The King – Chapter 17

Chapter 17.1 – Captured?

Hocdin slouched in the chair of his transport as it patrolled the sky line of the city. Letting the computer do its work his mind wanders to the events of the previous week. He chuckles lightly at the thought of fighting Neerkin and escaping an eight man Vino squad. He wondered if he would be able to get back to his school and tell all these great stories. The headmistress would be all smiles as he would recount his whole journey. Hocdin smiles in his ship almost relieved to let his mind wander away from his task. He looks up at the front window seeing the buildings fly by and marvels that he had actually found a dead world. He had never really expected to find a world that was entirely removed from history. No records had been found by his database searches. In fact Hocdin had been surprised that the system itself was missing from the government archives. A control at the top of the dash lights up. Hocdin hits the button bringing his mind back to his task.

“Analysis from atmospheric scanner shows possible architecture symbol matching referenced material. Symbol is located at site two.” The computer spits out in the usual monotone voice. Hocdin sighs a bit unhappy that something had been found at the second city. In the last six hours he had spent considerable time sifting through rooms, promenades, stores fronts and parks only to end up back in his chair on his ship searching through the sky. There had been no Neerkin, no Vino, and no Coalition, no anything. Perhaps the first dead world he stepped on that was actually dead. The massive city was over a hundred miles in length and width likely housed nearly a billion people in the half mile tall buildings that were the standard construction of the original race. The log files from one of the security stations Hocdin found was still visible on his transports right screen.

It seemed the city had evacuated nearly a cycle into the Neerkin war 300 cycles prior. The security logs show that while the permanent residence log showed a counter of zero, the door access was still activated every few cycles when a flurry of activity would happen before it would calm down. Hocdin scrolls down to the final entries. A massive cluster of logs show doors opening and closing nearly 60 cycles prior before all activity ended. Hocdin wonders if the point 60 years was because the Supreme Commander had solidified the order underneath him.

Coalition civilians and personnel show a paltry five million at its height a cycle prior to the Neerkin war, until one day in the middle of the cycle when the population dropped by half a million. The security records don’t give Hocdin any clues to what happened but those who vanished were not military or security personnel and weren’t listed as transferred. After the event happened the population log trickles off each day by the thousands, each listed as moving. Hocdin considers an attack but whatever happened was prior to the war and certainly before the government would do a full scale evacuation. Hocdin suspects that whatever happened to the personnel was likely an accident that killed them.

Hocdin adjusts his flight path away from the first city to search the second city where his atmospheric probe had picked up possible signs that the religion had been there. Sitting back and watching the landscape fly by he wonders just how long searching a city like this would take. Hocdin wishes he had a full complement of bounty hunter probes but the thought makes him realize that even if he did it would still take a 60-75 milli-cycles to have the probes go through the entire city. Once out of the city Hocdin’s transport speeds up crossing much of the continent at a blur.

Seeing the skyline of site two ahead Hocdin picks up the drawing of the building from the holy book and compares it to each new building that comes into sight but has no lucky in finding a match. Hocdin sighs exasperated. He hadn’t imagined finding a building like this in two large cities of similar architecture would be so hard to do. With the skyline in full sight Hocdin reminisces on the time when he approached the planet and being afraid he would have to search a hundred similar buildings to find the correct one. Instead he had searched and found nothing resembling it. The transport slows as the horizon comes into view showing the massive vegetation that covered the bottom several floors around the outside of the city. The computer begins marking multiple points of interest on map overlay of the city. Hocdin taps one activating an explanation of the point.

“Large bone deposit, approximately 95 to 110 bodies. Considered mass grave by coalition standard.” The screen displays. Hocdin dismisses the explanation and enlarges the terrain around where the bodies would be. The hole that was dug was only partially filled leading Hocdin to believe that when it had happened originally the hole was left open and only filled in due to rain washing dirt in.

“How many of those are there?” Hocdin asks.

