“He would eventually come to balance his divinity with his life as a Migichinan but not for ages in the future. He only understood the love of a woman and the steadfast loyalty of the warrior Dakkoth Starkiller.”
From “The Book of McKenna” - Destiny
After a lot of fussing, McKenna finally convinced the doctors that he was once again fit for duty. He now had a world of problems to deal with. Slann had Winter, but he had the assassin that Slann’s top aide Branwyn had hired.
He started to put on his combat gear.
Perrin was dead, and Dakkoth was an emotional mess because of it. He ordered his top man into counseling, only because the cat-man wouldn’t go voluntarily. McKenna was not entirely sure of the relationship between the two marshals, but he could tell the relationship had been close and perhaps intimate.
Rhaine Quatralis would be another problem. It was probable that Slann’s men had raped her when they raided the Ventrosia Estate, and her visible anger was a front for the pain she was feeling deep inside. As an officer of the law, he knew that rape was a high crime. Because of the respect for the Goddess, the first Lord Prime Draesoneth had enacted a special set of laws protecting women, and the act of rape was considered a high crime, punishable by death. If this were true in the case of his friend, then McKenna would have no problem carrying out the punishment, if Rhaine did not do that herself, first.
The door of the hospital room opened to reveal Awrann.
“Lord Chancellor.” McKenna acknowledged.
“Our situation is dire, McKenna. Slann has Winter.”
“I know, sir. I was there. I plan on raiding Slann’s compound. I’m going to need some serious fire power, though.” McKenna said as the Chancellor helped him adjust the armor.
“General Franclyn is already there and watching the compound. He has a strong jamming field in effect, preventing Slann from beaming anyone out. You should also know that the Aramys was just attacked in space. The ship was the same that the Draesoneth encountered a few days ago.”
“Just dandy.” McKenna growled. “Then it goes without saying that Capt. Dunan was there?”
“Correct. The Captain is heading up efforts to find this vessel. I have the feeling that it is connected to Slann.”
“Lord Chancellor, everything that goes south around here these days is somehow connected to Slann. He’s got his hands into just about everything.” McKenna checked the charge on his sidearm, and then holstered it.
“What do you plan to do, McKenna?” Awrann asked, knowing that the conversation was coming to an end.
“Well, I’ve got to talk to a friend first, then I’m going to gather up Dakkoth, Rhaine Quatralis, and the marines and kick in Slann’s front door, then stick my ray gun up his ass until he let’s Winter go. Then, I’m going to pull the trigger.”
“Isn’t that a little harsh?”
“Nah, worse case will be the Warlord won’t be able to sit down for the next week. But then again, if his head happens to come loose from his neck, then he won’t really have to worry about much else.”
“You’re a cruel man, Zendista McKenna.”
“Au contraire, my liege, I’m just in a really, really bad mood.” McKenna turned and headed out.
McKenna left his hospital room, not even bothering to stop at the checkout desk. He found a lift and made his way to the chapel. There he found much to his surprise, Lord Prime Xiang Ti and Kyra enjoying a cup of tea.
“Why, Chief Marshal, what a pleasant surprise. Won’t you join us?” Xiang Ti asked.
“With all due respect, sir, I must decline. Kyra, I need you to visit Dakkoth Starkiller. I think he could use someone to talk to.” Kyra nodded at McKenna’s request and gently kissed Xiang Ti on the cheek as she got up to leave. Xiang Ti rose as well.
“My deepest apologies, Lord Prime, for disturbing you.”
“Pay it no mind, my friend. I have tea often with the priestess Kyra. I enjoy her... company. I assume you are here because you need some spiritual guidance?” Xiang Ti said.
“You could say that.” McKenna replied.
“Then I shall leave you alone. Good day, Mr. McKenna.” Xiang Ti bowed to McKenna, showing his respect for his future Lord Chancellor. McKenna returned the bow, rather surprised that the Lord Prime would honor him in such an ancient fashion.
After the Lord Prime was gone, McKenna looked around. He found a candle and lit it. He made a pot of tea and set it with the tea set that Xiang Ti and Kyra had left behind. He then drew his sword and placed it beside the tea set.
“Okay, let’s see if this works... Migichina.” The room filled with the scent of vanilla as a light appeared, taking the shape of a woman.
"You called. I came. What do you want, my son?” The Goddess bathed in light asked.
“I don’t know what I want. I need to talk, though.” McKenna kneeled down and poured some tea for him and the Goddess.
