The Justice Machine: Challenges Jun 16, 2017 23:23:05 GMT
Post by dans on Jun 16, 2017 23:23:05 GMT
Time: Early 1978Introduction
Place: Kurnnegut, a planet on the 'Rim' of the Georwellian Imperium.
Setting: For hundreds of years, humans and an alien species known as the Nahman lived peacefully on Kurnnegut under a shared government. A nahman is sort of a 6 limbed centaur it has a horizontal body section with 4 legs and a tail, similar to a large short-haired dog, a vertical body section which is similar to a human adolescent including arms, and a face which reminds most people of a flat-faced rabbit with floppy ears. They normally go on 4 legs, but most can stand on their hind legs for limited lengths of time. Their middle set of limbs has clumsy hands, not nearly as agile as their upper hands. When they stand upright, they average about 5 foot 6 inches tall. Their hair can be almost any color.
The Nahman hail from another interstellar realm, the Nahman Alliance, which has existed peacefully in this area of the galaxy for thousands of years. Though the Nahman are a peaceful race, they are also very secretive, and little is known about the technical capabilities of the Alliance. Only a relative few nahman live on planets outside the borders or the Alliance.
28 years ago, before the Rim Wars, there was a war on Kurnnegut, now called The First Nahman War, and which is described in Act 2 of this story. The First Nahman War established humans as the sole rulers of Kurnnegut, though many nahman elected to remain on Kurnnegut under human rule. The government of Kurnnegut late last year made the extremely unpopular decision to surrender the planet's independence and become a subject planet of the Georwellian Imperium. Thus Kurnnegut is now ruled by an Imperial Governor appointed by Georwellian Council Central. Most humans and nahman alike are unhappy with the new rule. The surrender was not voluntary - even though there were no armed conflicts between Kurnnegut and Georwell, there were certainly enough Georwellian military forces in the system to have easily won any war between the two.
Recent Events: The new Imperial Governor just proclaimed that the nahman population on Kurnnegut are a threat to the security of the Imperium and issued a 'terminate on sight' order for all nahman. To any resident of Kurnnegut over a certain age, going back to war with the nahman was like déjà vu, with the big difference that the earlier war had been fought merely to establish dominance rather than a war to extinction. Most humans on Kurnnegut don't think of nahman as enemies, as they have been associating peacefully with nahman for much of their lives working with them, playing with them, doing business with them, establishing friendships with them. When the exterminate order was given, many humans joined the already established anti-Georwell underground.
Initially, the nahman didn't believe that their human neighbors would harm them. After the first slaughter of their unarmed brothers and sisters by the imported Imperial Baleful Atrocious Subjugation Troops, most nahman found a way to flee Kurnnegut. But some stayed to try and gain revenge, while others stayed to fight for the only homes they had ever known. The nahman who stayed to fight fled into the extensive wilds of Kurnnegut and joined the human underground to stage a guerrilla war against Georwellian forces. Aided by surprise, the rebels have been surprisingly successful in resisting the Imperium. So far…
Alyza Hobon, a short, compact woman with short brown hair, the leader of the human anti-Georwellian underground on Kurnnegut, thoughtfully examined the 'meeting room' and the beings gathered around the conference table. The four St. Bernard-sized, 6 limbed centaur-like nahman tended to cluster more closely together than the four humans; probably a vestige of their ancient herd instinct.
They were in a small chamber in an extensive system of caverns in an inaccessible area of the Granite Mountains. The walls of this small chamber were covered with draperies but the floor and ceiling were natural stone. The table and chairs had been built only recently; the green wood of their construction still exuded sap from the cut ends. The nahman easily ignored the primitive conditions, while Alyza and the human contingent struggled to do the same. It seemed ironic that the nahman, whose peaceful civilization was many thousands of years older than that of humanity, could adapt more easily to the loss of the many amenities of modern civilization than could humans.
