Episode 2 of my exciting Supremacy: Reformation series is just about to hit mainstream ereaders. Before it does, here is a slice of the adventure that awaits:
Three humanoid battle drones stormed through the battlefield, churning up sand into the humid air. Black armored plates shielded the delicate circuitry lying within their skeletal frames. Each drone had a trio of ever-discerning optic sensors ready to catch the slightest hint of movement.
Tharin hid behind a rock formation low to the ground. He gripped tightly to the hilts of the batons in both of his hands and kept them close to his chest. He could hear the drones’ noisy gyros twisting as they neared his position.
He leapt in a flurry of sand and spring-boarded off the top of a boulder onto the cluster of drones. Crackling energy shot out from his batons. He thrust his batons into the chest of the drone he crashed into, immediately disabling it. The drone fell to the ground as Tharin rolled out onto the sand to regain his footing. The remaining drones ran at him with a synchronized attack that sent one into the air, arcing downward upon him.
Tharin rolled forward underneath the leaping drone and swept his body around to meet its partner’s slashing attack. The abrupt clash of energized batons filled the night air with a flash of white light. Now I’ve given my position away, he thought. He parried against the drone’s advances, trying to stay ahead of its already inhuman reflexes. He deflected a few of the drone’s swings wide enough away to land a kick squarely into its chest, sending it faltering backward.
The sizzling of a baton snapped his attention back to the other drone. He narrowly ducked a baton swing meant for his head and blocked a follow-up strike a few centimeters from his chest. The drone he had just knocked back rejoined the duel. Tharin allowed himself to go into a deep trance as he furiously defended a barrage of attacks. Light flashed off the rock formation as their batons struck each other.
Warfare is worship, Tharin reminded himself as he struggled to keep up with their advances. A searing pain shot through his hip as a misstep exposed him to a baton hit. The pain slightly weakened him, but not enough to stop his fixation on the God of War.
He gracefully led their attacks, falling into a trance-like state. “I share your soul, Arvandis,” he prayed. Feeling renewed strength flow through him, he shifted his attack pattern and thrust his batons outward. Their tips made full contact with the drones’ chests. Sparks arced over their metallic armor as they shut down and fell backward onto the sand.
“This victory is Yours,” Tharin whispered as he stood triumphant. The disabled drones lying in the sand should have been his final obstacle. He looked around and ran toward a meter-long pole sticking up from the ground.
He swiped his hand over it and checked his wrist panel to confirm he had possession of the flag. Once confirmed, he sprinted back along the same side of the battlefield he had entered, darting through the sporadic rock formations. The middle line rapidly came into sight as a shadow flashed in the corner of his eye. He turned just as the shadow launched at him.
Batons flickered to life, briefly illuminating the human face behind the shadow. Tharin smiled as they both crossed their weapons in a whirlwind of attacks. He quickly gained an advantage and went in for a low kick that sent his opponent stumbling backward. He pressed in, connecting a few times with the shadow’s midsection.
Tharin continued the intense assault. After holding on for a few more parries, the shadow’s wrist panel lit up bright blue while Tharin’s simultaneously lit up red. Both warriors instantly halted and deactivated their batons.
Tharin offered him a wry smile and handshake before speaking, “There are not many who can best me in ‘Capture the Flag,’ Helvine; I am glad you fight for my cause and not my brother’s.”
Helvine replied, “I will forever stand with you until the gods separate us.” He ran his fingers through his dark hair, matted down with sweat. A slight breeze meandered through them, kicking off grains of sand from their sparring tunics.
“I never expected you to entrust a drone to retrieve my flag.”
“I retrieved it myself, actually. The drone was only carrying it back through a carefully selected pathway. It always pays to spend battle points on intel rather than more defenses.”
Tharin smiled, “It would seem that way, though I was not far from victory myself.”
“Your defenses were certainly clever. Had I not known the traps I was walking into, I doubt I would have made it.”
“Drones never hold up to expectations.” Tharin watched the flicker of pride in Helvine’s eyes over his victory.
The two warriors shared a laugh and turned to exit the battlefield. The rolling ocean lapped at the beach only a short distance away, filling the night air with its rhythmic pulse. They continued walking toward a trio of jet-bikes resting against a giant, natural rock wall. The battlefield behind them sprung to life as the battle drones reactivated themselves and filed into storage sheds set up on the edge of the beach.
A figure nearly a head shorter than Tharin and Helvine walked out of the shadow of the rock wall and met them at the jet-bikes. Twin moons reflected diluted beams off the blue fabric wrapping around his thin body. His cropped, red hair looked dark brown in the dim light, while his eyes were dark pools.
“Excellent programming tonight, Jak,” Helvine said to the figure.
