Chapter 13 – They Search
The arched building sticking out from the center of the military base was a sign to Hocdin that this base would house what he sought. The tower looked like a small replica of the firing tower on Sear. Walking into the courtyard Hocdin displayed little worry as the planet had been under a strict biological quarantine for over 320 cycles. The disease that had killed the Moki was well known. The entire Coalition greatly feared that the disease would rise again. If such a disease were to spread on a core world it would easily decimate an already weakened Coalition, so even desperate scavengers stayed clear of this planet. Hocdin chuckled lightly at the thought of how many would be hugely upset if they knew there was no disease left here. Walking into the administration building at the front of the complex dust covered everything.
Hocdin’s search for the lock box referenced on Sear had brought him to this military installation that wasn’t an officially registered military installation. The guard towers and hidden primary defense stations surrounding the base had painted quite the shocking picture of how much security was expended to keep the correct people in and out of the base. The outpost was nearly half a continent away from anything considered civilized. Hocdin had gotten lucky at finding this place. Original maps showed a vast rain forest blanketing the entire region. Now it was nothing but grass, weeds, and one intimidating Coalition Fortress. The tree’s that once stood sheltering the facility were nothing but ash in the ground. Hocdin wondered how much of the planet was covered in the smoke from a fire that ravaged a thousand miles of rain forest.
Despite the layers of dust and ash covering everything Hocdin easily notices the lack of crystal sheets strewn about the tables and desks. No power packs or rifles remained either. Even when Hocdin did find living quarters they were mostly bare. The only personal items left were those of a Moki family. Hocdin figured no one had bothered to deal with the belonging of Moki if they died prior to evacuating the outpost. The other outposts he had seen were stark contrasts to this. Shift assignments, daily reports, even Generals Only orders were left strewn about. This however really got to Hocdin, it was too meticulous. At the level with which all information about the base was removed Hocdin begins to wonder why the base itself wasn’t torn down or bombed into ash.
The uneasy feeling in Hocdin is given new fuel as he approaches a doorway half way into the reception building. Cautiously he edges toward the door way. He moves his hand up to the black scorch mark on the edge of the door frame rubbing it lightly. The headset display lets Hocdin know the mark had been there for some time. Now that Hocdin had something to fear he begins to pick apart everything he can see. Dust on the floor was less dense then the dust that had fallen on desks or stations. The dust on the floor didn’t have any sign of ash from the fire meaning it had to have been swept after the fire. Looking at the floor leading going into the room he can make out that something had been dragged out of the room.
Hocdin pulls a pistol, slowly moving into the room. He looks around in shock as the three walls were littered with a few dozen energy round marks. Turning to the door Hocdin can only make out a few hits against that wall leading him to conclude those who were in this room when they were ambushed didn’t have much of a chance. He walks around the room slowly inspecting the wall and floors finding evidence of a strong acid used to destroy the blood from those who were killed. The floor had also been swept up but the dust was just piled to the edge of the walls. As he goes to leave, the scorch mark causes him to stop. He puts his hand over it rubbing some of the mark off. He turns again to look at the floor realizing the attackers had put in a lot of effort to remove the dust and blood but hadn’t bothered to deal with the scorch marks on the wall.
Exiting the front reception building and heading into the main lab and control center, it becomes obvious to Hocdin that the raid that killed those in the previous building was part of a much larger attack. Further into the building Hocdin suddenly realizes that the scouring of the blood wasn’t for covering their tracks. A first raid likely cleaned everything which is why the dust on the floors was so much lighter but the last attack here was done so no one could identify who was killed here. No body, no blood, no body oils, no hair, no skin, there was no bio-signatures of any kind left behind. If anyone arrived they would know something happened, but not who lived or died. For a moment Hocdin entertained the notion that the defenders fought off the raid and survived, but regardless of how many more rooms he found and how many scorch marks along the walls, it became clear the attacking force far exceeded the defenders abilities.
Walking into the command room there was only a few trails where the bodies had been moved. While it was a command room during its official operation it’s later occupants used it for storage. Several boxes line the walls. He walks over to the boxes to see what sort of goods would have been stored when he realizes that had such soldiers or mercenaries eliminated the previous occupants, it’s possible trapping supplies was well within their repertoire. Walking away from the supplies he begins going from door way to door way trying to find some map or idea of where the lock boxes were. Mid stride past the center door he freezes, slowly smiling he turns and places his foot back onto the floor.
