Emerald Legion, Chapter twenty-one

Lebensraum – the sticky, and hopefully mutually-gratifying, climax




Ambassador Marin guided the Venegarian cruiser through the magnetic storms that encircled Kathoon, and the cruiser descended into a smoke-filled sky over the capital city.  The grand temple glistened in the firelight in the center of the old city, and fires could be seen raging along the avenues leading to the three entrances of the structure.  Even in the unsteady lighting, the presence of alien mercenaries was obvious, due to the towering bulk of Validus, and the brilliant discharges of Mano’s explosive touch and the Green Dragons deadly vision.


The cruiser dropped briefly to near ground level, and the Warriors dropped fearlessly to land atop a building near the High Temple itself.  Sarya and her Champions descended gracefully from the sky, born aloft by their Champion’s Rings and the power of the Emerald Eye of Ekron.  Ayla’s descent was unsteady, as she had only been granted a Ring moments before, but she still landed without incident, and Sarya lowered Ambassador Marin to the ground personally.  Seeing the presence of outworlders, Vala, of Clan Lateen, requested to be ordered to ‘guard the ship’ rather than be called into a combat she saw as dishonorable, and Marin acceded to her request.  Once his passengers had debarked, Rinti quickly ascended high into the sky, to avoid attack.


Even before the flying Champions had reached the ground, shouts of alarm rang out.  Outworlders!” proclaimed the leader of a squadron of Auri, rushing to engage this new threat dropping from the skies, but Larn, herself of Clan Auri, managed to forestall violence long enough for Ambassador Marin to explain the situation.  Larn left with her Clan-sisters, to deal with an incursion to the south, having already surrendered the western approach, due to the presence of the aliens.


Reaching the steps to the western entrance to the High Temple, Ambassador Marin commanded the Auri and Genti on-guard there to pull back and allow the ‘outworlders to kill each other,’ as she and Sarya had already agreed, phrasing it in such a way as to discourage any disagreement from her fellows.  Gallia, High Seer of Clan Auri was in command and agreed, sounding horns to signal retreat.  Dozens of battered Warriors, as well as hundreds of common soldiers, both male and female, retreated into the cover of the High Temple.


Noting that many of the Warriors lacked their traditional metal armor, and carried chunks of masonry or wooden support beams as makeshift weaponry, Rokk realized that Kort must be present as well.


~We need to go out and engage them.  Fighting them at the steps of the Temple will leave us no fall-back position, and we’ll need to separate them.~  Imra broadcast, and the Champion’s soared out to meet their foes.


Sarya also began to move, at a more measured pace, towards the battlefield and Ambassador Marin turned to Jath and said pointedly, “The Queen is our guest and will not come to harm while you draw breath,” and then stepped into the Temple, saying only, “I go to rouse the gods,” and passing out of sight.


The Genti Seer, Kaelin, declared, “Madness!  Your time off-world has tainted your mind, Marin.” Before turning to Jath.  Jath.  You will move to the southern ward and assist your Clan.”


Jath looked torn for a moment, before stating firmly, “My duty to the Ambassador is not yet discharged.  I will not dishonor our Clan by deserting my post.”


Kaelin looked furious at this refusal and walked up to Jath, seizing her hand and tearing a silver ring off of her hand, “You cannot dishonor our Clan, for you have no Clan,” before turning away, hurling the silver ring clattering off into the darkened streets.


Jath’s fists clenched, and she saw her sisters reach for their blades, and then turned to follow Sarya towards battle.


~Stick to the plan, everyone.  Any one of these foes can kill one of us in an instant if we don’t keep them off-balance.~  Imra reminded them.


Rokk had pulled on Imra’s platinum-group head-gear and broadcast through his Champion’s Ring, “I’m psi-shielded, stick to Ring-broadcasts from now on.”


