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The Captive of Embrellon – 9

As they began to enjoy their new life together, and made plans for what she would be doing now, they were called to the Seers room by Whitlaw. It sounded urgent. They went as quickly as they could and entered the room and took their places along the couches with the rest of the Senior Staff, and their Skree. Whitlaw was in the center of the room, and they looked between the orbs, and it was clear, that made Jason feel more at ease, it had been a year since his escape from Marn, and O’connor had told him that in all likely hood, they would just now be able to launch an invasion of any kind. If they were planning something, it would take an additional eight weeks for them to get here. It was all he could take, and as he was starting to feel like he might explode, Whitlaw eased the tension with an announcement. “I didn’t call you here to tell you the Marn were on their way here. I called you here to discuss something that I would like to do. This is the only place that we know of where no one can read you at. I have some announcements, and they need to remain as confidential as possible. Everyone looked around the room, what could have happened that would cause Whitlaw to bring in all the Senior Staff into the Seers room.
“We are going to establish an expedition to the Southern Continent, the Seers have said that some of the Marn we exiled there are still alive. There are two people left who know how long it takes to get there and the best route to go. Both of them are in this room. Jason and Jana. I am sending Jana to lead the expedition and Jason will be coordinating the expedition from this end. It is important for to find out exactly what they are up to down there. We exiled them because we don’t execute prisoners, and we couldn’t release them to the Marn after they had been to this room. The Seers have indicated that they can still read at least six of ten exiles we sent there. They have located themselves about two kilometers from the beach on one of the rivers near where they were dropped off. We need intel. Last thing we need is for them to have figured a way to signal a Marn ship when they return to the planet.” The room was silent when Whitlaw finished.
Jason knew how accomplished a commander Jana was, and he knew that with him and Vesarra just joining, that Whitlaw wasn’t going to send him on a Scouting trip with Vesarra, even though she was a Senior Scout. What he wanted was to train Jason for Command, not command of a Squad of Rangers, but for Command of the Guardians. He knew that even though on an Earth ship, or on Earth itself, he could live to one-hundred-eighty without a problem, but he had been on Embrellon for thirty years now, and the capture of Jason had shown him more than any other thing, that they need contingency plans in place for everything. This mission was the first of things he was doing to start that transformation.
He needed to put people in place with the Senior Staff, just as in a regular military unit, so that if something happened, there were trained people to step in and take over any position. There was too much at stake here to keep running the Guardians like a platoon. He had a force of two thousand, enough to cover all sectors of their part of the continent, the Free Skree cover their own, and he could see that with the better weapons to defend the planet, the population was going to grow as well. The issue they would have though is how to build more places to live where everyone wouldn’t get killed, because the Marn could find their homes easily. Assigning Ranger Squads for protection wasn’t the issue, being able to not only defend their positions but to repel an attack as well, that meant location. It’s never easy to have to decide who lives and who dies. They needed highly defensible positions, with the same type of ballistae installations, meant cliff side dwellings, with all the resources they had available here, as well as Craft Masters to fill the positions needed in a new settlement. It would be a logistics nightmare. To his way of thinking, it wouldn’t be fair to ask the Vatarians to help them build an additional place to live, they did live on and share the planets resources with them, but because they were the greatest stone masons he had ever seen, didn’t mean he had the right to expect them to build additional locations because of their skills in stone. Putting in the Ballistae would be more than enough, the people should be involved in the establishment of another location.
After the meeting was concluded, they headed to the ward room to make plans and draw assignments from the most senior scouts, those who were seasoned, and wouldn’t be given over to the eagerness of youth and get the whole company in trouble. They had chosen scouts who had at least ten years of experience, with fifteen being preferred. That actually narrowed it down to about one-hundred candidates, then they had to filter it down from there. Whitlaw didn’t want a to lose anyone on this mission, this was a strenuous flight, it had almost exhausted the four who had gone the last time that they might not have made it back if it hadn’t been for Yoran’s chart. This time though they wouldn’t be towing a boat with ten Marn and the supplies they had given them. They would just be flying to the continent via the islands that they had used on the way back last time, and would be able to use them as a base for as long as it took to get the intel that Whitlaw needed.
The final approval would come from Jana, she was in charge of this expedition and should get to choose who would be on it. She would know all of the Senior Scouts, and she would know who she could and couldn’t work with. They weren’t robots, they all had their own personalities, and some personalities just didn’t mesh. Jana and Rhela had the field narrowed to forty by the time they finished, and Jason came up with an idea of how to choose the final twenty who would accompany her on this assignment. He asked her what skill she felt was most important for this kind of mission. After some thought, she said “I need rangers who are good with a crossbow, know how to move silently, and have exceptional sword skills, and are experienced enough in covert operations to not get caught or give away our position.” As always, Jason was impressed with Jana. She hadn’t allowed the death of Jama to affect her ability to command or make solid tactical decisions.
