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Humility goes before a triumph

AragmarDec 19, 2019, 3:44:52 PM

This is a short excerpt from my sixth Starshatter book titled Final Liberation. Beware, there be spoilers ahead!

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The Alduri commando team had been successfully deployed via a cloaked vessel, folded on the ground by one of the telepaths on board. One of two, the fold specialists were essential to the success of this op. Contrary to what the Observer who visited Earth some time ago had advised them, the Alduri High Council decided to do the Coalition one small favor – they would try and steal a Terran railgun or laser weapon technology, to acquire valuable intelligence. Considerable danger was involved since, if discovered, yet another diplomatic incident could loom over their heads, complicating the Alduri’s already precarious position with the G.A.’s Council of Galactic Relations. To minimize the chance of that happening, they reassigned some of their best commando teams and strongest telepaths, specialists in combat hyperspace folding to this sector and, of course, employed cloaked ships only. Instead of using the vessel which their Coalition contact had provided, the Alduri deployed their own long-range dropships. The spacecraft was almost void of weaponry – it could defend itself by heavily relying on its Alduri-made cloaking shields, reinforced heatsinks and thick, made of stealth composite alloy, hull. For the purpose of this specific operation, the vessel was perfectly suited for, yet, considering the fact that it was Earth they were trying to infiltrate, the Alduri supplied their commandos with brand new sensor jamming equipment. On top of that, each trooper sported a backup holo-cloak device so that if ever their TOC were compromised, they could use it to conceal themselves. The Alduri commandos were expertly trained and conditioned – they could lay low for hours, days even, waiting for their pursuers to leave the mission area so that then they could covertly retreat or complete an objective.

The most experienced commando teams were sent here to one of Earth’s nation states called Japan, their goal – to infiltrate the domain of Clan Shimazu. Some were tasked with hacking secure servers to extract sensitive intelligence data, others to kidnap Clan officials or their families, so they could later be used for blackmail. Yet this team in particular, its goal was one weapon research facility cleverly disguised as a temple by the Japanese humans. Built in a rather densely populated area, it was surrounded by many other important Shimazu buildings and that further convinced the Alduri strategic annalists of its importance. After deploying, the operators were forced to lie in wait for half a day, hidden atop some residential building, before most locals retreated from the operation’s area. Indeed, the Terrans had outdone themselves by concealing one of their top research facilities underneath a building such as this temple. Adepts of covert operations, the Alduri were often sent on missions where the primary goal was well-hidden or obscured. The operators knew very well what they were doing, for they had been continuously sent on similar deployments for decades, over and over. Moreover, the commandos observed movement of children, who were obviously schooled in the temple and logically assumed that to be another type of cover – their people would’ve done the very same thing. The team leader decided to keep their profile low – obviously abducting one of these children remained a possibility, still. In the event that their main target was too tightly-guarded, they’d risk snagging one, maybe two little Terrans. That was indeed an option although, for now it was at the very bottom on their priority list. One thing the Alduri were now acutely aware of was that the little humans did possess knowledge and skill much greater than that of the other races’ progeny, that and they were armed...

