Kris Longknife: Legend
No money has been made from writing this story. All characters belongs to Mike Shepherd and J.K. Rowling
Blatant advertising ahead.
Have you bought Kris Longknife: Undaunted yet? It's book seven of Mike shepherd's Kris Longknife's series. I did.
Nuu Shipyards, Wardhaven
"NO!" Nelly yelled. "Cara stays here!"
"Nelly..." Kris rubbed her temple as she confronted the two friends, one a self organizing super computer and the other a twelve year old girl. "You know why she can't come with us."
"But I want to!" Cara cried out. She turned to the other personnel around the docked Wasp and used her wide eyes to gain support. No Luck, as much as the crew of the Wasp, including the contingent of Marines and scientists grew fond of the young girl, her safety was more important.
"Please princess Longknife?" Cara tried again, tugging on Kris' navy white skirt. "I'll behave, I promise!"
Cara bit her lip and her eyes moistened, and Kris knew what was coming.
Suddenly Kris' new bodyguard stepped forward and lifted the pre teen girl into his arms. Cara automatically hugged Harry's neck and sobbed in his chest.
"C'mon Cara, be reasonable." Harry whispered in the girl's ear, but still loud enough for those standing around him to hear what he said. "We'll be going somewhere very dangerous, and all of us don't want to risk you getting hurt. We want you to stay with Truddy until we get back from the mission, okay?"
"But I want to go." Cara insisted.
"I want you to go to, but it's not really possible. Even Nelly agrees with me, don't you Nelly?" Harry looked at Kris, rather the computer on her shoulder.
"Yes..." Nelly finally agreed, surprising her owner. "Cara, Harry's right, it would be really dangerous. But we'll be back, right Kris?"
The princess of Wardhaven was slightly annoyed that Nelly seems to listen to Harry instead of its owner and she huffed in irritation.
"Don't mind the grumpy princess, Cara." Harry teased.
"Yeah!" Nelly added. "Don't mind her."
Kris was sorely tempted to turn off Nelly and walked away as some of the marines sniggered behind her back. She shot them a look and they quickly pretended that they were busy loading various equipment on board the ship.
"Be sure to study your lessons" Abby said to her niece. "I'll be checking your progress with Truddy when we get back."
The girl nodded as Harry put her down. He fondly messed Cara's hair and ran off to follow an annoyed princess while four marines accompanied him to keep an eye on Kris.
"And make sure to fulfill your promise, okay?" Abby added.
"I won't tell anyone a word about Harry." Cara vowed.
"Good." Abby leaned down and fondly kissed her niece's cheek and she gave Harvey a nod. He would take the young girl to Trudy's apartment while her aunt accompanied Kris and the crew of the Wasp on their important mission.
The senior crew of the Wasp gathered around the console as Admiral Crossenshield, chief of Wardhaven intelligence gave last minute briefs on the status of the stranded Victory Peterwald-Smythe.
"...and it's likely that you'll encounter an Itechee cruiser in the area." Admiral Crossenshield's image flickered for a moment as the latest of the newly refitted Earth Battle fleet emerged from the nearby jump point.
"Where are their carriers?" Captain Drago asked.
"It's near the frontlines along with their Death balls." Crossenshield replied. "We'll be making a push now that the Earth Battle fleet is here, and you'll use that moment to slip through the lines to Xanadu."
As the senior staff, including Kris, discussed possible options in their rescue mission, she ordered her bodyguard to study their adversary in preparation for the drop on Xanadu. The princess of Wardhaven looked at her bodyguard while Crossenshield finished giving his intelligence reports and saw him sitting alone in the corner, while Nelly gave him a quick lecture.
Harry studied the images on the screen that showed an Itechee Warrior in full battle gear. They were humanoid in shape, with four eyes on their heads, four hands and eight legs. It looked like some twisted version of a centaur, without the tail.
"What are those markings supposed to mean?" Harry asked.
"According to Itechee war intelligence eighty years ago, they're supposed to signify the rank of the Warrior in the Itechee Hierarchy." Nelly said. The adolescent computer had jacked the computer console in order to communicate with Harry better, while keeping an eye on the meeting happening on the other side of the room. "The stripes on their torso change colors according to their mood."
"How do they breathe?" He noticed that the four eyed alien in the picture did not have a nose, and it only had a thin strip of dark gray that he guessed acted as a mouth.
"They breathe through slits in their necks." Nelly said. "They may look like gills but they have a similar type of lungs like a human's."
"Hmmm thanks." Harry finished his study for the day and stretched his arms and back. He watched his charge, and stood up and moved closer to the group to grab a few of the snacks on the table.
"No problem Harry." Nelly chimed in. Kris' computer put up a tantrum when the crew left young Cara behind with Truddy Seyd, since the mission they were on was risky. Fortunately for Kris and her marines, Nelly established a budding friendship with Harry.
"Will that be all, Admiral?" Kris asked the image of the chief of Wardhaven Intelligence on the large screen on the wall.
Crossenshield's eyes darted to Harry who was busy stealing a plate of crackers and he looked back at Kris. He waited patiently as Harry headed out of the room before he continued.
"I'd like to get more information about your new bodyguard." Crossenshield said. "The data I have of him is next to nothing. It's like he popped into the system last month! Where did he come from?"
"I met him from Earth." Kris replied. "I already assured Grampa Ray that Harry can be trusted. What is this all about?"
"I don't like it, we know little about him Princess." The admiral emphasized her official title, telling her of her importance to her people. "He could be a double agent, or an assassin."
"Grampa Ray trusts my judgment, and I tell you now that Harry is not an enemy agent or spy from Greenfeld."
"Are you sure?" Wardhaven's Intelligence chief frowned at Kris' nod.
"I still don't like it, having someone your barely know in your circle." Crossenshield confessed. "Just take care of yourself, princess."
"I will Admiral. Longknife out."
Kris turned to the assembled senior officers and crossed her arms. "They're getting curious about Harry. Make sure to instruct the others to watch what they're saying or sending over the net."
"I already told my marines." Jack said. "They know how to keep secrets."
"I told the same to my staff." Professor mFumbo added. He had left behind a good part of his scientific exploration team back in Wardhaven, seeing as the Wasp had to detach the containers surrounding her hull and space became scarce. She was no longer posing as a merchant ship to attract the pirates, but a small and maneuverable, and one of a kind frigate.
"Kris, why are you keeping this a secret from Wardhaven? I can understand not revealing about his past and abilities to the public, but to King Ray?" Abby asked.
"You don't know Grampa Ray like I do." Kris replied, remembering the missions that Ray Longknife sent her. He thought it would be amusing for Kris to learn the ropes of being a Longknife the hard way, but it had cost Kris the lives of many men and women trying to protect her.
She hadn't forgotten the incident in New Eden, where King Ray sent her to solve a problem in the old colony without even a head's up on the situation. A quarter of the marine company that was now attached to the Wasp lost their lives, due to Ray's assumptions that Kris could handle the whatever was thrown in front of her.
Kris did, but she would have saved more of her men's lives if King Ray told him the problem on the planet from the start. She didn't like the lies and half truths that he fed her, and though she forgave him, their relationship had never been the same.
"We better prepare for the jump. How long until we reach the jump point Nelly?" Kris asked.
"Twenty-two minutes and eight seconds." Nelly said. The computer could have reported more accurately, but she had learned that humans didn't particularly care for the hundredth and thousandth of a second.
"I want the marines and rested for the orbital drop. Jack?" Kris turned to her ex bodyguard.
"I'll tell them." Jack stood up from his chair. He noticed the vacant chair in the corner and looked at Kris. "Where's Harry?"
"Oh no." Kris groaned. "He's probably with Gunny again. I swear those two..."
The princess of Wardhaven stomped out of the ready room and started her search for her missing bodyguard. Outside the ship, Harry took his duties seriously, to the point of being paranoid (and to Jack's immense satisfaction) but on board the Wasp, Harry tended to slack off and find ways to skive from his 'assignments'.
Jack Montoya couldn't blame him, the history lessons that Kris forced upon her bodyguard was very boring, and he was sure Harry would have fallen asleep if it were not for the holograms that Nelly projected to keep things interesting. He could clearly see that Harry liked the physical training part of the lessons. He could now maintain and clean a standard M-6 assault rifle and load either sleeping darts or bullets into the magazines or adjust the power in the shot according to the distance.
To Kris and Tru's disappointment, Harry had chosen a 'dumb' computer as Nelly called it, to allow himself to interface with the state of the art weapons he will be using for the drop. The computer, though powerful in its own right, still pales in comparison to the technological marvels that are Nelly and Sam.
Jack followed Kris through the walkways as she searched for Harry. Over the past few days while in Wardhaven, Harry had been trying to recreate a drink that he claimed was popular in his time. He called it 'firewhiskey' and Jack had to admit he was curious on how strong the drink really was.
Kris stalked through the bunks and found her wayward bodyguard laughing with a few of the marines as he took a sip of his latest concoction.
"Is that it?" Gunny asked.
"Not even close." Harry said. "I think we should use more spice..."
"You! What are you doing at the Marine's section?"
Jack heard Kris' annoyed voice around the corner. He had an idea about was coming, since he knew about Kris' early addiction to alcohol and her distaste of her men getting drunk.
"And Sergeant, you know you're not supposed to get drunk while on a mission!"
"Technically, we aren't drunk." Harry pointed out. "We were just doing some experimenting."
Kris sighed and placed her hands on her hips. "Gunny, get back to your men, tell them that they should use this time to rest before we make the drop. I'll have a word with you later."
"Yes mam!" The veteran Sergeant saluted and patted Harry on the back as he headed back to the marine bunks, knowing the younger man would have to bear the brunt of Kris' temper.
"I also want you to get some rest Harry, trust me, travelling at extended periods in high gees will sap your strength."
"I'm fine." Harry insisted.
"No you're not. Your body is not yet suited to the high g forces. Do you remember how tired you were when we arrived at Wardhaven?" Kris asked.
"I wasn't tired, my muscles just ached." Harry replied.
Kris rolled her eyes and dragged Harry back to the direction of his quarters. "It's the same thing. How was your lesson with Nelly?"
"It went well I think. It wasn't as boring like the others." Harry grinned at Kris. "I just finished studying the average Itechee Warrior. I'm curious about the queen. They're a matriarchal society right?"
"That's what Grampa Trouble says."Kris opened the door to her cabin and waited for Harry to follow her. "Nobody except them has seen a live Itechee Warrior before. To tell you the truth I'm a bit nervous confronting an enemy I don't have experience fighting against."
"You, nervous?" Harry shook his head. "I've heard the stories on your exploits, the great Kris Longknife. The one that can make impossible things, possible."
"They're all exaggerated, trust me." Kris replied. She looked at Harry with a thoughtful expression on her face. "About the last part you said, who told you that?"
"I invented it." Harry grinned. "Catchy eh?"
"It has a ring to it." Kris admitted.
Nuu House, Wardhaven
"Tell me again Harvey, why would Ray want to talk to me? I already sent the report." Trudy said.
"I don't know mam." Harvey shrugged. "He just asked to meet you before he heads to the flagship."
The white limo stopped in front of the gate of the Nuu House, the traditional home of the Longknife family. Tru looked out the window and spotted several dozen guards in shades standing around the grounds.
"Good Lord." Trudy muttered. "I thought we took a wrong turn and ended up at the Wardhaven military barracks."
"That was my first impression when secret service increased its security." Harvey chuckled. His computer flashed the necessary identification on the scanner. "This is necessary though, with the War and all."
"So you think the Itechee will land here and storm Nuu house?" Trudy asked.
"No, it's the refugees from the other planets. They're causing a lot of trouble even with the support we give them." Harvey replied. He drove the car in front of the house and a guard opened the door for Trudy.
"I'll drive you back to your apartment later mam." Harvey said politely.
Trudy nodded and headed to Ray's office. A pair of guards eyed her cautiously as Sam communicated with their scanners. A moment later the guards waved her through and the previous Information War chief of Wardhaven stepped inside the heavily guarded house.
She had spent half her life walking through the cold marble floors, which Kris' mother was particularly fond of. She always boasted to her socialite friends that the marble of the Nuu House came from an eighteenth century palace on Earth. Tru knew otherwise, the marble came from the quarry at the asteroid fields of Sta. Maria, and she forged the documents about the Marble's origins to appease Al Longknife.
Truddy finally reached the ornately carved wooden door and it automatically opened thanks to Sam's tinkering of the Nuu house computer.
"It's good to see you again, Tru."
Ray Longknife, the symbolic head of the Wardhaven alliance said as he stood up from behind his desk. Tru did not bother to return the greeting and merely sat herself down on the cozy chair provided and simply looked around her old friend's office.