'I guess it confirms what I've always thought that nahman are more practical than humans, much less prone to self-delusions. It's a shame we have been brought to this condition!' Alyza's thoughts strayed from the present meeting, as she recalled how she had come to this point…
Shortly after the First Nahman War, Alyza had awakened in a hospital bed, horribly injured and with no knowledge of her past. She hadn't even known her name; 'Alyza Hobon' was something she had made up to satisfy the medical bureaucracy and she had never felt it was an exact fit. Though her doctors had been sure she would never walk again, after several years of intensive physical therapy she had recovered completely from her injuries, though she had never regained her memories. During therapy she'd realized how much she enjoyed exercise, and she had been an extreme fitness fanatic ever since.
She had effortlessly plunged into the political chaos left over after the war like a fish into water, and worked tirelessly to restore trust between the human and nahman species. From this effort she had quickly graduated into leadership roles in the human government, culminating in being elected Prime Minister of the Independent Republic of Kurnnegut some 10 years ago, a position that she had held until she was ousted by the quisling who had recently surrendered Kurnnegut to the Imperial Governor from Georwell.
'A real comedown in status, isn't it?' she snorted to herself at the direction her thoughts had taken. 'From Prime Minister of the Independent Republic of Kurnnegut living in the Palace of State and leader of the 'Keep Kurnnegut Independent' party, to a traitor to Georwell hiding in a drafty cave, hunted by squads of armored troopers from the Georwellian Elite Occupation Force'. She shook her head in disgust. 'Enough self-pity! I've always followed my principles, and if they've led me here, so be it!' She took a deep breath to compose herself. She was very unhappy with what she was about to say.
"Friends, we MUST get this meeting started. Despite our recent successes, I've just heard the worst possible news for us. We must abandon the rebellion immediately!" That got their attention! "Our spy in the Palace reports that 'Imperial Governor' Santor…" she spat the words with venom and contempt. Santor did no governing, but instead wallowed in decadence all day, every day "has contacted Prosecutor Zarren on Georwell for assistance."
All the small talk had stopped and everyone was focused intently on Alyza. Even outside of the Georwellian Imperium, they knew the reputation of Prosecutor Zarren. She could feel the sudden wave of fear cascading through the room, anticipating her next announcement.
"Yes, you are all correct. The so-called 'Justice Machine' has been dispatched to Kurnnegut." She winced visibly with pain when she named the Imperium's super team.
Kurnnegut had prior experience with the Justice Machine. For a time, before Georwell interfered in a conflict that had nothing to do with it, the First Nahman War had been inconclusive. Military historians were evenly spit about who would actually have won, humans or nahman, until Council Central on Georwell had decided that it would be to the Imperium's advantage to have another human-ruled planet as an ally. They dispatched the Justice Machine, along with a battalion of Imperial Terror Troopers, to aid the human cause. When the Imperium absolutely positively had to have a success, in military or criminal matters, the Justice Machine was unleashed, and the Justice Machine NEVER failed.
Alyza continued. "Given the circumstances, I'm forced to suggest that our nahman allies should strongly consider withdrawing to some other planet in your own realm. And any humans who have any connections at all with the underground, no matter how slight, should start evacuating as well. I don't know where we'll go, though. Perhaps we can also beg asylum from the Nahman Alliance?"
Not a single being in the room protested this sudden urging of surrender by their leader. Though the average citizen of Kurnnegut didn't understand the vindictiveness of the Georwellian Imperium, everyone in the Underground, both human and nahman, was already intimately familiar with the atrocities visited on their enemies by the Imperial Elite Occupation Force already on the planet. And the Terror Troop now on the way were known as the most vicious of all the Imperial forces. When Georwell won this new war and now that the Justice Machine was on the way, no one now doubted that Georwell would win everyone even vaguely connected with the underground would die, but not soon enough to save them from horrendous torture, not before they admitted to crimes against their fellow citizens of Kurnnegut, not before they confessed to terrorist activities from which only Georwell could offer protection in the future. Every one of them would be made to advance Georwell's cause.
"We have about 9 days before the troop carrier with the Justice Machine and the Terror Troopers arrives. I propose that we cancel our current agenda and immediately develop a plan to get all our people of both species off Kurnnegut in that time." Though the motion was unanimously approved without discussion, some members of both species vowed privately to remain and collect what revenge they could. But the rebel council wouldn't even be granted time to discuss withdrawal plans.