Validus, predictably, was the first visible target, and Rokk sent a dozen tiny missiles of metal debris at him to batter at his head.  As predicted, the metal flung itself away and he could detect the presence of Kort, batting his missiles out of the air with magnetic blasts, “There he is.” He broadcast, and was reassured to see a barrage of lightning strike the ground at Kort’s feet, blasting him down.  A second discharge struck Kort directly, and his body jerked and fell again, and he heard Ayla’s whoop of victory.


Rokk quickly seized a much larger piece of metallic debris and slammed it into Validus’ monstrous ‘face’ with all of his might, quickly flying backwards through the air from the same direction.  The beast roared and, as hoped, pursued Rokk, stomping forwards with shocking speed, launching a crackling discharge of psionic energy that Rokk just managed to avoid.  Rokk moved over the buildings towards some sort of park of metal-barked trees, with anemone-like fronts waving in the air where they should have had leaves, hoping to use the cover of the buildings and the forest to slow down the titan’s advance.


Garth engaged Mano, taking advantage of flight and range to pepper him with lightning blasts.  Mano proved unable to adapt to this strategy, but Garth’s lightning blasts failed to penetrate his containment suit, merely blasting him off of his feet and annoying him.  It quickly becomes a deadly game of keep-away, Mano’s bare hands rumbling like thunder as they annihilate the air around him.


Nyeun Chun Ti sees Imra, hovering above the battlefield, and flings his Atomic Axe at her, but she narrowly manages to avoid it, only to see the Axe shimmer and vanish as it passes her, to reappear instantly in the Persuaders iron-gloved fist.  She reaches out to attempt a psychic assault, only to feel that his mind is shielded by what feels like a second mind, a small animal-like presence that resists her assault with a selfless ferocity.  The Persuader ignores her and sees Sarya moving forward, and raises his arm to throw again, when Jath strikes him like a missile, bearing him to the ground, seizing both wrists in an unbreakable grasp and preventing him from being able to bring his Axe to bear.  They roll around on the ground until she ends up on top, pinning both arms and then slamming her own head into his metal-armored face-plate so hard that the cobblestones beneath his head crack and her own face is bloodied from the impact.


Kort was still twitching and Ayla blasted him one more time, before being blindsided by the Green Dragon, who has leapt into the air and thrown her to the ground hard enough to knock the breath out of her.  Getting to her feet, she sees him hovering in the air and raises her hand, but as the lightning blasts forth he seemed to blur into motion and all she can see is a smear of color moving along the ground.  As fast as her lightning tracks, Jo Nah has crossed the distance untouched and his arm is against her neck, slamming her back into a wall.  Lightning crashes into him again and again, but he seems completely unaffected, and while he doesn’t seem nearly as strong as she would have expected, he’s strong enough, and neither her lightning nor her desperate attempt at kicking him in the groin seems to cause him the slightest discomfort.  He stares into her eyes, his own face blank, and Ayla can see stars starting to swim around in the growing darkness.


Dox has located his own target atop a building, surveying his forces and barking some sort of orders into a comm-unit on his wrist.  Tharok’s voice is mechanical, and yet rings with confidence, “Green Dragon, kill the girl, and then incapacitate the telepath.”  He spins as Dox lands across the roof from him, “Coluan.”  His body twitches slightly as the two man-machines begin attempting to co-opt each others data-systems.  “I have beaten your kind before.  This is pointless.”


Suddenly his mechanical limb sparks and his internal weapon system powers down.  His human eye narrows, “Modular programs, independently harmless, but assembling into threats after being designated low-priority threats.  Clever,” he concedes.


Dox remains silent, arms hanging loosely at his sides, devoting every shred of processing power to the combat occurring invisibly between the two cyborgs, and thousands of lines of malicious code fill the air around them, circling like wolves, awaiting a moment of weakness so that they might disable or destroy the other.


Seeing that Jath has restrained the Persuader, Sarya turns to see if she can assist elsewhere, only to feel her breastplate buckle under a devastating blow that hurls her into the air.  She can’t draw breath, but manages to use the Emerald Eye to halt her flight before slamming into a metal-barked tree, near where the Validus creature had been lured.  Forced to tear her breastplate from her body, and feeling her body protest as she draws a shuddering breath, she looks up to see Kand dropping from the sky with a loud impact.