"Now, you may be wondering why I requested a meeting with you..."
"More like ordered." Tru said. "I was on my way home when Harvey suddenly turned the car around."
"Well yes, sorry about that." Ray grinned.
"Humph." Tru crossed her arms. "Be thankful I was feeling generous and a bit curious. If I wasn't, I could have easily ordered Sam to hijack the car and continue towards my apartment."
"I doubt Sam could do that." Ray said. "I know he's a marvelous piece of engineering, but the limousine fleet has been recently upgraded..."
"And where did you think that those codes originated from?" Tru smiled.
Ray shook his head and remembered that the old woman sitting in front of him probably knows more about Wardhaven's state secrets than himself.
"Now, cut the crap Ray, I have a busy schedule ahead of me. You know about the artifacts we recently discovered..."
"Yes about that." Ray leaned forward on his chair. "I'm interested about two things that you have discovered."
"Two? We only discovered one viable artifact, the tapestry..."
"I was talking about my great granddaughter's new bodyguard. Where did you find him?" Ray asked.
"Kris met him on Earth, he saved her life and she decided to hire him to be her bodyguard." Tru explained. "You've read the report."
"But that's not the whole truth, isn't it?" Ray smiled. "Come on Tru, you know you can trust me."
"Can I still trust you?" Tru asked. "Are you still the Ray Longknife I knew that served the Society alliance all those years ago?"
"It's still me Truddy." Ray replied. He realized his old friend's concern and his smile vanished from his face. "I learned my lesson. Kris showed me that I've almost turned into my grandson, her father."
"It must be embarrassing to be scolded by your great granddaughter." Tru said, a smug grin on her face.
"It was a humbling experience." Ray admitted. "Now can you tell me the whole story?"
"Just a minute Ray, Sam's making a sweep of your office."
Ray nodded, he had his office scanned daily for nanos and other eavesdropping gadgets, but it wouldn't hurt for Tru to run a scan.
"It's clean." Tru said after a minute. "Do you have something to drink? I'm afraid this will take some time."
Ray tapped his wrist computer and his secretary's voice answered him.
"Cancel all my appointments for today."
Ray turned off his wrist computer and looked at Tru expectantly.
"Do you have anything to eat?" Tru asked, and she hid her smile after she heard Ray's groan of impatience.
The Wasp weaved through the hundreds of ships that humanity assembled to hold the Itechee Fleet at bay. The large battleships, glistening with meters thick ice armor cast shadows on the smaller ship's hull while smaller PT boats maintained a defensive perimeter, ready for any surprise attacks by Itechee fighters.
"I'm receiving a coded message from the Warden." Penny said from her communications station. "The vanguard is about to head to the jump point Delta, General Trouble suggests that we sneak in with the flight of cruisers from Greenfeld."
"Understood." Captain Drago said. The captain of the wasp tapped a button on his own command console. "Engineering."
"We're going to the jump point soon. How are the engines?"
"Operating at optimum efficiency, Skipper. I'm monitoring the upgrades the techs from Nuu Enterprises added to the ship."
"Helm, take us to the jump point at four gees." Drago ordered.
"Aye sir." Slowan gunned the engines as Penny initiated the preparation for the ship for a high g burst. The hulls thickened and the Wasp's size decreased by more than a quarter of its original length while the bridge stations adjusted themselves for the crew."
Kris looked at Harry who was seated near her weapons station and she couldn't help but snort at seeing his face.
Seeing Harry's annoyed look Kris patted his shoulder. "Relax, you've done a high cruise before."
"Not at four gees." The young man muttered. "What are you giggling at?"
"Your face." Kris whispered. "You look like you're sick or something."
"Jack said I should tense my abdominal muscles. I can handle strong g forces, but not like this." Harry said, trying to look hurt at Kris' amusement at him.
"Yes, but you don't have to hold your breath doing it." Kris said. "You're the one who insisted on staying on the bridge. You could have just stayed at your quarters in a comfortable air bed."
"I wouldn't want to miss this." Harry looked at the assembled Battle Fleet in the large view screen as they streaked through space.
"I guess." Kris' smile vanished and she frowned at the thought of another space battle.
"Are you sure you're up to this?"
"Why do you think I'm here with you?" Harry asked. "I'm here to protect you Princess."
Kris smiled warmly at her new bodyguard and continued to monitor the status of the weapons system. She had fully charged the coils in case an enemy ship managed to slip past Wardhaven's defensive grid.
Their stations morphed to the high g configuration and Harry found his chair morphing to a bed, while his own information screed moved over his head.
The Wasp accelerated at a stomach crunching velocity and Harry could hear the simultaneous groans from the bridge crew. No current ship could sustain such a high velocity, since structural integrity would later become a problem. The Wasp however, was recently refitted by the engineers of Nuu enterprises to withstand the intense forces that assaulted the ship's structure during the high velocity run; she wasn't the most powerful ship in terms of fire power but she was the fastest.
On board The Dominant, the Earth super battleship that continued on its course to the Paris system, General Ho watched as a small ship streaked ahead of the Earth fleet at a blinding velocity.
"Communications, get me Wardhaven command."
The deck officer immediately opened a channel and the face of Ray Longknife appeared on screen with his chief of military affairs, Admiral McMorisson behind him.
"Yes General?" Ray asked. General Ho noticed that the King of the Wardhaven Alliance was on board an orbital elevator car, on his way to his own command ship.
"She's on her way Ray." Ho said. "You sure she can pull this through?"
"She's a Longknife." Ray said. "The Wasp would exit the jump point so fast that those damn Itechee wouldn't be able to react in time to pursue her. Trouble's advance fleet would take their attention away from her, while we would arrive to give his fleet support."
"Still, the Wasp would be behind enemy lines and Xanadu's crawling with those Itechee warriors." Ho said. "We won't be able to send help immediately if she's in trouble."
"She's a big girl General." Ray smiled faintly. "Besides, I just recently learned that she has the best protection possible. We need to rescue Henry's little girl as soon as we can, to get Greenfeld's support."
"That idiot." Ho said. Politics irritated him, and Henry Peterwald-Smythe's reluctance to commit his faction fully into the war grated his nerves. The leader of the Greenfeld alliance did send a fleet to support Wardhaven in trying to stop the Itechee advance, but he still kept most of his ships orbiting around Greenfeld.
"Just because Greenfeld space is nice and safe away from the frontlines, he thinks that he isn't in any danger. If we fail to stop these damned aliens, Greenfeld space would soon be over run by those critters." General Ho growled. "I heard he has those new super cruisers that even rivals Earth Super battleships, where are they?"
"You have to understand, Henry is still wary of Wardhaven." Ray said.
"Even after your great granddaughter saved his life?"
"Some still think that it was staged, to get on their support on this war." Ray said, irritation clearly in his voice. "If Kris manages to rescue his daughter, he has promised his full support on the War effort."
"Hopefully it wouldn't be too late." General Ho said.
"Hopefully. Longknife out."
"Prepare to decelerate." Captain Drago ordered.
The Wasp slowly reduced its speed as it approached jump point beta. The crew sighed with relief as they were subjected to .8 g and some immediately stretched their arms or stretched their feet.
"Thank Merlin." Harry whispered. It felt like the Hippogryph standing on his chest decided to fly away and he could again breathe in comfort.
"Speed is essential for our mission." Kris said. She was adjusted in her configured high g station to ease the discomfort on her back.
"Why are we slowing down though?" Harry asked.
"It's dangerous to enter a jump point at high speeds." Kris explained. "The jump points have a field around them that temporarily distorts a ship's telemetry and navigation. It's only for a short time, but that's enough to cause ships to spiral out of control."
"Approaching the jump point captain." Lieutenant Penny Lien said.
"Good, as soon as we pass through, helm, I want you to gun the engines." The captain of the Wasp said. "We're entering a hot zone."
"Aye captain." Ensign Slowan replied.
Kris charged the 24 inch lasers and the Wasp shot through the jump point. A moment later the ship burst into the Paris system and saw the Vanguard Force of Wardhaven ships, commanded by her great grampa Trouble straight ahead.
The Wasp's monitors enlarged the image ahead of them and Kris saw bursts of green and red light as the Vanguard force exchanged fire with the Itechee ships across from them.
"The flagship Undaunted is hailing us." Penny reported. "It's General Trouble."
"Put him on the secondary screen." Drago said.
General Tordon, more popularly known by his nickname Trouble appeared on screen. His face was bathed in flickering in red light while in the background, his bridge crew were busy giving orders to the rest of his fleet.
"You're earlier than expected Wasp." Trouble replied. "I would have posted a few PT boats near the jump point."
"Task force 54 is 50,000 kilometers straight ahead of us sir." Penny reported.
"And the jump point to Xanadu?" The Skipper asked.
"Just ahead of Task force 54." Penny frowned. "We'll be in the crossfire if we keep this heading."
Both fleets continued to dance around one another, swerving back and forth in their lines so as not to give the enemy an easy target. The large battleships that Wardhaven sent as a holding force rotated three revolutions a minute, to prevent being hit in the same place twice. The gleaming ice armor of the ships sparkled, reflecting the hundreds of lasers the Wardhaven fleet sent to the enemy ships.
"We've pushed to four gees to get here." Kris said as she turned her attention on her great grampa.
General Trouble gave his great granddaughter a slight smile. "Four gees? Ships can do that now at cruising speeds?"
"Just this ship. Grampa Al's engineers made some modifications on the smart metal." Kris said proudly.
"Good. Bring your ship alongside the Undaunted, and she'll shield you from the laser fire. We'll distract them enough for you to slip past them and into the jump point. And as soon as Ray gets here we'll make a push to hold the line."
Drago nodded and Slowan guided the Wasp alongside the large Undaunted, as its batteries continued to return fire with its large 18 inch lasers.
"How are you holding up?" Kris asked.
"Better than expected." General Trouble said. "We only lost a few ships, considering this is the Itechee. Their carriers are surprisingly few for an invasion force. It's their fighters that we're having a hard time with, nasty things are ridiculously hard to aim at."
Trouble looked behind him as one of his bridge officers reported something from his console.
"We're gunning the engines now. Follow my lead, and take the opening once you see it." Tordon Trouble said, looking directly at his great granddaughter's eyes. "Stay safe Kris."
The Wasp rocked as it took a glancing hit by Itechee fire. The ship streaked left to avoid another hail of lasers while the smart metal that covered the whole ship shifted to cover the damage taken on the hull.
At the weapons station, Kris, with the help of Nelly, struggled to maintain the lock of their four 24 inch pulse lasers on the three Itechee fighters that tried to harass them.
"Couldn't I take out just one of those bastards?" Kris asked again. "I have a good bead on this one."
"It will only draw more attention to us." The skipper replied. He punched a few buttons in his console, showing the map of the jump point they were going to take.
"If they continue to follow us past the jump point, then you can shoot the hell out of them, Lieutenant." The skipper continued. "Penny, how far from the jump point?"
The ship shook again, receiving a hit from an Itechee fighter. Luckily, their weapons did not pack the punch of the Itechee battleships, and the smart metal armor was able to compensate the minor damage.
"Two thousand kilometers Captain." Penny reported. "We'll reach the jump point in two minutes."
"We're well away from the range of their big guns." Captain Drago said. "The armor should be able to hold up until we reach Xanadu."
"If we keep getting hit like this, we might not have enough smart metal left to configure the ship to land on the planet's surface." Kris stated. "Nelly, can you upload new jinxing maneuvers for Slowan?"
"I'm on it Kris." The supercomputer replied. "I analyzed the three Itechee's movements for the past hour and calculated a maneuver that will most likely avoid their blaster fire."
"Send them now." Kris ordered.
"Already done Kris." Nelly chirped. "Don't worry Harry, we'll get rid of those Itechee."
The rest of the bridge crew spared a glance at Kris' new bodyguard, and a few smiled seeing his pale face.
The young man was clearly overwhelmed with the frenzy of activity on board the bridge, and he showed with his pale face and his tight grip on his restraints.
"Give him a break." Kris said. "It's his first space battle. I know some first time spacers shitting in their seats when their ship was fired upon by pirates."
"Right."Drago said. A unified groan came from the bridge crew when the Wasp suddenly turned at a tight angle, increasing the gees in their bodies significantly.
"Warn us next time you're doing that Nelly." Kris said through gritted teeth.
"Sorry Kris, but Mister Slowan and I determined that this jinxing action will likely confuse the Itechee gunners. We'll have a low chance of getting hit if we continued this jinxing pattern."
"As long as it works." Drago grunted.
The ship twisted upwards and Kris let the sensation on her gut pass before she spoke again. "I guess we don't have any choice. How long until we reach the jump point, Penny?"
"Thirty two seconds." Nelly answered.
