Friday, January 31, 2014

Homsar Delgana and the Dogs of Sirius-05

Aboard the Kinneson, Homsar stood next to Captain Simms--it's commanding officer--and General Zuzu of the Darkspear Marine Regiment. Each of the three veterans of the Patrol looked about, noticing that the crew and marines made no attempt to hide their excitement at having Homsar with them again.

"This campaign of harassment is going quite well." Captain Simms said, "We're clearly having the desired affect."

"Agreed." General Zuzu said, "We be meetin' th' expected opposition."

"We're bound to force a reaction out of the enemy soon." Simms said, "They can't let us hit and run like this for much longer."

"Agreed." Homsar said, stroking his chin.

"I know that look." Simms said.

"What you be t'inkin'?" Zuzu said.

"Bring up the map." Homsar said, and Simms wordlessly ordered it so.

"Mark out our actions, the fleet's actions, and all known enemy actions." Homsar said, and Simms made it so. The stellar cartographer marked out on the star chart all of the campaign events to date. Fleet engagements with the enemy's forces, refugee patterns, piracy reports, planetary upheavals, and their own raiding actions in the enemy's rear all came on screen to compose a picture showing an emerging pattern of the enemy's strategy. Pirates and planetary upheavals preceding enemy fleet action in nearby systems, diluting Patrol responses and allowing the enemy to engage on their terms. If not for Homsar and his friends running rampant in their rear, the enemy would have a clear advantage over the Patrol.

"I think I see what you're on about, Homsar." Simms said, "There's a clear pattern."

"So do I." Zuzu said.

Homsar scanned the picture, staring at it, searching through it for something he seemed certain was there. He saw the that the pattern of enemy behavior not only followed a linear pattern, but a three-dimensional one also; the strategy served to draw the Patrol's fleet further from its bases of support and keep it from concentrating all of its assets, instead drawing the vanguard into the the bottom of a cone-shaped well.

"Do you see this?" Homsar said, marking on the map what he perceived.

Simms and Zuzu watched, and as they comprehended the implications they nodded in agreement.

"Dey be layin' a trap for da Fleet." Zuzu said.

"Which means that their leader is there. This is a web, and the Fleet's been entangled in it." Simms said.

"We be needin' ta get in dere first." Zuzu said, "Dey not be expectin' anyt'in' like us."

"No." Homsar said, "Not yet."

Simms and Zuzu looked at expectantly.

"It's a trap all right." Homsar said, "But not for the Fleet, not primarily. The Fleet is the bait."

Simms looked at each other, and then gasped.

"Yes, my friends. All of this is meant to do one thing: draw me into the trap. This 'Master' is no fool, and I can only deduce that he learned what became of his counterpart."

* * * * *

Aboard the Algolian flagship, The Master studied a stream of data coming in from all of his minions. In the last 30 seconds, he ordered the execution of 700 officers for incompetence, approved the deployment of Generation Four hybrids for terror operations throughout the sector, and received word that the remnants of The Dragonsworn are now in position. He now addressed their leader by viewscreen.

"Warlord Moonguard." The Master said, "Your time has come. I now transmit the coordinates of a Patrol ship, the Kinneson. Aboard that ship is Homsar Delgana, who leads the raiders harassing our logistical chain. Seek, locate, exterminate!"

The reptile-man made the same obsequious salute as the other minions, and winked out of view. The Master's wretched minion slide into view before him.

"Master, they go to certain death."

"Of course." The Master said, "The Agent expects that I do something about his actions, so I fulfill those expectations. That they succeed in stopping him is not an issue."

"Then they will convince him to come?"

"No. He will come. That I already know is certain. What I must do is to compel him to come as I desire, not as he desires. I shall also pull the Patrol Fleet, drawing them in further than they would like. Playing on their known operational priorities makes them predictable, and predictable opposition is easily controlled- and easily destroyed. The Fleet needs to believe that they must come to the rescue of the planets I attack, and then to their most treasured Agent, while said Agent needs to believe that my destruction of the Fleet is immanent and he must rush to the rescue or all is lost."

"So, you play on their benevolence to bring prey to the kill?"

"We will kill both of these targets before they can unite against us. Besides, I have several surprises in reserve that I alone am aware of and will put to use at the proper moments. Victory was certain before I let slip that I existed to the Patrol, and once we are victorious here I shall go on to break the Patrol and restore our power over those fools who think that they can escape The Master."

The wretched minion suddenly convulsed in spasms, and then slumped to the floor dead.

