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The Darkness Within 2: The Republic's Vengeance [Closed/IC]

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Terudel
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The Darkness Within 2: The Republic's Vengeance [Closed/IC]

Postby Terudel » Thu May 07, 2020 8:13 am

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War! The galaxy is plunged into chaos with more than half of the Republic falling into Rebel hands. Former Senator, Tara Mythos, has revealed herself as the leader of the Rebellion, claiming that the Republic had been oppressing the people for many years. The capital of Dieusia had been seized, and many of the remaining Senators have pledged their allegiance to Tara.

The remains of the fallen Republic, the Grand 11, have scattered the galaxy, keeping a low-profile. 3 years after the destruction of the Yunix Superweapon, Michael Spencer, Ainz Mythos, and Sojan Allerew built an alliance and gathered the remaining Republic soldiers under their command. With all 3 becoming Grand General, Grand Marshal and Grand Admiral respectively of the New Crescentian Republic, Tara faces a growing threat.

Now, all they need is to recruit back the rest of the squad and fight back against the Rebellion. With the galaxy shrouded in darkness, the Grand 11 needs to find the light to outshine the darkness within and bring peace to the former Republic...



The Darkness Within Part 1
Last edited by Terudel on Thu May 21, 2020 1:46 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Terudel
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Postby Terudel » Fri May 08, 2020 2:58 am

CHARACTER LIST

MICHAEL SPENCER
Grand General of the New Crescentian Republic Grand Army
Born: 24th Hades (August), 1473 AGW (age 33)
Birthplace: Canardin
Species: Human

Michael Spencer (b. 24th Hades 1473 AGW) is a Canardian and is the Grand General of the New Crescentian Republic Grand Army. Formerly a scientist, he designed the Yunix Superweapon, a large space station capable of causing mass destruction. Michael was part of the Grand 11, a special forces unit tasked to carry out dangerous missions for the Supreme Chancellor.

During the Outbreak of the Second Great War, Michael rejoined the Grand 11 to assist the Supreme Chancellor. When the Chancellor was assassinated, he was one of the people who took command of the Republic Army. Eventually, the Crescentian Republic won the Second Great War but was caught off guard when they discovered that the Rebels had secret bases across different planets.

The Third Great War began with the destruction of the Yunix Superweapon and the subsequent dissolution of the Crescentian Republic. With the Rebels taking control of much of the systems, the remains of the Republic scattered, conducting raids on small Rebel bases. Canardin remained intact, with Michael becoming the leader of the planet.


Biography

Michael Spencer was born on 24 Hades 1473 AGW in Drovis, Canardin. His older brother, Gideon Spencer, was the Premier of Canardin, up to his death in 1503 AGW. Michael took an interest in science research at a young age. He was mentored by the late Doctor Jeffrey Richards until he was 18. Michael was finally given a permanent job at the Delta Research Facility after the death of Doctor Richards.

Michael worked his way up the ranks, becoming the head of scientific research at the young age of 26. He had designed several weapons and ships throughout his career and was regarded as the finest scientist in the galaxy. His greatest work, the Yunix Superweapon, is a large space station with the capability of causing mass destruction to planets and enemy ships. The Superweapon had a sophisticated defence system and housed thousands of starfighters. It also had the capacity to carry 7 destroyers.

Michael was a good friend of the late Supreme Chancellor, Claudine Ghen. He met Claudine when he was 9 during a science competition in Dieusia. Both shared similar interests and became really good friends, eventually dating when Michael was 16. Their relationship ended 5 years later when Claudine turned 20, as she entered the world of politics. Claudine would later on become Supreme Chancellor of the Republic when she was 26 years old.

Michael continued his work in Canardin, assisting the Supreme Chancellor in her conquests. When he was 27, he met Cherilyn Tania, who was the newly-elected Senator of Canardin at that time, in a cafe. They started dating shortly afterwards, allowing Michael to have more influence over the senate.

Michael and Cherilyn led the Republic forces against the Rebels during the Second Great War, eventually claiming victory. Not long after, Cherilyn revealed to have been working for the Rebels all along, and that the victory during the Second Great War was staged. Cherilyn, Ilatha and Doctor Xignus were the architects of the Second Great War in order to deplete Republic resources. With the Republic significantly weakened, the Rebels went on the offensive, destroying the Yunix Superweapon and seizing Dieusia. The Crescentian Republic fell and the Rebels took over.

Michael retreated back to his home planet and worked tirelessly under the radar. He orchestrated the liberation of Idylle, helping former Viceroy Glenn Scheinred to become the Supreme Leader of Idylle. Together with Doctor Tesex Wingate, they liberated Ceris, seizing control of several production facilities set up by Genesis Starship Manufacturing (GSM).

In 1506 AGW, Michael, together with Sojan Allerew and Ainz Mythos, created the New Crescentian Republic, with the capital being the planet of Veres, where half of the New Crescentian Republic's Naval Fleet is stationed. The three men decided that the New Crescentian Republic will remain under military rule in order to maintain peace. Currently, the planets of Canardin, Idylle, Veres, Alak'Hul, Luciole and Ceris are under the New Republic.

Michael took control of the Grand Army of the New Republic, becoming the Grand General.

SOJAN ALLEREW
Grand Admiral of the New Crescentian Republic Grand Navy
Born: 3rd Ares (July), 1473 AGW (age 33)
Birthplace: Zirion Grande
Species: Human

Sojan Allerew (b. 3rd Ares 1473 AGW) is a Grandean and is the Grand Admiral of the New Crescentian Republic Grand Navy. Sojan served as one of the Representatives of Zirion Grande and have signed a fair share of treaties with other planets throughout his career. He served in the Zirion Grande Navy, earning the rank of Rear Admiral, before becoming a Representative. He was part of the Grand 11, and was considered the finest sniper the Republic has ever seen.

Sojan rejoined the Grand 11 during the Second Great War and served as Vice-Admiral aboard Dreadnought 9101 "Unity" against Rebel battle cruisers. Sojan was part of the escape from the Yunix Superweapon, which marked the beginning of the Third Great War.

Sojan, together with Ainz, stayed in Canardin and underwent intense training. 3 years later, Sojan was appointed Grand Admiral of the New Crescentian Republic Grand Navy.


Biography

Sojan Allerew was born on 3 Ares 1473 AGW in Grande Stygma, Zirion Grande. Sojan lived a simple life throughout his childhood but showed lots of potential in a military career. When he was 9, he moved to Grande Cosmodrome, the capital of Zirion Grande. There, he met Ainz Mythos, who would become a great friend of his.

When he turned 16, he, together with Ainz, was selected to join the Grand 11, a special forces unit assembled by then-Chancellor Resmania Lagruz. For 6 years, they conducted dangerous military operations but the unit was eventually dissolved in 1495 AGW. By then, Sojan had established himself as a high ranking officer in the Zirion Grande Navy, becoming Rear Admiral at the young age of 24. He led countless missions, including the Battle of Alak'Hul, where he commanded a fleet of 6 destroyers against 12 dreadnoughts.

At the age of 27, he left the Navy to become a Representative upon the request of Premier Melissa Aleucard. During his time as a Representative, he held several diplomatic missions, including the negotiation for the 3 Moon Treaty, where the moons of Ire were to be transformed into Republic bases. That treaty, however, failed as the Rebels took control of Ire and its moons.

Sojan rejoined the Grand 11 when the Second Great War broke out, serving as Vice-Admiral in the Republic Navy. Sojan was at the forefront of the main battle, eventually leading his squadron to victory against the rebels. However, the rebels took the Republic by surprise, destroying the Yunix Superweapon, marking the beginning of the Third Great War.

Three years later, Sojan would become the Grand Admiral of the New Crescentian Republic Grand Navy.

AINZ PERENIA MYTHOS
Grand Marshal of the New Crescentian Republic Starfighter Corps
Born: 19th Selene (October), 1473 AGW (age 32)
Birthplace: Zirion Grande
Species: Human

Ainz P. Mythos (b. 19th Selene 1473 AGW) is a Grandean and is the Grand Marshal of the New Crescentian Republic Starfighter Corps. Previously, he was appointed by the late Supreme Chancellor, Claudine Ghen, as the Overall Commander of the entire Crescentian Republic Forces situated in Bavern. Ainz was a member of the currently disassembled Grand 11, a special forces unit tasked to carry out dangerous missions for the Supreme Chancellor.

Before the Second Great War, Ainz acted as the vanguard of the Grand 11, leading the rescue operation of one of their very own members, Aul Exiyu, after his mysterious disappearance. Simultaneously, he was also on the search for his kidnapped half-sister, Tara Winona Mythos, when the rebels took her away not long before Exiyu's disappearance. When the Second Great War was in full swing, Ainz was secretly tasked by Senator Cherilyn to destroy the moon of Arthrus only to be falsely branded as a rebel spy and a traitor for his affiliation to Tara, who was then revealed to be behind the rebel movements.

After his innocence was proven and was rescued from the clutches of Ilatha and Mandy in El-Carim, Ainz and the Grand 11 made a desperate escape to survive the explosion of the Yunix Superweapon which sparked the Third Great War. Years passed and now Ainz had become the Grand Marshal of the new Crescentian Republic.


Biography

Ainz P. Mythos born on 19th Selene 1473 AGW in Grand Nile, Zirion Grande. He is the foster son of the late Senator of Zirion Grande, Kellogg Iris. Though Ainz’s original birthplace was in fact a mystery, he and his half-sister Tara were found on a porch of a wooden lodging somewhere in the countryside where Iris was headed to for vacation. The word ‘Mythos’ was engraved on the cradle the two children were on. As Ainz came of age, he was conscripted into the Zirion Grandean Army at the age of 7 as part of the Public Militarisation Act (PMA). After being diagnosed with severe delinquency, Ainz decided to further his service and worked his way up the ranks. However, in the midst of his training, his foster parent was assassinated, leaving Tara to take on the role of Senator. When he was 30, he was promoted to the rank of Marshal.

During his training, Ainz was recognised for his feats by the Senate, granting him the favour of then-Supreme Chancellor, Resmania Lagruz. Through this connection, Ainz got to meet lead galactic scientist, Michael Spencer. From there, the two collaborated to utilise the untapped natural resource deep in Zirion Grande, known as Nadium, into the Crescentian Republic weapons. Ainz’s reputation as a warmongering soldier before he became Marshal was well noted by not only the Bavern System but other systems as well including those in The Beyond. His tyrannical acts gained him the title of ‘Beheader’ for his sick habit of decapitating his foes. The habit may have just been something he picked up on his skirmishes with Michael.

In 1503 AGW, Ainz and the Grand 11 were dragged into the cunning schemes set by Tara through the feint known as the Y.I.F.E.I. System. Already broken and frustrated by his only sibling’s betrayal, Ainz could do nothing else but trudge on with the future that had many uncertainties laid before it.

Now, Grand Marshal Ainz Mythos leads the Starfighter Corps of the New Crescentian Republic.


ENATIA YANUKAI
Grand Duchess of Alak’Hul
Born: 21st Athena (May), 1473 AGW (age 33)
Birthplace: Alak’Hul
Species: Kalee

Enatia Yanu’Kai (b. 21st Athena 1473 AGW) is a Kalee and is the Grand Duchess of the planet of Alak’Hul. Yanu’Kai held a seat in the Senate, representing her people, The Kalee. The Kalee is a race of people in Alak'Hul that possess innate esper-like abilities to be able to communicate via telepathy and have some control over telekinesis. The planet is governed by several Duchesses, each with strong psychic prowess and have a battalion of Kalee soldiers under them. The Duchesses place a huge emphasis on keeping the planet as untainted as possible from deforestation and pollution as they believe that by preserving nature, they preserve their innate capabilities.

The Grand Duchess is no exception to this observation; what’s more, she has proven herself to be the most outstanding and powerful Duchess to have ever lived thus far. Her honorary title was earned through the harsh trials and tribulations she’s conquered that even the strongest of Duchesses couldn’t withstand. The person who came closest to receiving the same boon that the Grand Duchess possesses was none other than Ilatha Cellryst, a dark Kalee, who lived on the opposite side of the planetary gash. For this, Yanu’Kai did not only gain the respect of her people but unfortunately, also the envied grudges of other power-hungry Duchesses.
She was part of the Grand 11, and was notorious for being incredibly powerful on the battlefield with her psychic powers. She could crush rebel troops like ants, disappear into thin air, teleport others away from harm, revive the dead, clone herself, metamorphosis...Yanu’Kai may very well be one of the most powerful beings in the universe.


Biography

Enatia Yanu’Kai was born on the 21st Athena 1473 AGW in the Kalee Temple in the northern hemisphere of Alak’Hul, at the cracked edge of the planet. Yanu’Kai is the sole product of a retired Duchess and a Kalee Matriach (shared by many other Duchesses). She was always sought out by the Head Duchess, Rowena, who foresaw her existence as a threat to the planet and was often isolated in the temple by herself. With all that time alone, the Temple Elders had Yanu’Kai hone her skills to the knife’s edge and she grew stronger than her other half-siblings who could bask in the outdoors. Her tremendous growth speed was something only seen in a Kalee once every millennium, and that realisation shook the core of the Head Duchess even further.

By the tender age of 16, Yanu’Kai competed for the title of Duchess of her residential premise against her mother’s wishes, packing nothing but some clothes and her monstrous talents. Less than a year later, Yanu’Kai beat the other contestants in the annual trials and was granted the title of Duchess and overseer of the Cyndila Woodlands.

After succeeding the trial, Yanu’Kai caught the eye of then-Supreme Chancellor, Resmania Lagruz. The Supreme Chancellor had appointed Yanu’Kai to represent Alak’Hul in The Senate of the Crescentian Republic. Yanu’Kai was then introduced to Michael Spencer and joined the Grand 11, serving as a specialist stealth operative. Years later, when the group had dissolved, Yanu’Kai and Michael went on several rogue missions together as an unstoppable pair.

Yanu’Kai and Michael had travelled to all parts of Alak’Hul, seeking the Head Duchess who wanted to dethrone her since they couldn’t dispose of her in her early years. She and Michael had infiltrated the Head Duchess’ Base and shot the old hag not only for conspiring threats to a Duchess but also violating the ancient rule of preserving nature on the planet; the Head Duchess had been exposed to have burned multiple forests in the past to make way for secret rebel bases. Her heroic deeds earned her the right to receive the Ancients’ Challenge, said to only let those with true power pass the test and be granted the title of Grand Duchess.

Grand Duchess Yanu’Kai had complete authority over all other Duchesses and fear of her powers grew among other systems. Upon the Second Great War, Yanu’Kai rejoined the Grand 11 and fought to the point of literal death. However, she was revived soon after by an act of love kindly bestowed by Sonjeff. After the Yunix Superweapon’s destruction, sparking the Third Great War, Yanu’Kai became the de facto leader of the New Crescentian Republic while still holding on to her title of Grand Duchess.


TESEX WINGATE
Medical Doctor/Lieutenant of the New Crescentian Republic Grand Army
Born: 5th Aphrodite (November), 1473 AGW (age 32)
Birthplace: Dieusia
Species: Human

Tesex Wingate (b. 5th Aphrodite 1473 AGW) is a Dieusian and is a Medical Doctor for the New Crescentian Republic Grand Army, holding the rank of Lieutenant. Tesex formerly served as Governor of Aleks, a moon orbiting the planet of Ire in the Bavern System. As Governor, she supported the establishment of Republic bases in Aleks and was seen as a potential successor to Ire Senator Jixu Serene. Tesex was part of the Grand 11, where she served as a medical specialist for the unit.

During the Second Great War, Tesex rejoined the Grand 11, mainly working in the Yunix Superweapon. She was a tactician, who provided concrete plans to fight the enemy. She was a skilled gunner, hitting her targets with point-blank accuracy, both on the ground and in the ship.

She would be appointed as the Chief Medical Doctor in the Grand Army of the New Crescentian Republic and earn the rank of Lieutenant.


Biography

Tesex Wingate was born on 5 Aphrodite 1473 AGW in Worf City, Dieusia. Tesex was the daughter of former Chancellor, Oscar Wingate. She was exposed to Republic politics from a very early age and dreamt of being Chancellor one day. When she was 13, her father stepped down from his post and was succeeded by Resmania Lagruz. Lagruz selected Tesex to join the Grand 11 special forces, believing that she will be the brains of the unit.

Tesex proved to be a force in the Grand 11, taking charge of several operations and leading the group to victory against enemies. Lagruz wanted Tesex to be her successor but it never happened as Lagruz was assassinated. With Claudine Ghen receiving more support, Tesex lost the election and Claudine Ghen succeeded Resmania Lagruz as the next Supreme Chancellor of the Republic.

During the Second Great War, Tesex fought gallantly, risking her life on certain occasions in order to complete her mission. She was Michael's second-in-command in the Yunix Superweapon and took charge of operations when Michael was not around. She narrowly escaped death together with the Grand 11 when the Rebels destroyed the Yunix Superweapon.

She was appointed as Chief Medical Officer of the Grand Army of the New Crescentian Republic by Grand General Michael Spencer and was given the rank of Lieutenant.

FANG HOOK
Battalion Commander in the New Crescentian Republic Grand Army
Born: 9th Selene (October), 1473 AGW (age 32)
Birthplace: Roulande
Species: Human


Fang Hook (b. 9th Selene 1473 AGW) is a Roulandian and is a Battalion Commander in the New Crescentian Republic Grand Army. Fang Hook was formerly a Captain in the Republic Grand Army and was stationed in Luciole. He was tasked to protect Queen Mary Webster by Supreme Chancellor Claudine Ghen. Fang was a member of the Grand 11 and was in charge of the biological weapons.

During the Second Great War, he joined Ainz in Luciole and later on, they reunited with the Grand 11. Fang fought on the ground for most of the war, leading his men bravely. He put his life on the line every time he stepped foot in the battlefield. He narrowly escaped together with Exiyu and Michael in his homeworld of Roulande when Senator Cherilyn turned against them.

He would be promoted to Battalion Commander in the Grand Army of the New Crescentian Republic in recognition of his efforts in the Second Great War.


Biography

Fang Hook was born on 9 Selene 1473 AGW in Vere Island, Roulande. His mother was an advisor to Queen Jemma, while his father was a Pilot Officer in the Republic Grand Starfighter Corps. Fang lived a privileged life in Roulande and learnt to fly a starfighter when he was 7.

He was chosen by Chancellor Resmania Lagruz to join the Grand 11, mainly as a pilot. He had the ability to get his ship out of sticky situations and was praised for his flashy type of flying. He would later join the Grand Army, becoming a Captain. He was stationed in Luciole to protect Queen Mary Webster before the Second Great War.

During the Second Great War, he fought on the ground and, occasionally, in space, where he flew his personal Aggressive ReConnaissance-170 starfighter. He would become a focal point in the attempted rescue of Senator Cherilyn Tania, flying a single starfighter past rebel battle cruisers. However, they were betrayed by Cherilyn on Roulande and were almost killed. They would be rescued by Assonah Igop and the 2nd Luciole Rangers. Fang Hook would have a short fling with Assonah a year later but was again betrayed when Assonah joined Cherilyn.

Grand General Michael Spencer promoted Fang Hook to Battalion Commander in the Grand Army of the New Crescentian Republic.

AUL EXIYU
Personal Advisor to the Duchess of Alak'Hul
Born: 20th Hades (August), 1473 AGW (age 33)
Birthplace: Mirana (Moon of Alak'Hul)
Species: Human


Aul Exiyu (b. 20th Hades 1473 AGW) is a Miranian and is the current Personal Advisor to the Duchess of Alak'Hul, Enatia Yanu'Kai. Aul Exiyu was a former Corporal in the Grand Army of the Republic and was a member of the Grand 11 special forces unit.

He became a smuggler after leaving the Grand Army, making ends meet in the galaxy while engaging in illegal activity. He served mainly as a coder during the Second Great War, attempting to crack rebel encryptions and creating algorithms for the Republic.

He joined Yanu'Kai after the Second Great War in Alak'Hul and served as her Personal Advisor.


Biography

Aul Exiyu was born on 20 Hades 1473 AGW on the moon of Mirana, orbiting the planet of Alak'Hul. He was a peasant for most of his childhood, harvesting crops to be exported to Alak'Hul. He was a smart guy and did well in school. When he was 10, he managed to hack into the Naragonam 708, prompting the Republic to upgrade to the Naragonam 709. Exiyu once again hacked the system, this time getting caught. Chancellor Resmania Lagruz saw his potential and invited him to the capital to work with Michael Spencer to develop Naragonam 710.

Exiyu would join the Grand 11 with the advice of Chancellor Lagruz and would become the unit's encryption cracker. He was also a good pilot and often assisted Fang Hook. After the dissolution of the Grand 11, Exiyu would join the Grand Army of the Republic, becoming a Corporal.

Exiyu was angered by the poor treatment that farmers received from the Republic and left. He met Marie Lyn on the planet of Vilea and together, they built The Maw, a Colonial Ion Shuttle Cruiser. The two flew together, smuggling illegal substances from one planet to another, and made a lot of money. Exiyu would take on a secret operation from Chancellor Claudine Ghen but when he arrived to pick up the escorts, they were gone. An imposter, a Kalee, took the escorts and killed them in order to frame Exiyu and Marie Lyn. The Republic would later find out and Exiyu rejoined the Grand 11.

During the Second Great War, Exiyu made significant improvements to the Republic's computer systems and improved the droids in order to make the systems more efficient. Exiyu spent most of his time in the Yunix Superweapon during the war. He would go on to become Yanu'Kai's personal advisor after the Rebels took over the Republic. Exiyu has an on and off relationship with Marie Lyn.

JAYGINI MEGDIT
Bounty Hunter
Born: 11th Zeus (January), 1473 AGW
Birthplace: Ire
Species: Humanoid


Jaygini Megdit (b. 11th Zeus 1473 AGW) is an Irean and a Bounty Hunter for Pythons, a death squad stationed in Jeunea. Jaygini was a member of the Grand 11 and served as a Reconnaissance specialist. She was also the Governor of Arthrus, a moon orbiting the planet of Ire.

Jaygini served the Republic during the Second Great War, mainly as a reconnaissance trooper. She appeared to not care about the Republic's fate during the war and was just there to do what she was paid for.

She left the Grand 11 after the fall of the Republic to become a bounty hunter. She has killed over 20,000 beings in the last 3 years as a bounty hunter, making her one of the most feared in the galaxy.


Biography

Jaygini Megdit was born on 11 Zeus 1473 AGW in the planet of Ire in the Bavern System. She lived a simple life, just like everyone in Ire. She is able to survive in different climates as she is a half-reptile, half-avian humanoid.

When she was 16, she joined the Grand 11 as Chancellor Lagruz took notice of her inherent ability to kill silently. She became a reconnaissance specialist and helped the Grand 11 to succeed in their missions. She had the ability to rip her enemies apart with her bare hands, instilling fear in those who knew about her.

She served as Governor of Arthrus and fought hard to resist Republic plans to build a base in her moon but failed. She hesitantly reunited with the Grand 11 during the Second Great War, only doing so for the money. She did not care a lot about winning the war and Michael noted that she was more of a liability on the battlefield.

She eventually left and joined the Pythons, a notorious death squad from Jeunea. She would become the leader of the Pythons by murdering their former leader.
Last edited by Terudel on Tue Jun 16, 2020 5:43 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Terudel
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Postby Terudel » Mon May 11, 2020 1:15 am

Aboard Commando Class Prowler Obelisk Tempo, Somewhere in the Herranium System
18th Apollo (18th September), 1845 Hours (Veres Time), 1506 AGW


"Grand Marshal Ainz?" a voice called down the portside crew pit through the hum of background conversation. "We have received intel from Commander Fang's battalion."

Ainz leaned over the shoulder of the man at the Obelisk Tempo's bridge engineering monitor, ignoring the voice calling out for him. "Trace this line for me," he ordered, tapping his finger at the schematic on the display.

The engineer threw a questioning glance at him. "Ummm, sir...?"

"You heard me," Ainz said, glaring at Sonjeff. "That is an order, Captain!"

"Yes, sir," Sonjeff replied carefully and keyed for the trace.

"Grand Marshal Ainz?" the voice repeated, louder and closer this time, annoying Ainz. Ainz kept his eyes on the engineering display, waiting until he could hear the sound of approaching footsteps. Then, with all the regal weight that 18 years spent in the Republic Armed Forces gave to a man, Ainz straightened up and turned.

The young Corporal's brisk walk faltered and he halted as soon as he saw the face of the Grand Marshal. "Sir—" He looked Ainz in the eye and his voiced faded away.

Ainz let the silence hang in the air for a handful of heartbeats, long enough for the other men on the bridge to notice. "Do you think we are on the Resmaronda Central Market District, Corporal?" he asked in an icy cold voice. "This is the bridge of the Obelisk Tempo. Intel is not— repeat, not— simply shouted in the general direction of its intended recipient, especially towards me. Is that understood, Corporal? Or do you need me to write it down for you?"

The man swallowed. "Yes, sir. No, sir."

Ainz held his eyes a few seconds longer, then lowered his head in a slight nod. "Now, Corporal, report."

The young Corporal swallowed again. "We've just received word from Lieutenant Reskah. The 31st Battalion under Commander Fang Hook has returned from the raid conducted on a Rebel base in Xenatia."

"Very good. I'd like them to return to Canardin right away. They will report directly to Grand General Spencer. Dismissed."

