Mat woke up to a loud buzzer. He heard a thump as Dany, who had been sleeping on the bunk below, hit his head on the bunk above him. Mat couldn’t resist a chuckle.
“Is this funny to you?” asked Dany.
“Extremely,” said Nax, also chuckling.
“We’ll see whose laughing next time we get a new member,” Dany replied, “I’ll see to it that you’re the one that gets moved to a lower bunk because Kron will be SOOO much more comfortable on the to—“
“Dany, just put your armor on and go to the briefing room,” Aaron said from the bunk under Nax. “I’m not in a patient mood this morning.”
Dany groaned “Yes, sir,” he said, and did as instructed.
The Squad walked into the briefing room and sat in front of the usual lime green hologram, depicting a conduit female.
“Hello Shadow Squad,” the Briefer said, “Your target today is General Gregory Mons. He is currently the commanding officer of all human forces in Sectors 3 and 4 of the Universal Monarchy of Humanity’s territory. On the edge of Sector 3 is the Planet 895 C. Our forces will soon be staging an attack on 895 C. If Mons can be eliminated, he will probably be replaced with a significantly less competent officer; one that is less likely to be able to repel us.”
“Where can we find him,” Kron asked.
“I was getting to that,” the Briefer said. “Mons is housed in a base on the Planet 786 B. The humans refer to the base as The Glistening Guardian. The Glistening Guardian itself is a single square building whose doors will not be difficult to breach. What will give you more trouble is the fifty-four foot tall and fifteen foot thick diamond wall that surrounds it on all sides. There are numerous snipers, other soldiers and guard towers stationed along the wall. The towers consist of a single, large, electrical coil with one man stationed inside. This person operates a simple device that shoots a small stream of water at an intended target. When shot from within this coil, what was once a harmless toy carries the electrical charge of the coil to whatever the stream hits. If this happens to be a soldier it will deliver a fatal electrical charge. Your drop-ship is waiting Shadow Squad, good luck.”
The Commander of the Photon Squad slammed his fist on Mons’ desk. “Look, by the virtue of it being a ship, Domination’s defenses are far more formidable. You’ll be much safer if we simply wormhole you up to the ship and wait until the Shadow Squad thinks you’ll be gone too long to be worth waiting for, and gives up.”
“Calm down soldier,” Mons responded. “There isn’t a thing that can penetrate our wall. We are invincible inside this base.”
“Everything declared indestructible is soon destroyed, General. I strongly suggest you--”
“This base is impossible to destroy,” the General said. “It’s not a matter that can be disputed, it’s a simple fact. Now take your squad out of my quarters.”
“That’s an order Commander,” Mons shouted.
“Yes, sir” the Commander said, noticeably frustrated.
The Photons left Mons’ quarters, and headed toward the wall outside
“It’s like a 12 year old shouting at you to get out of his room,” the Commander grumbled as the squad walked toward the wall. “That annoying squeal he presumably considers to be a voice even matches such a thing.”
“Sir,” Molly said.
“What?” asked the Commander.
“Why are you so confident the base can be breached?” Molly asked. “There are several of these bases and they have withstood yearlong sieges. Any explosive powerful enough to break through the wall would--”
“Molly, there were two other ships identical to the titanic” the Commander said. “And I’m sure half of the cities on earth had walls as thick as Jericho’s.”
The Photon Squad climbed the shining stairs to the top of the glistening diamond wall. They looked out onto the mix of earthly and alien trees, many changing their color for autumn. They chatted with the occupants of the four guard towers stationed at the front corners and on either side of the door. They waited as the occupants of the other fourteen towers, which were stationed at the other corners and along the rear, left and right walls, watched for activity along with them.
The Shadow Squad landed on the planet. Under Kron’s cloak, they approached the magnificent wall.
“How do we intend to break through that?” Mat asked.
“Breaking through it will do no good by itself,” Kron said. “The guard-towers alone are enough to render entry impossible.”
“Kron, isn’t there something you can do to take out the towers?” Dany asked.
“Of course there is,” Kron said.