"Minions need to remember not to question their Master."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Homsar Delgana and the Dogs of Sirius-04

Throughout Sirius Prime, sudden outbreaks of violence erupted when seemingly-random individuals suddenly mutated into hideous, monstrous hulking brutes and go berserk. Their rampages mindlessly attack property and people without discernible rhyme or reason. The local gendarme proved ill-suited to deal with the monsters; it took the concentrated fire of a dozen to a score of them, with their blasters on maximum, to take one down and that's when they got it to stand still look enough for such concentrated firepower to work. However, their long association with the Patrol served them well; they stayed in good order, as best they could, despite being overmatched and called to the Patrol base for assistance.

On that Patrol base, Homsar Delgana took up his powered armor and matching axe--dropped to him by his boat--and got right up in the face of his enemy. As Homsar has made himself famous within the Patrol, he immediately moved into melee combat. Despite the mutants' ferocity, might, and toughness their rage crippled their reason and thus undermined their perception and skill in battle. This weakness Homsar exploited without mercy or malice, perceiving their blows before their limbs struck out at him and making a mockery of their attempts to smash him. The frustration increased their rage, further reducing their reason and accelerating the cycle. The score or so of prisoners-turned-monsters that smashed their way out of the brig on base and damaged many of the buildings and materiel thereafter soon slumped to the dirt, slain by Homsar and his mastery of the Patrol's fighting arts.

Homsar was not idle in mind as he dealt with the breakout. He penetrated their weak minds with his own as easily as he penetrated their tough flesh with his axe, cutting through the induced rage-madness sparked by a sudden and insurmountable pain to find the signature of the Algolian mastermind known as "The Master" in the genetic alterations made to the prisoners. Quickly collecting their memories as their lives crashed with their corpses, Homsar took a good look--from the perspective of his fallen foes--at how this came to be.

At some point in the past, each of these men spent time suspended in a sensory-deprivation tank. The fluids within not only sustained their bodies, but also served to facilitate the application of genetic treatments that The Master and his staff devised for them. Homsar saw that a few of them took note of a monitor that seemed to track both a silhouette seemingly of a physically-normal male of their kind and the monstrous forms that they would assume on command. He also saw, without a doubt, what The Master looked like: a beautiful, nigh-perfect male example of that race, but with a lens-like crystal in its forehead.

Homsar quickly edited the memories into a coherent report and beamed it telepathically to the Admiral. "Here's what we're looking for." Homsar said, telepathically, "I'm going to assist the locals. Have your men start scouring medical reports for these signs, and hope that we've not seen all of them activated just yet."

"Understood, Homsar." the Admiral said, "I'll detail this to my staff and have it as top priority."

Homsar then took command of the relief column heading to relieve the locals. Securing all of the cities on the planet took Homsar a few days, for that was due to the competence and cooperation of the locals with the Patrol. Semi-portable blasters attached to trucks allowed small crews of men to move quickly from point to point, letting them fry and fly so that they could burn down the monsters before they got smashed by them. Homsar coordinated it all, while doing his own share of the work, with the aide of the local officials. This plan limited collateral damage and eliminated civilian injuries once enacted. Once the last of the monsters went down, Homsar quickly got the officials to agree to recovery of the corpses and remanding them over to the Patrol; being an Agent-At-Large has its uses, and one of them is as an unbeatable symbol of trust and value.

The autopsies of the corpses revealed the evidence of genetic tampering that Homsar previously acquired. The Admiral and his staff tracked where all of the monsters went for the last decade or so, and it revealed that all of them--at one point or another--were either pirates or prisoners thereof and subsequently returned to the Republic and everyday life. Since there was no reason to look for this specific tampering, none of them got detected, and thus this entire event showed premeditation on a scale and scope that only a few enemies of the Republic could even conceive of executing- let alone doing it. After a total of a week, Homsar and the Admiral met in the latter's office to go over the results.

"The additional reports coming in from all over this sector of space show clear signs of this being part of a larger plan." the Admiral said, "Homsar, I called home and put in a request on your behalf. I want you to take up the more independent and hands-on part of our counter-action plan."

Homsar smiled. That rarely meant anything other than what the Admiral's lieutenant came into the office to report.

"Admiral, the Kinneson has arrived. Captain Simms sends his regards, and wishes to say that the Darkspear Regminent's commander awaits his good friend's arrival."

"I accept your request." Homsar said, "Send my copy of the plan to the Kinneson, under seal. We can conclude this meeting once I'm aboard."

The lieutentant turned to Homsar. "Your boat?"

"Already being brought aboard, son." Homsar said, "That ship, those marines, and their C.O.s and I go way back. The Admiral can tell you all about it."