“I was there on the mount. I listened. You hurt me with your words.” Migichina said flatly. McKenna paused, and then he recalled smelling the vanilla.
“I was angry, and I’m sorry, but I meant every word.” He repented. Migichina smiled as she took the humanoid form that many were used to.
“Apology accepted. You had every right to be angry, though. Things have gotten out of control, and it is my fault to some extent. I set things in motion that led to this.”
“And I know it’s up to us to fix it.” McKenna said.
“Yes,” the Goddess replied, “And there are some things you need to know to arm your self for the hours that are to come. Slann is not as powerful an enemy as you think. Though a threat, his motives are known and are typical of his house. The Slann have always sought control of the Alliance, but the true threat is Maxaa Branwyn.”
McKenna cocked an eyebrow.
“Maxaa Branwyn is an agent of my brother, Merid.”
“The god of the Meridians, the people of Cestas Delta IV.”
“Merid wants you eliminated for some reason, and saw this as a prime opportunity to take action.”
“If Branwyn’s got Merid behind her, then she’s not going to be easy to take down, Migichinan or not.”
“Or not, most likely, for she is not one of my children. She is Meridian, and adept at combat magic.”
McKenna growled. Migichinan were naturally vulnerable to magic, except in a few cases. A combat mage could be a valuable weapon on the battlefield. If Slann had known this, then a more dangerous adversary he would be.
“What are our options, Migichina?”
The Goddess tried not to frown. She was not accustomed to being addressed by name by mortals. McKenna was a special case, though. He was in command of the situation, and he knew it. Goddess or not, McKenna was going to play by his rules, and use every resource he could get his hands onto.
“I can take care of Branwyn.” the Goddess finally said. “I have an ace in the hole if she is brought back into play.” This brought some relief to McKenna. ”It is against tradition for a person who is not of the Migichinan to interfere in our internal matters. If Slann uses her, than I shall strike him and his house down. His name shall forever be held in contempt.”
McKenna smiled. This was the first time since he had begun to speak to the Goddess in person that she actually sounded like the deity she was supposed to be.
“Someone is coming, Mac.” She said worriedly. She faded out of sight. McKenna stood as one of his marshals entered the chapel.
“Report.” He ordered, annoyed by the interruption.
“Boss, you ought to come down to the big house. Dakk’s interrogating D’Saad.” The marshal said hurriedly.
“Crap.” was McKenna’s only word as he jogged out of the chapel and to the Chancellery offices.
Janus D’Saad sat in the interrogation chamber. The guards had sat her down and left the room, leaving her alone. Her bumps and bruises were tell-tale signs that her Migichinan wardens were not very kind in conducting her incarceration. Her attempts to resist their brutality were only met with greater force.
“I want to see a lawyer!” She yelled, not knowing if anybody was watching, listening, or even cared.” There was no response.
“HEY!” She yelled again. She looked around. The door was barred from the outside, no doubt, and there were probably a couple of marshals and a criminal psychologist standing behind the mirror, watching her, waiting to see how insane she could become. She decided to put on a show. Taking her shirt off, she pressed her chest up against the mirror and licked the glass.
“No one’s watching, D’Saad, and you don’t excite me. Put your shirt back on.” Came a whisper from the shadows.
D’Saad spun around, eyes wide in horror as she scanned the room but saw nothing, even in the darkened corners.
“300 are dead because of you, woman. Not to mention you killed an entire family, and a young woman with a promising life ahead of her.” The voice whispered, its sound resonating through the room.
D’Saad slowly backed away from the mirror. Even in her insanity, she had never heard voices before. She looked again but saw no one.
“Who are you?” she asked timidly. “Where are you?”
“It doesn’t stop there, no. You had to kill Alexis, and you killed Brigit. Two women I really cared about. For this you shall pay in blood!” The whisper turned to rage.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! You’ve got the wrong person.”
“Typical. A delusional answer from a delusional mind. I shall ease you of your sufferings and bring you death, but, I assure you that will not be without pain.
Janus D’Saad screamed as she finally saw the fire red eyes shine in a darkened corner of the room. Dakkoth Starkiller leaped out of the corner and tackled the woman, his claws digging into her flesh. He picked her up by the shoulders and threw her into a corner. Where she landed was where she decided to stay, the pain from the impact not allowing her to do much else. Dakkoth jumped up onto the table.