Not willing to fail their given assignment, the commandos snuck forward carefully, bypassing one patrolling team of local security, then climbing up the hill where the target building was. Slowly, the specialists proceeded further; ghostly shapes concealed under TOC made their way across the temple’s graveyard, ultimately reaching its courtyard. There, kneeling right in the center of it they noticed the bulky silhouette of a kil’ra warrior. His Morale Officer armored uniform was adorned with many a commendation, and the medals which this Kil’ra had been awarded with meant that he was someone of note. Quickly the lead Alduri commando checked the PDA target list he had been supplied with by the Coalition, and after a couple of seconds gave his team the sign – they had a one-time only opportunity to remove one of the Minarchy’s famed Morale Officers. Their scans showed that he was alone, bar the presence of two old humans, who were probably left here to maintain the illusion that this place was a temple and not a high tech research facility. The commandos didn’t scout anyone else on their cautious, second scan, either. A couple more silent signs later and the six-man team slid closer, surrounding the Kil’ra yet, before they could attack, their leader deployed one of their powerful jammers. The device not only created a thick comms blanket, it was also a wide range sound dampener – the commandos intended to slay their mark without much noise. Dozan’Re was a famous hero of the Imperial Minarchy yet, despite all his glory, his many achievements on the battlefield, this warrior was now alone and denied the aid of his friends. The specialists were not willing to risk shooting him since, even with their jammer active, someone could see the beams streaking through the dark. Blades were silently unsheathed and the team slowly crept up, ever closing the range between them and the calmly meditating warrior. If ever the Alduri commando had witnessed a mark who placed himself in a position more opportune for assassination, this was one such case. Kneeling on the olden, cracked and weathered by the elements tiles, the Kil’ra had even placed his sword next to him. His mighty blade was sheathed, of course – the Morale Officer thought himself safe. Palms clasped together and eyes closed shut, the Alduri could only hear their mark’s calm, relaxed breath. Before they fully committed to the attack, the commandos looked around again and carefully explored the main temple building’s entrance. Indeed there were some sensors but those were civilian grade and easily hacked. Once the computer which commanded said scanners was fed a continuous data loop, the Alduri spread their minds around, and they did so with the utmost care. Alduri were telepathic to some degree and those whom their ruling council trained to be Observers or combat specialists, possessed the highest talent of all. Yet, their fame as one of the best telepaths in this part of the galaxy had come under attack of late, after the Terrans had formed their Psy-corps. Seemed that these humans had an abnormally high numbers of psychically capable individuals among them, even though they were not a telepathic race like the Alduri. Their Observer’s report, the commandos had read from start to finish and were well prepared to shield their presence from the ever-watchful minds of Psy-corps operatives. Gently, the specialists probed around but found nobody, they even checked their mark one last time – local samurai of the Shimazu clan were known for their great skill in fashioning deceptive sensor and holo-decoys. The Alduri Observer sternly advised the High Council against any action against the Terrans – she claimed the Shimazu had a huge, completely invisible, deadly-skilled army. No, there was no deception, at least not here. Their minds gently probed the space where the Kil’ra knelt – the elder alien was real and his still meditating body soon to be butchered by their blades. Of course, commandos from other races could even entertain the notion of snapping the warrior’s neck, yet they were not some naive, optimistically inclined fools. This was a Kil’ra, an almost nine-foot-tall death machine with sturdy bones, tough sinew and muscles made of steel. Far safer and quicker it was for them to simply stab his neck, sever the spinal column and therefore cause instant death. Whatever bleeding occurred, they had force field scrubbers – the specialists could clean any and all evidence, hide his body somewhere, even shroud it with one of their spare holo-cloaks if need be. Then, infiltrating the railgun research facility hidden under this temple would be achieved much more easily. Concealed from prying eyes and outer sensors, the commandos could employ all of their ranged weapons to best its guards. Them, or the special munitions and other devices to deal with this research center’s automatic or cyber defenses.

