Friday, March 26, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 8

The Dragon scowled, once he detected the signal that Homsar sent, and he screamed with his mind to his minions and henchmen: ATTEND! PREPARE FOR MILITARY ASSAULT! START WITH THAT PATROL AGENT!

Homsar smirked, smug satisfaction showing on his face, for he too heard that scream and knew what was to come thereafter- and thus what to do next. He swiftly sundered the key communications gear controlling the signal, forcing his enemies to destroy the rest to stop it, and then left the room.

That his enemies intended to defend against the Kinneson and the Dark Spears marine unit aboard that dreadnought implied the capacity to do so, and the fact that he detected no facilities or factories on the surface implied that such things were underground. It followed, Homsar reasoned, that the control-obsessed enemy leadership would keep such things close at hand, relatively speaking and thus would actually be inside this mountain somewhere.

Homsar, maintaining his awareness of the minds about him, noted those of an group of lizardmen spacers coming his way. Declining to destroy them, Homsar hid himself in a shadowed niche and reached out into the mind of one such spacer. Now concealed in mind as well as body, he rode the alien until those spacers reached the underground dock--a veritable recreation of the Patrol's primary dock on Earth, a fact that did not go unnoticed--and approached one of the score of teardrop-shaped ships ensconced within.

What did surprise Homsar was that, instead of taking a lift or running up flights of stairs, this alien stopped a moment and uses some curious combination a technology he was not familiar with and an equally-unfamiliar use of vocal technique to create the very familiar effect of canceling inertia. Homsar noticed that this took the use of the full-body tattoo-painting to somehow channel the power that the effect required, something that he had to achieve by means of a battery-powered belt tool; this distraction held the man's attention just long enough for the alien spacer to reach his assigned ship with the ease of drifting down a stream. That's when the ships' configuration finally shook Homsar out of his distraction- for now that he was so close, he recognized the shapes.

"Algolian!" he said, uncaring now, "Modified to fool Patrol sensors at a distance, and clearly with new colors, but Algolian nonetheless- and too new to be rebuilt salvage."

See that his ride would soon be too much of a bother to stay on, Homsar planted a mindbomb and let go the alien spacer. But, before returning fully to himself, he flew out to Admiral Smith.

"Admiral! A score of upgraded new model Algolian cruisers are taking off to intercept the Kinneson. Get ready."

Without skipping a beat, Smith responded: "All hands to battle stations! Marines to ready stations!"

Klaxons sounded, and scores of Patrol spacers ran to assigned stations. Gunners sat in their platforms, firemen suited up, medics got their gear ready while doctors and nurses prepared the infirmary. The marines of the Dark Spears emerged from quarters armed and armored, with their leader--General Zuzu--carrying the two space axes that made Zuzu an icon despite not being an Agent of the Republic.

"Ready to bring the pain?" Zuzu said.

"WE BRING THE PAIN TO THEM!" they said, blue-skinned and tooth-tusked warriors one and all.

"Then get to your stations!" and away they went.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 7

Homsar dropped into a ready stance, inviting the Dragonsworn bodyguard to attack, and attack they did. They came at him, already too close to make good use of the blaster Homsar took from their masters, but Homsar--despite the illusion of sloth created by his armored suit--struck first with a ferocity unexpected by his enemies. One swing of his tomahawk-style war axe cleaved one man's scaled head clean from its shoulders, spraying the room with black blood and bile. Side-stepping a slash by a second man, he bashed the butt of his blaster into the eye socket of that second lizardman, dazing him, before firing point-back into that minion's scintillatingly-scaled chest and blazing a fist-sized hole through it and the man behind him.

The savagery shocked the Lord and the Lady. This man, this agent of the Republic, now showed himself equal to the very best warriors amongst their number- a civilized man, yet more savage than the savages that they ruled. Homsar, to them, presented now not only a practical threat but an ontological one- no, an existential one. Fear gripped them both, a primal fear neither truly understood but knew well since childhood, and in its presence their reason fled from them. The Lady too flight, but not the Lord; he took up the longsword of a fallen minion and pressed a button on a bracer about the wrist of his off-hand. Sword and shield ready, the Lord now determined to bury his blade in Homsar's raging heart.

