Hideaway, Landing Starport (Which Was Normally an Empty Field)
Agent 957 watched as the last of the ships from the Annihilation landed in the empty field the colonists used as a starport. Their fiery exhaust lit up the night. Since they’d filled up the slope between Landing and the colonists’ next town with fighters, dropships and marines, they now had no choice but to use the field.
Ten shuttles left almost no room in the space within the shielded area. They’d considered landing outside, but they’d had seen footage of the planet’s native megafauna. Some of them were larger than a shuttle. It wasn’t worth the risk.
They’d considered landing in the colonists’ fields until the Annihilation’s Executive Officer noted they might need to harvest the crops themselves if no one came to rescue them. When the communications officer said that they’d already sent a distress signal, the Exec had reminded him that the Xiniti must have as well.
Everyone knew what that meant. When fleets clashed, rescue missions were diverted. Sometimes they couldn’t make it through until the end of the conflict.
If it wasn’t bad enough that they were on a planet covered with psychotic, killer animals, the soldiers and spacers would have to camp outside. The first house the Marines investigated had blown up, killing the fireteam that entered the house.
Knowing that the colony included many of the Human Ascendancy’s most notorious terrorists, the marines’ commander had ordered the marines to set up shelters and inventory the supplies and weapons. They needed to know how much time they had before they had no choice but live off whatever food they colonists could grow.
Commander Hesses’ personal shuttle landed last.
Agent 957 reflected on how unfortunate it was that the commander could not be persuaded to go down with his ship. He’d waited for every last soldier or spacer to leave but left before the self-destruct command activated.
Agent 957 knew that he’d have to handle this himself. Left to himself, the old man would pay more attention to keeping his people alive than catching the colony’s leadership and fulfilling the mission. The man was good to his people but wrong for this mission. It was time to take care of that problem.
Somewhere inside himself, Agent 957 raged against all of it. Damn that ship for reappearing. He didn’t know whose it was, but it was some government’s pet project. The ability to use blink and jump in a ship that small in combination with black shields, and a gun capable of damaging a warship?
Whether it was a new power, the Xiniti, or some Alliance race like the Hrrnnna, he didn’t like knowing that there were nations that were ahead of the Human Ascendancy. Whatever group it was, they’d supplied the Xiniti with new technology, making the creepy, little maniacs more dangerous if that were possible.
Agent 957 put that out of his mind as he stepped in front of Commander Hesses’ shuttle. Anticipating the moment, he’d sent all of the people up the slope toward the colony. It would be best to make it quick.
The shuttle door opened and two spacers stepped out, both of them in combat ready spacesuits—thick-skinned and layered for protection against kinetic weapons and covered with more than one shiny coating to protect against lasers and other energy weapons.
Even in the low glow of the force shields, he could see that the uniforms were poorly designed for ground combat. Once day came, the mirrored surface would be a beacon or at least hilariously inadequate for hiding in a forest.
Commander Hesses followed them out, a small, stocky man wearing the same sort of space suit as his guards. He looked at Agent 957, seeing, Agent 957 knew, a big man wearing layered armor that blended into its surroundings. It might not do as well against energy weapons, but it did have protection against them.
Hesses opened his helmet. “Your command over this mission is finished. With the destruction of my ship, our mission is no longer to assist the Genetic Management Office, but first of all to survive to be rescued. You’ll find that I’ve forwarded these orders to all of my people.”
Agent 957 gave him a shallow bow. “I’m sorry you feel that way. Capturing the resistance’s leadership is vitally important to the survival of the Human Ascendancy. Surviving is important, but not as important as removing the threat Jadzen Akri and her people pose our civilization. If you don’t believe that, your usefulness to our society has reached its end.”
Commander Hesses said, “Just like that, then? You’re going to kill me or have my people do it for you?”
Agent 957 said the word that when said with the correct modulation caused any military personnel hearing it to freeze and wait for orders.
Something near Commander Hesses hummed and he laughed. “That’s right. We’re prepared. Don’t think that you’re the first to try something like this.”
Ten more people followed Hesses out of the shuttle, all of them holding weapons.
“Motivators—“ Commander Hesses began, but then he stopped.
Agent 957 tried a different modulation of the word and Commander Hesses and all his people froze.
“Kill Commander Hesses,” he said.
And they did.