Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 12

Homsar, Zuzu and the Dark Spear marines fought their way through another line of defense, leaving scores of slain Dragonsworn thralls in their wake. The stench of death choked the halls of the Dragonsworn fortress, and yet more thralls could be heard ahead readying yet another futile defensive line. Contact began with exchanges of fire from semi-portable beam projectors and then smaller hand-held blasters before the marines advanced into range to charge the line and hack the defense apart with their keen-edge space axes. Not one of the marines--nevermind Homsar or Zuzu--feared their foes, for the beams arrayed against them were too weak to bring down the personal screens on their armored suits and none of the thralls posed any threat to them in close combat.

Yet they came, in their dozens and scores, and in their dozens and scores those scaled soldiers soon slumped- slain by firey beams of death and destruction or butchered by hard-hitting axes wielded by hard-fighting combat veterans. No, far from being concerned the marines and their leaders began laughing at them, holding them in contempt. For them, this was easy work.

"Nothing at all like dislodging them from MacDougal's Rock!" Zuzu said, cackling, "Oh no, this is more like following-up a break in their morale."

Yet Homsar remained mindful, knowing his enemy. "They're weak, but the Dragon isn't out of tricks yet."

Just then, a series of pain-induced shrieks echoed through the halls over the din of the slaughter and the remaining thralls broke and fled. The marines, without thought, cut them all down before realizing that they just killed unarmed and defeated enemies.

"Shake it off, men." Zuzu said, "Something worthy approaches."

As the marines reformed their lines, they saw a handful of giant lizard-like humanoids who barely fit into the halls approach them. Zuzu motioned for fire to commence, and it did, to little effect other than to annoy them.

Homsar turned to Zuzu, and with a meaningful look then nodded. Then Zuzu pointed to the ceiling, and half the beamers dropped the roof on these mishapen beasts while the other half blasted new corridors around them to circumvent the problem.

"He's not changed." Homsar said, "Still thinking like he's in a story, and that I'm obliged to fight on his terms."

Zuzu looked on at the collapsed tunnel. As the men moved into the detour, one of the beasts managed to get its head out of the rubble. Zuzu prompted hacked it off. Homsar executed a second as it emerged, and together the two quickly dispatched them all before catching up.

"Well, that's another 'Throw the big guys at them!' trick thwarted." Zuzu said, "These idiots never learn."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 11

Homsar knew that the Dragonsworn would erect lines of defense, and that they would focus upon withering firepower provided by semi-portable projectors backed by infantry forming a shield wall. He also knew that there would be an officer, at this point one of the few human-like leaders, in command and that if he could break or kill this man then the entire line would rout. He'd seen it, and done it, so many times that he no longer considered it possible that anything else would happen- and he would be right.

Brilliant Shield stood ready at the first line, a company of lizardmen at his command with semi-portable projectors backed behind a shield wall, with his own considerable abilities reinforcing them for he stood at the center of the wall. He heard Homsar coming, armored boots pounding the cavern floors with the rapid cadence of a thunder lizard on the charge, and as soon as Brilliant Shield caught sight of the abhorred foe he order the gunners to open fire. The handful of projectors lit up the cavern as their beams of death-dealing power fired forward in jets like torrents of rushing water, but to their horror they saw Homsar's armored form advanced unabated- his personal defense screens held, despite the violent display of discharge, and his pace slacked not, but rather increased!

Homsar ran at a sustainable pace, but as soon as they opened fire he broke into a run and charged the line. He knew the screens would hold long enough to make contact, and once in melee those guns were worse than useless to them. The screens held, and then he smashed into--and through--the shield wall. He broke through not where Brilliant Shield stood, but (as one would expect of a veteran) at its weakest point: where the shield wall met the cavern wall. With a ferocity of violence, Homsar cut that lizardman open from breast to crotch and then kicked the cooling corpse away to free his space axe. Now in the moment, Homsar broke the Dragonsworn formation before they could react. If not for Brilliant Shield swiftly engaging Homsar, all of them would have died under that keen-edged axe head within a minute.

Armed with a sword and shield, armored in quality approaching his foe's own, Brilliant Shield tried to wear down the Patrol Agent and disable the man's screens, but his youth betrayed him and found every attempt to feint or disrupt the veteran warrior avoided or blocked. Instead, he soon found himself undone; falling for a false opening to disarm Homsar, Brilliant Shield let slip a hole that Homsar exploited. Seizing Shield by the throat with his off hand, Homsar rapped Shield with the flat of his axe upside his head; by reflex, he looked at Homsar and found his eyes locked with his foes. Homsar's driving will bore through Brilliant Shield's thought screens and seared his mind, which inflicted great agony upon the man. Homsar kicked the disabled man away with contempt, and finished routing the lizardmen. Those not slain fled, with their leader soon with them, and the projectors either destroyed or taken over.

