An Onslaught Antagonized, Part Four
As promised, here is part four of “An Onslaught Antagonized.” The action picks up a bit.
Krasnoyarsk Outpost Two, Siberian District, Russia
25 August, 2259 Terra Year
0351 Zulu Time
The near-trees rustled in the wind.
The junior scout in charge of the reconnaissance team stiffened as the mental flow of his mindlink parted to allow his Chargemaster to ask for information.
“Sire, the thralls have entered this place, and appear to be setting up some kind of equipment.”
“Are you able to tell what type?”
“Not specifically, Sire, but one remains by both units constantly and takes orders from others. They seem to be well ensconced from random view.”
“Then they have some position of importance. Make sure that the attendant is marked. I want this equipment undamaged for further study.”
“As you wish, Sire. I have noted it.”
“Do you see any evidence of weaponry?”
“Yes, Sire, the items they call ‘rifles’ are in plain view. It seems that every thrall has one, and furthermore, each seems to be competent and comfortable with them.”
“That is to be expected with those from the warrior caste. We have our own, and observe the same behavior from them as well.”
For a moment the junior scout felt his vision dim as the Chargemaster appropriated his vision and used it to look around. After his superior had his look, the junior scout was granted the use of his body again.
“Very well. Target all and nullify. There are only a few suitable for capture and use. I have noted them, and I desire them here soon. Make sure that you retrieve them. Proceed with this directive at an appropriate time, but do not delay.”
“At your command, Sire.”
The junior scout gauged the height of the planet’s star, and waited for the right time.
It took all day, but finally he deemed the time was right. The sun was dipping down and was almost gone from view. He concentrated, and the mindlink flowed to the Chargemaster.
“Sire, it is time.”
The answer came back immediately.
“At your command, Sire.”
He looked at the visible thralls. These particular ones called themselves “Marines.” That made no sense to him nor did he think it was anything special. He supposed the thrall warriors had to have some kind of designation. He opened up his mindlink again, this time to the others around the area, laying in camouflaged wait. Five were there, by the resting areas. Two by each of the attended machines, and twelve more scattered around tracking the ones that were moving. All reported that they awaited permission to act, and were ready.
“Very well. Note these specific thrall and machinery. Begin.”
There were no acknowledgments. The scout remained where he was, using his subordinates’ senses in much the same way as the Chargemaster had done with him. It was his duty to command this operation, not be leading from the front. For a moment, all he could see was dimness, but he switched views and saw a man holding a rifle pointed at his field of vision.
The thrall’s mouth moved, but it was meaningless babble. Then the view went black, and the junior scout knew that his subordinate had passed on. He hurriedly switched to another, who stood nearby and was acting. When he started watching, he saw that the same thrall was now dead, the body twitching in that strange way they had. He observed as three – no, four more – was dispatched.
He changed views again. This time he saw a couple of the thralls that the Chargemaster wanted separated from the stock herd. He sent a congratulatory message burst to the under-scout that used a creative salvo of psionic energy to temporarily disable his targets. The scout watched long enough to confirm that the thralls were being packaged properly, then flipped through his views to find the other three. He found them, but noted that their captured condition wasn’t as good as the first two. He resolved to speak firmly with those under-scouts later.
A familiar face caught his attention. This one was the face of the one in charge, and next to him was his chief subordinate, as near as he could tell. He could see that the first one was shouting something to the machine attendant, and the other was readying one of those rifle weapons. The scout sent a hurried message to the raider whose senses he was appropriating that one should be held alive. The reply was instantaneous and as he watched, both tumbled to the ground.
“Good. That will limit their response, to see their leader cut down.”
It wasn’t a surprise to hear the mindlink come alive with the Chargemaster’s comments, but it was strangely comforting to know that he was taking a personal interest. The junior scout sent a suitably humble reply, and turned back to his work.
