Stealth and Deception
by Alastair Cooper (Myralyst)

Part One

Sergeant Leonard surveyed the valley with his high resolution intelligence-grade binoculars. As he panned across the valley, he reflected that this instrument of his trade was so far removed from the primitive lens-based magnifying glasses he supposed the name to have originated from; he wondered why nobody had ever come up with a more accurate, and well flashy, name for these outrageously effective devices.

The binoculars scanned every band of EM radiation simultaneously, displaying an overlaid image of key data on top of the data in the visual band. Leonard was unsure of the precise resolution of the optical equipment contained within, but the magnification was such that you could count how many hairs a target had missed in his morning shave, or more pertinently you could read tactical data of even a handheld device at few kilometres distance, if you knew where to look. This, ironically, was what Leonard was doing now. Whilst keeping a view of the viewed parties at larger magnification, he mentally instructed the device to display an adjusted view of what the datapad displayed.

As he suspected the information was last night’s findings of the patrols sent out to determine whether a land-based incursion had been made during the hit and fade run against the orbitals last night. Leonard shuddered as he remembered the details of his insertion behind enemy defences. Along with the team’s strategist, the mission planners had decided that the best way to place an elite military unit onto the planets surface was via personnel drop-ship rather than civilian infiltration. These drop-ships looked, to all intents and purposes as though they were fragments of a larger vessel, burning through the atmosphere after a battle. Under the rocky exterior however, was some serious ablative shielding that kept the team, and just as importantly the anti-gravity generators from harm. The ride down was incredible, and even the members with constitutions of iron had to choke back vomit as they experienced the unpredictable turbulence of an “uncontrolled” free fall from space to ground. Leonard had refused the drugs given to other team members to hold them in check, and had felt the wrath of his insides upon landing. He reflected that he had probably been more incapacitated by motion sickness than any drug side-effects would have made him, at the start of the mission. He shuddered again.

After being spewed from the remains of a droid frigate in the dummy hit and fade, the drop ship had fallen to ground precisely on target, and the team had quickly scrambled through the forest away from the site of the landing, trusting the mechanisms that prevented the detection of the dropship to do their dirty work. The contents of the data pad revealed that this, was indeed the case since the patrol had concluded that it was indeed a fragment of the droid ship and now their stealthy insertion was complete. He wasn’t surprised at the caution displayed by the Federation scum, since the “debris” had fallen miraculously close to the critical space port controlling traffic to and from the Orbital shipyards and terminals.

His team was on the ridge of a grand valley with evergreen forest rolling down the gentle hills toward the grey mass that was the spaceport. Leonard was always struck by the beauty of existence, from radiation bursts in quasars to biological life like these trees. His binoculars showed the position of every human guard, patrol and (through clever circuitry) droid sentry in the valley. The main road into the base had a constant stream of traffic, as was usual on such an industrial world, and the whole setting was bathed in the light of the waning sun, as it settled down to the horizon. Not that this mattered, since every vehicle on the road was profile by his bodysuit’s device and compared with tactical threat analysis stored in his computer. No military materiél was being moved into the naval base on the outskirts of the starport before the facility gate closed for the night. Leonard judged that tonight was the ideal time to move on the facility.

He looked about him, assessing his team. They were the best; there was no doubt about that. The rebel faction could not have produced finer agents, in his not-so-humble opinion. Jones, the explosives guru had served during three wars in both the espionage and sabotage branches of the intelligence’s elite delta-directorate squad. When Leonard had defected from the corrupt Federation to the rebel faction, Jones had been there at his side, as had the other long-standing member of his squad, Michelle Casucalla. In his opinion Michelle had an almost telepathic bond to computer’s hardware, and was spiritually married to their software. Still she had an easy wit and was back there bantering with the combat specialists like she was in the officers’ mess on a training world. No, there was no doubt in his mind, this team was exceptional – they were literally living weapons. Undetectable weapons. The entire team was decked out in a bodysuit that rendered them completely invisible within nanoseconds, in high alert stealth mode even the in-suit binoculars could detect nothing, save the signature signal beamed only when the team was close together. Whilst this technology was far behind the natural shape-shifting of the Darloks, no other empire, let alone faction could muster such intelligence technology.

Leonard’s admiration for the people of the Faction had always been high. Appalled at the corruption and cruelty of the Federation’s ruling classes, swathes of planets had cut loose from what they saw as greater tyranny than that of the New Orions. At least they had the benefit of being a xenophobic alien race, with a taste for sadism and cruelty. That the noble and benign rulers of the greatest human empire in galactic history could have fallen into such depths of barbarity and depraved oppression was inexcusable. So they had revolted, but the word conveyed connotations of greater drama than what had actually taken place. The rulers of the federation had woken up one morning to find a full half of their planets under a different flag, a third of their entire navy “protecting” those planets in the hands of the rebels and an invitation to attend a session of the Orion Senate ratifying this new empire. The fighting between the two had been brutal and ferocious, with the federation committing horrific atrocities as the rebels struggled to deploy their over-matched fleet to protect their members. But, somehow they had held on, won key victories and now the balance was changing. While the rebellion was planned key university worlds developed, in concert with the formidable Psilons, secret and undeclared technology that had now filtered its way to the fore of the armed forces. Then they had exceeded even the Psilons and developed these suits. And tonight they were going to make the ultimate difference.

 

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