Ascension: Book One of The Alliance Chronicles

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Chapter 4

“As with many heroes, he had many more enemies than friends. And those friends suffered and died for him. But if asked if they would do it again, they would gladly say ‘Yes.’”

From “The Book of McKenna” - Destiny

The sun had long since set on the city of Migichina. Alliance Marshal Dakkoth Starkiller sat outside his favorite café on the artistically hip Corona St. This was where the artists and dreamers came to converse, where the philosophers could talk in confidence, and the musicians could compose their songs. Though alien to this world, he felt at home. Not many here took a second glance at neither his feline features nor his glowing red eyes. He sat at the table reading the local newspaper.

His partner, Brigit Perrin, also loved this quarter of the city. She’d grown up here, had fell in love here, and eventually decided her future here. Her future had come into focus when the grizzled veteran Marshall Dakkoth Starkiller had walked into her life. She carried two coffee cups to the table. While her partner liked his coffee black with no sweeteners, she preferred French vanilla. Its aroma was much the same as her perfume, which she wore just to drive Dakkoth insane.

Dakkoth was very shy when it came to talking to women on a personal level. He got along fine with Perrin because he viewed the relationship as a professional one. She saw more, though. Dakkoth was a good, hard working man. He was always there when you needed him, and more importantly, he was the guy you’d want watching your back when things went south. Most of all, he’d never turn on his friends.

Perrin took the seat next to Dakkoth. “Anything good?” she asked, inquiring about his newspaper.

“Saurian Theater Company called. ‘The Core’ is in town. Might score some tickets for it.” He replied in his raspy voice. He turned his attention to his partner.

“Sounds fun,” she said. “Here’s your coffee.”

Dakkoth accepted the cup and sipped. To date, Brigit Perrin was the only woman who’d had the patience to hang around him. Her fiery red hair and stunning beauty usually brought to her the attention of men where ever she went, but for some reason, the only one that interested her was Dakkoth, who right now was using the paper as a wall to avert her gaze.

She pushed the paper down. “Dakk, why haven’t you found yourself a nice Migichina girl, yet?”

“If you have not noticed, Marshal Perrin, Migichinan women do not ‘fancy’ aliens. I’m about as alien as you can get.” He replied with a slight snarl. She had asked the same question many times before, and he always gave the same annoyed response.

“But Dakk,” Perrin smiled. “I think you’re the stud of all studs!” She giggled. Perrin was known to be a touch sarcastic, and he reasoned that this was one of those times. It was because of this trait that he’s not even sure if he even really liked her.

“Flattery will not get you anywhere, Perrin.”

“Okay,” In an instant, she was out of her seat and in Dakkoth’s lap, her lips inches away from his. “So... what would you do if I was to do this?” She moved closer, but to Dakkoth’s relief, his mobile phone started to ring.

“Damn!” Perrin growled, as Dakkoth reached for the phone.

“Starkiller here... yes sir... yes sir... We’re on our way.” He put the unit away. Perrin stood up and composed herself.

“McKenna?” She asked.

“There’s been a murder in the Archology, and Uncle Mac wants us on the case.”

Security teams made their way through the corridors of the Archology. Using the most sophisticated sensory equipment at their disposal, they looked for the assassin who had murdered Lt. Klaive, and who was apparently after Chief Marshal McKenna, as well. For all their efforts, and after three hours of intense scrutiny, they still had not found a soul.

That was precisely the way D’Saad wanted it. The cloaking device imbedded in her combat armor had, to this point, done it’s job well, but the display on her visor showed only a few more hours at best before the unit would need to be recharged. The prowling guards cut off most of her avenues of escape. She continued to look for a way to freedom.

All airshafts were locked, a normal safety precaution in the Archology, and the elevators were only operating by means of key-card. If she were to escape, she would need one of those.

D’Saad turned the corner to find a female security guard by herself, scanning a side passage. The guard entered what appeared to be a maintenance closet to continue her search. D’Saad followed close behind while the door was still opened.

The young woman appeared to not feel any sense of danger, as she had her visor up, and was casually looking around. She turned and was now directly facing D’Saad. With a sweep of her flashlight, the diffused beam of light shone on the invisible assassin and the light refracted through her, a distortion effect caused by the cloak.

This struck the woman as odd. D’Saad noticed the obvious ignorance of cloaking effects as the woman waved the flashlight again, and again saw the distortion. D’Saad wasted no time, rushing the woman.

