[Starshield]SM: Book 2: Winds of War. Chapter 17
- Book II
_______________________ The Compass and the Blade___________________
(The events of this Dra'keshi story arc occur about a month before the formation of ELF station)
The lithe figure descended down the steel cable with uncanny stealth. Below her the Gorgon sentry monitored
the nexus of crossing catwalks that encompassed its post. The figure froze, waiting to see if the guard was aware of
her presence hanging an even hand's width above him. The Gorgon shifted once, scratched its butt and continued
to scan the area around it.
Silently the figure drew her Sabersaw, cocked her arm with a cleansing breath and struck down fast, driving the
blade with a sickening crunch. Like an ice pick through an egg she punctured the Gorgon's skull in a single stroke.
Twisting for good measure, the assassin withdrew the blade and flipped to the catwalk below, beating the lifeless
Gorgon's toppling body to the ground. From a one knee stance Lt. Allison Knox quickly drew her Torpedo
Blaster, flipped the setting to 9 mm dumloads and fired at the four startled guards turning to the sound of their
Shot one - between the eyes. Pivot - throat. Pivot - forehead. Pivot - heart. Each shot made a whispering puff as
the sound suppresser did its work. Holstering her saber she rose to her feet and executed a deft hand signal.
One by one more descent lines were lowered until Fire Teams 2 through 5 of the elite Star Jumpers were
assembled on the hub of the catwalk's 'X'. The four teams raced for each end of the walkways, leaving a reserve
force, FT 6, to cover them from the ledges and shafts sixty feet above. Captain Garrison Raleigh and FT 2 sprinted
forty yards in a matter of seconds. The heavy alloyed door before them appeared to be a formidable obstacle, until
Crewmen Dillon, Demolition Master began to give it a close, analytical look. Printed on it's side were a serious of
K'tan characters next to an unmistakable icon of a missile. Off the right of the frame was a simple security panel
made up of several studs. Raleigh glanced over the walk way and down into the deep cavern below. Like dragon
teeth the warheads of a dozen Elemental missiles thrust up out of the abyss. Their mission to destroy the missiles
was going better than he imagined. Too easy in fact. His thoughts wandered back to how they arrived
It had taken his team two minutes to locate the second holographic door hidden in the tunnel six meters before
the entrance of the Bryson's base. Passing through to the other side the Helo Squad discovered a steel walled
corridor leading downward to the Kelshran's hidden missile silo (there were even icons informing them of the fact).
Bolstered by the lack of security guards and features (nearly all Gorgon hands seemed to assembled in the base's
main hall for the battle with the Dra'Keshi) the squad rushed ahead until they discovered a series of manhole
covers in the ceiling. They were exhaust ports leading to the silos themselves. The information King Onshir sent
him mentioned a heavy guarded entrance gate. Rather than risk a needless battle, Raleigh decided the shafts would
allow them by pass the guards and gain direct access to the missiles themselves. The Captain smiled - sometimes
life really was like a holo-flick where the bad guys actually built air shafts for the good guys to use. That was the
point where everything felt too easy, a feeling that didn't sit well with the Helo Captain. Something was amiss here.
Something obvious, only he couldn't...
"Sir.... " whispered his demolitionist. "Those are thick doors. I could blast through them with a
few Det-packs, but..."
Raleigh nodded. He'd rather save their explosives for taking out the missiles themselves. Glancing over to one of
the deceased Gorgons Raleigh spotted something on the guard's belt. Moving closer he marked a security card
with the same K'tan characters printed on the door. He plucked it off, walked over to the security panel and found a
key slot. He held up the card then hesitated. Again, an uneasy feeling swept over him... but then again, what's the
worse that could happen?
Eight minutes earlier.
"This is not good..."
Ensign DiNovi looked away from the onslaught unfolding below her. With Ensign Bell and Dream-Medic
Anderson the three Archaens lay hidden in the foyer of Bryson's base. Through slotted windows they watched the
battle between Bryson and King Onshir rage on. Onshir was losing.