"To me, brothers!" he said, commanding, and the remaining bodyguard hastily rallied about their master. Quickly testing his foe, he fired again and again, but found his purloined weapon unable to overload the Lord's shimmering shield. Casting it aside, Homsar put both hands to his war axe and rushed his foes. The Lord put forth his shield, ready for the press, but underestimated Homsar's ability to maneuver; in a flash, the armored agent turned on his heal and buried the point of his axe into a bodyguard's skull while he broke into the huddle. Now in close-quarters, Homsar put his advantages to best use. Short-hafting his axe, he struck home again and again; blood shot out in brief sprays, serpentine screams hissed and his screens steamed while his foes became blood-caked. Then Homsar again came for the Lord, and in one stroke he overloaded the shield-like screen; the force of the blow shorted out the bracer housing its power and electronics, and crippled the hand that wielded it. In a second brutal blow, Homsar feinted and beat aside the Lord's blade only to rush him and crush him against the wall, dashing the breath from the Lord's lungs.

The Lord, pinned to the wall by the head of Homsar's war axe, turned up his green glowing eyes at Homsar. "We are not done yet." he said.

"Oh, I am well aware of that fact." Homsar said, and he smiled a smile that told the Lord that, indeed, Homsar really did know. "I've seen this scenario played out so many times that I already know, without needing to look into your pitiful brain, that your trusted henchman and his men are not only blasting back here as fast as they can, but are already here and about to come to your rescue."

As if on que, Brilliant Shield did just that, firing on Homsar with their curious blaster-like palm-housed devices. His screens held, not even flaring much; Homsar gripped the Lord's collar, spun about and flung his foe at them like a rag doll. Brilliant Shield caught his master, and with his men covering their retreat the two fled the scene.

Homsar declined to pursue. He engaged them briefly, slaying a few to compel them to run after their Dragonsworn masters, but then broke off and went instead for what he knew to be their communications center. After quickly dispatching the lizardmen therein, Homsar quickly deduced the workings of their system and jury-rigged it into emitting a constant high-strength signal.

Aboard the Kinneson Admiral Smith received the signal. Without skipping a beat, he ordered full speed towards the source; this was so commonplace with Homsar that he need not ask for any message- the signal was the message: "OVER HERE! BRING YOUR FRIENDS!"

Admiral Smith then relayed the news to the marines, who knew Homsar enough to know that this was the time to begin preparations for combat. Soon they would bring the pain once more to the enemies of the Republic.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 6

The Blessed Lord and the Lady of Holy Fire kept close together, still musing over what to do with their unexpected guest, hoping that the potent drugs would keep him unaware and impotent. They remained unaware that Homsar was awake and alert, able to perceive all about him and beyond, and this meant that they did not--could not--know just how it was that they condemned themselves. They remained obvious to the doom racing now through the ether, a mighty warship of the Patrol and the unit of marines that it had aboard, a doom that could--and would--destroy the lives that they crafted here after their old ones betrayed them.

This was not the case, however, for their patron. Deep within that very mountain, the entity that took in and made students of those most unfortunate fools now awoke from a fitful slumber. At once, both it and Homsar recognized the other's presence and put forth frightfully-potent screens of massive mental power. Each immediately dropped into a full war stance, like two ships of the line sighting each other as they came out of a deep fog, and they immediately called out to their allies as the captains of those ships would do.

"Admiral!" Homsar said, "I've found the boss, and he's as big a player as I figured!"

The other, however, scanned its surroundings with its own sense of perception- and in it found its two regents standing next to the body of the very entity it now guarded against. In illusory form, it appeared to them, and its massive draconic head surprised and cowed them.

"ATTEND!" it said, bellowing, and both the Lord and the Lady turned to it. Dropping to their knees, they prostrated themselves.

"Master!" they said, in unison, "We attend!"

It noticed Homsar's body behind them, still torporous. "You shall report upon that man behind you. Be complete and conclusive."

"He is Homsar Delgana." the Lord said, "Agent-At-Large of the Galactic Republic."

