Saturday, August 5, 2017

Chapter 35 - The Sietch

(Freemen POV)

The invaders had come while the warriors were away on a hunt in the southern wastes. The sietch was lightly defended, with only a few warriors and the older women and young children to guard it. Even so, they might have ended these invaders had they not come during a sandstorm to hide their stolen harvester. Unaware of the danger, the guards had no warning before the heavily armed invaders burst into the side entrance of the sietch.

The invaders had used lethal rounds on the men, and stun shots on the women and children. Their intentions were clear. These were slavers, as well as raiders, and they wanted to sell the tribe off as laborers and worse. Fortunately, they only had a limited number of the slave collars, and those had already been used bringing the crew of the Harvester and its flyer in line.

Which left Shanni as the only warrior still living in the sietch, bound and gagged with the rest. She was not idle, though. She had managed to conceal a weapon before they had taken her and their boss, a woman, had given orders not to ‘damage’ the ‘merchandise’ so they did not check her too closely. Even these people knew that getting their ‘merchandise’ out of the desert would require either a shuttle, or for them to have working, and intact, stilsuits. And despite the looks the men gave her, they didn’t touch her, not that way, because they knew that leaving her ‘unspoiled’ would increase her value.

That mistake would be their doom, if she could get half a chance. But while these slavers were sloppy, they weren’t complete idiots. They kept careful watch over the captives, both those from the sietch and the ones taken from the Harvester. It had taken her two days to extract the crysknife from where she had hidden it in her boot, and begin cutting her bonds without attracting attention.

Now the cords binding and gagging her were only for show. Now she waited for an opportunity. She would not spill her body’s water wastefully. There were always five guards, armed and armored, watching the prisoners. She could take one, maybe two in a surprise attack, but then it would be a knife against guns, with the other prisoners to use as hostages. And any noise would bring the others. So she waited, hoping to get one of them alone so that they could escape.

The warriors would return, but she had no idea of when they would get here. Traveling the wastes was not something one could do on any but the loosest of timelines, after all, unless you were using flyers like the outworlders. And if they were taken from the sietch before the warriors returned, then their chances to escape dropped dramatically. But if they could arrange an escape, they could hide in the desert for a few days, until they were rescued.

She just needed an opening.

So for now, Shanni sat, and watched, and waited, ready to act when the time came. And then finally, the time came, but in a way she never would have expected. It started with a pressure on her mind. She knew from her training that this was someone trying to reach out and enter her mind, reading her thoughts! But she was strong, and resisted the presence. Not wanting to give away my knowledge, I slowly looked, trying to see which of the guards was responsible for this.

And then I saw him, in the shadow of a tunnel leading out of the cavern where they kept us. He was dressed in Freemen clothes, including a Freemen stilsuit and cloak, but his attempt at stealth was clearly not on the level of a Freeman warrior. Plus, few Freemen cared for ‘dishonorable’ powers like mind reading. Another invader, then?

The Invader was looking at her, and placed one finger over where his mouth would be if it were not masked to deal with the sand and reducing lost moisture. I could make out others joining him in the tunnel, and one of them handed him a small device. He pulled a pin, waited for a moment, and then threw the device into the room, aiming for where three of the guards were playing a card game while the other two, closer to Shanni, kept watch on the group. Shanni’s eyes widened. A GRENADE? Without worrying about the guards’ response, she curled up on the ground, covering her ears and keeping her eyes tightly shut.

Then there was a bright light and a roar magnified in the stone cavern. A flash-bang. Nonlethal, good for stunning enemies before the fight begins. Whoever these people were, they were against the first invaders, which meant that this would be her chance to save the captives!

Springing up, Shanni saw that the two guards closest to her were reeling from the grenade, even though they were out of the most effective radius. The guards who had been playing cards were stunned, easy prey for the group moving into the room, weapons drawn and ready. Five against three was hardly fair, especially since the three were almost incapacitated, but this crew clearly cared more about victory than honorable combat. The sixth outsider, the one she had seen before, charged at the two guards nearest her, with a wicked looking blade in his hand.

This was her chance, and Shanni didn’t waste it. Crysknife in hand, her false bindings lying scattered on the ground where she had fallen to protect herself from the grenade, she sprang forward, her blade passing through the armor the man wore, and into his unprotected back. She must have reached his vitals, as she planned, for the man stiffened, and then clearly had lost the majority of his HP in that single attack. The Bleed condition would likely kill him in a few seconds, but to be sure, Shanni stabbed him a second time. Her blade slipped between her target’s ribs, and punctured his heart, killing him.

