“The mortal eye perceives that the selfish hopelessly outnumber the righteous. But it is the power of good that overcomes evil, though the evil are legion and the righteous are few.”
From “The Book of McKenna” - Destiny
Janus D’Saad sat in her cell. Doctors had done an adequate job of putting her back together after the beating she’d endured from Dakkoth Starkiller. On her mental list, she placed his name in the category of top ten people she intended to inflict a slow and painful death on. Included on that list was Zendista McKenna, even though he had effectively saved her from an almost certain death. He would have to suffer as well, only because of who he was.
There were no windows for her to look out, and the observation portal on the door had been turned opaque. The lights were dim, and the room was damp and cold. No bed, no water, no toilet. When a person committed a crime, the Migichinan did the best they could to let the person know he or she was in deep trouble. D’Saad was among those.
She could faintly hear the guards walking by on the quarter of each hour. There was no point in screaming, or even try to make contact as the guards would not bother with her unless it was her mealtime, or she needed to use the wash room. Using the wash room was scheduled as well as meals, forcing her to either hold it in, or soil herself.
She paced the cell in a circle, trying to figure out a way to relieve her tensions. She had no sense of time, and wasn’t even sure what part of the Archology she was in. She bet herself that it was probably one of the sub-levels, tucked well below the ground.
Escape would be close to impossible. The walls were inches thick, made of some of the strongest alloys in the galaxy, as well as a disruptor field and shield grid buried inside. The door was made of the same materials as well. The guards were all warriors, each one bonded with a battle frame. Fighting them if she made it out would be suicide. She wondered if death would in fact be better than this.
The window slid open, and a pair of glowing red eyes recessed in a dark faceplate peered in. D’Saad stopped and faced the warrior looking in. With an almost insane smile, she lifted her shirt, bearing her naked breast to the warrior. He slid the window shut, and then proceeded onto the next cell.
Lowering her shirt, D’Saad wondered what kind of guards these were, to not be fazed by her display. Obviously trained far too well, she guessed, and continued to walk in her circle. Hearing a whir of machinery, she looked up to see sprinkler nozzles lower out of the ceiling. They sprayed the room with warm water, washing down the walls and prisoner. A panel in the wall opened, allowing D’Saad a small bar of soap to clean herself with.
She complied with the scheduled routine by taking off the prison uniform and placing it in the hole where the soap came from. She scrubbed herself for a few minutes, then allowing the sprinklers to rinse her off. She placed the soap back in the hole, where a clean uniform was waiting for her.
As the floors and walls would take a few hours to dry, she could neither sit nor lean. The shower had been refreshing though. She kept walking, and thinking. The Alliance was sure to find her guilty of her crimes, and there would be no intervention by the Humanis Federation. She was just as much a criminal there as she was on the Migichinan Homeworld.
There were no more options for her. She began to cry, realizing she would never see beyond the walls of the Archology again. But in the midst of her sorrow, she heard a sound that brought her back to reality.
Outside her doors, alarms wailed as the sounds of energy weapon fire echoed in the hallway. She perked up, praying that who ever was attacking the cell block was after the Migichinan jailers. She screamed and banged her fists on the door as the firefight intensified. Thuds from heavy weapons signaled that one or both sides had pulled out the big guns and were playing for keeps.
Her door slid open, much to her surprise, and a woman in combat armor stepped in. “Come with us if you want to live.” Said the hollow voice.
D’Saad’s eyes went wide. She recognized the voice! “You... you’re...” The woman in armor backhanded her.
“Shut up, you stupid cow! If it weren’t for your bungling, I wouldn’t be risking my ass to get you out of here. You owe me, big time!”
The woman put D’Saad over her shoulder, and with her gun leveled once again, she fought her way back out of the cell.
“We got her!” The woman yelled. “Let’s get out of here!” Two Migichinan battle frames nodded and both tossed small spherical devices towards the defending guards. The two balls exploded, destroying the cellblock’s control center. The guards survived, but were stunned. In a shimmer of light, the three were gone.
When D’Saad regained the ability to see, she found herself inside a shuttle. The woman who rescued her began to pull off her helmet. D’Saad watched intently. Maxaa Branwyn turned to see D’Saad, and in a fit of anger punched her, knocking D’Saad out of her chair. “That was for botching your mission.” While the assassin was prone on the floor, Branwyn kicked her in the ribs. “That was for getting me fired, and losing my love.” D’Saad curled up in pain.