The Commander kept a sharp look out for Conduits. His eyes were focused intensely on the ground in front of him when he heard a scream. He turned to look at the tower it had come from. Where there should have been an operator, there was but a disgusting parody of the human form with a glob of water floating above it.
“What the--” The water divided into streams and flew through the bars making up the head of the tower. A jolt of electricity, not plainly distinguishable from a lightning bolt followed each stream out, one of them hitting and killing another soldier.
The Commander radioed General Mons, “General, you’ll want to take a look at what just happened.”
“What the heck?” Mons said back after a second.
“That’s what I thought too,” said The Commander.
“I order all of the tower operators to exit their stations,” The General said, now over a loudspeaker.
As the operators tried to leave, the hatches which would allow them to escape were suddenly melted shut. The switch to cut the flow of electricity to the towers then followed. As the eighteen remaining tower operators frantically jerked at the bars, the Commander heard another scream. He looked and saw water seemingly being drawn out of the operator’s body. After some moments, a similar abomination to the first was all that was left of the man. Once again the water divided into streams, which carried glowing jolts of electricity into the base. This time no one was hit.
“Everyone, get inside the building!” General Mons ordered over the loudspeaker.
“General, maybe my guys should stay out here and see if we can figure out what’s happening.” the Commander said.
“Sure, why not. I guess your expendable enough.” said Mons.
“Photons, look around for anything that might be causing this,” said the Commander.
“Do you have anything in mind?” John asked.
“No,” said the Commander, “I have no idea what might do this.”
“Please stop talking about how likely I am to die,” said another operator. Right as he spoke those words, he was destroyed in the same way as the others.
“Anyone else want to complain?” The commander shouted.
There was no response.
“Good then,” he said, “Photons, resume searching.”
As the Photons searched in vain for the cloaked Shadow Squad, another operator was killed, reducing their number to fifteen.
Yet another was killed reducing it to fourteen.
Seven, each having the water sucked out of their bodies and hurled inward toward the center of the base.
The commander jumped as the stream of water from that last victim appeared to be aimed at him.
He looked around and noticed a pattern. It seemed as if those closest to the southeast corner were all dead, and those farther away not yet killed.
Photons go to the northwest corner of the wall,” the Commander said.
The squad did as instructed, as they scanned the exotic forest for anything that could be causing this destruction. Slowly, the operators continued to fall one by one, until there were none left. Each kill was accompanied by the most haunting scream ever to touch a man’s ear.
After the last man operator was killed the towers were ripped off of the wall in quick succession, until only the wall itself remained.
“I think we should probably get inside,” Mike said.
The Commander agreed.
“It looks like the last ones have gone inside,” Kron said.
“Dude,” Dany said, “That, was, AWESOME!”
“Indeed,” Nax said, “It was most enjoyable to watch them squirm. My favorite part was right after you sealed the towers, when they knew there was no escape. They knew they were going to die, and there was nothing to do but pray.”
“I’m glad you liked it,” said Kron.
“Excuse me,” Aaron said, “as great as this is, and that was, we still can’t follow them inside with that massive diamond wall in the way.”
“Indeed,” said Mat. “Kron do you have anything in mind?”
“You guys shouldn’t be counting on me to be able to do everything.” Kron said. “That said, there is a trick I do all the time at shows.”
Kron approached the wall. Once he arrived, he reached out and touched it with both hands and his tail.
“Excuse me,” Gar said, “What are you doing?”
“I’m telling the Higgs field to shut up,” Kron said, “There we go I’ve greatly reduced this wall’s mass. It should be easy to lift out of the way.”
“Nice, in a different way,” said Mat.
“I’m glad you liked that too,” Kron said, casually tossing the enormous wall aside.
“And now we go in,” Aaron said.
The Commander huddled with the others in the General’s quarters at the back of the twenty-room state-of-the-art facility that was once protected by that majestic wall.
“So you have no idea what’s happening?” the General asked.
“No one does,” the Commander said. “We just watched things that are impossible, at least for a Conduit.”
“Sir,” Molly asked, “How did you know this base would fall?”
“Hold on,” General Mons asked, “Even without our wall, there are hundreds of soldiers in here and only 6 of them.”