With that, Homsar took his leave. The Admiral waved his staff officer over.

"Pay attention," the old man said, "for that could be you soon enough. Chances are good that he'll request that I detach you to him once we've got this end of the operation under control. If that happens, then I'll grant that request right away. You need the experience, and he'll teach you well."

Elsewhere, far away, The Master sat in repose in his well-concealed lair in the hinterlands of known space. With a flash of the crystal embedded in his forehead, a klaxon went off. Immediately, a minion scurried to his side.

"Master!" the wretch said, "What is the alarm?"

"The initial gambit did not succeed as I had hoped. We must move to Phase 2 immediately. Link me with all commands."

The minion hurried to do its master's bidding, and a mass of faces appeared as holograms before him.

"All commands are to escalate immediately to Phase 2. G-Hour is NOW! Time for the wolves to feast."

The many faces, wearing many uniforms (if at all), gave the same obsequeous salute and said in unison: "Victory or Death!" before winking out.

The Master then turned to another screen, where he saw another uniformed minion: "Captain, move the flagship to Phase 2's position, and maintain combat readiness."

The captain saluted wordlessly and the screen winked out. Over the intercom came an announcement to the crew to move the ship, and The Master smiled.

"You can slay the Dragon, Patrolmen, but none can beat the Master."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Homsar Delgana and the Dogs of Sirius-03

Upon arrival at Sirius Prime, Homsar went with Sprage to the Patrol base there. Awaiting them sat Admiral Campbell, himself a veteran of the Algol War, and a young Agent--Lieutenant Vance--assigned to his staff.

"Homsar!" Campbell said, "When Vance briefed me on your report, I did a double-take. The last I heard, you were in Alpha-Centauri tracking down a rogue geneticist. What brought you my way?"

Homsar shook the Admiral's hand. "Had I not come across Commander Sprage's distress call, I would have give you a courtesy notice before I arrived. As it is, what I came out this way for turned out to be valid."

"You mean the Dragonsworn?" Vance said, holding up a stick, "I collected all of the intelligence we have on hand, at the Admiral's request."

Homsar smiled. "Good thinking, Lieutenant. First assignment?"

Vance nodded.

Homsar looked over to Campbell. "The prisoners?"

"Isolated and screened, as requested."

"Then let's get on with it." Homsar said.

Vance secured the room and lowered the lights while Campbell handed tablets to Homsar and Sprage. Vance plugged the stick into a projector unit, and he began a slideshow.

"After Agent Delgana's previous encounter with the Dragonsworn, word spread throughout the Patrol's leadership to review existing files where a known link to the Algolians existed. These files, cross-referenced in real-time by Agents engaged in a wide-open multi-node connection, produced a final list that we found to be immediately actionable. The Republic President and the Patrol Chief Coordinator signed off on that list 24 hours ago, with distribution to begin earlier today- about when Agent Delgana intervened to assist Commander Sprage."

Vance then handed Homsar another stick.

"This list was to be made public 24 hours after all Agents received their copies. Having handed Delgana his copy, that countdown has now begun."

Vance advanced the presentation through a series of slides showing all known ship types, vehicles, armors, weapons, etc. and emphasizing those used by the Patrol's enemies.

"One of our discoveries was that the many pirate groups, crime syndicates, guerilla forces, and other known enemies of the Patrol deploy vessels and other technologies that share common design elements and aesthetic motifs. Given that the species comprising these hostiles are a diverse array of sentient species, with some--like the Dogs of Sirius--being genetically identical to baseline Mankind and others being so different that being barely humanoid is as close as some get, this commonality of technological sophistication cannot be emergent. It points to an unknown benefactor gifting technology to client groups, on the condition that it be used against the Patrol and Civilization."

The Admiral then spoke up. "I assume that the working group then sought other, supporting elements that would support this claim?"

"Correct, sir." Vance said, "Seeing that these diverse groups seemed to share a common backer, and that this backer may be the same sort that Delgana encountered previously, we retrieved and sorted through the autopsies and similar files regarding these groups and their area of operations. We sought signs of deliberate genetic tampering, and we found it. After careful examination, with parties external to the group confirming our suspicions, we put in our report the evidence for our suspicions and recommended that a detection protocol be immediately established and promulgated throughout known space. This too got signed off, and is included in the copies provided."

"Lieutenant," Homsar said, "did your group examine the possibility of infiltrating genetically-altered individuals into places vulnerable to attack by remotely-triggered hostiles?"

"We did." Vance said, "However, without evidence that this possibility could be acted upon in the near term it was not taken seriously by the President and so only an advisory action got sanctioned."