“I was going to kill Jath, but by killing you, I will dishonor her first.”  Kand said, stalking forward, drawing a short steel blade, edged on both sides.  “Then I will tear her mate apart,” Kand continued, lost her in fantasies, circling Sarya like a predatory beast.


Sarya drew her own curved dueling blade, hissing with pain as she stretched wounded limbs.  “Shut up and fight, traitor,” the Queen growled as the Emerald Eye suddenly filled the clearing with a brilliant emerald radiance.


Kand laughed, tapping goggles over her eyes that instantly polarized and turned dark red in color.  “I have prepared for your Champions and their bright lightning,” she thumped the ceramic armor covering her chest, “*and* magnetic sorcery.”  The Sangti Warrior moved forward with a blur of speed and Sarya barely managed to flip out of her way, cursing her cracked ribs for slowing her down.  Still, Kand’s blade only managed to tear her cloak, and the Queen quickly pulled her cloak off and wrapped it around her off hand, as an impromptu shield.  Kand moved forward again, pressing the attack gracelessly and Sarya used the Eye to rise into the air and strike Kand in the head with her own blade as she passed beneath, landing gentle as a feather behind the disoriented Warrior.  Sarya’s blow struck true, and Kand’s protective goggles fell away, their strap severed, and she raised her hand to cover her eyes with a growl.  “Enough playing around, outworlder, now you die.”


Reaching behind her, Kand’s hand fell upon a tree and she stepped back and effortlessly pushed the massive tree down in the direction of the blinding emerald glare.  It was all Sarya could do, pushing both her own hurting body and the psychokinetic force of the Eye to throw herself clear, but even avoiding the main trunk, her body was whipped by the many long thin fronds that extended from the slender branches.  Kand charged forwards again, like a rampaging beast, and Sarya just managed to step to the side again, lashing out with her blade.


Kand felt a tugging sensation at her throat, and attempted to mock Sarya for catching only her own cloak, only to find that her mouth was filled with blood and no sound would come out.  Raising her hand, she felt that Sarya’s blade had cut her throat as they passed, and she looked up to see the emerald glow fade.  The Queen stood, blade down and dripping with blood, wearing a look of weary resignation.  Kand raised her blade and flung it with all her might, calling upon the names of her ancestors, resolved to not die alone.  But the strength did not come at her call, and her blade arced clumsily through the air, to be batted aside effortlessly by the Queen.  Oblivion rushed to greet her and Kand’s world became darkness.


Through the Champion’s Ring, a wordless cry of desperation from Ayla draws both Garth and Imra’s attention to her plight.  Imra attempts to seize control of Jo Nah’s mind, only find that he too is shielded, again by some feral dedicated presence.  Garths lightning blasts join Ayla’s in vainly impacting against the Green Dragon’s invulnerable skin, and Imra takes the fight to whatever is defending the criminals mind, focusing all of her power against this animalistic presence.  It fights her savagely, and she pinpoints it as a tiny device, as much organism as machine, attached to the back of the man’s neck, and she quickly deceives its primitive mind into going dormant.


From her vantage point, Ayla can see her attackers face change suddenly and his grip lets up.  Something moves on his neck and she pours another electrical surge into him, matching the endless stream of electricity coming down from her airborne brother.  Their two-pronged assault is rewarded with a crackling pop as some device on her attacker’s back suddenly fries and he staggers back, releasing her to drop to the cobblestones, gasping for breath.


The sound of an explosion and a cry of pain pulls Ayla back into consciousness, as she sees her brother fall from the sky.  Mano has leapt into the air and grabbed at Garth’s arm, and now Garth is slamming into the ground like a sack of meat.  She can see Mano land gracelessly near him and rising to his feet, and moving towards her unmoving brother.


~Garth!~ comes a telepathic cry in all of their minds, as Imra descends, heedless of the danger.