"I wasn't asking you." Kris snapped. "Keep analyzing their attack patterns in case we meet them on the other side."
"Fine." Nelly said, her voice sounding like a young girl scolded by her mother.
The Wasp, high orbit above Xanadu
"I don't like this." Jack said.
"It's too quiet for a planet this near the front." Kris replied. "Have they answered our hails?"
"No, they're keeping quiet." Penny answered. "I can't even detect their energy infrastructure like we did before."
"You've been here before?" Harry asked.
"Once." Kris answered. "And it wasn't a pleasant experience either. Penny, have you found any traces of the Greenfeld escape pods?"
"There's nothing at all. Normally we'll be getting their emergency beacons." Penny replied. "Someone must have turned them off and hid the pods, or the Greenfeld ship never arrived here in the first place."
"There's no choice then." Kris said.
"You sure you want to do this?" Jack asked. "These Abdicationists are not exactly friendly."
"We've got to." Kris replied. "We'll be dropping in an hour."
Captain Drago nodded and Ensign Slowan adjusted the Wasp's orbit around the planet so that it would skim the atmosphere and launch the LACs to Xanadu's surface.
Kris looked at Harry who was busy strapping into his own space suit and turned towards him. "What?"
"Who are these Abdicationists?" Harry asked. "They weren't mentioned on the mission briefs you made me read."
Abby, busy helping Kris fit in her Spacesuit answered him. "They're a group that started around 50 years ago, proclaiming that a great Alien invasion force is headed our way."
"Alien Invasion force?" Harry asked. "Itechee?"
"No." Abby shook her head and helped Kris attach the breast plate on her suit. "By then, the Itechee and us signed a peace treaty. These Abdicationists were shouting on the streets of Earth, waving placards and banners saying that the end is near."
"Sounds familiar." Harry smiled. "I assume they weren't taken seriously by Earth's government?"
"They weren't." Kris answered. "They were ridiculed. And then, they just vanished from the major planets, claiming they were going to hide from the evil aliens who were going to eat human eyeballs for breakfast."
Harry snorted and tried to attach his own breastplate. Wondering where Jack was since he usually helped Harry fit in his glove tight spacesuit he let the armor dangle down its hinges and gave Kris a pleading look for help.
"Then imagine our surprise when we encountered the Abdicationist colony here on Xanadu." Kris continued. She took pity on her bodyguard and started to help get into his suit.
"What are they like?" Harry asked.
"Crazy." Kris muttered. "Hold up your arms to the side."
Harry obeyed and Kris attached the various wires towards the power pack. "They tried hiding themselves by hiding their settlements under mounds of dirt, making it appear that their planet was uninhabited to ship sensors."
"How'd you find them?"
"They didn't dig deep enough." Abby answered. "While they hid their cities well, they didn't think to hide their power lines and grids. We just followed that faint trace towards their capital city."
"And that's where we are going?" Harry asked.
"Yes. Victoria Peterwald sent a distress message while she was on this planet. The locals may know where she is." Abby replied.
"That's done." Kris said as she stepped back to observe her bodyguard. Harry rotated his shoulders, making sure the suit wasn't digging in to his skin.
"Thanks." Harry said. "Perfect fit."
"Good." Kris nodded. "Get your butt inside LAC-1. And this time I want you sitting right behind me so I can keep a close eye on you. I don't want a repeat of that incident, especially in this crucial mission."
"Hey! I did fine!" Harry glared at Kris.
"Mostly, but you freaked out at the end, making the weight shift inside the LAC." Kris replied, a smile on her face. No doubt she found her bodyguard's reaction amusing. "I had to compensate and adjust the flight path."
"I don't see any other LAC doing those S turns and loops." Harry said. "Just because you're a space skiff riding champion in college doesn't mean you have to do that. Couldn't I just ride with Gunny? Or Abby?"
"You're my bodyguard." Kris said. They were teasing each other now, and she knew Harry was just trying to rile her up. "Don't tell me the big bad wizard is scared of a few high g turns?"
"I am if you're piloting." Harry muttered.
The door to the hangar opened and the rest of the Marine Company walked in, all carrying various weapons and equipment necessary for the mission.
"Let's go. Helmets on troops! Skipper's about to depressurize the hangar."
Harry closed his face mask shut, and he heard a hiss sound telling his space suit was now air tight. The marines all went inside their designated LACs while the Wasp began in its run to skim Xanadu's upper atmosphere.
Inside the LAC, Harry noticed the small hatch door open and saw the planet called Xanadu, most of its surface covered in thick clouds and dense vegetation.
"This is LAC-1, all LACs report your status." Kris said through the comm.
The various pilots reported that they were ready, and Kris spoke again. "We're going tight and fast. Remember, a space battle is currently on going, and it is only a jump hole away from here. I want this done right and quick."
"Okay. Follow my lead. Captain Drago, LACs are ready to drop."
The voice of the skipper crackled over the comm. speakers mounted on every LAC. "Roger that Kris. Deploy in, three, two... one. Deploy!"
Kris pressed a button and clamps holding LAC-1 were released. Moments later LAC-1 was dropping like a brick towards Xanadu. Harry looked behind him and saw the other LACs flying right behind Kris in a tight formation.
Harry sucked up his gut and grunted as Kris tilted the LAC to the right, trying to slow down the craft before she deployed its glider wings. This was no quidditch.
"What's that?" Harry asked. They were flying swiftly through the mountains, the LAC's glider wings deployed minutes ago.
"What..." Kris began before her eyes widened in shock. She quickly dove to the right as green Laser beams flew past them.
"Kris! We are under fire!" Nelly shouted.
"Evasive maneuvers!" Kris screamed through the comm. The LACs broke their formation to avoid the stream of Laser beams and split into different directions.
"Kris, Three Itechee Fighters are tracking us!"
"Where did they come from?" Kris muttered, as she expertly maneuvered the agile ship out of arms way. "Assault teams, head to the forest. We'll lose them in the trees."
The LACs vanished into the trees, their expert pilots guiding their crafts through the vegetation.
"Don't we have weapons on these things?" Harry asked.
"It will only hinder the LAC's speed and maneuverability." Kris replied. "Nelly, keep an eye out for those fighters."
"We may not be able to fire back, but they can't match our maneuverability." Kris continued. "Another thing Nelly, contact The Wasp and see if they can scare off those fighters."
"I'm afraid the Wasp is busy in its own fight Kris." Nelly said.
The LAC skimmed the surface of the river before it gradually slowed down. Before it actually stopped near the bank the hatch opened and the Marines jumped out and splashed on the water.
Kris turned off the LAC systems and jumped out, followed by Harry who was looking around the dense vegetation, wary of hidden enemies.
"Sergeant Bruce, sink the LAC. We need to cover our tracks in case those fighters fly overhead.
"Yes mam!" Bruce replied.
The ten Marines with Kris and Harry immediately set to work. Two marines climbed on top of the LAC's nose, tipping it underwater. The inside of the LAC immediately took in water, and it slowly sunk beneath the water surface. The other marines shot anchors deep on the riverbed, and tying them off into the LAC's anchor points to prevent it from drifting from the current.
The effort took than less five minutes, and Harry was seriously impressed with their efficiency. They were like ants, everybody knew their roles and worked seamlessly with one another.
Kris' squad headed inside the dense jungle, while sergeant Bruce covered their footprints by wiping them away with a dead branch. They heard a deep sound reverberating through the forest and they hunkered down, trying to find cover.
Two Itechee fighters flew past them, tracing the River and trying to look for signs of the LACs.
"That was close." Harry replied. "Do you want me to blow them up next time I see them?"
A few of the Marines looked surprised, before their shocked faces turned to eager expressions. It looked they had just realized that they had a super powered ally with them. Harry had gradually stopped using his 'tricks' as he like to call them, and enjoyed being treated as one of the guys inside the Wasp.
Kris shook her head. "I'm sorry Harry. I don't want them to learn about you and your abilities. It is a tightly guarded secret, and only the crew of The Wasp knows about it. Also, destroying those fighters will only attract attention to our position."
"If you're sure. I guess that's smarter not to reveal all your hand." Harry said, agreeing with Kris' statement. "So, where are we headed?"
"East." Nelly answered. "Xanadu's largest settlement is thirty two kilometers east of our position."
"We are in for a long walk." Kris said. "Can you tell me what happened to the other teams?"
"I'm sorry Kris, without the Wasp orbiting around the planet, I can't lock on their position. And there are no satellites around Xanadu that I can hack into. I can only give a calculated guess on their current position based from their flight path."
"That's good enough." Kris said, though her face showed concern for her marines. A moment later a map appeared on her facemask, showing probable landing points and position of the rest of her men. It looked like they were the only team that had got that close to Xanadu's largest settlement. It would take days if they waited for the other teams, and that was time that they didn't have.
"Looks like we are on our own." Kris said after a moment. "Let's go, we'll break camp when night falls."
The rest of the marines nodded and the team vanished deep into the woods.
"Kris, I'm detecting a faint energy signature."
The team nodded after hearing Nelly and looked at the princess of Wardhaven, rather the super computer attached near her shoulder.
"What is it Nelly?"
"I'm detecting a small electric current running two meters from your position." Nelly said. "It matches the power requirement for an escape pod."
" Corporal Remie?"
The female tech specialist of the team stepped forward and began to run her scanner to the spot Nelly indicated. She knelt down on the ground and inserted a thin metal prod deep on the earth. "It's definitely an escape pod, buried under two meters of soil."
Remie kicked the dead leaves around the spot, revealing freshly dug earth. "Someone has removed its emergency transponders, but the pod's battery for life support still has some juice left. It's definitely of Greenfeld, we don't use these types of escape pods in the United Sentients alliance."
"So, that's a confirmation that she's really here." Kris said. "The locals must have her."
"Those Abdicators?" Harry asked. "Why would they hide her?"
"Before we headed to Earth and met you, I just recently saved the first citizen of the Greenfeld alliance." Kris explained as the group moved again away from the clearing.
"The first citizen?"
"Henry Peterwald-Smythe the twelfth is first citizen, a title for the leader of the Greenfeld alliance."
"I remember reading about him before." Harry said. "You prevented war between Wardhaven and Greenfeld by shooting down a large transport ship headed for a suicide run towards the first citizen."
Kris' expression darkened slightly, remembering the thousands that died in that hijacked ship transport liner. It was a matter of numbers, and if she didn't shoot down the ship, hundreds of thousands would have died from the impact of the ship on the planet's surface. And on that particular area of some Safari planet, Henry Peterwald-Smythe was currently hunting big game for his collection.
Ray Longknife said that her decision saved millions of lives. Henry Peterwald's death would no doubt trigger a full scale war between Wardhaven and Greenfeld, the two largest and most powerful factions of humanity.
"So the ones that hijacked the ship were part of this Abdicators cult?"
"Yes." Kris replied. "They were strongly suspected of trying to start a war, and that's why Wardhaven and Greenfeld launched a joint taskforce to patrol this area and investigate who they are working with."
"And at the same time, the Itechee their advance, breaking the peace treaty brokered by your great grandfathers." Harry added.
"That's about it." Kris said.
"What should we do with these Abdicators when we reach the settlement?" Harry asked.
"They weren't exactly pleased to see us when we landed on their doorstep the first time and accompanied by a fully armed marine battalion." Kris said. "We better be on guard, now that our forces are scattered all over the continent."
Bruce, the marine sergeant came back from his scouting patrol and walked alongside the princess of Wardhaven and her bodyguard.
"We made good progress mam, but I'm afraid a weather system's approaching and we need to find shelter quickly." Bruce said. "I found a nice area adequate for setting up camp. It's on high ground, so we should be okay in case it rains."
"Lead on then." Kris said. The squad quickened their pace, eager to rest their legs after a long day of marching through the dense vegetation.
"Go on, we'll take first watch." Kris said to her marines. The ten Wardhaven marines nodded and slipped into their own sleeping bags while Kris added more wood to the fire. Thankfully, it hadn't rained, giving them the luxury of fire, a hot meal and dry ground to sleep on.
Kris felt a tingle and saw Harry performing several complicated movements with his wand. She remained silent, and observed her bodyguard weaved his power to his desire.
"What did you do?" Nelly said, unable to hide her curiosity as Harry sat beside Kris on the ground.
"It's a perimeter ward, designed to warn me if someone is approaching our camp." Harry explained. "The ward's big, a hundred feet in every direction."
"Wow." Nelly said.
"That's not all I did." Harry smiled and Kris found herself smiling back. He really had an infectious grin, like her best friend who was also Penny's husband. Lieutenant junior grade Tommy Lien died in the battle of Wardhaven, trying to protect his new wife as the small PT boat he and Kris was assigned to when it was severely damaged by Greenfeld ships.