At that point, Homsar looked back at Vance wordlessly, and Vance took up a comlink. "Vance to the brig: situation report on the prisoners."

On the other end, all in the room could faintly hear the sound of things pounding on walls and blaster fire.

"This is the brig! Something happened to the prisoners, sir! They've mutated into giant hulks and are breaking out of their cells!"

Homsar nodded at Vance. "What happened to the mental screens?" Vance said.

"Screens? There were suppossed to be screens? Sir, I- AAAGUH!"

Homsar jumped to his feet and made for the door. "Alarm!" the Admiral said, "Don't let them escape!"

Friday, January 10, 2014

Homsar Delgana and the Dogs of Sirius-02

Homsar found the mind of the one that sought parley with him, and he made short work of the prisoner's feeble mental screens. Now able to rummage through the prisoner's mind as he willed, Homsar had no problem speaking with the prisoner while mentally searching his mind. For the sake of formality, Sprage stood next to him, but for all intents and purposes this was now Homsar's business and both men knew it.

"I am Captain Gamilas." the prisoner said, saluting, "You are the Republic Agent, I presume?"

"Homsar Delgana." he said, "Agent-At-Large. The man behind me is the commanding officer of this Patrol squadron, Commander Sprage."

"I would have preferred better circumstances." Gamilas said, "But this will have to do."

"Your attack wasn't meant to succeed." Homsar said, "You deliberately sandbagged your own efforts, minimizing casualties while maintaining a plausible threat to extend your time on the target. We've analyzed your ships. Even accounting for differences in technologies and crew competency, you should have done better than you did."

Captain Gamilas sighed. "True." he said, "The real objective was to maintain a plausible scenario for defeat and capture; my subordinates that escaped will report back your intervention occurred sooner than actually happened, taking us entirely by surprise as we expected different Patrol responses than what happened."

"You're defecting." Sprage said.

"Correct." Gamilas said.

Homsar telepathically connected to Sprage. "He's not lying, so far. That's not the whole story, but it is the truth."

"The Dragonsworn have your kind in thrall." Homsar said.

"Correct again." Gamilas said, "The Master, as they call their leader, fell upon us a score of your years ago. Using technologies we knew nothing about, The Master seized control of our homeworld and assimiliated us into its own networks within a year. Every leader we had either died fighting them or got turned into its thrall, as did much of our population. Since then, we've been exploited as workers and soldiers. Some of the more craven amongst us did join the ranks of the Dragonsworn, turning traitor in return for power and wealth beyond avarice."

Homsar delved into Gamilas's memories, seeing that his blue-skinned fell suddenly under invasion as Earth did when the Algolians attacked Homsar's homeworld. The timeline matches up to this happening concurrently with the Algolian War, with the same initial defeat, but the changes coming with this Algolian invasion led by a far more ruthless master. Defeated natives ended up in camps and forcibly experimented upon, transformed into one of a series of telepathically-enslaved, genetically-engineered monsters and deployed as terror weapons against their own people until all resistance ended with the collapse of the last significant faction. The survivors, originally from the Sirius sector, now served the Algolians as a slave race- these are the whispered "Dogs of Sirius", pirates and raiders preying upon the Patrol and its worlds throughout the Sirius Sector.

"So, you risk all seeking to make contact with the Republic, hoping that we will come to your people's aide?"

The captain nodded. "Yes, and after you aide in our liberation we would be glad to join."

Just then, Gamilas's eyes blanked. Homsar sensed the presence of a far more powerful mind seizing control of the captain's body. He nodded, and Sprage shot Gamilas thrice. As the prisoner's body slumped to the floor, unconscious, Homsar met the enemy mind; mental screens--unnoticed to all else aboard--warbled like rippling water after a splash with each mental blow thrown, a brawl of brains beyond the ordinary senses of those lacking in the mental discipline common to Agents. Homsar got knocked off-balance, as it were, with a sudden shot from an unexpected quarter of mind-space and that let the enemy mind escape and evade further attention.

"Algolian?" Sprage said, holstering his sidearm.

"Yeah, and a ruthless, vicious brute of one. White noise around the brig, and best speed for Sirius Prime." Homsar said.

"What of Gamilas?" Sprage said.

"Segregation. No one unscreened sees him, and no one but your or I talks about him. He's been spotted, and if this Algolian is as I think then every last thing of value to him back home is already dead and gone. His crew likewise forfeit their homes and families for this."

"Homsar, one thing." Sprage said after giving orders to the helm do as Homsar declared, "The genetic manipulation bit bothers me."

