Mat looked down the scope of his sniper rifle, or rather his kind’s equivalent thereof. He saw his target. He went to take the shot. He hesitated; he knew the force of Aaron’s expectations so well that he could feel his commander’s desire for him to shoot physically pushing on his finger, trying to get him to pull the trigger. And so he did. Afterwards, he returned to his ship, The Righteous Judgement, along with the rest of his squad.
Mat woke up the next morning. The Shadow Squad was due to pick up a sixth member that day. The ship landed and Mat, Aaron and Nax, three members of The Shadow Squad, went down to the planet where the new member, a rather infamous figure called Kron, was lecturing.
They were shocked to see that he was inside a massive stadium. They went inside and looked up to see the new candidate, giving a speech to his adoring crowd.
“Why are we picking up this media whore?” Nax asked Aaron.
“Because of what he can do,” Aaron replied.
Kron continued his speech. “…And that is why I am not afraid of what I am going to do today. Not because of my power, though that helps; nor because of my genius, though it does the same; but because of my confidence in my own ability to adapt to new situations - And the fact that I cannot allow myself to die, as this would greatly disappoint you, my loyal, and adoring fans.”
The crowd cheered with thunderous excitement.
The crowd cheered with thunderous excitement.
A few minutes later, backstage, the crowd had quieted little. Mat and Kron were leaning against the wall.
“Quite the reaction you got there,” Mat Said.
“Yeah,” said Kron. “I really know how to work a crowd. But if you are going to be my squad mate, you need to know… ” Kron hesitated.
“Go on,” said Mat.
“I was lying my ass off out there; I’m scared to death of battle. I know I’m powerful, but I’m not omnipotent and-”
“Really you're not?,” asked Mat, "I was under the impression that was the centerpiece of your public image."
“I have to keep people afraid of me." Kron said, "My accident; a lot of safeguards were in place to keep that from happening, and a lot of people were fired. Licenses were revoked, people were made unable to provide for their families, and all of them would like to kill me.”
“So what exactly can you do?” Mat asked.
“A lot,” Kron answered. “In battle that translates to, for example, making myself, or anything else, invisible by-.”
Aaron walked in. Kron immediately became silent. “You have an hour to say goodbye to any friends and famil-” Aaron said.
“I have none of either, at least that are alive.” Kron replied
“Oh, okay then,” said Aaron. “I guess we’ll go now.”
A few minutes later they arrived at The Righteous Judgement. After going inside, they saw the rest of the team assembled in the main chamber. Aaron began introducing them to Kron.
“This is Gar,” said Aaron.
“PONIES,” Gar Shouted. (Or rather, what their kind has instead of ponies.)
There was an awkward pause.
“Huh?” Kron whispered at Aaron.
“He’s the youngest member, by far, he was drafted the first year it was possible,” Aaron replied.
“Umm, Oka-” Kron began
“This is Nax.” Aaron said, trying to move on as quickly as possible.
“Hi,” Kron said, happy that the moment had passed.
Nax glared at Kron.
“Watch yourself,” Nax said after a pause.
“Nice to meet you, too,” Said Kron.
“This is Dany.”
“Hi,” Dany said.
“Hi back,” said Kron.
“You already know Mat.”
The two exchanged gestures in greeting.
“And I’m Aaron, your CO.”
“Then hello to you too,” said Kron.
“Thank you,” said Aaron. “Remember everyone; go easy on the new guy. Because of his, er, talents we could not wait to draft him until he had combat experience or training. Don’t expect him to be able to enter a fight like he’s been through advanced combat and stealth like you have.”
“So in other words, he lacks every skill necessary to be an assassin, or even a soldier, and you are throwing him in to drag us down until he is full of bullets, has a knife through him, or is scattered into pieces by an explosion-” Nax said.
“That’s enough,” Aaron shouted. “The hour has become late. Everyone get to sleep.”
They began to do as instructed.
“Not you Nax,” said Aaron.
Aaron pulled Nax aside, “Are you trying to scare him to death?” Aaron asked.
“It would keep him from impeding our progress,” replied Nax.
Aaron just glared.
“What? Am I seriously the only one here who realizes what an awful idea this is?”
“You do not decide what a good idea for this squad is,” said Aaron. “I do. You follow orders do as you are told, and provide input only when asked for it. Understand?”
“Well don’t come crying to me when he’s in the medical ward bleeding to death,” Nax replied.
Aaron, after continuing his glare for a few seconds, went to bed. Nax followed.
The next day, the shadow squad awoke and entered the briefing room. The briefer was an AI who's responsibility was to give them their assignment each day.
“Hello Shadow Squad. Your mission today is this: You will venture onto the human ship The Arrowhead and eliminate its captain, Augustine Miles. The Ship will be stopping soon to refuel at a station controlled by Gliesian forces. You can sneak onto the ship by following them in as they leave the station, if you are able to cloak yourselves, that is. I trust Kron is capable of such a thing.”
Kron gestured in the affirmative.
“Good. Once you are on board, you will have about 2 hours to complete your mission. After that time the ship will land on a Human planet and we will be unable to retrieve you. Do you understand, or do I need to repeat myself?”
A large blue rectangle became visible with the words “Yes” and “No” printed on it. An arrow pointed to the “Yes”. It was made to point to the “No” instead and that was selected.
“Okay, off you go then,” The Briefer said.
The team used a wormhole to step from their ship directly onto the station unnoticed.
“Cloak us Kron,” Aaron instructed.
“Got it,” Kron said.
Cloaked, the squad found the ship on the other side of the station. They snuck on and searched for a hiding place. They found a large food cellar and hid inside, waiting until Aaron got the alert that the ship had left the station. Their target was now trapped inside.