Branwyn turned to check the status of the shuttle. Kale’s pilots were staying low and close to the ground on their way back to the fort. She turned back to D’Saad.
“If you fail me again, assassin, I will kill you. Is that clear?”
“Crystal.” D’Saad replied, making another mental note to rip Branwyn to pieces as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
Dakkoth was knocked out of bed by the explosion. “What in the name of Callivare was that?” He said as he rubbed his head. He walked into the living room where Rhaine Quatralis was still fast asleep on the couch. Within moments of the explosion, his comm panel started to flash and beep. “Gotta be McKenna.” He said as he tapped the panel. McKenna’s ugly mug appeared.
“Dakk, get your butt dressed and get up here now. Bring Rhaine with you.” The line closed. Dakkoth shook his head. He walked over to Rhaine, who was lightly snoring. He leaned over and gently nudged her.
“Rhaine, wake up. Mac’s called us in.”
“Huh...?” She mumbled, barely opening her eyes.
“I just got a call from McKenna, there’s a situation, and he needs us.” Rhaine grabbed Dakkoth by the neck gently and drew him close as she smiled. Just as gently, she kissed him, but he cut that short by drawing away. He just wasn’t ready for that. It took him a few moments to process what just occurred, and then quickly dismissed it. This was certainly no time for emotion.
“Get dressed. McKenna has called us in.” He said one more time, more sternly. He headed for his bedroom. Rhaine got up off the couch and started to put on her rust colored armor, pausing to glance through Dakkoth’s open door. He was nude as he pulled a clean and pressed uniform out of his closet.
“Oh my...” She gasped. His body was lean and muscular, and covered with scars. Some of the scars were quite old, and some were fairly new. She wanted to touch him, but that would only serve to drive him away. She knew he needed her, but she knew she had to be a friend to him first. Rhaine finished dressing, as did Dakkoth. He came back out of the room, in full armor; the chrome plating reflected the dim lighting as he thumped a wall that slid open to reveal a weapons cache. He selected a plasma pistol for his side arm, and strapped a rail cannon to his back. For insurance, he also grabbed the sword given to him by Perrin.
“Need anything? Shop’s closing’.” He asked.
“Sure.” Rhaine said walking up and standing dangerously close to him. She bent over and selected a particle beam pistol for herself. She had her magic, but it was always nice to have a backup weapon.
Dakkoth closed the cache. “Let’s go.”
Within minutes of leaving his quarters, Dakkoth and Rhaine arrived at the Chancellery offices, which were bustling with activity. The words ‘terrorists’ and ‘jail break’ hung in the air. Dakkoth had a fair idea what had happened.
They reached McKenna’s office, where standing outside were two very nervous looking guards in burnt torn uniforms. Dakkoth walked past them and into McKenna’s office without knocking. McKenna looked up, taking the cigar out of his mouth. It looked as he had just gotten out of bed himself.
“’Bout time you two got here. D’Saad’s been sprung, and I got a good idea of who’s behind it.”
“Maxaa Branwyn.” Rhaine Quatralis volunteered. McKenna said nothing as he walked over to his screen. Entering a few commands, he brought up the images recorded from the cellblock where Janus D’Saad had been imprisoned.
Three figures had entered at the far end of the long, tight hall of cell doors, two battle frames and a woman in combat armor. The battle frames had laid down cover fire as the woman had made her way to each cell, checking the occupants. She had definitely been searching for someone.
The Archology guards on duty in the cellblock had returned fire as they’d initiated emergency procedures. As soon as they’d begun to fight back, the attacking battle frames cutting them down. The armored woman had found the door she’d been looking for and had used a device to bypass the security lock. More Archology guards had entered, keeping the attackers occupied. The woman had entered D’Saad’s cell and had remained inside for about two minutes. The battle frames had stood their ground, keeping the defenders pinned down at the opposite end of the cell block.
By then, things had been getting pretty chewed up down there as the woman re-entered the hall with D’Saad over her shoulder. The woman had opened fire on the defenders, as one of the battle frames had called for a beam out. Within seconds, they had been gone.
“That’s it.” Said McKenna as the footage went into a loop. “We know Maxaa Branwyn hired D’Saad to kill me. She was probably keeping the assassin on retainer until Slann had safely secured the position of Lord Chancellor.”