“Who knew?” He says smiling. He steps through the foot and a half thick door way making his way to a console when he hears a rustle in the distance. Stopping he turns to look out the door his pistol aimed to shoot anything that might peer in. Standing there a few moments he finally forces his paranoia down. He sighs kicking himself for believing that what happened on Sear would happen again. He inspects the one by two foot control. He bends down to find the two Coalition standard emergency power connectors at the base of the console. He leans against the wall as he pulls his rifle from the holster on his back. As he reaches for the battery pack the console powers on. He spins to the doorway with rifle still in hand. He slowly creeps to the door checking out as much as he can see. Hunching down onto his knees he jumps out into the command room spinning wildly to see if anyone would attack him. He clinches his teeth realizing how stupid he had been. He walks back into the box room to the console. He slides the rifle back into the holster but ensures to leave the holster for his pistols and rifle open.
Tapping a button on the back of his glove the number he had copied from the console on Sear displays across a screen on the back of his glove. He scrolls through the display of numbered boxes. Finally reaching the last number he stares down at his glove and then back up to the console.
“Come ON!” Hocdin yells slamming his other fist into the lock box door next to the console. Another exasperated search and failure. When he had found this base he hadn’t considered the fact that another hidden base could be somewhere on this planet. In the moment of fleeting hope he remembers how big the complex is. He considers that another lock box room could be installed in the same base, especially considering the already secret nature of the base. He hits the search bar at the bottom and keys in the number and hits locate. The results screen displays a “Box not found error” in white text, something he hadn’t seen before. Entering in the number again the same error comes up but in red text, the usual color of that error. He puts in the number again displaying the white error text. This time he keys in Quoris’ name, believing the first error had activated a password input screen. The screen displays the red error again.
After a dozen tries he stands and stares at the white text. His mind moving back and forth about what he knew of the religion before he is struck by an idea. With the white error still on the screen he inputs ‘Horun’. A stack of lock boxes slide backwards then to the side allowing passage into a secret room. Sliding through the passage he steps into a large room with a pedestal at the center with a sealed box on top with a light shining down on it. The room shocked Hocdin as being quite large. Nearly six or seven people could stand shoulder to shoulder across and just as many deep. Likely such a room would be hidden well if the heads of the Coalition were part of this religion. Hocdin smirks again remembering that the password had been the name of their god. He was uncertain if this was smart or truly the dumbest thing he had seen. Coming to the pedestal he clicks the button on the top of the box. The lights dim leaving the center light bright as the box unseals and opens. The book lying in the middle had a great inordinate image etched into the thick crystal cover of a bright light emanating from what can only be described as a person sitting in an old building that was larger than the cover would allow.
Flipping through the pages Hocdin is certain that this is the manuscript that the commander on Sear had referenced. The process of giving thanks and what rules to follow to fulfill the needs of the religion. Anecdotes from the first pilgrims to survive the journey to the Horun, but few clues are given on its exact location. Hocdin notices passages talking about ways to proves ones worth to start the journey. It also details a few treacheries and those that were thought unworthy and ultimately ‘proved’ unworthy since they went mad before the presence of the Horun. Towards the back of the book an additional page of primitive thin material is left with a drawn picture of a building. Staring at the building Hocdin is shocked by the intricacies and shape of it. He hadn’t seen such architecture used by the Coalition. Looking at the shape Hocdin realizes that such a structure would be very hard to navigate. Ignoring the main structure of it the top arch of the building reminded him a bit of the firing tower at the center of this complex and the one on Sear.
Placing the drawing back into the book Hocdin continues to skim the last portion reading more about the powers that were bestowed to the faithful followers. Much of this was similar to what he had seen Rustin perform during their battle but it also went into detail how the Draia followers would often go to gold ranks while Ling followers were granted green level gates but also maintained a few abilities similar to the Farasha, Eiris and Moki. Such knowledge troubled him a bit. This sort of power would easily make the black guard of the Supreme Commander the most powerful army in the Coalition. If there was ever an attempt at revolt they could decimate most, if not all, of the coalition military. The civilians would have even less of a chance of revolting. The click of the boot was subtle but close. Turning his head to the left Hocdin sees three Vino standing there staring at him. Closing the book he turns his body seeing two more on the other side. He turns his face back to look at the one in the middle.
