“Engineer,” Gale Wolf said, “I detect Imperial units ahead. They do not seem to have detected me yet.”
Roger looked at the sensors. “Gain altitude. Get us into the sun.”
Gale Wolf climbed high into the sky, attaining that superior position.
“Deploy drones.” Roger said, “I want eyes on that scene.”
Gale Wolf resolved and deployed a dozen drones, each one under its own cloak, and sent them forward. Their sensors reported back to Gale Wolf, and their streams fed directly to the bridge.
“Engineer,” Alex said, “there are too many Imperial units here to be just a cult operation.”
“I concur.” Alan 1 said, “That’s a forward base for staging prior to operations.”
Roger looked at the realtime streams. He saw an airbase, crude-but-functional, with Imperial army personnel and air assets—dropships, gunships, fighters, etc.—moving about. Then he input an application from his personal device into the datastream, and ran that data again; the Imperial assets and personnel appeared translucent and other figures appeared underneath.
“Look again.” Roger said, and he pushed the filtered stream to the other stations.
“That is not good.” Alan 1 said.
“Wait.” Alex said, “I’ve spotted our target.”
Alex locked on to her and pushed that to Roger and Alan 1. The three now watched as she met with an older man, apparently an Imperial Intelligence officer, but really an alien humanoid in disguise.
“Doesn’t she think to check?” Alex said.
“Cult tradecraft is weak in the face of its object of veneration.” Alan 1 said, “So long as cursory scans come up clean, she’d never think to question that her contact is what he claims to be. Remember that they have to avoid Stalkers just like we do.”
“But I don’t see any of the usual Imperial countermeasures.” Alex said.
Roger quickly confirmed that with a scan of the scene.
“Gale Wolf, time to target.” Roger said.
“10 minutes, Engineer.”
“Battle stations. We’re going in hot. Send report to the Council.”
Klaxons went off, and weapons consoles heretofore powered down lit up.
“What?” Alex said.
“There is no way that a real Imperial base would lack countermeasures, and there is no way that a loyal cultist would fail to notice that fact when it’s before their eyes. This woman is not a cultist- she’s the Usurper agent.”
Alan 1 nodded, agreeing. “Objectives?”
“Tag and bag that agent. Get her handler if you can. Destroy everything else.”
“Acknowledged.” Alex, Alan 1 and Gale Wolf said.
“Combat preparations procedures underway.” Gale Wolf said, “Drone fighters will be ready.”
“Standard engagement procedures, Gale Wolf.” Roger said, “The others and I will deploy when ready.”
Alex looked at Roger, curious.
“Suppress air defenses to establish air supremacy.” Roger said, “Then channel resistance into a line of retreat that we want. We deploy as soon as supremacy is established.”
“By air drop.” Alan 1 said, “They’re expecting something bigger, so they won’t notice us until it’s too late.”
“Hit hard, hit fast, and then we get out.”