“The battle with the house of Slann was but a prelude to the battles he would face in the future, but his motives always remained the same: to protect the traditions and the people of Migichina.”
From “The Book of McKenna” - Destiny
Slann’s compound was a hundred miles away from the Archology, and the gunship carrying McKenna and his team hugged the ground as they raced towards the target. McKenna looked over his people. Rhaine Quatralis was adjusting her combat armor, and Dakkoth had his visor down, hiding his face. His man was going through a heap of hell, and McKenna was glad Rhaine was there to be the warrior’s shoulder.
McKenna checked the computer display attached to his forearm. The computer was linked to his own internal combat computer, which constantly updated the information. They were quickly closing on Slann’s compound. He tapped Rhaine on the knee, who in turn elbowed Dakkoth in the ribs. As it turned out, Dakkoth was taking a catnap. McKenna smiled briefly as he tied his long hair back and strapped on his combat helmet.
His smile was gone as he looked up. “Okay people! Lock and load!” McKenna raised his rifle and pulled the lever that released the safety. The team followed suit. Dakkoth slid into the door gunner’s position and plugged a data cable into it; bring the weapons targeting system onto his visor.
The gunship came up over a hill and into the wide desert valley that contained Slann’s fortress. Marine forces dotted the terrain, and Slann’s were still penned up inside. McKenna tapped the pilot’s shoulder and pointed at General Franclyn’s combat mech. The pilot nodded and brought the gunship in close. McKenna jumped out and onto Franclyn’s mech. He waived the pilot off, who moved the ship away to drop off the rest of the team.
McKenna knocked on the canopy. Franclyn looked up and hit the switch to pop it open.
“Fancy meeting you here, Uncle Mac.” Franclyn said over the tactical net.
McKenna gestured for Franclyn to switch to private communications.
“Switching to private, sir.” Franclyn complied, adjusting a dial on the communications panel. “How’s that?” Franclyn asked.
“Good enough. What’s going on?” McKenna asked.
“Well. Slann’s strutting’ his stuff. He’s got combat mechs inside, with his house insignia all over ’em, and he seems to be happy to show ’em off. I think he’s got more in hiding, probably in underground bunkers. There are also a number of caves where he could hide stuff, but we got those covered and guarded. We’ll nail anything that might come out.”
“Outstanding work, as usual, general.” McKenna commented. He adjusted his optics, zooming in on the compound. Slowly he scanned, but saw nothing. The combat mechs alone were enough to arrest the warlord. But he knew Slann would not give up that easily.
If Slann had mechs at the ready, then he intended to use them. McKenna looked outside the compound and saw Rhaine taking position with Dakkoth in a foxhole. He switched back to the tactical net.
“Dakk, throw a rock at the wall.” He ordered. Dakkoth rolled up out of the hole and grabbed a fist-size rock and hurled it. It bounced of the deflector screen, causing it to shimmer in a green hue.
“Class 7 grid.” Dakkoth reported. McKenna cursed. His armor was beginning to rub him raw as blowing sand made its way in. He shifted to his battle frame and leapt from Franclyn’s mech.
“Hoo boy.” The general said as he closed the canopy. To him, it looked like the chancellor-to-be was ready to kick in the doors. McKenna glided down to a command hut erected behind the established lines. The hut was actually a hover truck with an extensive communications and sensor suite. He landed and walked over, grabbing a microphone from a tech.
“Broadcast this.” He said, looking back at the compound. A tech gave him the thumbs up.
“Slann, I know you can hear me, and you know who this is. You’ve got the Lord Admiral in there, and we want her back. Now! You’ve got 30 minutes to comply.” McKenna switched off the microphone, handing it back to the tech. He looked at the sensor readouts from the hut. Dakk was right, Slann’s shields were rated class 7 which were normally reserved for starbase defense systems. Getting in would prove to be tough.
“General Franclyn.” McKenna said.
“Go ahead.” The general responded over the comm link.
“We’re going to need something a little more powerful than off-site artillery to get in.”
“Orbital bombardment.” The general said, not knowing what McKenna might do.
“Hey, great idea! Glad you suggested it. McKenna out.”
“But...” the general was cut off as McKenna closed the channel. He turned to the comm tech. “Hail the Draesoneth.”
“Yes sir.” The tech went to work, using the sensors to locate and lock onto the space warship that hung in orbit mile over their position. “Got ’em, sir.” The tech said.
“Dunan, this is Mac.”
“Hey, buddy! How’s it going down there? Did you give Ole’ Slann some ‘now on’, yet?”
“Not quite.” McKenna responded. “But I’m about to open up a family size can of old fashion, down home whup-ass, and I need your help.”
“Just tell me where to point my torpedoes. I’ll give him a headache for ’ya.”
