Friday, February 26, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 4

The Lady of Holy Fire could not, and did not, conceal her befuddlement. Here was this man, Agent Delgana, obviously a veteran of many missions and yet he wore this plain gray wardrobe- not one item denoting status or honors of any kind. The man's behavior did not match his appearance, but she could not read him at all- unlike all other men she'd ever met, she could not so much as figure out a verbal tick or nervous reflex. Her failure unsettled her, and she unthinkingly hoped for calm until her husband could assist her.

Homsar, on the other hand, read her dismay clearly. He noticed her attempts to pierce his screens and read him, but concealed his satisfaction at her failure to do so. As she kept up the appearance of disinterest and formality, so did he in turn maintain a persona of similar disinterest. He noticed tells of authority and status in her body language, attire and tone of voice; all this spoke of a woman wanting to cow intruders and natives alike into a subordinate stance. Yet something caught his notice, a tick, that seemed out of place for this woman- a very familiar tick that he'd seen in women he'd roped into custody and turned against their criminal lovers.

"Your husband, madam, is the man responsible for this place?"

The Lady smiled and nodded affirmatively. "The Blessed Lord is indeed, as your people say, exactly what is on the tin?"

A clumsy use of alien idioms, meant to simultaneously mock and humanize- something is wrong here. Homsar noted that fact as a servant entered with refreshments, poured water into vessels, and gave one each to his mistress and then to Homsar. He used his sense of perception to detect the agent therein, and then quaffed it. This drugging seemed normal to his hostess, and he noticed the drug's slowing of his body. Sensing the expected reaction, he took up a comfortable chair and reclined.

"Space is not always kind to travelers." he said, and let his body lapse into slumber.

The Lady waited a few minutes, but when Homsar didn't revive she rose to her feet and summon another servant. That lizardman fled swiftly for her husband, all the while unaware that Homsar remained alert.

Homsar let his potent mind, and its sense of perception that surpassed human limits, fly far and wide. Following the servant, Homsar came to perceive the master of this place: The Blessed Lord. He dismissed a council of high-ranking lizardmen quickly, some of whom Homsar perceived to be highly-educated in the arts and sciences--the attire and accouterments revealed such capacity--and then bore daggers at the servant, now shivering where it stood.

"Master." the servant said, "Your mate is with the outlander. He slumbers, drugged as we did so many others. Yet Mistress is ill at ease and requires your presence; something about this one unnerved her significantly."

"Return. I shall attend her presently." the Blessed Lord said, and he wanted for the servant to depart. Then, taking up a dimly-glowing stone into the palm of his hand, he held it before his face and stared at the symbol carved into its face. "I call to you, Brilliant Shield. Attend and answer!"

A moment later, the face of a man-like figure with the pointed ears and green eyes of both the Lady and the Blessed Lord appeared before him- a man arrayed in archaic, glittering plate armor like a time-displaced fairie knight.

"Blessed Lord, I attend and answer." the figure said, "What pleases you today, sir?"

"Did you notice the outlander that arrived not long ago?"

The figure nodded.

"I shall send you the location of the outlander's boat. Take the Legion and secure it. Disable it if you can. Once you've done this, report to me directly."

"As you command, Blessed Lord."

The image disappeared. The Lord took up another and summoned one of the lizardmen masters he'd met with immediately before.

"We have another visitor, Master of the Flesh." he said, "If my wife is correct, he may be the most powerful one yet."

"Master, conversion may prove difficult if this is so." the lizardman said, "We may have to resort to more distasteful methods of making use of this one."

"You are authorized to fork his mind and retune as necessary before resleeving into a more suitable form. Be certain that you retune properly before you take that step; if he is as potent as my wife suspects, then he may resist harmonization."

"If he is as strong as you suspect, master, he may be recruited instead to your ranks. The Lord of Dragons may insist upon it, and he has yet to be wrong about his decisions."

The Blessed Lord nodded.

"Carry on, Flesh Master." the Blessed Lord said, and he dismissed the image.

Homsar followed the Blessed Lord as the latter came to where the Lady and his body reside.