Meanwhile, General Zuzu and the Dark Spear marines--riding Homsar's boat--fought their way into the Dragonsworn fortress. Resistance, while furious, was futile; those that were not blasted died by axe blows. With the boat resting just inside the massive doorway, the marines dropped down and followed Homsar's beacon until they caught up with their man- the trail of carnage made it easy. They met up just as Homsar finished with the projectors.

"Homsar!" Zuzu said, saluting, "Good to see you, man!"

Homsar returned the salute. "You didn't miss much. This is just the first line, and I say that they have two or three more before we reach The Dragon."

Homsar pointed to the remaining projectors, and Zuzu detailed their assignments with a nod, wordlessly issuing orders.

"These Algolian remnants and recasts are barely experienced and not well trained." Homsar said, "You've seen their quality. If we kill or cripple their leaders, and drive off or kill their master, then they'll surrender."

Zuzu nodded. "These scaled scum suck. No wonder this is so easy. We must've come upon them well before they were ready."

"I'd say so." Homsar said as the marines finished appropriating the projectors, "Let's finish the job."

Zuzu grinned that wicked grin that made him such a famous friend.

"What do we bring, men?"


"Move out!" Homsar said, and as a single unit Homsar, Zuzu and the Dark Spears attacked the remaining Dragonsworn lines one-by-one. They blasted their way through with ease, each taking moments to rout; veteran marines against mostly untried and shaken recruits is not a fair fight, no matter how indoctrinated the latter may be, with predictable results. The leaders--Brilliant Shield and the Blessed Lord--managed to fall back as they'd planned, but their men often did not survive.

"Master!" the Blessed Lord said, telepathically, "We are routed. The Agent has marines supporting him now. Are we ready."

"NO!" The Dragon said, panicked, "Deploy the prototypes. All of them."

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 10

The Dragon called his students to his presence. Bloodied, bruised and shaken did they arrive: Brilliant Shield, the Blessed Lord, the Lady of Holy Fire and two others newly returned from other errands- the Mistress of Esoteric Lore and the Princess of the Golden Hand. All five of them knelt in obedience to their mentor and master.

"He comes." the Dragon said, his voice booming, "He comes here, knowing now the heart of our power and seeking to obliterate it. As I speak, our remaining militia array in lines again him and deploy our armory upon him."

"Master," Brilliant Shield said, "this Agent is incredible. Neither I, nor any of my siblings, have ever seen any Agent so potent before. What manner of man is this one that so easily sees through our plans and counters our every move?"

"Attend, my son." the Dragon said, "Attend, and learn."

The Dragon reached out with his mind and linked himself with his students, a task long ago made familiar and easy for all of them, and through this link the Dragon did show Homsar Delgana as he once was.

At a speed which makes speech seem as slow as a snail, the Dragon revealed unto them the young Homsar, barely a man, leading an assault upon the Algolian occupation's War Thrall center on Earth. Yet, owing greatly to the Dragon's superior potency of mind, the five students--once Patrol spacers, but none ever being on Earth--did not recognize either their master or the connection between the War Thralls and their own Dragonsworn. By precise and deft use of sympathy to manipulate his students by way of emotional influence, the Dragon induced them to selectively edit what they saw in manners that the Dragon knew would occur; he used his telepathic powers to reinforce their conditioning, which in turn twisted their perceptions without him having to it himself.

They saw Homsar butcher scores of scaled thralls, soldiers and officers alike, and then assaulted their master--albeit in a more man-like form, and not in the current massive dragon-like form--and severely wounded him before escaping with his life. All they saw was fact, but because of their cult-like devotion the Dragonsworn elite could not--would not--admit the truth of what they saw, and the Dragon knew it.

"Master," the Lady said, "if this was Homsar as a youth, then the one we see now is nigh unto a god of death here to exterminate our kind! I suggest that we reform our strategy, especially since our space defenses are spent."

"Indeed, Master." the Blessed Lord said, following his wife, "If he is about to smite you, then this battle is already lost. Pride is useless to the dead, Master, so let us retreat and seek revenge another time against the Patrol."

Blessed Shield and the latter ladies nodded their concurrence with this opinion, and after a long, lizardlike sigh so did the Dragon.