One commando was already standing behind the Kil’ra and slowly, moving his hand inch by inch, he aimed his dagger’s blade, ready to stab. Two more had their short swords ready to strike and closed from the front – one slightly to the left and the other, to the right. Together the three Alduri formed a perfect triangle formation; one which people like them had to practice for many years under their best instructors. Assassination of VIP’s was, more often than not, the primary work these specialists were deployed for on the battlefield. Still unmoving, their mark continued meditating, and after one last sign given to them by their leader, the dagger wielding commando attacked. His exosuit-assisted hand moved with speed and the split second the vibroblade needed to puncture its target’s neck came and passed. Another second later the commando’s confused mind noticed that the blade he had so masterfully aimed was now sticking from his own chest-plate, and the hand which held it was bent under an angle most unnatural. His vision rapidly dimming, the dying Alduri glimpsed how the Kil’ra warrior rolled forward, and then leapt in the air. What happened then, however, was no longer his concern because he was already dead. Meanwhile, the two sword-wielding commandos could only follow up on their already prepared and well-trained attack pattern. One of them swung high, while the other, the one on the left, attempted to slash the morale officer’s legs. Both witnessed footwork most elaborate and strange, one such they had never seen beforehand since their instructors knew not about it. The Alduri were no fools, they spied on many a race; their many, well-trained agents carefully learned all of their enemies’ strengths and weaknesses, then a throng of instructors meticulously prepared their operatives. Yet in this particular case, said specialists had to come, commit to the completion of an operation most dangerous, considerably... less informed. No Alduri spy dared try and infiltrate Earth directly – the danger of capture was far too great. Therefore, their intelligence service was forced to purchase information on the black market, employ foreign mercenaries as unwitting spies, even pay alien traders for odd bits and pieces of data. That is how they were made aware of this secretive place, this temple. Of the number, skill and prominence of Earth’s martial artists they knew very little and while their opponent’s body moved with technique unseen, the commandos’ only counter was to try and adapt. However skilled these operators were, in this instance they had no time to even try doing so. Their enemy’s body swirled, legs in the air, then one of his boots found the left operator’s neck and with a crunch that nobody could hear, because their sound dampener was still active, the commando fell dead. If the third operator thought that his blade would connect and stab the enemy’s back, pierce the kil’ra’s elaborate and beautifully fluttering cape, his vision was soon conquered by his enemy’s boot. The thick, megasteel hobnailed bootheel, followed by all the kil’ra’s hefty mass then firmly planted the second commando’s head into the ground, blood and pieces of metal flying all over. The dead Alduri’s armored body would’ve clanked when he fell, metal screeching over the tiles of the temple’s courtyard, yet the silence was deafening. While others would continue, throw themselves at this brutishly strong and seemingly well-trained warrior with the vain hope of defeating him, the Alduri retreated. The three remaining commandos speedily ran away from the battlefield and their slick, apparition like forms, leapt from one gravestone to another, yet they were no longer alone. More shadowy opponents emerged from under their TOC, dropping from mid-air, weapons drawn. Clasped in dark-blue, light Shimazu samurai armor, the Shinobi greeted well those who dared infiltrate their home-world. Two of the remaining Alduri specialists fell dead, slain on the spot, while their commander risked everything by using his engines to leap away. Desperate to escape, he even sent an Exfil mental command to his dropship. Yet, instead of a reassuring answer or him being instantly folded back to the safety of his cloaked vessel, a voice echoed inside his mind:

“You are growing bold witless Alduri scum, quite bold indeed, if you imagine such a joke of an infiltration Op possible. I-sec and Psy-corps send their regards and through me, Planetary Judge Boris Simeonov, the safety of the Japanese people, their families and friends will be assured!”

The Alduri commando landed right next to someone who wore the gray uniform of an I-sec operative – the man’s hand had already trained a stunner at his chest-plate. Didn’t matter at all that he was still under active TOC – his opponent was a telepath and had already successfully intercepted his thoughts. In but a second the weapon’s muzzle flashed and the commando’s mind invaded by the person who, if the Alduri had time to shuffle through the Coalition target list, he’d identify as yet another one of IMS Starshatter’s crew. Now, the Alduri’s very being acted as if he was neck-deep and about to be swallowed by a deadly, bottomless bog. He tried resisting the Psy-corps agent and perhaps, had he still had his team to give him their minds’ aid, the commando leader would’ve been successful. Much akin to a violent force of nature, a flash flood, the human’s mind drowned his, breaching all carefully built defenses, brutalizing every innermost thought. While the stunner unleashed its thick, lightning-looking bolt, the commando attempted to return fire. Someone large and yet incredibly quick, snap-kicked the particle snub gun from his hands and then, with his mind broken, the commando fell stunned to the ground. Seconds later more shinobi ran from nearby alleys or again fell from the sky and then inside many, waiting for them with engines idling, dark-blue vans. Purchased from different manufacturers, said threat-less looking vehicles were conveniently parked around the area, their stock paint jobs replaced with nano-programmable coating. It was clear that a large, covert operation was underway – the shinobi of clan Shimazu weren’t known for their late evening strolls. Some of them packed bags full of looted equipment, others, two by two, carried the limp bodies of many a Alduri commando. One of the shinobi darted from place to place force-scrubber in hand, wiping an odd blood splat, cleaning the road and sidewalk, then casually picked up the kicked lead commando’s snub gun. So quick were the shinobi, that before thirty seconds had passed, all trace of alien infiltration was wiped clean, bodies and weapons removed. The vans then slowly accelerated and they moved out, each in different direction, each sporting one or another convenient cover. In but a short star-minute only the I-sec operative and his morale officer friend stood alone under the bright orange streetlight.

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To those who still dream of the good old days when science fiction was still fun and not chalk full cancerous SJW crap, I say - give my Starshatter series a chance! They are available on Amazon both in Kindle and paperback format. Those of you who are willing and able, can support me on Patreon or Subscribestar