"Still nothing?" the Lord said as he entered the room.

"Nothing at all. He sleeps deep and peacefully."

"His mission? Is he also looking into our excursions?"

"No, love." she said, holding him tightly, "He's looking for corpses from the war, to return them to their families, as well as any living survivors."

That stopped the Lord cold.

"He must never know about our son. I would rather pass him the ashes of our old lives, hand him all that there remains of that existence, and let him go in peace; we can keep him away from our preparations and training runs long enough to maintain our schedule, but if he ever discovers Edhel then we are exposed and he must meet the same fate as the other agents."

That was enough for Homsar. While still drugged, he reached out with his mind to the Admiralty of the Galactic Republic- wherein he found his aging friend in his aging office.

"Admiral!" Homsar said, half a galaxy away and entirely by telepathy, "You are not going to believe this one. Sit down, old man, and get ready for some potent dope."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 3

"Welcome to the Dominion of the Dragonsworn, Agent Delgana."

Homsar looked upon this near-human woman, this twig of an almost-girl, as an adult looks upon a child pretending to be an adult.

"What brings you to our world?" she said, "Such urgency and curtness surely means that your task is severe in its importance."

Homsar still thought the slim, lithe thing before him to be not as she appeared, but he as yet could get past her thought shield- or those of her giant lizardman servants.

"I come to collect the remnants of the Republic's recent war. We sent a unit here to establish a hospital, which came under enemy attack, and was later destroyed. Those stationed here were lost, presumed dead, but neither confirmed nor denied. I am here to do just that; I will collect remains, survivors and descendants and return them to the Republic where they belong. Assistance is appreciated, which is why I am here. My time, however, is highly valuable; I have none to waste on useless status displays."

The Lady of Holy Fire scowled. She turned about abruptly, harrumphed, and walked back inside. As her armed servants turned to follow she motioned Homsar to follow, and he did. Behind him the doors closed. He turned his attention briefly to what his armor's display showed to him, which was that this was a mostly-manufactured system of caverns and tunnels based upon an existing natural network. Within it he sensed the minds of a legion of lizard-like beings; from the prosaic thoughts he picked up, these seemed to be the underclass--peons, serfs, slaves, covey labor--of this alien species. The warriors seemed to be of a superior breed, commensurate with superior consideration of their value as shown by the thought shields they sport concealed in their garb- a shield also concealed in the Lady's scanty garb.

"We Dragonsworn remember your war, Agent Delgana." she said, "We were not impressed, which is why we kept our distance and remained aloof from it until this incident you come to close out came to our world."

"Indeed." the veteran said, not appearing to pay attention. His mind now perceived another mind out there, another of these leaders apparently, briefly before his mind also disappeared behind a screen.

"You have a mate?" he said, his eyes looking elsewhere.

"My husband, the Lord of the Blessed Land as our people call him in your tongue, is in conference with several of our people's masters. He shall receive you presently."

"And what, madam, is a 'Dragonsworn'?" he continued, keeping his disinterested demeanor going.

"These beings are the spawn of a great and ancient progenitor, whom my husband and I met in our adventures and befriended after quite some time together. 'Dragon', in your tongue, is the most apt term for our patron and friend's species. We are the allies, friends, students- and, yes, you might say adopted children- of this being. We rules over its lesser progeny in its name, having no homeland of our own anymore."

"Fascinating." Homsar said, maintaining his mood, "Whence did you two come from?"

"A world that, as our anatomy suggests, is very much like your homeworld. However, that was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is gone, those lives forsaken, and we've come since to become very happy here in our new home, taking up roles of our own making."

The group continued on a little ways longer, until they arrived in what Homsar took to be the living quarters of his hostess and her husband. Therein he noted that the couple had at least one child, likely on the cusp of maturity, and then he spotted a most intriguing detail: a picture of a Terran woman.

Now affirmed in his suspicion, Homsar silently settled on a course of action- and it began with an act most ironic for those unable to pierce his own inherent screens: he shut down his armor and stepped out of it.

