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white lie coverOn planet, the mission begins in earnest. Wil’s no longer the tender lover he was back at the base. His professional mien has descended, separating him from his feelings. Penny sees it in his eyes.

Wil turned to the rest of the team, switching to professional mode. A last glance at Penny and Wil disappeared into the darkness.

Aurialonus wasn’t too smart setting up his security. The prisoners were easily accessible on the ground floor on the back side of the palace which was flanked by the royal gardens.

Their surveillance showed no more than ten armed guards near the prisoners and about that many more on the second floor where Aurialonus slept—most of whom were outside his door. They weren’t guarding the balcony, positioned on the roof or any of a dozen other places Wil would’ve put people.

However, bivouacked around the palace grounds were several hundred soldiers who worshiped the ground Aurialonus trod upon. Since these soldiers and guards prayed every three hours even during the night, timing was dicey. Wil chose to go in two hours before dawn. Most of the soldiers were asleep and the guards were drowsy after being up all night watching the prisoners, guarding their leader and, in the middle of it all, praying fervently.

First they had to get over the seventeen foot wall circling the palace compound. Eight feet thick and made of native stone, it was nearly as hard as a diamond. Time for the monkey to earn his keep.

Emory produced lengths of fine, strong filament and fastened one to a grapnel hook attached to his weapon. Taking careful aim, he shot. A dull thunk and the hook automatically expanded in the stone, anchoring it safely. Emory scrambled up to lower lines for the team.

Watching the little man scamper up the line, Wil felt a shiver of doubt tickle his spine. It would be just as easy for Emory to alert the guards and have them waiting at the top of the wall.

A line dropped in front of Wil. Lance had another line in front of him and a third a few minutes later fell in front of Ben. Two men to a line, they scrambled up, lying flat on the wall before dropping to the ramparts. Emory was nowhere to be seen.

Wil switched to his cybereye, incorporating a special tracking feature. A sophisticated tracer located Emory a few feet away, moving toward the second story rooms of the palace. He was looking for vantage point from the wall to the balcony outside Aurialonus’ chambers.

Signaling the team, Emory attached another line to his gun mounted hook. He had chosen a spot where the palace was slightly closer to the wall. A quick scan with Wil’s cybereye showed that room was empty. Emory took careful aim, pulled the trigger and watched the hook and line play out across the empty space. It was the merest whisper in the dark, followed by a metallic chink of metal against metal, rather than the dull thunk of hitting stone. Wil and Ben exchanged a glance. That might have been heard.

The team lay flat on their bellies until Wil did a short recon. Using his cybereye, he checked for movement among the guards. Nothing. With a nod, he told Emory to try again.

The second shot was successful and Emory went across followed by Wil, Bennett, and Krall. Lance, Ben and Billy headed down via the ropes Emory had attached. They repelled along the inner face of the wall, landing lightly at the bottom. They were on the wrong side of the building and had to go around. At Ben’s command, they moved cautiously into the confines of the gardens.

Wil watched until he lost track of them in the dark. Motioning the men forward, he sent Krall and Bennett through the adjoining suite. He clamored over the balcony railing after Emory, who was already squatting by the door. Holding up a hand, Emory showed five fingers, then added two more. Seven people inside.

Using a soft tap on his mike to signal Wil they were in place, Bennett indicated four more outside the door. There were usually six, so where were the other two?

A little sleeping gas and the guards went down. The door to the suite was unlocked, but Krall stopped before entering, checking carefully for booby traps. His paranoia was elevated, this place gave him the creeps. Whole mission stank like bullshit!

Wil was not the only one equipped with a cybereye. Krall’s was specifically attuned to explosives and their components. Having the capacity to record and retain information he came across, it was quite sophisticated. The man’s expertise in tandem with it made it nearly infallible.

He saw a trip line, a single strand of filament, thin as a golden hair, running across the base of the doorframe. He signaled Wil to hold and checked more carefully, finding this was merely a dummy. The real trap was further up, and not very high tech, but surely lethal.

Around the door frame, holes had been drilled and filled with lead pellets. If the door opened without the thumb print of one of the guards, it would explode. “Explains why it wasn’t locked,” he thought.

Ripping the glove off a guard, he held it up to the scanner. A green light flickered on and the door eased open soundlessly.

The other two guards were inside and had not been affected by the sleep gas. Leaping at them unexpectedly from the dark, the two Marines hardly had time to yell before they were down. Enough sound escaped Krall’s lips for Wil to hear him. None of the team would have broken radio silence if it wasn’t important, so Wil and Emory prepared to enter the chamber from the balcony.

Easing the door open, they crept in low, but Emory hadn’t thought to check for explosive devises like Krall had. Had they been upright, their heads would have been taken off. As it was, shrapnel flew in dozens of directions, stinging their skin through their protective clothing.

“Wil, two!” Bennett gasped, his breath ending in a guttural gagging noise. Wil knew he was dead. Nothing more was heard from Krall.

The two guards attacked Emory and Wil as soon as the smoke cleared. If they had thought to shoot the two interlopers, they might have been successful, but they rushed them instead, knives out, brandishing them wildly.

The guard nearest Wil fell suddenly, scrabbling at his throat. Blood went everywhere. The second guard hesitated a moment too long, Emory took him out with a projectile hook to the eye. The man’s head exploded as the hook expanded in his skull.

Another guard lunged at Wil from the shadows, flailing his arms furiously. Yet another leaped from the opposite side of the room, jumping Emory from behind. As Wil blocked the flurry of blows from his assailant, he realized these and the first two accounted for only four of the seven original occupants.

The guard threw a lucky punch, getting in under Wil’s guard landing on his chest. With a howl, the man fell back, clutching his knuckles. He had hit Wil’s utility and ammunition belt that was strapped across his chest.

“Hurts, doesn’t it?”

The guard looked up in surprise as Wil’s fingers came up and jabbed him in the throat. He collapsed with a wheeze, eyes rolling up in his head.

Emory was not fairing well. The guard was somewhat shorter than Wil, but about thirty pounds heavier. Wil ended the disagreement with his blade to the back of the man’s neck. The guard collapsed, spurting blood all over Emory and Wil.

©2015 Dellani Oakes

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