"Yes, sir." Spinning around with a reasonably good imitation of a proper military turn, the Corporal headed back toward the communications console.

Slowly, Ainz let his eyes sweep across the bridge, feeling the echoes of old anger and hatred twist through his stomach. There had been many high-ranking officers in the Grand Army of the Old Crescentian Republic, he knew, who had seen the Chancellor's Yunix Superweapon as a blatant attempt to bring the Republic's vast military power more tightly under her control, just as she'd already done with the Republic's political power. The fact that she had ignored the superweapon's proven vulnerability and convinced Michael to deploy the weapon in the Battle of Ire before her assassination had merely reinforced that suspicion. Those officers left shortly after the destruction of the weapon, losing trust in the Republic.

Even after three years, Ainz could not help but wince at the memory of that image: the Rebel battle cruisers coming out of hyperspace, blasting the main energy core of the Yunix Superweapon, which was so easily exposed.

Ainz smiled— a tight, wolfish smile— as he again looked around his bridge. No, the end of the Republic was not yet. As the arrogant Rebellion would soon discover.

"Continue tracing those lines," Ainz ordered Captain Sonjeff as he headed for the door. "I'll be back shortly."

Ainz walked along the corridor, towards the ship's docking bay. Ainz looked at his watch. 1900 hours. Grand Admiral Sojan Allerew should have arrived by now. Stepping to the exit, Ainz adjusted his tunic and braced himself. Perhaps he was about to find out. Sojan walked towards him, with a stern look.

"Grand Marshal Ainz," a deep, gravelly, catlike voice mewed into his ear. "I must say, I am disappointed in your work. To be here in the Herranium System, finding our next targets, is, in fact, the Grand Navy's job. However, you wanted to take the job, and I gave it to you."

Ainz licked his lips, suddenly unsure of his response. "I can explain. My men are too young for this task. I have a Corporal who does not understand basic protocol on this ship. I even have—"

"Cut it," said Sojan. "I don't want to hear any excuse. You will take your ship to Idylle. Convince Supreme Leader Glenn Scheinred to provide you with 2,000 Aggressive ReConnaissance-170 starfighters. You are going to need those. Michael wants an offensive at the orbit of Fimin. As long as the rebel blockade is not cleared, Commander Fang Hook's men cannot land on the planet."

"Why Fimin?"

"Because the Four Sisters have full control of the planet. If we can mount a full-scale invasion, we would gain a huge advantage."

"Yes, I see," Ainz said, not entirely truthfully. "Grand Admiral, shouldn't we be—?"

He broke off as a shrill whistle split the air. "Bridge to Grand Marshal Ainz!" Captain Sonjeff's taut voice called over the intercom. "Sir, we're under attack!"

Ainz tapped the intercom switch. "This is Ainz," he said evenly. "Go to red alert, and tell me what we've got. Calmly, if possible."

"Yes, sir." The muted alert lights began flashing, and Ainz could hear the sound of the klaxons baying faintly outside the room. “Sensors are picking up four Rebel Assault Frigates,” Sonjeff continued, his voice tense but under noticeably better control.

Ainz swore under his breath. A single Commando Class Prowler, with a largely inexperienced crew, against four Assault Frigates. "Run engines to full power," he called toward the intercom. "Prepare to make the jump to lightspeed." He took a step toward the door—

"Belay that jump order, Captain," Sojan said, still glacially calm. "All bridge crews to their stations; activate deflector shields." Ainz spun back to him. "Admiral—"

Sojan cut him off with an upraised hand. "Come here, Grand Marshal," the Grand Admiral ordered. "Let’s take a look, shall we?"

Sojan dragged Ainz to a room, which had a miniature bridge monitor, with helm, engine, and weapons readouts on the walls and double display circle. The open space had a holographic tactical display; in one corner an ashing sphere indicated the invaders. The wall display nearest to it gave an ETA estimate of twenty minutes.

"Fortunately, my assault ships have enough of a lead not to be in danger themselves," Sojan commented. "So. Let’s see what exactly we’re dealing with. Bridge, order the three nearest assault ships to attack."

"Yes, sir." Across the room, three blue dots shifted out of the sentry line onto intercept vectors. From the corner of his eye, Ainz saw Sojan lean forward in his seat as the Assault Frigates shifted in response. One of the blue dots winked out—

"Excellent," Sojan said, leaning back in his seat. "That will do, Captain. Pull the other two assault ships back, and order the Sector Three line to scramble out of the invaders’ vector."

"Yes, sir," Sonjeff said, sounding more than a little confused. A confusion Ainz could well understand. "Shouldn’t we at least signal the rest of the Republic?" he suggested, hearing the tightness in his voice. "Ships from Veres could be here in twenty minutes, most of the others in less than an hour."

"The last thing we want to do right now is bring in more of our ships, Ainz," Sojan said. He looked up at Ainz, and a faint smile touched his lips. "After all, there may be survivors, and we wouldn’t want the Rebels learning about us. Would we?"

He turned back to his displays. "Bridge, I want a twenty-degree port yaw rotation—bring us at to the invaders’ vector, superstructure pointing at them. As soon as they’re within the outer perimeter, the Sector Three sentry line is to re-form behind them and jam all transmissions."

"Y-yes, sir. Sir—?"

"You don’t have to understand, Captain," Sojan said, his voice abruptly cold. "Just obey."

"Yes, sir." Ainz took a careful breath as the displays showed the Obelisk Tempo rotating as per orders. "I’m afraid I don’t understand, either, Admiral," he said. "Turning our superstructure toward them —"

Again, Sojan stopped him with an upraised hand. "Watch and learn, Ainz. That’s fine, bridge: stop rotation and hold position here. Drop docking bay deflector shields, boost power to all others. Republic Class 1 fighter squadrons: launch when ready. Head directly away from the Obelisk Tempo for two kilometres, then sweep around in open cluster formation. Backfire speed, zonal attack pattern." He got an acknowledgement, then looked up at Ainz. "Do you understand now, Grand Marshal?"

Ainz pursed his lips. "I’m afraid not," he admitted. "I see now that the reason you turned the ship was to give the fighters some exit cover, but the rest is nothing but a classic closure manoeuvre. They’re not going to fall for anything that simple."

"On the contrary," Sojan corrected coolly. "Not only will they fall for it, but they’ll also be utterly destroyed by it. Watch, Grand Marshal. And learn."

The fighters launched, accelerating away from the Obelisk Tempo and then leaning hard into etheric rudders to sweep back around it like the spray of some exotic fountain. The invading ships spotted the attackers and shifted vectors— Ainz blinked. "What the hell are they doing?"

"They’re trying the only defence they know of," Sojan said, and there was no mistaking the satisfaction in his voice. "Or, to be more precise, the only defence they are psychologically capable of attempting."

Ainz closed his eyes, utterly defeated by a confident Admiral, taking full control of his own ship and succeeding in pushing the rebel ships back.
Last edited by Terudel on Thu Jun 11, 2020 1:27 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Terudel » Mon May 11, 2020 1:23 am

Aboard Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Orbit of Fimin, Jenesia System
27th Apollo (27th September), 0630 Hours (Fimin Time), 1506 AGW


Standing at one of the side bridge viewports of the Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Grand Marshal Ainz watched as the fuzzy terminator line crept toward the target zone on the planet below. Thirty minutes ago, the ground forces under Commander Fang Hook surrounding the target had reported themselves ready; the Liberation itself had been holding blockade position for nearly two hours. All that was missing now was the order to attack.

Slowly, feeling almost furtive about it, Ainz turned his head a couple of centimetres to the side. Behind him and to his right, Grand Admiral Sojan was seated at his command station, his face expressionless, his glowing green eyes focused on the bank of status readouts wrapped around his chair. He had not spoken or moved from that position since the last time Commander Fang had reported in, and Ainz could tell the bridge crew was beginning to get restless.

In the month since Sojan had taken command of the Grand Navy and had begun the task of rebuilding the New Crescentian Republic Fleet, Ainz had seen the Grand Admiral’s military genius demonstrated time and again. Whatever his reason for holding off the attack, Ainz knew it was a good one.

“You’re perhaps wondering why we haven’t yet attacked?” the Grand Admiral suggested in a courteous tone.

“Yes, Admiral, I was,” Ainz admitted. “All our forces appear to be in position.”

“Our military forces in FM-221 are, yes,” Sojan agreed. “But not the observers I sent into FM-223.”

Ainz blinked. “FM-223?”

“Yes. I find it unlikely that the Four Sisters would have their main base in the middle of the capital without also setting up security contacts with others outside the immediate area. FM-223 is too far from their base for anyone there to directly witness our attack; hence, any sudden urries of activity in the city will imply the existence of a more subtle line of communication. From that, we’ll be able to identify their contacts and put them under long-term surveillance. Eventually, they’ll lead us to the Four Sisters.”

“Yes,” Ainz said, feeling a frown crease his forehead. “Then you’re not expecting to take any of the Four Sisters alive.”

The Grand Admiral’s smile turned brittle. “On the contrary. I fully expect our forces to find an empty and abandoned base.”

Ainz threw a glance out the viewport at the partly lit planet below. “If that is the case, why are we even attacking it?"

"As I’ve already mentioned, an attack on the base may lead us to their contacts in FM-223. And, it provides Fang's ground forces with some badly needed field experience.”

The glowing eyes bored into Ainz’s face. “Never forget, Ainz, that our goal is no longer merely to fight and kill rebel troops. Even an invasion of an abandoned base can be used as propaganda that we liberated the capital of Fimin from the oppression of the Four Sisters. The Republic needs the support of the people. This is one way we can do it."

Ainz was about to say a word, but Sojan raised his hand and continued, "Very soon now we’ll begin the process of taking planets back from the Rebels; and for that, we’ll need an army every bit as well trained as the officers and crew of the Naval Fleet.”

“Understood, Admiral,” Ainz said.

“Good.” Sojan lowered his gaze to his displays. “It’s time. Signal Commander Fang Hook that he may begin.”

“Yes, Admiral,” Ainz said, leaving the viewport and returning to his station. He gave the readouts a quick check and tapped his comm switch. “This is Grand Marshal Ainz,” he said. “Launch the attack.”

“Copy that, Grand Marshal,” Commander Fang Hook said into his helmet comlink, careful to keep the quiet scorn in his gut from getting through to his voice. It was typical—typical and disgustingly predictable. You scrambled around like mad hellions, got your troops and vehicles on the ground and set up, and then you stood around waiting for those strutting Navy people in their spotless uniforms and nice clean ships to finish sipping their tea and finally get around to letting you loose. This was the very reason why Fang Hook preferred General Spencer giving the command.

Reaching to the board in front of him, he keyed for local command frequency. “Commander Fang Hook to all units: we’ve got the go-ahead signal. Let’s go and blast those Sisters.”

The acknowledgements came in; and with a shiver from the steel deck beneath him, the huge Assualt Tank was off, lumbering its deceptively awkward-looking way through the streets toward the encampment 2 kilometres away. Ahead of the tank, occasionally visible through the armoured viewport, a pair of reconnaissance vehicles ran in twin-point formation, tracking along the tank’s path and watching for enemy positions or booby traps. Not that such futile gestures would do the Sisters any good. Fang Hook had directed literally hundreds of assault campaigns in his years of military service, and he knew full well the great capabilities of the fighting machines under his command.

The Assualt Tank and its support vehicles were lagging noticeably behind the rest of the armoured noose. “Unit Four, bring it up,” Fang said into his comlink.

“Trying, Commander,” the voice came back. “We’re encountering some deep bumps that are slowing down our recon vehicles.”

“Is it necessary to follow my tank directly?”

“No, sir, but I wanted to keep the flank together—”

“Pattern coherence is a goal during academy manoeuvres, Lieutenant Reskah,” Fang cut him off. “But not at the expense of an overall battle plan. If the recon vehicles can’t keep up, leave them behind! Don't waste my goddamn time, Lieutenant!”

“Yes, sir.”

The Grand Admiral was right about one thing, at least: his troops were going to need a lot more battle seasoning. Still, the raw talent was there. Even as he watched, the north flank reformed itself, with the speeders spreading forward to take up the recon vehicles’ former point positions while the lagging recon vehicles themselves fell back into rear-guard deployment.

The energy sensor beeped a proximity warning: they were coming up on the encampment. “Status?” he asked his crew.

“All weapons charged and ready,” the gunner reported, his eyes on the targeting displays. “No indications of resistance, active or passive,” the driver added.

“Stay alert,” Fang ordered, keying for command frequency again. “All units: move in.”

A voice spoke into the comm systems and overrode the command. "All units, this is Grand Admiral Sojan. Do not move into the base. Fire immediately and obliterate the area. I want no survivors."

Fang was appalled by Sojan's command. He replied, "With all due respect, Admiral, I don't see the point of destroying the entire base completely. I thought the mission was to capture the Sisters? Why are we killing everyone?"

"The Sisters are not in the base. Just a bunch of rebel troops. Don't ask how I know. I just know. Now, follow the order and clean up."

"Yes, Admiral."

A brilliant flash lit up the street as they blasted down the base. And then, silence. For a handful of minutes, the silence continued, punctuated only by occasional short commands from the Captains. Fang listened, watching the sensors, and finally, the report came through. “Commander Fang Hook, this is Captain Hoak. we have secured the base. No survivors found."

Fang nodded. “Very good, Captain. How does it look?”

"Like a massacre, sir," Hoak said. "We haven't done this 3 years, sir."

"I know, I know," Fang said. "The Admiral wanted it. We delivered. Now, go and gather up the ground troops. We are going to head to FM-223. I have just received intel from Lieutenant Tesex and other troops have found contacts from the base that we just attacked. It states the location of Princess Ariamis the First."

"Very well, sir."

Fang sent his report back to Sojan's fleet and relaxed. Back in the Liberation, Ainz was upset. “Well, so much for that,” Ainz said as he watched the reports scroll up to his display. A good practice session for the ground forces, perhaps, but otherwise the whole exercise seemed to have been overdone. He turned to face Sojan. The Grand Admiral’s glowing green eyes were on his displays. “There was fun in that, as a matter of fact,” he said.

"Wasting firepower and time on a base that you knew had barely any defences? We are at war, Admiral. If Supreme Chancellor Claudine was here, do you think she would approve of this? Send the forces immediately to places where we know have important rebel personnel!"

“Patience, Grand Marshal,” Sojan said. “It may not be necessary, after all. Key for a midrange scan, and tell me what you see.”

Ainz swivelled back to his command board and tapped for the appropriate readout. There was Fimin itself, of course, and the standard starfighter defence cloud ranged around the Liberation. The only other object anywhere within midrange distance— “You mean those little asteroids out there?”

“That’s the one,” Sojan nodded. “Nothing remarkable about it, is there? No, don’t do a sensor focus,” he added, almost before the thought of doing one had even occurred to Ainz. “We wouldn’t want to prematurely flush our quarry, would we?”

“Our quarry?” Ainz repeated, frowning at the sensor data again. The routine sensor scans that had been done of the asteroid three hours earlier had come up negative, and nothing could have sneaked up on it since then without being detected. “With all due respect, Sojan, I don’t see any indication that anything’s out there.”

“I don’t either,” Sojan agreed. “But it’s the only sizable cover available for nearly four million kilometres around Fimin. There’s really no other place for Ariamis to watch our operation from.”

Ainz pursed his lips. “Your call, Admiral, but I doubt Ariamis is foolish enough to just sit around waiting for us to arrive.”

"And that is exactly what she is doing right now. And she can't jump to lightspeed with those asteroids surrounding her. We got her."

"And how do you know that she is there?"

The glowing green eyes narrowed, just a bit. “You forgot to check the report from FM-223, Grand Marshal,” he said softly. "Lieutenant Tesex has engaged Ariamis' close contacts and found her location."

He turned back to his displays. “She’s out there. I’m sure of it."

Ainz studied the Grand Admiral’s prole. It was, in his opinion, a pretty tenuous leap of logic. But on the other hand, he’d seen too many similar leaps borne out not to take this one seriously. “Shall I order an assault starfighter squadron to investigate?”

“As I said, Grand Marshal, patience,” Sojan said. "What happened the last time we saw Ariamis three years ago when we were not patient?"

"Disaster," Ainz mumbled.

"Exactly, Grand Marshal. If it was not for Yanu'Kai's teleporting powers, we would have been killed by Ariamis on that ship. Patience. That is what you need to know."

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Postby Terudel » Mon May 11, 2020 1:24 am

Aboard Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Orbit of Fimin, Jenesia System
27th Apollo (27th September), 1255 Hours (Fimin Time), 1506 AGW


For a long minute Sojan stood at the bridge viewport, looking out at the distant asteroid and the now Rebel Cruiser near it. It was, Ainz thought uneasily, almost the identical posture the Grand Admiral had assumed when Cherilyn Tania had so recently escaped a similar trap. Holding his breath, Ainz stared at Sojan’s back, wondering if another of the Liberation's crewers was about to be executed for this failure.

Sojan turned around. “Interesting,” he said, his voice conversational. “Did you note the sequence of events, Grand Marshal?”

“Yes, Grand Admiral,” Ainz said cautiously. “The target was already powering up before Michael's ship arrived.”

“Yes,” Sojan nodded. “And it implies one of three things. Either Ariamis was about to leave anyway, or else she panicked for some reason—” The green eyes glittered. “Or else she was somehow warned off.”

Ainz felt his back stiffen. “I hope you’re not suggesting, Sojan, that one of our people tipped him.”

“No, of course not.” Sojan’s lip twitched slightly. “Loyalties of my crewers aside, no one on the Liberation knew Michael's ship, the Retribution, was on its way; and no one on the Retribution could have sent any messages here without our crew detecting them.” He stepped over to his command station and sat down, a thoughtful look on his face. “An interesting puzzle, Grand Marshal. One I’ll have to give some thought to. In the meantime, we have more pressing matters. The Pythons are giving us serious trouble in Vilea. Our troops are unable to fully control the planet because of those bounty hunters."

Ainz gave Sojan a puzzling look. "Our troops? Losing to bounty hunters? Preposterous!"

"Indeed," said Sojan, calmly. "The Pythons are notorious, all because of their leader."

"Who?"

"Jaygini."

Ainz's eyes grew larger. "Jaygini? So that's what she's been up to. That little girl is gonna be a pain."

"I agree, Grand Marshal," replied Sojan. "That is why you have to take on this mission. Michael and I know you are more than capable of dealing with ... bounty hunters."

"I suppose," Ainz said with the lack of enthusiasm.

Sojan nodded. “I’ll give you a few weeks. If there’ve been no results after that time, we will review whether the Republic Starfighter Corps can still operate independently under your control because as a matter of fact, they used to be under the Grand Navy of the Old Crescentian Republic. Don't let me down, Grand Marshal. The Duchess of Alak'Hul is not as patient as I am."


Aboard Killer Class Star Destroyer Retribution, approaching Orbit of Fimin, Jenesia System
27th Apollo (27th September), 1430 Hours (Fimin Time), 1506 AGW


The Killer Class Star Destroyer Retribution slipped silently through the blackness of space, preparing itself for action against the Rebel forces threatening to tear the galaxy apart.

Standing on the command walkway, his hands clasped behind him, Grand General Michael Spencer gazed out at the planet Fimin directly ahead, a mixture of anticipation and dark brooding swirling through him. As he examined the rest of the Naval Fleet near his ship, he saw the Obelisk Tempo leave the Liberation and jumping to lightspeed.

“Status?” he called behind him.

“Forty-seven standard minutes to orbit, Grand General,” the navigation officer called from the crew pits.

Michael nodded. “Keep a sharp watch,” he ordered. “No one gets off that planet.”

He glowered at the faintly lit disk ahead of them. “No one,” he added softly. Michael returned to his command post and took a seat. As he waited for Lieutenant Tesex's response, he leaned back in his chair and gazed at the display, chewing at the inside of his cheek.

There was a soft footstep behind him. “General?”

“Hello, Sergeant Jena,” Michael said without turning. “Looking for me?”

“Yes,” Jena said, coming up to stand beside him. “Aul Exiyu would like to speak to you whenever you’re finished here. He'd like to relay the details about the Pythons from Duchess Yanu'Kai.”

"That is not my concern, Sergeant. Tell Aul Exiyu to contact Grand Marshal Ainz Mythos. I want no part of that mission in Vilea. I'm busy with the siege of Fimin. Now, go."

Jena walked away back to his post, sighing. “All systems show battle-ready, Grand General,” the comm officer reported from the portside crew pit. “The task force is beginning to check in.”

“Very good, Lieutenant,” Grand General Spencer nodded. “Inform me when all have done so. General John Peters?”

“Sir?” Peters said, searching his superior’s face for the stress the Grand General must be feeling. The stress he himself was certainly feeling. This was not just another tactical strike against the Rebels, after all—not a minor shipping raid or even a complex but straightforward hit-and-fade against some insignificant planetary base. After nearly a month of frenzied preparations, Spencer’s master campaign for the Republic’s victory in Fimin was about to be launched.

"Prepare the dropships. I want the 6th Republic Line Corps on the ground. We are taking this planet."

"Right on it, sir. Will you be staying here on the ship?"

"No. Prepare my shuttle. I'd like to be on the ground to proclaim victory. To proclaim the liberation of Fimin."

Sergeant Jena walked over to Michael, looking rather nervous. "Distress signal from Obelisk Tempo, Grand General,” he said. "Also, Aul Exiyu has once again called for your presence."

Michael glared at him. "You don't understand orders, Sergeant? What did I tell you just now? I am not the one to call. And why is there a distress signal from the Grand Marshal? He reports to Grand Admiral Allerew."

"General, with all due respect, I can't tell Grand Marshal Ainz to report to Grand Admiral Allerew."

"Why not?"

"I will get scolded."

"So you are afraid of him, but it is ok for you to not follow my order?"

"It's not that, General⁠—" Spencer pulled out his blaster and shot the Sergeant right at the face. Jena fell off the bridge and was caught by two officers.

"Get that filthy soldier out of my bridge, now!" bellowed Michael, who was not having it. "From now on, I don't want any person with ranks lower than a Lieutenant on this bridge."

As the officers dragged Jena's lifeless body out of the bridge, Michael walked over to the communications console. He typed in a code and the hologram of Lieutenant Tesex Wingate appeared. "Lieutenant, how is the situation at FM-223?"

"Not good," she said. "Rebel troops from FM-224 and FM-225 have entered the city. We are outnumbered. Commander Fang Hook's battalion is unable to get here as they are short of fuel."

Michael pursed his lips. "Well, I guess we have to begin the invasion from FM-223. We will get there soon. Just wait."

"Understood, General." Just as Tesex said that, the rebels began to fire at her direction. The plasma beams narrowly missed her. Michael could see from the holographic display as Tesex went into a defensive position, firing back at the enemies.

"Stay put, Lieutenant!" Michael warned. "My troops and I are coming!"
Last edited by Terudel on Tue May 12, 2020 11:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Terudel » Sun May 17, 2020 6:19 am

Aboard Killer Class Execution Interceptor, Orbit of Fimin, Jenesia System
27th Apollo (27th September), 1830 Hours (Fimin Time), 1506 AGW


Michael's Killer Class Execution Interceptor led the starfighter squadron, making its way towards the orbit of Fimin. From a distance, Michael could see the Rebel transport, carrying Lieutenant Tesex Wingate.

The heavily armed transport showed slight blaster damage along the hull near the three engines, behind the bloated centre of the cargo bay. "Attack formation," Michael ordered, and the pilots in the rest of the squad acknowledged the command and fell into formation.

The voice of one of the pilots carried over the comm: "They’re powering up for a jump, General Spencer."

"Follow my lead," Michael ordered and accelerated to attack speed. "Do not allow them to jump to hyperspace."

The starfighters and Michael’s interceptor were far faster and more manoeuvrable than the transport and closed on it rapidly, devouring the space between. Michael did not bother consulting his instrumentation. He fell into his senses, flying by feel, as he always did. Even before the interceptor and the starfighters closed to within blaster range, one of the freighter’s engines burped gout of green flame and burned out. The rebels had overtaxed the transport in their escape attempt.

"I want the shields down and the remaining two engines disabled," Michael said. Disabling the engines would prevent a hyperspace jump. "Do not destroy that ship."

The heavier armaments of the transport had a longer range than the interceptor and starfighters’ blasters and opened up before the starfighters got within blaster range. "Weapons are hot, go evasive," said Michael as the transport’s automated gun turrets filled the space between the ships with blue lines. The starfighter squadron veered apart, twisting and diving. Michael cut left, then hard right, then dived a few degrees down, still closing on the transport. One of the starfighters to his left caught a blue line. Its wing fragmented and it went spinning and flaming off towards the planet. The larger, crewed, swivel-mounted gun bubbles on either side of the transport’s midline swung around and opened fire, fat pulses of yellow plasma.

"Widen your spacing," Michael said over the comm. "Spacing!" A burst of yellow plasma caught one of the starfighters squarely and vaporized it.

"Focus your fire on the shields," Michael said, his interceptor wheeling and spinning, sliding between the heavy gunfire until he was within range. He fired and his blasters sent twin beams of plasma into the shields. He angled the shot to maximize deflection. He did not want to pierce them and damage the ship, just drain them and bring them down. The rest of the squadron did the same, hitting the transport from multiple angles. The transport bucked under the onslaught, the shields flaring under the energy load and visibly weakening with each shot.

"Maintain spacing," Michael ordered. "Split squadron and come underneath."

