I was asleep when it happened. A loud thunderclap shook the apartment building. I jumped from bed to look out the window only to find that there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Could it have been an explosion? There was no smoke in the vicinity, except for a small puff rising from a nearby park. I guessed someone had launched the first firework of the season. We were, afterall, very close to the holidays. As I walked back to my room, someone unlocked the front door and was moving the doorknob. Somehow this person had the key. The scene resembled one of those horror movies, with the lights flickering and some unknown assailant opening the door. A few switches flicked on. The lights blinded me for a second. Shortly after I noticed a figure in front of me. His body was covered in mechanical devices in what appeared to be a random pattern. When I finally saw who it was, I was shocked. Even the world around me twisted and churned. This person was tearing at the very fabric of space. Then, as he approached, said, “This is all that I can do now. The future is bleak, but I will give you a head start”. Years of suffering were reflected in his face, or, my face? My mind felt like it was fracturing. The paradox of the existence of this person in this specific space and time was altering everything around me. Before I could ask anything this visage of my future self began to disappear into a cloud of glowing dust. These little lights flew towards me and merged with my body. His memories became my own. I bore witness to the horrors I would face in a few years. Then, after the dust had fully dissipated, the mechanical parts reorganized and settled on my arms. Like a pair of old gauntlets from medieval times. Except this technology was far beyond anything I could dream of. They constantly monitored my health and, to my surprise, space-time stability. Curious about this, I managed to navigate its interface to learn more. As I investigated further I learned that this was just one of thousands of attempts to change the future. My future. Through these devices I learned that the now unwritten history was one of many branches in time. All of them greatly affected by my existence. Upon further navigation I discovered what these mergers had been attempting, full space-time stability. The number floating above the holographic display was one hundred percent. What this meant for my future was anyone’s guess. Many of the memories that I could recall from previous attempts had been sealed away in my subconscious. Perhaps for good measure. Memories of suffering, pain or loss would likely drive me insane. The gauntlets faded from view. I turned off the lights, closed the door and went back to sleep. As I lay in bed a feeling of calm washed over me. It was as if I had been waiting for this moment for years. The future may still hold many difficulties, but clearly I had the motivation to persevere, time and again.
Tessa walked into the room. A figurine strapped to her waist. She looked around, everyone was clinging to their little idol charms like it was life or death, and it truly was, for the idols are linked to the lifeforce of their owner. In return the figurines provide mystical and sometimes unruly powers. The more common abilities include the command over fire or water. Some people can manage moving objects with their mind. Others could shape the earth, create force fields or compel plants to grow. Everyone stared at each other. A few old friends had gathered in their own groups and talked about their recent experiences. One such experience was the ritual of binding. It is the reason for them being here. That was when the idol became bound to their soul and body. This is to be their first class. To learn what their powers are, how to control them and eventually to go off and fight. Adding to these young people’s burdens, there is a war that has been ongoing for the last ten years.
After a short wait, the professor entered the room. Everyone settled down at their desks. “Welcome”, he said while scanning the room. “I see many of you have started to familiarize themselves with your newfound power. In this class you will do more than just that. First off, some introductions. My name is Kristoff. I am one of the few Elder Bound, those of us who were the first to undergo the ritual. As you can see, my idol has changed greatly since the day it was bound to me. All of the idols begin as yours. A small, claylike figurine. The material itself is a mystery. It is resilient, but not indestructible. Always, and I emphasize, always keep it in mind. It is bound to your very life and you will die if anything happens to it.”. Many looked to each other, as if gauging each other’s potential for survival. Kristoff continued, “Now, as I call you, please come forward and show the power you hold. Some of you may not have tapped into the potential of the power yet, this is nothing to worry about. We will discover it soon enough. When we are done here, the class will move to the courtyard.”
Everyone here was around seventeen years old. A small few in their twenties. Those had somehow avoided the draft when the war seemed to be proceeding favorably. To Tessa this all felt pointless. The nation was now in a heavy slump, losing the war. Faranthir had been a relatively peaceful country. The advances in medical and transportation technology caught the attention of its neighbors. There was great pressure from the governing party to take action. To make an ally of one nation and then defend against the others. It was the only way they thought could help us survive. For a time, the strategy was successful. Geographically our nation is wedged between three great powers and the sea. To the west is the vast Oriallan Ocean. A route used to trade with our southern ally was established many years ago. It persists to this day. This ally, the nation Orial, has helped Faranthir through the ages. Thus, it was natural to remain close to them. In the past, Faranthir was a region that belonged to Lor’Kastas. The northland they command as their territory is rich in ores, but Faranthir possesses the valleys and rivers. We have the fertile land that fed the miners. Without Faranthir, Lor’Kastas was forced to rely on the third nation, Tal’Vir. This nation also controls a vast expanse of valleys. Their lands are just as rich for farming as Faranthir, but their produce lacks the qualities that matter to the people of Lor’Kastas. This strained the relations between the nations. When they learned of the technologies being developed in Faranthir, they questioned why these were not freely shared for all to enjoy. The government of Faranthir knew that the tools being developed could also be altered to become weapons. Problems continued to escalate from there. A new tax on imports here, minor conflicts at the borders and then full on skirmishes. Orial was forced to increase their military presence in the borders of Faranthir. This provoked both Lor’Kastas and Tal’Vir. They wanted Faranthir for themselves. War broke out with the first declaration from the government of Lor’Kastas. It was to be a war fought on multiple fronts. Tal’Vir refused to ally themselves with their northern neighbor. This was their opportunity to control all of the food production to force both Orial and Lor’Kastas to negotiate. All of this at the cost of Faranthir’s surrender, loss of identity and independence.