“Get up and fight me!” Dakkoth hissed as he crouched, perched on the table of the interrogation chamber.
“You have killed my dearest friend, the only woman I’ve ever loved, and you’re not done paying for it!”
He screamed and leaped, landing only an arm’s length from the prisoner. He grabbed her by the neck and threw her across the chamber. D’Saad, knocked back into her senses, moved quickly to avoid the warrior landing on her.
She rolled and got to her feet. With a sweep of the leg, she knocked Dakkoth to the ground and rolled again, bringing the back of her legs into his chest. Dakkoth convulsed with the impact. D’Saad jumped up and ran for the door, trying to escape, but to her dismay it was locked. What was worse, Dakkoth was no longer stunned from her counter-attack.
D’Saad moved just enough to miss Dakkoth’s punch. The warrior’s fist crashed through the door. With a roundhouse kick, she knocked him into the door. The force was enough to send the rest of his arm through, but the door did not break. She backed off and prepared for her next attack. She brought her leg up for a kick, but with blinding speed Dakkoth freed his arm and caught D’Saad’s leg. With well-practiced form, he brought his arm crashing into the assassin’s knee, completely destroying the bone structure inside. She screamed in agony, but only for a moment as Dakkoth followed through with his attack and chopped the side of her head, knocking her unconscious.
D’Saad’s body went limp, and Dakkoth let her fall to the floor. He kneeled down ready to finish the job and took her head in his hands.
“MARSHAL!!! STAND DOWN, NOW!!!” McKenna ordered, busting into the chamber and leveling his weapon at him. Two marshals entered as well with their own weapons on the enraged cat-man. All he could do was to look back up at them, teeth bared and eyes afire.
“Back... off...” He growled. “Leave the room, McKenna.” He did not let go of D’Saad’s head.
“Let her go, Dakk.” McKenna said, gently lowering his gun to the floor and showing his hands, free of weapons. The marshals followed suit. McKenna whispered to one, ordering him to go get Rhaine Quatralis. The marshal obeyed, making his way out quickly.
“She’s killed too many people, McKenna! I’m not going to allow her to do it again!” Dakkoth gripped the helpless woman’s head tighter.
“If you kill her in cold blood, then you’ll be no better than her, or Branwyn.”
Dakkoth said nothing, only staring at his superior officer with his blood boiling. McKenna crouched down in front of his friend.
“Dakk... I know what you’re going through. Slann’s got Winter, and don’t you think that just might be tearing me up inside, too?”
“She killed Perrin! She took her away from me! I loved her, Zendista!” Dakkoth pleaded.
“And I love Winter, my friend, but I need your help getting her back. You’re not going to do her or me any good if I have to arrest you for murdering a prisoner. Now, I’m sure that in consideration of D’Saad’s past actions, Awrann’s going to overlook this incident. Hell, I probably would’ve done the same thing in your position. We’re better than that, though. We’ve got to be the heroes Dakkoth, ’cause no one else can be. I need you buddy. We’re going to loose a lot more people if you and I don’t work together!”
McKenna extended his hand to Dakkoth. The cat-man looked at it for a moment, and reluctantly took it, allowing McKenna to guide him to his feet. It was then Rhaine Quatralis came in.
“What’s going on, Mac... oh my Goddess...” Rhaine saw D’Saad, broken and lying on the floor. McKenna had pulled Dakkoth away from the assassin, allowing the medics room to assess the situation. Rhaine went over to the two marshals. McKenna stepped aside as she took Dakkoth into her arms.
“Mac?” She asked. Dakkoth was coming out of his rage and was fairly incoherent at the moment.
“He’ll be fine.” McKenna responded. “I wanted him to go see a shrink, but it seems he had a different kind of therapy in mind.”
“She deserved it.” Rhaine said as she nuzzled his neck. Dakkoth gripped her tight and closed his eyes, relaxing a little.
“Rhaine, I need you and Dakkoth with me when I go after Slann. Get him rested and meet me at the Warlord’s compound in one hour. I’m on my way out there to meet up with General Franclyn.”
McKenna made the shift into his battle frame and activated his transporter sequence. He disappeared in a flash of light. Rhaine led Dakkoth out of the room after the medics took D’Saad to the infirmary. She sat him down on the floor in the hallway and cuddled up next to him.
“Want to tell me about it?” She asked, making sure the warrior could hear her sympathy.
“I... I don’t know what came over me.” He buried his face in his knees. “I was going to go through the normal interrogation process in order to file my reports, and... and just seeing her there...”