Jason following her list of qualities and skills she felt were necessary, he said “We need to have a tournament. Games if you will, make it open to all Guardian Scouts and Rangers, and have them compete in archery, crossbows, and swordsmanship. That will narrow down the field some, once we have the best in each of those areas, then we test the other abilities needed for this operation. Once we get it down to twenty, then we will take those twenty to the Seers, have them scanned, and while in the Seers room, we tell them what the mission is.” Whitlaw was impressed with his son’s solution. He announced at the next briefing that they were going to hold the first skills competition in the history of the Guardians, and the competition was open to all Scouts and Rangers and would be held starting the first day of the week. They would need to sign up for the competition and be ready to compete. They were all excited, after thirty years of working to hone skills, they were going to get the opportunity to advance in rank.
It didn’t take long to have the roster full of names. Jason and Vesarra had intentionally left their names out of the competition. Everyone who had heard the tale of Jason’s ordeal on Marn were surprised that he didn’t compete, but they didn’t say anything. Jason had asked Whitlaw why he had asked him and Vesarra not to add their names to the list, and his response shocked him. He needed Jason here training cadets in swordsmanship, and he needed Vesarra here to teach Scout basics. He couldn’t spare them right now. However, when the Marn returned, he assured them both, they would be in the middle of the fray unless Vesarra was pregnant. Losing someone like Shamira and Knala had caused him to set new guidelines for Scout and Ranger Missions during combat situations. They couldn’t afford to lose any more offspring.
Jason and Vesarra had been promoted to the rank of Commander, which would give them the rank of Major, Jana was a full Colonel, and Whitlaw had made it a requirement to compete that they held the rank of Senior Scout or Ranger leader. That narrowed down the field. It took a minimum of five years to reach that rank, most of the time ten. The Games were set to start the next day immediately after the mornings briefing. It was exciting for Jason to watch, this was the best they had to offer, competing to join a new division in the Guardians, even though none of them new it yet. Whitlaw had said they had a specialized core of training in the space marines for this type of unit, and he would work on the core of the training program for the future.
The archery competition was the first competition. Each contestant was required to shoot three times in each round. The rounds consisted of hitting a target bullseye at fifty meters, one hundred meters, one hundred fifty meters, and two hundred meters. Once they had finished with that, the top group would compete again until they had a clear winner. Then they moved on to crossbows. Jana didn’t want them using the new style spring rifles, she wanted crossbows because the spring rifles made a specific sound when the bolt went through the barrel, and that would give away their position. Whitlaw accepted her reasoning, and they started at two hundred meters, and did rounds at increments of one hundred meters following each round until they reached one thousand meters. That helped them find the best with the bow and crossbow. The swordsmanship was a bit different, they needed them to follow a series of fights using practice swords. That first set of rounds took out quite a few of the competitors. The older Guardians, who had years of experience fighting Marn with swords, thinned the field quickly, it seemed that the Guardians with at least ten years of experience took the younger Guardians out quickly. Jason made notes of all he saw, what types of training he needed to implement, and who needed retraining in swordsmanship.
The last test was in tracking and covert operations. This was run by the Skree. Shandarro, Regulus, Shacarri, and Rhela. They allowed them to test them fully. This was necessary, because once all the Guardians skill with bow, crossbow, and swordsmanship was completed, then they needed to test them with their Bond-Mates to see what kind of team they made. This part of the games involved finding the location of several objects, using tracking skills as well as the need for them as a team to move silently through the obstacles, and not touch any of them. When they were done, they announced the winners, gave them the proper rewards, and had their list of twenty. Those twenty, were the twenty who scored the highest across all the stages of the competition.
They were all taken to the Seers for screening, and then as a group, they were given their new assignment as the first special forces group in the Guardians. Whitlaw also wanted to train them as a unit for at least a week before deploying them on this assignment. It went well, they were all ready for the trip by the end of training. He told them that when they got back from the mission, he would be giving them a new assignment. They were ready to go, and he bid them farewell. They left that night, and were out of the Temple Complex and headed to the southern continent.
Jana had them leave through the ballistae ports so that they wouldn’t be noticed going. Most of the Guardians on ballistae duty would arrive shortly afterwards, and no one would be the wiser. She made a note to herself to tell Whitlaw that they needed an entrance to the Temple built that would allow them to enter and leave at the top of the complex without being seen. Here unit, twenty plus her, were flying in a tight v. They headed out over the sea in the direction of the island. They needed to make that island first, then once they set up their base, they would need to begin gathering intel by making night excursions onto the continent. They didn’t know if they would be susceptible to the ancient weapon the Marn had used against the Companions. They had learned that the Brellon and Vela were closely related and if they got sick by going to the Continent. They would have to stay at the island until all of them died. This could wind up being a one-way trip.