DiNovi's hands held a familiar object as the sounds of battle continued to ring. Bryson, having just turned
himself into some kind of living cyclone, lashing out towards the Dra'Keshi Monarch with blurring speed. Dee
looked down to her parent's graduation gift - an antique brass pocket compass she held in her hand. Without
realizing it she flipped open the protective lid. Inside the gimbals and needle were chaotically spinning. That was
expected, considering the dampening field was --
Her head snapped up in time to spy King Onshir's body rebounding off the chamber's right side. He was
bleeding from a deep gash on his side. His blade was embedded in the far side wall.
"First blood to me!" cried Bryson.
The Gorgons roared as one, crashing their maces and scimitars against their chest plates. The sound thrummed
the air with a heavy beat as they chanted 'Gn'rm!' over and over - 'Kill' in their native tongue.
"Do you yield? " asked the Kelshran assassin.
DiNovi watched as Onshir struggled to his feet, grasping his side with his left hand. Keeping his eyes locked on
Bryson he ambled over to his blade, and with a summons of strength wrenched it free from the wall. The tip
dropped to the floor, along with several chunks of stone. DINovi looked down again with a silent prayer - and
flinched. The needle of her compass was pointing straight ahead.
"The hell?..." whispered the Tactical Officer. She moved the compass from side to side, but sure enough the
needle continued to point straight for... DiNovi looked up and tracked the direction across to the chamber's far
side, specifically to the missing stones in the wall where King Onshir's sword hand just been. Her eyes narrowed as
numerous calculations ran through her head. Only one thing would cause the compass to lock onto it's source - a
resonating magnetic field.
"Ishtar!" she shouted, loud enough to draw disconcerting looks from Bell and Anderson.
"Dee... secure yourself..." warned Bell. DiNovi bit her bottom lip, as her fellow Ensign re-aimed his rifle.
Anderson looked at her with a wondrous expression, but telling him what she knew would be... . Pressing her
hands against the slotted window she found the only person who'd benifit from her knowledge.
Breathing deeply the Dra'Keshi Monarch found the reserves to lift his sword.
"I still stand... despite your cowardly attack.. And...
"And... No! I yield to no one!"
*Who?* mentally sought the King.
*Your Highness... It's I.. uh, me, Ensign DiNovi.*
*Now... is not... a good time, Ensign.* The Archaen could physically feel... sense the Dra'Keshi's pain, and the
sheer strength of his will. It was nearly overwhelming.
*The missiles... I've found them. Bryson lied, they're not elsewhere, they're on the other side
of thefar chamber wall!*
Bryson lifted his chin.
"Cowardly? Hmm... perhaps you complain over the terms of our engagement."
Once more the Kelshran held forth his battle-axe.
"Have at me, Dra'Keshi King. I give you my word I will not fight back. In fact... strike me down
if you can, but know this..."
The Kelshran turned his head to behold his weapon...
*How do you know, Ensign?*
*I've an ancient compass, your Highness. It's locked on to a magnetic source. I'm sure it's
the silo of Elemental missiles.*
*If that's true, then...*
*Then Captain Garrison and the squad are heading into a trap.*
"You face Rén of the twelve Starblades of the Eu'Clid. It is an Elemental blade, mathematically
perfect and... unbreakable."
Onshir's eyes narrowed as he studied Bryson's weapon.
"Have at me..." challenged the K'tan.
The Monarch grinned...
*Ensign, can you disable those missiles?* asked Onshir.
*Yes, you Ensign. Yes or no?*
DiNovi had never seen K'tan technology up close, but there were more ways than delicate engineering to
disable machines. Her hand gripped the hilt of her Grandfather's combat blade.
*Yes, sir. Consider it done.*
*Good. I'll warn Captain Garrison, and try and buy you some time. The fate of my people are in your hands,
Ensign. Good luck.*
Removing his cloak Onshir tore a long section from its bottom and fashioned a quick bandage around the gash
on his side. Cinching it tight he then fixed his harden eyes upon his opponent.
*Aye that, sir. You too.*
Below her DiNovi watched as the surrounding Gorgon guards began to chant.
"Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... "
With a throaty war cry Onshir charged. To the naked eye the Dra'Keshi was a blur, striking at the Kelshran in a
devastating series of attacks and strikes - high line head cuts, each blending seamlessly into the next. Bryson
blocked them all. Dee turned to her companions.
