Slaver Lord Autocracy
They waited, still as death, for their prey to approach. It did not matter to them the landings were effectively uncontested nor that the Free Federation had landed in overwhelming force. That one of the feared Dark Guard legions and Zerakis himself was spearheading the attack was merely data to them. The near mathematical certainty of their demise was something they did not even consider.
Instead they waited patiently for him to come to them. Sshaness fell in the first day. There masters knew that it would from the moment the Free Federation chose their landing zone. Herizzel was the logical next target. The city's industrial sector and clone tanks would be of use to the Free Federation, if captured intact. The automated factories would be reprogrammed to make equipment and weapons for them while the clone tanks were by their very nature easily repurposed into medical facilities. Taken intact, Sejassa would become the arsenal that would support the attack on the next Slaver system. So the hunters had been slipped into Herizzel where they now waited.
Nuclear and plasma ordinance did not hammer the city. The Free Federation would not destroy the prize while they had other means of cracking the defences at their disposal. Standing in dark rooms, the hunters watched data relays as the Dark Guard shock troops, supported by tanks and rocket batteries, hammered the front lines. Zerakis lead from the front.
They watched as display after display went dark. The Imperator charged the line, anchoring around his bodyguard a ward-shield that was almost unbreachable while hammering each weapon emplacement and position with overwhelming force. His bodyguard contributed as did the war machines and soldiers in the second rank, but it was Zerakis who did most of the work.
Azure edged pulse waves shredded neurons and processor networks. Blue-white fire consumed bunkers and hardened weapon emplacements in conflagrations the unshielded eye could not watch. Rockets, kinetic slugs, and lasers were answered with scything cyan beams that tore through concrete, rock, and steel in a fountain of white hot fragments. Zerakis's shields held. The Slavers died.
Cannon fodder troops waited in positions deeper in the city. They had no hope of more than slowing the Free Federation and inflicting a handful of casualties, but their masters did not care. The top of the pyramid had fled, leaving the rest to die. The hunters shifted position. Their prey was coming.
Cities reflect their builders. Sithi need large amounts of personal space and elvindar desire privacy. Humans are more tolerant of crowding and tend towards supporting large public facilities to serve their communities rather than smaller private or clan enclaves. Kordassi tend to build large, low communal structures with rounded surfaces and few right angles. Herrizel has been a sithi city two hundred years ago, before the conquest. Now Naomar Kordassi domes and cylinders were mixed with the sharp edged, stacked levels of sithi towers.
Four of the hunters shifted position, their bodies hyperspeed blurs obscured by cloaking systems and active camouflage. They darted passed the squat, toadlike Kordassi who were cowering in hiding. There was no saving them, even if the hunters had been inclined to try. The Free Federation was merely ruthless in its treatment of slaver soldiers, but their masters could only expect worse. Brain burned slaves could expect merciful deaths, but their masters had unleashed four hundred years of war and a boundless tide of suffering and death. The Free Federation's hatred for them was endless.
The hunters found new positions and froze. They waited motionlessly as Zerakis broke the defences and the Dark Guard massacred the remainder with the aid of the One hundred and Second and Three hundred and Ninth Strike Legions. The Imperator was advancing ahead of his troops, an invincible hammer acting as the vanguard of merely mortal men. Who could withstand Zerakis's might? Who could breach his defences? Of course he lead from the front. The hunters knew their prey well.
A tower toppled, shattered at the base. Two hundred meters of sharp edged glass, steel, and ceramic toppled onto a low, wide dome. The earth shock with the thunder of the impact. Dust rose into the sky. Zerakis was coming. The sensor net of the First Lord of Death and his Twelve, sorcerous and scientific, probed the region. To fire was to be found instantly. To hide was futile. To be found was to die.
The hunters did not dare use active sensors, but they did not need to. Passive was enough when Zerakis created a swath of destruction and a widening ring of fleeing Kordassi who realized their hiding places were not safe. The Great Necromancer did not waste power on the fleeing refugees. His attention was focused on finding those that might try to stop him. Nuclear minds, plasma charges, snipers with orichalcum devastator rounds, and Slaver Lords of the First Circle were what he was looking for. The hunters waited.
He came through the street that opened into a square of widely spaced, sharp edged skyscrapers. Behind him came his Twelve, the ritual and very practical bodyguard assigned to every legate. Twelve and one more, a tall man wearing a shadowcloak shaped like a trenchcoat. He wore no witchmask, no heavy armour, or Slaverhide leathers filled with power. He was assigned a low priority by the hunters.
Zerakis came forward, his Twelve spreading out behind him and at his hide. One hunter twitched and then exploded into motion. The ambush had been sprung. The other hunters flashed forward, stealth abandoned and shielding wards at full strength, talismans reinforced by the hunter's own strength.
The first hunter was five stories up when he exploded out the window, a rail gun in his hands loaded with orichalcum devastors. The planet's gravity dragged him down at slightly more than nine meters per second squared, a speed that was too slow. Augmented muscles, boosted by a flood of sorcerous power from the arcantech network hardwired to his nervous system, propelled him forward with enough force to clear the two hundred meters between him and Zerakis by the time he touched ground. Targeters attached to the weapon relayed data through his links and painted an orange cross hair that he raised toward Zerakis's chest. The necromancer lord's multilayered shields were too hard to read, but the hunter knew that they would be strongest around the head.