McKenna turned to the tech and nodded. He began to transmit firing solutions. McKenna switched back to broadcast frequency.
“Ok, Slann, I’ve about had it with you, now either Winter comes out of there in open piece, or I’m coming in to rip you into tiny pieces, you dig?”
A combat mech from inside the compound turned and fired on the generator that was maintaining the jamming field. The generator erupted into flames,
“Right, that settles it then.” McKenna yelled into the mike then tossed it aside. He thrust his middle finger up in the direction of the compound. General Franclyn saw the gesture and called for the artillery strike.
Slann’s optics zoomed out. He stood on top of the main building watching the situation unfold.
“Sir, Franclyn’s troops have finished their movements. They’ve all fallen back. I can’t explain it.” One of his aides reported, keeping his eyes on the portable computer.
“Then figure out a way to, Major. I want to know what McKenna’s up to.” Slann looked again at the chief marshal, who stood out in the open. He obviously wanted the Warlord to see him watching and waiting.
“I’ve got a really bad feeling about this.” Slann muttered to himself.
“Sir, our guys in the sky report that the destroyer Draesoneth is adjusting her orbit. She’s going into a geosynchronous position... right over us!”
Slann turned and looked sharply at the major, who awaited orders. “They’re going to nail us with naval weapons! Get everyone below ground, now. Our shields won’t last long when the Draesoneth begins its assault.”
The major quickly relayed Slann’s orders as he teleported inside.
Slann appeared in his main tactical center, safely buried below ground.
His top aide saluted. “Sir, the Invictus is requesting to intercept the Draesoneth. What shall I tell them?” He asked.
“Tell them to carry out the instructions I have given them and do not stray. I don’t plan on staying on this base for long.”
“Very well, sir” The aide replied as he began to relay the orders.
Capt. Dunan settled into his chair as the surface of the Homeworld filled the main screen. “Target Slann’s house and knock on his door, gunny.”
“Aye sir.” The tactical officer replied. He punched in his firing solutions and picked a number of sites inside the compound that looked annoying enough to demolish with the antimatter torpedoes.
“Weapons ready, sir.” The tactical officer reported.
“Ring the doorbell, Gun Boss.”
From the forward tubes of the Draesoneth, balls of green fire leapt forth, falling towards their targets planet side.
“Fish in the water, running hot and straight.” The tactical officer reported.
Dunan smiled. “Slann’s about to have a very bad day.” It was clear to the bridge crew that their Captain had no love for the dreaded Migichinan Warlord.
“Chief!” A tech called out. “Draesoneth has just fired her torpedoes. Minute and a half to impact!”
“Oh goody.” McKenna muttered. “Dakk, Rhaine! Get your butt over here!” He called out over the tactical net.
Dakkoth and Rhaine Quatralis jumped out of the foxhole and sprinted towards McKenna. They saluted when they arrived.
“Cut that out,” he scolded. “Slann’s shields are about to go down, and we’re going in.” McKenna said.
“How?” Rhaine asked.
“Perhaps those might answer your question, Milady.” Dakkoth said, pointing at the bright blue lights falling from the sky.
“Torpedoes inbound, brace for impact!” An enlisted clansman shouted from his station. Slann looked up at the 3D holographic display. Twenty small, bright blue globes descended on the image of his compound. “This is going to suck.” He said in defeat. The world erupted around him.
McKenna and Dakkoth, as well as a number of other men found protection from the torpedo hits by means of a magical shield erected by Quatralis. Sand and dirt flew past the ethereal shield, with the sounds of multiple explosions everywhere. But almost as soon as it started, it was over. Radiation from the assault made communications difficult, but sporadic reports trickled in from Franclyn’s men, and after a few minutes, all were accounted for.
Dakkoth scanned the compound. “Shields are down, boss. Ready?”
“Let’s do it.” McKenna replied.
The three beamed into the ruins of Slann’s tactical center, followed by additional warriors in battle frames. The massive room was shattered by the assault. Dead bodies littered the ground, mixed in with the rubble. They began to search for Slann and Winter.
McKenna saw nothing, no signs that Slann had even been there. He watched as the marines and his marshals sifted through the scene. They turned over tables and tiles, and started to pile the casualties together. How many were innocent, McKenna wondered. How many had just died to preserve the state of the Alliance?
“McKenna!” A hollow, female voice called out
The chief marshal spun around to see a feminine battle frame, darkened by intense light in the background. He wasn’t exactly sure who it was he was looking at, but the battle frame offered no identification, only a hand extended towards him.
“Come with me.” McKenna looked back at his team, but all were too busy to notice him, or the female battle frame. He walked towards her.
“Are you an avatar?” He asked reluctantly.