The air rushes around her, and suddenly there is another explosion.  Mano is gone, hurtling off into the distance, and the Green Dragon is lying several yards distant, having been blasted from his feet by the mere act of striking his fellow criminal.  Imra has already landed and Ayla rushes over, to see that Garth is alive, but that his left arm is completely gone, blasted from his body by the force of the anti-matter man’s touch.


~Cauterize the wound, Ayla.  We have to get him into the High Temple.~  Imra thought, but Ayla was unable to react, and turns suddenly when she feels the presence behind her.  The Green Dragon is standing there, burnt and bloody from his own contact with Mano, and in his hand, he’s holding Garth’s left forearm.  “He’s going to need the Ring.  The atmosphere will kill him,” the Rimborian criminal said distantly, looking down at the fallen Champion.  “We were ordered to collect the Rings.  Tharok wants to use them to take control of some Eye thing, and then he can rule Venegar, too,” he said, matter-of-factly, twisting the Ring off of Garth’s hand and handing to Ayla.  “Put this on his other hand.”


Ayla snatched the Ring away from the former crook, placing it on her brothers remaining hand.  “We need to get him to safety.”


Imra looked up, ~We’re not going to have time for that…~ she warned, and Ayla looked up to see that a dozen Sangti and Lateen Warriors had advanced to point swords at them.


A Sangti Seer raises her iron bow and says in a cold tone, “Kill them all.”  One of the Sangti Warriors, hefting a cart over her head, suddenly cries out and the cart crashes down upon her.  Two others, each holding weapons far too heavy to be born aloft by humanoid strength, also cry out, felled by their own burdens.  Several other Sangti find that they cannot draw their over-strung bows of iron, and the Lateen Seer quickly pulls back and cries out, “Stand down!  The gods have abandoned the Sangti cause!”


As one, the Lateen draw back, one Warrior tossing aside a heavy weapon of her own, for fear of being similarly stricken.


The Sangti Seer repeats, in the same cold tone, “Kill them.”  And the Warriors charge forward into a barrage of lightning from Ayla and bright burning rays from the Green Dragon’s eyes.


~Most are also controlled by the psi-devices on their necks!~  Imra announced to all present, ~They cannot control their actions, and I can’t fight them all!~


Jath appears in their midst, throwing them around like children, lacking none of her Warrior strength, and the Lateen Seer suddenly declares, “Subdue the Sangti, they are controlled by outworlder machines!”


With that, the combat ends quickly, as the Lateen Warriors, also retaining their great strength, almost effortlessly subdue the struggling Sangti.  At least a dozen Sangti fighters, lacking Warrior strength, but also apparently not controlled by Tharok’s machines, help to restrain their struggling Clan-sisters.


As the other Warriors restrain the remaining controlled Sangti, Jath turns to the others, “Champion Ardeen, see to your mate.  Ayla, I beg you to take me to Validus.”


Ayla looks torn, but at a nod from Imra agrees, floating up into the air and grabbing ahold of Jath.  “Hold on.”


Jo Nah looks around, seeing that Jath has wrapped the unconscious Persuader in metal, arms behind his back, so that he wouldn’t be able to take hold of his missing Axe even if he regained consciousness.  He then takes off into the air, following Ayla towards the park where Validus can be seen pushing trees over in a rampage.




Rokk had spent what felt like hours attempting to keep ahead of the monster, tearing off the mag-steel components of his Champion’s Garb and using them as projectiles.  Accelerating them into the brute as he flew, he knew that they weren’t really damaging the beast, merely stinging it and keeping it furious.  As long as he kept it moving, it hadn’t stopped to attempt another mind-blast, which was the only reason that he was still in the air, as just being on the edge of one of the psionic assaults had nearly blasted him from the sky, psi-shielding or not.  He had drained all ten of the mag-steel power-spheres from his Champion’s Garb in the process of using them as makeshift projectiles, and had resorted to picking up a storm of debris from the fallen trees, with their oh-so-convenient metal bark, blinding the creature with a constant cloud of swirling rubble.  His magnetic reserves were tapped, and only the power of the Champion’s Ring kept him aloft at this point, as he no longer had the strength to boost his own speed magnetically.  He knew it couldn’t last, and so the sight of lightning blasts joining the fray elicited a sigh of relief.