Delving deep into ancient traditions led to uncovering the ritual of binding. When the first bound were sent their incredible powers caught everyone by surprise. They were able to quickly turn the tide of battle. At that point, none of the first bound had any idea of the weakness they carried with them. The sudden death of one of the members led to an investigation. While the investigation was ongoing many others were lost. When they finally discovered the reason they were in shock. The toll for having incredible power was that they needed to guard their figurine at all cost. Many mysteries accompanied the ritual of binding. Not everything was clear about them, but one thing everyone knew going forward. The powerful and mystical figurine not only holds great power, it is also tightly bound to the person’s spirit. Some speculate that this is the reason for the great manifestation of power, and also why they are often unique. Sadly, the enemies of Faranthir caught on, and began to systematically target the bound’s figurines. New methods of protecting them had to be developed. The vulnerability also led some of those first bound to leave the front lines. Suddenly, Faranthir had lost some of its greatest defenders. Thus it reached this point. Losing a war and now relying on younger volunteers to try and turn the tide once again.
The courtyard was a battered piece of land behind the school. It is what remained suitable for training after years of slowly losing territory to Lor’Kastas and Tal’Vir. Many of the much desired fertile lands had gone to waste. In this setting the training started. Kristoff ordered everyone to form rows and to focus their power on the palm of their hand. Those with elemental power quickly gathered the energy. Small flames, water bubbles, sands coalescing into stone and the occasional electric crackle could be seen. Much as she tried Tessa could not form anything on her palm.
Days passed, then months and eventually a few years. The war had reached a new high. The forces of the invading nations finally made their push against the capital of Faranthir. Tessa walked the streets of the city, looking at broken carriages and houses. The army of Lor’Kastas was ruthless. They had abandoned all semblance of civilization and replaced it with an insatiable bloodlust. A month ago, Kristoff was sent to the frontlines. He did not return. This left the students to fend for themselves as the leadership crumbled. In the city, people did what they could to barricade and guard what was left. For Tessa, time did not pass by in vain. Her power surfaced in combat. It was a great and overwhelming shadow that could consume almost anything given enough time. She could also mimic the power of idols close to her. Eventually she could master such powers and permanently add them to her own. They did have one particular trait. The flames she commanded had a purple and black tinge to them. It was as if the mimicry still contained the very essence of her idol’s power. The enemy knew to fear her. Now, she was at the capital, ready to stand against the invaders. Despite the dire situation and her preference to work alone, she managed to make friends. Linus and Thalia, two very talented soldiers, stuck close to Tessa. Thalia had the unique ability to cast force fields and she made it her top priority to keep one over their figurines. Tessa was still trying to master this trait, so that she could one day relieve the burden from her friend. She knew that Thalia would never forgive herself if any of their figurines was destroyed.
The third successful attempt at defending the capital forced Tal’Vir to retreat. Tessa and her friends now command an elite unit of mixed troops. Some were bound to idols, others were common soldiers with more traditional weapons. During these times, rifles had replaced the old bow and arrow. The horse-drawn carriage was replaced by steam engines and soon with electric engines. This last development was the great discovery made by Faranthir that eventually incited the war.
Tessa’s unit pushed Tal’Vir nearly to the border. Along the way she encountered some of the fallen. Her idol reacted to the broken pieces. A new power surged within her. She figured out she could rebuild the broken idols and claim their power. Visions of the owner, now long dead, could be seen, providing some insight that would prove invaluable. Her skill became feared by both Tal’Vir and Lor’Kastas soldiers. The great advances made by her eventually made the Tal’Vir government to cease their ambitions. Within a few months a peace treaty was signed.
Much damage had been done at this point. The fertile lands had been destroyed by war. Despite this, Lor’Kastas continues to attack. Their bloodlust had reached a point where even their government could do nothing. News reached Faranthir that the capital of Lor’Kastas had fallen. An internal uprising by the military pushed the government to either resign or be killed. Those who refused were executed on the spot. Fear and rage drove the nation to implode. Few towns remained. Tessa’s mission after being so long at war was to hunt down the military leaders and free Lor’Kastas.
Within the span of a few months the elite unit did precisely what it intended. Stability in Lor’Kastas was returning with the help of some of the bound and aid from Orial. One target remained. His name is Girghiram. The last remaining general of the Lor’Kastas army who had not surrendered yet and was somewhere in Faranthir hiding away. When Tessa finally found him, he was preparing a ritual of binding for himself. After dealing with his defenders she saw as the ritual completed and the old general gained his own idol. To the general’s dismay he saw as this little clay doll shattered within seconds and drained his life away. In his mind the great power of the idol would help him gain the upper hand. By this point no one knew the extent of control Tessa had on her power. She could easily destroy any idols near her as much as she could mend them and even repair ones that were damaged in battle, saving the lives of the people whom she had grown to care for. With the fall of the general peace would soon arrive for Faranthir.
The bound whose powers were tied to the earth and the plants, slowly fixed the valleys to support farmlands once again. Lor’Kastas proved that Faranthir’s reluctance to share technology was warranted. Tessa, along with Linus and Thalia, volunteered to fix the capital of Faranthir. They were hailed as heroes. Statues of them were built in the city. Eventually Tessa left Faranthir to journey around the world, never to be seen again. Her parting gift to her friends was giving their idols the ability to regenerate and to heal any around them.