“Thank you, Commander,” Jak replied. “Your win was quite a surprise. I had not expected you to purchase so much intel with your allotted battle points.”
“The opportunity presented itself, and I knew I could not best Tharin in a fight, so he forced me to be sneaky.”
“We shall see who wins next time,” Tharin interjected with a grin.
“That we will,” said Helvine.
The simple war exercise proved as effective on Helvine as Tharin had imagined. Allowing him to win gave him a morale boost he would take back to everyone underneath his command. A vital resource, morale required a steady hand to delve out. With his brother closing in, Tharin ensured he had plenty flowing through his command staff.
The three of them mounted their jet-bikes and flew along the docile beach. Rushing winds rolled over Tharin’s large frame, sending his shoulder-length hair into wild motion. The expansive ocean to his right enticed him with its foamy aroma. White Sands was a beautiful planet, a forgotten paradise within the Second Order. He closed his eyes, drinking in the peaceful moment and thinking of a time before his life had been plunged into war.
The harsh beeping of his jet-bike’s autopilot interrupted his wandering imagination. He looked ahead and saw the approaching metallic dome that was the auxiliary hangar of his forward base in the city of Vacin. The large dome rose high above the landscape. All three of them slowed their approach while Tharin entered his bioprint code into his wrist transmitter. Confirmation codes popped up as a hangar door opened on the side of the dome nearest them. They glided inside and parked their jet-bikes.
Machines and vehicles of varying purposes filled the hangar. The air was thick with the smell of oily metal. A skeleton crew patrolled around waiting for their shifts to end while a few mechanics rattled around on a squadron of battle tanks. At the sight of Tharin walking toward the rear of the hangar, one of the patrolling deck officers quickly jogged over to him.
“Commander Tharin, you have a priority message from Fortra,” the officer reported.
Tharin nodded and the officer strode off to continue his rounds. Tharin looked to Helvine and Jak, “If you will excuse me.”
They returned a nod before he snapped around and headed directly into the hangar’s central command unit. The command unit consisted of a wide, multi-storied cylinder that rose from the floor into the apex of the domed hangar. He quickly shut himself inside one of the communication rooms in the base and dialed the appropriate codes to open up a channel directly to the planet of Fortra, homeworld of the Communication Guild.
Widgets spun on the holoscreen floating before him, opening up an interstellar link. Eventually they turned green and a window opened with the High Priest on the screen. His perfectly aged features were intoxicating to look at. His face had a regal quality that hinted at his many centuries of life without any detracting marks of weathered lines. He was indeed a product of the gods, and even through the holoscreen his silver eyes seemed to peer directly into Tharin’s soul. Tharin bowed under his presence.
“High Priest Ephesus, I welcome your guidance,” Tharin said reverently.
“Tharin, harbinger of the Reformation, I have received news of our mission on Centros,” Ephesus began. “I have enabled secure protocols so our conversation will not escape our terminals.”
“Priestess Jade has not yet reported back in. I hope our mission remains intact.”
“She contacted me directly with a report of interception by the Imperial Guardian, Zoroc. He boarded her ship and nearly stopped our operation, but Jade outmaneuvered him and finished it. She reported this to me so I would affirm her deepest fear–that we have been infiltrated.”
“Knowledge of this mission was extensively protected, ” Tharin replied with shock in his voice.
“Your brother seems to have found the weakness in that protection. I believe he has an agent planted within our ranks, probably there on White Sands with you. He is transporting information through non-standard channels, so I am having difficulty deciphering how he is communicating. I do suspect it is a person, however, as I would have easily uncovered a broadcasting drone by now.”
Tharin clenched his fists and looked out into the hangar through the viewport to his right. Even at this night hour, people worked to advance his vision. His grand idea of the Second Order ruled by the people was powered by the core of his following here on White Sands. Now, all they were working toward was threatened from within. He turned back to the terminal and looked into Ephesus’s deep eyes.
“We are too close to fail. Our plans rely heavily on that satellite installation around Centros. How much did the informant know?” Tharin asked.
“Apparently not enough to involve public scrutiny of the illegal action necessary to stop us from installing it. Your brother may be looking for something else. Find this leak and stop him before we are all brought down. My own involvement in this matter must be limited to this conversation for obvious reasons. I have already breached standard protocol by taking this information directly to you.”
“I thank you for your wisdom, High Priest. At our next encounter, we will speak of the next phase, uninhibited by this informant.”
“By the Guidance,” Ephesus said while lifting his right hand to touch the center of his forehead.
Tharin reciprocated the gesture before terminating the communication link. His stomach twisted with the knowledge that his brother had infiltrated his operation. The conflict between them had been brewing for centuries, but only recently had it escalated to militaristic proportions. This was a sign that they were moving into full warfare, for which Tharin was ill-prepared.
End of Demo
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