“I am so glad to see you, Garth,” he sent through the Champion’s Ring, only to get an unfamiliar reply.


“No Garth, hopefully I’ll do,” Ayla broadcast curtly, as she swept far too close to the flailing brute, only to release a dark-clad missile of her own.  Jath dropped to land at the beast’s feet and struck with both hands as hard as she could on the giant’s three-toed foot, causing it to rear back, howling in pain.


The beast struck downward with its oversized fist, and Rokk choked back a scream, as he saw only an impression in the ground where his wife had been standing a moment before.  An unfamiliar blast of energy struck the creature in the face, and he turned to see the Green Dragon, eyes crackling with energy, and Jath, standing some distance away, with Jath looking disoriented, but unharmed.


Validus turned and it’s head started crackling with the beginnings of another psychic blast directed at the newcomers, and Rokk dropped low and attempted to knock the creature off-balance by slamming into the back of one of its tree-trunk sized legs with his body.  Simultaneously, Ayla unleashed a massive two-handed lightning surge directly into its side, and the beast staggered, its mental blast going wide and missing Jath and the Green Dragon.  Both Jath and Jo Nah leapt into its chest, each striking with superhuman force, and bearing it to the ground in a thunderous crash.  Both Jath and the Green Dragon leapt clear, and Jath reacted first, seizing up a fallen tree and using it as an oversized club to strike the beast in the head, while it was still on the ground.  Jo Nah quickly followed suit, and combined with a seemingly constant stream of lightning into its eyeless face, Validus finally shuddered and fell still.




While the battle resolved itself below, Dox and Tharok remained locked in cybernetic battle, each attempting to subvert or disrupt the programming of the other.  Tharok meanwhile received reports as the psi-implant of Jo Nah went dead, followed by signals indicating incapacitation of the Persuader, Mano and finally even the seemingly unstoppable Validus.


Activating shunt protocol, Tharok was surprised to find that even this failsafe seemed uncooperative, and Dox finally spoke aloud, as if to the empty air.  Tharok is attempting to teleport away.  Stop him.”


Tharok favored a twisted half-smile with the flesh side of his face, “None of your companions are present, Coluan, and none could block a dimensional shunt, in any event.”  He suddenly looked down as blue-skinned arms thrust up from the darkened rooftop, and uttered a short, sharp cry as he was pulled into the hungry darkness.


Dox watched impassively as a figure arose from the shadows, resolving itself into a dark-skinned Talokkian female, clad in scanty scraps of cloth and armor, with a massive cloak melting formlessly into the darkness behind her.  Draped casually over one shoulder, she held the Persuaders Atomic Axe.  “How long have you known I was here?”


Dox didn’t bother to reply, closing his eyes and calling through the Champion’s Ring.  “Champion Ardeen, I require immediate assistance.  As anticipated, I have contracted several hundred cyberneural viruses and am incapable of physical motion…”




Seer Gallia of the Auri called for silence in the meeting hall of the High Temple.  The Seers of Clans Cupri, Genti, Lateen and Antalus quieted their respective factions, and the de-powered Seers and Warriors of Clan Sangti stood notably apart from the rest.


“Marin’s body has been found in the Inner Sanctum.  As she swore to do, she indeed roused the gods, and the ancestors of the Sangti chose to retain the honor of their Clan by denying their strength and wisdom to the current generation.  We owe Clan Cupri a debt for her sacrifice.”


Holding up a spider-shaped implant of glistening ceramic and stolen neural tissue, Gallia continued, “The devices used by this outworlder to control the Seers and many of the Warriors of Clan Sangti have been removed, and that threat is done.  Let Clan Sangti suffer no further dishonor for actions that were not of their own doing.  In time, Sangti shall again count Warriors and Seers among them.  Until that time, they shall lack a voice on the high council, as is the law.”