It was too late for the guard, as she realized the horror of what she faced. The distortion, a second earlier standing still, was now charging at her. She tried to scream, but an invisible hand muffled her. Another hand grasped the back of her head, and the two in unison twisted her head around, breaking her neck. The guard fell to the ground, dead.

D’Saad wasted no time as she powered down her suit and undressed. She undressed the guard as well and swapped suits with her. “A near perfect match,” D’Saad thought as she checked to see what the guard was carrying. All standard issue gear, including a fully charged particle beam pistol complete with two ‘e-clips’, the much needed key-card, and a picture of her boyfriend.

“Why do they always have to have a significant other?” D’Saad hissed. With care, she dressed the dead guard in her old combat-suit, and sealed the helmet. With any luck, this would throw security for a loop. She peeked out the door after adjusting the helmet. The heads up display gave her a map of the level of the Archology she was currently on, as well as the positions of other security guards nearby. This would aid her escape.

Using the map she began to make her way on a route that would get her by unnoticed, but was careful enough to walk as if she belonged there, so as not to attract any attention. She passed only one guard on her way out, who saluted her. She returned the salute and continued on her way.

“Lucky me, I picked an officer.” She mused as she came up to an elevator. It took a few seconds to find the right key-card. The doors of the elevator swished open and she stepped inside. To her continued luck, there was no one else inside. She tapped the button that would take her to the top floor of the Archology, and planned to head for the roof. There, she could call her ship’s computer to beam her out. So far, so good...

Branwyn monitored the progress of the security sweeps. By now, the entire Archology was on lock-down, and she even called in a few of Slann’s private guards to maintain security around his office. One could never be too safe, she figured. Slann himself was not present. Probably out at some party, working the crowds and hob-knobbing with other politicians.

Things would go south if the assassin could be tracked back to Slann. The hit was on a known aide to the warlord, who happened to be outside the door of the chapel Zendista McKenna just happened to be in. Possibly a coincidence? Security reports from officers who were en route to inform Ryn Klaive’s family, instead found his wife and only child both dead and the apartment lightly ransacked. Had Lt. Klaive gone insane, killed his wife and kid, then for some reason was going to go after the chief marshal? Or was this a professional hit, designed to keep someone who knew something from talking?

Now, only the assassin could tell what was really going on.

D’Saad reached to 514th level of the Archology, and found herself in a garden. The garden was an extension of the Migichinan Alliance University Botany Lab. She adjusted the frequency of the helmet’s comm unit until she found the one her ship’s computer was set to monitor. With a well-rehearsed whistled tune, the ship recognized her and initiated the transporter sequence. With a flash of light, she was gone and inside the safety of her ship. No sooner had she arrived than her computer was alerting her to an incoming message.

“D’Saad here.”

“YOU BOTCHED IT!!” The silhouette hissed in rage. “I GAVE YOU A SIMPLE TASK AND YOU FAILED!!”

“You told me to stop him from talking to McKenna. You did NOT tell me how, nor did it seem like you even cared how. The job is done, and I expect to be paid. In full! If I do not receive my money, I will come after you. ” D’Saad growled.

“Fine.” The silhouette responded. “Meet me at Callistro Mall tomorrow at noon, by the fountain. There you will find instructions on where to receive your payment.”

The channel closed. D’Saad knew this could very well be a setup. Her employer knew what she looked like, and had told her where to go. Problem was she did not know whom her employer was or where to find her employer.

…Too convenient…

Dakkoth and Perrin materialized inside the Archology. They slapped their badges, activating body armor that materialized around them. Perrin drew her Icer stun gun, while Dakkoth, true to his style, pulled the heavy artillery. From digital memory, a large plasma rifle materialized. The rifle was a saurian model popularly referred to as a ‘thump’ gun due to the loud ‘thump’ it made when fired.

While Perrin activated her sensor suite, Dakkoth relied on his own natural senses. Most Migichinan smelled the same, even Perrin when she wasn’t drowning herself in perfume. As they walked through the Archology, Dakkoth breathed deeply.

“So Dakk, who, or what are we looking for?”

Dakkoth stopped and looked around. His cyber eyes swept the surroundings, zooming in and out. “An assassin tried to grease our boss.”

“Uncle Mac?” Perrin said in shock. Dakkoth nodded. She, like many other women who knew Zendista McKenna found him attractive, but his gruffness made him hard to get close to. “Kinda like Dakk,” she guessed. The two seemed to be cut from the same cloth, but Perrin knew from experience that Dakkoth Starkiller was the more feral of the two.

And again, the cat man proved to be just that.