It didn’t take much longer. He lost several of his raiders to those thrall with the heavier weapons than the ‘rifles,’ but that didn’t matter much. All but the ones that was required by the Chargemaster were terminated as useless surplus. He took stock of his losses and was surprised to see that he’d lost roughly half of his personnel.
That realization shocked him, and dimmed some of the pride in his work. He realized that he was not going to enjoy reporting this to the Chargemaster. There was no help for it, and he decided to look for the machines from earlier. Since the threat was removed, he decided that it was safe to move around and see things for himself.
It took a few minutes. He knew where to go, thanks to the mindlink, but physically getting there took time. As he approached, he saw the deceased thrall and it’s charge. The strange machine lay there on the hard ground. The insensate hand of its attendant was snagged in a strap, but it didn’t seem to be damaged. The indicator lights blinked in the same manner as before, without any change in pattern or frequency. The junior scout motioned for one of the underlings to carry it.
As the underling picked up it, one of the triple legs brushed against the face, and a deedledeedledeedle erupted from the device. It was followed by a similar sound a distance off, in synchronization. Both units sounded three times, then stopped. The junior scout opened his mindlink quickly.
“What did you do?”
The underling looked at the face of the machine.
“I do not know, but it doesn’t appear to have any damage.”
“Very well. Complete your task.”
The junior scout opened his mind up for a general burst, reporting the successful completion of his mission.
The urgent report from the specialist manning the communications console of the command post got the attention of Major McNary. He was a heavy man, at the high end of the Marine body mass scales, but for all that he could move astonishingly quickly. He appeared at the specialist’s side.
“Talk to me, Owens.”
The communications specialist didn’t look up, focused on his screen.
“Sir, the two quantum comms registered to Lieutenant DeBourchier just squawked distress. I’ve got coordinates, but no voice transmissions. There aren’t any operator biometrics showing signed in, either, on either device.”
“If one wasn’t signed in that could mean they stepped away for a head call or something, but both at the same time… something’s up. Get the reaction force up and moving there. Then sound the alert, base wide. We don’t know what’s out there to come after us here.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” He was already flipping switches and punching big red buttons even as he spoke.
Major McNary picked up the command post phone. He looked up as a disheveled intelligence officer tumbled through the door and tripped over the threshold.
“Lieutenant Fisher! You all right? What’s the hurry?”
The younger officer picked himself up, ignoring the bloody knee. He leaned against one of the consoles and rapped out his report.
“Sir, there’s been a development! One of the Trippy prisoners sneaked some kind of destructive jammer into the detention blocks and blew out the comms. He said that a patrol has just been wiped out to make the first point of several, and that in a few minutes the rest will be made! Sir, he’s saying that an invasion force is coming!”
Major McNary turned to the communications specialist.
“Update the alert. Invasion imminent. Clear for action and load for bear. I want scanners up and operating, both ground and air based. I also want the lookouts posted in doubles. If they’re coming, I want eyeballs seeing them.”
“Yes, sir, passing that along right now.”
The Major nodded.
“Good. Get the Colonel up here, if he isn’t already on the way.”
“Sir, he just called. He’s coming.”
“Good.” The room started filling with people responding to the alert status, and McNary turned to the younger officer.
“Son, you need to get that knee looked at.”
“Fuck the knee…sir. More important things to do.”
The Major smiled to himself.
“I understand. Return to your post.”
Lieutenant Fisher braced to attention, and started out the door. He didn’t make it through before a sergeant from his section dashed through. Unlike his officer, he didn’t trip. The sergeant picked the lieutenant’s face out and got his attention.
“Lieutenant Fisher! New intel! The prisoners at the Canyon have been liquidated as used up, and the invasion force is coming to replenish!”
On the heels of that feverish report, Colonel Jacobson came through the door smoothly.
“What was that, sergeant?”
Everyone in the command post not actively busy came to attention.
“As you were, people. Sergeant?”
