As soon as Hana was done speaking to the squad leader, she took a deep breath, and then said, “Okay, Echo Team. Let’s do this.” Immediately, she hoisted herself up on top of the cliff, pulled her silenced assault rifle out of its holster on her back, and crept forward until she was behind a nearby outcropping of rock. Lifting up the assault rifle and resting it on the outcropping, she peered through the rifle’s scope, and sized up the opposition.
It looked like Moratino had been right. There were at least 250 troops on top of the ridge, possibly more. They’d set up a nice, tidy camp right at the top, but they clearly hadn’t expected anybody to scale the cliff, because there were no fortifications facing it, and all of the troops had their attention trained on the battle on the slope leading up to the top of the ridge.
She trained her rifle on the nearest target and fired. The soldier dropped without a sound, but before his body hit the ground, she had already shifted targets and fired again. The targets she was selecting were out of the line of sight of the rest of the soldiers on the ridge, and the five assassins with her were also doing the same with almost superhuman efficiency, so nearly 50 Imperial soldiers had been eliminated before the rest of them even suspected that there were enemy troops behind them.
Once they’d figured out what was going on, it didn’t help them much. As soon as more than a handful of Imperial troops had turned around and started drawing their fellows’ attention to Starfengt, Hana and her squad quickly holstered their assault rifles and pulled out the other weapon strapped to their backs, a light grenade launcher. Before the Imperial troops could even open fire on Starfengt, their ranks were decimated by a dozen lightweight, but high-powered, grenades ripping through them. There were still almost 150 of them left at this point, but they were scattered and demoralized. And Starfengt still had a few more tricks left.
Dropping her grenade launcher, Hana pressed a button on her forearm, and it was as if she had disappeared. The rest of her squad followed suit. They had activated their active camouflage, which analyzed their surroundings and automatically adjusted the color of their body armor to match the color of their surroundings, thus making them virtually invisible. Once they’d disappeared they each drew long, curved mylium swords and crept forward towards the Imperial troops.
One of the most important things Arcten had ever taught her was that fear was more important than firepower. No matter how many more troops and guns and bullets your enemy had than you, if they were afraid of you, all of those advantages were nullified. And turning invisible and cutting them down one by one was an extremely effective way to terrify them.
Quickly but methodically, Hana and her five fellow assassins swept through the Imperial camp, striking down soldiers and disappearing before their companions could react. Meanwhile, the two regular army squads had turned back and were pressing toward the Imperial troops again. Slowly but surely, the number of Imperial troops on the ridge was dwindling.
Hana had to admit that, despite their fear, the Imperial troops fought hard. They knew that they had no defense against the shadows harrying them from all sides, but they didn’t give up. She almost felt bad about killing them, except that she knew they would kill her in a heartbeat if they got the chance. Besides, whether or not these individual soldiers were good people or not, they served an Empire that was corrupt and dying. They could have defected to Fangalin and joined the side of justice and truth. Instead, they chose to stay with the Empire. Hana had no compassion for fools who refused to see the direction that history was heading.
Almost as soon as the battle had begun, it was over. Less than two dozen Imperial soldiers were left, and they had surrendered, as it was painfully obvious that they were not going to win this fight. Only two of the regular Fangalin soldiers had been killed, and one more had been wounded and was currently being evaced. The rest of the regular soldiers were herding the disarmed Imperial soldiers down the ridge, while Hana and her team members set up their positions facing the main Imperial army camp. They hadn’t been able to bring their sniper rifles up the ridge with them, so they were collecting their grenade launchers and preparing to rain death down upon the clustered Imperials, while their assistants brought their snipers rifles up the ridge.
“That was spectacular, Captain,” said Vedregela with a grin as she knelt down beside Hana and set her grenade launcher on a rock outcropping to stabilize it.
“I suppose it was pretty good,” Hana allowed with a small smile. “Of course, we’re not done yet.”
“Of course,” Vedregela said, her grin broadening. She adjusted her grenade launcher, made sure it was fully secure, and then turned to look at Hana. A serious look had replaced the grin, although her eyes still twinkled with delight. “Welcome back, Captain,” she said. Hana turned to look at her, her own eyes somber but grateful.
“Thanks, Ved,” Hana replied. “Let’s kick some more Imperial ass, shall we?”
“Yes, sir!” Vedregela replied, her grin back and broader than ever.
“Echo One to Echo Two,” Hana said over the radio.
“Echo Two here,” Xeliana replied. “Go ahead.”
“What’s your status, Two?”
“South ridge is secure, One. We’re getting ready to start the second phase.”
“Acknowledged, Two. Begin the second phase at your discretion.”
“Understood, One. Two out.”
Almost as soon as Hana stopped talking, she saw a flash of light from the opposite ridge and then a series of explosions in the Imperial camp below. “Echo Team!” she yelled. “That’s our cue! Let’s light ‘em up!” Immediately, she and the rest of her squad began emptying their grenade launchers into the Imperial camp, unleashing death and destruction and chaos once again.
To be continued…