She called up a holographic image of the subdued outworlders.  Each had been fitted in restraints designed by Querl Dox, and in an act of irony, Tharok’s own psi-implants had been used to keep them unconscious.


“The outworlders who assaulted us shall be removed from this world, by the outworlders who came to our aid at Marin’s request.  I move to join the United Planets, so that we have some voice in the matter of their punishment.  Aers has found us, and war has come to our world.  The time of hiding is done, sisters.  Now is the time when we find allies willing to stand with us, and join them in honorable battle.”


A Seer from each of the five remaining voting Clans stepped forward, and raised her hand in support of the High Seers proposal.


“It is settled.  Seer Shatra of Lateen is to be our new Ambassador, as her quick decision at the moment of Marin’s sacrifice averted much bloodshed.  Shatra, you will accompany Sarya of Venegar back to the world of Earth, and make preparations for our proposal to join the United Planets.”


Turning to Queen Sarya, who was standing stiffly, ribs bandaged, Gallia bowed her head, golden ringlets jingling in her hair, “We owe Venegar a great debt.”  Looking to Garth, the only seated figure in the room, bandages covering the stump of his missing arm and being supported half-conscious by Ayla and Imra, “You have risked much, and paid a great price for a people who never asked for your help.  You recognized the dishonor of outworlder intervention, and chose to limit your own actions to those who had already dishonored our traditions.  Marin of Cupri has joined our ancestors, and her memories of your honor are now known to all Seers, Sarya of Venegar.  I repay this debt by offering our hand in friendship, and by forfeiting our right to salvage on the space vessel of Tharok.  As your own vessel was damaged in your pilot’s misadventures,” Gallia glanced with raised eyebrow at the sling-wearing Venegarian pilot, who looked away embarrassed, “We shall endeavor to repair your craft, while allowing you to depart in the other ship.”


Vala of Lateen clapped the old pilot on the shoulder, recalling their own impulsive decision to seek out Tharok’s unmanned vessel and attempt to seize or destroy it.  The ship was exactly where they suspected it would be, hovering over the Sangti’s mountain fortress, but the Venegarian ship had been heavily damaged by the cloaked vessels automated defenses, and Rinti had barely managed to land safely.  In a typically Warrior-like feat of mad bravery, Vala had leapt clear as they passed near the now-visible alien craft, and torn her way into the ship with her great strength, ‘seizing control’ via the expediment of punching a hole in the command system, leaving the vessel floating aimlessly, without direction, until Dox arrived to more precisely take control.


“My thanks also to Talokk, young Champion,” Gallia said to the shadowy figure standing apart from Venegar’s Champions.  “We also owe a debt to your world.”


Tasmia Mallor, Champion of Talokk VIII, still holding the Persuaders Atomic Axe possessively, bowed her head.


“And what will become of this male?”  Gallia questioned, pointed towards Jo Nah.


Sarya stepped forward.  “He also was under the thrall of Tharok’s machines.  His actions in saving Champion Ranzz, and helping to defeat the monster Validus, reveal to me his true nature.  Nevertheless, it is a matter for United Planets justice.”


“Then it is settled.  It is time for us to mourn the fallen and comfort those who yet live.” Gallia decreed, clapping her hands sharply, dismissing those present.


The various Clans began to disperse, but Kaelin of Genti came forward to stand before Jath.  Her face was impassive, and she seemed to have no words to say.  After a long moment, her hand came forward, to present a silver ring to Jath.


Jath looked at the ring and closed her eyes for a moment.  Finally, she lifted her own hand before Kaelin to reveal the new emerald Champion’s Ring that sat on her finger.  “It was an honor to serve Clan Genti, but I have a new Clan.”


Kaelin’s fist snapped shut on the silver ring and she turned abruptly and walked away.