“Perhaps.” She turned as McKenna reached her, and she walked down a hall. McKenna had to pick up the pace to keep up with the avatar as she navigated the battered corridors with ease. McKenna noticed on his tactical screen that Dakkoth was following, not far behind. Then, a new blip appeared. One he recognized.
“Winter!” He gasped. McKenna broke into a run, leaping over fallen beams and dodging the ones that hung low. The avatar stopped at a set of double doors and pointed inwards. McKenna broke through the doors to find Slann, with Winter in his grip.
“Why McKenna, how nice of you to drop in. I was wondering how long it would take you to finally face me.” Slann bellowed. He tossed Winter aside, who looked in bad shape. McKenna gritted his teeth at the sight. To see Winter in such a condition made his blood boil.
“I’ll have your head for this day’s work, Slann!” He growled. Slann only smiled.
“Will that be cash or credit then, old boy?” Slann asked as he shifted out of his battle frame. McKenna looked past him, and nodded. Slann got a worried expression. He turned just in time to see Dakkoth Starkiller leap from the shadows and grab his throat.
Slann rolled with the attack, using Dakkoth’s force to send the marshal sailing across the room. Slann gasped for air as he yanked out his communicator.
“Get Winter out of here, NOW!” He yelled into the device. Winter vanished in a cascade of light. She reached for McKenna but couldn’t speak. The tears streamed from her face as he dove for her, but only dirt was left in her place as he hit the soil.
“GGRRRAAAGHHH!!” he cried, he hands grasping on dirt. Winter was gone, but Slann was not out of the woods yet. Dakkoth rebounded, and went to a ready stance. Slann did the same, but shifted to his battle frame to try and deter the marshal. Dakkoth was unfazed by that, though.
Cybernetic claws extended from his knuckles and fingertips. He remembered Perrin once commenting that if he’d ever lost his job as a marshal, any coleslaw factory would be happy to hire him. Slann charged. Dakkoth adjusted his stance and leaped. He rolled in mid-air, grabbing Slann’s head, and using his own leverage to pull Slann over him and slam the Warlord into the dirt.
Slann rolled and rose. “Nice technique marshal. I’ll have to remember that one.” A pair of blades extended from Slann’s left forearm. Dakkoth executed a roundhouse kick, connecting with Slann’s armored jaw. Slann was staggered, but unhurt. Dakkoth quickly realized he’d just done something very stupid. He fell, his foot broken.
“I’m tired of playing with the minor leagues.” Slann sighed. He drove his blades though Dakkoth’s chest. The marshal convulsed, then went limp.
Slann laughed for only a brief second, his victory interrupted by an energy bolt slamming into his back.
“Don’t like the minors, Slann? How about going to bat against me?” McKenna had shifted to his battle frame while Dakkoth was engaged with Slann. Energy collected and crackled around his fist.
“Piss!” Slann cursed. An energy cascade formed around him as he too vanished from sight. It did not stop McKenna from firing.
The bolt hit nothing. Leaving the chief marshal with only a few choice words. One of them was “MEDIC!!”
McKenna kneeled down next to Dakkoth who was bleeding profusely. “Damn!” McKenna cursed again. Dakkoth opened his blood encrusted eyes.
“Did... did you get ’em, boss?” McKenna chose not answer as a pair of medics rushed in with Rhaine Quatralis close behind.
“Dakk?” Rhaine asked in a worried tone. McKenna held her back, allowing the medics to do their job. They erected a static stasis field to keep the fallen marshal alive. McKenna saw the tears on Rhaine’s face, something he wasn’t expecting to see from her.
“Rhaine, he’s going to be all right.” McKenna assured her as the medics beamed out with their patient. More marines entered the room, but McKenna ordered them to stand down. Slann had escaped with Winter, putting them right back where they’d started.
“What do we do now?” Rhaine asked, still looking at the spot where Dakkoth had fallen.
“I’m going to keep men on site to continue the investigation, but you and I are going back to the Archology. I’m going to march on Slann’s offices there and start tearing his computers apart to find clues. I want you to keep an eye on Dakkoth. He doesn’t have my permission to die yet, and I need him on his feet as quickly as possible.” McKenna continued to look around.
“Mac, you’re going to kill Dakkoth, and yourself going at this rate!” Innocents are getting killed left and right, including two of our own!” Rhaine said, her anger growing.
“Perrin and Reese knew the risks when they signed on the dotted line. Migichinan politics can get very bloody, my friend. If you don’t like it, then find a different job!” McKenna retorted. Rhaine bowed her head.
“Mac, I’m sorry. We’ve both had it rough. I didn’t mean to spout off like that.”