“Why rescue D’Saad, then?” Dakkoth asked. “She would have been considered expendable, and was certainly not worth the effort.”
“D’Saad is gun muscle, and I think it’s likely that Branwyn still needs that muscle. What I want to know is where she came across two warriors who were willing to throw it all away for this.”
“Probably flashed her tits at them.” Rhaine Quatralis commented.
“That’ll be enough of that, Rhaine. Probably not too far from truth, though. I think Maxaa’s got herself someone new backing her, or vice-versa. I already analyzed the footage, but their markings have been removed, or at least covered.” McKenna puffed on his cigar.
Dakkoth watched the footage again. “The battle frames are roughly the same, suggesting they are relatively new. I would say they are only following orders. We’ll need to start taking inventory of our generals, and see who’s not happy.”
“Good plan, Dakk, but an investigation like that isn’t going to be easy.”
True, Dakkoth admitted to himself, but there was probably something else.
“How did they get out?” Rhaine asked.
“Transporter. From a shuttlecraft, most likely. The Archology’s air traffic control center did not pick anything up during the fray, so that would only suggest military sensor masking. ECM field or an outright cloaking device. Either way, we cannot follow them.”
“Ion trails?” Dakkoth asked.
“None found. They were probably running on a contra-grav generator once inside sensor range.” McKenna sat back down.
“Finding them is not going to be easy.” Dakkoth began. “Judging by those battle frames, Branwyn’s got a general backing her, may be Slann, maybe not.”
“I don’t think Slann would cut his own throat by doing this.” Rhaine offered.
“True,” Dakkoth agreed. “We’re going to have to look at other generals, ones who might have grudge against the warlord. Any ideas?” He asked.
The only general McKenna knew personally was Viktor Franclyn, and he was a marine, which placed him under naval jurisdiction, not the army’s.
“I’ll have to talk to General Franclyn. He might have some inside information. In the mean time, I want you and Rhaine to go down to the detention center and do some investigating. See what you can come up with, but make it snappy. With D’Saad back on the lam, it will only be a matter of time before we are all targets again.”
Dakkoth saluted and got up to leave with Rhaine Quatralis close behind.
“Oh, folks. One more thing I just remembered. Rhaine can’t go down there without one of these.” McKenna opened a desk draw to pull out a black leather wallet.
“Miss Quatralis, raise your right hand.” She complied, not knowing what the chief marshal was about to do.
“Do you solemnly swear to up hold the laws of the Migichinan Alliance and faithfully obey her orders, becoming an instrument of policy?” He asked.
Rhaine Quatralis thought for a moment. She looked at Dakkoth, who was smiling with pride. She smiled as well, happy to see the sight.
“Only if I get to work with beefcake over there.” She quipped.
McKenna laughed. “Well okay then.” He handed her the wallet. It contained a marshal’s badge and ID card with her picture and information on it. He then saluted.
“In recognition of your civilian service to the Department of the Lord Chancellor, to the Migichinan Alliance, and to our Holy Mother, it is my honor and proud to duty to appoint you to the position of Marshal, with all rights, duties, and privileges of that position. Do you accept this appointment?”
“I do.” She said, returning the salute. McKenna shook her hand and kissed her on the cheek. Smiling, Rhaine Quatralis walked over to Dakkoth and embraced him as well, kissing him on the lips. To her surprise, he returned the kiss.
“Okay you two, enough of that. We got a pair of fugitives on the run, and I want to find out where they went, on the double!” McKenna snapped.
“Yes sir!” They replied in unison as they turned and scurried out of the office. McKenna sat down again. He figured it had been be a good move to make Rhaine a marshal. That allowed her to work with Dakkoth more closely, keeping him in check, as well as making her a useful asset to the Chancellery department. He puffed on his cigar.
It did not take Dakkoth and Rhaine Quatralis long to reach the demolished cellblock. A group of Archology security guards had sealed it off after damage control teams had put out the fires. Aside from some minor work, the block was left untouched. Both marshals pulled out scanners and began to look for clues.
After unfolding his scanner, Dakkoth mounted it to a slot on the back of his helmet, allowing him to see the readings on his visor. Rhaine could do the same, but preferred to hold hers instead.
“I’ll check the cell. I want you to look for residual energy from their entry and exit. It might give us some clues on how they got here and left.” Dakkoth ordered.