“Sweet.” He muttered, and his stalking broke into a jog as he followed his new trail. Perrin did her best to keep up.

“Dakk, what’s up?” she hollered after him. The marshal stopped at an intersection of two main corridors. He walked in a tight circle, trying to regain the scent.

“There” He aimed his rifle at the maintenance closet door. Slowly he approached as Perrin called in their position over the comm channel. Quickly, McKenna’s voice came back with instructions.

“Perrin, tell Dakk the target is armed and dangerous. Proceed with extreme caution. The assassin’s already killed three; I don’t want to loose two more.”

“Copy that, boss. Proceed with caution. Perrin out.” She leveled her Icer as Dakkoth raised his boot.

With a deafening crash, he kicked in the door and charged in. The floodlight on his thump gun automatically activated as he entered the darkened room. Looking around, he found his target. The assassin was lying on the floor, not moving. With the muzzle of the rifle, he nudged the body. No reaction. He set his rifle aside and reached for the helmet.

“Cover me.” He ordered. Perrin came up behind and aimed her Icer as Dakkoth removed the helmet. Inside, he found the face of a woman whose face was rather slack. He checked for a pulse, and then let the body go. He stood and faced Perrin.

“Migichinan woman, been dead for about two hours. Her scent does not match the one I’ve been trailing. Call McKenna, tell him to expand our search to the entire city. Assassin’s out of the Archology by now.”

Perrin relayed the information, and Dakkoth could hear McKenna swearing loudly over her headphones. They both went outside, where a team of security guards were gathered, ready for action.

“Are you sure she wasn’t the assassin? Maybe she killed herself...”

“No. There were two scents on the armor, Migichinan, and a human woman.” Dakkoth looked over to the security guards.

“Got a body in there, one of your own, but not who we’re after.” Dakkoth joined Perrin who had walked a few short paces away from the new murder scene. She continued to talk to McKenna over the comm link as Dakkoth watched the guards pull the body of their fallen comrade from the closet. A couple of the guards were visibly shaken at the sight. Dakkoth cursed silently. It was always disturbing to see the death of a woman, a person who would never feel the warmth of a husband, or experience the joy of a family. Dakkoth vowed to Migichina that this crime would not go unpunished.

“Dakk, the boss told us to stand down, but he wants us in his office bright and early. He’s starting a formal investigation at 7 am.” Dakk said nothing, but put his hand on her shoulder. “You okay, buddy?” Perrin said, putting her own hand on his chest.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’m going to nail this bitch, though. I’m going to hunt her down like the animal she is.” Dakkoth walked down the corridor. The scent was familiar, too familiar.

The ship’s main passageway was darkened by smoke, the flickering lights adding an ominous air. Dakkoth could still smell her, though. Through the burning plastic and metal she was still there.

“I don’t see how you can ‘sense’ her marshal, this is pure hell!” The cut-down came from Alexis Paraway, Humanis Intelligence officer, and his partner for the duration of this caper.”

Janus D’Saad was their target. She went crazy when her husband, a top level politician and corporate CEO, was found in bed with another woman. D’Saad killed them both, and then did in the rest of her family. She deserved to die.

Paraway was on the trail because D’Saad was a wanted criminal in the Federation. Dakkoth Starkiller was there because D’Saad had made the mistake of killing his last partner. He promised never to let that happen again. His target was near; he could feel it.

Paraway didn’t make things easier for him. She constantly berated him just for being associated with the Migichinan Alliance. She incessantly tempted him to join the Humanis, where even as a second class citizen he would be highly valued. He figured this is what a criminal investigation with Satan as your partner would be like. He even called her that under his breath, though never saying it aloud since the Humanis had no concept of religion.

Then there she was, Janus D’Saad. Through the fire and smoke she came, like a fallen angel come to prey on the innocent. The firefight erupted. Paraway, trying to be a hero, charged D’Saad and took a full blast from a phaser for her brashness. As her molecules were ripped apart, the last thing Alexis Paraway heard was Dakkoth Starkiller’s roar of rage as he opened fire on D’Saad. He fired blindly at the mercenary as she laughed from behind the shine of the transporter beam. D’Saad had gotten clean away, and Dakkoth Starkiller had lost another partner because of it...

“That’s it!” Dakkoth spun around and headed back towards the grouping of guards, watching as the coroners bagged up their fallen comrade. Dakkoth pushed his way through.

“Hold on just a minute, gentlemen. I need another look at the body.” The coroners stepped aside as Dakkoth unzipped the bag. He examined the combat armor closely. Amid the stench of death he found it. He found the scent again. D’Saad!