The cave suddenly shook to a tremendous explosion, not far away. Part of the ceiling came down, burying almost half the beings in the room and knocking the rest from their feet. Alyza was thrown against a wall and fell, stunned, dragging some curtains down on top of her.
Someone rushed into the room screaming "A BASTard Assault Carrier just landed. Ground troops are blasting through our defenses!" Before he could say more, an energy beam vaporized his head from behind. His body took two more steps before it crumpled to the ground.
While it had been Alyza Hobon who banged her head and crashed to the stone floor, it was someone else who arose. For over 25 years, Alyza had been nothing but a peaceful politician albeit an honest politician with a fetish for personal fitness but the being who now stood in her shoes, using her mind, was a warrior! Moving almost too fast for the eye to follow, she relieved the dead rebel of his energy pistol and fired a half dozen shots through the door by which the dead man had entered. She followed those shots in a blur, and by the time answering shots crashed into the room, she was long gone.
Her allies were just starting to pull themselves together. The nahman leader, though injured, took command, and the remaining able bodied rebels drew their weapons and began making their way cautiously towards the sounds of battle. They knew they would likely be overwhelmed, but to die fighting was infinitely preferable to being captured. The BASTard forces knew that the Terror Troop were on the way, and they would outdo themselves in evil in an attempt to prove they were as deadly dangerous as their more famous rivals.
The new Alyza had other ideas! In the corridor outside the meeting room, she saw 5 BASTards in standard combat armor. Combat armor provided enhanced strength and limited invulnerability, at the cost of reduced speed and agility. The squad was just recovering from her earlier cover fire and beginning to fire back when she exploded into their midst. She was able to place the firing bell of her pistol flush with the shoulder joint of one BASTard, the weakest point of his armor, and her first shot easily blasted through the joint, killing him instantly. She kicked the falling body into the second armored soldier, and he stumbled backwards. As numbers 3 and 4 swung their guns towards her, she spun towards number 3 and whacked his arm out of line so that he shot number 5. Now behind number 3, she fired her pistol directly into the power pack of his armor, then shoved him into his comrades, using the shove to propel herself into the corridor through which the BASTards had arrived. A count later, she ducked behind an outcropping of rock that jutted into the cave as Number 3's armor exploded.
For just a second, Alyza wondered at her new-found prowess at battle. In the 28 years of her memory, she had never been in a single fight, and had only recently begun training with weapons. But among her new skills she found battle analysis, and she realized she didn't have time to worry about this particular issue right now. She could hear the sounds of battle coming from the entrance to the cave system. She reviewed the rebels' defensive preparations in her mind and realized that they had no chance against the standard tactics and weapons that BASTard forces usually employed vs. enemies entrenched in a warren of caves. Still, though the enemy advance would be inexorable, it would also be slow. If she used some unusual tactics, she might be able to end this attack and save many of her allies.
'For what?' a part of her mind asked. 'With the Justice Machine on the way, even your best efforts will only prolong the inevitable.'
Her thoughts almost stunned her. Where was this defeatist attitude coming from? Not from the politician Alyza who'd fought for truth, justice and independence for Kurnnegut for almost 30 years. Nor from the warrior who'd just emerged from Alyza like a Georwellian mini-dragon from its chrysalis. There must be another, as yet undiscovered side of Alyza still buried in her mind a part of her of which she was already beginning to be ashamed. She would win this battle, or die with honor!
The cavern system was complex and extensive, with many exits to the surface. She visualized the terrain outside, trying to figure out where a BASTard Troop Carrier would likely land to support this assault. There was only one place nearby large enough, a small valley that was overlooked by two different entrances to the caverns. She would take the battle to the Carrier. But first there was something she could do to improve her side's chances of living through the next few minutes.