The sergeant glanced at the lieutenant, and he nodded, giving the sergeant permission to relate all the updates.
“Sir, we got a couple of pieces of intel just now. One was that there was a reconnaissance platoon wiped out recently, signaling the start of a base invasion, and the other was that the hostages at the Grand Canyon had been “used up.” The invasion force is coming to replenish their supply.”
The senior officer turned to the Major without hesitation.
“Major, get this information to Captain Màrtainn and her crew right now! They’re supposed to be hitting that site, and they’re already shorthanded!”
“Aye-aye, sir.” The Major’s hand slapped the communicator’s shoulder. He had been listening in as unobtrusively as possible, and was already calling it in. The sergeant cleared his throat.
“Sirs? There’s more.”
Major McNary looked at Colonel Jacobson.
“What is it, Sergeant?”
The sergeant looked straight at the major.
“Sir, part of the trippuku missives we’ve got is that Trippy post in the Grand Canyon. Sir, it’s more than a post, it’s a full up base, with all kinds of military hardware. When the Trippy mentioned that patrol in the Rift, he also let slip that the base was immediately going on full alert.”
“Major, go check for launches of any sort – missile, atmospheric craft, orbit interceptors, whatever. There might be more than just us about to get hit.”
The major was about to acknowledge this, when the communications specialist interrupted.
“Sirs, you wanted me to raise the strike team. I’ve got a problem.”
He looked up to see two sets of senior-officer eyes staring at him. Major McNary broke off to pass along the tasking orders for the surveillance satellites.
“Sir, I can’t.”
The Colonel raised an eyebrow.
“Colonel, their barracks has an auto-responder stating that they’ve already left.”
“That’s great. Try to hail them.”
“Sir, I’ve tried that too, but the electronic assets they took with them report EMCON.”
“They went radio silent. Great. I don’t know why they would have, but I guess they have a reason to. Set up a beacon to be triggered by their transponder codes. When they come back online, send this information in an encrypted squirt.”
The Major interrupted. His query was still working on the screen, so he looked up at his superior.
“Sir, I’m wondering something.”
The Colonel took his eyes off the specialist’s screen and looked up.
“Colonel, before we got the raid warning, we copied a distress call from a patrol out in Iwohime’s Rift. They was being overrun and I guess wiped out, but the reaction force hasn’t reported back.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Sir, right after that, we got a runner in from the intel section that said something worrying. He said that one of the prisoners that had been captured recently gave them information about the patrol, and after that, well, you heard the second runner.”
“So how did they know about the patrol being overrun? There wasn’t time enough for any information to flow. I didn’t know about the patrol until a few minutes ago.”
“Well, sir, some of the theories are that they’re using telepathy.”
“Well, sir, they don’t have a spoken language, other than those boxes. They don’t manipulate them in any way, or at least I’ve never seen any controls for them. The intelligence guys say that some of the Trippies appear to be concentrating harder than others to use the devices, almost as if they aren’t as trained up on the operation of the things. So mental effort, anyway, seems to suggest telepathy to me.”
“If it’s telepathy, what range do they have?”
“Sir, I don’t know, but based on what I see here, as least as far as Iwohime’s Rift to here. That’s what, about ten or twelve miles from here?”
“Good point. Have we got any of those speech boxes?”
“Yes, sir and plenty, although only a few work.”
“Put some of this civilian scientists to work on finding a frequency to mind-blast them with. If they’re telepathic and those boxes don’t have control surfaces, it stands to reason that they could be interfacing telepathically with it. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes, sir, and I’ll get right on that.”
“You do that, Major. I got to call up reinforcements.”
This made the Major stop in surprise.
“Reinforcements? But, sir, there isn’t another base for at least fifty miles around.”
“Oh, but there is. Remember that area with all the razor tipped barbwire and a distinct air of eternal doom and gloom?”
“Yes, now that you mention it.”
“That’s our reinforcement. Where’s the comm?”