Elsewhere on the ship, Captain Miles knelt before an icon of Jesus Christ.
“... I pray to you, oh Lord, that we shall be victorious against those who seek to deprive us of your gifts. In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, amen,” he said as he made the sign of the cross.
The Captain got up and left his prayer room. He turned to a crewmember sitting next to him.
“Hey, you there, mind heading over to the food cellar and fetching me a glass of wine?”
“A little sir, I’m busy watching the radar fo-”
“Now do I have to pull rank on you again just to get one favor out of you, Maxwell?”
“There’s no need sir. I’m on my way.” Maxwell left and headed toward the cellar.
Mat heard footsteps coming toward the door. They backed against the wall, hoping to sneak out the door if it was opened. Maxwell opened the door. All of the squad except Kron left through the door. Kron went to leave too, but tripped out of carelessness, causing him to lose his focus and drop the cloak. Instantly the squad was picked up by the security cameras.
“I told you he’d screw it up for us!” Nax shouted.
Dany shot Maxwell, killing him. The squad re-cloaked as troops barricaded the halls to trap them. They ran down the hall until they encountered one of the barricades.
“The space is too tight for a grenade,” Mat signaled in Sai, a sign language developed for military operations.
“I can take care of it,” signaled Kron.
Kron moved the electrons from the blockading soldier’s bodies into the walls, killing them. The Shadow Squad continued toward the bridge through the cafeteria.
The Captain ordered 2 members of his crew, to help him search for the Conduit intruders. As he and the other soldiers were searching, Captain Miles entered the cafeteria.
“Stop!” Miles said. “They’re in here.”
The Squad stopped in their tracks. They spread throughout the room, still cloaked. Mat pulled the switch to close and lock the doors, trapping the Squad, the captain, and the two soldiers in the cafeteria. One of the soldiers shot at the switch but missed. Aaron signaled to Kron.
“We’ll handle this; keep your focus on cloaking us,” he said.
Aaron located one of the soldiers, Private Marcus, and began his approach. Captain Miles looked around the room.
“Where would I be?” he thought.
He shot in the direction he thought would most likely hit Kron. He was correct. Kron collapsed unconscious with a bullet wound in his shoulder. Blood began profusely spurting out of the wound. The bullet seemed to have hit a major artery. With Kron unconscious, the team was suddenly de-cloaked. Aaron, who was right next to Marcus by then, quickly snapped Marcus’s neck, and, along with everyone else, ducked for cover.
Dany placed a grenade below one of the tables. The explosion caused the table to fly across the room and crush another soldier. Both sides hid in cover.
“We need to take him out before the ship lands,” Gar signaled. “If we let him, he will wait us out until the ship lands and we are trapped on a Human planet. We need to lure him out of cover.”
Mat went for the switch to the door, hoping that Miles would run for it if it was open. Mat flipped it. The Captain shot, but missed. The Captain hesitated. It was obviously a trap to draw him out of cove. But if he could get out, he would be out of harm’s way and could trap the Shadow Squad inside. He was unsure if he could make it. He prayed: “God, Help me. Ensure that I live.”
He went for the door. Nax shot him in the knee. He tried to crawl out. Aaron left cover to make a head shot, but Miles shot back, forcing him back into cover. Dany lobbed a grenade. The Captain was unable to avoid its blast. He died in the explosion.
The Squad carried Kron out to the bridge of the ship. Aaron signaled for a wormhole. One was given. Back at the ship, Kron was rushed into the medical ward, in very poor condition. Aaron and Nax stood outside.
“Not to gloat but-” Nax started.
“**** off,” said Aaron.
Nax left. Aaron went into the room. Mat was sitting in the room already.
“You did well back there,” Aaron said to Kron's unconscious body. “You too, Mat,” said Aaron.
“Thank you,” said Mat.
Aaron left the room.
Mat grasped Kron’s hand and spoke over his unconscious body. “Do you know why I chose to be an assassin?” he asked. “I could have been a regular soldier. Much easier, less training needed, and you are in less dangerous situations.”
Mat laid his hand on Kron’s arm. “I could have gone for the super-soldier program. I’d be augmented and sent off to be beloved as though I was a hero, and I’d be nearly un-killable.”
He took his hand off of Kron’s arm. “I could have been a sweeper. Nothing but blowing up houses and killing civilians on defeated planets. No danger, lots of shooting; as fun as your life could be while you’re drafted.”
He lay back across the couch, staring at a monitor. “But do you know why I chose to be an assassin?”
He turned his head toward Kron, “I chose to be an assassin because I only have to kill one person per day.”
Suddenly the monitor became lively. The doctor rushed into the room. Mat started to leave. The doctor frantically acted to control Kron’s bleeding. Mat couldn’t bring himself to go. The bleeding was getting worse. Various monitors could be heard beeping. The bleeding grew worse as the doctor grew more frantic. After several minutes he was finally able to make the bleeding subside.
The doctor turned toward Mat. “He’s stable now. He should recover,” the doctor said.
Mat went to bed, relieved.
Meanwhile in another part of the galaxy, a squad of six Humans was addressed by their Commander.
“Photons, we have been assigned a new mission. A squad of six conduit soldiers has been assassinating our best men as of late. The Monarchy finds this rather irritating and wants it to stop. Thus we are being assigned to make that happen. We’ve found a way to determine who their next target will be. From now on we will be sent out during each of their missions, to protect whoever, or whatever, they seek to destroy. We will continue to thwart their efforts until the squad is disbanded or all of its members are killed. Do you understand?”
“Sir, Yes, Sir!” The Photon Squad shouted.
“Good” said The Commander. “We start tomorrow. We'll be giving them quite the time from now on”.