A BASTard Assault Troop took battle orders from a half dozen Assault Commanders. These Commanders never went into battle, but remained in a mobile Combat Command Center in the Troop Carrier, monitoring the battle through cameras mounted on each soldier's armor. This allowed the Commanders to direct virtually every aspect of a battle. The ability to closely coordinate the BASTards' actions in battle made them incredibly deadly. If she could interfere with the command signals, the BASTards would have to think for themselves and they were not selected or trained for initiative. They would still be dangerous as individuals, but her own troops would have a chance.
She raced to the cave's radio room and gave the technician detailed instructions for jamming the encoded command signals on the secret frequencies used by the Imperial BAST forces, never wondering how she knew that information. A few minutes later, she had reached the sentry post in one of the cave entrances overlooking the valley and the Troop Carrier ship grounded there. As she had hoped, the two sentries, one human and one nahman, were still at their post. There were a few BASTard guards on the ground around the ship, to prevent someone from sneaking aboard the ship.
"Report!" she commanded.
"They blasted open the concealed entrance from the air, then landed and sent in a squadron, ma'am" the human sentry responded. "Can we be relieved? We'd like to join the battle."
"Negative!" she was emphatic. "I need you here." Three more warriors wouldn't turn the tide of the battle in the caverns. But two energy weapons, with an assist from the terrain, might just be enough to create a distraction that would allow her to gain entry to the ship below. "Let me have your binoculars." She carefully scanned the surrounding mountains and quickly settled on a likely spot.
"I want you to wait…" she paused, and examined the mountainside below the sentry post "7 minutes, exactly, from when I give you the time mark, then begin firing at the base of that outcropping…" she pointed out the rock formation she had in mind "and keep firing as long as possible. I need you to start an avalanche to distract the troops on the ground, so I can get onto that ship." She looked at her watch. "Seven minutes, mark!" and she was gone, disappearing into the brush on the mountainside like a gentle breeze.
Exactly 7 minutes later, two beams of destructive energy blasted the mountainside, undercutting the massive outcropping of granite Alyza had selected. The guards on the ground turned and started shooting at the no-longer-hidden entrance to the cave where the energy bolts were coming from, but the sentries were protected by the bulk of the mountain. It took a few seconds for the BASTards to shift their aim to the mountainside above the cave entrance, bringing down a small avalanche. But it was too late; there was a much larger avalanche roaring down the opposite mountainside towards the grounded ship in the valley below.
The ship's crew, alerted by the gunfire outside the ship, was already scrambling frantically to get it off the ground. The troops on the ground were running for their lives, as twin avalanches thundered into the small valley. The ship managed to lift, but it was still low enough that it was battered by the debris thundering down the mountainsides.
Meanwhile, a whirlwind was moving through the interior of the Carrier, taking advantage of the chaos caused by the forced takeoff and the violent shaking of the ship. None of the support personnel in the Carrier had a chance against Alyza as she made her way inexorably to the Control Room. She moved so quickly and attacked so efficiently they didn't even have time to sound an alarm. Within minutes she was on the bridge. With her energy pistol in hand, she was in control in seconds.
One of the Georwellian Imperium's worst fears was neither outside enemies or insurrection by the populace, but a revolt by the Georwellian militia. No force would be able to resist millions of Georwellian troops in Assault Armor. So they had a secret weapon, known to only a very few. There was a political officer on every Carrier who knew a secret code that could be used to immobilize Assault Armor when sent from a certain authorized control panel on the bridge - and somehow, Alyza knew that code.
She burst into the Command Center like a bomb, kicking the nearest Commander in the head before he even knew someone had entered the room. The rest of the room was already in quiet chaos because there was no way to send commands to the Troopers, so no one moved immediately to stop her. She entered the code and was back in the corridor in an instant, slamming the bulkhead door behind her and dogging it shut.
With Alyza in control of the ship, and the BASTards' armor immobilized, the battle was over in minutes, with minimal loss of life on either side, other than those unfortunate soldiers who had been unable to escape the avalanches. It was the single biggest victory in the short war. And now the rebellion had over a hundred suits of armor and an Armored Troop Carrier/Mobile Command Center for their own use.