“You ever hear of a certain defense system called, ‘Medusa’?” the Commander asked.
“Wait, so you’re just going to ignore me?” The General asked.
“Yes,” Molly said, “Yes I’ve heard of it, I mean. It was a defense system that surrounded the planet 156 C. It was deemed impossible to penetrate. As a result, when the Conduit attack came, it was assumed they could handle it. They got almost no backup, and the planet fell.”
“I lived on that planet,” the Commander said, “until it fell, when I was about seven. I can’t think of a single person on that planet whose first name I knew, that didn’t die in that attack; except for me of course.”
The Commander heard the door to the facility burst open. He motioned at his squad to head that way.
The General likewise ordered his soldiers, “Let’s go,” he shouted.
“Be quiet,” the Commander said. “It’s ideal that they do not know where we are.”
“Hey, don’t tell me what to do.” said Mons.
The Commander heard footsteps approaching the general’s quarters. He signaled Tim, John, and Crystal to split up and search the building. The Commander opened radio contact within his squad.
“Remember, we know they have a cloaking device, so be really care--”
“We don’t think of him as a device actually,” Aaron said, “Oh, you didn’t know we could tap into you radio? Its incription is so amateurish that any child could do it. Well, any Conduit child could. Maybe if you found some unusually smart, adult, human, probably a hybrid with some kind of microbe, he would be able to comprehend me as I walk him through it.”
“What do you mean you don’t think of ‘him’ as a device?” the Commander asked.
“He meant I’m not a device,” Kron said. “Photons just find me authoritative, except for you, until about five minutes from now that is.”
“Do you really think we’re that incompetent?” Tim asked as he, John and Crystal continued searching room to room.
“Your parents certainly thought so,” Nax said.
“My, my parents?” Tim asked.
“It’s really sad” Nax said “when you can’t trust your own son to protect you on a routine--”
“I interrupt your taunt” Mike said.
“That’s quite alright,” Aaron said, “By the way, one of you is in the same room as us.”
All of the doors in the facility suddenly locked shut.
“Photons, report your location,” said the Commander.
“I’m in one of the sleeping areas,” said Crystal.
“I’m in the Dining room,” said Tim,
“I’m in the medical war--” John began.
“Well it looks like we have ourselves a prisoner,” said Aaron, “What do you think we should do with him Mat?”
“Well, since I’m a nice guy, I think we should offer an exchange, we’ll give you the Photon, if you give us Mons.”
The Commander paused for a moment.
“What are you doing?” Mons asked.
“Considering it,” said the Commander.
“WHAT?” asked Mons.
“You’re annoying, immature, and arrogant and have the general attitude of a twelve year old,” the Commander said, “What do you think John?”
“The mission comes first, sir,” John said.
“Alright then,” said the Commander.
“So that’s a no?” Aaron asked.
“Yes,” the Commander said.
“Too bad then,” Aaron said, “Nax, kill him.”
Nax raised his sword. John struggled to break free of the lock the Shadows had him in. John punched the space above him, causing Gar, who was holding him, to release his grip and reel back. John quickly ran across the room, unholstered his sidearm and opened fire in the direction of the Shadow Squad. Kron deflected each bullet before it hit any members of his squad.
The doors suddenly opened again. John ran out of the medical ward and headed back toward the General’s quarters. The doors to the medical ward shut and locked. John arrived at the General’s quarters.
“Thanks Mike,” John said.
“I didn’t unlock the doors,” Mike said.
“Then who did?” John asked.
“I think the better question is what that thing on your neck is,” said Mike.
“What thing?” asked John.
The object, an adhesive sphere with a barrel extending from it, aimed its barrel at Mons’s head and fired a bullet. Mons fell on his back, dead.
“Why else do you think I would unlock the doors?” Kron asked.
“We really must be going now,” said Aaron.
The medical ward’s doors opened again. The shadow squad left what was left of The Glistening Guardian, and wormholed back onto the Righteous Judgment.
John gulped as the Photons wormholed onto the Domination, afraid of what punishment the Commander would have for him. He was not pleasantly surprised by the ocean of pain that greeted him before he went to bed, leaving a trickling trail of blood as he walked down the hall.