"Bell... Anderson, did you get that?" whispered the Tactical Officer.
"You mean the voices in my head that sounded like you and the King there?" asked Bell without moving his
aim. "Couldn't miss it."
DiNovi turned to the Dream-Medic. He nodded.
"I'm coming with you," he said.
Dee shook her head.
"No... It's better if I go alone." Quickly she began to strip off her Imperial Armor. It would be too cumbersome
for her to move stealthlfully. "If I fail... "
"Then we still need to be here to finish off Bryson," finished Bell. "She's right, doc."
The True Dreamer nodded at his comrade's logic.
"All right. At least take these..." he passed her a handful of dull, blacking looking crystals. DiNovi instantly
recognized them as Det-packs, malleable explosives used by the Squad for covert demolition work. She hadn't
used them since her combat training as a cadet, but their operation was unforgettable. Adhere one to any surface,
press your thumb into it until it turned completely white, then run like hell - you'd have ten seconds to do so.
"Thanks..." said the young Ensign. Quietly placing the sections of her armor on the ground she then took the
crystals and placed them in a deep thigh pocket of her black jumpsuit. Next she placed her compass in an other
one on the opposite leg, followed by sheathing her Combat Dagger in the belt loops running along the small of her
back. She was ready.
"Doc... if I ... I... " she whispered.
"You won't fail," said the True Dreamer in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Your back is watched," said Bell over his shoulder. DiNovi nodded. Walking to her left she stood on the edge
of the steps leading down to the open battle-chamber below. Without realizing it she had taken her compass out again
and raised it to her chest. The lid clicked open and she read the inscriptions engraved inside:
Relinquish your desire to control the future
and you will find your destiny.
*Right,* she thought to herself, *Let's do this.*
Taking a cleansing breath she rushed down the steps.
With a throaty war cry Onshir charged.
To the naked eye the Dra'Keshi was a blur, striking at the Kelshran in a devastating series of attacks and strikes
- high line head cuts, each blending seamlessly into the next. Bryson blocked them all, yet was forced to raise his
axe to do so, leaving his lower body vulnerable. Onshir's next move surprised all. Instead of feinting for the head
and striking the body the Dra'Keshi monarch flipped high into the air before slashing down upon the Kelshran in
another series of blinding head cuts. Ten blows rained down upon the Kelshran before Onshir reached the ground.
The combatants separated and paused. The Monarch slowly rose to his feet as he saw yet again that the assassin
had parried each of his lethal attacks. Worse, his bandaged was stained with blood.
"Impressive," replied Bryon's cold voice, as he casually spun his axe. "You performed eight strikes
I have never seen before. One nearly got through. Do you yield, good King? You have my word
that your death will be quick... and somewhat painless."
"Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... " cried the assembled Gorgons.
It was now or never. Chanting with their backs to her DiNovi dashed down behind the line of Gorgons and
straight for the far side of the chamber. Her eyes strayed to the compass in her hand as she saw its floating needle
point swivel from the hole in the stone wall to unerringly straight ahead - directly to a solid section hewed rocks
she was quickly approaching. Closeing her eyes she continued to run.
*Letting go of my desire... letting go of my de...*
She opened her eyes - the stone wall was straight in front of her. A startled scream frozen in her throat before
she flashed through... and smashed into something hard. Spots danced in front of her eyes, along with the rising
sensation of a throbbing bump on her forehead. Blinking quickly she regained her balance and turned around.
Behind her she saw the semi translucent image of the holographic wall/door she had just passed through. On the
other side the battle continued, but for how long she could only guess. Turning to her left she saw the rest of the
real stone wall running along a narrow catwalk that extend into a vast, deep chasm. To her immediate right was a
smooth steel wall - the same wall she had just ran into that extended a few meters down the catwalk ending with a
simple door panel. Rushing over she quickly spotted a security pad on the right jamb. Reaching into her pocket she
pulled out a Det-pack, slicked off a wedge with her combat dagger, re-sheathed the blade, and adhered the
malleable explosive along the right side seal of the door. Crossing her fingers she pressed her thumb into the black
substance until it quickly turned white. Rushing back towards the holo-wall, she ducked down into a tight crouch
and counted backwards from ten.