“You got it.” Rhaine responded as she headed down the corridor. Dakkoth stepped inside the cell where Janus D’Saad had been held. He noticed that the person breaking in had been careless enough to leave the device which she’d used to open the door still in place. Dakkoth gently removed it and placed it inside an evidence bag for later analysis. He walked back inside.
The cell was dark and gloomy. Mold was forming in the corners and crevasses. The walls were still wet from the earlier scheduled shower. He lifted his visor to smell for scents. The room was heavy with D’Saad’s scent, but there was another, more faint scent. His cyber brain locked in on the second scent and processed the data, then came up with a match.
“Branwyn.” He growled. Looking around, he saw nothing else of immediate importance. He stepped back out and walked down the corridor carrying the evidence bag.
“Find anything?” He asked his new partner.
“A spent energy cell from a blaster, nothing more. Not enough residuals to peg a definite transport, but I think the video pretty much covered that. What did you find?”
“Branwyn’s key.” He said, holding up the bag. “I also caught her scent in D’Saad’s cell. That’s plenty for me.” Dakkoth’s comm unit chirped.
“Dakkoth here.” He said into the microphone.
“This is Mac. Navy’s just found D’Saad’s ship in a small private port. Get your butts to the motor pool. I got a team of marine shock troopers waiting. You’ll be briefed on the way. McKenna out.”
Dakkoth looked at Rhaine. “Well, you heard the man. Dakkoth handed the evidence bag to a team of investigators that had just arrived. He left instructions to get the bag to the crime lab for analysis.
It took some convincing on her part, but Janus D’Saad got her liberators to turn the shuttle around and head for her ship. Knowing she would not have another chance to go aboard, she wanted to recover a few items. The shuttle set down gently along side her ship, and she quickly got out and ran to the hatch. Punching in her code, she was inside in a few seconds.
Branwyn followed close behind, wrinkling her nose at the clutter inside. D’Saad may have been a good assassin, but was a poor house cleaner. Clothes, weapons, spare parts, food were scattered all over the place. D’Saad was digging through her stuff, looking frantically for things. Branwyn couldn’t possibly think of anything that she would need that could not be given to her later.
D’Saad found her first item: a handkerchief. Branwyn couldn’t belief they’d rushed all the way to the secluded spaceport for a damned handkerchief! D’Saad looked up and ordered the computer to download all personal logs onto a portable computer, which she pulled out and set up on a tabletop. While the computer was busy, she went on with her search and pulled out a duffel bag. In it she stuffed a teddy bear, assorted clothes, her favorite gun, and a few other mementos. Branwyn knew that every second that ticked away could bring them closer to what would promise to be a most unpleasant fate.
The sun sank down below the endless desert horizon as the marine troop carrier stopped outside the spaceport. Dakkoth and Rhaine were the first ones out. Dakkoth quickly assessed the surroundings, and then started to point out positions for the shock troopers to take up. He then pulled the rail cannon off his back and charged it up. The saurian built cannon was adequately called “Thumper,” or “the thump gun,” because of the loud thump it made when fired. Dakkoth jogged to the causeway that would take them to the main pit of the spaceport. Rhaine followed close behind.
Once up on the causeway, he got down on hands and knees and began to crawl to avoid being seen, if there was in fact anyone watching. After 50 meters, he peered out an opening. He saw D’Saad’s ship, with visible lights in the cockpit.
“Sweet.” He pointed one finger in the air, and then pointed at the ship. Understanding the signal, Rhaine nodded. Dakkoth’s gesture told her that there was one person inside the ship. Dakkoth looked again, then quickly rolled over, fumbling to get his comm unit. Rhaine stopped crawling and quickly went onto her belly. Dakkoth’s manner suggested things were about to go south.
“Uncle Mac, Uncle Mac. Delta Sierra, We got one, I repeat, one Mandolin class troopship in the port. We need backup, now. Over.” Dakkoth said. He was comfortable in one or two on one combat, but this was about to turn into a pitched battle.
“Roger copy that, Delta Sierra, you got zero two angles ready to assist. You got zero three tango-charlies inbound to assist. Over.”
“Roger copy, Delta Sierra out.” Rhaine slithered up next to Dakkoth, nuzzling up close to him.
“What in the name of the great egg is goin’ on down there?” She whispered as she looked up over him. “Oh crap, that’s an army troop carrier!”