The slumber fades away again. This time my ethereal body floats in the vicinity of a large castle. The outside is intimidating. Ramparts of blackened stone. Embers floating in the air reveal the devastation of the surroundings. A moat full of lava seems to guard this place from whatever may be brave enough, or foolish enough to venture here. My current state awards me with the ease of flight. My intangibility provides protection from the environment. It also protects the environment from my own intervention, for I am viewing a historical event. Here, in this place, I witness the origin of Achymiarel. The vast lands around the castle are littered with volcanoes and pouring rivers of incandescent magma. A number of scorched trees suggest this was not the case before. Suddenly I am pulled into the castle, to a chamber with a large window to the outside and an opening in the ceiling. A powerful magician draws a rune circle using an enchanted piece of chalk. The intricate lines glitter in the flickering light of the multitude of candles and lamps. Several other mystical items have been placed on display pillars around the central object. This object is nothing more than a small twig, yet it emanates an incredible amount of magic. It may be what remains of a once powerful magical tree. Among the other items a jeweled necklace stands out along with a dragon’s nail, a horn and a scale. There is a scepter set at another altar that looks positioned specifically to channel its power to this magical construct. A low rumble changes the shape of some of the chalk lines. The magician rushes to fix the lines. He seems exhausted and at the same time extremely anxious, as if his very being depends on this to work.
After an hour of tinkering around the magician begins the incantations for this unknown ritual. It looks as if this is some form of infusion. Powerful magical items infused into a suitable receptacle. Surely this would not work though. Such a ritual needs to have an enormous amount of additional stabilizing agents. Items whose magical balance can contain the energies about to be unleashed. From the looks of it, the magician was out of time. Just outside the castle a large battalion of soldiers marched onwards. The moat would hold them for a while, until they could build a suitable bridge. Then there was the winding series of hallways and passages meant to confuse anyone not familiar with the design. Another low rumble moves the grains of sand and dirt. The shape of the chalk changed once more. This time, the magician disregards it. He knows it might be the ritual itself adjusting the chalk. Using Achymiarel’s power I could see an ethereal shape of what was the final result of the constant rumbling. That small twig, brimming with power, was causing the rumbles.
Fiery stones exploded in the air outside the castle. A magical barrier protected it from siege weapons. Meanwhile the soldiers had begun to arrange a series of stones and logs to cross the moat. They were forced to proceed quickly, for the wooden logs would soon burn. Inside the castle, the ritual was making progress. One of the items on the altars floated just above it and turned to dust. This line of dust floated into the twig at the center and started to reshape it. Before my eyes the small, seemingly insignificant twig, became the mighty Achymiarel. When the process was complete a magical shockwave pushed the magician away. He was walking near the large window and was thrown off onto a balcony. This newly created wand vibrated and pulsed. All the magic within was barely contained. The poor magician, hanging on for his life, was able to lift himself back to the room. He approached his creation, held it for a brief moment, and then an arrow pierced his chest. A sudden discharge of magic escaped his body. The archer did not expect such an effect, and was torn as if made of paper. Achymiarel, still on the magician’s shaking hand, could not be controlled. Its power, too intense to wield. Fearing for the end of his life, the magician could do little else. To protect this power from falling into the wrong hands he called down a lightning bolt. Yet, the bolt, instead of destroying him with the wand, supercharged it and caused it to open an interdimensional portal. The magician’s body disappeared and Achymiarel fell into the portal. The castle, strengthened by a multitude of spells and enchantments, began to crumble into a sea of lava due to the magician’s absence. Every volcano in the vicinity erupted. Whatever this army had come to claim was for naught. They would perish along with the magician they sought.
My body started to float away when I noticed the extent of what was happening in this world. In the far distance a gigantic tree stood. Barren of any leaves, of any life within. I surmised that the twig must have come from this tree. A world tree like that one is bound to the very life force of the world. To be in such a state means that the world was in its death throes. Floating further away, high in the sky the evidence spoke for itself. The volcanic wastelands were bordered by ruined kingdoms, dried farmlands and vast deserts. That army had come to claim the power of the last magician they knew of because they thought them responsible for what was happening. In truth, all the magically adept were searching for a solution to their problem. The dying of their world tree might have been a direct result of losing those who were magically attuned. They died out because of the arrogance and above all, the ignorance of their leaders. Achymiarel pulled me into a new dark abyss. A new slumber. What would be shown next?
(Related Story: Chronicle Zero – Achymiarel)
I awaken. The world around me is strange and unfamiliar. Where has this great power taken me? I ask myself. Achymiarel is still in my possession. There is no trace of where Ouros went or what happened to the guardians. Perhaps they were also transported here. There is no clear evidence, nothing to guide me. Standing up, I gaze upon the lands that I now inhabit. A piece of one of the large marble doors had crashed into the ground on a nearby hill. Upon moving closer to inspect it, I saw how its form shifted and warped. It was as if it lay in a state of flux. This thing didn’t belong here, but by extension neither did I. Something protected me. Could the wand have spared me? No way to be sure, but certainly my arrival here had some meaning.
A short walk to the top of the hill revealed two armies down in the valley. It looked like a standoff. Huddled down near some rocks, I looked on. The tension of such a conflict can be felt all around. After a few short minutes the armies commanded their advance. The clash let out a resounding echo of screams and metal clangs. I had not experienced such carnage in many years. Not since the war of the settlements. That old conflict eventually led to the splitting of the clans and a more lasting peace. We learned how that loss of life was irreplaceable. No kings or queens would ever drive us to such lengths. Sadly, some leaders found another way to drive us away. Ouros would pay for forsaking my people.