"I accept your hospitality." he said, and smiled.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 2

Homsar answered the automated signal informing him that he approached his destination. He strapped himself into his pilot's chair, took hold of the controls and disengaged the automatic driver. A moment later, he switched drives and his ship went inert with that sudden whump that comes with emerging back into normal space. A moment later and Homsar matched his velocity to that of the planet he now had on scope- all part of the normal planetary approach procedure. It occurred to him that, just twenty years ago, this was what the deserting pilot, a man named Michael saw just before he engaged the enemy.

Homsar calmly, carefully put his ship into a high orbit over the planet and move to a scan of the planet. Immediately, signs of habitation--significant settlement--showed and Homsar furrowed his brow; this was just the sort of development that he figured would happen. In his mind, the plan immediately changed; instead of landing near the site of the lost hospital, he would now seek out the largest settlement and contact the leadership to seek intelligence and assistance. He knew that if his uniform did not prove sufficient to garner the locals' trust, then just one display of his true badge of authority would make it happen- or reveal them as hostile to the Republic.

The scan returned more results. Power generation, localized but potent enough, in a mountainside location showed that this was the very central location that Homsar had in mind. It seemed to be a settlement built into a dormant volcano, with lush farm fields nearby and other prime qualities for a thriving colonial settlement. Homsar noted the rivers feeding the fields, and the other nigh-idyllic climate features, as well the lack of housing- it seemed that workers commuted to those fields when they went to do farm work, and otherwise let them lie fallow for their tamed beasts. Yet no sign of the locals yet appeared.

Homsar felt a hunch, a guarded feeling to make that approach- but be wary. Putting the automatic driver back on, and setting it to hold position, Homsar again went to the hold. Donning his armor, he then took his boat--a craft barely larger than his armored form--and flew that towards the surface to land in a cleared and open area not far by flight from the dormant volcano. As expected, the atmosphere was Earth normal; if this was a Republic colony, then whomever settled here was compatible with the usual array of peoples in the Galactic Republic. He stepped out of the boat, opened the faceplate of his armor and opened up his communicator.

"Greetings. I am Homsar Delgana, Agent At Large of the Galactic Republic. Please respond."

Homsar now felt the mental presence of hundreds of sentient lifeforms, minds that had a distinctly reptilian quality to them, and he sensed their apprehension. He could not see them, but he felt their approach; it was as if their mountainside home shielded their minds from his perception until now- and that, Homsar concluded, was probably the case.

He feared them not. Even if they became hostile, neither as individuals nor as a mob did they pose a threat to him- not when wearing his battle armor, at least. He had the advantage of distance, avoiding ambush-friendly landing sites being as second-nature to him, so when they came into view he had all of the time needed to assess them- and he did. Homsar saw a small horde of humanoid lizard-men, and as not one looked or thought themselves female he concluded that those individuals had to comprise the minds of those still unseen- and, if his expectations held, those in contact with their masters or prepared to fire upon him.

He let the men approach him, surrounded him and demonstrate about him for some few minutes. Then, knowing that speech was useless, he focused himself and resorted to telepathic means.

"Enough!" he said, "I am here to collect the remains of people long dead, my people, and I have no desire to do harm to you. I require contact with your leader, what or whomever that being is, and I would appreciate it if you would just get on with it."

Homsar saw that the lizardmen painted themselves with some sort of bodypaint in a mixture of gold and black colors all over their flesh, flesh curiously covered across the loins as if they were human men, and barely naught else but a harness about their chests.

Seeing in their undisciplined minds where they came from, Homsar sighed and did not wait for them to show him the way. With a power-assisted leap Homsar took to the air; in mid-jump he kicked in the other feature of his armor- man-sized gravtics. Effortlessly he flew through the air back towards the mountainside. The lizardmen followed, albeit left far behind, but that didn't matter to Homsar. Moments later, he arrived at the entrance of their mountainside home- and he pounded his armored fist on the door.

"Open up!" he said, telepathically, sensing minds on the other side now, "I demand parley with your leader, and I have no patience for these damned status games."