"What did you do?" Kris asked, deciding to join the conversation between her computer and her bodyguard.
"There's also a repelling ward." Harry said. "If they somehow breached the Perimeter ward, they will suddenly think that they had forgotten something and will turn back."
"That's very convenient." Kris said, feeling better now that Harry added his protections.
They had all removed the upper portion of their spacesuits since it was uncomfortable sleeping with, (and hot when not in the cold vacuum of space) and now Kris and Harry each wore a black sando, standard uniform worn underneath the spacesuit.
"That must have been some fight." Kris said softly, breaking the silence that the two enjoyed.
"That." Kris nodded her head at the two scars on Harry's right arms
"Oh this?" Harry held up his fore arm, showing his largest scar. "I got this when I was fourteen."
"Fourteen?" Kris asked, her eyes wide with surprise. "What happened?"
"You know about the evil Wizard that I was destined to fight while we were on Wardhaven?"
"Yes. You called him Voldemort."
"Yes him. He used a dark ritual to restore himself to his full powers, and an ingredient needed for that ritual is the blood of the enemy... my blood." Harry said. "Voldemort's servants kidnapped me and this is what happened when they took my blood."
"That's so barbaric!" Kris exclaimed.
"What do you expect? I wasn't supposed to escape, and me slowly bleeding to death really didn't concern them." Harry said. "Good thing I escaped."
The two lapsed into silence, each lost to their own thoughts. Kris leaned back on a large rock and absently flicked a bug that landed on her shoulder. "You know Harry, I just noticed something about you these past few weeks."
"What is it?" Harry followed Kris and rested his back on the same rock, and their arms touched but the princess didn't move.
"You've been using your powers less and less." Kris said. "During the first week that you became a member of my crew, you kept on doing magic left and right. Then slowly, you gradually stopped until you barely do any magic at all. What is that about?"
"I just liked the Physical and skills training you give your marines."Harry said. "And I'm trying to fit in, and it's working so far. The guys barely ask me for a magic trick these days. They just invite over for drinks and good natured ribbing. Here I'm just Harry, it's something I never had the luxury of experiencing during my time."
"I understand." Kris said. She smiled at Harry and placed a comforting arm over his. "I'm glad the crew and the marine company are treating you so well."
"That just shows how great they are, and how progressive and accepting humanity has changed into. " Harry said. "Race, religion, beliefs, everyone respects everyone else's opinion."
"There are still many who are not as accepting as we are Harry." Kris warned. "That's another reason why I'm so cautious when it comes to information about you. People fear what they don't understand, and when they learn about you and your abilities... well you can imagine what can happen."
"I have a good idea." Harry replied.
Princess and Bodyguard looked behind them and saw a pair of marines waiting patiently to replace the watch.
"Right. Let's go Harry." Kris said, quickly standing up. She picked up her own M-6 rifle and wiped the sweat of her brow.
"Everything's quiet so far." Kris said. She contemplated telling the guards about Harry's additional protections but decided against it in the end. They need to be on their toes, and just because they have a human wielding cosmic powers doesn't mean they should relax. Kris knew the tides of battle can turn in an instant, no matter how well she had prepared for it.
"Keep a good watch. We'll break camp in eight hours so wake your replacements. I want everybody to be fully rested, and keep a lookout for any of the other squads." Kris ordered.
Kris nodded and headed back to the camp, where she could see the silhouette of her sleeping men against the camp fire. Only one marine was awake, and he immediately stood up to greet his commander.
"Mam." Sergeant Bruce held up two steaming bowls of food.
"Thanks sergeant." Kris said. "Why don't you get some sleep?"
"I will Mam, I was just waiting to give you your food before I tucked in." Bruce replied.
"Go on." Kris smiled. "I can't have my best scout yawning when we storm that village."
Bruce grinned back and slid back into his own sleeping bag. A moment later Harry could hear the soft snores, and he couldn't help but admire the man. He truly was a professional soldier, stealing sleep whenever he can. Alastor Moody and Kingsley Shacklebolt would have approved.
"Time seems to pass quickly if you're talking to someone." Kris sat next to him while he chewed on his food. It was some sort of meat in a stew, and though it tasted bland it was edible. "I wasn't even bored, and I'm terrible with watch duty."
"Terrible?" Harry asked.
"Back when I was an Ensign, fresh from Officer school, I always had to have the undesired rotation during watch duty." Kris said.
"And when is that?"
"The very middle of the shift." Kris tasted her own stew and frowned for a moment before she began to eat earnestly. "Soldiers prioritize their sleep, and having the first or last watch makes sure you sleep without being interrupted."
"You can imagine how terrible it was for me then." Kris smiled. "There were few people to talk to, and so I usually chatted with Nelly during my shift to pass the time."
"Good times... good times." Nelly said, causing the two humans to chuckle.
They quickly finished their food, and slipped in to their respective sleeping bags.
Harry was beginning to feel sleepy. Even though the food was bland, it was hot and after a day of walking and eating dried meat for lunch, the stew was heaven.
"Yeah?" Harry opened his eyes to see Kris on her side and looking curiously at him.
"Nothing. I'm usually like this before a big day." Kris whispered.
"We're not all bursting with energy Kris." Harry said. Seeing that the young woman still wanted to talk, he leaned forward and blew at her face, making her close her eyes.
"Sleep, you'll need it tomorrow." Harry said, and the princess of Wardhaven wondered if he did something with his powers since she started feeling sleepy. That line of thought vanished when Kris began dreaming of chasing down illegal smugglers and pirate ships, with a handsome green eyed man watching her back.
Primary Abdicationist Settlement, Xanadu
Kris stopped, Harry and another marine between her.
A portly man with a rifle approached them, a rifle in his arms. Behind him, several men in white robes approached, and all had some sort of weapon or fire arm on their person.
"Who are you? Why are you here?" The portly man demanded.
"Why were you not answering our hails?" Kris asked back.
The man frowned. "Outsiders are not welcome to the refuge. You will be arrested for trespassing! Drop your weapons or you will be shot!"
Kris only lowered her weapon, confident that the ten marines hiding behind the forest line was covering her.
"As I recall, every human has a right to seek an audience with your Great Guides." Kris said.
"You've visited us before?"
"Yes." Kris nodded. Squaring her shoulders, she announced. "I am Kristine Longknife, princess of Wardhaven, and I demand an audience with your council elders."
"Where are the rest of your men?" The man asked. "The last time you came here, you arrived with a full battalion of soldiers."
"They are watching us as we speak." Kris replied. "And every one of them has a rifle aimed at each man behind you, so I suggest you lower your weapons."
Harry glanced at Kris, finding her bluff amusing. He had to give it to her, her bluff had the men behind the speaker suddenly tensed and warily looked at the surrounding trees.
The demeanor of the first man changed and he gave his men a reluctant nod to lower their weapons. They slowly did, and he ordered one of them to send a message to the great guides, murmuring in swift low tones.
"Very well." The man said. "I am Arctucus, and I will be your guide to the assembly. Follow me, Kris Longknife. Have your men assembled in the street, and they will be cared for."
'And reveal my bluff?' Kris thought. "They're fine where they are."
The messenger Arctucus sent ran back, and whispered into his ear, and both of them sent wary glances at Kris.
"The great guides have generously allowed you audience, despite their busy schedule. However, they demand that you meet them with only one guard, so as to not violate our sacred temple as you did last time." Arctucus said.
"What do you think?" Kris asked Harry.
"Agree with their terms for now." Harry said. "I'll cover for you, so don't worry about your safety."
"The only reason they aren't taking us prisoners is because they believe a battalion of Wardhaven Marines are spread out behind us." Kris whispered back.
"Yes, but if we allow ourselves to be taken 'captive', we might be able to see where they are keeping Victoria Peterwald, and at the same time learn of their true intentions."
Kris pondered his words for a moment. She turned back to her other guard. "Remie, get back to Bruce and tell them of our plan. And tell them not to worry, fall back to the trees and we'll meet you there."
"Are you sure princess?" She asked.
"I have Harry with me." Kris said. "Make sure to watch out for us in case we need cover fire."
The Wardhaven Marine tech specialist nodded and ran back to the forest and Kris and Harry slowly moved closer to Arctucus.
"Lead on." Kris said, and the party moved towards the big mound in the middle of the settlement.
"That's their assembly, where their 'Great guides' reside." Kris said to Harry.
"It looks like one large hobbit home." Harry mused. The large mound was covered with grass and weeds, similar in design to the other structures.
"You are not invited to our land." Arctucus began as they walked. "What is the purpose of your intrusion?"
"A matter that only involves your leaders." Kris said. "What happened to your ideology of no weapons?"
"Your last visit has forced us to arm ourselves." Arctucus said simply.
The party soon reached a tunnel that looked liked it led to the great mound. Nelly had been supplying Kris with image maps from their last visit, causing the princess to raise an eyebrow.
"I see that you remodeled the city."
"We dug deeper, to hide us from the great evil that is to come." Arctucus said. "Praise be the wisdom of the guides!"
"Praise be!" The young men around him responded.
"Nuts." Harry whispered, making Kris bite her lip from giggling.
More guards were waiting for Kris and Harry, and they were told to prepare themselves in a small chamber leading to large underground temple.
"Prepare?" Kris asked.
"Leave your weapons and armor here." Arctucus said. "The safety of the great guides must be enforced. We may have removed ourselves from society, but we know of the pitiful weapons you have. They are of no use when the great evil horde arrives."
"We weren't asked to do this before." Kris argued. She felt vulnerable without her armor that could stop a round from point blank range.
"You will leave your weapons and armor now." Arctucus demanded, and the rest of his men raised their rifles and pointed them at Kris and Harry. "The great guides must not be kept waiting."
Harry and Kris helped each other remove their armors, while the Abdicationists watched them with slowly.
Once Kris removed all of her armor, she stood wearing her black tank top and black shorts. She faced the abdicators and crossed her arms, and raised her chin defiantly.
"All of your clothes." Arctucus said maliciously.
"Impossible!" Kris snarled, causing the men to raise their rifles higher. "What shall I wear?"
"These." Arctucus pointed to a pile of gray togas.
"Fine." Kris said. "Get out, I need to change."
"No. Change here." Arctucus said, and Kris could see the eager eyes of the men with him. "We must be sure that you will not have a hidden weapon with you."
Kris clenched her fists, she was having doubts now of why she agreed to this plan. No doubt they were trying to humiliate her, forcing her to strip like some hooker from some red light district! She looked up when Harry moved in front of her, blocking the men from her sight.
"You sure you want to do this?" Harry whispered. She looked at his eyes and saw them full of worry and anger? "I can knock them out. Just say the word."
"No." Kris said after a moment. "We need to speak with them as soon as possible, and find Victoria's location. If baring my modesty will help our mission, then so be it. I just don't want to leave Nelly here."
"She's shielded from EMP right?" Harry asked. At Kris' nod he waved his hand over Nelly' composite casing, and in an instant the self organizing circuitry computer disappeared from view.
"There." Harry said. "She won't be detected."
"Hurry up!" Arctucus demanded.
"Perverts." Kris snapped.
Blushing slightly from embarrassment, Kris glanced at thee lecherous eyes of them and removed her black tank top. Her bust size was nothing to be proud of, compared to the women back in Wardhaven. Still, she wouldn't give these Abdicationists the satisfaction of seeing her weak and scared. Harry was with her.
"Nelly said thanks." Kris said to Harry before she hiked her thumbs over the waistband of her small shorts and pulling them down.
Nelly sent her a quick missive through their link, and she couldn't help it, but be curious to what Harry looked like. She glanced to her side and saw him and saw her first real live organ of a human male not in the porn movies she saw her marines watch.
'Oh my' Kris thought. 'Was that erect? No, it still wasn't. It's that big?'
Then, she realized that she was naked, standing in front of twenty men looking eagerly at her. She shivered and unconsciously covered her breasts and groin with her arms, the invisible weight of Nelly between her breasts comforting her.
"Is this enough? Satisfied?" Kris asked.
"Raise your arms and turn around." Arctucus said, his eyes gleaming.
Harry and Kris did so, though the blush in Kris' cheeks increased.
"Had your fun?" Kris asked. "Seen enough to satisfy you for the night?"
"Perhaps." Arctucus said. He pointed to the toga like robes and Harry and Kris quickly put them on.
"They are waiting, hurry up." Arctucus said as Kris passed him. He was about to put his arm on her rump to 'guide' her when a hand closed tightly on his wrist. He angrily looked up and saw a pair of burning green eyes staring at him.
"Try it." The green eyed man said, his voice cold and his face impassive.
After a moment he released him and Arctucus immediately stepped back, fearing that his wrist would have snapped if the man held any longer. He wanted to order his men to beat the Princess' bodyguard, but the memory of those angry green eyes full of fury made him change his mind.