The wand responds to my anger. Such memories are difficult to repress. While the slaughter continues in the fields I rise from among the rocks that concealed my position. I lift Achymiarel high above my head and a bolt of lightning splits the clouded sky. Blinded by the old rage and the sacrifice of countless soldiers to some unknown cause, I decide to teach them a lesson. Yes, life is sacred, but without the threat of something far greater these people will never learn its value. A powerful thunderbolt skims across the ground sundering it and tearing apart everything that it encounters. It eventually reaches the commanders of these armies and shreds them. Their armor falling to the ground, bloodied and burnt. Not even their mounts were spared. The few soldiers that remained escaped back to their own territories. Achymiarel gave me the power to be both judge and executioner.
What have I done? What have I become? I question repeatedly as a sea of blood flows down through the valley and into a river. Thousands upon thousands of corpses lying dead. A testament of the fearsome power of this wand. This was more of a lesson to myself than to all those poor souls. For a moment I was walking through the field. Many still alive suffered from their wounds, either from sword or ax, or from the vicious thunder that split them apart. I looked back to the hill and suddenly I was on it again. The soldiers were clashing, fighting for whatever their cause was. I had seen a vision. Achymiarel showed me my rage unleashed upon unknown forces. They are innocent of the matters that affect me, but I had the power to destroy them utterly. This artifact works as if it had a will of its own. With time I would come to better understand it. For now, a new dark abyss forms beneath me. This time, it does not swallow the world around me, instead it drags me down into a slumber. A repetition of what happened at Chymus. Maybe this time I will find Ouros.
“The light of the flames serves us well.”, said elder Yelene. “They keep the miasma at bay, while we continue to live our lives in this tainted world. In our struggle to survive, we are constantly reminded of what was lost. In today’s lesson I will recount the old story so that it is forever etched into your minds. One day you will tell this to your own hatchlings.”
“Elder Yelene, we heard the story last year. Why repeat it?”, Kivis, a young crowmaran asked, curious.
“As I said, it is so you do not forget. The day we forget where we came from is the day that world will be completely lost.”
“Then please proceed, apologies for my interruption.”
The elder nodded and continued, “We owe the great lost lands of Ilneas, our original birthplace, a great gratitude. The older generations remember the lush green forests and beautiful blue skies. Those lands provided freedom, nourishment and the chance for the companionship of the other races. Thankfully the crowmaran survived the great catastrophe. It was a slow but steady decline. Very few could predict that the miasma would become the downfall of Ilneas. This horrible calamity was like a beast that hungered for everything it could grasp. As you well know, the purpur fog of death, the miasma, holds no mercy for us. Little by little the forests were lost. The skies became poisonous. We braced for what would be the end of our world, until the great flame was found. A group composed of a crowmaran, a human and a minos searched day and night to find it. The great temple of the guardian flame was discovered by these brave heroes. The miasma cowered away from the temple and the flame itself. Our greatest scholars learned that the flame could be carried by specially built lanterns. This allowed us settlements in what little remained of the floating mountains. Sadly the flame was worn thin. The temple eventually succumbed to the miasma when the last bit was taken. The great heroes fell with it. It was their final attempt at restoring the flame somehow. Without the flame at the temple the miasma grew to spread all across Ilneas and beyond. Today, few have the courage to venture forth and risk what little of the flame they possess. There is one hope remaining to save our world. If we ever find the temple of the flame again, and light the great chalice, its light might guide us to vanquishing the miasma.” Elder Yelene concluded the story. “Any questions?”
“Can we do it? Can we find the temple?”, asked Kivis.
“We can only hope. It is why the crowmaran continue to search. With some tinkering we discovered better ways to increase our limited supply of the guardian flames. Yet, we must still be very careful. We dare not spread our own flames too thin.”
“Why did the temple not guide us before?”, this time it was Alliria who asked. One of the older crows in the group.
“No one is certain, but some time after the flame at the temple was extinguished a traveler claimed he got a glimpse of the temple and that there was something new. Something different. His recount pointed to a set of mirrors that could spread the light of the guardian flame.”
“Did those mirrors appear now?”
“We can only speculate that they were always there, but covered in vegetation. The miasma, ever consuming, must have revealed them by chance.”
“Elder Yelene? Can we go now? It’s almost dinnetime.”, little Baybill asked. He is one of the younger hatchlings.
“Yes, yes. I will not keep you further.”
As the others left, Kivis stayed behind.
“You are thinking of leaving, am I right?”
“Yes elder. I cannot in good conscience ignore the story anymore. Every year we hold on to the hope that one of the expeditionaries will find the temple again.”
“Remember to tell your mother that you are leaving. Many have ignored my advice, but instead of flying off into the unknown, perhaps it would be best to keep those claws to the ground.”
“Isn’t that counterproductive? We want to find the temple as soon as possible.”
“Correct, finding it is imperative. Flying off into the miasma, hoping to follow its currents, will lead you nowhere. The expeditionaries have all ignored my warnings. Many of them returned completely exhausted and with not a clue of the temple’s whereabouts. Please, you are one of my dear students. Will you heed my words?”
“Where should I go then?”
“Us crow people once had a beautiful city in these lands. The floating rocks of Kervel have been our home for many ages. After the miasma passed they say these stones, or rather mountains, drifted slightly apart, but remain close enough. If you find a way to traverse them, then perhaps you can find something in the abandoned city that can help.”