"Yeah, I thought so too. There's bound to be hidden triggers; there's no way this Algolian won't have failsafes in his Jannisaries. They have to stay in the brig until we can screen them during transfer. One slip up and we may see them hulk out and go on a rampage."

"Like Lichtenstein." Sprage said.

"Yeah," Homsar said as he recalled that horrific day, "like Lichtenstein."

Friday, January 3, 2014

Homsar Delgana and the Dogs of Sirius-01

Deep in the void of space, a teardrop-shaped starship cruised from star to star. This was the Howard, a Campbell-class cruiser of the Patrol seconded indefinitely to Agent-At-Large Homsar Delgana--its sole crewman and occupant--who laid in repose in his quarters meditating upon matters great and small while the autopilot handled the routine of interstellar travel.

A klaxon activated, and Homsar let forth his special sense of perception. He sensed, as if bodily present, that a transmission on the emergency band now reached the Howard. In moments, Homsar awoke and rushed himself to the cockpit; this was important enough to handle awake, and not merely by way of mental technique.

"Mayday! Mayday! This is the R.S.S. DeCamp, calling all Patrol vessels within range. We are under attack by unknown hostiles, counting 30 ships. Our squadron is in disarray, and we request immediate assistance!" Homsar immediately checked the Patrol network; no vessels were within range other than his own, none that could arrive in time. Homsar repeated the signal to the nearest Patrol base, and then strapped himself into the pilot's chair.

"DeCamp, this is the Howard. Light up your beacon and hold fast. Help is on the way. Over."

Homsar faintly heard his name said in the background, followed by cheering. "Hurry, Howard, they're a lot stronger than your usual pirates. Over and out." Homsar threw open the throttle, and at maximum thrust the Howard closed the distance within minutes. As he approached the DeCamp's position he projected his sense of perception forward to acquire up-to-date intelligence. What he sensed was an orbital fleet battle in the Sirius system, where a hostile flotilla ambushed a Patrol squadron near a heretofore ill-known planet and its moon. The ambush broke the Patrol formation, in part because this was a training cruise for Patrol cadets and in part because the Patrol had no reason to expect hostiles in this area of space, but failed to destroy any Patrol ships yet; despite being outnumbered a little over two to one, and getting hammered hard, so far the Patrol cadets have held their ground.

Homsar found the squadron commander, the captain of the DeCamp, a Commander Sprage- an aging Patrol fleet officer, now relegated to teaching these new recruits, whose best years were well behind him. Yet those best years were during the Algolian War, and Homsar remembered Sprage from his youth as one far more respected than he is today.

"Commander Sprage!" Homsar said over the comm, "Come in."

"This is Sprage actual." Sprage said, relieved, "I'm holding it together here, trying to get my ships back in order, but it's damned tough."

"I'm coming in 45 degrees above your plane at 9 o'clock." Homsar said, "I'm going to slice away at the outer edges and push them back to you. Regroup in a tortoise shell formation and switch over to close-range bombardment."

"Understood." Sprage said, and he gave those exact orders to the squadron. As Homsar stated, he entered the fray high over the DeCamp's position off the port bow. He switched over to the maneuver drives, going inert, and ripped into the three nearest hostile starships. Between his own fire and that of the Patrol vessel he aided, those ships got knocked out of the fight and attempted to disengage. Homsar wouldn't let them, and drove them inward instead. He repeated this maneuver several times, putting the hostiles between his fast-acting cruiser and the Patrol's well-armed ships. The result was that several of the hostile vessels got sunk, a few more disabled, and the rest broke away and fled for home. Neither Homsar nor the squadron decided to pursue. The disabled ships got boarded by Patrol Marines, and despite fierce resistance they too were overcome; most of the hostile crews died, with only a handful still alive for interrogation.

Afterwords, on the DeCamp, Homsar met with Commander Sprage and his subordinates.

"We managed to collect the remains of the enemy vessels destroyed, and prize crews are aboard the captured ones. We'll make for Sirius Prime from here and turn these over to the Patrol office there." Sprage said, "On behalf of all of us, I'd like to thank you for coming to our aid."

Homsar waived it off. "As if I wouldn't come." Homsar said, "You know better, Commander."

"That only means that nothing more important hadn't come to your attention." Sprage said, and then one of the crewmen entered the room.

"Sir, one of the prisoners requests parley. We believe it is the ship's captain."

Sprage stood up, but the crewman stopped him. "No, sir, not with you. He wants parley with Agent Homsar."

Homsar gave the young cadet the look that said "And he wants to speak with me why?" The crewman then said, "He said 'Dragonsworn', sir.", and that was enough for both Homsar and Sprage.