The squadron’s ships peeled right and left, circling back and down, and set themselves on another intercept vector. Michael decelerated enough to fall back to the rear.

Michael watched the transport turn, taking an angle that would allow both of the midline weapons to fire on the approaching starfighters. As soon as they entered the transport’s range, the automated turrets and gun opened fire, filling space with beams of superheated plasma. The starfighters swooped and twisted and dodged, spiralling through the net of gunfire. Michael, lingering behind, piloted his ship between the bolts, above them, below them. A third starfighter caught a shot from a gun turret and exploded, debris peppering Michael’s cockpit canopy as he flew through the flames. "Bloody pilot!" exclaimed Michael.

When the starfighters got within range, they opened fire and the transport’s shields fell almost immediately.

"Shields down, General Spencer," one of the pilots reported.

"I’ll take the engines," Michael said. "Destroy the turrets and the midline guns."

The squadron did exactly as he had ordered. Small explosions lit up the hull, and the guns disappeared in explosions of fire. The transport shook from the impact as the starfighters swooped past it, up, and started to circle back around. Meanwhile, Michael veered to his left and down, locked onto the engines, and fired, once, twice. Explosions rocked the transport, and chunks of both engines spun off into space. Secondary explosions rocked the vessel, but it otherwise remained intact. Michael slowed still more, trailing the transport.

"General, we can tractor the transport back to our ship," said one of the pilots.

"I have no intention of leaving the rebels aboard the ship that long," Michael said. He knew the rebels would try to blow the ship, and there were enough weapons in the cargo bay to do just that. He had to get Tesex out of there, alive.

"I’m going to board it."

"General, the docking clamp on that ship is too damaged, and there’s no landing bay," said the squadron co-leader.

"I am aware of that," Michael said.

The sole remaining gun swung around and opened fire on Michael’s ship. Still using his partial Kalee ability to guide him, Michael slung his ship side to side, up and down, staying just ahead of the blaster fire as he headed straight for the gun. He could see the gunner inside the transparent canopy.

"General…," the co-leader said as the starfighter squadron circled back around, but Michael did not acknowledge him.

As he neared the transport’s midline, still swinging his ship left and right to dodge the incoming fire, he selected a spot on the transport adjacent to the gun. His interceptor streaked toward the gun, aimed directly at it. Content with the trajectory, he put on his helmet, unstrapped himself, overrode the interceptor’s safeties, threw open the cockpit hatch, and ejected into space. Immediately he was spinning, the ship and stars alternating positions with rapidity. His ship slammed into the gun and the transport, the inability of the vacuum to transmit sound causing the collision to occur in eerie silence. Fire flared for a moment, but only a moment before the vacuum extinguished it. Chunks of debris exploded outward into space and the transport lurched.

Michael managed to stop his rotation and reeled himself in toward the large, jagged, smoking hole his interceptor had torn in the transport’s hull. Loose hoses and electrical lines dangled from the edges of the opening, leaking gases and shooting sparks into space. A portion of his ship’s wing had survived the impact and was lodged in the bulkhead. The rest had been vaporized on impact. Michael pulled himself through the destruction until he stood in the remains of a depressurized corridor. Chunks of metal and electronics littered the torn deck, the whole of it smoking from the heat of impact. The starfighters buzzed past the transport, visible through the hole in the bulkhead. "General?" said the squadron co-leader.

"All is under control. I'm perfectly fine," Michael replied.

"General, that transport is loaded with armed rebel troops."

"Not for much longer, I can assure you that," Michael said. "You are on escort duty now. I will notify you if anything else is required."

Michael heard a sigh, then, "Understood, General."

A hatch on the far side of the hall slid open to reveal a rebel trooper in armour. Seeing Michael, the rebel trooper twitched, his eyes widened in surprise, and he grabbed for the blaster at his belt. By the time the trooper had the blaster drawn and the trigger pulled, Michael had taken cover. He pulled out a weapon and with a push of a button, it ignited with a snap-hiss, the hilt projected a crimson blade. He deflected another blaster shot and moved closer to the trooper. Despite Michael moving quickly, he managed to aim and fire his blaster at the General again and again. Michael deflected each shot, and as he closed in on the trooper, he sliced the man's arm and grabbed him by the throat, closing his trachea. The trooper pawed frantically as Michael lifted him off the deck.

"Where is Tesex Wingate?" asked Michael, anger flaming through his eyes. "Where is she!"

"I...won't...tell...you..."

Not wanting to waste time, he moved his raised hand left and then right, smashing the trooper into the bulkhead with so much force. Michael squeezed the trooper's neck hard and heard the bones on the neck shatter and threw the body across the deck. The rebel's skull was clearly crushed, blood all over his face. A voice carried over a comlink on the rebel’s belt. "Asher! What is going on there? Do you copy? Can you hear me?"

Michael deactivated his weapon and picked up the comlink, opened the channel, and said, "Tell me where Tesex Wingate is and I'll let you all die a painless death. Ignore my order and I shall massacre this ship!"

He crushed the communicator in his fist, reignited his weapon, stepped over the dead rebel, and strode into the corridor beyond. Instead of seeing Tesex Wingate, more rebel troopers arrived. Michael showed no mercy, slicing each trooper with every stroke of his blade. Blood flooded the corridor, making Michael even angrier. His hatred for the rebels could be felt with each kill he made. Was he fighting for the greater good? To him, he was and still is. However, unlike Sojan and Ainz, he had no restraint. He channelled his inner evil and destroyed every rebel he saw. To him, their lives did not matter. They killed his friend, Claudine. To make it worse, the woman he loved, Cherilyn, betrayed him for the rebels. The pain he felt made him ruthless. He welcomed it. Pain fed his hate, and hate fed his strength. He no longer felt the absence of Cherilyn, but the hate remained, and the rage still burned. The anger separated him from the galaxy, from everyone, made him singular, freed him from the heartbreak, and allowed him to focus solely on his task. It terrified others, he knew, and that pleased him. Their terror was a tool he used to accomplish his ends. Instilling fear was a tool he used to cow the weak and hate, as he saw, was the font of true strength.

Michael looked behind him; a sea of dead bodies, swimming in blood. He picked up another comlink and spoke, "Your troopers are dead," he said, and the words made the rebel commander wince.

Michael approached the entrance to the bridge of the transport. He sliced through the door with his weapon and with a strong kick, the door flew, hitting two rebel officers. The officers on the bridge fired shots at Michael, who expertly deflected the beams. He beheaded each and every one of the officers, except the pilots. He saw Tesex lying on the far corner, unconscious. It was evident that she had been tortured. Michael felt immense anger, and hatred surged throughout his body. He let out a loud scream, and the pilots trembled in fear.

He carried Tesex's body and walked out of the bridge, the pilots remaining silent. He turned towards the pilots and said, "Fly this damn ship towards that Destroyer. Disobey, and you will be like your friends who I slaughtered like animals."
Last edited by Terudel on Mon May 18, 2020 6:21 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Terudel » Mon May 18, 2020 12:36 am

Aboard Killer Class Star Destroyer Retribution, Orbit of Fimin, Jenesia System
28th Apollo (28th September), 0530 Hours (Fimin Time), 1506 AGW


"Lieutenant Tesex Wingate is in a stable condition," said the doctor. "She should be able to wake up in a few hours."

"Thank you, doctor," replied Michael, who was leaning back on the chair of his command post. Michael was tired of the war. After the fall of the Republic, everyone lost hope. For two whole years, Michael watched as the Rebels took each and every planet one by one. It was devastating. He and Sojan decided enough was enough. Spencer and Allerew. Those two names are famous among those who still believed in the defeat of the Rebels. People followed their work very closely and saw the two as warriors in a desperate battle to protect the liberty of the Republic.

Allerew, however, was different from Spencer. Allerew preferred talking rather than fighting, but when there is fighting to be done, few can match him. Spencer is the master of audacity; his intensity, boldness, and sheer jaw-dropping luck are the perfect complement to Allerew's deliberate, balanced steadiness. The two would clash occasionally, and it could be pretty intense, but who would mediate? None other than Ainz Mythos. Ainz always finds himself in between the two. Because of his constant involvement, Spencer and Allerew decided that Ainz would be included in the leadership of the Armed Forces. Still, Ainz had lesser authority than Sojan and Ainz was indirectly under the control of Duchess Enatia Yanu'Kai.

Michael typed something on his monitor and a hologram popped up. It was Yanu'Kai, who appeared to be restless. "Greetings, Duchess," Michael said.

"C'mon. Stop the formalities," Yanu'Kai sniggered. "How's Tesex?"

"She is alright. I called to inform you that I wish to step down as Grand General."

"What? Why?"

"It's taking a toll on me," Michael said, softly. "I need to go back to Canardin, where I can solely focus on strengthening my powers."

"You sure are obsessed with the Kalee abilities," replied Yanu'Kai, giggling.

"I've always been fascinated by it. Remember the time when I helped you become Duchess?"

"Yea. You didn't want to leave my planet. However, if you step down as Grand General, who will replace you?"

"Fang Hook. He has proven his ability on the battlefield and I know that it is not normal for a Battalion Commander to skip ranks and be promoted directly to Grand General, but I think he is more than capable of assuming the position. I have no doubt he will do a great job."

Yanu'Kai raised an eyebrow. "I don't agree with you entirely, Michael. However, as Grand General, it is your decision on who will succeed you. I just hoped for you to stay in the position just up until the end of the war but since it is not going to happen, may I suggest that you think of the decision more carefully. Personally, I think Tesex would be a better fit for the role."

"Yes, she is. However, she, too, will be leaving the Army. She will be coming with me to Canardin to assist me with something. I need to prepare for our next step after we win the war. Tesex would be of great help. Trust me in this. I assure you Fang Hook will not let me down. He never has."

"Very well." Michael turned off the hologram and looked towards the planet of Fimin. Another planet liberated from the control of the Rebels. Another victory for Commander Fang Hook. Or should he say, Grand General Fang Hook?

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Terudel
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Postby Terudel » Mon May 18, 2020 5:48 am

Aboard Killer Class Star Destroyer Retribution, Orbit of Fimin, Jenesia System
1st Selene (1st October), 1345 Hours (Fimin Time), 1506 AGW


Michael and the Tesex strode onto the central tier of the Retribution's bridge. Canardian Guards followed and took flanking positions at the main elevator behind them. The Retribution's crew members either scurried around or sat at their stations, preparing for a lightspeed jump. General John Peters stood near them but kept a short distance between them. He avoided looking directly at Michael, his discomfort with Michael’s presence palpable.

"Grand General Fang Hook and his troops have boarded the Liberation, Admiral Sojan confirmed," said General Peters. Michael simply nodded and continued to observe his frantic crew members.

"Hyperdrive is online and course is set, General,” the helm called, and the information was echoed up to Peters. "Please give the order, Lord Spencer," said Peters.

"Oh, no, General," Michael said, waving a hand. "I’m no longer a military leader. Proceed as you would normally."

"Engage the hyperdrive," Peters called, and the command caused a ripple of activity to flow along the bridge crew. Michael felt the faint thrum in the deck as the Retribution's powerful hyperdrive engaged. Stars and the black of space disappeared, replaced by the blue churn of hyperspace.

"Destination: Canardin," called the helm.

"Dim the view," Peters ordered, and the window darkened until hyperspace was no longer visible. He turned to Michael. "My lord, if you and Doctor Wingate would prefer to retire to your quarters, I will let you know the instant we arrive in Canardin."

"I think we will remain on the bridge for now, General," Michael said.

"Very good, my lord," said Peters, pursing his lips under his bristly white moustache. "It won’t be very long." The general moved off, looking over the shoulders of his crew, issuing orders, and otherwise staying away from Michael. The bridge crew settled into its rhythm.

"I think you make him uncomfortable, Michael," said Tesex.

Michael made almost everyone he encountered uncomfortable. To them, he was a towering dark figure outside their chain of command who had emerged from nowhere and assumed leadership and, most terrifyingly, possessed powers they did not understand.

"His discomfort is useful to me," Michael said.

"Underlings should always be uncomfortable in the presence of their superiors," said Tesex. "Don’t you agree?"

Michael nodded. The two surveyed the bridge in a silence broken only by the movements of the crew while the Retribution zoomed through lightspeed in a blink. After a time, the bridge crew broke into a different rhythm as they prepared to return the Star Destroyer to normal space. "Coming out of lightspeed," called the helm.

As the Retribution emerged from hyperspace on the outer edge of Canardin's orbit, the viewport undimmed, giving a view of the distant asteroid belts and the planet of Canardin, which shined a bright yellow.

"Maximum spee—" began Peters, but before he finished, an impact sounded from the starboard and the huge starship vibrated. Heads came up from stations and looked questions at one another. A second impact followed hard after, then a third, larger than the rest, caused the ship to list. Michael eyed the viewscreen, saw nothing.

"Situation!" the general ordered, his voice calm.

"Sir, I’m…" Another impact shook the ship, a fourth, another, another. The ship listed farther. Alarms blared. "We have electrical shorts and a few fires all over the ship," the duty officer called.

"What is happening, General?" Michael asked, stepping forward and grabbing Peters by the arm hard enough to elicit a pained grimace. Peters looked at Michael, at Tesex, and barked at his scan officer. "Situation, scan?"

"Small, explosive mines, General," the scan officer said. "There are hundreds of them everywhere!"

More explosions shook the ship, and a dozen mines floated into the viewscreen’s field of view. Michael recognised them instantly. "Rebels," he mumbled.

"The shields will prevent any real damage to the ship, my lord," General Peters said to Michael. "My sincere apologies for this inconvenience."

"Perform a deep scan on this area," said Tesex. "Particularly on the asteroid belt."

General Peters pursed his lips in impatience. "Doctor Wingate, this is probably just a group of mines left over from our clearing exercise a while back. They present no threat to us—"

Michael put a finger in the general’s face. "Do as she has instructed, General."

Peter’s brow furrowed, but he dared not disobey. "As you wish, Lord Spencer. Scan, begin to..."

Another series of explosions boomed against the ship’s shields, sending tremors through the deck. "No damage," someone on the bridge crew called. "The shields are holding."

"General, there are still over four hundred mines out there," said the scan officer. Peters could not bring himself to make eye contact with Michael. To Tesex, he said, "Doctor, I think perhaps it would be best if you and Lord Spencer vacated the bridge."

"I believe that will not be an option, General," said Tesex.

The scan officer leaned over his instruments. "I’m getting unusual readings, General. I think you should see this."

"What is it?" Peters asked, irritable, though he hustled to the scan station. Tesex followed hard after, looming over the general and the crew member.

"This," the scan officer said, pointing at the readings on his screen. Tesex and Peters took them in, and both understood their meaning. Peters cursed and stood up straight. "Sound battle stations. Helm, full reverse!"

"There are mines on all sides of us, General. If we reverse..."

"I don’t care! Full reverse! Now!"

"It’s too late for that, General," Tesex said. "Alert your flight teams and be prepared to scramble the starfighters," she said to Peters.

"What? Why?" Peters asked, looking from Tesex to Michael. "The shields are still up."

"Not for much longer," Tesex said.

"Do as Doctor Wingate commands," said Michael, putting just enough power in his tone to quail everyone on the bridge.

Peters could not object and turned to the duty officer instead and said, "Double the power to forward shields."

Michael looked out and the viewscreen showed a dense matrix of glowing lines, like bolts of lightning, tracing jagged paths along the shields. "Shields at forty per cent," the scan officer said, his tone going from puzzled to alarmed. "Sixteen! Back to twenty-nine!"

"Get them back up to full!" Peters commanded.

"Full stop," Tesex ordered, and Peters did not countermand. With the shields weakening, they could not risk slamming into the mines all around them. The helm put the Retribution into a stop, and the scan officer tapped his screen.

"General, some of the mines are abnormal. They are creating some kind of feedback loop in the shield matrix. They are not bringing the shields down, but they are weakening them. Opening holes in places."

An uncomfortable rustle went through the bridge crew. Tesex looked at Michael, but he seemed lost in thought, a faint smile raising the corners of his thin-lipped mouth.

Peters stalked from station to station, studying readouts, and when he spoke his voice was tense. "Get it fixed. Weapons, get a lock on those devices and bring them down."

"There are hundreds of mines out there, General," the weapons officer said. "A miss with the shields weakened could create a chain of explosions."

"Then you damn well better not miss!" Peters said.

"General," said the scan officer, "I can’t be certain which is a normal mine and which isn’t. There are too many and they’re too small."

Peters swallowed hard. No doubt he felt as trapped as the Retribution. He looked back at Tesex, at Michael, back at his bridge crew. Another crew member added, "The mines have proximity attractors. If the shields fall, they’ll be drawn close and then explode."

Another uncomfortable rustle went through the crew. The Retribution could not move and yet had to move. "I need options," Peters said, and the crew buried themselves in data.

Michael gave him one. "Launch your fighter squadrons," he said. "I’ll lead them."

Whatever discomfort Peters had with Michael gave way in the face of the crisis. He nodded, relieved. "Of course. The fighters can take out the mines with precision."

"General," said the scan officer, his voice pitched high with controlled alarm. "There are several hundred rebel fighters swarming out of the asteroid belt. They’re heading directly for us."

"Battle stations," Peters said, and alarms began to blare. Michael turned to Tesex to speak, but before he could say anything, Tesex said, "You intend to suggest that I remove myself to a safer location. To your shuttle perhaps, or to my quarters."

Michael nodded. Tesex often knew his thoughts. "I think I shall remain here and watch matters unfold," she said. "But you should do as you intended. I'll be alright."

Michael smiled and strode for the elevator. Michael entered the lift, turned, and stared at Tesex as the doors closed. He had little time. The moment the lift doors opened on the flight level, he hurried through the corridors of the Retribution, finally taking the lift down to the fighter bay. Scores of starfighters sat in neat rows along the flight deck, engines already engaged. The blaring alarms had the flight deck buzzing. Pilots in their flight suits hurried to their ships. Michael used his powers to leap atop his interceptor and slide into his seat. As he strapped himself in and the canopy descended, the squadron commander’s voice came over his helmet comm. "What are we facing out there, my lord?"

"Mines and rebel fighters at a minimum, Commander."

"Understood, my lord."

"Launch when ready," Michael said to the squadron as his ship lifted off the deck. Dozens of starfighters followed suit. The commander synced the fighters’ identifications with the bridge computer, so they could be easily distinguished from the incoming rebel fighters and mines.

"Clear to launch," said the bridge officer.

"Michael," Tesex’s voice said over the private channel. "The shields are at sixteen per cent."

"I suggest you get on that shuttle because I don't want to lead another rescue mission for you," Michael said, laughing, before engaging his ion engines. Tesex watched from the viewport as Michael’s interceptor accelerated out into open space.
Last edited by Terudel on Mon May 18, 2020 6:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Terudel » Tue May 19, 2020 6:41 am

Aboard Colonial Ion Shuttle Cruiser, The Maw II, Somewhere in the Herranium System
1st Selene (1st October), 1430 Hours (Vilea Time), 1506 AGW

Image
Slowly, silently, its lights a faint glitter of life amid the darkness, Colonial Ion Shuttle Cruiser, The Maw II glided through space. Empty space. Oppressively dark space. Long, lonely light-years from the nearest of the planets, drifting at the edge of the boundary between the Herranium System and the vast regions of a territory known as The Beyond. At the very edge of the Crescentian Republic. Or rather, at the edge of the pitiful scraps of what had once been the Crescentian Republic.

Standing beside one of the ship’s side viewports, Grand Marshal Ainz Mythos, Supreme Commander of the Republic Starfighter Corps, gazed out at the emptiness, the weight of all too many years pressing heavily across his shoulders. Too many years, too many battles, too many defeats.

There was a tentative footstep at his side. "Ainz," Riflona said. "You seem to be lost in thought. Are you alright?"

Ainz turned to her, a faint smile on his face. "We had those rebels three years ago. I'm just disappointed by how we lost everything so quickly."

"We got this. You're doing a great job as Grand Marshal. Sojan, as usual, is terrific in his work as Grand Admiral. Fang Hook will definitely be as good, if not better, as Michael leading the Grand Army. Sooner or later, peace will be restored."

Ainz hoped it was true. He wanted it to be true. War is devastating, and Ainz saw that firsthand. He lost many comrades in battle, too many for him to even be affected in the slightest manner.

"Jumping to lightspeed," said one of the crew members. "Destination: Nekros in the Quentin System."

"Jump cleared," said Exiyu, who was the commander of the ship. "Dim the viewports. I don't wanna be blinded."

Exiyu walked over to his command station, leaned back, and called for Marie Lyn. Marie Lyn had always been loyal to Exiyu. She served him since he defected from the Grandean Army. "Call Duchess Yanu'Kai," Exiyu requested.

Before Marie Lyn could proceed, Yanu'Kai emerged from the main elevator and walked along the bridge. "Yes, Exiyu?"

"Your highness, are you sure about this trip?"

Yanu'Kai glared at Exiyu and responded, "Of course I am! The rebels will not be bold enough to explore the Quentin System. For 1506 years, the Republic has avoided the Quentin System. Do you know why? Because it is teeming with bounty hunters. However, if we are going to bring back our former alliance, we gotta find Jaygini. According to our intel, she is in Nekros."

As the Maw II emerged from hyperspace, the ship was hit, sending tremors. "Damage report?" called Exiyu.

"Three starboard turbolaser batteries knocked out," the helm officer called back. "We’ve also lost one tractor beam projector and two ion cannons."

"Bounty hunters," said Yanu'Kai, who appeared to be rather calm.

"Cloaking shield, now!" commanded Exiyu.

And with a brief flicker of bridge lighting, the cloaking shield plunged the Maw II into total darkness.

"Cloaking shield activated and stabilized," the officer said.

"Helm, come around portside: thirty degrees by eight," Exiyu ordered. "Ahead acceleration point one. Turbolasers: fire."

"Acknowledged," a weapon officer called. "Turbolasers are firing." Exiyu took a step closer to the viewport and looked down along the ship’s sides. The faint blasts of low-level fire were visible, lancing a short distance out from the Colonial Ion Shuttle Cruiser and then disappearing as they penetrated the spherical edge of the ship’s cloaking shield. Blinded by the very device that was now shielding it from its opponents’ view, the Maw II was firing wildly in an attempt to destroy those opponents.

It was a long time before the ship’s turbolasers finally ceased fire. Far too long. "Is that it?" Exiyu asked.

"Yes, sir," the officer said. "Six hundred shots, as preprogrammed."

Exiyu nodded. "Deactivate cloaking shield. Let’s see how well we did." There was another flicker from the lights, and the stars were back. Mentally crossing his fingers, Exiyu peered out the viewport. For a moment there was nothing. And then they felt it. A huge blow.

"Reactors are down! And we’ve got structural failures in the hull, both aft and—" Another blow. The hull had ruptured. The ship shook violently, sending crew members flying. "It's over," said one of the crew members.

"You wanted to be here!" Yanu'Kai yelled. "Fly this goddamn ship!"

Ainz, who was holding on to Riflona on one hand and a pole with the other, scanned the darkness of space for any enemy ship. The crew members, however, were preparing to make a jump to hyperspace, afraid to die at the hands of ruthless bounty hunters. Ainz caught a glimpse and saw a large cruiser flying hysterically.

Sensor readings of the foreign cruiser went nonsensical— and it yawed dangerously toward the Maw II. Before the collision warning could sound, Exiyu’s navigator reflexively engaged the hyperdrive. It had been in the nick of time...  

...or maybe not. Not the way the Maw II was giving up its vitals now. They did hit us, Exiyu knew. The telemetry might have told them, had they had any. The ship had been knocked off-course by an astronomical hair—but it was enough. However, in a split second, the ship went out of hyperspace, this time, way too close to the atmosphere of Nekros.

A sickly snap and shielding failed. Bulkheads gave. And then, the armoury. The armoury had exploded. That was easy enough to know from the gaping hole in the underside of the ship. The armoury had simply vanished—along with an impressive chunk of ship’s quarterdeck.

The Maw II had shuddered into realspace, decelerating madly—and taking dead aim at Nekros. The ship had skipped and bounced across the crystal ocean of air until the descent began in earnest. They were falling, but for the moment they were still alive.

The whole bridge crew exhaled audibly when rivulets of moisture replaced the flames outside the viewport. The ship had found the stratosphere without incinerating, and now the ship was in a lazy saucer spin through clouds heavy with rain. Ainz’s eyes narrowed. Water? Is there even a ground? The terrifying thought rippled through the minds of the people on the bridge at once, as they watched the viewport bulge and warp: Gas giant!

Yes, it took a long time to crash from orbit, presuming you survived re-entry. How much longer, if there was no surface? Exiyu fumbled aimlessly for the controls set in his armrest. The Maw II would crack and rupture, smothered under a mountain of vapours. "All of you," he said, "Heads down! And grab something now!"

In the heat of panic, one of the officers attempted to escape the ship by throwing a crate at the viewport. Already stressed by the atmospheric pressure, the viewport gave way, shards weeping from the ship like shining tears. A hush of departing air slammed Exiyu to the deck plating. Riflona tumbled to one side, having lost hold of her station. Sirens sounded—how were they still working?—but the tumult soon subsided. Without thinking, Exiyu breathed. "Air! It’s air!"

Ainz regained his footing first, bracing against the wind. Their first luck. The viewport had mostly blown out, not in—and while the cabin had lost pressure, a drippy, salty wind was making its way in. Unaided, Exiyu fought his way back to his station. "Just a reprieve," Yanu'Kai said, not optimistic about the situation.