“Do you know of anything specific?”
“Many magical artifacts were hidden in the city. I have no doubt that some may yet remain.”
“Elder Yelene! Cease this nonsense!”, Elder Xorilis abruptly interrupted Elder Yelene.
“Goodness, Elder Xorilis, why do you deny my teachings?”
“Because it will end up killing him. He must fly if wishes to search for the temple!”
“With respect Elder Xorilis but I will do as I please. Everyone before me has done the same and the results speak for themselves.”, Kivis said.
“Pah! Then go on! I will not see you off.”, Elder Xorilis left, rather angry, at Kivis’ defiance.
“Pay him no mind. I will see you off when the time comes.”, said Yelene.
“Thank you. I’ll head home now. Mother will not like it, but I feel this adventure calling to me.”
“Go then my dear.”
Kivis left. Elder Yelene was rather proud to have moved the strong hearted crowmaran to action. In all her years of teaching the old story of their world, very few actually had the courage to do so. Much less to defy the wishes of the other elders. They always preached that flight, as their gift from nature, should be the method of translation in the search for the temple of the guardian flame. Anything else would be insulting, or so they said. As was their tradition, the other elders ignored Yelene’s advice. She was aware that to find the temple it would require more than just flying around the world. Too many of the expeditionaries that left, never returned. Elder Yelene always knew that the secrets held in Ilneas would help the expeditionaries. It is her hope that Kivis will be able to discover something new that will alter the fate of the world.
The blog has reached more than 40 followers! I am, of course, thrilled. As always, I am incredibly grateful to everyone and hope that you enjoy the stories that I write. Starlance Renegade recently concluded and now it’s back to the short stories. Some of these will follow the initial starting short, Chronicle Zero. Other short stories may also take elements from previous short stories which you will likely be able to connect together. Like before short stories will be posted once a week, with the exception of next week as I will be on vacation visiting my family.
Thank you so much for visiting, following, reading and liking the posts.
Episode 10: New Endeavors
My ship approached the King’s Crown slowly. I was asked to join up with Ivanov and the others in celebration of the victory over Starlance. It has been four months since the battle in sector Iota. In all that time we didn’t have a chance to celebrate. Everyone around the system was enthralled by the judicial hearings. Representatives from Sol and Sirius were there. The government of the Sirius System noted the Liberation Front’s efforts to protect some of their assets investigating the Centauri system. They knew there was trouble, but not that it had reached such a magnitude. The people from Sol brushed the conflict off, saying it was bound to happen in such an unregulated system. They proposed to create a central system of government, much like the one in Sirius. The Liberation Front agreed, but only if they had a hand in its creation as well as having representation from all the colonies.
As the politics played out in the background I continued taking missions to keep my mind off of it all. Now back at the King’s Crown it is still painful to admit how my family was involved in all of this. Regardless, I promised myself I would try to enjoy this time among friends. They had become a true family.
“King’s Crown, this is Adrian. Reporting in for docking procedure.”
“Adrian! No need to be so formal. Get your ship landed at the hangar and get to the bridge!”, Ivanov said loudly.
Once at the bridge I was greeted by Mara, James, Crystal, Ivanov and Patricia.
“We have a bit of a surprise for you”, behind Crystal was Dana and Vivian. They had been invited to celebrate with us. I gave them each a hug and stood by their side while the newly reestablished Captain Villanova addressed us.
“Taking down General Greer was no easy feat, but we did it.”, said Patricia.
“I wonder, how long were you planning to use the Eclipse?”, I had been curious since seeing the ship back in action.
“That was Ivanov’s idea actually. We began to feed the nearby colony bits of data and resources to start rebuilding. Since we used most of the internal hull, no big changes could be seen from outside. By the time we were ready to depart, Starlance was already knee deep in battle. The Eclipse’s more powerful reactor was able to energize the dispersion shield more effectively too, so we had the perfect defense against the Starlance Cruisers”
“Is that why the transport carrying the shielding failed?”
“Patricia, I wanted to ask, what happened to Major Caplan?”
“Ah, yes. Poor Vance passed away on the day of the attack against Proxima Centauri One. He was helping others escape when the corridor he was in collapsed. I didn’t even get a chance to thank him for everything he had done. In the end I had to evacuate as well. We found his body during the reconstruction and gave him a proper burial.”
“A terrible story for sure. I’m sure that man was a hero, but today, today we are all heroes.”, declared Ivanov.
Most of the time spent here has been great. I stood aside for a moment and Dana approached me.
“Are you alright Adrian?”
“I’m… not sure how to feel. Our family is a broken mess”
“Don’t think too much about that, Adrian. Despite what happened with dad, I think mom would be proud of what you did.”
“For sure”, I said as Vivian arrived to join us.
“Hey Adrian, will you move to Sirius? There is a lot of work there. If you’re interested.”
“I think I will eventually spend a year or two over there. It will take my mind off of everything, especially Starlance.”
“Well, once you arrive at the system let me know, I can connect you with the mercenary guild.”
“Sounds like a plan. What about you Dana? What will you do?”, I asked, curious as to what my sister planned after all the conflict we had seen.
“Oh you know, keep doing my job of course. It has been a rough time here, but there are a lot of people who still need help and medical attention. I want to be there for them.”
“That’s great, you’d better stay safe.”
“Everything should be fine now”, Captain Villanova joined us as well. “Starlance High Command and the new government are working to maintain peace. Everyone should feel safe, especially in the colonies.”