He never got to squeeze the trigger. A witchmasked sorcerer caught him in the hip with a cyan power bolt that cracked his shield and spun him around while cutting his forward velocity. The flickering beam of a radiance cannon tracked him on the way down, the laser shifting frequency as it dumped energy into the hunter's already overstressed shields. The killing beam sliced through form fitting soft composite body armour, flash boiling the water in flesh and heating adamantium bones. The hunter fell fifty meters from Zerakis, as the radiance cannon destroyed muscles and organs. He tried twice to get up and fight, failing both times. He died with his brain cooked in his laser scarred skull and every other major organ, including both hearts.
The other seven hunters each struck from a different direction, human shaped blurs moving at incredible speed. Rings of jade light flashed around Zerakis's hands as he exploded the organs of two hunters, hammering his workings through their shields with a combination of brute strength and an eye for the weak points in their patterns. His twelve took down another two. Kail's power bolts slammed another to the ground with battered shields. Two of the Twelve fell, felled by burst of sorcerours charged bullets. Two hunters closed.
Their moved too fast for all but the augmented to see them as other than blurs, but their opponents were augmented to maximum capacity. Orichalcum blades, glowing blue-white with overchage, snapped out of the hunter's forearms as they engaged at point blank range. Both hunters fired long burst at a soldier in power armour, penetrating shields and shredding the breastplate and the torso beneath in a spray of blood and flesh. A burst shredded one of hunters' left shoulder. The other hammered the shooter off her feet with a cyan force bolt.
Blades flashed, swords and axes on one side and arm blades on the other. Half of the wounded hunter's face was slashed away, adamantium bones cleaved away and thigh cleaved open to the bone. The other suffered a shattered rib, ruptured lung, and bisected heart. They sent three legionnaires falling with lethal wounds. Half face engaged the rest of the Twelve, the blood flow from her wounds already slowing to a trickle as her ruptured veins and arteries squeezed closed and coagulants activated. The other rushed Zerakis as the third survivor rose from the ground in a berserker charge straight at Kail.
Half-face lasted three seconds, crippling one foe and seriously wounding two others, before falling to the ground with four shattered leg bones and both arms severed. Kail hit the the charger with blood red hell blast that cracked shields but didn't stop it. An emerald ring flashed into existence around his hands and he unleashed rupture spells that exploded the hunter's hearts and lungs. The hunter barely slowed. It closed, energized arm blades shining like plasma arcs.
Cyan force beams flashed from Kail's hands, smashing through ruined shields, sending the hunter rocking back on its heals, breaking adamantium ribs and driving the fragments through the assassin's flesh. The hunter's entire chest was a mass of ruined tissue, but it did not stop. It leapt forward and shields sparked and hissed as they clashed against each other.
Zerakis wheeled to face the assassin coming at him. Beams of white light blazed in his hands as the assassin closed to less than three meters away. The heat wash of the Imperator's killing sorcery was felt a hundred meters away. The air became a distorted mass of heat haze as the hunter briefly became a sun. Ash and blackened bone were falling to the ground as the light faded.
Kail's foe stabbed him in the left shoulder and tore across his body, slicing through the necromancer's collar bone and breastbone. Kail blocked the stab at his face with an forearm parry against the the hunter's inner arm. The attack overbore him and he fell on his back, blood spilling from his wounds. He managed to pin the hunter's left arm under him in fall, but the hunter ripped upward with his right. The blade side through the necromancer's throat and scraped against spell reinforced bone before punching up through the bottom of Kail's jaw and into his mouth, piercing his tongue. And then it halted with Kail holding onto the hunter's arm in a death grip.
The hunter spat blood out of his mouth, splattering the congealing mass onto the necromancer's chest. Venom glands sprayed toxin into the necromancer's face. Flesh hissed and bubbled and the necromancer's eyes melted into streams of goo that flowed out his sockets. Kail's right hand closed on the dying hunter's throat. Too little, too late.
The hunter's skull exploded in a spray of blood and brains. Kail pushed the corpse away, blood oozing from his ruined face. One of the Twelve helped him to his feet. "Easy," said figure in rune marked power armour. "Demonsbane will heal you in a minute."
Kail tried to talk and ended up gargling blood. "Don't talk," said the soldier. Kail couldn't match the armour to a name. "You'll be fine. The rest of the legion is catching up."
"He's trying to say that he doesn't heal easy," said Zerakis as he walked forward, shadow cloak shrouding him like a robe. "But hard is a relative term." He raised his hands and Kail's wounds closed and his eyes reformed. "See?"
"Thank you," said Kail.
"You're welcome. Get a close combat weapon and scorpion it. Sometimes you need one."
"I will. Those are alphas right?" he said, pointing at the dead assassins. "I didn't think they would be that deadly."
"They aren't," said Zerakis. His lips twitched and a slight smile appeared. "At least the previous model wasn't. These are new. It seems that the Class Sixes are much more formidable than their predecessors. Internal self destruct charges won't leave much for autopsy and reading their corpses is notoriously difficult. Our sensor net data and personal experience will make up the majority of our intel on them until we get something better."
"One step forward and two steps back," the soldier who had supported Kail muttered.
"No," said Kail. "We don't know that. All but one of us survived and they lost all eight. Eight armed with the best weapons in their arsenal, weapons that cost them more to make than it costs us. The Class Fives cost a small fortune each. These ones won't be cheaper."
Zerakis nodded. "Exactly. They could potentially cost enough resources for the new model be a net loss to the Slavers. In which case I'm happy to kill as many of them as they can decant."