Lone Star – Chapter 27

Deliah sat down, slowly, as only a cyborg could, and looked around at her team.  They sat on metal chairs and boxes, arrayed around a small campfire they’d positioned under a small hole in the roof.  They knew the smoke would be spotted from the air during the day, but the sun wouldn’t be up for another few hours, and aerial patrols would have a hard time seeing the smoke in the dark.  With the fire’s light and heat shielded by the ancient metal building, they were somewhat secure.  This would be the last meeting before their attack.  Everyone knew what their job was, but they also knew they’d be going over it all one more time.

Jacob sat across from her, checking on his chemical systems one at a time.  He and Torealis had performed another infusion of blood the night before, and now both were rested and ready.  The young dragon (young being a relative term- in pure years, she was twice the age of the rest of the group combined) sat behind him, sort of.  She was in her natural form, and her tail lay around him in an almost protective circle.  Since she planned to change her shape a lot during their attack, she planned to spend the evening before in her natural form, to save her energy and concentration.

Tristan and Jasmine were talking quietly, planning on which of their mental powers would be the most useful.  While Tristan’s mental control of fire was a potent weapon, it would only work on some of the machinery they’d be trying to cripple.  Jasmine’s power would be of use against the guards, causing confusion.

Kierla was fiddling with a piece of machinery in her lap.  With a small wrench in one hand, and her other hand directing small crackles of electric energy toward specific points inside the machine, she seemed to be working at an impossible pace.  She had four similar machines on the floor beside her, each a little larger than a personal computer unit.

Father Martiniros was reading a book.  It was one of four he’d brought with him.  He’d read them before, he said, but they were such wonderful stories he would re-read them regularly.  They spoke of the struggle of good against seeming impossible odds, and it inspired him in their coming task.

Darien was the most nervous of them.  His hands had steadied, but being so far from strong natural energy had begun to wear on him, and the idea of returning to the Lone Star labs was getting to him as the time loomed close.  He’d been saving his strength for this, and while he would be much more comfortable farther North, where natural magic energy was more abundant, he was as prepared as he would get.  Since he was the only one who had actually been inside, perhaps he was the most prepared of all of them.

Arcturus was silent.  He had been finalizing the network-side of their assault, and had many separate pieces to move into place before they struck.  Being this far away from the lab complex, the transmission speeds were slower.  He had moved around the circle a few times, trying to find a place where the metal building wouldn’t block the signal so much.  This had caused a great amount of chuckling from the two psi-stalker guides, which so far had been the only thing they had to talk about.

The tribesmen had little part of the actual strike.  The rest of the team would be making use of teleportation and mutant rat guides to get inside, and the elders of the Spider Tribe had expressly forbidden the two to take part in the actual attack.  Not that they shrank from out-rightly attacking the Coalition Military, or the laboratory complex.  It was a spiritual reason that the two did not feel the need to share.  They’d made it clear from the beginning of the trip that they were to act as guides and scouts, no more.  And they had performed that task masterfully.

“Letting the canines into this is a bad move,” Perridan said.  The other conversations died away, and everyone knew it was time for business.  “But I agree with your decision.  My people would never leave one of our own behind.  It is the honorable thing to do.  And while we can’t follow you inside, we can help the canines reach the safety of their village.”

Deliah hadn’t expected this, but nodded her thanks.  “They may take you up on that.  You know were they’ll be entering and leaving the complex.”

He nodded.  “We’ll find them.  And their scout is good- he’ll notice our approach, so we won’t worry about startling them.”

Jacob chuckled, looking up from his belt for a moment.  “Good, because tomorrow won’t be the day to sneak up on people.”  The others smiled, but agreed.  He returned his attention to his chemical systems.

“Allright, I think I have these finished,” Kierla said.  She turned the device over in her hand, then handed it across to Jacob.  “Push the green button.”  She pulled it just out of his reach before he grabbed it. “Not the red one, the green one.”

Jacob raised an eyebrow, then shrugged.  He took the device, and used his free hand to close the last compartment on his belt.  He looked over the small device for a moment, then pushed the button.  Then he immediately disappeared.

Torealis’s huge head rose. The eyes shifted from green to gold, searching the shadows around the building.  The two tribesmen looked confused for just a moment- which may have been a first since the team had left Tolkeen.  Deliah looked around the circle for a moment, then caught Jasmine’s sly smile.  Kierla looked over her shoulder, smirking.  Jacob was walking back toward his place in the circle, holding the device in one hand and wearing a bewildered expression.

“You really shoulda warned me,” he said, sitting back down beside Torealis and shaking his head.  “I almost wet myself.”

“It’s a personal teleporter,” Kierla explained to the others.  “Push the green button, and it brings you here.  Push the red button and it’ll take you to one of the locator stones inside the complex.  Hence my warning,” she said, looking back to Jacob.  “Didn’t want you to find yourself there.”

“Which stones will it home in on?” Tristan asked.  “There’s a lot of them in there, from what Arc told us.”  The skelebot nodded.

“It’s random, I’m afraid.” Kierla shrugged.  “There’s only so much coolness I can build into stuff.  The locator stones were enchanted in such way that they’ll go inert once they’ve been used as a target.”  She looked at Darien.

The Shifter nodded.  “If I’d put a stronger spell into them, it would have attracted attention.  It was risky enough having Arcturus carry so many of them inside.”

“But these will allow those of us without teleport abilities to get inside on our own.” Kierla held up another one.  “Each one has enough power for 6 transfers, so we have three round-trips.  That way, if we need to pop out, then pop back in, we can duck out if we get pinned down.  They’ll carry two people at a trip, but I don’t know if they’ll carry you, Tori.”  She cocked her head to one side.  “It’s not the time to experiment with them, and it sounds like you can do it more efficiently anyway.”