The first order of business was to locate the Marn. The Seers gave them the general location, they couldn’t get more specific without actually touching their minds, and that wasn’t what they wanted to do. They wanted to locate them, make sure they had no weapons to use against the Guardians, and see how many of Shagos’ men were left. Jana found them first. She had decided to rise as far above the canopy as she could, and Rhela still clearly see them. They had actually been quite industrious. They had built cabins to live in under the trees. They had hides stretched on frames to make leather with, had built a smoke house used to preserve meat, and they had a garden for vegetables, and it looked like they had spears, and had built some sort of primitive bows. Not as strong as the ones the guardians had, but good enough to hunt with. She went back to the island with her patrol and once she landed, she got her squad together and told them that they needed to see during the day exactly what the Marn were doing. She gave them specifics and told them to stay at the outside range of the Skree sight and to look through their eyes. This mission was of the utmost importance.
Once her patrols were in position, they got some sleep. The Skree woke them when the Marn started stirring in the morning. There were still eight of them, they saw two graves, and they saw that they wore leathers, and had their bows for hunting, and they got a good look and found they had built a boat. That disturbed her. She didn’t want them leaving the continent for any reason. They went to ground and waited out the Marn. They weren’t well armed but just seeing that they had a boat made her realize that unless they destroyed that boat, they would be back on the main continent and if they were smart enough to avoid detection, then they would be on their way home.
She had to make a command decision and she couldn’t contact anyone about what she was about to do. It was her command. That night, they slipped down to where the boat was, made sure they weren’t seen, and they towed the boat down river to the sea, and took it to their island. Once they were there, the scouts they left behind let them know the Marn were going crazy, trying to figure out what had happened to their boat. She was laughing inside, that was what she wanted. Someday, she knew that she would have to bring a group here and dispatch the Marn, but until then, she would recommend they establish and outpost on this island to monitor the Marn and keep them from actually completing a ship.
After destroying the boat, they stayed at the island for another week, making sure that no one had gotten sick or died, and then once she felt everyone was safe, they headed for home. When they were halfway back, Lantana gave her a message to meet with Whitlaw and Jason and she gave them the place to go. When they arrived, he told them to remove their armor and clothes, and that they were to clean everything with the supplied liquid that Yoran had brought. He and Risa had come. Yoran, being immune to anything they could have brought back wanted to check them over, and Risa had come to bring them food, kaba, and clothes. Yoran was thorough in his examination, and gave them an all clear. They ate and refreshed themselves got their armor and clothes cleaned and then headed to the Temple compound. On the way there, Jana gave him her report, told him that they needed to establish an outpost on the island with a contingent of special forces there to deal with the Marn, and she volunteered to command the outpost.
He had known her for thirty years. She was a solid, confident, capable commander. He was concerned that she wanted command for vengeance for what Skagos had done to Jama, she assured him it was not that at all. She wanted command because she knew that at some point the Marn would attempt to escape, and if they didn’t die from old age, would wind up attacking them again out of desperation and they would have to be killed. She said she always had a deep respect for life and like all Vela, killing wasn’t how they wanted to live, but sometimes, just as Yoran and the Vatarians had learned, it couldn’t be avoided. He gave her the command. She asked for Yoran or Yondor to go to the island and help to excavate out a base. Yondor and Goran volunteered to go with five of the Vatarians, and when she returned to the Island, the outpost would be complete including having ballistae and railguns in place and mounted to use. As well as they would have the shipping fleet lay in supplies for them until they had located sufficient sources to supply the outpost. She thanked them, and then headed off to see Jamar.
After seeing Jamar, she went to see Lantana and then Lara. She wanted them to know what she found, and she wanted to make sure that if something happened to her, that she didn’t want Jamar or Lantana to come and investigate. She wanted them to send Rangers or Scouts if something happened or she didn’t maintain contact. Then she talked to Lara. That was the hardest. She had known her for years, they had been together since the beginning, and her brother’s son was Lantana’s Life-Mate, and she wanted Lara to make sure that their boys grew up knowing about their father’s aunt. Lara told her she would do that, and she wished her blessings on taking this outpost and keeping the Exiles on the continent. That done, she gathered her unit and they started preparing for what they were about to undertake. They were going to the island that night, they were to make a full survey of the island, locate a suitable location for the outpost, log in how many and what kind of game was available, locate and mark any fruit and nut trees, sources for kaba, or someplace where they could put some seedlings to grow their own. She wanted this outpost as self-sufficient as possible.