They still could not see what was below. Exiyu had done a suicide plunge before, but that had been ages ago—when he’d known where the ground was. That there was a ground. Once-restrained doubts flooded Exiyu’s mind—and Ainz responded. "Enough," the Grand Marshal barked, struggling against the swaying deck to reach his friend’s command chair. "Let me at those controls!"

"They’re as dead for you as they are for me!"

"We’ll see about that!" Ainz reached for the armrest, only to be blocked by Exiyu's wrist.

"The ship will blow," Ainz implored.

"No, it won’t," Exiyu said. "We’re going to have to do this by hand—so to speak." He stepped past the ailing Riflona to the starboard viewport, which looked back upon the main bulge of the ship trailing aft. There were four large torpedo tube covers on either side of the ship, spherical lids that swivelled above or below the horizontal plane depending on where they were situated. They never opened those covers in atmospheres, for fear of the drag they would cause. That design flaw might save them. "Yanu'Kai, will they work?"

"They’ll cycle—once. But without power, we’re gonna have to set off the ring pins to open them."

Ainz gawked. "We’re not going out there!" They were still at terminal velocity. But Exiyu was moving, too, bustling past Ainz to the viewport. "Everyone, to either side!"

Yanu'Kai and Riflona, together with the remaining crew members who were alive, stepped to the right pane. Ainz, glaring, reluctantly joined them. Alone on the left, Exiyu placed his hand on the coldly sweating portal. Outside, metres away, he found one of the massive circular covers—and the small box mounted to its side, no larger than a comlink. It was smaller than he remembered from inspection. Where is the mechanism? There.

"Top torpedo door, both sides. Now!" With a determined mental act, Exiyu reached for a button that triggered the ring pin. A large bolt released explosively, shooting ahead—and the mammoth tube cover moved in response, rotating on its single hinge. The ship, already quaking, groaned loudly as the door reached its final position, perched atop the plane of the Maw II like a makeshift aileron. Exiyu looked expectantly behind him, where Yanu'Kai’s expression assured him of a similar success on her side. For a moment, he wondered if it had worked and then boom! With a wrenching jolt that levelled the bridge crew, the ship tipped downward. It didn’t slow the ship as much as Exiyu had expected, but that wasn’t the point. At least they could see where they were going now, what was below. If these blasted clouds would clear. At once, he saw it. Land, indeed—but more water. Much more. Jagged, rugged peaks rose from a greenish surf, almost a skeleton of rock lit by the planet’s setting sun, barely visible on the
horizon. They were rocketing quickly into the night. There wouldn’t be much time to make a decision but Exiyu already knew there was no choice to be made. Frowning, he ordered the others on the starboard side to activate their lower torpedo doors. Again, a violent lurch and the Maw II banked left, angling toward an angry line of mountains. Rearward, the broken escape pod shot away from the ship—and slammed straight into the ridge. The searing plume was gone from the bridge’s field of view in less than a second. The ship cleared a snow-covered peak by less than a hundred metres. Dark water opened up below. Another course correction—and the ship was quickly running out of torpedo tubes. Another escape pod launched, arcing down and away. Only when the small craft neared the surf did its pilot—if it had one—get the engine going. The rockets shot the pod straight down into the ocean at full speed. Squinting through sweat, Exiyu looked back at his crew. "Depth charge! Fine time for a mixed warfare drill!" Even Ainz didn’t laugh at that one. But it wasn’t propriety, Exiyu saw as he turned. It was what was ahead. More sharp mountains rising from the waters—including a mountain meant for them. Exiyu reeled back to his chair. "Stations!"

Marie Lyn wandered in a panic, lost in fear. She began to cross to Ainz, frozen at his terminal. There was no time. A hand reached for her. Exiyu yanked her close, pushing her down behind the command chair into a protective crouch. The act cost him. The ship slammed into a granite ridge at an angle, losing the fight— and still more of itself. The impact threw Exiyu forward against the bulkhead, nearly impaling him on the remaining shards of the smashed viewport. Yanu'Kai and Riflona strained to move toward him, but the ship was still on the move, clipping another rocky rise and spiralling downward. Something exploded, strewing flaming wreckage in the ship’s grinding wake. Agonisingly, the Maw II spun forward again, the torpedo doors that had been their makeshift airbrakes snapping like driftwood as it slid. Down a gravelly incline, it skidded, showering stones in all directions. Exiyu, his forehead bleeding, looked up and out to see—nothing. The ship continued to slide toward an abyss. It had run out of the mountain.

Stop.

Stop!

"Stop!" Silence. Exiyu coughed and opened his eyes. They were still alive.

Ainz looked to Yanu'Kai, remembering something. He asked, "Why did you not teleport us out of that ship?"

Yanu'Kai sighed and shrugged. "I lost my powers all of a sudden."

Everyone kept quiet. Their only hope out of this mess was all gone.

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Postby Terudel » Wed May 20, 2020 3:11 am

Aboard Killer Class Execution Interceptor, Orbit of Canardin, Jenesia System
1st Selene (1st October), 1530 Hours (Fimin Time), 1506 AGW


When Michael got within weapons range of the rebel starfighters, the entire swarm broke in all directions and opened fire on him. Unfazed, he intuitively calculated angles, velocities, and vectors, his interceptor rising, falling, spinning, wheeling, navigating the firestorm of blaster fire where the margin for error was extremely narrow.

With each shot Michael took, a rebel starfighter was destroyed. Clouds of mines filled space with countless small explosions, wreaking havoc. Michael flew through and past them, still dodging blaster fire. He wheeled hard about and pursued them as the surviving rebel starfighters—perhaps only a score—made their way toward the Retribution.

"Allow none of the rear fighters though, Commander," Michael called to the squadron commander as he accelerated in pursuit. Michael had the remaining rebel starfighters trapped between him and the rest of the squadron. He went high to avoid any crossfire and watched his squadron trade fire with the enemies. Debris, fire, and clouds of mines spun through space. His squadron handled the situation well, destroying most of the rebel squadron.

"Well done, Commander," Michael said. "Maintain a perimeter. I’m returning to the Retribution."

The Retribution hung against the dark of space, the huge wedge of its superstructure burning in dozens of places along its length. Jagged holes in the hull yawned like mouths. Michael entered through the smoke-filled landing bay and saw the destruction there. Flames were everywhere. Broken tubes vented gas and fluid. The crew scrambled everywhere, some in portable oxygen masks, others succumbing to smoke. Droids, automated suppression systems, and fire teams fought the fires here and there, but most went untended. The damage was more than the crew could deal with. They’d need assistance. Bodies and body parts lay scattered among the wreckage. Ships burned on the landing pad, including his own shuttle. What a bummer. Seeing that, Michael suspected Tesex had foreseen much of what had happened, or she is inside there, blown up. Michael set down his ship, popped his canopy, leapt out, and strode through the carnage and smoke. Wrecked droids, the ruins of fighters, and pieces of exploded rebel starfighters littered the landing bay, smoke curling up from the debris. Emergency alarms screamed. Michael hurried toward the bridge. Throughout the ship, the scene was the same. The crew members running about shouting commands, screams of pain, smoke and fire, chaos, disorder. Michael’s anger grew with every step he took.

Michael’s growing anger kept him company as the lift rose toward the bridge. The doors slid open to the sights and sounds of a ship in crisis. The bridge crew went about their business professionally, the air filled with the hum of comm chatter and the occasional shouted order. Damage reports came in from all over the Retribution and were relayed to appropriate duty stations in urgent voices, their recitations filling the air with tales of death and fire. Peters moved among the stations, taking reports, issuing orders, trying to retake control of the situation. A member of the crew ran past Michael and hurried onto the lift.

Tesex remained where she had been, standing on the central raised tier of the bridge. She was staring down into the crew pits and tilting her head to see the various viewscreens there.

Eyes turned to Michael as he walked toward the central tier. Without breaking stride, he threw his arms around Tesex, who was surprised. "Thank the heavens you're here," Michael said, sounding relieved. "I thought you were lost in that shuttle."

Tesex smiled and replied, "Nice of you to give me a hug. Do you think I'd leave on that shuttle? I would stay on this bridge and make sure this entire ship does not go down. I don't want to imagine the look on your face when you lose another of your prized ships."

Michael released his hold on Tesex, shrugged, and turned to Peters. The rest of the crew were still mumbling among themselves, wondering if there was anything going on between the two.

He pointed a finger at the General. "There’s a traitor on your staff, General. And that traitor is responsible for what has transpired here."

The words seemed to shock Peters that he could muster no reply. Michael walked over to him, lifted the old General from the floor and hung him in the air before his crew. Peters, wide-eyed, his chin trembling, pawed at his throat and gasped for air. Michael took care not to kill him...yet.

"Please put him down, Michael," said Tesex calmly, who was not surprised by her friend's impulsive behaviour. Michael obeyed and let go of Peters. He massaged his throat and scurried back a bit from Michael. Grunting, breathing heavily, Peters struggled to his feet. His eyes went from Michael to Tesex, pleading.

Peters spoke, his voice rough from Michael's choke, "Lord Spencer, I had no idea. If I had..." He sniffed, stood up straight. "I vow to find the traitors behind this foul attack and—"

"Oh, I believe you," Michael said dismissively. "But that hardly mitigates your fault, General. You had a traitor on your staff and were ignorant of it." Michael signalled the Canardian Guards, and they stepped to the General’s side. Peters' chin quivered. He looked as though he might weep. His squinty eyes flicked from the guards to Tesex to Michael. "My lord, if only you could..."

To the guards, Michael said, "Restrict all of the General’s staff to their quarters and deny them access to communications equipment or computer terminals. Present this as ordinary practice in situations of this kind. Duchess Yanu'Kai will interrogate them when we reach Alak'Hul."

Tesex's eyes widened. "Alak'Hul? I thought we were heading for Canardin?"

"Change of plans," Michael replied. "Alak'Hul is the home of the Kalees. If we head there straight, I believe I can find a way to strengthen my powers and perhaps, grant you similar powers, too."

General Peters interrupted, struggling to free himself from the tight hold of the guards. "Duchess Yanu'Kai is not in Alak'Hul. We have received a report from Admiral Sojan that she, together with Grand Marshal Ainz, Aul Exiyu and Countess Riflona, are heading for the planet of Nekros in the Quentin System."

"Interesting," Michael whispered. "Do you know the reason for their unexpected trip?"

"According to Admiral Sojan, they are finding Jaygini, the leader of the Pythons."

"I thought Jaygini was in Vilea?"

"Apparently not, Lord Spencer. Latest intel concludes that Jaygini has gone to the Beyond."

"How many destroyers did they bring along with them?"

"None, my lord. Just one Colonial Ion Shuttle Cruiser."

Michael glared at Peters. "You have got to be kidding me. One cruiser is not going to survive in the Quentin System! Especially not on the orbit of Nekros! That place is too dangerous!" He turned towards the bridge crew and gave a command. "Change of plans. Contact Canardin base and send six destroyers to Nekros now! Prepare to jump to lightspeed. We are heading for that planet."

Tesex giggled and said, "Another rescue mission, eh?"

"It's always me doing the job. Well, at least you get to tag along. Brighten up this rather mundane mission."

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Terudel
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Postby Terudel » Thu May 21, 2020 3:35 am

Aboard Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Hyperspace, On the way to Idylle, Relesent System
1st Selene (1st October), 1745 Hours (Fimin Time), 1506 AGW

Image
Fang Hook crawled back to bed after speaking to Sojan. He thought of contacting Ainz, but he was too exhausted. Tomorrow, he thought, as he drifted off to sleep.

Several hours later he was disturbed by a knock on his door. This time he felt more refreshed when he woke. He sat up quickly and lit a glow rod, casting the room in soft light. There were no windows in his chamber, but he guessed they must still be in hyperspace.

He rose to his feet and went to greet his uninvited visitor. He was shocked when he opened the door.

"Can I come in?" Assonah whispered.

Fang Hook stepped aside, catching the scent of her perfume as she brushed past him. As he silently closed the door behind her, she walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge. She patted the space beside her, and Fang Hook dutifully sat down, turning slightly so he could look her in the eye.

"Why are you here? How did you get on this ship?" he asked.

"Why didn't you stop me from leaving? Why did you let me join the rebels?" she responded.

"It's ... it's hard to explain. You were right about what happened with Ariamis. I should have trusted you, but I didn't. I was foolish and weak. I didn't want to admit that to you."

"You let me leave because you didn't want to lose the trust of your friends?" The words sounded compassionate as if she were seeking to understand him. But Fang Hook could sense the contempt beneath them.

"No," he explained. "I wanted to respect your decision. If I objected, you would have—"

Assonah leaned over towards his face, her lips on his. It felt different than the last time, Fang Hook thought. So carnal, so...necessary. Assonah paused and took a deep breath. "I love you, Fang. I did everything to find you across the galaxy. I could not imagine my life without you."

Fang Hook's world stood still, tilted, and then it spun on a new axis; and he savoured the moment gazing into her sincere eyes. "I should have come to you," he admitted. "I acted rashly. I let my anger at the rebels drive me away."

She nodded: passion and reckless actions were something he knew Assonah could relate to.

"But you haven't answered my question," Fang Hook said. "How did you get in here?"

"Follow me and I'll show you," she said, at last, rising stiffly from the bed.

Without looking back to see if he was following, she made her way from his room and into the dim hall beyond, moving quickly. Fang Hook scrambled to his feet and trotted after her, breaking into a jog to keep up.

She stared straight ahead, her boots making crisp snaps as they struck the floor with each brisk stride. The sharp sound echoed in the empty halls, but Assonah appeared not to care. Fang Hook could tell that something was bothering her, but he had no idea what it could be.

They found the door to Sojan's library open. Assonah didn't seem surprised; she passed right through without slowing down. Fang Hook paused for only an instant before following her.

At the far side of the room, beyond the rows of shelves, she stopped and turned to face him. There was an expression he couldn't quite decipher on her haughty but beautiful features.

He crossed to the middle of the room then stopped short when she held up her hand, palm extended. "Assonah," he said, perplexed, "what's going—"

His words were cut off by the hollow boom of the door slamming shut behind him. He whirled around to see Cherilyn. Cherilyn's pale red lips were pulled back in a cruel smile so wide it gave him the appearance of a grinning skull.

When Assonah spoke from behind him he had to resist the urge to turn and face her. It wouldn't be wise to expose his back to Cherilyn.

"Why did you follow me, Fang?" she asked, her voice a mixture of anger, disgust, and regret. "How could you be so stupid? Didn't you realize you were walking into a trap?"

Assonah had betrayed him. The conversation in his room had been a test—one that he'd failed. He knew her well enough to expect something like this. He should have been wary of a trap. Instead, he'd been a blind and obedient fool.

He knew he'd brought this on himself. Now he had to discern a way out.

"Is this what you want, Assonah?" he asked, trying to stall for time.

"She wants what all of you want," Cherilyn answered for her. "Power. Victory. She knows to side with the strong."

"I'm stronger than she is," Fang Hook told Assonah. "I proved that in a duel before you left me."

"There's more to strength than physical prowess," Cherilyn replied, igniting her weapon. It was the double-bladed variety. Fang Hook's eyes were focused squarely on the bright blue blades.

"Strength means more than just the ability to use the sword," Cherilyn continued, starting to advance. "It means intelligence. Cunning. Ruthlessness."

"You know how easily I defeated you in a duel," Fang Hook said, finally speaking directly to Cherilyn, though his words were still meant for Assonah. "Are you so certain you can defeat me now?"

"Double-bladed against one, Fang. I like those odds."

Cherilyn was close enough to lunge in and kill him with one blow, but Fang was gambling he would hold back, wary of being lured into a trap. It was a dangerous gamble, but he wanted to be looking directly into Assonah's eyes when he spoke what might be his last words.

Behind him, he could sense Cherliyn's confusion and uncertainty. No attack came yet.

Assonah met his stare with a cold, unflinching gaze and didn't answer. But her teeth worried her lower lip.

"We both know why you brought me here, Assonah," he said, speaking quickly. Cherilyn wouldn't wait for long. "You don't want to side with Cherilyn. You've been plotting ways to get me to kill her ever since you first arrived."

"Enough!" Cherilyn shouted. Fang threw himself forward, rolling out of the way at the last second as the double-bladed sword sliced a deep furrow into the spot where he had been standing. As he rolled to his feet, he saw Assonah move.

He grabbed his weapon on his waist and ignited it. The blade flared to life, a fire yellow glow, and he turned just in time to block Cherilyn's charge.

Fang counterattacked, slashing down at Cherilyn's legs. A quick flurry caused Cherilyn to retreat. Fang feinted as if he was going to press forward, then took a step back, opening a full meter of space between them. On the edge of his awareness, Fang heard the sound of Assonah's whip igniting. He turned back to look as Assonah. Staggering back, Fang was almost too distracted to see Cherilyn unleashing a bolt of lightning from a gun. At the last second, he twisted and caught the potentially lethal blast with the blade of his sword, absorbing its energy. The move had been one of instinct and last resort, and it had left him vulnerable to a single quick thrust from Cherilyn. But Assonah's whip was snapping and cracking at Cherilyn's eyes and face, and his blade was busy frantically warding off the blows.

Fang Hook turned his attention back to Cherilyn, who hesitated. Outnumbered, Cherilyn extinguished her weapon, dropped it to the ground, and fell to his knees.

"Please, Fang," she begged, her voice cracking. "I yield. You are a true warrior. I know that now."

Assonah whispered, "End it now, Fang."

Fang advanced until he towered over his grovelling foe. Suddenly it wasn't just Cherilyn he saw before him. It was everyone he'd ever struck down. Every life he'd ever taken. His comrades in Luciole. Queen Mary Webster.

He was responsible for their deaths. Even now, they weighed on him. Guilt over Webster's death had left him numb for months. It had shackled him like iron. He didn't want to suffer through that again.

"Listen to me," Cherilyn pleaded. "I'll serve you. I'll do anything you command. You can use me. I can help you. Please, Fang, have mercy!"

Fang Hook steeled himself. He remembered what Michael taught him. Use your anger. Your hate. Strike your opponent down with no restraint. "Those who ask for mercy," he answered coldly, "are too weak to deserve it."

His blade decapitated his helpless foe. The torso remained upright for a full second, the charred edges of the cauterized stump where the head had once been attached still smoking. Then it toppled forward.

Staring down at it, Fang felt only one thing: freedom. The guilt, the shame, the weight of responsibility had all vanished in that single, decisive act. Through power, he gained victory. Through victory, his chains were broken. He turned to see Assonah smiling, her eyes filled with hunger.

For a brief moment, her expression darkened; then she burst out with a laugh. "You never cease to amaze me, my prince."

"Don't call me that," he said. He looked at the head again and noticed something odd. It wasn't Cherilyn's. It was a Kalee, who shapeshifted to look exactly like Cherilyn.

"Assonah, what is the meaning of this?"

Assonah looked at him, a sly smirk on her face. "You know why you amaze me? It's because you are so gullible. Another trap. Did you think you could beat Cherilyn that easily?"

"Why are you doing this?"

"We both know you are serving the wrong republic. Sojan and Michael. Those two fight against the rebels, claiming they are doing so to liberate the galaxy. They are lies! Look at the planets taken over by the rebels. The people are happy. Sojan and Michael are evil, can't you see?"

"I will never betray my friends."

"So be it. Your death will be remembered."

Assonah picked up the double-bladed weapon and ignited it. Fang Hook ignited his own, and the two proceeded to duel. For minutes, no one gained an upper hand. He should have won this battle at the start. Against any other opponent, he would have. But Assonah was battle-trained and seasoned well beyond anyone he had ever encountered before. She had matched him blow for blow, and he wasn't any closer to winning this fight now than he had been in the beginning.

Fang delivered a strong hit, sending Assonah back a few steps. Assonah worked at binding up her wounds, a series of burns and slashes marked by charred tears in her dark clothing. He had suddenly found a fresh reserve of strength, and now he was attacking with a ferocity that seemed to have Assonah stymied. With quick, hard strokes of his sword, he bored into his adversary, deliberately engaging in close-quarters combat, refusing to let the other bring her double-bladed weapon to bear. He drove Assonah backwards towards the door, keeping her constantly on the defensive, pressing in on her steadily.

Assonah realised she was in a vulnerable position. She reached over and pressed the button, opening the door. However, it was a mistake. A fatal mistake. A weapon behind her ignited, piercing through her throat. It shined a bright green. It was Sojan.

Fang Hook watched as Assonah fell to the ground, motionless, blood spewing from her throat. "No!" bellowed Fang. He knelt beside her body, looking at her lifeless eyes.

"Do not give in to your feelings, Fang," said Sojan, who was looking at his victim with a slight smirk on his face. "Ending her was necessary."

Fang turned to him and asked, "How did you know she was the one at the door, and not me? You ignited your weapon with no hesitation. No warning."

"Just a feeling," Sojan said with a slight giggle. "Now, follow me. We need to figure out how these two got inside our ship through hyperspace."
Last edited by Terudel on Fri May 22, 2020 11:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Terudel » Fri May 22, 2020 10:51 am

Senate Building, Worf City, Dieusia, Relesent System
2nd Selene (2nd October), 2230 Hours (Dieusia Time), 1506 AGW


As the shuttle settled to the landing deck outside, the shadow sent its mind into the far deeper night within one of the several pieces of sculpture that graced the office: an abstract twist of solid nadium, so heavy that the office floor had been specially reinforced to bear its weight, so dense that more sensitive species might, from very close range, actually perceive the tiny warping of the fabric of space-time that was its gravitation.

Nadium of more than roughly a millimetre thick is impervious to sensors; the standard security scans underwent by all equipment and furniture to enter the Senate Office Building had shown nothing at all. If anyone had thought to use an advanced gravimetric detector, however, they might have discovered that one smallish section of the sculpture massed slightly less than it should have, given that the manifest that had accompanied it, when it was brought from Zirion Grande among the then-ambassador's personal effects, clearly stated that it was a single piece of solid-forged nadium.

The shadow felt Michael stride the vast echoic emptiness of the vaulted halls outside. It could practically hear the cadence of his boot heel on the Grandean marble.

The darkness within the sculpture whispered of the shape and the feel and every intimate resonance of the device it cradled. With a twist of its will, the shadow triggered the device.

The nadium got warm.

The door to the Senate Building opened, and there, he saw four people. Three women and a man.

“So you have come to meet your death?” Cherilyn said, her eyes deadlocked on Michael’s.

“I have come to put all of you out of your misery, which I should have done a long time ago.”

A fountain of sapphire energy burst from Cherilyn fist. “Don't try to resist your fate.”

The song of her blade was echoed by green fire from the hands of Mandy, Ilatha, and Gaz Yin. Ilatha and Gaz closed on Michael, blocking the path to the door. Shadows dripped and oozed colour, weaving and coiling up office walls slipping over chairs, spreading along the floor.

“Resist? How could I possibly resist?” Standing in the middle of the room, Michael shook an empty fist helplessly, the perfect image of a tired, frightened man. “This is murder, you traitors! How can I be any threat to you?”

He turned desperately to Ilatha. “Ilatha, a Kalee, definitely a telepath. What am I thinking right now?”

Ilatha frowned and cocked her head. Her blade dipped. A smear of red-flashing darkness hurtled from behind Michael.

Ilatha’s head bounced when it hit the floor.

Smoke curled from the neck, severed just below the chin.

Mandy gasped, “Ilatha!”

The headless corpse, still standing, twisted as its knees buckled, and a thin sigh escaped from its trachea as it folded to the floor.

“It doesn't . . .” Gaz Yin swayed.

His emerald blade shrank away, and the handgrip tumbled from his opening fingers. A small, neat hole in the middle of his forehead leaked smoke, showing light from the back of his head.

“. . . make sense . . .”

He pitched forward onto his face, and lay still.

Michael stood at the doorway, but the door stayed shut. From his left hand extended a crimson blade.

In the blank second that followed, while Cherilyn and Mandy could do no more than angle their blades to guard, Michael swiftly stepped over the bodies back toward a desk, reversed his blade, and drove it in a swift, surgically precise stab down through the desktop.

“That's enough of that.”

He let it burn its way free through the front, then he turned, lifting his weapon, appearing to study it as one might study the face of a beloved friend one has long thought dead. Anger and hate surged through him until his face radiated with darkness.

“If you only knew,” he said softly, perhaps speaking to the two, or perhaps to himself, or perhaps even to the scarlet blade lifted now as though in mocking salute, “how long I have been waiting for this ...”

The room was lit with the clashes of blades. Green fans, sheets of sapphire blue, and crimson flame. Within moments, the green fire faded and winked out; now only the blue and red remained.

On the desk lay the head of Mandy Xignus, faceup. Her lifeless eyes stared blindly at the ceiling. Michael remembered her gently humorous smile back when they were working together. Her severed head wore that same smile.

Maybe she thought death was funny, too.

Within the Senate Building of the Dieusia, Cherilyn battled alone, blade-to-blade, against a living shadow.

Sinking into desperation, Cherilyn fought for her life.

More than her life: each whirl of the blade was a strike in defence of the rebellion, of her beliefs, her power.

She was fighting for the leader that she loved.

Cherilyn pressed back the darkness with a relentless straight-ahead march; her own blade, that distinctive sapphire blaze that had been the final sight of so many beings across the galaxy, made a haze of its own: an oblate sphere of blue fire within which there seemed to be dozens of swords slashing in all directions at once.