The doors opened. Giant-sized, armed and armored lizardmen stood ready to do violence- and before them stood a a human-like female, clad as scantily as most of the natives, with eerie green eyes.

"Behold! The Lady of Holy Fire!" one of the bodyguards said, aloud.

Homsar was not impressed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 1

Homsar Delgana still remembers the end of the last war as if it were yesterday. He was there when the final strikes occurred, and he was in the thick of it putting axe to skull and blasting fist-sized holes through chests. He'd long ago transformed from a frightened, but outraged schoolboy-turned-guerrilla into a hardened, veteran soldier and spy- one worthy of being inducted into the inaugural cohort of the Republic's elite operatives. Now in his prime, Homsar lay in repose aboard his personal ship as it shot through the ether, clad as is usual for him now in his dull gray uniform.

"Homsar!" a voice said, "You there?"

Without moving, without anything other than a thought as firm as disciplined as the body that housed it, Homsar answered: "I am."

Had there been any witnesses, they would've seen nothing and heard nothing. Telepathy required no such obviousness.

"Are you busy, son?" the voice said, "If you're up to something, I'd rather not bother you."

"No, sir." Homsar said, "I'd only just returned the remains of Gunner's Mate Fritzhof Holm earlier today to his family on Earth. Until your call just now, I'd been mulling over what to do next."

"The last of the Oklahoma's men, right?"

"Correct, sir."

"I've told you more than once that you don't have to be so formal anymore, son, so I'm thinking that you actually do that to needle me."

Homsar smiled.

"Admiral, you didn't contact me for a social call. You have something on your mind, so let's have it."

"Do you remember the incident involving the Sixth Hospital?"

"Yes, I do." Homsar said, thinking of his old pals and their kids- and the nurses they married after meeting in a hospital, "I'm quite glad that we've fixed that problem."

"I've gotten an update from the Missing Personnel inquiry."

"They didn't retrieve the remains, did they?" Homsar said, seeing where this conversation will go.

"No. Commodore Jackson got orders for the next push before he expected, and had to pull out before he could complete the job."

"Bring your men on the beam."

A moment later, Homsar noticed the presence of two others.

"Agent Delgana?" said a younger voice.

"Alex. Good. Iassc, are you there?"

No words, as such, but rather the telepathic equivalent of an affirmative nod.

"Good. Now, Lieutenants, brief me properly. Be as complete and conclusive as your intelligence allows."

They did. In a blur of thought, as language would slow the process too much, they put forth the facts of the incident--a hospital unit fell under enemy attack, and the husband of one of the nurses deserted to save her; when his fleet caught up to him, they found the entire planetary and orbital structure smashed to pieces and an abbatoir on the surface; orders to link up for another campaign arrived before the fleet could finish its inquiry and they never found the remains of either their pilot or his wife--and a development that may be related: reports of raiders hitting colonies and shipping in that area spiked within the last year.

Still without moving, still in repose, Homsar reached out to the controls of his ship and set a course for the very planet where this sad incident occurred so many years ago.

"I accept your request, Admiral." Homsar said, "As for you two young men, you did just fine."

"Homsar, I hadn't made any requests of you yet." the old man said.

"Your request came in loud and clear when you told me about the incident. I'll stop over there and recover the remains. While I'm there, I'll look into these raiders."

A sense of relief fell over the telepathic link.

"Over and out, Admiral." Homsar said, and he severed the link. A moment later, he emerged from his repose and took a short walk about his ship. He went back into the hold and inspected his armor, weapons, and other materiel; he felt certain that, as he so often encountered, things would go wrong- so he might as well be ready for any such scenario. With a smile of well-earned satisfaction, he enjoyed the thought of showing--again--exactly how and why a man has to earn that dull grey uniform.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Introduction

The Chronicles presents its first science fiction story, a planetary romance by the name of "Dawn of the Dragonsworn". It begins with veteran agent Homsar Delgana landing on a planet where personnel went missing in the last war, only to find that the planet is inhabited and that the natives have in their custody the child of the missing personnel. Things go wrong from there. The first part goes live tomorrow.