With that all completed, she went to her quarters, and packed her gear. Yondor and Goran told all of them to make sure they packed their things into water tight containers for the crossing, and then they would see them in three day’s weather permitting. She had given command of the elite forces to Jamar, he was to continue training them, and fulfilling the mission of the Special Forces that they had created. Jamar was proud his aunt had shown such confidence in him. She was in his opinion the best Guardian next to Whitlaw himself.
She had everything and everyone ready, they left that night, and were on the island by morning. They had covered a full five-hundred kilometers and were there on time. That night she sent a patrol to check on Shagos and the Marn. They were around their cabins, they had water and food, had grown whatever was in their garden to supplant their food, and they had mounted a guard. They knew that the Guardians had come and took their boat, and they weren’t very happy about it. She watched from the safety of the canopy noting all that they were doing. She saw that they were gathering wood, splitting lumber, and putting another boat together. This one was smaller and they hadn’t left it in the water, they were wary and wanted their boat. She watched them fabricate the boat. It was amazing at how industrious they could be. They had taken and built the frame of the boat, then they stretched rawhide that was sewn together with welted seams, and then coated with some kind of water proofing material. They carried the new boat to the water, and launched it, it passed its test. It held all eight of them with food and water for an extended journey.
She decided not to take their boat this time, by the time they got anywhere of note, they could land and take them out, or shoot them from far enough out with their crossbows that they wouldn’t be able to hurt any of them. They didn’t head for the island, or even out to sea. They were following the coastline to the east, and she followed far enough away to keep an eye on them but not really get made out. They had gone about five kilometers, and turned into another stream. She followed them and wanted to get in from of them, and waited for some kind of canopy of trees, and when it didn’t seem that one would appear, she flew overland towards the interior, and when she got sight of the river again, she saw that they had a better camp. The first camp they found must have been a hunting camp and the boat was for transporting meat. She felt bad for destroying the boat. She saw Shagos and the others unload supplies, and get things in the better place. The building was made of stone, not tanzite, but some of the other stone that they found in places.
She decided to fly further inland and to see what she could before having to go back. She had gone inland about one-hundred fifty kilometers and saw the caves. They were on the face of a cliff, high enough up that you would have to be an expert rock climber, or mounted on a Skree to get to them. She flew in close and had Rhela look into the caves, Rhela told her that whoever had used these caves wasn’t here anymore, they had been vacant for a long time. They finished their inspection, keeping in mind what they had been told. She didn’t land, she stayed aloft and then turned and headed back to base. This was going to be an exciting post she thought to herself. As she was starting over the water, she heard a “twang”, that was the sound of a bow shot, not one of theirs, but one of the Marn bows. Rhela dodging the arrows, called for reinforcements, the patrol was there in minutes, they had just missed her, and she knew that they would keep fighting as long as they had breath. She called Lantana and told her to scan Rhela, she did, and then she told her to show it to Whitlaw. The she was off the link. When he and Yoran entered, and Lantana showed them what had happened, they immediately went into action.
Jason was to take a full platoon armed with the new spring rifles and they were to take out the Marn. They had given them an opportunity to make a life for themselves on the continent, and to live their lives out in peace, but they had kept the desire for personal glory, and had attacked a Guardian. They were to leave no survivors, even if they needed to land and finish them with swords.
They did their duty, and when they were done, they left the continent. They kept the outpost, this continent was worth looking over, if they could do it safely. Yondor came up with a solution. He would take five of the Vatarians with him and they would explore the continent and see what they could find, and if the continent proved to be inhabitable, then the Vatarians would move to the southern continent and occupy it. That would free up the compound they had built at the temple sight to be used by the Guardians for their people. Yondor told them it was bigger than they knew. That at one time, there were over one thousand Vatarians in that compound. Goran had agreed with his decision, but decided he would stay with Yoran and give Yondor the leadership of the Vatarians. Yondor prostrated himself before Goran, and asked his blessing. He gave the blessing invoking the creator, and then asked Jason to message Whitlaw to go to the Vatarian compound and tell them they were to load the contents into boats and prepare to come to their permanent home. The message was received and roughly ten days later, the Vatarian ships arrived. They went up the small stream that led to the stone house, and then once they cleaned it up, they made camp. Jason was there and was about to leave when Yondor stopped him. “We owe you thanks Jason. You have given us our own homeland. We came here refugees, and the Companions took us in, and we learned many of their secrets, and all we have known, we have shared with you. Please take care of yourself, and once you’ve re-discovered all the ancient knowledge come here to our home and we will share a meal.” That was the greatest blessing in their beliefs. He felt good, they had an outpost, they had people on the continent that if needed, they could contact for their help. He had come home, found a new mate, had gotten a new promotion, and was as happy he thought, as he had ever been.

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