The shadow she fought, that blur of speed—could that be Michael?

Their blades flared and flashed, crashing together with bursts of fire, weaving nets of killing energy in exchanges so fast that Cherilyn could not truly see them.

There was no restraint here from Cherilyn.

Cherilyn Tania was cutting loose.

She was deep in it now: submerged in anger, swallowed by it, she no longer truly existed as an independent being.

Michael was a channel for darkness, and that darkness flowed both ways. She accepted the furious speed of her former lover, drew the shadow's rage and power into her inmost centre, and let it fountain out again.

She reflected the fury upon its source as her blade once again clashed with Michael’s.

There was a time when Cherilyn had feared the power of the dark; there was a time when she had feared the darkness in herself. But Michael had pushed her and now she had to face her darkness and started to realise that the power of darkness is not to be feared.

The fighting was effortless for her now; she let her body handle it without the intervention of her mind. While her blade spun and crackled, while her feet slid and her weight shifted and her shoulders turned in precise curves of their own direction, her mind slid along the circuit of dark power, tracing it back to its limitless source.

Feeling for its shatterpoint.

She found a knot of fault lines in the shadow's future; she chose the largest fracture and followed it back to the here and the now... And it led her, astonishingly, to a woman standing frozen in the slashed-open doorway. Cherilyn had no need to look; the presence was familiar, and was as uplifting as sunlight breaking through a thunderhead.

Tara was here.

Cherilyn disengaged from the shadow's blade and leapt for the window; she slashed away the glass with a single flourish.

Tara’s distraction cost her: a dark surge from Michael nearly blew her right out of the gap she had just cut. Only a desperate push of her own altered her path enough that she slammed into a stanchion instead of plunging half a kilometre from the ledge outside. She bounced off and once again she gave herself to darkness.

She could feel the end of this battle approaching, and so could the blur of the shadow she faced; in the darkness, the shadow had become a pulsar of fear. Easily, almost effortlessly, she turned the shadow's fear into a weapon: she angled the battle to bring them both out onto the window ledge.

Out in the wind. Out with the lightning. Out on a rain-slicked ledge above a half-kilometre drop.

Out where the shadow's fear made it hesitate. Out where the shadow's fear turned some of its godly speed into a grip on the slippery Grandean Marble.

Out where Cherilyn could flick her blade in one precise arc and slash the shadow's blade in half.

One piece flipped back in through the cut-open window. The other tumbled from opening fingers, bounced on the ledge, and fell through the rain toward the distant alleys below.

Now the shadow was only Michael, defeated, face lined with exhaustion.

“You see now that you are nothing,” Cherilyn said evenly, staring past her blade, “but a mere mortal.”

Cherilyn swung her blade and moved it toward her fallen enemy. Michael closed his eyes and waited. After a while, he opened it to see Tesex looking at him. He had returned to his ship, his command post. He had woken up from the nightmare.
Last edited by Terudel on Thu Jun 11, 2020 3:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Zirion Grande
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Moralistic Democracy

Postby Zirion Grande » Fri May 22, 2020 11:11 am

Xuntainy Ship Port ,Nekros, Quentin System
2nd Selene (2nd October), 1050 Hours (Nekros Time), 1506 AGW




A Liliputian woman peers down from up in her watchtower towards the bustling port bazaar below. The bazaar boasted a variety of wealth, from intergalactically-known gun forges to casinos the size of Grandean monoliths, but only one kind of business comes to mind when one steps foot in Nekros. It's Bounty Hunting.

The icy, winter breeze from the mountains blew against her lush, tawny skin flushed by the morning sun's enigmatic warmth. Winds blew down to the port especially strongly during this season as the Futa songbirds voyage from the sunrise to the occidental plate of the planet. She shuddered, decorticating her body from the prickly stings of the dry air.

"Damn it's cold here, better end this quick." The tiny woman sneezed as she took out a relatively large blaster from its hip-holster and pointed it towards the Ipughnian merchant who was bent down on his knees behind her.

"Please, don't. Spare me O revered, resplendent Jaygini. I promise i'll pay my debt to the Pythons in the next cycle. I beg you, we're the same, I have a family, i-" a single bolt of screeching plasma seared through the merchant's reptilian skull before he could utter another syllable, Jaygini's finger pressed back against the trigger as she held up a disgusted scowl.

"Don't compare me with a low-life such as yourself and never call me that name ever again. Ya hear? That goes for the rest of ya dregs sitting in the corner. I'll put a hole through your brain if you don't pay up every Quentin Cycle. Ya'll owe me for the protection I've given ya from the Republic. If it ain't for me, those illegal goodies would've been long confiscated. Now get out of my sight!" scowled Jaygini, better known now as the Python Empress, as she signaled for her lackies to escort the rest of the merchant group out of her citadelic loft.

"Boss, you ain't gonna like what I'm about to say." said the Vilean henchman in a worried tone.

"Then make it sound good or this ain't the only body getting shoved into the compressor." The henchman squeaked like a sewer rat caught in a trap, wanting only to get out of the situation. He gulped,

"Well, a bunch of no-names came barging through the front door and killed half of our boys. I ain't know how they did it but apparently one of em's a kalee with space magic. I heard them Kalees can rip ya in half if ya ruffle em feather wrong." Worriedly, Jaygini prompts the rest of her party to barricade the doors of her quarters and reinforce them with military-grade blaster shields.

"I probably know these goons, but I ain't know what they want from me." Jaygini fretted as she stood adjacent to the Nadium statue in the room, as though seeking cover.

"Boss, they're coming." The sounds of final screams of Python underlings grew louder. Soon after the doors to the final chamber were being pushed and being forcibly pried open.

"Get ready now!" Jaygini aimed her blaster dead-center on the gap between the doors and fired the first shot. It hit. The prying ceased and a long silence followed.

"Where'd they go? Go check on em ya useless stooges." commanded Jaygini as she crawled nearer to the open balcony. She then felt something caress against her exotic lilac-scaled shoulder plate. She did a full one-eighty and cocked her blaster like a cowboy. Before she could pull the trigger against the sneaky assaulter, the masked figure put his leather-gloved hands around her mouth and grabbed the helpless Python Empress by the waist. Moments later, she was tugged away like a marionette on a string with the masked man, out of the balcony and into the cold air. They were flying out of a 3000 foot high tower in the spur of a second. Jaygini never felt so enchanted by a turn of events, she felt like princess being wafted to her feet by a mysterious, handsome saviour.

The man unveiled himself, and Jaygini's eyes bolted open in disbelief. It was none other than the Grand Marshall himself swinging on a web-line connected to The Maw gliding above with the not so ruthless Python boss in his arms.

"Wassup shortcakes, we've got unfinished business."

A few minutes later aboard The Maw, Ainz was sitting on the couch with a wounded, black-eye while a disappointed Jaygini stood in the corner, arms crossed and heaving out great, longs sighs with a single bloodied fist.

"So what d'ya bunch of misfits think ya doing by capturing the Queen of the Pythons. Ruler of the biggest gang around these parts. I own a quarter of this cursed system's assault ships by name and even several of Spencer's leftover destroyers and half of em are tracking me down right now. Better speak quick or we're all gonna turn to ash." Jaygini threatened, still holding on the the notion that she somehow got her feelings cheated.

"Its the rebels, Gine . They're bringing havoc across the galaxy and we gotta stop them before Tara kills us all. We've got to bring the team back and stop her. So that's why we came back for you." Riflona answered, trying to assure her old friend.

"I'm way past all that Republic versus Rebels hullabaloo. I'm a free woman now Rife . I love my life as a mercenary. I kill bad people, well most of em at least, and I get paid. Last I heard, even Jixu got hitched and settle down. Hell! She probably even got a lil' boy to take care of by now. I ain't gonna take part in your fight anymore guys. I'm done." Jaygini sat down on the floor, eyes closed as though trying to shun away the memories of her shared past.

"But Jaygini, you ain't gonna be able to enjoy all that freedom once Tara and her bevy of traitors comes charging into Quentin with planet-annihilating ships. You think your freedom is long-lived, another war is...no, this time, it's not a war, it's gonna be purge that's coming. If we don't stop her now, the universe is as good as gone." Exiyu exclaimed.

Jaygini was going through an ephemeral realisation that she'd now regret ever hearing. She just wanted ton run away from her past but it caught up to her sooner than expected. She kept silent for a while. The whole crew was waiting for a response. Finally, she opened her mouth,

"I'll think about it."

Last edited by Zirion Grande on Sun May 31, 2020 5:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Terudel
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Postby Terudel » Sun May 31, 2020 6:45 am

Vere Island, Roulande, Relesent System
2nd Selene (2nd October), 0600 Hours (Roulande Time), 1506 AGW



Gaz awoke to the marvel of soft fingers caressing his abdomen. It was a lovely sensation matched to the warmth of the supple mattress, the touch of fresh cotton sheets, the fading blossom scent of Cherilyn's perfume. He smiled, his eyes still closed as he sighed a delighted welcome to the new day. A kiss fell on his cheek. Her nose nuzzled his ear. His smile widened, and the possessive hand slipped along his skin, past his belly button, and further yet. Cherilyn giggled.

"Now that's what I call rising to greet the dawn," she murmured lecherously.

The other girl giggled as well. Gaz's eyes snapped open. Memories came flooding back. Just to confirm them, Mandy was lying on his other side watching him and Cherilyn with covetous intent, her flimsy white negligee far too small to contain her full figure even if the lace bows down the front had been fastened. He recalled how enjoyable it had been undoing those bows last night.

A subtle moan was all Gaz could manage.

"Me first," Cherilyn insisted, her sharp teeth emphasizing the claim on his earlobe.

Mandy produced a reproving pout. "Don't forget me, Redford."

Gaz couldn't answer. Cherilyn's kiss had now engulfed his mouth. He folded his arms around her as she slithered on top of him. The memories of last night gained texture, and he remembered her delight and exactly how to cause it. His hands moved in the way which made her shudder helplessly, then he applied his third hand just so.

For the last three weeks, Gaz had learned how to harness his ability in the bedroom to the best possible advantage. He hadn't lacked for girls eager to teach him the most intimate secrets of this darkest art. His fame and strength had proved irresistible to the beautiful, mischievous girls of the Rebellion. They relished demonstrating their ill-gotten skill, almost as much as he enjoyed being the beneficiary. He never was sure exactly who was corrupting who.

Being the right-hand man of Tara, Gaz enjoyed the luxuries that the Rebellion could offer. On several evenings there had been fights in the theatres over who got to bed him—such reputable girls, too. He’d never really considered what kind of life popularity would bring.


Vere Island, Roulande, Relesent System
2nd Selene (2nd October), 0645 Hours (Roulande Time), 1506 AGW


"I’ve never seen steps into a bathing pool before," Mandy remarked as she walked down into the bubble-coated water. "We have these awful wooden ladder things hanging on the side in all the pools in Ilatha’s mansion." Her hand stroked Gaz’s face as she sat on the seat shelf beside him. "This is much better."

"There are quite a few pools in Tara's tenement that have steps like these," Gaz assured her, confident she wouldn’t be going in any to find out.

"Not fair you’ve got them and we haven’t," Cherilyn complained. She pouted. Cherilyn had a very pretty pout, Gaz decided. It certainly got her just about everything she wanted. He relaxed between them, which spoke volumes about how his life had changed since that day he met Tara.

At his instruction, a servant brought two sponges and a bottle of soap oil to the rim of the pool. "Would you do my back?" he asked and leaned forward. Both girls took a sponge. Even with shielded thoughts, they clearly didn’t have cleanliness in mind as they began to apply the liquid with languid movements.

"What are you doing tonight?" Cherilyn asked.

"Celebrating, I hope," Gaz told her. The planet of Idylle had been blockaded by the rebels under Redford's command. Supreme Leader Glenn Scheinred had been captured and would face trial. Furthermore, Grand Admiral Sojan and Grand General Fang Hook were on their way to Idylle, heading straight for a trap.

"How about you?"

"Well, I have been trying to contact Assonah but she has not been responding. I was thinking of heading to Idylle to wait for Sojan's ship."

"Sojan's ship will be arriving there shortly." He glanced at her left hand, seeing a slim silver band like twined vines. A single diamond was set in its crest. She bent round to look at his expression.

"She should be fine, right?"

"Yea, she should. You know, Tara told me there were more girls but I've only met you, Mandy and Assonah."

"I’d like you to meet my friend Ilatha," Mandy said. "She’s a Kalee. Horribly rich. She’s a second daughter, very marriageable; and she’s expressed, in complete confidence to me, how strongly she’d enjoy knowing you."

"Uh, right." Mandy stood up in front of him, wiping long damp hair from her shoulders with deliberate slow movements. "She’s pretty, too; and young, in case you were wondering. If I introduce you, we could all celebrate together tonight."

Gaz found himself short of breath.
Last edited by Terudel on Tue Jun 09, 2020 4:30 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Terudel
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Postby Terudel » Sun May 31, 2020 8:16 am

Arrastole, Veres, Herranium System
2nd Selene (2nd October), 1145 Hours (Veres Time), 1506 AGW


In all her thirty-three years Enatia Yanu'Kai had never seen anything as lovely as the isle of Arrastole. It was one of over a thousand tiny coral islands that made up the Rockhead Archipelago, stretching for five hundred kilometres across Veres' Greemble Ocean. The C-shaped ridge of coral was barely a kilometre long. Thanks to Veres' large close-in moon, low tide pulled the waves back for five hundred metres, exposing a shallow beach of the nest white sand, while on the other side of the isle a circle of low dragon spine polyps produced a shallow lagoon whose water was bath-hot. Native cycads clinging to the slender ground between had saltwater roots, allowing them to produce towering stems with emerald fronds that rolled out like sails every morning. There were twenty wooden vacation shacks spread out along the curving shore. Deceptively ramshackle looking from the outside, their interiors were a plush boutique design, promising the clientele a break of unashamed luxury.

Sonjeff had rented one of the shacks for a week. Sonjeff was thirty-four years old, a meta-human like herself, as were most of Veres' population—a stubborn little world rejecting a Higher culture that so many in the Old Republic adhered to. Sonjeff who was simply a dream of perfection with his lean dark-skinned body, flat face with a wide smile, and soft brown eyes that every girl in town wanted to gaze at.

But Yanu'Kai was the one whom he made a special effort to talk to. And he was slightly shy, and funny, and had the same simple dreams as her. He seemed to understand her so well, the frustration of living in a war-torn galaxy, her timidity at venturing out into the Republic with all its wonder and strangeness.

Sonjeff for whom it took four whole days before she’d dumped Ricardo, her steady fella of nine months. Sonjeff whom she went for long walks with. Sonjeff who encouraged her to keep her position as Grand Duchess. Who seemed to understand her battleground relationship with her seventy-seven-year-old mother who was set in ways that belonged in some distant anachronistic timeline. Sonjeff offering support and advice and sympathy. Who was so unselfish, and empathized about her own insecurities. Sonjeff whom she was completely and utterly in love with like no boy and girl had ever been before, whom she wanted to live with forever and give him as many children as he asked for. Sonjeff whom she would willingly die for. He’d never made a move on her in those three weeks. Not that she would have said no to him. But instead, he talked openly and honestly about them becoming true lovers. And then he’d suggested this week together.

With only a mild reluctance, her mother had agreed she could go. And so they took his ageing starcruiser to Veres, where they could forget about the war, even for just a moment. Yanu'Kai even sent a clone of her to go with Exiyu, Riflona and Ainz so that she could secretly go on this vacation.

Their shack had a huge circular bed. Yanu'Kai blushed in delight as she looked at it. Then they changed quickly and went out exploring the sublime isle, running down the vast deserted beach where they splashed about in the waves. Holding hands during the walk back through the lush foliage, they discovered a number of sweet little secluded glades. Every time they stopped in one, they kissed, taking longer and longer each time.

"Tonight," he said, his gorgeous eyes never leaving hers. "I want it to be just perfect." She nodded, nearly biting through her lower lip in frustration. Dinner was served on a big wooden platform at one tip of the cove, with tables for two that had living canopies of scarlet ower vines. The only light came from candles.

Droids waited on the tables, but it was a real human chef working at the grill, cooking the meat. Yanu'Kai had put on her millennial pink polka-dot dress, the one with a very short shirt and a neckline deep enough that Sonjeff just couldn’t stop staring. It was heavenly being able to entrance him like that. There were six other couples on the platform that night. But the tables were placed well apart to grant each of them solitude. Yanu'Kai smiled at how fine everyone looked. There was only one person dining on his own, a really old man—like almost fifty or something —with shaggy grey hair, wearing a dinner jacket that was as blue as she’d ever seen—but even his table was set for two.

"A quarrel, do you think?" Yanu'Kai asked with a giggle. Sonjeff raised his small frosted beer glass. "Here’s to us never having one."

She sighed; it was all so delectable. Until she’d met Sonjeff, she’d never really understood the term 'soulmate'.

Another man and woman came in. She was wearing a military suit, in complete contrast with all the very feminine dresses being worn by everyone else. Her partner was also in a military suit.

"What …" Yanu'Kai began. She didn’t recognize the woman, who had thick jet-black hair styled primly around a very elegant face that had a strong Gradean heritage. A face that looked seriously determined. She turned to Sonjeff, startled to see how he had stiffened; his expression was no longer suffused with happiness. It unnerved her. She reached over the table for him, but he didn’t move.

The woman stopped at their table. "Captain Sonjeff, I am Lieutenant Colonel Hannah Griffin. You are being requested by Grand Marshal Ainz Mythos. The mission that you have to complete. To the planet of Cal-1, you must go."

"What?" Yanu'Kai gasped. "Tell that simp that he will not be able to take Sonjeff away at the moment. Say that it is an order from Grand Admiral Sojan Allerew. As Grand Duchess, I will not allow a mere Lieutenant Colonel disobey my word."

"Unfortunately, Yanu'Kai, your assumption is incorrect. I can disobey your word. Captain Sonjeff will be coming with me whether you like it or not."

"Wait!" Yanu'Kai said as her anger grew. "This is crazy. Do you have a deathwish, Hannah?"

"You don't scare me."

Yanu'Kai snapped. She grabbed Hannah by the neck and crushed her trachea in a split second, killing the soldier. She turned to the man accompanying Hannah and a beam of red hot plasma shot from her eyes, incinerating the male soldier.

Sonjeff didn't say a word. He calmly finished his beer and stood up, escorting Yanu'Kai out of the restaurant, where everyone was horrified at the brutal scene. There were tears. A lot of tears. Sonjeff had been ready for that. Not that it made watching any easier; poor Yanu'Kai’s suffering was awful to behold. She cried so hard. Sobbing uncontrollably as they walked back to the shack.

"She ruined my night," cried Yanu'Kai. "How did they find you?"

"I have no idea. Let's forget about it. Tonight will be perfect, I'll make sure of that," Sonjeff said, just considering all the possibilities the night offered for naughtiness that night made him deliciously excited.

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Zirion Grande
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Postby Zirion Grande » Sun May 31, 2020 8:43 am

Fanger Residences,Chantania, Jenesia System
4th Selene (4th October), 0805 (Chantania Time), 1506 AGW




Dotingly, Fanger Yek rubs his slender fingers through Jixu's starlight locks while she leans tightly on his hairy chest. Her curls twirled around his finger in the heat of their sacred coition last night, her skin was clammy with the sweet sweat of love and her complexion dazed from the roller-coaster ride. Jixu's eyelids sprung from Fanger's subtle scintillation, she awoke with a piercing headache heavy pressure on her back. She sat up feeling numb all over.

"Damn Honey, how fast were we going at it last night. I don't think I can go to work today." Jixu heaved a heavy sigh with her hands supporting her head.

"No worries, Hun, I'll cover for you. Interestingly, it says here on my wrist communicator that you have guests in your office." Fanger stood up from the bed and trudged on his pants.

"Oh wow, it's your old accomplice, Ainz. They're apparently calling him the Grand Marshall now. Shall invite him here instead for a chat. It'd be a great honour to have him here." Fanger continued excitedly. Jixu sprung her head up in a panic as though a bolt of lightning zipped down her spine.

"Huh, What!" Jixu exclaimed in disbelief. Fanger chocked on his coffee from her shocked expression.

"Knowing Ainz...if I'm not there, then he's probably on his way here already. I've got to run babe."

As Jixu stood up from the mattress and headed for the wardrobe, a deep humming of jet engines bellowed from out of the balcony. A black ship rose up from the window and its cockpit door was opened. Wind blew through the apartment and made the wet sheets fly. Ainz stood by the edge of the door holding on the hydraulic pipe.

"Jixu," he shouted at the top of his lungs, "get dressed and get your ass on here, we've got people to save."

Jixu, half-naked, looks in anguish and embarrassment while her husband fell back astonished by Ainz' presence. Jixu hurriedly put on her blouse and jumped out of her window and caught a hold of the Grand Marshall's hands as she waved her husband goodbye.


Idylle Blockade ,Orbit of Idylle, Relesent System
5th Selene (5th October), 2245 (Idylle Time), 1506 AGW



"Let me get this straight, you dragged me across space to get our team back together for one last standoff, but what I'm seeing here is a blockade. It's a blockade not of small freighters, but freaking dreadnaughts...our dreadnaughts. What the fu-" Jixu boomed, she was regretting her decision already. Only reason she had accepted that barbaric invitation of Ainz was because Ainz would eventually get overboard to get his way anyways. She probably thought what she did was for the best but now she's having second thoughts. Jaygini peered across the table and saw Jixu's dreading, hollow expression. Jaygini could only give a weak smile of relatability. Jixu stopped herself and calmed down, still tongue itching,

"What...are we going to do about this blockade, sir Ainz?" Jixu slurred her words as if her expression alone was not enough to show her low-spirit.

"Well, definitely none of us expected this." Ainz said holding up a clueless face, desperately thinking up solutions.

"Just great. Now how are we supposed to rendezvous with Glenn now. And where is Spencer when you need him? Yanu'Kai can't you do anything about it with your amazing powers, since I know you could even bring people back to life." Exiyu exclaimed sharply as he flung his pistol limply towards the couch.

"I am... un-unable to do that, for I am...Sonjeff has pretty eyes." Yanu'Kai was slurring as well, then her eyes started drooping, then her arms and shoulders, then she just collpases completely.

"Woah, what's happening to her? Bring the medkit. Yanu'Kai what's wrong?" Riflona jumped and rushed to the fallen, melting Duchess. Yanu'Kai's skin was turning even more pale than it naturally was and flesh started melting off her bones like delicate meat off broiled ribs. Yanu'Kai was essentially disintegrating into the ship's drainage. Exiyu turned around to release his pent-up disgust. Everyone started screaming.

Breaking the havoc, the intercom relayed a message,

"Rescue team, Michael Spencer here. I've got an announcement to make. Idylle is locked in so don't head there. I need you guys to rendezvous on Krebs-234. Sojan and Fang will meet you there first. Do give me a mission report after this. I'll be retrieving Yanu'Kai from a nearby location and meet up with you guys. Spencer over and out."

Silence followed the announcement as the rebuilding Grand 11 stared at what was left of the Grand Duchess or whatever it was that dissolved creature was supposed to be.

"Goddamn Kalees and their space magic, she was a fake!" Exiyu boomed.
Last edited by Zirion Grande on Thu Jun 04, 2020 7:07 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Terudel
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Postby Terudel » Tue Jun 02, 2020 11:45 pm

Aboard Killer Class Star Destroyer Retribution ,Orbit of Veres, Herranium System
6th Selene (6th October), 0430 Hours (Veres Time), 1506 AGW


"Michael," Tesex greeted calmly. "How did you know Yanu'Kai would be here?"

"Sojan sent me the location," he replied. "He suspected that Yanu'Kai would be with Sonjeff after finding out that Exiyu and the rest crash-landed. We all know Yanu'Kai could have easily prevented that."

"I don't get why we need to get involved in this operation," Tesex began. "Every damn time, we need to go and save each and every one of their asses because Ainz can't seem to lead properly! Why did you give him such authority in the first place?"

"To teach him," Michael responded. "He has to learn and the only way he can is by making mistakes and rectifying them."

Tesex was not convinced by Michael's reasoning. "He had several opportunities to prove himself. He failed time and time again. He is going to get all of us killed!"

Michael, still virtually calm, answered back, "Everyone else is occupied with their own roles. Ainz is the only choice we have."

"Not the only choice. You could have given me the position. But instead, you brought me along with you on some mission that I know nothing of. Why?"

He looked at Tesex, her piercing raven eyes, her rosy cheeks, unlined face and a wavy, shoulder-length sienna hair. "You," he said. "You know your own ability. I need someone reliable to be my second-in-command."

Tesex glared at him. "Really? Since when did you acknowledge my ability? Quit playing around, will ya?"

Michael frowned at her and sniggered. "All right, all right. I'll let Yanu'Kai have her vacation. We pick up everyone, excluding Ainz, and we head back to Canardin. I will inform Sojan to dismiss Ainz from his position as Grand Marshal. I am pretty sure Yanu'Kai would agree with the decision. The entire Starfighter Corps will now be under the Navy. Ainz shall be demoted to Commander in the Grand Navy."

"Well then, I guess it is settled. We prepare to jump to lightspeed. I shall inform Ainz that we will be on our way to Krebs 234."