“To be snuck up on twice in six milli-cycles, my teacher would be disgraced with me. First the Neerkin and now a group of Vino” Hocdin says keeping things light but dropping the name of the Neerkin in there to give pause to the group. Having not struck at him yet Hocdin knows they are second guessing an attack whether it is because of what he said or not he is unsure. Sensing the hidden Vino codes bouncing in the energy between the Vino Hocdin slowly raises his gate power. The slight outpouring of the gate energy at that close distance disrupts the delicate Vino communication. The group stares at him unhappy that he had done that but were unwilling to commit to any kind of recourse. Hocdin smiles at the Vino in the center. He had noticed a small insignia on their uniforms and guessed rightly that the center Vino with the more ornate insignia was the leader. The Vino continues the conversation regardless of his presence.
“He has to be the one that was tracked leaving out of the belt.” The Vino to the far left says.
“The Neerkin don’t let survivors go voluntarily. He could be a spy” The Vino to the left says.
“He is strong.” The far right says.
“Not more than us.” The left says.
“He could have the power.” The far right says
“He has some power, Draia are gate users. It’s not their powers.” The center Vino says.
“He’s in our way.” The far left says.
“He doesn’t have to be.” The right says
“He could tell the leadership.” the far left says.
“Yes, you know the rules.” the left says
“Does his ship remind you of current Coalition standards?” The center Vino responds.
“You know the rules.” The far left says. The center Vino turns his head to look at the two on the left unhappy he is being pushed into this. Hocdin can tell his chances of getting out of this without a fight were slim. The conversation had only given him a small amount of time to prepare an escape but much of what would be needed would have to be improvised. Seeing the leader slowly tensing his muscles Hocdin knew just a spark was needed to set off the explosion of battle. So an explosion he would give them. Hocdin lifts his right hand from the center of the pedestal where he had placed it at the beginning of the conversation. He moves it quietly into the box at the top, grabbing the religious manuscript. He can slightly feel the heat building from the center of the Pedestal where his hand had been. The brightness of the energy finally grows large enough to be seen around Hocdin’s body. The Vino look from the light up to him realizing they had lost the initiative of the attack. Hocdin smiles at the group as the black energy at the very bottom of his feet activates to teleport him to the furthest back corner of the room leaving the growing bomb welling in the pedestal to blunt any attack the Vino had planned.
Remembering what the Sear commander had written about the back door Hocdin slips the book into a pouch on the back of his suit as he places his left hand on the back wall. Sealing the pouch Hocdin sends shock waves into the back wall feeling for the doorway the commander had spoken of. Finding the seals and latches of the door he intensifies the seismic waves through the wall while generating a shield to protect himself from the explosion. He is barely able to get a second wave of energy into the seals and latches before the pedestal explodes violently. The concussion finishes the work that Hocdin had started. The flame engulfs much of the room with little area for it to escape until a second concussion sends the hidden door flying down the hallway it was perpendicular to. The suddenly large opening in the wall causes the fire and pressure to rush out.
The escaping explosion creates a vacuum in the room catching one of the Vino unaware. The vacuum lifts the Vino off his feet and pulls him across the room to the door way. The group sees him but is unable to react in time. Hocdin releases his shield pushing himself into the air towards the Vino. Hocdin generates a tempered blade in one hand and starts creating another explosive in the other. Hocdin cuts through the Vino shield running him through and sticking the sword into the rock doorway. Hocdin holds on to the handle of the sword as he is kept afloat by the vast wind of the explosion. He raises his other hand which still contained the explosive sphere. Crushing it in his hand Hocdin makes it reappear at the same spot as the pedestal was right as the previous explosion was dwindling. The remaining Vino charge out the front door of the lock box room trying to get clear of Hocdin’s second explosive. The explosion this time was far more powerful. He lets go of the sword generating one of his strongest shields around him. The fire from the explosion engulfs the secret room instantly. The explosion breaks apart the walls and sends Hocdin flying sixty feet down the hallway. Rolling to a stop Hocdin can see much of the walls in the distance collapsing as the supports and even the ground beneath the base had blown into the sky or melted.
He gets to his feet not wishing to give his predators any chances. He runs down the hallway away from the room, tapping at flight controls on the holographic display on his left glove. He orders his ship to pick him up at the nearest perimeter wall and was happy to find it accept the order letting him know the Vino hadn’t destroyed it. Running down the hall pieces of dirt and small debris could be heard raining down on the roof drowning out any other sounds. A growing sense of worry clouded Hocdin’s senses causing him to ensure he had accurate teleportation anchors that he had grown to love. Turning the corner to see final wall to his destination he reflexively teleports back to the previous anchor he created. The cloaking of the two Vino disengages. Blood dribbles down the right side of Hocdin’s face, barely missing his eye while the thin red line on the left side of his neck had thankfully been too shallow to deal a killing blow even if he hadn’t teleported.