“Mac’s got support ready and on the way.” Dakkoth said.
“Look.” Rhaine stopped him
Out of D’Saad’s ship came two figures, both female. Dakkoth looked, and swore. He brought his thump gun up and aimed at the troop carrier.
“On my mark.” He said over the tactical net. He aimed for the closest visible engine. “Time to knock on the door.” He pulled the trigger, and true to its name, the gun fired with a loud ‘thump’. To his dismay, though, the energy shot bounced off the shields.
Dakkoth Starkiller came up with a few new swear words as he ran out of the old ones. The two female figures ducked for cover as he jumped the wall. He fired two more shots from the thump gun, this time in the direction of the women. They dodged as he landed and fired again. The shock troops came out of their hiding places as well, beginning their assault on the army troop carrier.
Weapons mounted on the troop carrier began to fire back, forcing Dakkoth and his team to take cover. From above, Rhaine used her magic to attack. Ethereal lightning erupted from her fingertips, tearing into the ship’s shields. Dakkoth looked up to see two naval fighters scream overhead.
“’Bout time.” He muttered. The troop carrier began to lift off without picking up the women, who were making a break for it on foot. Dakkoth ran after them. Above him, Rhaine kept up her assault, even though she was beginning to tire. Dakkoth abandoned the heavier rail gun in favor of his sidearm. There was nowhere for them to run to, only open desert beyond the spaceport.
The two women stopped and turned to face Dakkoth. The first one took off her helmet.
“Do you really think you can stop us, Dakkoth Starkiller?” D’Saad shouted. He fired his gun in response, hitting her in the shoulder. The assassin fell to the ground. Branwyn raised her visor.
“I thought as much.” He said turning his gun on Slann’s former aide. “You have the right to remain...”
He was unable to finish his sentence as Branwyn released a bolt of energy from her hand, forcing Dakkoth to the ground.
“YOU ARE THE REASON THIS IS HAPPENING!!!” She roared, pouring it on heavier as she walked towards him. “My plan would have worked if it wasn’t for you, alien!” Dakkoth tried to fight his way back to his feet, but buckled under the intensity of the assault.
“Die, bastard!” She hissed.
Branwyn felt a rush of wind and looked up. The sight she saw caused her to wet herself, as a giant purple dragon flew up from the spaceport. She dove for the sand as the purple dragon swooped low. She crawled her way over to D’Saad and cast a spell of teleportation, sweeping them away from the scene. The dragon arced high, then glided towards the Dakkoth, who was sprawled out on the sand and smoldering. Before landing, the dragon changed into the more familiar form of Rhaine Quatralis. She hit the ground next to him, and knelt beside his head.
“Dakkoth?” She asked, hoping he was still alive.
“Was.. Was that you?” He asked.
“Yeah.” She smiled, trying to hide the pain of seeing him in such a state. “Don’t die on me, Dakk.”
“Hey, it’s going to take a little more than a junior combat mage to take me down. Now howza ’bout calling me a medic.”
“Okay, you’re a medic.” She said with a giggle.
Rhaine looked up as a marine troop ship landed, dropping off its load of soldiers. Included in the group were a pair of medics, and one very familiar chief marshal. The medics ran up to the fallen marshal and began to render static treatment. Rhaine got up out of the way and walked over to McKenna.
“Is he all right?” He asked.
“He’ll pull through. Branwyn and D’Saad got away, though. I failed.” She bowed her head, waiting for the dress down. But it did not come.
“That’s all right, Marshal. We’ll get ’em next time. Let’s take care of our own, first.” McKenna said. He wasn’t angry, but he was a little disappointed. It didn’t show, though. He was more concerned about Dakkoth, who was being moved onto a stretcher.
“Report!” McKenna said.
A marine medic stood and saluted. “We’re going to get him to the infirmary and patch him up there. He’ll be as good as new in a few hours, sir.”
“Very well.” McKenna said returning the salute.
“Come on, Rhaine. We’ll ride back with them. The marines will stay here to secure the area.”
“What about the army shuttle?” Rhaine asked. In the distance and high in the sky, there was an explosion, as the two naval fighters passed high above them.
“Nuff said.” McKenna replied.
They boarded the troop carrier, and within minutes it was airborne. Rhaine sat next to Dakkoth, who was still on the stretcher. She held his hand as he slept, and smiled as she imagined the times and adventures they might share together in the future.