"Blessed Shield, you shall take up the defense. Hold the Agent as long as you can; worry not about the men, yet preserve yourself for the next line. You women, come with me to erect and energize the gate. The Lord shall organized the second line and cover the Shield's retreat, who in turn shall organize the third line and cover the Lord's retreat. By the fourth line, if all holds as needed, the gate shall be ready and then the ladies shall assist the men in covering the retreat."

"As you command." the five said, united, and they split for their appointed tasks.

Meanwhile, in space the Kinneson approached the planet and moved into orbit. From orbit, the dreadnought bombarded the surface, taking out the planetary defenses as they fired upon the Patrol vessel; the Dragonsworn beams did little to strain the screens of their hated foe's ship.

Concurrently, the Dark Spears readied for their next operation: an orbital drop. After the gunners fired another volley from the primary beams, Admiral Smith gave the order to fire the drop-pods, which screamed planet-side in a show of firey fury. Secondary beams fired from the ship covered the drop, keeping the Dragonsworn gunners--those left--down long enough for the marines to make planetfall. By that time, the ship had found Homsar's own speed-optimized ship and taking it alongside; the admiral detailed his top computer to check the vessel, found it safe and then quickly upgraded the key element--the beacon transceiver--with one of the spares aboard the Kinneson.

Each pod's doors blew off as the explosive bolts fired, and out emerged the fearsome Patrol marines that swiftly overran the one Dragonsworn cruiser in space earlier that day. Fixed on the signal beacon aboard Homsar's boat, they quickly bounced over and saw it held fast into the ground. A sweep from a semi-portable beam cleared away the shaped earth, freeing the boat.

"Admiral," General Zuzu said, "we cleared the boat."

"General," Admiral Smith said, "we've cleared the ship."

Admiral Smith reached out and made contact telepathically with Homsar, briefing him, and Homsar smiled. "Put Zuzu on the beam." he said, and Smith did.

"I'm going to activate the homers. Just follow them and you'll get to me as if blasting through inter-galactic space, and that means that you'll get here in time for the party."

Smith and Zuzu smiled. Each saw their respective vessel lift off; the Kinneson matched velocities and vectors to the ship while the marines bounced up on the hull as the boat took off.

Satisfied now, Homsar turned to move for the assault when he saw a boy--barely a man--come up on him with a blaster. Without thought, Homsar slapped the blaster out of the boy's hands, grabbed him with his free hand and locked eyes on the youth. Into the boy's mind he went, still acting on reflex, and found that this was the proof he needed of the Dragonsworn's sedition and treason.

"Admiral!" Homsar said, telepathically, "Get on the beam; I have proof of treason."

Smith did, and together they easily ransacked the boy's memories of his parents--the ones now called The Blessed Lord and the Lady of Holy Fire--and how these two leaders of the Dragonsworn came to become the students, the apprentices, of the Algolian war criminal now calling himself The Dragon. If was the Dragon that played to the boy's parents' fears, resentments and character flaws- ultimately leading to abandoning their Humanity, turning traitor over nursed grudges, and in recent years an increasingly willful neglect of him--their son--in favor of their master.

"Alive, Homsar, we need them and the others alive. The Dragon, on the other hand, he's all yours."

Homsar nodded reflexively, perplexing the boy.

"Agreed." Homsar said, "Pick up the kid. I'm putting him out now."

With a well-placed mental blow, Homsar knocked the boy unconscious. He tagged the boy with a transponder and stuffed him into an ill-lit and out-of-the-way corner; he knew that the marines would find that boy, get him out of there and get him aboard where he'd be out of action and danger.

Now both satisfied and secure that no loose ends existed, Homsar turned towards the approach to the Dragon's lair and grinned a smug grin. Again, he lived for moments like this, and enjoyed them fully.

"Hurry up Zuzu!" he said, "Or you'll miss it all!"

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dawn of the Dragonsworn-Part 9

The Dragonsworn cruisers assumed a cone-shaped formation, meant envelop the Patrol dreadnought, moving as if controlled by a single mind. As the Dragonsworn ships came into range, the Kinneson opened fire with all of her primary batteries. The volley of fire focused its payload upon the focal ship at the point of the cone, vaporizing it out of existence in a single shot.

Despite the show of horrific force, the Dragonsworn cruisers pressed their attack and moved englobe their foe. Aboard theKinneson Admiral Smith laughed.

"Clear the space before and behind. Let those around us suck on our jets as we punch through."