“You are still to slow and shallow. How many times do we have to go over it?” The Vino to Hocdin’s right says looking over at the left Vino after he saw the minor wound the soldier had left on Hocdin.
“If you don’t let me pass you won’t have to worry about ever doing it again because you’ll be dead!” Hocdin yells interrupting the response the other Vino was about to say. The two Vino are surprised by the words.
“You may have bested our leader but we do not show mercy.” The Vino to the right says but is given little chance to say or do anything else as Hocdin teleports back to where the energy anchor had taken his place in the hallway. Thrusting a sword to his left and shielding the right Hocdin had prepared everything perfectly, not giving them any room to do anything. The Vino to the left dodges the sword but is not prepared to stop the gust of wind that unleashes from the palm of Hocdin’s sword hand. The massive burst of air knocks the left Vino against the wall and begins to crack the wall he is held against. The burst also propels Hocdin and the shield into the Vino at the right. The shield withstands the blade of the Vino and begins to crush the man against the wall. The wind pressure eventually breaks the wall to the left sending the Vino flailing through the air until he hits the far wall knocking him unconscious. Releasing the air ability Hocdin looks over at the other Vino struggle to get off of the floor where he had fallen. It was obvious he wasn’t given the time to fortify his body or shield against such an attack. He gasped in pain from the bones and internal organs that had been crushed by being pinned against the wall by Hocdin. He tries to pull in energy to shield himself from Hocdin but the shield is easily destroyed before Hocdin runs the man through with the blade.
Hocdin generates another explosive orb and sticks it to the wall near the hallway corner. He runs down the hall towards the far wall where his ship should be. Hocdin fires off a fireball at the wall in front of him. As the fireball impacts the wall Hocdin activates the explosion at the wall behind. He hopes the dual explosions will confuse the other Vino. Hocdin jumps out of the large hole made by his fireball preparing some energy for any kind of ambush that could be there. Landing on the grass outside of the building he continues running forward to the rear opening of his transport. Turning his head to the right Hocdin is filled with shock and anger as he sees the small one person fighter hovering to the right of his ship. He had expected some kind of trap but not a fighter. The energy rounds fire at him as soon as he exits the smoke cloud. With no time to think he instinctively pushes his gate open as far as he can. The golden energy didn’t even have a chance to materialize at his back or head before he pulls it all into the royal shield to protect him from the assault by the fighter. The pilot instantly senses the buildup of energy from Hocdin swinging the fighter away as it stops firing. Hocdin arcs his right hand down firing off a royal beam slicing the ship nearly in half. The two halves sputter and fly off in different directions crashing in the distance.
Hocdin hobbles into the transport and activates the escape routine. The craft seals the rear door and accelerates to full speed away from the base and down along the surface of the planet. It ducks wildly behind any tree or outcropping of rocks that would protect it from any following threats. After nearly 100 miles of banking left to right and back again the computer system analyzes that they are considered reasonably safe. The ship pushes more power to the engines engaging atmospheric escape procedures to leave the planet. Hocdin lies on the deck of the transport breathing heavily from the use of the royal shield and beam. He had used it in his fight with Rustin, but not at the same time and not with the quick frequency of the other larger abilities he had used.
“Sir your battle has destroyed 26 percent of the Coalition facility, should I report this to Coalition command?” The computer system asks following strict military protocols.
“No. Even though the Vino are there and could be a serious threat, my objective plays a greater issue to the coalition.” Hocdin replies waiting a bit. He groans as he rolls over and pulls the book out of the pouch on the back of his suit. Pulling the hand drawn page out Hocdin raises it up so sensors could see it. “Record the image of this and search all databases for any information that can be found and forward it to the holographic mission display in the transport hold.”
“One entry found.” The computer replies displaying a cube in the middle of the holographic display.
“Why is there no name or information on the topic?” Hocdin asks finally calming down while staring at the grey square in the middle of the room above him.
“Unknown, all known data is displayed.” The computer responds. Hocdin gives in and reaches up to the box above him. The box opens up displaying a single orb which looked to be a mostly aquatic planet. The planet gets bigger and more detailed until it takes up a three foot diameter before getting smaller until it is but a gold glow in a star scape of the entire galaxy.
“Is there any other linking data on the file?”
“Where was that file found at?”
“Central military archives, Planet Farash. Co-verified Central Military archives Coalition Headquarters Eiris moon orbit.” The computer responds. Hocdin realizes the picture was a visual key to activate this location and forward believers onto the next step in their journey, and this key was planted deep in the Coalition databases.
“Set destination for this world, maximum speed possible.”