Rhaine saw the tears coming from his eyes. “Perrin meant a lot to you, didn’t she?”
Dakkoth nodded slightly. “She was my best friend. She was my family. She was the Migichinan Alliance in my eyes, and I did everything I could to please her, or at least to try.”
Rhaine hugged him tighter. “You’re a good man, Dakkoth Starkiller, and Brigit was lucky to have a friend like you.”
Dakkoth pulled a small box from his pocket and gave it to Rhaine. She opened it, revealing a beautiful diamond Ring.
“Oh my gosh... this, this is magnificent!” Rhaine gasped.
“I was going to ask her to marry me, but now it’s too late.” Dakkoth stood, washing away the emotion. Rhaine rose behind him. She closed the box and slipped it into his pocket, then put her arms around him again, but he pushed her away gently.
“It’s time to go. McKenna needs us.” His voice was cold. He turned and headed towards the Chancellery department’s armory. Rhaine said nothing as she walked behind him, wondering how he could change channels so quickly.
Winter Ventrosia struggled with her bonds. It had been hours since anyone had stopped by to check on her, and it was getting cold in the room Slann was keeping her in. She had kicked his cape off, not wanting to be touched by an object associated with the warlord. That may not have been a good idea, as she was still not fully clothed. She struggled again, but no luck.
In a window she could see her reflection. Her normally pristine white hair was dirty and disheveled, her underwear was torn, and the flashing green light on her inhibitor collar continued to flash. She closed her eyes to avoid being driven insane. She thought of McKenna. It had always made her happy when he saw him smile, which was a rare occasion. Usually she would have to do something silly or tickle him. She looked forward to them being together after this was all over.
From outside the room, she could hear voices. Instead of calling out to them, she pretended to sleep in case they planned on entering the room.
“What is our battle readiness, major?” The first voice was deep and stern. She identified it as belonging to Slann.
“We have a full battalion of combat mechs on line and fully armed. They’re standing by in the underground bays.”
Winter’s eyes widened. She knew Slann had defenses for his compound, which was considered private property, but neither she nor the rest of the council was aware that he maintained a private army! Or was it? Ownership of combat mechs by the noble houses and clans was strictly forbidden, reserved only for the military and planetary defense garrisons. This was a serious breach of law!
“Get them ready to roll. I’m leaving the compound, and I want Franclyn’s jamming field down before I leave. Either he turns it off himself, or we do it for him!” Slann growled.
“Sir, if we go to guns against the marines, and then we’re all screwed.” The major said sharply.
“I do not recall asking for your input, major! Shut down that field! That is an order and I expect it to be carried out!” Slann roared.
“Sir yes sir!” The major replied. Then there was silence. She heard someone hurry off, but nothing else. Slann either teleported somewhere else, or...
The door burst open, revealing the warlord in battle frame. Winter did not move.
“Wake up!” Slann roared, turning over her bed. Winter tumbled to the floor.
“Why Riskahd, I thought you had forgotten all about me.” She snipped.
“Don’t flatter yourself, woman. I pay you this visit out of courtesy. We’ll be leaving in a few hours, and I’ll have you out of the way. Soon enough McKenna’s and Awrann’s heads will both roll. The Alliance will be mine!”
“Others will rise to stop you, Slann.”
“Then I shall crush them, too. Just as Slann before me have done throughout history. But this time, I shall succeed!” Slann turned on a heel and stalked out. Something had him steamed, Winter could tell. Normally, Riskahd Slann was calm and collected, but there was something else, something strong, that had a grip on him.
General Viktor Franclyn sat in his command mech, watching Slann’s compound and monitoring his own troop movements. He had men on the ground and in mechs, as well as warriors with battle frames. He would use the frames as shock troopers once Slann’s outer defenses had fallen, if, of course, it came down to a fire fight. His tactical computer displayed the map of the compound and showed the positions of all units in the area. Slann was completely surrounded. Off the grid, Franclyn maintained artillery to pound the warlord’s shields in the first attack, and fighters on alert to establish air superiority. All bases appeared to be covered. Now, it was just a matter of McKenna or Awrann giving the order to attack.
Franclyn did not like the idea of fighting his own people, and had hoped something like this would never happen in his career, but he was in that position now. And on the eve of battle, he knew he could not afford second thoughts. He again checked the status of his own weapons systems, then sat back and waited.