September 29, 2010

Assignment to Earth Chapter Twenty-seven

Skylar took a seat near the front of the shuttle, strapped in, and settled back. The Cavalier at the controls handled the shuttle with precision and the liftoff was smooth.

It took nearly an hour to reach their desired orbital position above the planet. From this high perch, they waited until the moment was right, to begin their descent toward the base.

Skylar knew the Wyverns' pilots were waiting tensely above, virtually holding their collective breaths. Staring at their scanners, fervently hoping they wouldn't be needed, they would remain on high alert until the shuttles returned to space.

The common mood in the shuttles was edgy, somewhat in anticipation of the mission to come and to some extent nervousness at having left their defenses behind. Skylar could see it in their faces, could sense it in their silence. Every person aboard knew they would be helpless for several minutes should the Klodfons attack them now. Even so, each would choose to be in the assault team rather than sitting vigil in the Wyverns high above.

The descent was flown in tight formation, nearly straight down so as to confuse the local radar systems into thinking they were natural meteorites. The last thing they needed at this point was to have the local military checking out their avridime bombs and laser weapons.

In a very short time, they were close enough to the surface to level out. The first shuttle landed near the door Skylar and Jenna had uncovered. Jenna was leading that team; their mission was to free any other prisoners and to lay out some of the charges needed for the destruction of the base.

Her team was small—five Cavaliers—the shuttle nearly empty, so there would be plenty of room for anyone they picked up along the way.

Conversely, Skylar's shuttle was filled to capacity with five teams of four Cavaliers, each team with their own objective. Once they'd broken into the hangar, one group would hold that area secure, while attaching avridime to Klodfon ships in order to prevent pursuit.

A second team would find and destroy the main computer room, while a third went after the back-up computers. Lissanne’s team was to disable the base’s power generators and lay explosives for their eventual destruction.

Skylar looked at the members of his team. Pasha was a short girl and somewhat chubby, but still looked capable of taking care of herself. Kiernan was compactly built and appeared strong. Grayson was the tallest of the three, close to Skylar's own height and build.

Their assignment was to destroy the control center. The one pack of avridime they carried would be sufficient—the hardest part would be getting in and out of the control room. They each carried a fully charged pistol in addition to the one in their holsters. They also carried two glowsticks each, in anticipation of Lissanne’s success.

Skylar could see a mini aidkit strapped to Kiernan’s belt and hoped it would not become necessary to use it.

The shuttle pilot landed near the large hangar doors. The Cavaliers exited the shuttle, collecting their packs of explosives as they went. Skylar supervised the placement of four spherical avridime bombs at the corners of the doors. Each was the size of a small melon, and quite capable of completely obliterating their shuttle. Skylar noted with approval the respect and professional manner used by the Cavaliers as they placed the explosives.

Making sure everyone was under cover, he gave the signal for the bombs to be detonated. The explosion brilliantly lit the night sky, and the sound echoed off the distant mountains with a sharp crack. The shuttle rocked with the blast. Hopefully they'd be gone before anyone could reach the remote desert area to investigate the light and noise.

When the dust had cleared somewhat, they could see that one of the hangar doors had fallen completely to the floor, helpfully crushing everything beneath it. The other door hung at a precarious angle, its slick surface making a perfect slide for the Cavaliers to make a precipitous but safe descent to the hangar floor.

The crew which was to remain in the hangar began to string long pieces of thin rope down the slanted door to aid in climbing back out. The rest of the Cavaliers slid down the door, split into their teams and began moving rapidly toward their objectives.

Skylar picked himself up off the hangar floor and threaded his arms through the straps of the avridime-filled pack, settling it comfortably into place while his team assembled around him. They followed his lead toward the door by which he’d entered the hangar on his previous visit, another team coming close behind. The door had been repaired, showing no sign of the damage they’d inflicted a few hours before. The Klodfons had always been efficient mechanics.

He looked toward the control panel Rantek had shattered. It had also been completely repaired and there was no sign of Rantek's body. There was a Klodfon draped across the panel where he'd fallen a moment before, the fight already beginning.

Before they reached the door, it slid open. Cavaliers dived to either side for cover and came up firing at the Klodfons now pouring into the area. Skylar took cover behind a large, unmarked cylinder as he fired at the enemy.

Soon there was a pile of armor-plated bodies in front of the doorway, slowing the Klodfons' entrance into the hangar, further aiding the Cavaliers in exterminating them.

Someone yelled to Skylar to get away from the tank and he immediately moved to find other cover, not pausing to find out why. A blast behind him threw him to the floor. As he regained his feet, he looked at the furious flames now engulfing the tank he'd been crouching behind. Acrid fumes filled the hangar, proclaiming to all noses that cinadium was on fire. Skylar sent a mental thanks to whoever had yelled, saving his life.

His laser ran out of energy, and he tossed it aside; the Cavaliers remaining in the hanger would retrieve it once the area was secure. He drew his second pistol from his holster and resumed the battle. Finally the Klodfons ceased climbing over the pile of dead bodies and the firing stopped in their area of the hangar.

The Cavaliers moved cautiously into the corridor, fearing an ambush, but met no resistance. The two teams who'd come through this doorway split up.

Skylar spoke quietly to his group. "Rantek said the control room wasn't very far from this hangar entrance." Gesturing to a nearby cross-hallway, he continued. "Pasha, Kiernan, take that hall; Grayson come with me."

He walked quickly down the hall in search of a door. After several minutes, he heard a shout from behind.

"Skylar!" Kiernan called, "We've found it!"

Skylar and Grayson turned and hurried back the way they'd come, skidding slightly on the polished floor as they rounded the corner. They followed Kiernan to a door made of transparent material. Pasha was re-wiring the door to open it.

The Klodfons inside did not seem to notice the activity going on outside the door. Each mindlessly continued to perform whatever task it had been assigned.

Most of the Klodfons inside seemed to be armed only with short ceremonial daggers. Skylar could see no laser weapons. This would be a short battle.

"Don’t worry about the wiring; we’ll just blast the door down," Skylar said. Pasha stopped her work and watched as he removed the pack from his back and opened it, taking out a fist-sized avridime explosive with a sticky substance on the back. Skylar exposed the adhesive and stuck it to the door, then activated the timer. Everyone backed out of the way.

The charge went off, destroying the doorway and part of the wall as well. As they stepped through the hole into the control room, they were already firing at the nearest of the Klodfons. Without any warning, the lights blinked out plunging them all into thick, inky darkness, lit only by the orange lights on the Klodfons’ helmets and the network of rainbow hued laser weapons.