And still Alyza knew it wasn't going to be enough.
The day after 'The Battle of the Caves', Alyza was meeting with 'Notch', the leader of the nahman remaining on the planet. Notch was not his real name, which was unpronounceable by humans, but a nickname because of a nick in one of his ears. Notch was a couple of centuries old, and would probably live for another century unless he died of an accident or in combat. There were gray spots in his otherwise deep dark red coat, and he was no longer able to stand upright on his two hind legs, but his age didn't seem to have otherwise affected him. He was among the sharpest, most intelligent, and most stubborn! beings Alyza had ever known. Still, she had to convince him.
"I now think we should stay and fight!" Alyza stated, emphatically. "Throw the bastards off Kurnnegut, and take it back for the rightful owners!"
Even a nahman could see that this was not the same Alyza who had yesterday suggested withdrawal. Her physical appearance hadn't changed: about 5 foot 5, about 160 pounds, heavily muscled, no curves to speak of, just a solid wedge, widest at the shoulders and narrowing to her feet. She had always been charismatic, and that much hadn't changed, but now she carried an aura of.. dangerousness, perhaps, would be the best description. The set of her face, the cast of her eyes, the flat, implacable tone of her voice, all showed that this was a woman not to be crossed. Yet, Notch might have no choice. His goals might be at cross purposes with hers. He hoped this new Alyza still remembered how to compromise.
"These real owners, who now be they?" Notch asked gently, curiously. "Not so many years ago, humans slaughtered nahman for ownership of this planet, not? Should now nahman trust you?" His expressive pointed ears twitched as he spoke; Alyza knew this was a sign of nervousness.
"You know I don't personally remember anything before the War, Notch. But I've studied pre-war history closely." In fact, her studies had been obsessive, as she sought clues to her identity. "We were all set up. The original atrocities, allegedly by nahman, and the subsequent bombing of nahman nurseries, allegedly in retaliation by humans you know that these allegations were never proved. And the reason is simple, they were acts of outside agitators whose sole purpose was to start the War. And you and I both know who sponsored those agitators, know who stood to gain the most by the War."
"Georwell, not?" Notch replied, his voice as soft as a sigh. "Of this, the nahman have known long, yet, little good has knowing done. Human believed this not, never." His ears twitched violently. "You, Alyza, before today, believed it never."
"I know, Notch, and I apologize. I can't tell you how sorry I am." Nahman are very sensitive to emotions, even human emotions, and Notch could feel her genuine anguish. "That knock on the head yesterday did something to me. It certainly opened my eyes to everything I ignored when I studied history, things I never wanted to believe before. But now it's obvious that I was blind, all these years. But even so, you know I have always treated the nahman fairly, even when I believed you were the aggressors in the War."
"In truth, honorable you have been, always. In you now, the same honor I sense. The truth is yours, now. But other humans, you speak not for all. How can we know, fair to us they will be?" Notch was still not satisfied.
"I'm sorry, but I can't make promise for other humans. But I CAN promise that I will continue to work for the good of the nahman once Kurnnegut is again independent."
"Of more worry, to me" Notch continued. "Yesterday, withdrawal you urged, fight not. Today, fight you insist. Changed, what?"
"I have! I don't know what happened, but yesterday, I stopped an entire squad of BASTard soldiers, and captured them, their armor, and the command ship, virtually single-handed. I knew their tactics, their strengths, and most of all, their weaknesses! With that kind of knowledge, we have a chance against even the Justice Machine." She paused, gauging her ally's reaction. His ears were twitching wildly. He even might have missed the painful wince that crossed Hobon’s face at the mention of the Justice Machine.
"Yes, I know, even that's not enough. But I think you nahman have more to contribute that just warriors. Your civilization is tens of thousands of years older than human civilization, and the Nahman Alliance co-exists peacefully while surrounded by several interstellar empires of highly aggressive species, all bent on expansion. Yet no one attacks the Nahman Alliance. I don't believe this is just because you nahman are so lovable!"
"Ancient we are, yes. Secrets we do not reveal, yes, those have we. The value of secrets, in secrecy lies."