Dakkoth stood and briskly walked away. Perrin fell in behind.

“Dakk, what is it? What’s wrong?”

“I know who our assassin is, Perrin. I’ve gone up against her before. The boss is in real trouble. This cannot wait until morning.”

“Dakk, our orders are to get some rest. If the chief’s in trouble, I’m sure it’ll take more than an assassin to take him out.”

Dakkoth stooped and considered it for a moment. “Yeah, you’re right. The boss is too stubborn to die.”

Perrin didn’t understand. She knew Dakkoth had been around, but this really spooked him. Who could be so horrible that it would scare the mighty Dakkoth Starkiller?

D’Saad began shutdown procedures: charge the weapons, check the systems maintenance schedules, and engage emergency readiness protocols. She was ready for bed. She set the sensors to watch for any armed personnel that had not been previously scanned. She paid the dock master well enough in the private spaceport where her stock light freighter rested, but one could never be too sure. A Migichinan civilian may say and do one thing, but at the sight of a battle frame, they could get patriotic very quickly.

There was light activity as she looked outside. In another hour, a crew would arrive to refuel her ship and perform some maintenance that could only be done in port. Even in the Migichinan Alliance where honor was every thing, money still talked. Her secret was safe, at least for now.

Dakkoth returned to his apartment. He tossed aside his rifle, and disengaged his armor. He sat down behind his computer terminal and rubbed his eyes. It was two in the morning. Normally he would be in bed, but the situation was far too dire to allow him to rest. He knew his limits, and could still reasonably push himself for a few more days.

His doors slid open and Perrin walked in with Saurian ‘take-out’ food. She gave him his burger and fries, and pulled a beer out of the fridge for him.

“You’re too good to me Perrin.” He said as he stuffed the burger in his mouth. On his screen was the playback from selected mission logs he had recorded in the years past, mostly encounters with D’Saad.

Perrin slumped down on Dakkoth’s couch, kicking her shoes off and making herself comfortable. Within minutes, she was fast asleep, with a French fry hanging out of her mouth. Dakkoth pulled out his camera and took a quick picture, too classic to pass up.

He tucked the camera away. The logs finished playback, and now he turned his attention to the files. Saurian Fleet Intelligence, Migichinan Intelligence Agency, Migichinan Naval Intelligence, and at least a dozen other agencies had files on her, even the Valerian Defense Ministry. D’Saad had racked up around over 300 murders and assassinations across the galaxy. Three agencies had reported they would honor the cop who brought in D’Saad as a national hero, and even one agency would erect a shrine in his or her honor. The last offer always made Dakkoth chuckle.

D’Saad only took contracts on men. She had no trouble killing women, but would only do so if they got in the way. It mostly stemmed from her failed family life, and her husband’s betrayal. Dakk didn’t blame her for that. D’Saad used to be a really successful woman, but that fateful day, when she walked in on her husband and his mistress, was when she started the downward spiral to insanity. MIA wanted her for 30 murders in the Alliance, and the numbers grew.

He came across the specs for her ship, A saurian built Keplerian class light freighter, with reported sightings by military and civilian agencies across the quadrant, armed to the teeth with stolen weapons and other technologies, some reported to be Migichinan. Most were saurian. The shipyards of the Saurian Galactic Commonwealth produced without any equal the most powerful starships and starship systems in the galaxy. If she escaped, it was likely that no one would be able to catch her.

Dakkoth called the Department of the Navy. A petty officer on duty put him through to Vice Admiral Okona, who was still on duty monitoring Humanis forces. Dakkoth had met the admiral before, who happened to be a friend of Chief Marshal McKenna via Lord Admiral Winter Ventrosia.

“Marshal Starkiller, for you to be calling me it must be important, and at such an early hour...”

“Can we dispense with the pleasantries, sir?” He said, trying to remain respectful. “I have a lead on the assassin who tried to kill McKenna. She has a ship, and I need your people to start looking for it.” With a tap of the console, he forwarded his information to the Admiral.

“This is her ship. Notify me if you come across it, please.”

“I’ll get my people on it right way, Marshal. It’s good to see you again, Dakk.”

“Likewise, sir. Good Morning.” Dakk hoped he had not offended Admiral Okona. He was after all a friend, but this was more important than friendship.

The peaceful expanse of open space was disrupted by the Draesoneth, as the flagship of the Migichinan Alliance raced its way home. Capt. Dunan monitored his ship’s progress from the astrometrics lab, which was normally used as a combat information center. Because of the large number of missions he and his crew normally performed, there was rarely time to swap out the lab for a proper CIC.