Aboard Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Orbit of Krebs-234, Relesent System
6th Selene (6th October), 1230 Hours (Xenatia Time), 1506 AGW

Image
The door to the Grand Admiral’s command room slid open; settling himself, Ainz stepped inside. "A word with you, Admiral?"

"Certainly," Sojan said from his seat in the centre of the double display circle. "Come in. Has there been any update from the Idylle Blockade?"

"No, not since yesterday’s," Ainz said as he walked to the edge of the outer circle, silently rehearsing one last time how he was going to say this. "I can request one if you’d like."

"Probably unnecessary." Sojan shook his head. "It looks like the details of the Blockade have been more or less settled. All we have to do is alert one of the commando groups—Crystal Squad, I think—and we’ll have the rebels where we want them to be."

"Yes, Admiral," Ainz braced himself. "Admiral ... I have to tell you that I’m not agreeable to my demotion to Commander. I can understand if they would demote me but to such a low rank, I don't quite agree. I'm even lower than Captain Sonjeff."

Sojan cocked an eyebrow. "On the contrary, I very much agree with the decision. You have only proven that you can't quite lead a group of people on an important mission. Yes, you got Jaygini and Jixu to join us but at what cost? You almost got Exiyu and Riflona killed. I know Exiyu was the pilot of that ship but you are a Grand Marshal. You stood there and allowed the ship to crash. You are lucky they are alive. You will stay in that lowly position until you can prove to me you are worthy of promotion."

Ainz felt his mouth open. "What?"

"There isn't anything more to be heard," Sojan said evenly.

Ainz stared at him, a shiver running up his back. "You don't know what you're doing. I dedicated my life to serving the Republic. I deserve more credit!"

Sojan raised his eyebrows. "Don't test my patience, Commander. My word is final."

Ainz grimaced. "I still don’t like it, Admiral. We can hardly protect the Republic from Tara without me leading the Starfighter Corps. It's too risky!"

"There’s a degree of risk involved," Sojan agreed. "But risk has always been an inescapable part of warfare. In this case, the potential benefits far outweigh the potential dangers."

Reluctantly, Ainz nodded. He didn’t like it—was fairly certain he would never like it—but it was clear that Sojan had made up his mind. "Yes, sir," he muttered. "You mentioned a message to Crystal Squad. Will you be wanting me to transmit that?"

"No, I’ll handle it myself." Sojan smiled sardonically. "If there’s nothing more ... ?"

It was, clearly, a dismissal. "No, Admiral," Ainz said. "I’ll be on the bridge if you require me." He turned to go.

"It will bring us victory, Commander," the Grand Admiral called softly after him. "Quiet your fears, and concentrate on that."

If it doesn’t kill us all. "Yes, Admiral," Ainz said aloud and left the room.
Last edited by Terudel on Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Terudel
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Postby Terudel » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:33 am

Aboard Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Orbit of Krebs-234, Relesent System
8th Selene (8th October), 1900 Hours (Xenatia Time), 1506 AGW

Image
For a long minute, Grand Admiral Sojan sat in his chair, surrounded by his holographic works of art, and said nothing. Ainz kept himself at a motionless attention, watching the other’s expressionless face and glowing green eyes and trying not to think about the fate couriers of bad news had often suffered at the hands of Lord Spencer.

"So it is confirmed that Glenn has been captured by the Rebels, then?" Sojan asked at last.

"Yes, sir," Ainz confirmed. He glanced across the room, to where Trixy Zen stood studying one of the wall displays, and lowered his voice a bit. "We’re still not entirely sure about his present location."

"Instruct Lieutenant Reskah to give Crystal Squad a thorough debriefing," Sojan said. "Do we have word from Lord Spencer?"

Ainz had thought they’d been talking too quietly for Trixy to hear them. He was wrong. "Is that it, then?" Trixy demanded, turning away from the display and striding over to tower over Sojan’s command chair. "Your Commandos have failed; so too bad, and on to more pressing business? You promised me you will save Glenn, Grand Admiral Sojan."

Sojan gazed coolly up at her. "I promised you Glenn," he acknowledged. "And I will deliver him." Deliberately, he turned back to Ainz. "What is the report from Lord Spencer?" he repeated.

Ainz swallowed, trying hard to remember that without the girls in the command room, Trixy had no power whatsoever. At least for the moment. "The engineering team from Spencer's ship has finished its analysis, Admiral," he told Sojan. "They report that the cloaking shield schematics seem complete, but that to actually build one will take some time. It’ll also be highly expensive, at least for a ship the size of the Liberation."

"Fortunately, they won’t have to start with anything nearly this big," Sojan said, handing Ainz a data card. "Here are the specs for what we’ll need for the Obelisk Tempo."

"My ship?" Ainz frowned, taking the data card. The Grand Admiral had so far been very secretive about both his goals and the strategy for that attack.

"Yes. Oh, and we’re also going to need some advanced mining machines—Rock miners, I believe they’re informally called. Have Intelligence start a records search; we’ll need a minimum of fifty."

"Yes, Admiral." Ainz made a note on his datapad. "One other thing." He threw a quick glance at Trixy. "The engineers also report that nearly ninety per cent of the Ground Rollers we’ll need are functional or can be restored to working order with relative ease."

"Ground Rollers?" Trixy frowned. "What are those?"

"Just that other little bit of technology I was hoping to find in the mountain in Idylle," Sojan soothed her, throwing a quick warning look in Ainz’s direction. An unnecessary precaution; Ainz had already decided that discussing Ground Rollers with Trixy would not be a smart thing to do. "So. Ninety per cent. That’s excellent, Commander. Excellent." A gleam came into those glowing eyes. "How very thoughtful of Chancellor Ghen to have left such fine equipment for us to rebuild her Republic with. What about the mountain’s power and defence systems?"

"Also operational, for the most part," Ainz said. "Three of the four reactors have already been brought online. Some of the more esoteric defences seem to have decayed, but what’s left should defend the base more than adequately."

"Again, excellent." Sojan nodded. The brief flicker of emotion was gone, and he was all cool business again. "Instruct them to begin bringing the rollers to full operational status. The Obelisk Tempo should arrive within two or three days with the extra specialists and two hundred troops they’ll need to get things started. And you are leading the way. At that point"—he smiled faintly—"we’ll be ready to begin the operation in earnest. Beginning with the capital of Lurod."

"Yes, Admiral." Ainz glanced at Trixy again. "And about Glenn?"

"We’ll use Resurgence Squad next," the Grand Admiral said. "Transmit a message telling them to withdraw from their current assignment and stand ready for further orders. Jaygini will lead them."

"You want me to transmit the message, Admiral?" Ainz asked. "Not that I’m questioning the order," he added hastily. "But in the past, you’ve usually preferred to contact them yourself."

Sojan’s eyebrows lifted slightly. "Crystal Squad failed me," he said softly. "Sending the message through you will let the others know how displeased I am."

"And when Resurgence Squad also fails you?" Trixy put in. "They will, you know. Will you be merely displeased with them, too? Or will you admit your professional killing machines simply can’t handle the rebels?"

"They’ve never yet met any foe they can’t handle, Queen Trixy," Sojan said coolly. "One group or another will succeed. Until then—" He shrugged. "Relax. And they are not my professional killing machines. They're Fang Hook's. The Commandos are under Fang Hook's command. However, he is preoccupied at the moment so I'm giving the orders."

Ainz winced, throwing a reflexive glance at the chamber door. "On the other hand, Admiral, this attempt will have put the rebels on their guard," he pointed out.

"He’s right," Trixy said, jabbing a finger in Ainz’s direction. "You can’t fool the rebels twice with the same trick."

"Perhaps," Sojan said, the word polite but his tone not conceding anything. "What alternative do you suggest? That we concentrate on Glenn and leave the people of Idylle alone?"

"That you concentrate on Glenn, yes," Trixy agreed loftily. "I think it best that I deal with the people of Idylle myself."

Again, the eyebrows went up. "And how would you propose to do that?"

Trixy smiled. "They are my people. I am their Queen. If I call, my people will come to me."

For a long moment, Sojan looked up at her. "I need you with my fleet," he said at last. "Preparations for the assault on the Rebellion’s space dock facilities in Idylle have already begun. Some of the preliminaries to that assault will require your coordination."

Trixy drew herself up to her full height. "My assistance was promised only upon your promise to deliver my husband to me. I will have him, Grand Admiral Sojan."

Sojan’s glowing eyes bored into Trixy’s. "Does a Queen go back on her word, then? You knew that obtaining Glenn for you might take some time."

"All the more reason for you to begin now," Trixy shot back.

"Why can’t we do both?" Ainz cut in. Both looked at him.

"Explain, Commander," Sojan ordered, a hint of threat audible in his tone.

Ainz gritted his teeth, but it was too late to back out now. "We could begin by starting rumours of your presence somewhere, Queen Trixy," he said. "Some sparsely populated world where you might have gone to without anyone really noticing. Rumours of that sort would be certain to make their way back to the New Rep—to the Rebellion," he corrected, glancing at Ainz. "Particularly with the name Trixy Zen attached to them."

Trixy snorted. "And you think that on the strength of an idle rumour the rebels will rush foolishly to find me?"

"Let them be as cautious as they like," Sojan said thoughtfully, the threat gone from his voice. "Let them bring half of their forces if they choose. There will be nothing there to connect you to us."

Ainz nodded. "And while we find a suitable planet and start the rumours into motion, you can remain here to assist with the rescue preliminaries. Hopefully, their response to our activities will keep the rebels too busy to check out the stories until after the rescue mission part is over."

"And if not," Sojan added, "we’ll know when they make a move, and in plenty of time to get you there ahead of them."

"Hmm," Trixy murmured, stroking her long hair, her gaze drifting off to infinity. Ainz held his breath, and after a minute the other abruptly nodded. "Very well," she said. "The plan is sound. I will go to my chambers now, Grand Admiral Sojan, and choose a world from which to make my appearance." With an almost regal nod to each of them, she strode out.

"Congratulations, Commander," Sojan said, eyeing Ainz coolly. "Your idea seems to have caught Trixy Zen's fancy."

Ainz forced himself to meet that gaze. "I apologize, Admiral if I spoke out of turn."

Sojan smiled faintly. "You served too long under Lord Spencer, Commander," he said. "I have no qualms about accepting a useful idea merely because it wasn’t my own. My position and ego are not at stake here."

Except, perhaps, when dealing with women... "Yes, sir," Ainz said aloud. "With your permission, Admiral, I’ll go prepare those transmissions to the troops coming with me to Idylle."

"At your convenience, Commander. And continue to monitor the preparations for the Idylle operation." Sojan’s glowing eyes seemed to bore into his. "Monitor them closely, Commander. With Mount Zeel near Lurod under our control, the long path to victory over the Rebellion will begin."

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Terudel
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Founded: Sep 20, 2017
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Postby Terudel » Thu Jun 04, 2020 11:39 pm

Aboard Killer Class Star Destroyer Retribution ,Hyperspace, On the way to the Relesent System
9th Selene (9th October), 0900 Hours (Xenatia Time), 1506 AGW


"Doctor Wingate," called the bridge communications officer, and something in his tone drew Spencer’s attention. "Doctor, we’re getting reports of a firefight on Deck Twenty-One, and some explosions in Bay Thirteen forward."

"A firefight?" Tesex asked. "How can we have a firefight?"

The comm officer put his hand to his earpiece, nodding, then said, "Doctor, it’s one of the repair crews. Rebels. The explosions, too, appear to be intentionally set. I have reports of multiple additional casualties. Security teams are en route."

"So, you are telling me that the repair crews that we picked up on Veres were Rebels?"

"I'm afraid so," said the comm officer.

"Tell your security teams to kill every repair team on board," Michael said, the words silencing the bridge crew. He turned and strode for the lift. Commander Juno called after him. "Lord Spencer, there are almost a hundred teams aboard! Doctor Wingate?"

"A hundred teams seems a manageable number," Tesex said, her eyes not on the commander but on Michael.

"Give the order, Commander," Michael said. "Kill them all."

"Yes, Lord Spencer." The lift doors closed before Michael’s face. He headed for Deck Twenty-One.

Michael stepped from the lift and used his powers to augment his speed, sprinting through the smoky, crowded corridors. He saw a rebel repair crew ahead, four women and a man. They navigated a tool pallet through the corridor, and nothing about them looked suspicious. He didn’t care. He ignited his blade, and when he did, the troopers in the corridor parted before him, wide-eyed, confused. The rebels had only a moment to register his approach before he cut them down in rapid succession. He left five corpses and a hall full of gawking troops behind him as he pelted onward. Details about the location of the firefight carried over his comlink, and he headed directly for it. He heard the sound of blaster fire before he saw it. In the corridor ahead, a squad of Republic troopers crouched against the bulkhead, trading fire around the corner with unseen enemies. The sergeant commanding the squad saw him approaching and turned to face him. "Lord Spencer, there are six sabot—"

Michael brushed past him and around the corner, enmeshed in the Kalee ability, weapon humming. A rebel male with brown skin and a blaster rifle, making himself small against the bulkhead, opened fire at Michael. The red line of Michael’s blade flashed, deflecting the shots back at the rebel, putting a dark hole in his chest and another in his face. As Michael stalked down the corridor, a second rebel darted out from around the corner, a blaster pistol spewing blue bolts. Michael deflected them, extended his free hand, and took hold of the rebel’s blaster. When he jerked the pistol from the rebel’s hand and into his own, the rebel reached for a second blaster holstered on his thigh. Without breaking stride, Michael hurled his sword, and the spinning blade cut the rebel in two. Michael crushed the blaster he’d taken in his fist and dropped it to the floor. Boots thumped on the deck as the troopers rushed around the corner and past him, blaster rifles firing. By the time Michael rounded the corner, three more rebels lay dead.

"Lord Spencer," said the voice of the bridge communications officer over his comlink. "We have reports of dead troopers outside the hyperdrive chamber. The hatch is sealed from the inside."

Michael understood it then. The rebels he’d just killed were decoys. "I’m on my way there," he said. He stepped over the corpse of one of the rebels and strode toward the aft section of the Retribution.

Michael rushed through the ship, his anger going before him and parting the crew that otherwise choked the halls. He reached the hatch to the hyperdrive chamber. Four dead troopers lay on the deck, and another group of troopers and armed security personnel were attempting to force open the hatch. The control panel and door switch were dead, probably sabotaged from the other side. The sergeant in charge of the security team saw Michael approach and stepped out to meet him. Meanwhile, a ram powered up with a hum and slammed into the hatch, doing nothing. "Lord Spencer," the sergeant said. "The door’s been secured from the inside and the switch has been disabled. There’s only one other way into the chamber and I’ve sent a team around—"

Michael ignited his blade. "Move," he said, not slowing, and the security personnel and troopers nearly tripped over themselves as they scrambled out of his way. He took his weapon in a two-handed grip, channelled his rage, and slammed the blade into the hatch. It sank an arm’s span into the metal. The heat from the weapon made a red-hot circle in the hatch around the blade. Michael held on to the hilt and poured in his power. The metal started to surrender to the heat of his weapon, the heat of his wrath. He would cut through the hatch within a minute, and then the rebels would be his.

Melted metal pooled on the floor near Michael’s boots, bubbling and smoking, as his blade bored through the hatch. He sensed the fear of the rebels in the hyperdrive chamber. No doubt they’d seen his crimson blade, and they knew he was coming. They were right to fear. He was a ruthless man. "Tell your team the rebels are to be taken alive," Michael said to the sergeant. "Their final disposition is to be left to me."

"Yes, Lord Spencer."

Michael’s blade soon cut a large enough hole in the hatch. A circular portion of the door fell to the floor with a clang and he ducked through, the troopers following him through the breach. The rebels were gone, having fled out the door opposite. Dead officers lay all around the hyperdrive chamber, several of them missing pieces of their uniform, but the hyperdrive itself seemed intact. The door opposite slid open, and the squad of security personnel the sergeant had sent around to intercept the rebels rushed into the chamber and looked around at the bodies. Questions twisted the expressions of the faces not hidden by helmets. "My lord," the sergeant said, "we didn’t see anyone. We—"

Michael ignored them. He sensed the danger and leapt down to the bottom of the hyperdrive well. Immediately he saw a dozen charges attached to the drive and its adjacent field amplifiers. The timers on each showed a mere twenty-six minutes before they exploded. He knelt and examined the charges more closely, saw the fail-safes. If engineers attempted to move or disarm the charges, they’d explode. If they did nothing they’d explode. He activated his comlink. "Commander Juno, the hyperdrive is rigged to explode and it can’t be stopped. Order an immediate evacuation."

A long pause, then, "What? No, I can send a team of engineers to—"

"You heard me, Commander. It’s too late for that."

"You’re...certain?"

"Give the order, Commander. The Retribution will explode in less than half an hour. And Commander, Doctor Wingate is your priority. If she is not evacuated safely, I will hold you personally responsible."

"I...I understand, Lord Spencer," said Juno. "But...the Doctor has already left the bridge."

Michael considered that. "Thank you, Commander."

He activated his private comm channel to Tesex. “Tesex, the ship is going to explode in less than thirty minutes."

"Yes," Tesex said. "I’m awaiting you aboard my shuttle."

"Your shuttle? But—"

"I had a second shuttle readied in the forward landing bay. You should hurry, my friend. There’s little time."

"Yes, I'll be there soon."

Michael hadn’t known about the second shuttle, but he was unsurprised. The evacuation alarm began to sound, shrill and prolonged. Countless drills had prepared the crew, and Michael imagined all of them scrambling for their assigned escape shuttles. The already chaotic state of affairs aboard the Destroyer would be still more chaotic now. No doubt the rebels would try to make their escape in the tumult. Michael had no intention of letting them get off the ship.

Michael leapt up to the walkway that surrounded the hyperdrive’s well. The troopers and security personnel looked at one another in puzzlement, the evacuation order blaring. "Go," Michael said to them. "The ship is lost."

Most of them nodded, turned, and headed off immediately, but three of the troopers remained. "Sir, we should accompany you to an escape shuttle."

"Unnecessary," Michael said. "I’ll find my own way. Now go. That’s my order."

The troopers saluted and reluctantly headed off. Michael turned and looked at the hatch through which the rebels must have fled. At least one of them was wearing a Republic uniform—maybe two. He didn’t have much time, but he had enough to catch them and kill them and still get off the Retribution. He drew on his instincts and strode after them. They couldn’t have gotten far. They’d be heading for the main corridor, to an escape ship. When he reached the main corridor, he found it bustling with pale-faced crew, officers, troops, and droids rushing along their designated evacuation routes. The dull repeated sounds of launching escape shuttles sounded loud in his ears. He leapt up to a third-floor walkway, startling the crew hurrying past. They whispered his name in hushed tones as they moved away. He perched there, a dark bird of prey looking down on the bustle for rebels or anything else unusual.

Michael saw them: rebels crawling out of a tool pallet driven by a human in a stolen Republic uniform. He had them. He activated his weapon and moved towards them.

Mandy shoved her team toward the narrow hatch that led to the docked ship— an escort ship, she saw. Ilatha would be able to fly it. "Go! Go!" Amelia stumbled and fell. Mandy helped her up, and as she did she glanced back the way they’d come. She could not halt a gasp. Far down the corridor, she saw Michael leap down from a walkway ten metres above the deck. He hit the ground in a crouch, the red line of what could only be his blade clutched in his fist.

"Come on, Mandy!" Ilatha said, tugging her shirt.

"That’s him," Mandy said, her voice robotic.

Ilatha pulled her shirt. "It’s time to go, Mandy!"

But Mandy thought of Assonah, and had no intention of leaving. "Get aboard and get it fired up," she said to Ilatha. "Go now."

"Mandy—" Ilatha said.

"Get it fired up!" she said and drew her blasters. Michael was forty metres from her. He stood up straight, towering over the crew near him. He was looking right at her, his blade held at his side, and she could feel the weight of his regard pressing against her like a punch. He exploded into motion, moving toward her at preternatural speed, his strides devouring the deck space between them. Crew scrambled out of the way at his approach, his dark form knifing through them. She raised her blasters and took aim, shooting as fast as she could pull the triggers, scribing the air between them with lines of blue energy. Michael didn’t slow his sprint and his sword was a blur as he came on, deflecting her shots in all directions. A few came back at her. One hit the pallet and sent tools skittering along the deck. Another scorched the bulkhead beside her, but still, she fired.

The crew in the corridor panicked, scrambling in all directions. An officer got in Michael’s way, slowing his approach for a moment, and Michael tossed him aside with his free hand as if the man weighed no more than a child.

"Mandy!" Ilatha said from behind her. Michael was twenty metres and closing. She was shouting, firing, but her shots could not get past the line of his blade. She didn’t understand how it was possible until her own words came back to her: Michael was not entirely human. But she refused to stop, she couldn’t.

"For Assonah!" she shouted with each shot. "For Assonah!"

Six minutes said the computer. Michael closed to ten metres. She fired again and again and again, screaming. Blaster shots from somewhere else in the corridor pinged off the bulkhead—troopers, maybe. Strong arms wrapped her from behind, and picked her up off the deck— Ilatha.

"Stop!" she yelled, trying to twist her body in her grasp so she could keep firing. "What are you doing?"

"I’m saving your life!" she said, and carried her through the docking port door as blaster fire slammed into the jambs. The moment she got her on the other side, she set her down, punched a button, and the huge hatch slid closed. She turned, teeth gritted, and caught a last glimpse of Michael before the door blocked her view—still rushing toward them, blade in hand, cape flowing out behind him. She reached for the control panel, thinking to hit the button to reopen the hatch, but Ilatha shot the panel with a blaster. She whirled on her, her fists clenched around her blasters, standing on her tiptoes to put her nose to her.

"You had no right—"

"You saw what I saw! He’s not going down to blaster fire, Mandy! He’d have cut you in half!"

As if to make the point, the energized blade of Michael’s weapon burst through the hatch, just missing Ilatha’s abdomen. They bounded back out of reach as the heat from the weapon started to redden the metal. They stared at each other for a moment, breathing into each other’s faces. "You’re right," she said, slumping. "I know you’re right. But don’t disobey an order again. Come on."

They piled into the escort ship. Amelia already had the engines online. She gave way to Ilatha, who took the pilot’s seat while Mandy strapped into the copilot’s chair.

"Disengaging docking clamp," Ilatha said, and the ship floated free of the doomed Destroyer. "We’re away. And there’s Xenatia." As the ship swung around, Mandy looked out the viewport. Xenatia loomed large against the dark of space. The Retribution had covered an enormous amount of distance while they’d been aboard and had already gone out of hyperspace. The Destroyer would burn up overlooking the planet. Mandy thought it appropriate. Hundreds of escape shuttles and a mix of other ships, including a few dozen starfighters, dotted space around the Retribution. Some would land on the nearest moon, Krebs-234. Some would land on Xenatia. And some would not get clear in time. The blast radius of the Retribution would be huge, given the detonation’s provenance in the hyperdrive.

"Not too far," she said to Ilatha.

"What? We have to get far—"

"Do as I say," she said, and Ilatha didn’t dare disobey her again. She needed to get Cherilyn on the comm.

Michael had lost the saboteurs. The computer announced three minutes remaining. Michael deactivated his weapon and hurried for the shuttle in the forward landing bay. The corridors were emptying rapidly as the last of the crew evacuated. By the time he reached the shuttle bay, he was moving through a ghost ship. Fires still burned here and there in the bay. The shuttle sat on its pad, the engines already primed, and Michael sprinted up the gangplank to find Tesex calm and seated in the passenger area of the ship, flanked by the yellow-robed and armoured members of the Canardian Guard. Tesex touched a button on her chair. "You may launch," Tesex said to the pilot, and the shuttle immediately lifted off, making its way to the Liberation, which was visible from the viewport of the shuttle.

"Sit down, my friend," she said to Michael.

"General Peters?" Michael asked.

Tesex made a dismissive gesture. "Oh, I’m sure he’s waddled himself to safety somehow."

"Very well," Michael said. "Do you mind if we go somewhere more private?"

Tesex nodded and went behind towards her chambers. Michael soon followed.

"What's the matter?"

Michael pulled out two saber hilts holstered on his thigh, covered by his dark cape. the two hilts had a curved praetor design. "I made this for you," he said, handing the weapon to Tesex.

Tesex took hold of it and examined it very closely. She ignited the weapon, revealing two amethyst blades. "It's beautiful," she said.

"I'm glad you like it," Michael replied. "A good friend like you needs something to defend herself. I lost too many comrades in the war. I can't lose more this time."
Last edited by Terudel on Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Terudel » Sat Jun 06, 2020 9:21 am

Aboard Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Orbit of Krebs-234, Relesent System
9th Selene (9th October), 2000 Hours (Xenatia Time), 1506 AGW

Image
There were passengers, Commodore Helysa thought to herself as she stood in the centre of the Liberation’s command walkway, and then there were passengers.

Michael Spencer was definitely one of the latter. Helysa scowled at the starscape outside the bridge. In her opinion, passengers of any sort didn’t belong on the Liberation. If Spencer wanted to fly around, he should get a ship of his own. Or maybe that was what the Liberation had now become. Certainly, Michael had wasted no time settling in and making changes.

Over the hum of quiet conversation, Helysa heard the sound of the aft bridge doors. She turned to see a pale-looking man step into view. He took an unhurried look around, then continued on toward Helysa. She scowled a little harder.

She had the scowl safely tucked away by the time the other came to a crisp halt in front of her. “Commodore Helysa,” he greeted her with the stiff formality she’d come to expect from Michael’s officers. “I’m—”

“Yes; Commander Juno,” she interrupted with equal formality.