"Is keeping these secrets worth your lives and the lives of all the nahman on this planet?" she asked. The outcome of the war depended on his answer!
"Unaware you are of other options." She sensed he was stalling. She had him, now!
"I don't want other options. I want to win this war!"
"My trust, you have won. The Alliance, I must convince. From my success, assistance will arrive. Return tomorrow; leave now."
Alyza was bitterly disappointed at the abrupt dismissal, and dismayed at having to wait for the Alliance to send them assistance. The fastest ships of the Nahman Alliance would take almost 2 weeks to reach Kurnnegut, and the Justice Machine would be here in just over 1 week. No matter how powerful were the Alliance 'secrets', they would be of no value to dead rebels. Alyza was realist enough to know that even her new-found skills and expertise could only delay the inevitable. Still, she wasn't about to surrender. With over 100 suits of Assault Armor and the Troop Carrier/Mobile Command Post the rebels had 'inherited' yesterday, they could do a great deal of damage before the arrival of the Justice Machine. Perhaps they might even capture the Imperial Governor and take a little revenge out of his hide! At least they could go down fighting.
There was an Imperial spy among the rebel forces, a very clever spy with a painstakingly produced background that was proof against rebel investigations. A fifth columnist who had been planted many years ago, a precaution that was finally starting to pay off. A man who had long hoped the rebellion would hurry up and arrive so he could finally earn the promised reward that would let him retire and never worry about money again. This spy had reported the location of yesterday's meeting, which should have earned him a hefty bonus but instead…
"You set us up!" the spymaster thundered at the terrified pain-wracked spy. "They knew we were coming, and they had plans for the ship! It's the only way that they could have taken her so easily. You sold us out!" He touched a button, and a wheel turned, stretching the unfortunate spy's arm even higher over his head. His feet were chained tightly to the floor. The spymaster chuckled at the spy's scream of agony. "Not a very good idea, Jamry."
"No!" screamed Jamry. "How would I have access to the plans for a Carrier? I've always been loyal!" His voice broke on the last syllable. He'd repeated the same denial for hours, in varying degrees of pain. He was ready to confess to anything, but he knew that what they would do to him if he admitted guilt would be so much worse than this.
"They didn't have the weapons or strength of numbers to stand up to that many armored Troopers, Jam. Say" the torturer chuckled "your shoulder is pretty much jam by now, isn't it? That's irony for you!"
"I've told you… everything. All I did was give you the location of… the meeting. They didn't suspect me. I wasn't there to see what happened. Somehow the Commanders screwed up Aiiieeeee!" as his shoulder was stretched even more. He couldn't stand it any longer. He had one piece of information that might buy his freedom; he decided it was finally time to give it up.
"Let me go and I'll tell you where their headquarters is."
"Why haven't you told me before?" his captor demanded. "I should kill you for holding out on me." But he didn't touch the button again.
"I was… going to hold out… and see if you'd pay… more" Jamry panted.
"An honest answer. Jamry, I think you and I are finally going to be able to do business." The spymaster smiled as he touched another button, and Jamry's arm and feet were released. He fell to the floor, screamed once, and then subsided into pathetic sobbing. "Tell you what, Jam. Tell me, and I'll let you go. I promise!"
Jamry struggled to stop crying. "The Tarbal Ranch they've got a secret hideout underground." He was still snuffling, and cradling his jellied shoulder with his opposite arm. "Right below the main house. Can I go now?"
"Of course, Jam I always keep my word." A door slid open. "That's even worth a few bucks! Don't ever say I don't pay top price!" the laughing man pulled a wad of bills from his pocket and threw them towards the sobbing spy. "There's enough there to get your arm fixed. Don't bother thanking me!"
Jamry didn't even respond. He grabbed the bills and crawled towards the open door, leaving a slimy yellow trail glistening on the floor behind himself. Just outside the door, the floor silently opened up and swallowed him. His scream cut off after less than a second, and the trapdoor slammed shut.