The Dragonsworn vessels returned fire, throwing beams force and power comparable to the Patrol's compliment, but did not reckon on the strength of its screens. Those a brilliant and colorful display, they held fast and not much worse for wear; this was not so for the Dragonsworn, who found themselves confounded by tractors grappling a target into place before gunners manning primaries and secondaries focused upon and blew out the held target. Dragonsworn gunners hurried to identify and use needle-like precision fire to knock out the Patrol gunners, or the tractor beams, but it was too little and too often also too late. Despite superior numbers, the lost of the focal ship destroyed their ability to coordinate action ship-to-ship.

Then came the coup-de-grace, the thought-bomb that Homsar implanted into one sailor's skull, and in a fit psychosis he surged at his ship's pilot and steered his vessel into a ram attack- an attack easily and handily turned into a seized ship and a boarding action. By the time the crew put down the madman, the Dark Spear marines had already latched a boarding tube and burned into the ship to assault it.

General Zuzu lead the attack, bursting through with the two space axes in hand. In a moment they came upon the hastily-erected chokepoint with semi-portable blasters in place. Without breaking stride Zuzu charged the guns, knowing full well that the screens installed in Patrol marine armor can hold against such weapons long enough to make contact, and the marines of the Dark Spears followed right behind.

"WE BRING THE PAIN TO YOU!" they cried, as one, at the top of their lungs just as Zuzu breached the Dragonsworn line and buried one axe in each of the two hapless lizardmen sailors doomed by their captain to man them. Zuzu cleaved through those two skulls, spraying black blood and reptilian brain meat across the bulkheads, and then cut a third in half before that fool could level his blaster at the general. Through the breach poured Zuzu's fellow marines, each wielding another such space axe and cutting down their foes with ruthless abandon.

One sailor, in the back, fled for his life upon hearing the war cry of the Dark Spears and the utter slaughter of his crewmates. He fled, screaming all the way to the bridge, whereupon the captain--viewing the action through a remote camera--turned and blasted the man's head clean off. As the now-headless crewman's corpse slumped to the deck, its neck smoking, the captain picked up a comlink.

"This is the captain. You are on Death Ground, men. If you want to live, kill them all. Those that flee shall be shot."

The men around him immediately drew their weapons, fired upon him from all sides and killed him several times over. When General Zuzu arrived, he found the bridge crew quite ready and eager to surrender, which was fortunate as they were the only crewmen still alive- and the only enemy personnel.

Meanwhile, Admrial Smith's expert and veteran spacers destroyed each ship in turn by applying the same fix-focus-fire technique that worked so well early on. Within a half-hour, the fight was over; only the one boarded vessel remained, and the bridge crew that surrendered soon found themselves under interrogation by Smith directly- the sole Agent immediately at hand.

On the surface, Homsar enjoyed similar success. Leading the militia on a wild chase, and despite the fact that he was in Patrol armor, he ran throughout the Dragonsworn complex at will. He's ambush a group, wipe them out and then fade before reinforcements arrived. This seeming incompetence greatly displeased both the Dragonsworn leaders and their mentor/master, the latter of whom lost control and began ranting without stop in a stream of invectives and obscenities that proved to be telling to Homsar- because part of this lost control included the ability to not broadcast one's thoughts to all what could receive them.

It was a specific turn of phrase--"recycled monkies"--that sparked an unpleasant memory, of the Algolian Occupation during the last war, the event that put Homsar on the path to becoming who and what he is now. Just before the Terran Navy returned to liberate Earth, Homsar partook of a raid against an Algolian prison camp said to be where most of the disappeared people went. It turned out to be an experimental facility, the place where new Algolian Jannisaries came from- it was here that he (and everyone else) discovered that the Algolians turned their enemies into their slaves through genetic and eugenic manipulation- they literally recycled people into the war-thralls of the Algolian Empire.

It was also the first time that Homsar buried an axe into an unarmed man's skull, for that man was one of the scientists responsible for turning his family into such war-thralls- family he had to put down himself. That villain's master escaped, and now he returns like this? Having lied to the survivors of the Sixth Hospital and conned them into becoming these lizardmen thralls?

"Admiral!" Homsar said, "The leader of the Dragonsworn of is the head of the War Thrall facility during the Occuption."

"Gabriel?" Smith said, "Here?"

"Yes. I'm going to split his skull and burn his corpse to ash."

"We've got space cleared out and will be there shortly. What about the others?"

"Same as it ever was."

"Understood. Captured part of a crew, and interrogation confirmed what you reported. We've got space cleared and will be planetside shortly."

"Hurry, Admiral, or you'll have nothing to do but clean up the mess."