"He arrived a few hours ago, alone, seeking the remains of the Republic's Sixth Hospital as well as all survivors. He intends to repatriate them to Republic space."

Meanwhile, peeking from behind his screens, Homsar listened as he kept his line open to the Admiral.

"I knew it!" Homsar said, "Admiral, the locals are a hostile cult led by a dangerous mind housed in a massive reptilian body- for all intents and purposes, a dragon. It seems to've been asleep until just now, which is why I didn't detect it. It's quite awake now, and it's already noticed my presence. How long until you get here?"

"We're going full blast, Homsar. About a day or so. Can you hold out?"

"That depends upon a few variables outside of my control, but I'm far from out of tricks. I can manage."

Just then, another illusory image appeared- that of the Brilliant Shield.

"Blessed Lord, the Legion and I secured the outlander's boat as you commanded. We are not able to take it as a prize, however, so we remain here until ordered."

The Blessed Lord glanced to the illusory dragon head. It nodded.

"Delegate watch duty to a subordinate and let him remain with the boat. Take the rest and return immediately. We have a situation. You shall be briefed upon return."

"By your command, my Lord." Brilliant Shield said, and the illusion winked out.

Again, the illusory dragon head nodded. The Lord produced a glowing orb from a pocket and held it before him.

"Attend!" he said to a functionary lizardman on the other end, "Sound the alert and prepare for battle."

The functionary, wordlessly, obeyed and soon a klaxon sounded- and the skittering of scaly soldiers suffused the halls.

"Master," the Lady said, "must we be so dire? This one knows nothing. Let him take the cast-off forms and be gone, for he has no intention to intervene into our affairs despite his ability to do so. If he is ignorant, feign so in turn and watch him as he departs from us."

"No, child." the dragon head said, "You and your husband, and most of the others, do not know what significance this man's attire possesses. You could not know, as few of his ilk survived your war with the Algolians, but I do know and I tell you truly that this man is no simple officer or operative. Let me show you what I see."

Homsar too saw what the dragon showed to his pupils, and for the first time in years Homsar knew fear: the dragon clearly perceived the very symbol of Homsar's position- the instrumentality that marked him as one of the best to emerge out of the Republic and merited his rating as an Agent. He kept this concealed, normally, when he worked far from friendly space- his earlier experiences showed him clearly that this was as much a liability in unfriendly space as it aided him closer to home.

"HIM?" the Lord said, disbelieving.

"A such a brash, boorish brute?" the Lady said, astonished.

"Yes, children, him. Unlike most, he conceals only the badge and not the qualities that won it. Force, focus, drive, power, scope- and that last quality which ensures that he shan't ever join us, his loyalty to the Republic."

Homsar's fear faded at that comment, as his perspective restored itself through the exposure of his opponent's blindness.

"It's called 'integrity', you scaled simpleton!"

Just then, the orb again flashed into illusory life and the face of a young human man appeared.

"Father!" he said, "The alert's sounded. Are we in danger?"

"Yes, son." the Lord said, "Our enemy has found us. Go now, ready your escape. We shall follow."

"But father, I can fight them now! You've taught me very well, as have so many of the others."

Just then, the dragon's keen perception noticed Homsar's eavesdropping.

"Kill him! HE KNOWS!"

"They've finally caught on, Admiral. The flag's coming up now, so I'll talk to you later."

"Good luck, Homsar. Save some for us!"

The Blessed Lord pulled a knife from his belt and moved swiftly to Homsar's body and just as he rose to strike down in a most murderous blow he saw Homsar's eyes open- in that blink of an eye, Homsar kicked the Lord in the face and knocked him to the floor.

"That's right, folks, I'm one of them."

The Lady snatched up a blaster from her husband's belt, but before she could fire it Homsar closed the distance and sent her sprawling to the floor with a full-strength punch to the jaw.

"And I didn't earn the right to this uniform by placing nice with traitors to the Republic, no matter how sweet the honeypots may be."