"Six... five... four.... three... "
A muffled explosion coughed from the doorway, followed by a crackle of sparks and smoke. Without pausing
DiNovi dashed back and passed through the breached door. Inside she found a simple control room with an clear
view port overlooking a collection of six warheads - the real Elemental Missiles Bryson had mentioned.
*Lying bugger,* she thought as she scanned the controls. Two modules were running, but the interface and
language was foreign to her, however she spotted two things. First, hovering over a screen was a haunting of the
Dra'Keshi Homeworld. Spaced from this was the image of the asteroid belt holding Bryson's base, but on the
opposite side of the display was a formation of approaching images. Dee moved closer, and swore. It was a small
armada of Hunn pirate ships.
Quickly DiNovi remembered Bryson's plan. Any Dra'Keshi who would survive the missile's devastation would
be preyed upon by the Hunn. The brutality of the plan sickened the young Archaen.
*Not if I have anything to say about it.*
Reaching out she picked up the second item she spotted - a Data-glove. As a Tactical Officer Dee had seen
several makes and models of her own Empire's Sensor-gloves, as well as many from other nations. Essentially they
allowed the wear to tacitly interface with information systems and databases. She only hoped a K'tan design would
do the same. Without hesitation she placed it on her left hand. Instantly she felt a sharp pain at her wrist followed by
a wave of vertigo.
[Linguistic interface parameters completed.] said a voice in her head, a voice that was hers, yet not hers.
[Cognitive syntax - Archaen.]
*Goddess... it's in my mind!* thought the Ensign, completely surprised by this unexpected feat.
[Illogical syntax. Please restate,] returned the voice.
DiNovi's eyes darted back the the display haunting.
*Interface with Elemental weapon's missile system.*
[Please cognate password] replied the glove in her mind.
*All right... cancel.*
Thinking for a few moments Dee moved closer to the haunting of the asteroid belt and touched it with the index
finger of her glove.
*Interface navigational system,* requested the Ensign.
[Please cognate password,] replied the glove.
[Illogical syntax. Please restate.]
*Oh, for the love of....*, but this time DiNovi held her thoughts and passed her attention back to the haunting
display. All of the systems were code protected, and the access codes were held in the Data crystal embedded in
"What sneaky rat is this?" growled a voice behind her.
Frozen with fear, Dee slowly turned around. In the doorway stood a massive Gorgon warrior, one DiNovi
recognized instantly as O'Lar, Captain of the Guard.
The Monarch wiped the sweat from his brow and lifted his blade. That was his answer.
With a throaty war cry he attacked again. Once more another series of high line cuts fell upon the assassin, these
equally as fast, yet with more fury behind each blow. All time seemed to freeze as the two combatants became a
deadly ballet of speed and steel, until for a few fleeting moments Onshur began to force Bryson back, once causing
the Kelshran to move quickly from an unexpected attack, one that nearly decapitated the assassin.
"Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... "
Onshir pressed his advantage, this time combining his attack with a high line lung. Once more the two merged
into a composite of strikes and parries. Three minutes passed, four then five until one of Onshir's lunges evade the
Kelshran's block and struck him high on the shoulder. His armor was rented, but only that. The Dra'Keshi attacked
again only this time his actions were somewhat slower, and to many observers it seemed the tiring warrior was
purposely hacking at the Kelshran's axe, rather than the assassin himself. Behind him his fellow warriors wondered
if fatigue was baffling the wits of their Monarch, or perhaps he was attempting to dislodge the data-crystal itself.
Finally, the Drak performed a series of overhead slash-cuts, each raining down on the Kelshran's cross raised
weapon just below the axe head with a puffing grunts. Twelve blows struck until the Monarch stumbled back,
seemingly spent. He fell to one knee and flinched as a hand gripped his wounded side. His face was bathed in sweat
as he took deep, haggard breaths. Slowly his head lowered to ground seemingly in defeat.
"Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... "
DiNovi was thrown into the rough stone wall outside the control room. Light flashed behind her eyes as she
dropped to the catwalk, followed by the taste of copper flooding her mouth. She felt something broken inside her
ribs as she staggered to her feet and hobbled down the catwalk. O'Lar followed, a look of malevolent glee twisted
upon his face.
"O'lar spied sneaky rat run through wall, Rat found someplace new...
Someplace master hasn't showed us!" huffed the Gorgon.
"O'lar thinks he will catch... and kill sneaky rat."
With one of its four arms the towering warrior pulled a spiked mace from his belt and stalked towards DiNovi.
Dee rushed as fast as she could down the length of the catwalk, then stopped. The walkway ended two meters
away next to the nose cone of an Elemental missile. She looked over the edge of the railing. A yawning darkness
filled the abyss below.
"No where to run little rat," taunted the Gorgon as he effortlessly smashed away a full section of side
railings with his mace. DiNovi drew her grandfather's blade.
"Ho... little rat has teeth! Come then... bite O'lar!" challenged the warrior.
DiNovi rushed, keeping low, aiming for his - something hard and fast smashed her chest knocking her senseless
to catwalk floor. Her vision bluried as she felt something grip the collar of her jumpsuit and lift her into the air.
Weakly she let her blade slipped from her fingers.
"Hmmm... pretty thing, little rat," said the Gorgon holding Dee level with his cocked head.
"Perhaps O'lar will have some fun with you first..."
DiNovi faught a wave of revulsion as she felt a massive scaly hand rising towards her chest. Ripping her hand
from her right leg pocket she reared it back and slammed it - hard into the Gorgon's skull.
"What!..." shouted the Captain.
Unfazed by the blow the warrior wondered what the white, tacky lump was adhered to his forehead. That was
until Dee drove her combat boot deep into his groin. His eyes bulged with explosive pain as DiNovi slipped form
his grip. Double over the Gorgon looked up in time to see the small Archaen gather her combat dagger and slam
the gleaming tip into the side of his kneecap. Howling with renewed agony, the Gorgon toppled to his side as his
arms reached out for the side rails of the catwalk, only there were none - he had smashed them away with his
mace. A look of complete horror filled his eyes as he tumbled over the edge and into the darkness below. Dee
threw herself toward the edge and looked down.
"Bite that, assho...!"
An explosive fireball erupted a hundred feet below. DiNovi rolled away as a shock wave of heat and light
flashed past her. Breathing hard she climbed to her feet, shocked that she was still alive. Gone was her
Grandfather's blade, but it had done it's job. It had saved her life. Looking at her left hand she was pleased to see
that the Data-glove was still intact and functioning. She would need it. Ambling down the catwalk she stumbled
back towards nose cone of the Elemental missile. Yes - it was there was, what she thought she spied moments
earlier, a maintenance panel on the cone itself with an embedded data-crystal. She hadn't imagined it when she first
spotted the missile. Pointing the index finger of her glove she shouted,
"Interface Elemental missile control system..."
"Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... Gn'rm!... "
Bryson moved closer until Ohshir could see his armored boots in his lowered field of view. He looked too tired
to even raise his head.
"Let us end this now, my King, while you still have some shred of dignity."
The Kelshran raised Rén, poised above Onshir's neck for the killing blow. Suddenly, the entire chamber shook
as if rocked by some distant explosion. Onshir's head snapped up at the disturbance.
"Ah..." said Bryson with an all knowing lift of his chin. "That would be your Archaen friends uncovering
my faux missiles."
The K'tan's gaze met that of the Monarch's
"Yes, I lied about there where abouts, even to my own men."
The Kelshran tapped his helmet.
"I've no doubt that you extracted the information from one of them, but see... The missiles are actually here,
behind the rear wall of this chamber."
With a wave of his hand the back wall separated with a deep rumbling sound, revealing a second, deeper
chamber - the actual silo where the top warheads of six Elemental missiles could be seen by all. The chanting
Gorgons stopped, equally surprised by the chamber's hidden secret.
"Do you think I was unaware of those pathetic Archaens traipsing around my own base?"
Another hollow chuckle resonated from the assassin's helm.
"I'm afraid their end... buried under several kilotons of rock and debris, will not be as glorious as yours,
my good King."