"Maintenance! Get in here and clean up this mess." The spymaster made a mental note to keep his future victims away from water for 24 hours before he 'questioned' them. Then he was on the radio, notifying his own superior of the important information he'd discovered
The information about the headquarters of the human rebels filtered upwards and late that night reached the attention of the Imperial Secretary for Planetary Security, who added it to information from his other sources and started preparations for an attack by Security forces on the Tarbal Ranch the next morning. Perhaps the Secretary should have passed the information to the Imperial Secretary for the Planetary Militia, but he wasn't going to let that boob and his BASTard forces take credit for this! If he acted immediately to kill or capture the human leaders of the rebellion, his initiative would surely win the attention of Prosecutor Zarren, and he would be reassigned to a much more important position on Georwell and his career would take a quantum leap upward.
A half dozen Security Shuttles landed around the Ranch, easily visible from the main building, and about 30 Security Agents poured out. They immediately came under fire, but the shields on the Shuttles easily protected them. The ranch house, on the other hand, didn't appear to be armored, and the Agents' energy weapons tore it apart. Within a few minutes, all rebel fire had ceased. The Security Agents advanced. Using sensitive instruments, they soon found a secret tunnel leading down from the ruins of the house. They fired poison gas canisters down the tunnel, and continued their advance. Through the swirling mist that now filled the tunnels, their infrared scanners showed that the way in front of them was cluttered with cooling heat sources. Human sized, unmoving, slowly cooling down from around human body temperature.
When they reached the first cooling bundle lying on the floor, the leading Security Agent kicked the bundle disdainfully and was stunned when it clanked! Instantly, the Security team was caught in a crossfire of automatic weapons, and a few seconds later, the corridor was quiet again. And this time, empty of life.
The ambush, and the slaughter of his expendable troops, had been anticipated by the Imperial Secretary of Planetary Security this wasn't his first rebel roundup by a long shot! As soon as he had seen the Tarbal Ranch intel, he had ordered intensive satellite surveillance of the ranch grounds and the area for miles around it with all the highly sensitive instruments available to Security, and this surveillance had discovered a concealed underground complex and a secret back entrance. His men had died for a good cause their slaughter proved just how deadly the rebels really were, and the success of his backup plan would convince the Governor of just how competent and resourceful he really was!
His primary team of 6 agents, the most highly trained, experienced, dangerous agents on the planet (a team of Georwellian James Bonds, as it were), wearing costumes of stealth armor cloth and equipped with special gear, was advancing towards the underground headquarters through the secret back entrance. The stealth armor had two vital characteristics the cloth was as flexible as silk when it was attached to a special power supply, but was stiff and virtually invulnerable when un-powered, and also when impacted, making it a good defense against bullets, knives and fists. And it reacted similarly to the skin of a chameleon to the terrain around it though the effect was modulated by a wearable computer built into the costume, and much more effective than any natural camouflage could be. His agents would be virtually invisible, and almost invulnerable.
Even with their attention intently turned to their surroundings, and their ultra-sensitive detection gear on full, none of the agents in this Security super-team noticed when their first colleague was taken out. The first time they realized they were under attack was when his icon disappeared from the screens of the hand-held life sensors carried by each of his fellows. They instantly clustered together in a circle, facing outward, so that nobody could get behind them. This turned out to be unwise; clustered together they gave their foe a larger target.
"There!" whispered the most junior agent over the highly encrypted, super-low power communication link. He pointed towards a wall, where he had seen a flicker of motion. They could see nothing there now, but a projectile of some kind struck the agent in the face, shattering his enhanced vision goggles. He fell to his knees and tore off the goggles. The projectile had fallen at his feet it was a small ball of shiny metal, like a ball bearing. Another ball hit him a glancing blow in the forehead, knocking him out of the fight.
"Split up!" the senior agent commanded. Almost instantly, the agents appeared to fade away, hidden from view by their stealth armor. "Engage anti-stealth vision". The agents' enhanced vision goggles, which provided them with infrared, ultraviolet and telescopic vision, could also penetrate most stealth measures known to the Imperium, by using computer processing to enhance the tiny visual cues that even the best stealth gear couldn't totally eliminate. Anti-stealth signal processing required virtually all of the processing power of the agents' wearable computers, though, rendering most of their other sensory instruments useless so no agent used this capability unless the enemy was suspected of using stealth as well.