'No matter' Arctucus thought. He liked what he saw, and he'll have fun with her in the underground dungeons.
A pair of guards opened the wooden doors, and Harry and Kris stepped inside a vast chamber where a stage was located. Their guards have left at the door and the two walked alone, knowing that hidden guards were around them, watching their every move.
'Nelly, I want you to record everything, visual and audio.' Kris thought.
'Yes Kris.' The computer replied. 'Do you want me to scan the area for nanos.'
'Go ahead.' Kris answered.
"What's that smell?" Harry asked.
"That's an incense with hallucinogenic effects that they use on their cult." Kris whispered. "You remember the shots you were given before we landed? That's to counter its effects.
"That bloody hurt."
"So." Kris ignored his last statement, trying to bridge the embarrassment between them by seeing each other naked. "Did you have a nice view earlier?"
"I did." Harry smiled. "I even like what I see now."
Kris glanced down and saw that her nipples were poking out of the thin gray white robes they were forced to wear. She playfully slapped his arm and replied. "It's cold here, you pervert."
"It is." Harry waggled his eyebrows.
"Eyes up here Harry." Kris said. She glanced at her friend and bodyguard, and realized what he was trying to do. Harry was trying to make light of the situation they had experienced earlier, and trying to make her relaxed enough to face the leaders of this cult.
'Isn't he sweet?' Nelly cooed, causing Kris to snort.
"Now where are these Great guides?" Harry asked, looking around the large chamber.
"Wait for it." Kris said, remembering her last visit to this place.
On the stage vents on the floor opened, spouting off steam or smoke, Kris couldn't tell. Spotlights from around them focused on the stage while a huge block of ebony marble began to rise up from a trap door, while from above twelve thrones of white marble began to descend, as if levitating slowly to the ground.
Music began to play, and Harry thought he remembered that music from before, designed to appear intimidating and grand to its enemies at the same time.
Harry had to admit that the visual spectacle was good, it almost looked like magic.
"Nice." Harry said. "They could work in Vegas."
Kris wanted to ask what Vegas meant when the twelve marble thrones finally touched down on their stage.
"Speak, heretic." An old man, Harry guessed to be in his late sixties spoke from his marble throne. "Why have you trespassed on our refuge, Kris Longknife?"
"You weren't answering our hails while we were on orbit." Kris said, her strong voice echoing across the large chamber. "I was forced to land here and speak with you."
"And so you have." Another great guide replied. "What is the purpose of your intrusion?"
"A few weeks ago, a Greenfeld ship came under attack by unknown forces near this planet." Kris said. "We have reason to believe that the survivors have landed here and we are here to rescue them."
"We have not encountered them." The first man replied. "You are mistaken."
"I believe otherwise." Kris countered. "On our way here, we found a missing escape pod that is only used by the Greenfeld navy. Where are the survivors?"
The twelve great guides shifted in their seats in discomfort and traded unsure glances with one another. Obviously they didn't expect that any evidence would be left behind.
"Brother Lucifer, what should we do?" A woman sitting in the far end asked the first man.
"Nothing." Lucifer said.
"And what about Longknifes' guards?"
"They wouldn't risk attacking us with their precious princess deep within our fortress." Lucifer said. He turned to Kris. "It was foolish of you to come here Kris Longknife. You will remain here as our guest, and you will tell your men to leave our sacred sanctuary."
"You know that keeping me here against my will would only bring down the wrath of the entire Wardhaven navy?" Kris asked.
"If they can get here." Lucifer said.
Kris' eyes narrowed. "As we suspected, you made a deal with the Itechee, haven't you?"
"They have promised us protection, when the great horde arrives." Lucifer said. "There is no choice Longknife, you are unarmed, and surrounded by our brave warriors. Surrender, and be converted."
"You are powerless. Outmatched. There will be no tricks from you this time, Longknife." Another great guide said.
Lucifer waved his hand, and from the shadows men marched in, holding Greenfeld standard issue M-6 rifles.
"Dispose of the guard, we'll have Longknife as our special guest." Lucifer ordered.
Kris shifted closer to Harry as dozens of men approached them, eager to get their hands on another female off-worlder.
"I know those rifles. What have you done with the crew of that Greenfeld ship?" Kris asked.
"They were uncooperative, and so we were forced to send them to the great beyond." Lucifer said. "One woman however, is alive. Our colony suffers from a lack of women, and she will be a fine addition to our sanctuary and bear many children, and they will be the future of the human race. The only survivors once the great purge has begun."
"Bastards!" Kris shouted, shocked at what happened to the Greenfeld crew. It was one thing to kill men, she was a soldier and that was her profession. But even then, she and her fellow marines showed respect to their enemies, unlike the men in this cult.
"Do not fear young Longknife, once you and the other woman participate in the ceremony tonight, you will become one of us. Hail the angels of the light, they who guide us in this time of great evil!" Lucifer crowed.
"All Hail!" The younger men chanted.
"Nuts." Harry whispered. "The lot of them. We'll stick to the original plan?"
"For now." Kris whispered as they were herded out of the central chamber. The princess of Wardhaven looked at their captors and moved closer to Harry.
"However, under no circumstances should we be separated."
"I wasn't planning to." Harry said. "And what if they force the issue?"
"Then let loose with your powers." Kris said, looking at Harry in the eye. "These men are murderers, cowards and traitors to our race. Until then, we need to find Victoria."
"Quiet!" A young guard said, prodding Kris's back with his rifle. "You are not given permission to speak."
Kris glared at the over eager guard and continued walking barefoot down the underground tunnels, only the presence of Harry being the only comfort she had. She shuddered at the thought if Harry isn't here and what they would do to her without his protection.
Kris found herself lost and confused deep inside the tunnels as the guards led them through various passageways that all looked similar. No doubt this was its intended purpose to make it harder for prisoners to escape. If it wasn't for Nelly, Kris knew she'd be lost in these tunnels and would no doubt be captured by the abdicators.
After never ending twists and turns, Kris and Harry were led inside a bare room with iron bars to prevent them from escaping.
"You will wait for brother Arctucus." A guard said. He faced Harry and grinned. "He will want to question you about the deployment of your men. Speak truthfully heretic, and I guarantee that it will be easier for you."
"And what if I don't cooperate?" Harry asked, mildly amused at the guards attempts of intimidation.
"Then you will suffer the same fate as her companions did." The guard looked at a darkened corner of the room. Kris and Harry followed his gaze and their eyes widened when they saw a figure in the corner, huddled in thick blankets.
"Victoria!" Kris exclaimed.
"How are you?" Kris quickly approached the Greenfeld heiress after the young men finished leering at Kris and the other young woman in the cell.
"It's me Vicky." Kris hugged the young woman who was once her fiercest enemy and rival.
"It's you!" Victoria hugged the princess of Wardhaven harder while tears fell down on her smudged face.
"How are you Victoria? Are you hurt?" Kris asked, eyeing her friend for injuries.
"I'm fine." Victoria whispered. "They didn't hurt unlike... the others. Thank Heavens that you have come!"
Victoria's voice broke and she sobbed on Kris' shoulder, no doubt the younger woman in her early teens, Harry guessed, had witnessed how her fellow survivors were executed.
"Don't worry. We're here to get you out. Can you walk?" Kris asked.
"They didn't hurt me." Victoria said. "They even fed me. No doubt they don't want to starve me if they're planning to breed with me."
"That's what their planning with me too." Kris said dryly. "I guess this cult colony has a gender balance and they're dying out."
"So how are we getting out?" Victoria asked. "Are your marines preparing for an assault? Is Jack here?"
"Our original plan was to storm this place by force and demand your location." Kris explained. Unfortunately our rescue team was attacked by..."
"... the Itechee." Victoria finished. "They attacked the task force I was assigned to when we went into the Xanadu system. These Abdicators seemed to have formed an alliance with the Itechee."
"Are there other survivors?" Kris asked.
"None that I know of." Victoria whispered. "It was a massacre Kris. I thought we were pretty safe since a Wardhaven Fleet augmented our forces... It wasn't enough. There were just too many. Then I landed into this planet full of murdering, perverted cowards."
"It's as Grampa Ray feared." Kris said. She helped Victoria stand up and looked at her bodyguard.
"How will we get out of here?" Victoria asked. "I tried to memorize how we got here but..."
Victoria screamed as she felt her whole body being compressed into a tight rubber tube. A moment later, she was standing in a forest with Kris and her bodyguard standing beside her.
"What the Hell?" Victoria yelled. "What the fuck was that!"
"A little warning is appreciated the next time you do that Harry." Kris said sternly.
"Where are we... How did we..." Victoria whispered, her eyes wide and her mouth open with shock and amazement.
"I'll tell you later." Kris said. She turned to her bodyguard who was now busy looking at their surroundings. It was dark now, and Nelly informed her that Xanadu's sun set in a few hours ago.
"I heard footsteps coming. I had to get us out quick." Harry said. He looked around, wondering where the rest of Kris' squad had gone.
"How did you do it?" Victoria asked Harry, noticing him for the first time.
Instead of answering, Harry flicked his wrist and his wand flew into his wrist. He waved his wand in front of Kris and himself and finished the movement with an upward flick of his wrist.
A moment later Kris found herself in her space suit that they were forced to discard earlier.
"Switching spell." Harry explained to Kris who looked annoyed again for not being warned. He turned to the young woman who had her mouth open and smiled. "It's magic."
"Are you sure we're going on the right direction?" Kris asked.
"I'm sure." Harry said. "They went this way."
"I don't know why they weren't there on the rendezvous" Kris said. "Either they were forced to move deeper into the forest due to the enemy, or something else. Nelly, do you have contact with the Wasp or the other squads?"
"I'm sorry Kris, I can't detect anything without the Wasp to relay the signal."
"So what else can you do?" Victoria Peterwald asked.
"I can fly." Harry said before he continued to create a path through the dense vegetation with his transfigured machete.
"Wow." Victoria sighed. She had pestered Harry questions for the past hour, once she saw firsthand Harry's abilities and power. Harry had been evasive when she asked about his past, but readily answered questions about his other talents.
Their surroundings grew darker once they moved deeper into the jungle but Harry solved that problem when an orb of light floated from his hand and gave light to their party.
"Wow." Victoria sighed again. She glanced at her once hated enemy and now friend and ally. "You're so lucky Kris. You don't have to worry about enemies when you have a bodyguard like him."
"Harry's talents are certainly useful." Kris said. "But it's his character and bravery that I value the most."
"Just character and bravery?" Victoria asked. "I've got to say Kris, you sure have a penchant for good looking bodyguards. I, on the other hand, was always assigned by big brutes with absolutely no personality or sense of humor."
Kris blushed and pinched Victoria, causing her to giggle. She quickly glanced at Harry and breathed a sigh of relief. He was too far ahead to have heard what Victoria said.
"You never change." Kris said to her friend. "A few hours ago you were being held prisoner by a deranged cult, and now you're teasing me."
"I'd probably cry again later." Victoria admitted. "Right now, I'm just relieved to be free and in the company of friends and new allies. But Kris, trust me, I'll have my revenge on those pigs. I'll make them pay."
"Don't worry Vicky. I have some issues with them myself." Kris said. She'd make those bastards pay for the humiliation she and Harry were forced to endure.
"Something's ahead." Harry whispered, and immediately all three crouched down on the jungle floor. The ball of light that Harry conjured to give them better visibility immediately vanished, plunging the three into darkness.
"What is it?" Kris asked. Harry moved between the girls and grabbed both of their wrists. Kris shivered as a cold sensation spread throughout her body from her wrist. A few seconds later, she realized that her arm was now transparent, as it copied the background beneath it.
"Impressive." Victoria said, looking at her hands and body. She was like a human chameleon, though not completely invisible, she was impossible to spot when she remained perfectly still.
"Lie low on the ground and keep quiet." Harry instructed. "Someone's coming towards us."
Kris just nodded, though she wondered if Harry could still see her in the gloom. She felt Victoria's hand on her back and slowly the two women moved under a brush while Harry hid behind a tree trunk across the two women.
Kris patted her thigh, and finally found her handgun that was fixed to her leg. Luckily, the Abdicationists didn't think of searching their space suits for hidden weapons, and it was something Kris was grateful for.
Even though she had Harry protecting her and Victoria, she felt better holding a gun and knowing she had the power to protect herself without relying on someone. There was something different when holding a weapon, a feeling of empowerment that no bodyguard could ever replace.
After a few tense minutes of waiting, the three escapees finally heard voices heading towards them.
"I swear I saw a light here brother Matthew. It has to be them!" A man in white toga robes lined with red said.