Now, she was free, and the five guards had all been killed, as these newcomers made short work of their targets (the man who she’d first seen had apparently used an energy sword she hadn’t seen active before to remove the last guard’s head from his shoulders.

(Mirikon POV)

Infiltrating the rocky lair was easy enough, once we were inside. Either this raider was extraordinarily stupid, or this was a temporary lair for her. Few guards, no sensors or defenses put up… no signs of life at all, unless they already knew what to look for… OK, so this was probably a Freemen sietch or outpost, designed to be invisible. How had the raiders discovered it?

As we moved along, I decided to chalk it up to blind luck. The raiders had probably looked for a rocky outcropping that they could use to hide their Harvester, but hadn’t known about the outpost until they had gotten there. So perhaps this was a rarely used Freemen outpost? That would explain why mere raiders would be able to move in like this.

Anyways, we still had enemies to kill. Moving as quietly as we could through the tunnels (our ‘hunting’ expeditions had caused us all to gain some proficiency with Stealth, if nothing else), we quietly moved until I found a chamber with a goodly-sized group of people inside it. Nineteen people, but fourteen of them were clearly captives. Three over on one side, playing cards. Two closer to the captives, with assault rifles, clearly on guard. I cast a Mind Read over the two guards and one of the prisoners who was near their feet.

Huh, the prisoner, clearly a Freemen woman, seemed to feel my presence, because after she resisted my mind read attempt, she carefully looked around, and spotted me. Guess I wasn’t up to Freemen standards in sneaking around. I put one finger up over where my mouth would be if I wasn’t wearing the mask of the stilsuit to get her to be quiet for a bit.

<Move up. Quietly. We’ve found the prisoners. If we can free them, we’ll be able to avoid messy hostage situations.>

Jaynie was the first to reach me, and took a look at the cavern over my shoulder. In a low whisper, she said, “Five enemies in two groups. Three unprepared, but further back. These stilsuits are great for not dying in the desert, but I’d rather avoid a pitched gun battle in close quarters with no cover, boss.”

I grinned up at her, and said, “Tell me you brought them this time.”

With an answering grin, Jaynie produced a flashbang grenade. With a nod, I said, “You girls take out those card players. I’ll take on the two next to the prisoners.” Then, I pulled the pin, counted to three, and lobbed the thing into the cavern, aiming at the three card sharps.

If you’ve never had the… pleasure of being in an enclosed space with flash-bangs, picture the brightest light you can get, short of setting off a nuke, and a sound that will knock you on your feet and make your ears bleed just from the volume alone. OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it is almost as bad, and it happens all at once, at the same time. Humans just aren’t designed to deal with an assault like that, so it shakes us up, gives whoever set the thing off time to get the drop on the poor bastards who got caught in it.

Given that, the results on the three card players was emphatic. They were staggered, reeling, and not likely to be worth a damn for another couple minutes, at the very least. The two by the prisoners were also a bit rattled, since bright lights and loud sounds made anyone look around for answers. I was impressed to see that the Freemen prisoner had attempted to take cover, and was already moving.

“Go.” With one word, my girls moved towards the three losers, and quickly eliminated them. I charged at the two guards, Widowmaker in one hand, and the energy blade in the other (though still not lit) I intended to take them quickly, before they could send a message out. Probably useless, since the grenade and the weapons fire from Jaynie and company should have clued them in.

I didn’t bother with finesse or trying to find the ultimate way to slay the two targets with a single blow, or any anime effects. The Freemen girl was moving, having produced a knife from somewhere, and looked like she was going to start getting some quality revenge time. So I shifted to fight the one she wasn’t going for. Widowmaker in the gut, and a snap hum of the energy blade activating moments before I cut through his chest, and the guard was well and truly dead.

Human Female
Level 30
Titles: Scout, Guardian, Assassin, Silent Death

By that point, the other four were all dead, as well. I took a moment, and looked over at the Freemen girl, and at the bindings that had clearly been pre-cut lying on the floor. So she’d been planning a breakout, and had been waiting for the right time? I was liking this girl already. I liked the knife she was pointing at me even less. But then, if I was in her position, I’d have trust issues, too.

“Relax. We’re not here for you, or yours. We’re here for the Harvester, and the leader of these idiots. Can you lead these people someplace safe, or do you want to help with the killing?”

Shanni responded by giving me the loveliest smile I’ve ever seen on a face considering the imminent murders of upwards of a dozen people.

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Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey
Volume 4 - To the Deeps

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story):

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