Torealis smiled, showing her huge teeth just slightly, and nodded.  Her fist-sized eyes shifted color from blue to violet.  “I plan to be bouncing around quite a bit.”

“Anyway, if Deliah will be with Darien, I have one each for the rest of us.”

“You’ll have enough energy to get us both in and out?” Deliah asked, turning to Darien.  “Getting inside is the more important- I can get out through the tunnels if I have to.”  Arcturus had shared the digital map he’d made, and Deliah could now find her way around the tunnels as if she were born there.

Darien shrugged.  “Let’s be prepared for that- it might be necessary.  While I’m confident in my powers, even this far South, it’d be foolish to dismiss any possible problem.”

“Alright.  Torealis, since you’ll be the one causing most of the distraction, you’ll need to move around as much as possible.  The more places you’re spotted in, the more confusion you can cause.  And if that green, tentacle-lady makes an appearance, so much the better.”  The dragon’s lips cracked into another toothy smile.  Since the teeth were the size of Deliah’s wrist, she couldn’t help but be a little startled.  “Jacob, your job will be similar, but you’ve got specific things to go after, too.  You’ll be the ‘smash’ part of our ‘smash and grab’.”

“My favorite kind,” the juicer said, his own smile imitating the dragon’s.

“Most of the rest of us will be after data.  Martiniros will be entering level 4, getting data on the weapons development.”  Since he was immune to almost every weapon the CS Military built, it made sense to send him to the place with the greatest concentration of those weapons.

“And to warn you all, my clothes will most likely suffer greatly.  Just don’t want anyone to be surprised.”  The others had noticed that he was not wearing his usual black suit.  Now they knew why.  He wore a simple, grey cotton shirt and denim pants that had seen better days.

“Just so long as you come back into the shadows here,” Kierla said.  “It’ll be full sun when we bug out of there.”

“Well, I can move out of the sun easily enough when I get here.  I’ll just need to rest, that’s all.”

“Kierla, you’ll be on level 5,” Deliah said.  “The mutant creation machinery is one of our primary goals here.”

The techno-wizard looked up.  “But no one is breaking them, right?”  When Arcturus had earlier expressed his concerns for the unborn mutants depending on the machines for survival, she had been the first to agree.  And because of that, Deliah had decided to send her into that area of the compound.

“It won’t be necessary,” Arcturus said.  “I’ve found the programming for the early stages of the system, and inserted code that will overload the circuitry when the next cycle is started.  Most of the machines will overheat and melt their circuitry when they are next activated.”  The skelebot paused.  “I fear that the single-cell fetuses of the next generation might be lost, at least a few of them, but the current generation will be born normally.”

“To make their High Command doubtful of their mutant canine army,” Deliah said, “all we’ll need to do is interrupt production.  There’s a better-than even chance that they’ll be able to repair the machines eventually, but it will still make their coming assault much more of a risk for them.  Either way, get as much data as you can about how they do it.  Darien and I will be on Level 6, where they held him during his last… visit.”  This was also where much of the research into anti-magic weapons and defenses was being conducted.  If the CS had more surprises brewing for the magical defenders at Tolkeen, the 6th level would be where they were found.  “Jasmine and Tristan, you get level 7.”  The two psychics would have the smallest chance of being detected on the lowest level.

“Now, you said that teleporting inside would take us to random stones,” Jacob said.  “How do you know where you’re going?”

“With the machines, it’s random,” Darien said, pointing at Kierla’s devices.  “But when we go in the first time, I’ll be sending you all personally.  I can control your destinations.”  Jacob nodded understanding.  “And Torealis will be able to put you two wherever she wants to.”

“All right, we’re going to start at 0800.  The canines will be in position by that point.  First in will be Torealis and Jacob, then the rest of us go in and start.  Take no more than 20 minutes, and then get out of there.”  She looked upward, through the hole in the ceiling.  The sky had lightened noticeably, and soon would be bright enough for their smoke to be visible.  She nodded at Tristan, who immediately willed the fire to die.  The last wisp of smoke drifted upward, then escaped from the building.

“Lets get moving,” Deliah said.  The others rose, and began gathering the gear they would need.

*****

They’d decided to make their jump-off from one place, to help co-ordinate their moves.  Another abandoned metal building, covering another tunnel dug by the local rats, served to keep them hidden from sight.  They were within range of aerial patrols, and couldn’t risk getting any closer.

Finjiarn arrived five minutes early, stepping inside the building silently and appearing at Deliah’s side.  The others stood in a large circle, waiting Torealis and Darien’s magical transport.

“The canines entered the tunnel system just before I came here,” the scout said.  “That was 15 minutes ago.  They should be in position by now, or close to it.”

Deliah nodded.  “Thank you.  The rats should be able to tell when we’ve begun.”  She looked at Torealis, and nodded.  The dragon had shifted back to her natural form, and her eyes shifted from violet to green.  She directed her gaze at Jasmine and Tristan, and a moment later the pair of psychics had vanished.  Jasmine’s mental powers would keep them covered until the real distractions started.

Torealis’ next spell transported Jacob and herself.  With the dragon’s form suddenly gone, the circle seemed to have lost most of its size.  Deliah watched as Darien spread his arms to the sides, muttering to himself and closing his eyes.  His hands glowed fainly orange for a moment, and the next moment, Kierla disappeared.  A moment later, it was Father Martiniros’ turn.  Only the shifter, the cyborg, and the skelebot remained.  Darien began casting again, and Deliah locked eyes with Arcturus just before the world seemed to fall away from her at an impossible speed.

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