"You drank too much again. Nothing's here." The second man called Brother Matthew, also in toga robes, replied. "You sure this is where you've seen them?"
"I... I think so?" The first man said uncertainly. "I think it was a flicker of light."
"It's probably a reflection of the moon light." Brother Matthew shrugged. "You're spending too much time with the sacred flowers, it's making you hallucinate. Next time, stop hanging around the greenhouses hoping to get a whiff and start taking your duties seriously! It was on your watch that the prisoners escaped!"
"I don't know how they managed to get out! It must be a new technology developed by the unbelievers!"
"No matter what our blind brothers and sisters invent, they cannot escape judgment day. We will be the future of humanity!"
The first man nodded and continued on the path, chattering loudly and proclaiming their beliefs while they held Greenfeld issued M-6 rifles awkwardly in their arms.
In front of Kris and Victoria, two stones roughly the size of a man's head slowly levitated. The two women followed the movement of the two rocks, having an idea about what Harry – the only one capable of this feat, was planning.
The rocks levitated high above the two men, and Kris and Victoria anticipated what will happen next. One of them suddenly fell, missing one of the pursuer's head by mere inches when he paused and adjusted the strap of his rifle.
"What was that?" Brother Matthew quickly looked around, and noticed two large rocks that he was sure wasn't there before.
"I told you so!"
Both Abdicators quickly raised their weapons, scanning the area for signs of their escaped prisoners.
"Come out sisters." The first man said. "Surrender and you will not be hurt."
"We promise." Brother Matthew added. The senior abdicator thought he saw movement at the corner of his eye, but when he used the light emitting from his newly acquired rifle to see who was lurking behind him only revealed shrubs and vegetation.
They needed to capture the two women, not only were they young and capable of childbirth, but the newly captured prisoner was a princess of one of the heretic factions. The great guides were planning to give her to their new allies as a gift, but after she had given their settlement a few new children to replenish their dwindling population and increase the genetic diversity on their planet.
He saw his fellow brother suddenly crumple down on the ground, unmoving. He was about to step towards his comrade when he felt blinding hot pain as something hard struck him behind the head.
"Took you long enough." Kris said as Harry dropped the disillusionment charm hiding them.
"I didn't want to risk using stunners." Harry said, quickly binding the two guards with thick ropes that materialized with a wave of his hand. "There were other search parties near them a few minutes ago, and they might see the red light that the curse gives off."
"Why'd you miss with those rocks?" Victoria asked, still amazed at what Harry could do.
"It was too dark, and they were a bit far." Harry said. "You had better position than I had."
"What did you knock them out with?" Kris asked.
"I summoned the rocks back." Harry said. "I think I might have overpowered the summoning charm. It's really hard for delicate spells without a wand."
"Don't feel any mercy for them." Victoria said, kicking one of the bound guards hard on the ribs. "I remember this one's face, he kept on groping me when no one was looking."
"They didn't... violate you?" Kris asked.
"They haven't forced themselves upon me if that's what you're asking." Victoria said. "They had to wait until I was purified in some ceremony that was supposed to happen tonight."
"I think I got an invitation to that." Kris said. Her fists were shaking with anger at fear, dreading what would have happened if Harry wasn't there.
"No doubt they would have impregnated us." Victoria said. "Still, even if I was off limits, didn't mean those men can't grope a breast or a feel of my bum. I may have enjoyed a good rump in the sack before daddy forced me to join the navy..."
"I bet." Kris said. "The dresses you wore were the most scandalous I've seen, and I've seen Earth fashion and their disregard for modesty."
"Those were the good times." Victoria said, smiling a bit. She turned to Kris and gave the slightly older woman a hug again. "I was dreading this day, but thank god that you came Kris, and right on time too."
"It must be the Longknife Luck." Kris replied, now she too had moisture in her eyes. She could understand what Victoria had gone through, she experienced it firsthand with Arctucus forcing her to strip naked in front of his men.
Kris felt terror and fear then, even though she didn't show it. She couldn't fathom enduring that treatment for weeks, alone and knowing that in time she would be used and abused by these men. She hugged Victoria back, glad that she was safe.
The two girls stopped hugging when they heard a discreet cough behind them. They slowly broke apart and saw Harry watching them with amusement.
"Girls... they never really change." Harry said. He had seen how Lavender and Parvati, his fellow Gryffindors fight in the morning and then later reconcile in the afternoons, followed by hugging and crying, exactly what Kris and Victoria were doing.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Victoria asked.
15 kilometers east of Abdicationist main settlement
Jack Montoya waited patiently while his scout climbed down the large tree that he had used to gain a vantage point. Behind Jack, four squads followed him in two lines, warily looking at the surroundings, expecting an ambush at any moment.
The scout jumped the remaining ten feet to the ground and moved besides Jack.
"Well?" Jack Montoya, former bodyguard of Kris Longknife and commander of the marine company attached to the Wasp.
"I'm detecting faint traces of residual heat east of our position sir." The scout reported. "About ten thousand meters."
"Are you sure it isn't wildfire or something that occurs naturally? Jack asked.
"No sir." The scout projected a holographic map, showing their position and their surroundings. "The smoke and steam is too controlled, coming from one place."
"Strange." Jack frowned. "If what you saw is correct, then there's another settlement we haven't detected before when we came here."
"Could they be somewhere in there sir?" The scout asked. "The princess and Squad one?"
"No, I saw Kris steering her LAC to the river. She's nearer to the large settlement we visited before."
"Do you think that they're alright?"
"I'm sure of it." Jack replied, no doubt in his mind. Kris's squad had some of the best marines in the company, including Bruce who was a very capable soldier and sniper. She also had Harry, and Jack was sure that he wouldn't allow any harm come to Kris and her men.
After their drop, most of the LACs followed Jack's route to avoid the Itechee fighters that came from nowhere. Kris's command to have them fly under the cover of the forest canopy was smart, however not all LAC pilots were former skiff racing champions.
They had evaded the Itechee fighters, but one LAC clipped its wing on a tree and crashed and most of the squad on board suffered significant injuries. Jack made the injured squad guard their hidden LACs while the rest of the company headed towards the settlement.
The Wasp had suddenly disappeared from contact, and the last transmission that Drago sent to them before he was cut off was that they were being pursued by an unidentified ship.
"Let's investigate it." Jack decided. "It could be the base of those Itechee fighters."
"What about the mission?" Penny asked. She and Abby spent most of their time trying to establish contact with Kris, but something was interrupting their signals.
"Knowing Kris, she has probably proceeded with the mission on her own." Abby said.
"With only eleven men?" The scout asked, doubt evident in his voice. "That's impossible!"
"Yeah. And one of them is Harry." Jack pointed out.
The marines within hearing distance nodded, a bit of spirit returning to them. They had all feared that their precious leader and princess, who had courageously led them on so many battles, might have been captured and killed by the Abdicators or the Itechee. But then, Kris had Harry, the mysterious young man whom Kris had awakened in the ruins of an ancient castle.
Penny nodded and signaled the company to move on, heading to the unidentified settlement near Kris' position.
Kris held her hand up in a closed fist, and immediately Harry and Victoria crouched down behind her.
"What is it?" Harry asked.
"I detected movement." Kris whispered back. She flipped the visor over her eyes and immediately showed the body heat of her surroundings. She looked around, and finally spotted something, too large to be a forest creature holding their position above a ridge.
She suddenly had an idea, and turned on her communicator. "Nelly, what can you tell from your scans?"
"They're definitely human." Nelly replied. "I'm detecting ten heat signatures. That could be them Kris."
"Can you try hailing them?" Kris asked.
"Something's still interfering with my signal." The computer sounded frustrated.
"Even at short range communications?" Kris asked.
Kris looked back to her companions, only to see Harry standing above her and staring intently at the position where she was looking.
"What are you doing?" Victoria asked curiously.
"I'm just memorizing the details of that location." Harry said, flipping up his visor. "There, all done. I've found a perfect spot."
"Perfect for what?" Victoria asked.
Kris felt Harry grip her wrist and she heard Victoria mutter. "Not again!"
Bruce spied the three figures heading towards him with his scope, trying to decide if that was the princess and her bodyguard. They were too far away to see more details, and the only thing he could tell was that there were three heat signatures below the ridge.
One person stood up and Bruce aimed his scope directly on the person's head, wondering if they could see him.
"What do you think?" He asked Corporal Remie who was crouching down beside him. They had been forced to retreat deeper and deeper into the forest as dozens of men suddenly headed to the tree line, trying to flush out their position. He was confident he and the ten marines could have engaged them, when a company of Itechee warriors appeared, talking with the Abdicationists.
It was the first time he had seen a real live Itechee Warrior, and they were even stranger than in the pictures with their eight legs, four eyes and four arms. Each was roughly the size of an Earth horse or a Wardhaven Wakku, only armed to the teeth with heavy weapons. Bruce had no choice but to fall back, and trusted Harry to protect their princess.
"It's too far, and your scope's more powerful than our visors." Remie answered. "Should I head down and investigate?"
"That won't be necessary Corporal."
Bruce and his men, all crouching down along the ridge immediately turned around to see the source of the voice. Remie, in her shock fell on her butt and her rifle rolled to the feet of one Kris Longknife.
Bruce looked on with his mouth open, and checked his scope only to see that the three heat signatures he was tracking was missing.
"Relax Sergeant." Kris said. "I'm glad to see your are all fine."
"Princess Longknife!" Remie gasped. "You're safe!"
"I told you I'd be fine." Kris said, slightly smiling. She took off her helmet and sat down, tired from walking all night. "What's the status?"
"We hid deeper into the forest when the enemy tried to circle around us." Bruce reported. "Also mam, we've spotted Itechee warriors patrolling alongside those cult members."
"How many?" Kris asked.
"It was a company mam, a whole company!" Remie answered. "And I know we've studied them extensively, but it's completely different once you see one in person!"
"This just confirms that the abdicators have allied themselves with the Itechee." Kris said, looking at her marines. "But the real puzzle is what the Itechee want with a backward planet far out beyond Human space?"
"It's a god damn fortress." Jack Montoya cursed as he flipped off his visor.
"It's probably a staging point for a full thrust invasion." Abby mused. "Why would they spend so much time and logistics building this monstrosity?"
Jack and the rest of the Marines finally reached the area where the scout reported earlier as having signs of smoke and heat. What they found shocked them all, when they saw an enormous fortress, cylindrical in shape looming over the tops of the trees.
To their surprise, the large fortress was capable of lowering itself underground, becoming totally undetectable to even close orbital surface scans.
The ground shook again as the enormous fortress shaped like a pyramid started to lower itself, but not before launching a pair of Itechee fighters that would presumably patrol the surrounding area.
It was the first time that Jack and the marines have seen the famous Itechee aliens in person, and they were all astounded by the sheer size of the aliens.
Abby thought that they looked like centaurs, (she had always bought fantasy programs for her niece Cara who loved them) but with eight legs instead of four, with four arms and for eyes with a humanoid torso. She suddenly knew why these aliens came close to annihilating the human race. One on one, a human wouldn't stand much of a chance against such massive creatures.
They clearly used their bulk to their advantage, carrying heavy high energy weapons on their backs that no ordinary human could carry on his own. And if the rumors were, these Itechee were capable of running as fast as most vehicles, making them far deadlier in a fight in an open field.
The pair of fighters that had launched flew past them and Jack thought they were in the clear when suddenly, both turned back and started to circle exactly above them.
"This can't be good." Jack muttered. He heard a large wail coming out from the fortress and Itechee warriors started pouring out of the building, and moving towards them.
"Our cover's blown!" Jack shouted. "Let's head back to the ridge! Make sure to stay under the trees or those Fighters would be able to mark you!"
"Squad four, suppression fire now!" Penny added.
Squad four fired grenades and after the explosions, fired their M-6s on full auto, trying to slow down their pursuers. The rest of the squads rushed to the retreat point, while Jack's squad paused mid way and gave cover fire while squad four retreated.
The firepower of the marine company was effective, pinning down the Itechee and the aliens were forced to slow down their advance while they also returned fire. Yellow beams and from blaster fire and repulsor cannons rained down on the Wardhaven Marines, forcing them to take cover.
Jack used the terrain to his advantage, leading his men deeper and deeper into the trees where the vegetation grew dense, making it difficult for the Itechee to pursue.
"Get your butts here on the double!" Jack yelled. He and his squad aimed their M-6s at the Itechee closest to squad four, while two of his marines launched grenades at the enemy formation.
"Motherfucker." One of the marines who launched the grenade whispered. The Itechee merely galloped right through the wall of fire that the grenades produced, closer to squad four.
"We need more firepower. Get the pulse cannon ready." Jack ordered. Squad two ran to Jack's position and three marines hurried to assemble the pulse cannon.