The celebration continued through the hours. We reminisced on the battles and the friendship we developed. Despite the hardship, Starlance was the central thing that brought us together. Hopefully the organization will do better in the future. High command was adamant in creating a new set of rules to keep the force in line with its mission to protect.
As for me, I go out again, back to my base. Once there I take a moment to relax, write down a log entry and lie down in bed. A small window shows me the splendor of space. “I have to move all this to Sirius”, I thought. So, I started making a list of items. The celebration had taken its toll though, and not long after starting said list I fell asleep.
Episode 9: Hidden Eclipse
The transport with the experimental shield finally arrived. They positioned themselves between me and the Starlance Legacy, which was about to fire. The other two cruisers were too busy with the assault happening around them to care much for what was going on in my area. Finally, the Legacy fired its hyper cannon. The beam of energy hit the transport. All the energy was successfully diverted, but at the cost of overloading every system. The transport didn’t have the necessary safeguards to protect itself and the overflow destroyed it. If the Legacy fired again, and it would, there was nothing to stop the beam.
I thought I would be ready for this. It felt like the end of a grand adventure. I thought of Dana and everyone else. Then I looked down. Systems were still offline, auto repair was engaged, but would most likely not finish in time. Suddenly communications went back up.
“Ivanov, this is Adrian. I’m dead in space. I can’t move and I need a pick up. Maybe I can fix the Star Shadow before the next group arrives, or else this will continue to be a slaughter”
“Hang on tight, we will do everything we can to help. I shouldn’t have to remind you that you owe me again, hah!”
The King’s Crown was positioned between me and the Legacy. I was rather shocked by such a selfless move from Ivanov.
“I know you can hear me, Adrian. I promised high command I would hunt you down personally and here I am. You will witness the slow painful death of the movement you defended back then. Afterwards I will see you annihilated by the Legacy’s main cannon”
They fired again. The King’s Crown was hit. Its shields were depleted and its engines failed. Some of my systems were back online. Scans indicated that another blast would come soon. They must have greatly improved the charging systems. Most likely a lesson from previous engagements. This time there would be no ships to interfere. No one was close enough to block. Yet, through some sort of miracle the shadow of a ship did indeed block me once again. This ship had just jumped into the system. When the Legacy fired its weapon, the energy was dispersed by the shield on this ship. After a thorough scan I was able to identify it. It was the Proxima Eclipse. Somehow Patricia was able to slowly repair its systems right under Starlance’s nose. They even added numerous upgrades. The Eclipse could now go toe to toe against the Supremacy class cruisers, and boy did it do a damn good job.
My ship’s systems came back online in the nick of time. I flew off toward one of the cruisers while riding the Proxima Eclipse’s shadow. Its shield protected me and others from more attacks by the Legacy. This was the turning point of the battle. A report arrived from the cruiser that was boarded. Mara and James were successful in capturing it and quickly turned its main weapon against the other. Starlance didn’t anticipate this and the other ship didn’t stand a chance. Now only the Legacy was left. I knew father wouldn’t give up, so I told everyone to muster their courage and converge on the Starlance Legacy.
Hours went by maneuvering around the enemy ship’s defenses. Its hyper cannon was no longer a threat, it was either blocked or could not get a proper lock on any targets. There were too many of us. Already some of their own fighters were abandoning the battlefield. Shortly after that an intercepted message arrived, Starlance High Command gave the order to retreat. It was now the Legacy against the Liberation Front’s fleet. The sheer number of ships was overwhelming and in a short time the Legacy was disabled.
After the battle Starlance High Command assigned negotiators to deliver the terms of their surrender. According to some new intel that we received, General Greer, my father, had basically taken control of Starlance by carefully picking the information that was reported to High Command. Of course, High Command had a lot of blame for the war. It was their own arrogance and aggressive methods that led to the colonies not wanting their service anymore. The security group had become more of a paramilitary arm that ran unopposed for decades.
I visited the brig on the Legacy, where my father was being held. He had resisted his arrest when his own soldiers tried to turn him over, despite the pleas from High Command. To me, he had simply gone over the edge. He became obsessed with power and this military life. This blinded pride eventually became his downfall.
“General Dalton Greer”, I stood right outside his cell.
“Why are you here? I don’t want to see you. Look at what you’ve done! Have you no shame?”
“This was your doing. I followed the path to justice. The one you showed me at some point many years ago. You were a hero of Starlance and the system when the colonies needed it. Now look at yourself”
“I did what I had to do. These rogues twisted the truth!”
“Stop lying! You pulled your family into this and now some are locked up too. You cared about nothing else but your career in Starlance. In the end mom knew what you were becoming”
“Don’t mention her! She is the reason you’re so weak!”
“You’re delusional. She is the reason I am strong. Stronger than you. I leave you, father. Grim days await you, and I won’t be here to see it. I hope I never see you again. You almost got me killed”
“Adrian… wait! Please, don’t leave! I… I’m sorry! Adrian!”
He knew that he would be spending a lot of time on his own. My sisters and my brother were mostly following orders, or at least that will be their defense. I’m sure they were also driven by pride and ambition. I feel like there are still some rough days ahead.
