching for Algernon's quarters.

In one of the smaller laboratories, Algernon is startled by the sound of blasters, grumbling, "What are the fools up to now?" He tries to page someone but is cut off when Alec, J.T. and Marsala blast through the door and run into the room, dodging fire coming from pursuing guards. As J.T. quips, "Doctor Algernon, I presume?" Alec takes up position just inside the door and begins blasting back the Neosapien guards. Marsala explains to Algernon that they have come to take him to Exofleet, at which Algernon scoffs, "I offered my inventions to the Exofleet! They said they were too expensive." Marsala growls, "Times have changed," adding that they are unwilling to let him continue working for the Neosapiens. Algernon rebuts that his allegiance is to his work, not the Neosapiens, but J.T. counters by asking how much longer Algernon thinks he will be allowed to work for the Neosapiens at all.

Algernon winces, remembering Draconis' earlier decree, but Alec cuts into the argument, momentarily pausing from shooting at the approaching guards to shout, "I can't hold them off forever!" Algernon tells J.T. that the GRAF shield has already been completed and that all remains is for Xenobius to activate it, and J.T. realizes with horror that the Exofleet is heading directly into a trap as it approaches Venus.

At the GRAF control center in Vesta, Draconis informs Xenobius of a Exofleet battle group approaching Venus and orders the launch of all fighters and E-frames to intercept the fleet. He then orders Xenobius to prepare to activate the GRAF shield on his command, rejoicing in the imminent destruction of the Exofleet and the Venusian resistance.

Outside the main building, James and his fellow resistance troops continue keeping the Neosapien guards from advancing. Suddenly, hundreds of Y-wing fighters take off from a nearby hangar and blast into orbit; James radios J.T. and informs him of the launching fighters and that the Exofleet must be very near to Venus. J.T. orders James to fall back to the rendezvous point, wishing him good luck. The resistance troops take to the skies with their jetpacks and retreat out of the Neosapien complex.

In Algernon's lab, J.T. and Marsala search desperately for some way to prevent the GRAF shield from destroying the Exofleet while a fatigued Alec continues guarding the door, blasting wave after wave of guards. Algernon states that all the controls for the shield are in the main center, but when Marsala asks him if he did all of his programming there, Algernon grins and realizes, "Of course not! The shield cannot be destroyed, but it can be redirected...if there's time." Standing in the corridor and trying to blunt another Neosapien assault, Alec barks, "Time is one thing we're short of!"

On the bridge of the Resolute, rapidly approaching Venus orbit, Captain Marcus reports multiple E-frames and fighters rising from Venus to intercept the fleet, and then snaps at Admiral Winfield, "I thought you said Venus was lightly defended!" Winfield retorts that the inbounds are not the Neosapiens'main fleet and that the Exofleet will have to fight its way through. Winfield orders all guns to open fire, and the massive laser batteries on Resolute and the other capital ships let loose with volley after volley being fired into the advancing mass of Neosapiens.

The initial blasts destroy dozens of E-frames and fighters, but dozens more make it through and open up on the fleet. A group of E-frames fires off several six-packs of missiles at a light cruiser, the Newton, severely damaging it. Captain Marcus announces this on the Resolute's bridge, complaining that the Neosapiens are "swarming all over us!" Winfield gives an order to assume a defensive formation, and the fleet gathers around and behind the bulk of the Resolute as the capital ships of the Neosapien Venus fleet arrive.

Suddenly, one of the attacking Neosapien fighters explodes and Kaz Takagi blasts by its wreckage in his fighter, shouting triumphantly. Torres, right behind him, hails the Resolute and announces that her squad is attacking, which receives a clipped "Good hunting, Sergeant!" from the admiral. Torres destroys another Y-wing just as Bronski, looking strangely out of place in DeLeon's comm E-frame, gets behind two others and blows them away. Nearby, Weston destroys several retreating fighters with deflection shots as the Neosapiens pull back a sizeable distance away from the Exofleet. Kaz sees the fighters hovering inactive near the main Neosapien fleet and asks, "What are they waiting for?"

At the GRAF facility, Draconis states that the fleet has pulled back to safety and orders Xenobius to activate the shield. Xenobius hesitates for a moment but then pushes a lever, causing massive orange tendrils of energy to shoot out from Vesta toward the Exofleet, slowly enveloping the entire fleet. As the field intensifies, the battered Newton is the first ship to go, crumpling and then exploding moments before another damaged cruiser explodes. On the Resolute, cans of food in the mess hall burst open and the crew collapses in pain as the field grows stronger and stronger.

Algernon states that his targeting adjustments should redirect the GRAF shield's energy away from the Exofleet, and he quickly uploads the program. In the control center, Draconis silently watches the GRAF display as the orange aura around the Resolute and the Exofleet suddenly and inexplicably dissipates and shifts across the vacuum to the Neosapien Venus home fleet. His eyes flare as he realizes what has happened. At the same time, the GRAF field, now at full strength, sweeps across space and reaches the Neosapien fleet, instantly vaporizing its capital ships and fighters. Draconis barks, "Your invention has destroyed the wrong fleet!" at Xenobius, frozen in shock by what the shield has done.

In the lab, Algernon announces that he has hidden his targeting adjustments from the Neosapiens and that the GRAF shield should be rendered useless to them for some time. Marsala and Marsh join up with DeLeon in the hallway as another group of guards starts firing at them while Algernon hides in the corner of the lab. Suddenly, Nara's E-frame blasts a hole in the wall from the outside, and the three troopers hop on just before she takes off (Algernon is on Marsala's back).

Draconis and Xenobius stand with several guards in front of a projection of Phaeton in the command center as Phaeton tells Xenobius he spent billions for the GRAF shield. Until the problem is discovered the Earth shield will be de-actived. Xenobius meekly protests that the accident was not his fault, but Phaeton lashes back, "You are the inventor of the GRAF shield! You promised me it would work! Whose fault could it be but yours?" Xenobius whispers, "No one's." Phaeton orders the guards to take Xenobius away, and he is never seen again. Phaeton then turns his attention to Draconis, whom he informs that a part of the Earth Fleet has been diverted to Venus to protect it until replacements for the Venus Fleet can be constructed. He finishes by adding, "Try not to destroy it, or you'll be joining Xenobius."

At the resistance camp, a shuttle from the Resolute touches down while the four exotroopers say their goodbyes. James informs J.T. that his men have decided to stay on Venus and continue the fight, so J.T. and Marsala present him with dozens of crates full of rations. James thanks him and says, "You've got to know, this isn't the way any of us wanted it." "Wars are like that, kid. You do what you gotta do." J.T. and Marsala return to the shuttle and climb aboard. Nara comes up to James, who asks her to stay with him on Venus. Nara says that she can't, that her job is with Exofleet. Nara kisses James on the cheek, and the two say farewell. As he watches Nara's E-frame streak away into the sky, James whispers, "I'll make you proud of me."

Credit goes to: Patrick Danner's ExoSquad page.

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