McKenna didn’t expect the apology. Migichinan usually did not apologize for anything, as it was not their way. Rhaine was a Valerian dragon, and they valued politeness and honor over everything. Some would say this made them weak, but McKenna did not see it that way. He put his hand on the bodyguard’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, too. We’ve got to work together on this. We’re the only two left, and we’re going to have to put our heads together to beat Slann.”
Rhaine took her goggles off, for the first time showing the chief marshal her beautiful purple eyes. It took his breath away how much they resembled Winter’s own blue eyes, eyes that he could easily get lost in. On impulse, Rhaine wrapped her arms around McKenna, finding brief comfort. McKenna did the same. After what had happened, they both needed the hug.
“Take her to sickbay!” Slann ordered, pointing at Winter. He stepped off the transporter pad as two Saurians attended to the Lord Admiral. As Slann walked out of the compartment, he was joined by a large green Tyrannosaurid.
“Captain Greel, I presume?” Slann said. The Saurian nodded.
“It is an honor to finally meet my employer.” Greel said. “If you were not paying me a retainer, and stationing your own men on my ship, I would have charged you extra when the Draesoneth discovered my position.”
“They can see you?” Slann asked as he stopped in his tracks.
“Unfortunately so. Somehow, they have figured out a way to scan subspace. They even seem to have come across some hyper-torpedoes to fire at me. Needless to say, neither I nor my crew was very happy about it.”
“Your ship?” Slann asked, as he started walking again.
“We took some damage in the first engagement. We made repairs, but we will need to return to our base soon to make full repairs. We cannot risk another encounter, or we risk losing the ship.”
“I need time to prepare for the Ascension. You will have to remain undetected at any cost until I am ready.” Slann said.
“You will remain safe as long as you continue to sign the paychecks, Migichinan,” Greel promised, then walked away from the warlord.
“I hate pirates...” Slann muttered as he headed to his cabin. Once there, he accessed the ship’s computer. In a voice translated to his native language, it stated it was ready. Slann entered commands that would give him a remote link to the computers in his compound, provided they had survived the onslaught from the Draesoneth. After a few minutes of rerouting and annoying bypasses, he was able to get into the core mainframe, which appeared to be running from an auxiliary power supply.
“Initiate auto-destruct sequence, authorization Slann, Omega 1, Destruct 1, subcode Grango.”
“Command code recognized, please submit to DNA scan for approval.” The computer stated. Slann placed his thumb on the console to be scanned. For a brief moment, the computer mulled over the thumb, and put the scanned DNA sample through its buffers to be matched with the records.
"DNA approval scan, results positive. Auto-destruct sequence request granted.”
“Initiate, 60 second silent countdown, no audible warning”
Slann kicked back and smiled. McKenna would get his, all right. Within moments, the chief marshal would be out of the game, and the Alliance would be his for the taking!
The process of collecting evidence was a slow venture. From McKenna’s observations, it was clear Slann wanted time to regroup, and did an efficient job of covering his tracks. There were no transit logs, equipment requisitions, or even computer activity logs stored in the compound’s computer. Even Slann’s personal logs were not present, but the chief marshal figured those were kept in his office or residence inside the Archology.
Rhaine was doing her part as well. She used her magic to attempt to find clues, using psychometrics to read objects, and clairvoyance to see possible past and future actions. Many things she saw led back to one possible and highly metaphysical force.
“Maxaa Branwyn.” She said to herself.
“What was that?” McKenna asked, catching the name. Rhaine looked up from the article of clothing she was considering. She held out the burnt shirt for McKenna to see.
“All the energies I’m picking up, and that being very few, point back to Maxaa Branwyn.” She offered.
“Migichina did say that Branwyn was a mage of some accomplishment.” McKenna replied. It appeared that Slann’s former aide had her hands into a lot of things when it came to the Warlord’s activities. A marshal tapped McKenna on the shoulder.
“Sir, we might have a problem...” He said, pointing at the main view screen. It displayed the smiling face of Slann.
“Ah, Mr. McKenna, what a pleasant surprise to see you still alive. However I am certain that you will not be in that state for much longer. You see, even though Miss Branwyn had the gall to take matters into her own hands, the fact remains that I would be much better off with you dead. You’ll be relieved to know that the auto-destruct system will be coming on line shortly, and within sixty seconds of its initiation, my former base is not going to be a very desirable location to inhabit.
Oh, and do not worry about your ‘dear’ Lord Admiral. She is quite safe and receiving more medical attention. However, if you continue to pursue me, she may require additional medical attention. But, considering your present predicament, I don’t think that will be necessary.
Good bye, Zendista McKenna. I hope, for the last time.”
Slann laughed wickedly as his face on the screen morphed into the number sixty, displayed in large red letters, on a black background.
“Can’t I even win just one fight?” McKenna grumbled.