Episode 8: Confrontation
A new plan is now set in motion. The experimental shield designed to disperse the energy from the Supremacy Cruiser’s main cannon has been installed on a transport. Starlance has issued its call to meet at sector Iota. Meanwhile I provided the necessary tactical knowledge and strategies to use in the coming battle. Overall we would be divided into multiple teams that would arrive at different times to the battle. The very first team would be the most vulnerable, but the main contingency for the beginning of the engagement is distance. The King’s Crown and a small number of Liberation Front battleships will arrive at the sector close to its edge. The enemy cruisers would be located too far to get a proper lock-on with their weaponry, so they are forced to engage using only their fighters. They could risk a jump, but I know they won’t try it. A short distance jump would need them to expend a lot of energy and the recovery would give us too big an opening.
While the cruisers attempt to close the gap, another team will jump in behind them and begin a new engagement. Our target will be to whittle down the shields of at least one of the vessels. An elite commando team, led by Mara and James, will board the weakened ship and take control. Their primary objective is to turn the main cannon against another of the Starlance Supremacy Cruisers, but they do have orders to set off a bomb in the main reactor if they cannot secure the bridge. Our latest intel pointed to several new systems being installed on the cruisers. Mainly one that aims to prevent chain reactions from runaway energy. Destroying the reactor would only mean that the ship would be powerless. Despite not destroying the ship, capturing it should suffice. The same will be done with the others once they have been crippled. The key to victory will be dealing enough damage to the hyper cannons so that they can be disabled. That’s where I come in.
The Star Shadow’s plasma cannon has been replaced with an EM burst launcher. It requires a slow recharge, much like the plasma cannon, but its projectile is basically a ball of contained electromagnetic energy. Upon impact, the energy is released and can quickly disable electronic systems.
Our most difficult battle approached. I left the King’s Crown to make the jump to sector Iota. Dana and I spoke briefly a few hours ago. She was ordered to stand by at a medical station to provide support. To my relief, she would be far from the front line. I would, once again, face the brunt of father’s wrath.
“Adrian to King’s Crown, are we all set?”
“This is Ivanov, the fleet is ready.”
The largest number of ships I had seen in a while. All the logistics were handled mostly by Mara and Ivanov, so I wasn’t sure how many ships we had. I estimated at least 25 ships of varying power.
“I don’t have to remind you that this mission is of critical importance”, Mara said to the fleet. “The most important objective is not to completely destroy Starlance, but to cripple their ships and capture as many as we can. If we succeed, the Liberation Front will have succeeded in freeing the Centauri Systems. Afterwards, the long road to recovery. For now, let us begin with the first phase of the plan”
“Liberation fleet, this is Ivanov. The first group will be leaving momentarily. There are five ships equipped with the EM burst launchers. Three of these will arrive with us, the first group. It is imperative that these ships be guarded at all costs. The operation hinges on their survival. Groups two and three will stand by until the allotted time. Groups four and five will be called as soon as the target cruiser is disabled. The rest of the fleet will be called once we have secured our advantage. Group one, move to the jump coordinates now”
The commanding presence of Ivanov was a bit reminiscent of Starlance. Of course, if he heard me saying that he would promptly tell me to go to hell. In any case, we achieved a fairly decent command structure for this operation. Not too shabby for a band of pirates, mercenaries and Liberation Front branded as terrorists.
It is time. “Fighters, ready to jump on my mark”, I said to my squadron. A total of nine fighters accompanied me. Others would launch from the larger ships and provide support against enemy fighters.
We arrived, but to our surprise systems only detected two of the three Supremacy class cruisers. It would have to do. There was no way to know for sure what had happened. I believed Starlance was being cautious, so I alerted Ivanov of what may come and proceeded with our plan. As soon as the cruisers were in communications range a message arrived to us.
“Centauri Liberation Front, you are ordered to stand down. You are out gunned, out classed and soon out maneuvered. Surrender now and we may yet show you mercy”
That wasn’t father. There was no way he would miss this battle. Regardless, I focused on the task. Starlance launched their squadrons. We could do little to stem whatever they were planning. So we press on.
The more time passes, the greater the risk of losing more ships. Already the first group has lost three battleships to those damned hyper cannons. Finally the second and third groups began to arrive, reinforcing the assault from behind enemy lines. Starlance countered with a group of battleships that jumped right between the Supremacy cruisers and the newly arrived groups. Our plans had not worked as well as we had originally thought, but we were still able to weaken one of the ships. Before the next group arrived with the boarding team the third cruiser made its entrance, it was the Starlance Legacy.
“You clearly didn’t think this engagement well enough. If you will not stand down, then you forfeit whatever rights you thought you had.”, my father’s voice spread clearly through our communication devices. We had to make our move now. The boarding team arrived and their target was finally made vulnerable by destroying its shields. A blast came from the direction of the Starlance Legacy. The targets were the fighters themselves. Such power was overwhelming and destroyed every one of the fighters that were hit. “It can’t be…”, I thought. It looked like they opted for extermination, but there was something else. The ships in my group that had the EM burst cannons were directly targeted. He was searching for me and he knew that the energy difference would give my position off. I hurried to shut down part of my weapon systems, but that was a mistake. The energy differential could be easily measured and used for targeting. I had but a few minutes to react. A decoy signal might help. Only a few short seconds after deploying the signal and a blast passed by my ship. The uncontained energy was so powerful everything went off line. He had me, and he knew it. It was only a matter of time before the next shot would wipe me out of existence.