The assassin re-griped his double battleaxe.
"Now... be so kind as to take the Eternal Mother K'tan as your lord and savior, and I give you
my word I will spare the lives of your men."
Onshir's defiant eyes bored into the assassin.
"Your words aren't worth the spit behind them!" stabbed the King.
The Kelshran shrugged.
"Mayhap so, but in the end... I win."
With a blurring stoke the Starblade struck down - and missed.
All stared dumbfounded at the sight before them. The axe handle of Bryson's weapon rested inches away from
King Onshir's head, - resting on the cracked ground it had struck. Bryson looked at his weapon with it's missing
head in absolute shock. Onshir's face quirked a grin before he moved. With blurring speed his blade flashed. Steel
struck steel and Bryson cried in pain. With a suddenly start he lurched backwards raising his arms - both his had
hand be decapitated. Staring at his stumps he nearly tripped over something. Behind him the head of Rén lay
embedded in the ground. His gleaming helmet swiveled from it to Onshir.
"You... you..." stammered the Kelshran.
"Have defeated you," replied the King coming to his feet. "As you said, your axe was unbreakable,
but perhaps not so for your pole."
The Monarch's eyebrow raised in a cunning way and to everyone around him - Grogon, Dra'Keshi and
Archaen it was suddenly evident what the King's strategy had been. During their battle Onshir wasn't trying
to kill Bryson. He was hewing at the Kelshran's axe handle until mere splinters held it to the pole. The force of
the Kelshran's last killing blow had been enough to sever axe from handle. Onshir advanced upon his foe. Bryson
backed away, but as he did the armor around his severed hands flowed and churned, reforging itself into two
jagged looking blades.
"This is far from over, King!" sneered the assassin.
Onshir ignored his opponent and instead drove his blade deep into the ground with an earsplitting clang.
Bending down he plucked the Data-crystal from the Kelshran's axe head.
"Ensign DiNovi, if you would," said the King.
Bryson charged, then suddenly stopped. His entire body was jerked by an unseen force. The assassin strained
forward, but to no avail. Slowly his entire body was drawn back, causing his feet to dig spark filled ruts into the
chamber's stone floor. Then, with a violent yank, the K'tan's entire body was pulled through the air, and across the
cavern where it stuck fast to the closest nose cone in a spread eagle pose.
"What.. what is this?" demanded the assassin as he struggle against his invisible bonds. DiNovi stepped into view
holding up her Data-glove.
"It called magnetic force," said the Tactical Officer, "A poweful elemental force courtesy of your own missile."
Turning she effortlessly caught the Data-crystal Onshir tossed her. The fingers of her sensor glove wrapped
[Pass codes accepted. All systems interfaced.] replied the glove.
Pointing her finger like a gun DiNovi aimed it towards the control room.
*Entering new coordinates for all Elemental missiles.*
[New coordinates entered. Now targeting all approaching Hunn Ships,] answered the glove.
*Initiate firing sequence... on my command.*
A deep rumbling shook the battle chamber as each missile commenced their firing sequence. A hundred meters
above them massive doors parted, revealing a tableau of stars through a porous force field. With a surge of will
Bryson crane his head in DiNovi's direction.
"What are you doing! What's happening?" shouted the Kelshran.
DiNovi walked closer to the K'tan until she perceived his naked eyes within the depths of his golden helm Like
a gun she pointed her glove directly towards his heart..
"Pay back... Archaen style."
She clicked her thumb.
Thunder rumbled below her feet as Bryson began to lift. Behind him all the other missiles followed suit. DiNovi
walked back into the battle chamber as the rock hewed walls concealing the silo closed back into place.
"I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!" roared the assassin as he streaked for the stars. The rocky doors closed and
DiNovi grinned to herself.
Turning she face the warriors assembled behind her. The Gorgons stared at her in disbelief, after all, she, a
human female nearly half their size had helped in vanquishing their lord and master.
"Right," she said with a cocky smirk. "Who's next?"
This chapter is still subject to Stellar's approval and may change.
- All right! Awesome. Looking forward to reading more.
"May our relationship be a Harmonious one. May the Protector watch over you until we meet again."
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