"Hurry up." Jack said.
"Thirty seconds sir!"
Jack scowled and looked at squad four. They would soon be over run by the Itechee if he didn't do anything.
"Aim for the trees!" Jack ordered the grenadiers. "Bring them down!"
The two marines fired their grenades at the trees, and the resulting impact sent them crashing down on the forest floor. The explosions that followed a second later burned the wood, creating hazardous obstacles for the Itechee. The smoke also provided excellent cover for his men to retreat.
"Thank you sir." The squad leader of squad four said as he reached their position, gasping for breath.
"Pulse cannon ready sir!"
Jack glanced at the assembled gun, mounted on a large tripod operated by the three men.
"Give 'em hell." Jack said.
The leader of squad two nodded and aimed the pulse cannon towards the Itechee that he could see through the smoke. He pressed the trigger and the weapon fired a massive pulse of plasma energy.
A moment later Jack crouched down as a wall of superheated air rushed towards him from the resulting explosion. He could feel the heat through his armor and wondered what the Itechee were doing a hundred meters back at ground zero.
Jack smiled when he saw the result after the dust and smoke cleared. He had to thank Kris' great grandfathers, General Tordon Trouble and Ray Longknife for insisting that they bring along the heavy artillery. They were veterans of the Itechee war and knew how to kill them, quick and fast.
"Alright! Pack up and move out to the ridge. Hurry before they regroup!"
Penny nodded and the rest of the marines hurried towards their retreat point. Some of the marines have suffered injuries, and comrades helped their limping brothers and sisters through the forest.
"What do we do now?" Penny asked. They had gained a significant distance from their pursuers, and had now moved deeper into forest, to an area where they could see both the main Xanadu settlement and the path from the hidden Itechee base.
"We hide, and pray those Itechee don't find us." Jack said. "No fire tonight marines."
Penny just nodded, knowing that using fire would only give away their position. She didn't enjoy eating electronically warmed food packs, but she knew stealth was crucial in this operation. Her thoughts drifted to her fellow Marine lieutenant, Kris Longknife, and hoped she and her squad was safe.
Sergeant Bruce was ahead, making sure that the path the rest of the squad would take was clear while Victoria chewed on the energy bars that corporal Remie gave her.
Unlike Kris and the rest of the Wardhaven marines, Victoria Peterwald-Smythe was relatively new to Navy life, with little training on physical conditioning. When asked, Victoria admitted that her joining the navy as a junior ensign (the lowest officer rank in the navy) was just a ploy by her father to boost morale of the Greenfeld navy. It was also known that the Greenfeld alliance had a patriarchal society, meaning most of its member planets had more traditionalist views and policies regarding women.
"Why did you stay in the navy then?" Harry asked. He found Victoria to be quite the character, inquisitive and eager. She hadn't quit trying to learn more about him since he and Kris rescued the young woman from the abdicators.
"Father thought it was a good publicity." The daughter of the first citizen replied. "It was such a big deal when Kris here became for famous for winning many battles. I admit most of the problems she encountered were caused by my late brother and father."
"Meaning assassination attempts, hired goons and elaborate traps." Kris added.
"And don't forget implanted computer viruses." Nelly added.
"Wow, you were like bitter enemies back then." Harry observed. He couldn't imagine being that friendly and cordial with Draco Malfoy, his bitter enemy during school and early on during the war. Draco had joined Snape to spy for the order of the Phoenix, and was there when Harry finally defeated Voldemort in an epic duel.
He looked at the two women that Corporal Remie told him had a combined net worth that could buy a small planet. He had seen how friendly the two ere to each other, and wondered what had transpired for bitter enemies to suddenly become friends.
"I was naïve back then." Victoria said. She finished her energy bar and drank from a bottle of water that one of the marines had given her. "I thought Kris killed my brother, and I wanted revenge."
"What?" Harry gaped.
"It turns out that he didn't." Victoria said, giving Kris a small smile.
"But I was still mad at her, even jealous. But Kris kept foiling my plans. It's that damn Longknife luck." Victoria added.
"There's no such thing." Kris replied. "I had experience Vicky, I've been in the Navy for three years and know how to take care of myself."
"And I was a spoiled heiress who slept around." Victoria added. "I had no discipline back then, and I never listened to my father or his advisors."
"Henry Peterwald-Smythe the twelfth even sent you his senior advisors?" Kris asked.
"He did."Victoria nodded. "I was the remaining heir, and he didn't want me making hasty decisions. I was annoyed with them and so I drove them off by teasing them with a little bit of flirting."
"You can't imagine how fast an old, married man will immediately leave you when you flash them your breasts." Victoria grinned.
"You already did that back then." Kris said. "Your dresses in the social parties were notoriously scandalous. I saw you a few times then, and in the news feeds."
"That's not baring, I didn't show my nipples." Victoria argued.
"Vicky, it was only your nipples that were covered with those strips of cloths that you call evening gowns." Kris rolled her eyes at the younger heiress.
She didn't tell her how she felt inadequate meeting Victoria for the first time, with Victoria's full and voluptuous figure and those large breasts that were practically insulting Kris and her small chest. Thankfully Kris somehow got over her insecurities, but she had to admit Victoria was a lucky woman. Even now with the loose gray robes she was wearing, Victoria still radiated sensuality and sex.
"Kris, you know how hot it gets in New Eden. Garden parties were the rage back then, and my dresses were very comfortable."
"Yeah, and they made many men happy that night." Kris said dryly. "You're so luck Vicky, you don't know how I wish I'd grow a cup size or two."
"That again Kris?" Vicky sighed. "You don't know how much I love your lithe form. I don't know how you keep your figure..."
The conversation between the two heiresses moved to breasts sizes and their advantages and disadvantages. Harry, confused and unwilling to hear more of the girly talk, increased his pace until he was walking alongside Sergeant Bruce. Bruce had just finished scouting the path ahead and was taking a drink of water from his canteen.
"Is everything fine?" Harry asked the elite marine sergeant.
Bruce nodded and capped his canteen. "Everything's clear down the path. If what you say is true, we might meet up with Lieutenant Montoya's force tomorrow at the earliest.
Harry had used his point me spell to guide the squad to Jack's position. Using geological maps that Nelly supplied for them, they had figured the fastest and safest route to get to their comrades.
The two men decided to break camp, seeing that most of the squad were winded, and they had been walking straight through the afternoon without stopping. Harry knew how heavy the space suits were, and added to that was the M-6 rifle and the basic logistics pack that each marine was required to carry.
"This looks suitable." Bruce said, pointing to a spot. Harry agreed, the area was covered by the trees, and they had a good vantage point to prevent anyone from sneaking up on them.
The young wizard added his own protections, a notice me not charm and perimeter ward for additional security before he too settled down.
"Make sure no one wanders off." Harry said to Bruce. "I've added a notice-me-not charm that extends for around fifty feet in all directions. If anyone except me wanders outside that perimeter, they won't be able to see the camp."
"That's a pretty weird name for your magical trick." Kris said. She handed Harry her canteen and he gratefully took a long drink of water.
Harry immediately spat the liquid he felt in his mouth after taking a gulp and glared at Kris. "What's this?"
"Its water added with the necessary salts and nutrients. The Medic wants us each to drink one full bottle." Kris said with amusement.
Harry nodded and drained the canteen quickly, he didn't want to savor the weird taste of the liquid. "That tastes horrible."
Kris snorted and capped the canteen and tucked it back to her belt. "You're worse than my mother, I swear."
"I just want a nice good drink of water, not that contraption that the medic had concocted." Harry countered. He noticed that beside the two sentries, everyone had taken off their chest piece armor and he quickly followed suit.
"That's better." Harry said. The armor was really bulky, and it was hard to relax wearing it while sitting.
Kris had all but detached the clamps on hers, when she realized something. "Oh."
"What's wrong?" Victoria asked.
"I just forgot that I wasn't wearing anything underneath." Kris said.
"Why's that?" Victoria asked. "We may serve in different navies, but I know that it's uncomfortable wearing your space armor without any underwear. It's supposed to be unhygienic and hard on the bits."
"It is." Kris said. "My bare butt's freezing with the suit's cooling systems."
"So what happened Mam?" Remie asked.
"Everything went according to plan." Kris said. "We allowed ourselves to be captured so that we could speak first with the Abdicationist leaders then find your location, Vicky."
"Oh. They stripped searched you didn't they?" Victoria asked.
"They did." Kris admitted. The princess of Wardhaven tried to make light of the situation and added. "And I know for a fact that Harry got a nice look. I didn't realize my new bodyguard's a pervert."
"Funny." Harry remarked as the females of the squad giggled.
"But Kris peeked too!" Nelly said suddenly. "I observed her looking at Harry when they were both naked! I saw how your eyes widened when you saw Harry!"
Everyone was now looking at Kris and Harry, with eyes wide with shock and amusement. Bruce and a few male marines gave Harry winks and thumbs up signs when Kris wasn't facing them, while the females were looking at him with keen interest. Some were even appraising him, wondering if Kris was impressed with what she saw.
"Did your record it Nelly?" Victoria asked.
"Sure did!" Nelly answered cheerfully. "I'm going to show it to Cara! I read about human education, and it's about time she studies proper sexual education!"
"Nelly! Delete it now!" Kris shouted. "And Harry, conjure up my clothes."
"I can't." Harry said.
"And why not?" Kris demanded.
"If I conjure your clothes, they'll be gone within a few hours. Conjured objects are like that you see. And these clothes we wear have a different material that I'm not familiar with. Technically I haven't actually finished wizarding school..."
"But you made our space armors appear!" Kris insisted, unaware of the confused faces around her due to Harry's answers. "Surely a pair of undergarments is easy!"
"I used a switching spell, and that's different." Harry said, expecting that would explain things. He looked at Kris' and the other's faces and realized no one here would be able to understand what he was saying. He figured that explaining the differences of Transfiguration and Charms and what category the switching spell is would only confuse them further.
"Just... I can't do it, okay? Let's leave it at that." Harry said. He quickly walked ahead and the group resumed walking.
"Nelly, don't think I forgot what I said earlier. Delete that data!" Kris snapped.
"Delete it or I'll have Sam and Aunt Tru purge that data from your system when we get back!" Kris threatened while the marines watch her with amusement, they were used to these types of argument between the princess and her supercomputer.
'Nelly please?' Kris said, using her neural link with her computer. 'Delete the part of me naked. It will only ruin my reputation if someone was suddenly able to get their hands on you and download it.'
'Okay Kris.' Nelly said, seeing the logic in her owner's statement. 'Kris? Should I delete Harry's images and video during the strip search?'
'Just how many Video Nanos did you launch?' Kris asked.
'Just a few. One focused on you and the other on Harry.' Nelly answered.
'Keep Harry's file okay?' Kris asked. Her cheeks blushed red as she watched her bodyguard walking ahead of her.
'Yes Kris.' Nelly said. 'Should I store it in Kris' naughty folder?'
"Nelly!" Kris said out loud. "Delete the file I specified!"
Victoria was fascinated, the computers manufactured in the Greenfeld alliance weren't given a personality, or as sophisticated as Nelly is. She was impressed with seemingly how human Nelly interacted with her fellow humans.
"Fine, I'm deleting it right now from my memory banks." Nelly said.
"Insane." Harry declared. "Girls are absolutely insane."
Bruce and the other males nodded seriously, as if they understood Harry and sympathized with his plight.
Harry volunteered to take the least desirable shift for guard duty. He needed the time anyway to learn more of his new power. While it was true that he was a wizard of considerable skill, he was nowhere near the level of his mentor, Dumbledore or Lord Voldemort.
The war broke out too soon, and Dumbledore was forced to lead the Order of the Phoenix to fight Voldemort, leaving Harry's training incomplete. When Dumbledore was murdered, things immediately became dire. No one was left to keep Voldemort in check, and the courageous few, like Kingsley Shacklebolt and Filius Flitwick perished against the Dark Lord's might.
The pressure for Harry to step up increased and that was when those mysterious figures in hooded robes approached him, offering the power to defeat the Dark Lord... for a price.
Harry closed his eyes and extended his senses, clearing his thoughts and emotions. Unlike in this world, or any world since had awakened, he couldn't feel the even one single presence of a fellow wielder of magic.
He remembered the time in the forbidden forest when the four hooded figures finished giving him the promised 'power' to defeat the Dark Lord.
" That's it?" Harry stared at his hand. His body glowed for a moment and then nothing...
"It is done, warrior."
"I thought you'd give me the power to defeat Lord Voldemort!" Harry exclaimed. He didn't even feel a change in his power levels, or knowledge of deadly spells to match Voldemort's.
"We did." The hooded man answered. "We gave your body the knowledge it needs to wield the universal energies."