Homsar moved to his armor and swiftly donned it. To his mortal foes, this seemed to be an act of nonchalant disdain. In reality, it was an act of ruthless pragmatism; through the illusion, the dragon unleashed a ferocious telepathic assault that beat so severely upon his inherent thought screens that if he could not break contact he could've been either overwhelmed or slowed enough through a shift in concentration that either the Lord of the Lady could kill him. He could fight either battle, but not both; one knock of the skull against his helm and the armor's screens put that dragon safely at a distance.

By the time that the Lord and Lady recovered, they found Agent Homsar armed and armored before them.

"So." Homsar said, "You two must be the Chief Nurse and her pilot husband then. I charge you both with high treason against the Republic, and I will take you both in- dead or alive."

To emphasize his point, Homsar brandished his marine axe and his own blaster.

"You're alone and outnumbered." the Lord said.

"You're also surrounded." the Lady said, "You could've just left us in peace with our former lives, and bodies, in hand. But no, you got nosy."

"Blah, blah, blah. Same ol' song and dance. 'I didn't get to do what I wanted, so now I'm going to take it out on all of those folks that made my life suck!' Idiots; you can explain to the court before I throw you two into the lethal chambers."

Just then, the lizardmen bodyguards arrived and drew their weapons.

"We don't think so." the Lord and Lady said.

Homsar smiled. This was the sort of moment he lived for.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 5

Back on Earth, Admiral Smith silently summoned his secretary and put her en rapport with himself and Homsar. Sitting down in his chair, he sent the telepathic equivalent of a nod.

"Okay, get this down and out the door right away once I'm done. Under Seal- to whom will be apparently presently."

The secretary complied.

"I've not been here more than a couple of hours, and already I've figured out the deal with these raiders. I've talked with the master and mistress of a local population of lizardmen, themselves near-human and self-admittedly not from this planet. These two, and I suspect others like them, are human to near-exact degrees; their appearance is all that separates them from us. They call themselves 'Dragonsworn', and there is an actual dragon of some authority--and, I expect, power--playing patron to them. These are the responsible parties for your raids out here."

"That's ridiculously fast work, Homsar!" Admiral Smith said, telepathically, "These operators never encountered anyone like you before, apparently."

"But they have encountered Republic operatives, likely Patrol officers. Several are in their custody, and they possess command of biological science sufficient to make possible wholesale regeneration of the body as well as recreating it into a new form and cloning. Furthermore, I infer that these 'Dragonsworn' are themselves a group of criminals in recreated bodies; that they can do this to others implies that they do it to themselves. Their florid titles are nothing more than pseudonyms, just like all those arrogant fools we took down during the war."

"Splendid. Anything on the other mission?"

"Yes. I have reason to believe that the core of this group consists of deserters and traitors. The master and mistress have a son, whom they are convinced must be kept from my view lest they be exposed."

"The boy must be natural and obviously human then."

"The only real thing amongst a cult of delusional fakers who think that they can get around being what they are. It's a horrible fate. If I can, I'll fix the boy. If I can't, I'll put him down with the rest."

"And the others of the Sixth Hospital?"

"They intend to hand me those remains and send me away. I'll let them think that they did just that for now. That will give me the time to figure out a plan while I weigh my options. This now brings me to my first request: where is my favorite unit of marines?"

Admiral Smith smiled.

"Your penchant for action is famous, Homsar. After we last talked, I had a word with the Dark Spears's commanding officer. They're on stand-by, awaiting the word, and I'm coming with them; I need space time, and I doubt that the Republic President will complain."

"You're seriously bored, aren't you old man?" Homsar said, chuckling.

"Galactic mop-ups are, at this perspective, a lot like spot-cleaning a giant-sized pane of glass. If I'm going to sit in a chair, I'd rather it be on the command deck of the Kinneson than in my office at port."

Homsar smiled.

"All right then. I'll let my hosts hand me the door prize and see me out. You tell that secretary where to send that sealed report, and I'll meet you in orbit here."

With that, Homsar--still drugged--ended his telepathic link back home. Admiral Smith, in turn, looked over to his secretary.

"Seal that and send it to the general of the Dark Spears." Smith said, aloud, "Then tell the general to ready the troops and get aboard ship. We're taking off."