He didn’t twitch, and of course any flicker of surprise would be hidden by his expressionless face. But Helysa had no doubt the surprise was there. “What can I do for you?” she continued.

“Lord Spencer wants us to head for Roulande,” Juno said. There wasn’t any surprise in his voice, either. Quick on the recovery. “Admiral Sojan would have no objections on the matter.”

Helysa mentally shook her head. Spencer had no authority to dictate on the Liberation. A clear violation of proper navy protocol, and Juno surely knew that.

Still, Sojan had instructed his officers to cooperate with their guests— that was his word—as much as possible. “Very well,” she said to Juno. “I’ll make it happen.”

“Thank you, Commodore,” Juno said. Coming briefly to full attention, he turned and strode back down the command walkway. Helysa watched him go, feeling the swirl of calculations that was a frustrating part of a Naval officer’s life. She inputted the coordinates on the computer and watched as the Liberation jumped to lightspeed.


Aboard Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Somewhere in the Relesent System
9th Selene (9th October), 2330 Hours (Xenatia Time), 1506 AGW


Helysa was staring out the viewport, mentally walking through her confrontational options, when the mottled sky of hyperspace abruptly changed to starlines and collapsed into stars. The Liberation had arrived. Only it hadn’t arrived at its planned destination. It had, instead, arrived in the literal middle of nowhere.

The stars shone through the viewport, their positions matching those on the navigation display and confirming Commodore Helysa’s calculations. Michael stood just out of sight, motionless. His body stance held a muted range of thought and emotion. But there was little to read. Little to understand. Little to anticipate.

Helysa stepped into view. “The hyperdrive has been checked twice, Admiral,” she said. Her facial muscles were tight. Her voice held a higher degree of anxiety than usual. “The techs thought it might be some sort of error, but they’ve been cleared. I’ve ordered a second check, but so far everything’s showing nothing.” Her eyes remained correctly on her admiral as she spoke, but her muscles held a tension that indicated she battled an urge to turn her attention and her speech to Lord Spencer. She did not wish his presence on the command walkway, but her expression held recognition that she had no choice in the matter.

“Then the fault must lie with the Liberation’s crew,” Michael said. He stepped forward. His voice perhaps held impatience.
“With all due respect, Lord Spencer, I don’t believe that to be the case,” Helysa said. Her eyes turned to Michael. The stiffness of her stance increased. Her voice held caution and a degree of fear, but also determination. “This hyperlane is sparsely travelled, and its parameters and edges are poorly defined. I believe it more likely we’ve run into the shadow of some previously unknown mass.”

“Indeed,” Michael said. His vocal pitch lowered slightly. His hands rose to his waist, his thumbs hooked into his belt. “And where is this mysterious mass?”

Helysa’s throat muscles tightened briefly. “We haven’t yet located it, Lord Spencer,” she said. Her eyes turn back to her admiral. “I have our best sensor operators working on the problem, sir.”

“Perhaps your best is not up to the standards I expected of the Navy,” Michael said.

“The Liberation’s officers and crew are more than adequate to their tasks, Michael,” Sojan said. “Commodore, if there is indeed a wayward mass affecting us, perhaps some forward movement will take us clear of its shadow and effect.”

“Yes, sir,” Helysa said. The tension in her face and voice eased noticeably. “Helm: Take us ahead at two-thirds power. Scanners: Continue to search for objects.”

“And for other ships,” Sojan said.

Helysa was puzzled. “Other ships, sir?”

“Do you expect us to come under attack?” Michael asked.

“It is possible, though unlikely,” Sojan said. “My concern is that, however, we were pulled from hyperspace, and other ships may be similarly affected. We need to be wary of collisions or other encounters.”

“Commodore Helysa just explained how poorly travelled this hyperlane is,” Michael said. His words were slightly clipped. “Do you truly expect a traffic level of three ships a week to present a danger?”

“That is indeed the listing on the navigational charts,” Sojan said. “But the transit profile may have changed since those notations were made. Certainly, the ship traffic was even more sparse the last time I was here.”

“You were here before, sir?” Helysa asked. Her expression and voice held surprise. “I didn’t know that.”

“Is there a reason you should, Commodore?” Michael asked.

“My apologies, Admiral,” Helysa said. She spoke quickly. Her voice held fresh anxiety.

“No apologies required, Commodore,” Sojan said. “It was a few years ago during my time as Representative of Zirion Grande.”

“I see,” Helysa said. The anxiety was fading, her voice and expression now holding interest. “I was unaware you were a Representative at that time.”

“The past is the past,” Michael said. “The present and future are all that matter.” He turned, his long cloak swirling, his half-hidden weapon glinting in the bridge light. His hands remained hooked in his belt a moment, and then he lowered his arms to his sides. His fingers curled slightly. “I will be in my quarters. You will inform me when we are again underway.”

“Of course,” Sojan said.

“The mission will be over sooner than you think,” Michael said. “We will find the disturbance that Yanu’Kai told me a few hours back. We will deal with it, and we will return to Krebs-234.”

“Understood,” Sojan said.

“Good.” Michael turned a few degrees to face the viewport. “With all speed, Admiral. I wish to see what exactly has caught the Duchess’ attention. And also, before I forget, tell Fang Hook I wish him a happy birthday.”

“Will do, Michael. And I, too, wish to see what Yanu'Kai told you.”


Aboard Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Somewhere in the Relesent System
10th Selene (10th October), 0200 Hours (Xenatia Time), 1506 AGW


The Liberation travelled two hours in realspace before Sojan ordered Helysa to try the hyperdrive again. Once again, it failed.

“It’s almost like there’s a cruiser somewhere nearby, sir,” she told Sojan as the Liberation continued its realspace journey through the starlit darkness. “But there’s no way it could be big enough to have this kind of power without being in scanner range.”

“Unless it was cloaked,” a deep voice came from behind them.

Helysa twitched. Michael had asked to be notified when the Liberation had cleared the mysterious blockage. She’d taken that to mean the Dark Lord would remain elsewhere until that message came. Apparently, he’d gotten bored.

“Michael,” Sojan greeted calmly. “I believe you’ll find it is impossible to run a gravity generator and a cloaking device at the same time. The two fields work against each other.”

“Perhaps a new technique has been discovered,” Michael countered. “Rebel science may be different from ours.”

“Technologies may certainly be different,” Sojan said. “Science itself, less likely. There are certain laws that are universal.”

“Perhaps,” Michael said. “Regardless, it appears we are at an impasse. What is your proposed solution?”

For another moment, Sojan remained silent. Helysa noted his gaze shifting among the starscape, the regional map, and the close-in diagram of their current hyperlane. “If the existing path cannot be followed, we shall forge one of our own,” he said. “Commodore Helysa, change course forty degrees to portside.”

“Is there another route that is unaware of?” Michael asked.

“None that I know of in this region,” Sojan said. “Our options are to send out a scout ship to map a route for us, or to proceed via those same short jumps ourselves. The latter seems the more efficient choice.”

“That will take time,” Michael warned, an edge of threat in his tone. “Yanu'Kai's instructions were to proceed with all haste.”

“Following the hyperlane has proved less than successful,” Sojan pointed out. “Continuing as we have will likely cost even more time.”

“Unless we are already at the end of the blockage.”

Sojan inclined his head. “Helm?” he called. “Make the jump to lightspeed.”

“Yes, Admiral.” Helysa turned to the viewport, bracing herself. The stars flared into starlines. All they heard was a sputtering tonal descent from the hyperdrive that indicated a failed jump, and they collapsed again into stars. Helysa knew better than to swear in front of superior officers. But even so, it was a close thing.

“Interesting,” Sojan murmured. If he was perturbed by the failure, it didn’t show in his voice or face. “Commodore: Take the ship forty degrees to portside.”

“Yes, sir,” Helysa said. “A suggestion, if I may?”

“Your admiral has given you an order,” Michael said.

“Continue, Commodore,” Sojan said calmly. Helysa felt her throat tighten. Michael’s comment, underscoring as it did Sojan’s order, was in itself an additional order. Was Sojan simply going to ignore it?

“I’ve done some calculations, sir,” she continued hastily, wondering if Michael was going to interrupt. Or worse. “Traveling to Roulande jump-by-jump will take approximately twenty-nine hours. If we instead travel to Ceris, we can then take a different hyperlane from there to Roulande, with a savings of ten to thirteen hours.”

Sojan inclined his head. “Show me.”

Helysa keyed the route to the display, bracing herself as she waited for Michael’s inevitable question as to what kind of lane could possibly connect the two planets from different systems. And it would be an entirely valid question. The nav charts showed that such a pathway existed, but it was even less well defined—not to mention less well-travelled—than the one the Liberation had been following to Roulande. If the same faulty data that had diverted them from the Roulande hyperlane also affected the Ceris-to-Roulande route, they might find themselves in the same situation they were in right now. But for once, the Dark Lord seemed to have nothing to say.

“An excellent suggestion, Commodore,” Sojan said. “Set course for Ceris.”

“Yes, sir.” Turning to the helm station, Helysa caught the eye of the officer seated there and nodded. He nodded back, acknowledging the order, and the massive destroyer began turning to starboard.

“Eight,” Michael said.

Sojan turned to him. “Excuse me?”

“Eight hours’ savings at the most,” Michael said.

“Agreed,” Sojan said. “Still, it will be worthwhile.”

“Perhaps,” Michael said. “We shall see.”


Aboard Omega Class Star Destroyer Liberation, Approaching orbit of Roulande, Relesent System
10th Selene (10th October), 1830 Hours (Roulande Time), 1506 AGW


Finally, just over four hours past Helysa’s original estimate, the Liberation reached Roulande. Grand Admiral Sojan, she knew, would recognize the delay as being due to unknown factors and the general uncertainties of travel in inadequately charted territory. Lord Spencer, she suspected, would put it down to incompetence, either hers or her crew’s. Both assessments rankled.

“I assume you have a plan?” Sojan asked as Michael joined them on the command walkway. For a moment the Dark Lord gazed out the forward viewport in silence, a slight smirk on his face. Possibly thinking, or maybe he was seeing himself in charge of the ship.

Sojan had ordered the Liberation to come out of lightspeed at a healthy distance from the planet, and as a result, Roulande was a barely visible dot glinting in the light from the even more distant star, Uquan.

Mentally, Helysa shook her head. Michael could talk all he wanted about how Duchess Yanu'Kai could sense things all the way from wherever she was, but Helysa wasn’t buying any of it. In her opinion, it was overblown rhetoric masking private information sources or simple deductions.

“The disturbance we seek is on the surface,” Michael said. “Commodore Helysa, prepare to take us to orbit.”

Sojan’s hand moved at his side, subtly belaying the order. “If I may suggest,” he said, “there may be hostile beings down there. If so, the arrival of a Star Destroyer may be counterproductive.”

“It will show them the power of the New Crescentian Republic,” Michael rumbled.

“It may also drive them underground,” Sojan pointed out.

“You fear the effort that would be needed to extract them?”

“I note that the effort would be time-consuming,” Sojan said.

“Our orders were to proceed at all due speed.”

He gestured toward the planet. “Besides, it is often wise to conceal one’s full capabilities from potential enemies.” For a long moment, the two faced each other in silence. Sojan’s expression was calm and respectful; Michael’s was as always antagonistic.

“What then do you suggest?” the Dark Lord asked at last.

“You and I go alone,” Sojan said. “I have a small freighter that will allow us anonymity.”

For another, even longer moment, there was silence. Helysa held her breath, aware that Commander Juno had entered the bridge and was striding toward them, his white uniform in gleaming contrast with the darker hues of the naval uniforms around him. Michael had made his disdain for Sojan abundantly clear throughout the voyage.

In fact, among Helysa’s fellow officers, there was quiet speculation that Michael would at some point simply declare himself the Liberation’s master, no matter what navy protocol said. If that ever happened, having Juno on the bridge would certainly make the takeover easier to enforce. Was that why Juno was here? Was this the moment that was going to happen?

To Helysa’s relief, Michael merely inclined his head. “Very well,” he said. “Commodore Helysa, prepare Admiral Sojan’s freighter.”

“At once, my lord,” Helysa said, pushing back her fears and relief as she pulled out her comlink.

At least the tension between Sojan and Michael had subsided. For the moment.

“Commander Juno?” Michael called.

“My lord?” Juno responded briskly, taking a last step to Michael’s side and coming to attention.

“You will go to the hangar deck and supervise the preparation of Admiral Sojan’s transport,” Michael ordered.

“Yes, my lord,” Juno said. “How large a group do you wish to accompany you?”

Again, Michael turned to Sojan, the antagonistic face seeming to measure him. “None,” he told Juno. “The admiral and I will go alone.”

“Alone?” a gravelly voice came from Helysa.

“Alone,” Sojan confirmed.

“Perhaps you do not believe your master and I can travel to a place without your protection?” Michael demanded.

“Unknown situations are exactly when the grand admiral needs me the most.”

“We go alone,” Sojan said, his tone making it clear the discussion was over. “If you wish, you may accompany Commander Juno to the hangar bay and observe the preparations.”

Helysa turned her glare on Juno. Not that Juno probably cared. “It will be done, Grand Admiral,” Helysa said. “I will watch very closely.”

Sojan turned to Michael and said, “I will go to my cabin and prepare.”

“I will await you in the hangar.” Michael gestured toward him. “I trust you will not be wearing your uniform?”

“That is indeed the preparation I spoke of,” Sojan confirmed. “Even if the locals do not recognize the uniform of the Grand Admiral, they will nevertheless recognize that it is a uniform.”

“Very well. Do not be long.”

“With all due speed,” Sojan promised. With a final look at Helysa, Sojan turned and walked back down the command walkway. Juno waited until he’d passed, then also turned, following the admiral at two steps’ distance.
Last edited by Terudel on Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:51 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Terudel » Sun Jun 07, 2020 12:14 am

Aboard Sojan's Personal Freighter, near the orbit of Roulande, Relesent System
10th Selene (10th October), 2000 Hours (Roulande Time), 1506 AGW


The freighter was of a type Michael hadn’t seen before. Still, the controls were in the proper places and the handling was smooth enough. It was Sojan’s ship, and the standard protocol was that the admiral would fly it. Michael hadn’t bothered to ask before taking the pilot’s seat. Sojan, for his part, had had the good sense not to argue the point. Vere Island hadn’t changed much since the Old Republic days, Michael noted as he brought the freighter in toward the landing field nestled into the forest three kilometres west of the settlement. The trading post with the attached cantina dominated the centre of town, pressing up against the edge of the ruins of the ancient civilization that had once stood here. Some of the homes and businesses had been built into those ruins, though most were freestanding buildings. The petrified remains of the giant black Vere trees that had given the capital its name towered over everything, mysterious and brooding. The house directly behind the trading post, where the owner lived, stood out from the rest with evidence of real money.

“Those are new,” Sojan murmured.

“What?” Michael asked.

“Those houses,” Sojan said, pointing at a wooded area on the eastern side of the outpost, the side opposite the landing field, about three kilometres away from the edge of town. “They were not there the last time.”

Michael studied the houses. There were three of them, larger and better built than those in the town, hemmed in by the woods around them. Each house was surrounded by a small ring of garden space, which on some of the galaxy’s most prestigious city-worlds would be evidence of the owner’s wealth or leisure.

“I wonder why they chose to build amid the trees when other, more easily cleared ground surrounds the outpost,” Sojan continued.

“Does it matter?” Michael asked. So far he wasn’t sensing the disturbance that Yanu’Kai had spoken of. Did that mean whatever it was had left Roulande? He hoped not. Every minute he stayed out here was a minute in which the rebels were free to plot and prepare and attack.

“I suspect it is for purposes of concealment,” Sojan said. “Do you note the additions to that stone tree?”

Michael shifted his attention to the petrified tree remnant Sojan had tagged on the display. At first glance, it looked like all the others, but as a scanner overlay appeared he saw the complex electronics that had been invisibly woven into the stone bark and along the branches. “I believe it is part of a communications triad,” Sojan continued. “It is a system for sending signals over long distances throughout the Beyond.”

Michael eyed the display, a whisper of interest tugging at him despite himself. Though unlikely to have a direct bearing on their search, it echoed back to the memories of his time here. “The term triad suggests there are two other poles.”

“Indeed,” Sojan said. “The likely position of the first is in one of the new houses.”

Michael looked at the main display. “The ship at the far end of the landing area will be the other,” he said. “Faded orange paint and a broken landing skid.”

“An abandoned derelict, clearly of no use to anyone,” Sojan said. “A perfect hiding place.”

Michael eyed the six other light freighters jammed together in the cramped space. “For a planet that is supposed to host few visitors, there is an unusual number of waiting ships.”

“I agree,” Sojan said. “Interesting. Unfortunately, it leaves us no room.”

Michael pursed his lips. Only two spots were still available: one at the outpost end of the field, the other right beside the derelict ship. Both would be tight for a vessel their size, but he could do it. “I can land us there,” he said.

“There is insufficient space,” Sojan insisted.

“The space is sufficient for a pilot of sufficient skill.”

For a moment Sojan remained silent. Michael could feel the flow of his thoughts and emotions, the orderly mix of what seemed to be calculation and caution. There might have been some annoyance, as well, but Sojan’s mind was still maddeningly closed to Michael’s understanding.

“You are certain you can land without mishap?”

In answer, Michael swung the freighter’s nose toward the landing area. The sooner they searched the outpost and found the source of Yanu’Kai’s disturbance, the sooner they would be done with this place.

“What about our goal?” Sojan asked. “Have you been able to gather any further information?”

Michael glared out the viewport. For someone without any Kalee ability, Sojan had a disconcerting knack for reading or anticipating people’s thoughts.

“Nothing of significance,” he said. “The disturbance feels distant, yet somehow also close at hand.”

“As if attempting to conceal itself?”

“Perhaps,” Michael said.

The disturbance...there it was. But it was flickering, barely there. The thought of Yanu’Kai picking up something this weak all the way from Arrastole bordered on the unbelievable. Yet somehow, she’d done it.

“We shall soon know,” Sojan said. “Perhaps a closer investigation will reveal the truth. For now, we rest till dawn.”


Vere Island, Roulande, Relesent System
11th Selene (11th October), 1130 Hours (Roulande Time), 1506 AGW


The travel corridor between the landing field and Vere Island was rough-hewn, its edges lined with small trees and bushes that marked the forest’s continual attempt to reclaim the land. The lack of precise edgework suggested the earlier care had diminished over the past few months. The air was rich with memory, full of the aromas of exotic plants and the sounds of distant birds. Three metres ahead and a metre to the right, Michael hunched over the front of his speeder bike, his long cloak rippling rhythmically in the wind of his passage. His body stance perhaps held tension, perhaps anger. Vere Island came into sight. Michael lifted a hand, signalling a halt. Sojan slowed his speeder bike and stopped beside Michael’s.

“Do you have a plan of approach?” Michael asked. His left hand fell back from the speeder bike’s control grip to his side near his weapon.

“We will begin with the cantina,” Sojan said. “It may be that the bartender will remember me.”

Michael’s hand moved a few centimetres closer to his sword. His back stiffened slightly. “We shall see,” he said. He leaned forward and again took the control grips. His wrist twisted and the bike moved forward. A surprisingly large number of residents were visible Vere Island’s streets as Sojan and Michael travelled at reduced speed along the twisting paths through the outpost. Perhaps that was due to the hour: Uquan was near zenith, and for many residents, this would be the time for a midday meal, business meetings, or general conversation.

There were three other speeder bikes and two troop carriers drawn up in front of the cantina when they arrived. Other Vere Island residents were converging on the building on foot. Sojan and Michael parked their bikes beside the others and dismounted. “Perhaps our timing was...inconvenient,” Michael said.

“Perhaps,” Sojan said. “Yet a large group also increases the probability that one or more of those responsible for Yanu’Kai’s disturbance will be present. Their reaction to our arrival may prove useful.”

“It may,” Michael said. “I will watch. You will speak.”

The door was tall and wide, designed to accommodate large beings or cargo pods. The texture was subtly different from the rest of the building and appeared newer. Michael pushed one door open with his right hand, leaving his left hand free. He strode in and took a long step to the side, allowing entry behind him. The interior was dimly lit, the windows mostly closed and covered, with only small gaps allowing in light. The cantina was well populated, with approximately two-thirds of its tables full. Most of the patrons had turned toward the door as Michael entered and were now gazing at the newcomers. With so many faces it would be impossible to fully observe the initial reactions of all of them. Fortunately, only one group was truly important.

Two adjacent tables were attended by five humanoids each. Four of the ten exhibited enlarged eyes. Six exhibited enlarged eyes and suddenly stiffened spines. One grasped at a second’s arm. A third leaned closer to a fourth, speaking inaudibly. Still, it was impossible to discern whether they are reacting to Michael or the unexpected appearance of a high official of the New Republic. Sojan strode past Michael toward the bar and the large human working behind it. The patrons along the route, none of them rebels, returned to their plates and cups, their initial focus fading. The bartender finished preparing his current drink and looked up at the newcomers. His expression held puzzlement and a hint of returning memory.

“Good morning,” Sojan said. “Perhaps you remember me.”

The bartender’s eyes widened. His expression held sudden recognition. His lips turned downward, his eyes and expression held unpleasant memories. “I do,” he said. His eyes changed focus as Michael came forward. “The other, from before. Is he with you?”

“No,” Sojan said. “I’m told he died some years ago. The fortunes of war.”

“Good,” the bartender said. His eyes shift to Michael again. His expression held hostility. “Does this one now stand as your bodyguard?”

Visible in the curved metal railing of the bar, Michael’s body stance stiffened.

“He is a fellow traveller, not a bodyguard,” Sojan said. “What is your name?”

The bartender’s expression changed, now holding wariness. “I am Celram. Have you come to once again deal with supposed oppression?”

“Do you wish for my help?” Sojan asked.

“Do I have a choice?”

“Perhaps,” Sojan said. “You speak of oppression?”

Celram hesitated. He lowered his voice and leaned a few centimetres closer over the bar. “The newcomers to Roulande,” he said. “The Rebels.”

“The Rebels?”

“Yes. They’ve not spoken much to me. I know only that since their arrival, Roulande hasn’t been the same.”

“When was that?”

“The first group came two years ago,” Celram said. “They said they were on an expedition, that their journey would require them to stay on Roulande for a time. They built houses for themselves to the east and spent three days in the woods to the north. At times, they fill our spacefield with their ships, coming and going to distant places on unknown errands.”

“That does not sound like oppression,” Sojan said.

“They drove away some of the traders who used to come here,” Celram said. “Other ships were discouraged by the lack of landing spots at the times when they filled the spacefield. Some of those traders went elsewhere on Roulande. Others abandoned our world entirely. Our people were forbidden from venturing near their houses, and they took the best food and resources for themselves.”

“Did they not pay for it?”

Celram hesitated. His expression held embarrassment. “Yes, they paid. The proper fees and prices. Perhaps even somewhat more. Enough more, truth be told, to calm most of those dissatisfied with their other interference.” He leaned yet closer, his eyes shifting to the humanoids at their two tables. “But I wasn’t fooled. I remember...you know of what I speak. There’s the same feeling about the Rebels. And then, twenty days ago, a new group of them arrived.” He paused. His expression held a quiet horror. “With them came three companies of troops.”

A finger touched Sojan’s arm. “They prepared for combat,” Michael said quietly. Celram’s expression held sudden fear. He took three steps away along the bar. His body stance held a desire to move far from the upcoming attack.

“How soon?” Sojan asked.

“They are passing weapons among themselves,” Michael said. “Not their usual blasters, but something far stronger. The newly armed are making their way in both directions, no doubt attempting to surround us and launch a coordinated attack.”

There was a signal from the comlink on Sojan’s belt. “Perhaps more coordinated than you know.”

He pulled out the comlink and turned it on. “Speak.”

“Large ship, heavy freighter or small warship, heading toward your position.” Helysa’s voice held tension and determination. “Second ship, plus four smaller ships, making orbit. Orders?”

“They cannot be allowed to escape,” Michael said. “Order the Liberation to attack.”

“It would be unwise to reveal the Liberation’s presence and firepower at present,” Sojan said. “Let us first see if the survivors of the coming attack can provide us with the information we need.”

“Unlikely they will know the incoming ships’ space combat capabilities,” Michael countered.

“The Liberation is even now gathering that information.”

“Data from that distance will be insufficient,” Michael rumbled. “I have ordered Commander Juno to intercept, examine, and engage if necessary.”

“I am in command, Michael.”

“You command the Liberation,” Michael said. His voice and stance were stiff. His hand rested near his weapon. “I command the ground troops. You will instruct Helysa to release them to the attack.”

“Very well,” Sojan said. “Commodore, you will permit Commander Juno and his men to depart. I place the Liberation under your command. You may act on your own discretion.”

“Acknowledged, Admiral.”

He returned the comlink to his belt. “The warrior’s path lies before us,” he said. “Let us follow its guidance.”