"Universal Energies?" Harry asked. "What crap is this?"
"Courageous, but woefully ignorant." One of the hooded figures remarked.
Harry glared at the figure, who seemed unaffected and merely stood there, his robes perfectly still despite the gentle breeze that picked up.
"Spells, words of power, rituals, wands." The first hooded stepped closer to Harry. "They allow you to draw upon the Universal energies, converting them into your 'magic'."
"What if you didn't convert them into Magic?" He continued, staring at Harry. The young wizard stepped back, seeing the hooded man's eyes for the first time. They didn't have irises at all, instead they glowed with an unearthly yellow, full of inner power. "What if you directly use that energy, and you store them upon your body as a vessel?"
"What are you?" Harry asked.
"Questions about us are not part of the bargain, young one." The man said. "We will collect payment once your task is done. Fare you well, warrior."
A bright light engulfed Harry and he found himself back at the headquarters, standing in front of the fire. What just happened? Was it a dream?
"Harry?" Hermione called to him, wondering why he stood so still. He looked up when he heard his name being called again."Harry!"
"What are you doing just standing there? Are you alright?"
His eyes snapped open and he looked at the source his voice. He saw Kris who looked worried, immediately gasp when she saw him.
"Harry, your eyes, they're glowing!" Kris said, shocked.
"Sorry." Harry said. He closed his eyes for a moment and they returned back to normal after a moment. "I still don't have the hang of this."
"What do you mean?" Kris asked. "Isn't that magic?"
"No." Harry said. He raised his left hand and stared at it for a moment, watching as orbs of energy appeared around his palm and fingers. "This, is something entirely different."
"Just how powerful are you?" Kris asked.
Harry didn't reply and she continued. "Harry, I saw you destroy an Itechee fighter with this... magic of yours. You could have handled all those Abdicators without breaking a sweat."
"Not really." Harry replied. At Kris' disbelieving look he smiled. "I'd probably sweat a drop or two. You know it's awfully hot and humid down on those underground tunnels."
Kris just smiled back and decided to join him on watch duty. She watched the small orbs dance around Harry, mesmerized by the different colors of light they gave off.
"So what do you want to talk about?" Harry asked. The orbs of light disappeared, and he kicked pebbles on the ground and sat down. "You didn't come here to discuss about how powerful I am."
"How'd you know?" Kris asked. "Don't tell me you can read minds?"
"I haven't managed to get the hang of that trick yet." Harry said.
Kris didn't know whether he was joking or not and sat beside him. "I was just wondering why you weren't using your powers all the time to help us."
"You do know about my history right?" Harry asked. "I remember we talked a little about my past while we were on Earth."
"A bit." Kris said, remembering their 'date' where Harry was eager to explore and see what happened to humanity. "I don't know most of the details, though Nelly has a copy of the articles and newspapers about you. You were a prominent figure in your society weren't you? They called you the boy-who-lived?"
Harry smiled at his old name. In truth he was glad that the people here only referred to him using his own name, and not some silly hyphenated title. Here he was just Harry, but he never he realized what was the cost of achieving that wish.
"That was me." Harry said. "I was responsible for his first defeat when Voldemort. He attacked my home when I was a baby, and killed my parents. He was about to kill me, but then something happened, something he didn't expect. Due to an ancient protection that my mother gave me before she died, the killing curse that Voldemort sent me bounced back to him."
"So that's how they called you the boy-who-lived." Kris guessed.
"Yeah. Ever since then people saw me as a symbol, someone who defeated a dark wizard so powerful that they feared to even say his name." Harry said.
"He-who-must-not-be-Named?" Kris said. She remembered a particular issue of the daily prophet where it kept referring to someone, but refused to name the person directly. This had gotten a few laughs from professor Mfumbo and his scientists.
"I thought you said you only know a little about my past?" Harry asked. "Anyway, when Voldemort came back again, that's when things went sour. People turned to me and my mentor, demanding that we defeat Voldemort and his followers as soon as possible."
"Why don't they fight this Voldemort themselves?" Kris asked. "Why should they place that burden upon your shoulders?
"Because I was a symbol. A pillar of light, the next Albus Dumbledore." Harry said. "The society where I lived was difficult to understand. My mentor, Albus Dumbledore was a great wizard, powerful and charismatic. He was the headmaster of the magical school I studied in, and defeated the previous Dark Lord before Voldemort."
"Albus Dumbledore grew in stature, and then gradually over time, as he protected the wizarding world against dark wizards and witches. Our society grew complacent, and began to rely on him whenever something comes up that threatens their safety."
"Let me guess, it back fired in the end?" Kris asked.
"It did. He told me a few weeks before he died that it was one of his greatest mistakes. His love for society blinded him to what was happening." Harry said. "Overtime, the auror forces – that's the equivalent of a police force, grew complacent. New recruits were less talented than their retiring counterparts, and the magical government didn't pass new laws for the betterment of society and even encouraged racism and bigotry. Dumbledore tried his best to fight those laws, but it wasn't enough, the magical government eventually grew corrupt and stagnant."
"That's dangerous. It's the perfect breeding ground for rebels and terrorists." Kris observed.
"The wizarding world was caught off-guard when a new dark lord appeared. They were ill equipped to handle Voldemort and his guerilla tactics, while the local wizards and witches immediately demanded for Dumbledore to confront him."
"What happened?" Kris asked.
"Imagine to everyone's shock, that the duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort came to a standstill. But Dumbledore admitted to me before that Voldemort was more powerful than he is." Harry said.
"So when your mentor Dumbledore died, these people looked up to you to fight Voldemort." Kris said. "That must have been hard."
"You wouldn't believe it. Most wizards and witches actually blamed me for their suffering."
"How could they? You're just one man!" Kris exclaimed. "Why didn't you run? You could have hid yourself somewhere on the other side of the planet."
"I'm not a coward, and besides, I need to protect my friends, some have sacrificed their lives, everything to help me. Running would only dishonor their memories." Harry stood. "Besides, that son of a bitch killed my parents. Do you think I'd walk away from a fight?"
Kris shook her head in agreement.
"In the end I defeated him, not because of the wizards and witches telling me to save them, but for my friends, and a chance that I'd finally live my own life without anyone meddling." Harry said. "But then they came, and I had to pay my due."
"Do you realize now why I don't help your men with every single thing? It's obvious that you, and the Wasp's crew and the Wardhaven marines are good at what they do. If I help with every little thing, every clash and engagement, then they'd let their guard down. You have surrounded yourself with amazing people Kris."
"I tend to pick the best to work for me." Kris smiled.
"Yeah, I'm the best!" Nelly added.
"Of course Nelly. No one even comes close." Harry replied. He turned to Kris and looked straight at her eyes. "But that doesn't mean I won't help. And I'm your bodyguard Kris, so rest assured you have my protection."
Harry's eyes glowed for a moment before he smiled. "Come one, Bruce already had his six hours. It's his shift."
Kris accepted his offered arm and the two quietly headed back to the center of the camp. The princess of Wardhaven briefly squeezed her bodyguard's arm, her heart lighter for what she had learned tonight.
Morning, Xanadu, Present time
A projectile slammed into Lieutenant Penny Lien's shoulder, sending her tumbling down the ridge.
"Penny!" Jack shouted. "Medic!"
"On it sir!" The medic ran after Penny's rolling body down the slope. The other marines increased their rate of fire to provide the medic cover as he struggled to reach Lieutenant Penny Lien, whose body was exposed to weapons fire.
Jack's marine company had made it to a hill where they knew had the best defensive position. The journey took the better part of the day, and during that time they had suffered quite a few casualties.
The fighters started to carpet bomb the part of the forest, clearing out trees to make a path for the hulking Itechee warriors. Two of his scouts were caught in the bombardment, and more suffered bruises, shrapnel wounds from the Itechee fire.
Jack's M-6 hummed as it spit out deadly rounds, primed to reach optimum distance for maximum effect. Meanwhile, his snipers were hidden beside boulders and rocks, raining down hell on the Itechee, trying to slow down their advance.
"Jack, they're turning around for a bombing run!" Abby shouted.
The marines fired fragmentation grenades on the Itechee nearest them. The explosion killed the bolder warriors, while the wall of fire confused the fighters as they descended on the Marine company's position. The fighters dropped their bomb at the wrong position from the result of the grenade explosions, though it was still quite near that one of the scouts at the front flew away from the blast wave.
Jack paused and helped the female scout up, her space armor taking the brunt of the damage of the explosion.
"Yes sir! Though I'd feel this tomorrow." The female marine scout said looking at her battered armor.
"If we're alive by tomorrow." Jack said. He activated his visor and took aim at the Itechee. "Snipe mode everyone! Save your rounds!"
The marines ducked behind the ridge as the Itechee brought out their own heavy guns. Jack focused his visor, trying to identify where the heavy gun was located. There!
A large Itechee Warrior that had an energy cannon mounted on his back, stood a few kilometers away, while two smaller Itechee warriors assisted him in firing the weapon.
"Can anyone get a bead on that artillery?" Jack shouted.
"On it sir!" A pair of snipers, carefully hidden higher up the ridge took aim and fired. The bullets reached the warrior, but its armor was enough to repel the high velocity bullets.
The large Itechee Warrior was forced back a few steps from the recoil as its mounted cannon fired again.
The impact was closer to their position and Jack ducked while rocks and earth rained down on him. He inspected his men and grew worried for their safety. He knew the next shot would soon reach them.
He borrowed the female scout's sniper rifle and aimed at the large Itechee wreaking havoc on their position. His finger was on the trigger and he aimed for the neck of the warrior, hoping the armor there was thin.
The Itechee warrior suddenly moved backwards and it buckled. It opened its mouth in agony and it looked to be favoring its two rear right legs. Someone else was firing at it!
Jack looked for the source and activated the infra red visor, hoping to see the missing squad that had the princess of Wardhaven with them. He finally spotted them, roughly three kilometers from his position. They were arrayed in pairs of two in a rough line, firing in bursts before ducking for cover when the Itechee fired back.
"Sir! We're running out of ammunition!" A gunnery sergeant said.
"Then make each bullet count!" Jack snapped. He grunted when a projectile glanced off his right shoulder, and he shook of the pain and switched his M-6 rifle to his left hand. The Itechee were close now, he knew that once the eight legged aliens reached their position, they would be slaughtered.
"The fighters are coming again!" Abby shouted.
Jack looked up and saw three faint speck dots heading towards them, determined to make their bombing run count. The marine lieutenant cursed, he knew there was no time to fall back. He just prayed for luck and continued firing, emptying his clip in a matter of seconds.
Jack thought the bombing run had begun when he saw a speck of light, far brighter than the energy weapons being used in the battle. A second later Jack heard a loud rumbling noise, and he looked up in shock to see the large fortress looming over them slowly collapse to the ground.
Gradually, the firefight stopped as everyone on the battlefield looked back at the large dust cloud where the fortress once stood. It was eerily silent, except for the three Itechee fighters that aborted their bombing run once they realized that their base was destroyed.
"What happened?" Abby asked.
"I don't know... could it be?" Jack looked up and grinned when he saw dozens of familiar shapes descend from the clouds, guns blazing as they wreaked havoc on the Itechee ranks. The enemy warriors flashed distressed colors from the two strips on their torso, and as one retreated back to their former positions.
"Captain... Montoya." Jack heard Captain Drago's voice in his earpiece and he laughed with relief. Around him Marines shouted with joy, waving their guns at the smaller PT boats that gave chase to the three Itechee fighters.
"You won't believe how happy I am to hear your voice, skipper." Jack shouted over the shouts of celebration.
"We got held up." Captain Drago said. "But we're here now, with some reinforcements."
"That was a nice shot on that fortress." Jack said.
"We didn't do it." Drago sounded confused. "I thought you planted bombs on that structure..."
"Jack!" Abby shouted. "You have to see this!"
Jack flipped on his visor and zoomed in on the area that Abby was looking at. Walking casually out of the dust cloud was Kris Longknife, looking thrilled and breathing heavily. Beside her walked her bodyguard, Harry Potter, looking seemingly unconcerned at the Itechee around them.
"I'll be damned."
One of the larger warriors confronted the two, eager to exact revenge for the destruction of their fortress. Kris looked concerned, but Harry held out his hand and the large Itechee warrior that Jack guessed weighed half a ton, was lifted off his feet and hit a fellow warrior quite a far distance from where it originally stood.
"I'll bet you ten Wardhaven dollars that Kris was the one responsible for that." Abby said.
"No bet." Jack said, still smiling. "That girl's usually the center of all the trouble."
Jack leaned back on a mound of dirt and looked up at the sky, watching as the Wasp and a few other unfamiliar ships, but clearly human, prepared to land. "It's that damn Longknife luck."