Instantly, all 4 remaining agents were able to see their enemy, a human female, wearing a skin-tight chameleon-skin costume similar to their own, and moving so swiftly that even with anti-stealth vision engaged, it was hard to keep track of her. She pointed her arm at one of the agents, and a device strapped to the top of her arm fired a stream of steel balls at ultra-high velocity. Unlike his fellow, who had not seen these projectiles coming, this agent was able to twist so that the stream of projectiles struck his armor. The cloth stiffened when the first ball struck, and he was battered backwards until he fell out of the projectile stream. His fellow agents were swinging their guns towards their foe, but she dropped and rolled forward and their energy beams shattered the wall. She crashed into the legs of a second agent, and when he hit the floor, she tore off his goggles and touched a finger to his forehead. A powerful capacitor discharged, knocking him out of the fight.
She sprang to her feet, a Security agent in combat stance to either side of her. She feinted right, then launching a stunning kick at the head of the agent to the left. His armor protected him, but he was knocked off his feet. The other agent rushed forward, and stabbed at her with a molecule-edged knife, the blade of which was so sharp it would even penetrate armor cloth. She was unable to block or dodge, but she turned, and the blade sliced through her uniform and into her side. She jerked backwards, then slammed her elbow down on his outstretched arm. His armor stiffened and protected his arm from being shattered, but he was knocked off his feet.
The agent who had been knocked down by the stream of balls was now back on his feet, and he launched himself forward with a flying kick, catching her in the head, knocking her back against the wall. She pushed off the wall and fled, stumbling through a door and slamming it behind her. Three energy weapons flared instantly and the door disintegrated. One of the agents tossed an explosive device through the door, and the three rushed through immediately after the explosion.
Their assailant dropped onto the back of the last agent from her perch above the door. She used a molecular-edged knife to stab into the power pack of his stealth armor. Without power, the armor cloth stiffened and the agent was immobilized.
With their team of 6 suddenly trimmed to 2, the remaining agents were much more cautious. Taking advantage of the momentary lull in their attacks, the rebel pulled something from a pouch on her belt, and slapped it over the slice in her armor. The self-adhesive patch pulled together the edges of the tear, helping to stem the flow of blood underneath.
Thinking to take advantage of her momentary distraction, one of the agents fired his energy pistol, but she was again too fast. She dove under a table, and when she came up, she was wielding a flat round black object like it was a shield, and firing her own projectile weapon. The stream of pellets from her weapon shattered the gun the agent was holding, and it exploded. As an energy beam from the other agent struck, the shield changed from flat black to a highly effective silvery reflector, and his beam bounced back and struck him.
She spun away and launched a kick at the head of the agent who was screaming in agony and trying to stem the bleeding from his hand, knocking him unconscious, then turned back to confront the agent who had just shot himself.
"I've had enough!" he screamed, as she advanced on him. "I surrender!"
Later that day, Alyza met with Notch again. She was stunned when she walked into the meeting room, favoring her side instead of the sparse furnishings from the day before, the room was filled with hand weapons and belts. Notch greeted her before she could recover from her astonishment.
"Alliance, in favor of assistance, not. To start, at least. Resounding victory, yours, today, their minds changed. Good luck, you are wished!" He pointed at the gear around them. "Enough, we hope it is!"
"How did they know about the battle at the Ranch? How did you get this stuff here from the Alliance so fast? It takes over a week for a message from Kurnnegut to reach even the closest outpost of the Nahman Alliance".
His ears waggled; she knew this signaled amusement among the nahman. "Secrets revealed, some. Secrets we do not reveal, yes, still more we have."
She realized the nahman had revealed everything to her that they planned to reveal. Time to get down to business.
"So, tell me what this stuff can do, and let's figure out some surprises for the Justice Machine! We've got just over a week!"