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Zirion Grande
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Moralistic Democracy

Postby Zirion Grande » Sun Jun 07, 2020 4:36 pm

Viloria Base, Krebs-234, Relesent System
10th Selene (10th October), 0000 Hours (Xenatia Time), 1506 AGW



“Are our preparations ready, Lieutenant Commander Ireegn?” questioned the hopeful commander to his comely colleague as they walked down the narrow corridors of the base leading to its docking bay. “I expect you know how paramount it is to this mission that all the required supplies and ammunition are fully stocked and accounted for. Let there be one mistake, one defect in this operation that could jeopardize my succ-, our success in executing it, I will personally hold you accountable for it. I do not wish for another humiliating loss for the Republic to occur again.” The commander continued, pointing his index finger towards the timid little officer. Lieutenant Commander Ireegn Weso, a recently-graduated officer from The Republic Militia Academy in Jeunea, scrunched up into her tight uniform after hearing the threats of her commander, grabbing her collar sleeve shyly and clutching anxiously to her clipboard. She stared straight into his piercing eyes and gulped down her sorrows and finally answered his call,

“Yes, Sir!” she screamed out unintentionally. “I have also settled the matter of informing Colonel Jaygini on her leading Resurgence Squad for the assault on the blockade to retrieve Supreme Leader Glenn. Ground intel has relayed to us that the Supreme Leader is being held hostage aboard one of the three Rebel-Modified Dreadnaughts gyrating the planet. Colonel Jaygini should have already made the necessary preparations for liftoff and is waiting for your approval to engage. I have informed Resurgence Squad to shield us from threats until we make our infiltration through the blockade.” Ireegn panted a little on her last few words, she had mouthed out a little too much information in such a short period putting her out of breath.

“Excellent Lieutenant Commander. It pleases me to know that at least one of the two-hundred staff I have been consigned aren't complete brainless nimrods. Though, it aches my pride that even Jaygini got a rank higher than me. Tsk.”

“But sir if I may?”

“What now, Weso?” the commander grunted.

“Well, I hope I'm not being out of line here but I feel that the Grand Admiral's decision to fit in two hundred staff into our relatively small ship was an idea unfit of someone so highly intelligent. The Obelisk Tempo, I inquired, was originally only designed for not more than 50 members of crew. Whatever went through his mind sir, if i may ask?” prodded the Lieutenant Commander earnestly, showing a more genuine persona of herself.

“Hm?” the commander was intrigued by his colleague's sharp sense of reality. “I believe that the Grand Admiral mentioned this simply because he wanted to provide me with adequate troops for this mission that would put the heart of Queen Trixy at ease during our meeting earlier, seeing that her husband, my bestfriend, had been kidnapped. Wouldn't you agree, Lieutenant Commander?” the commander asked back with an unfamiliar lightness to his tone.

“But Commander-“ Ireegn continued stubbornly.

“Although now it may be a little cramped in our shuttle, it is nothing the once great Grand Marshal cannot handle with relative ease. Now, I'm off to see Jaygini while you prepare the launch codes for our immediate departure.” Ainz cut in, in the usual roughness this time and proceeded down a different hallway from the fetching Lieutenant Commander.

Waxed by the light of the Relesent System's sun, bathed in all its glory was The Obelisk Tempo ready for liftoff in Docking Bay 3. Its black chrome shine almost always stood out immediately from other fighters. It could not only hold more passengers than the average fighter but boasted tremendous firepower and shielding and two hyperdrive modules rather than the standard one. Meaning, it could last longer in a dogfight than any other fighters in the Republic's Hostile Ship Track Records. Truly, a beast. Its grandeur of course did not except Jaygini's Vipermancer, a product of the Nekros system ornamented blood-red and like any other pursuer-class fighters, still a gnat in size compared to the Tempo . Ainz headed over to the Jaygini's craft sitting opposite of his. Jaygini was no longer draped in her crimson robes signifying she was a bounty hunter but, in a spruce, blue uniform embellished with the crest of Crescentia, the Republic's sigil of true order.

“Looks like a good time for a ride in space. Good weather too. Don't you think...Colonel.” Ainz said shrewdly as he walked up and slapped the Vipermancer at its cockpit.

"Bet you didn't know I was more than just a Governor in title eh Ainz? Ya'are jealous of me leading this crew ain't ya?" the ever-cheeky and child-like Jaygini laughed, climbing into her cockpit with unexpected ease. “I was told to act like a bodyguard for ya in the first half, was it? An' then lead the infiltration and rescue Glenny boy.” Her cowboy-ish accent heightened, putting Ainz in slight discomfort.

“I don't get envious over small matters, you dwarf. Just here to tell you we're off in about ten minutes. Your'e the squad leader, so I expect you to take care of my men...well, your men now. Bring them back safe, they've got families unlike the both of us.”

Tch, don't have to tell me twice Mythos and aren't ya forgetting something? I'm the Python Boss, they're my new family and wish that I come back walking too for once will ya?” Jaygini and Ainz traded smiles as though they were never going to see each other again. The engines of all the departing ships evolved from deep humming to violent drums of sonic booms. One by one the ships exited Viloria Base docking bays, Resurgence Squad leading the way with The Obelisk Tempo trailing the Vipermancer's stern. The mission was a go.


Idylle Blockade, Orbit of Idylle, Relesent System
11th Selene (11th October), 0400 Hours (Xenatia Time), 1506 AGW


The gyration of several hundred freighters and rebel cruisers paired with three Rebel Dreadnaughts around the temperate, cream planet seemed more aberrant to Ainz compared to past blockades attempted by the Rebellion. Particularly, the ships besieging the planet weren't in a straight ring encompassing the planet but rather a maelstrom that covered every dimension of it having a depth up to its outermost atmosphere. The planet of Idylle was impregnable and what seemed to look simply like a defunct flood of ships orbiting the planet actually had pithy. The looks of it all was egregious to Ainz. He needed to commence an exigent protocol before things could exacerbate any further. Resurgence Squad and the Obelisk Tempo were coming up from the dark side of the moon of Idylle but feelings of pulling back already filled their stomachs. Ainz peered away from the poly-glass window and back onto the holo-table in his quarters. He was circumscribing paths that The Tempo could take on the monitor with his fingers so as to avoid any dogfights if possible - it was a stealth mission after all and not the usual Boom and Run.

The cloaking shield on The Obelisk Tempo would only last them thirty minutes at full power and maybe and hour at half, but they'd need at least two hours at full power to go through a blockade that size. It was Ainz' call to make and if he'd fail now, friend or not, Michael and Sojan wouldn't hesitate to decapitate him if he came back empty handed. A stark, blanket-covered Ireegn awoke on the soft mattress in the room, looking dazed and covering her delicate bare skin. She moved to the edge of the bed to wrap her slightly tan Jeunean arms around a muscular Grandean body. Ainz quivered from the sudden cold compress leaning on his back but still ambivalent in thought.

“What's the matter, hun?” Ireegn whispered into Ainz' ear as she took a nibble of his earlobe.

“We've got a big problem here, Weso. I'm not sure how I can get through that pool of piranhas you see outside.” Ainz sulked as if he's already doomed to fail. “I don't think I can pull this off without losing more than just a few lives. And if I call off the mission, I'm as good as done. First, a traitor and now, a coward.” Ainz burried his head in his arms accepting the ill fate that was to come.

“How dare you!” Ireegn snapped, throwing off Ainz from his depressive swing. “How dare you call my commander a coward. Yes, he may have had his rank relegated and had his face kicked with mud many times. But the tales of Ainz Mythos have never showed any ounce of cowardice. He was steadfast and strong, and cunning in his own way.” Ireegn was now standing in front of Ainz, bending towards him like a teacher scolding a schoolboy with her finger to his face. Ainz could only listen attentively. “I threw away everything I had and joined the academy. You know why? I did it because I wanted to be a legend. A legend like The Three Great Leaders of The Crescentian Republic. I wanted my name to be heard across galaxies like those whom I've respected so much.” now she was just plain screaming at his face. “So don't you dare, Sir, call my commander a coward. And go think up of something that doesn't kill us all.”

At that very moment, the holo-table lit up and a call was being patched through to one of the Resurgence squad ships - it was coming from Jaygini. A holographic image of Jaygini Megdit popped up in front of the mattress. What Jaygini saw on her end was something no child should dream to see. She closed her eyes as though staring at a sun in a fit of anger and disgust.

“I thought you were better than this Ainz. Ugh, you're just like him. You’re just like Michael.”

The call ended and Ireegn stood pale as a ghost and Ainz digging his head back into his arms. The humiliation.


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Last edited by Zirion Grande on Sun Jun 07, 2020 4:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Terudel
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Founded: Sep 20, 2017
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Postby Terudel » Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:47 am

Vere Island, Roulande, Relesent System
11th Selene (11th October), 1300 Hours (Roulande Time), 1506 AGW


“They are encircling us,” Michael warned, studying the bar.

Reflected in the decorative brasswork were the distorted images of the ten humanoids as they moved quietly around behind him and Sojan into flanking attack positions. A simple, yet well-executed manoeuvre. Sojan had tried encircling them, too, just like the humanoids here in the cantina were trying. The Admiral had failed in his effort, just as the humanoids were going to fail in theirs. Sojan didn’t reply. Still disapproving of Michael’s decision to launch the troops at the incoming ships above Roulande? The Grand Admiral was hardly in a position to be critical. Here, Michael didn’t have much resources, which meant some of the ships above Roulande would inevitably escape. But the big freighter, the one he’d sent the troopers to, would be dealt with. He would show Sojan how it was done.

“Do you hear that?” Sojan murmured.

“What?” Michael asked, still watching the movements in the brass.

“Their click code,” Sojan said quietly. “Do you hear it?”

Michael frowned. Yes, he could hear the faint tongue clicking now. Odd that he hadn’t noticed it before. “Cordelian...can you interpret it?”

“Not the specifics,” Sojan said. “But most follow similar patterns. The number and frequency of clicks indicate they are nearly ready to launch their attack. Remember that we need prisoners to interrogate.”

Michael glowered at the images in the railing. Simple blasters for hire, most likely. Better to eliminate them and allow Juno to deal with the task of finding prisoners. “Do you expect them to be equally courteous?”

“At first, yes, they will,” Sojan said.

That wasn’t the answer Michael had expected. “For what reason?”

“Interrogation,” Sojan said. “They will wish to know what I have learned of them.” He looked sideways at Michael. “Though they may not offer you the same courtesy.” The Admiral thought highly of himself, that was for certain.

“Then they will be surprised.”

“They will indeed.” There was the soft hiss of Sojan’s saber being drawn from its holster. “Once they have lost some of their numbers, they will likely abandon any hope of taking either of us alive.”

Michael nodded to himself. And when they reached that point, not even Sojan would be able to complain about leaving the bodies of their opponents scattered on the cantina floor. “Then their surprise will be shortlived.”

“We will first try to disable without killing,” Sojan said, with an emphasis that suggested it was an order. Not that Michael was in the mood to accept any such instructions, especially not under these circumstances. Fortunately for Sojan, he’d presented the goal with more subtlety than that.

Subtlety. In a Republic filled with men like Michael, perhaps that was what Yanu’Kai found most useful in Sojan. Sojan had refused to send the Liberation against the unknown ships on the grounds that it could be advantageous to keep the full extent of the Republic’s power hidden. Now he wanted to strike nonlethal blows to suggest he lacked the power or the strength of mind to kill?

Very well. Subtlety was a game Michael could also play if he chose.

And in that instant, he caught the flicker as the humanoid charged to the attack. He turned, snatching his weapon from his belt. Three of the humanoids were converging on Sojan, charged spears of their own ready in their hands, while four more charged at Michael with identical weapons.

Standing well back from the battleground, only intermittently visible as the rest of the customers beat a hasty retreat past them through the door, were the other three humanoids, blasters drawn and ready. Either Michael and Sojan would leave as prisoners, or—their thinking apparently went—they wouldn’t leave at all. The attackers were going to be severely disappointed. Sojan had already turned to face his attackers, a bottle of beer he’d snatched from behind the bar in his free hand. But instead of simply throwing it, he spun it around twice in his hand, pointed it at the nearest attacker, and slashed his saber across the bottle’s neck, shattering it. And as the freshly agitated liquid burst from the bottle’s confines, Sojan sprayed the stream across all three of his attackers’ faces.

Their charge jerked to a confused halt amid gasps and roars as the alcohol hit unprotected eyes. Sojan threw the now half-empty bottle toward Michael’s attackers, then waded into the midst of his own group, slamming his saber with expert precision across arms and legs, slicing it off without killing. But Michael’s group had seen Sojan’s move, and had had time to recover from the surprise attack. As the bottle came toward them the nearest humanoid knocked it away with a flick of his own weapon. He turned back toward Michael. The attacker staggered back, twisting around from the impact as Michael slapped him hard across the side of his head with his saber hilt. Not the blade. Only the hilt. If Sojan could take on three opponents with just a bottle, so could Michael.

Michael swung his sword, deflecting the attack, then jabbed the end hard into the centre of the humanoid’s chest. He looked at the three backups, swinging their blasters toward him. He caught up a nearby table and, keeping his hand on it as if using only muscle power, he hurled it across the cantina into their midst. One of them was fast enough to dodge out of the way. The other two weren’t so quick or so lucky and went down in grunts of pain and the crash of wood table on wood floor.

The one still standing had had enough. Michael again turned his weapon, sending the bolt to the side as the humanoid made a mad dash for the door. Michael strode after him, trying to decide whether to drop him right there or to let him get outside so that he could find out what kind of vehicle he’d arrived in. The latter, he decided. The humanoid reached the door and pulled it open. Michael felt his pace falter. It was the disturbance Yanu’Kai had sensed from Veres. There was nothing else it could be. But now, in sharp contrast with Michael’s earlier attempts to sense the anomaly, it was suddenly right there in front of him, flooding over and through his mind. Only what was it? For all the strength of the awareness, the sensation was vague and unfocused. He couldn’t tell whether it was a person, a group of people, or something else.

And then, as the humanoid darted out the door and Michael tried to focus on the thoughts and sensations, he heard the distant rumbling of an explosion. The swirling of anxiety turning to fear, breaking all ability to concentrate, flashing into unfocused turmoil. The sudden shift snapped Michael’s attempts to isolate it. The distant explosion—had the humanoids attacked the source of the disturbance? The disturbance dissolved into terror. A second explosion, as muffled and indistinct as the first, rippled across Vere Island, rattling the cantina.

“I believe our freighter has been attacked,” Sojan said coolly. Stepping over one of the three humanoids lying unconscious on the floor in front of him, he hurried toward Michael and the door. “Our opponents are attempting to isolate us.”

The terror fading—the swirling collapsing onto itself and silence— Michael still didn’t understand the disturbance. But as the hurricane faded, he made one last focused effort to locate it. And for a single heartbeat, he was able to do so.

“No,” he told Sojan, pointing in the opposite direction from the door. “Not the freighter. The three houses.”

Sojan’s eyes narrowed. “Their communications network?”

“Yes,” Michael said. “And Yanu’Kai’s disturbance.”

Michael had never seen Sojan at a moment of complete surprise. Sojan’s face went suddenly rigid, his stride jerking just as Michael’s had a moment earlier. The moment passed, and he was once again the imperturbable Grand Admiral. But the moment had been enough. “We must hurry,” Sojan said, picking up his pace and gesturing Michael to follow. “Come.”

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Terudel
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Postby Terudel » Mon Jun 08, 2020 8:52 am

Aboard Feather-Class Light Cruiser Serenity, orbit of Cal-1, Herranium System
11th Selene (11th October), 1400 Hours (Cal-1 Time), 1506 AGW


Sonjeff manoeuvred the Serenity into his precisely selected orbital slot above the mechanical planet of Cal-1. Rumbling under his breath, he switched over the power linkages and cut the engines back to standby.

Seated in the copilot seat, Yanu’Kai took a deep breath. She’d been watching the sensors from the moment they dropped out of lightspeed; and given there were no other ships anywhere in the system, there wasn’t much chance that they could be ambushed. But with the familiar engine roar now cut back down to a whisper, the silence felt strange and even a little eerie to her.

“You see that planet down there, my dear?” Yanu’Kai murmured, rubbing her belly gently. “That’s Cal-1. Where that stupid Y.I.F.E.I. System was born.”

Sonjeff shot a questioning glance. “I didn’t know that. Now everything starts to make sense. The reason why Grand Admiral Sojan gave me this mission.”

“I thought it was Ainz?”

“Ainz was merely a messenger for the Grand Admiral. It seems to me that we need to search for clues. Clues about that artificial intelligence. Good thing you are here. You had a close encounter with it three years ago.”

The thought of that made Yanu’Kai feel uncomfortable. She let her eyes drift across the brilliant metallic world turning slowly beneath them, wondering yet again why she’d chosen to accompany Sonjeff on this mission.

And abruptly, without any warning, a black curtain seemed to drop across her vision.…

Slowly, she became aware that there was a chilling voice calling to her. “Your Highness,” it said over and over again. “Your Highness. Can you hear me? Please, Your Highness, can you hear me?”

She opened her eyes, vaguely surprised to discover they were closed, to find Sonjeff leaning over her with an open medpack gripped in one huge hand, an agitated look hovering like a nervous mother bird.

“I’m all right,” she managed. “What happened?”

“You shouted for help,” Sonjeff said. “At least, I thought it was for help,” he amended helpfully. “You were brief and rather incoherent.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Yanu’Kai told him. It was starting to come back now, like moonlight through the edge of a cloud. The menace, the rage; the hatred, the despair. “You didn’t feel it, did you?” she asked Sonjeff. He shook his head, watching her closely. “I felt nothing.”

“I don’t know what it could have been. One minute I was sitting there, and then the next—” She broke off, a sudden horrible thought striking her.

“What is it?”

Yanu’Kai stared blankly at the viewport, seeing the surface of the planet. “This…is…where…I…fought…Tara…”

Sonjeff stared at her a moment, rumbling something deep in his throat. Then, shifting the medpack to his other hand, he reached past her to key the computer. “I think I should call the Grand Admiral.”

“No,” she said, her voice shaking. “We have to land on the planet. Answers await us.”

And the silence resumed. A silence that was thicker, somehow, than it had been before. And much darker.

Yanu’Kai set her teeth firmly together. “I will not be intimidated,” she said aloud to the silence. “Not here; not anywhere.”

The silence didn’t reply. After a minute, Yanu’Kai reached over to the board and keyed in a course alteration that would allow the ship to land on one of the landing bays.

And abruptly, once more, Yanu’Kai’s vision clouded. She heard the voice call out to her again. However, this time, she recognised it. It was Tara.

“I see that you have returned, Your Highness. Perhaps, to meet your death?”

“You can’t kill me, Tara. Strike me down, and I’ll be far more powerful than you could ever imagine.” Yanu’Kai felt those words come out of her mouth even though it was not what she had intended to say. She didn’t seem to have control over herself. It was as if she was watching from the sidelines.

“Foolish Kalee,” Tara said. “Did you actually think that coming to Cal-1 would present you with a clue? The Y.I.F.E.I. System was a distraction. A distraction for you idiots to focus on while I took over the Republic planet by planet. Now, nothing can stop me. The end of your vengeance, as you know it, has already begun.”

Yanu’Kai tried to process the new information but was quick to deny it. “Don’t play mind games with me, Tara,” she spoke again unconsciously. “You don’t know what I am capable of. The disturbance in Roulande has been found. Your very own associates will meet the wrath of my anger. My hatred.”

Those words, Yanu’Kai finally knew, weren’t hers. It was Michael. But how could Michael communicate with Tara when he was so far away? Could it be that her mind and his were connected in some way?

Tara smirked, slyly. “So, Spencer, you found a way to finally communicate with me. Let me warn you, your vision wasn’t just a dream. It was a glimpse of the future. You shall die at the hands of the one you loved so dearly once in your pathetic life. Your anger and hatred aren’t directed at her. It’s directed at you. You are angry that you fell for her. You hate yourself for not being able to see through her lies. Anger and hatred for yourself destroy you instead of making you more powerful. It’s over for you.”

Yanu’Kai wanted to scream. She wanted to warn Michael about Tara’s manipulation. But only silence followed. Tara faded away and Sonjeff appeared before Yanu’Kai. They had already landed on the planet of Cal-1, but the Duchess knew they had to go to Michael. Michael was in danger, not from Cherilyn or Tara, but from himself.
Last edited by Terudel on Wed Jun 10, 2020 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Terudel
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Founded: Sep 20, 2017
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Postby Terudel » Tue Jun 09, 2020 4:17 am

Vere Island, Roulande, Relesent System
11th Selene (11th October), 1400 Hours (Roulande Time), 1506 AGW


Three humanoids abruptly appeared. Each held a weapon the size of a blaster carbine. Walking with what could only be their version of an arrogant swagger, they headed toward their prey. Michael waited until they were near to him. Then, he ignited his weapon. The humanoids had barely enough time to jerk to horrified halts before Michael slashed the red blade through all four of them. He waited until they were lying dead on the floor.

“I presume, Admiral,” he said into the silence, “that you no longer require us to take prisoners?”

“I believe the situation has moved beyond that point,” Sojan agreed darkly. “Well done. Can you summon aid from the Liberation? My comlink is out of reach.”

Summon aid? It was one thing to lose a battle. It was worse to lose both a battle and one’s dignity at the same time.

Sojan sent a quick look around the cantina, then looked down at the freshly dead humanoid. With an effort, he squatted beside one of the bodies.

“What are you doing?” Michael demanded. “Yanu’Kai’s disturbance is elsewhere.”

“A moment,” Sojan said. He gazed at the humanoid’s sword, gently touched the spot where the scabbard rode the belt, and then drew the weapon. “Do you see?” he asked Michael, holding it up.

“I see that you are here while Yanu’Kai’s disturbance is not,” Michael said, putting some anger into his voice.

“Yes,” Sojan murmured. He slid the sword back into its scabbard and stood up. “Let us hope we are not too late,” he added as he made his slightly staggering way toward the door. “Celmar? Do not let anyone remove these bodies.”

“I’ll try,” the bartender said, sounding doubtful. “But—”

“You will do as he says,” Michael ordered, glowering at Sojan’s back as he followed. Had the Admiral been stalling with the whole sword thing, hoping to delay their travel? No. Michael remembered the look on the Admiral’s face just before the final humanoid attack. Something about the mysterious houses, the explosion, and Yanu’Kai’s disturbance had actually startled him. And anything that could startle Grand Admiral Sojan was something Michael very much wanted to see. He refused to say a word about his short communication with Tara to Sojan. Could it be that it was all in his head? Or was it really Tara?

There had been three houses in the clearing when Sojan and Michael approached from orbit. Now a single house stood beside two piles of flattened rubble. “It is gone,” Michael said. His voice was deeper than usual. Perhaps it held anger, perhaps accusation. “The disturbance has disappeared.”

“Yes,” Sojan said. The rubble showed evidence of blasts delivered from above. It showed further evidence of compression, also from above.

“How do you know that?”

“I believe the source was taken,” Sojan said. “Observe the pressure indications across the area of destruction. The first two houses were destroyed in order to make room for the freighter to land beside the third.”

Michael faced the destruction. His fingers rested near the hilt of his weapon. “You believe the source was inside the third building?”

“Did the disturbance break off suddenly, as if destroyed in an explosion?”

“No,” Michael said. His voice grew clearer. Perhaps he had followed and accepted the logic. Perhaps he was preparing for more questioning. “Do you know the source of the disturbance?”

“I have a thought,” Sojan said. “I would prefer not to state it, so as not to influence your own thoughts and analysis.”
Michael turned to face him. “I would prefer that you do.”

“I do not wish to influence your analysis.”

For three seconds Michael remains silent. His hand rested openly on his weapon. “You seem rather shaken by your thoughts, Sojan,” Michael said.

Michael was silent for another two seconds. “I hope you are not hiding something.” He pauses, his head inclining slightly. “Commander Juno reports that the freighter that was here has escaped into hyperspace. He further states that the other freighter’s crew has successfully destroyed their cargo.”

“They will certainly have tried,” Sojan said. “But even the most thorough destruction may leave clues.”

“You have a reputation for seeing that which others do not.” Michael removed his hand from his weapon and waved toward the remaining building. His voice perhaps held challenge. “You will begin here.”

The house was of a common design. There were five sleeping rooms holding a total of twenty beds, a large common area, a combined food preparation and eating area, and three bathrooms. Two other rooms contained crates which appeared to hold mostly food and household supplies. “This bed have been recently slept in,” Michael said as they looked into one of the sleeping rooms. “And it was a man and a woman. Fresh fluid discharge on the bed. They seemed to have left quickly.”

“I agree,” Sojan said. The style of the building, the design of the furniture, and the patterns of colour and line were consistent with what he’d seen elsewhere in Vere Island. Local design and construction, offering no clues as to the occupants’ origin. He pulled several of the garments from the sleeping room lockers and laid them out on the bed for study.

“Sojan!” Michael called. His voice perhaps holds cautious excitement. “Come to the rear of the house.” Michael was waiting in a wide archway leading into a long room. “Do you recognise these?” he asked.

Sojan looked at the suit and other equipment on the ground, examining it closely. “Grandean,” he said. “We need to bring them to the Liberation. Perhaps the Doctor Wingate can check for DNA.”

“Agreed,” Michael said. “Guard them while I bring the freighter.”

“There is no need for a guard,” Sojan said. “I will return to the cantina and examine the bodies.”

“We will return together,” Michael said. His voice was again dark. “We will also question the bartender further. He might know more than he has yet said. After the items have been loaded aboard the freighter.”

“Very well,” Sojan said. “But be quick. Time is not on our side.”

For two seconds Michael stood motionless. “I will return at my own pace,” he said. His voice perhaps held anger, perhaps grudging agreement. “And that pace will be sufficient.”

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