Episode 7: Edge of Proxima
Three more months of skirmishes. By now, neighboring systems were reporting an all out war between the Starlance Security Force and the Centauri Liberation Front. Many of these systems worried that, should Starlance’s ambition grow, they would be the next target. We folded most of our forces into the CLF not long after the destruction of the Supremacy Cruiser back in sector Gamma. I provided proof that those ships were not invincible. Starlance supply lines were also being hit hard by a counter offensive launched by the Liberation Front. This also held back the construction of additional cruisers. Despite some of the changes I remained a mercenary, mainly to retain my independence and a little to spite Ivanov who wanted to keep me as a personal guard for the King’s Crown. Jokes aside, being a mercenary provided the chance to take on jobs from other groups. Namely, a Sirius research fleet was dispatched to an area of open space and asked for a small fleet of fighters to escort them. Since the news of the war broke, none of them wanted to hire Starlance until the conflict was resolved. So, they turned to unaffiliated mercenaries. Now, I may not be affiliated with the Liberation Front, but I fully support their campaign against Starlance.
The Sirius research fleet is mainly composed of science vessels. Most, if any, have no weapons equipped. Thankfully, the area they’re traveling through is a fairly quiet region of space, at the edge of the Proxima Centauri system. I just arrived at the rendezvous point to meet with the other mercenaries and begin our escort.
“This is Adrian, sending identification data. Ready to begin mission”
“Copy that Adrian. Data received, we will be departing to our next research point in a few minutes”, the leader of the science team was diligent in verifying all the mercenaries they hired. They also provided us with the list so we had some idea of who we were fighting with. Lo and behold, I found a name that I recognized, Vivian Mathews. I was quick to send her a message. Maybe we could catch up if the trip was quiet.
As we approached a large nebula, I received a communication request from one of the assault ships accompanying us. It was Vivian.
“I would never have guessed that I would be seeing you again, Adrian. Even more so, like this, as mercenaries. How have you been?”. It was Vivian alright. She seemed in high spirits.
“I’ve been alright. Too many battles to count recently”
“Yeah, I’ve kept an eye on the ongoing war. Frankly after what happened at the Proxima Eclipse I didn’t think I would see anyone from there still alive. I’m glad you survived though. I escaped thanks to Captain Villanova’s sacrifice. She stayed behind and made sure most of us were able to leave the ship. I ended up moving to the Sirius system and took up different jobs as a mechanic. This latest gig has been the most stable. Been working with this band of misfits for almost six months now”
“I see, I’m also glad to find you well”, I spoke about my own misadventures. Mercenary work seems slightly more regulated in Sirius. They even have guilds, or so Vivian tells me. Their involvement in more political disputes is often avoided. Perhaps that could be my next step. Move to that system, join a guild, maybe even join up with Vivian more often. As I got lost in thought, the beeping of a warning startled me back to reality. Two battleships had just jumped into the system.
“Honestly, I don’t care about the usual pleasantries the other captains blab about. This is Starlance territory. None of you are welcome here. Prepare to surrender your ships, research or whatever it is you are hiding. We are at open war, you might as well be aiding our enemy”
The lead science vessel sent a message trying to convince them that they had no hostile intentions, but the Starlance captain would not budge. As quickly as they could, the research fleet began to retreat while we covered their backs. One smaller science vessel was closely studying the nebula, and thus, had not been able to communicate. I took it upon myself to get close to them and inform them of the situation. Bad move on my part. The battleships were scanning the entire area and very quickly they realized who I was.
“You! How dare you harbor a known criminal! Destroy them! Launch all fighter squadrons!”
“Looks like my reputation caught up with me. Vivian, do you copy?”
“Don’t worry Adrian, we’ve got a few tools on our side to protect them. Get that other ship out of here”
In a few minutes I arrived near the science vessel to warn them.
“Mercenary Adrian, you are interfering with our research. Your presence is destabilizing our measurements. By the way, that is a lot of power consump…”
“Forget all that, a Starlance assault is happening now against your fleet. Join back up with them and leave. It is no longer safe here for you to remain”
“Oh, goodness, why not lead with that?! Ready engines! We leave immediately!”
Some scientists can be a bit stubborn, but I guess it is part of their job to be persistent. Regardless, having them head back was a relief. I was a bit disappointed that they had to cut back their expedition. Research like this eventually led us to the stars. I escorted them back to the fleet. A few enemy squadrons had caught up with us and the mercenary escort was currently engaging them.
“Hey Adrian, what do you say we take the fight to those battleships. They’ll be too busy with us to do anything about the research fleet”
“Got any ideas in mind?”
“I’d rather not outright destroy them. We have an EM discharge cannon that can disable specific targets, but we’ll need their shields weakened”
“I’ll take care of that, let’s go!”, the ship Vivian is on is much larger than my fighter. They’re equipped with a larger variety of tools and weapons. I guess it gives them the versatility needed to take almost any job. While the other mercenaries make short work of the attacking fighters, we sneak to the backline and attack the battleships.
The attack on the battleships went smoothly. Our combined tactics allowed us to maneuver around their cannon fire. Their shields took time to break down, but we were successful. Two more squadrons tried to engage us, but by the time the battleships were disabled there was nothing else they could do. Starlance decided to retreat today, that is, once they finish restoring their crippled systems. All in all, they sacrificed their fighter pilots for a claim the security force cannot back up. The research fleet left without a scratch and my finances are doing very good thanks to that mission.
I promised Vivian that I would go to the Sirius system someday to visit. First though, I needed to resolve the current issue with Starlance. Ivanov had just the thing too. A message arrived from him saying that Starlance wanted to settle things with the Liberation Front. He sent coordinates. The meeting would be in about a week. Just a short time to prepare for, what I guess, could be Starlance’s final stand. Also gave me enough time to plan some additional contingencies.