He’d had a chair installed in the middle of the room, giving him a 360-degree view of the lab. Technicians and intelligence officers maintained around the clock watches in order to keep the bridge up to date on military and civilian ships in their proximity, as well as monitoring communications traffic and stellar anomalies. The normal chatter of operations was disrupted by the tech manning the long-range sensor station.

“Conn, sensors, new contact: bearing 344, mark 80. Range: 3.5 light years, Warp 2.557 closure. Designate new contact Tango 1.”

“CIC to bridge.” Capt. Dunan called.

“Bridge, go ahead skipper.”

“We got a bogey out there. I’m sending the intercept data to helm. Set course and increase speed. Set cruise conditions for wartime. CIC out.”

Capt. Dunan went to the station to monitor the technician who’d just discovered the new contact.

“Any thing new, kid?”

“Not yet, sir. I’m running the sensor data through IFF. Should have something shortly.” The technician entered a few more commands into the computer, and on his screen appeared a saurian built starship. The vessel was cigar-shaped, with a lean football shaped blister on top. This ship was black with no visible markings. The tech, however, was familiar with the type of vessel.

“Sir, that’s a saurian sub, Icthyan class. Fast, stealthy, and usually armed to the teeth.”

Dunan agreed with the tech’s observation. “The Saurians usually use them for intelligence work. So, what the hell are they doing this far into Migichinan space with out announcing themselves?” He added.

“Don’t know about you, sir, but I’m getting really curious.” The tech said, as he narrowed the sensors to focus on the ship. Saurian subs were designed to enter subspace, a realm of the time-space continuum normally used for communications traffic. Because of the nature of subspace, there were only a few weapons that could even touch the subs, and all were owned by the Saurian Commonwealth.

“Sir, if that sub goes ‘under’ we’re going to have a hard time tracking him.” The tech said. Dunan already knew this, though. He went to the main screen.

“Display the contact’s projected course.” He ordered.

The computer gathered and analyzed the data. The image went from two-dimensional to three dimensional, showing the saurian sub, with a red line through it and marking its projected destination, the Migichinan Homeworld.

“Crap... BRIDGE!” He shouted. “Sound general quarters, they’re headed for the Homeworld!”

He left his tactical center in care of the watch officer. Within a minute, he was on the bridge.

“Open a channel.” Dunan ordered as he took up a position on the center of the bridge. “Unidentified vessel, this is the MNV Draesoneth. Identify yourselves and state your intentions immediately.” He waited.

“No response sir.” The communications officer volunteered.

“Tactical. Put a particle beam volley across his bow.”

“Aye, sir.” The tactical officer aimed the phaser batteries for a portion of space in front of the sub and fired. Red-orange bolts of radiation and dense light particles streamed away from the Draesoneth. The volley streaked across the bow of the dark ship. The vessel veered off course to avoid further fire.

Draesoneth turned to continue her intercept. Commander Kylarn looked up from her station. “Sir, whoever they are, they’re making a run for it. I’m detecting a power spike from inside. Look’s like they’re preparing to dive.”

“Send a message to command. Inform them of the situation. We’ve got possible Saurians on a spook mission.”

The communications officer sent the message along with the relevant data.

“What I’m about to do could start a war with the Saurian Galactic Commonwealth. I intend to fire on the saurian ship. If anyone wants to object, they’d better speak up now.” Dunan walked over to the tactical station and relieved the officer manning it.

“Sir.” The ensign manning the operations station was the only one to speak. “I think I speak for all of us. When we signed on, we took an oath to defend the Alliance from friend or foe. This saurian ship is certainly not acting friendly.”

Dunan smiled, but it was a grim one as he targeted torpedoes on the sub. On the targeting screen, he saw the sub, now emitting blue energy. He pressed the trigger, releasing a spread of torpedoes towards the sub. Two hit as the ship disappeared into subspace.

Dunan slammed the console and cursed. The ship had gotten away, but not clean.

“Skipper, central command has dispatched two frigates to conduct ASW Ops. We’re ordered to continue on home. Best speed.”

“...Very well. Resume original course.” Dunan wanted to stay to hunt the ship, even though he wasn’t equipped to do so. He made a mental note to camp out in front of Lord Admiral Ventrosia’s office in order to get the refit his ship needed.

“Commander, bridge is yours.” He retreated to his office to begin a list of the upgrades he wanted to wring out of the Lord Admiral.

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