“131 and rising.” The computer responds. He watched as his transport pulled higher as he flew over the tops of the city before slowing to a stop over the city center.

“242 visible.” The computer spits out as the transport comes to a stop above the city center.

“How many people?” Hocdin asks a bit appalled.

“Between 393,000 and 583,000 estimated.” The computer replies. Hocdin is shocked, but suddenly the thought of the other cities drop in population made sense. He tries to ponder what could have caused such a calamity but was distracted as the computer displays another notice showing video data of a roll of skeletons lying on a cement walkway.

“How old are those?”

“Dating scan puts the skeletons no more than nine cycles old.”  The computer responds.

“Can we land on the walkway connecting to that terrace?” Hocdin asks the computer. A second passes before the computer replies.

“Affirmative.”

“Land there.” Hocdin orders as he gets up and makes his way to the back. The ship rocks a bit turning and heading back nearly fifteen miles to where the original image had been taken. The wind can be heard buffeting the side of the transport as it descends towards the walkway. Moving into a wind tunnel the transport lurches coming a foot from the nearest building before boosters bring it back on course. Hocdin cringes hoping the ship doesn’t crash. With the only scout suit he had broken beyond repair, Hocdin chooses his heavily armored suit to go into the buildings. The ship slows letting Hocdin know that they were almost down to the walkway. One of the stabilizing wings scrapes against the side of the building before the ship finally comes to a rest. Holstering a pistol Hocdin aims the rifle towards the back door before hitting the release with his foot. The back door swings down stopping just short of slamming into the walkway floor.

Hocdin looks around to see if anyone would come to see what the noise was. He slowly edges out of the ship and down the walkway his eyes darting up and down the building looking at every crevice that a person could hide in to ambush him. Coming to the bodies Hocdin points his gun to the nearest door which was still open. Inside the hallway he could see at least another seven skeletons, most of them leaning against the wall. He activates the scanner on his palm and runs it slowly over each one until he gets a beep and his visor displays the outline of a memory chip. The chip was in an anti-scanning slip, and would have been undetectable had it been in the original occupants thigh. Now that the flesh and muscle that would have surrounded the slip was long gone the slip was easily detectable by the scanning device. Hocdin kneels down moving the cloth out of the way until he finds the slip and the chip inside it. He inserts it into the top of his glove, happy that the technology of the glove was able to interface with the much newer data chip.

The computer scans through the documents marking several passages about a meeting place and several names of religious leaders. A transparent map of the city generates in the top right of Hocdin’s visor. The information on the chip is slowly analyzed by the visor and his ship. The map is updated as clues in the chip are found indicating where meeting locations may have taken place. Hocdin moves through the doorway into the hall switching the rifle over to the right arm as he uses his left glove to scan the thirteen piles of bones that had been at the wall. Most of them had been executed with a single round to the head exactly like those on the terrace. Eventually he finds two more hidden chips. Hocdin replaces the one that had been in his right glove and fills the secondary slot in his left glove. The visor and ship make the most of their computing power as they pull all of the data from the two chips. The map in his visor adds over 20 new possible meeting locations. Some locations disappear as the data suggesting is merged with higher probability locations.

Considering giving up on this section and trying one of the possibilities Hocdin notices the architecture of the area and remembers an open bazaar between two of the buildings would be at the end of the hall. He suspects there will be more clues there given what he had found in the hallway already. Coming out of the tunnel the three tiered bazaar had small shops on the level above, medium shops on his level and larger shops on the level below with a large open area for meetings in a central area. He inspects the shops on the second level seeing many still shut likely abandoned for hundreds of years. Hocdin moves out from under the top level balcony looking up at the massive buildings on either side with just a touch of sky to be seen between them. He approaches the balcony railing to look down into the bazaar courtyard. The inquisitive and appreciative smile he has disappears as he looks down on at least fifty skeletons that were strewn about the courtyard.

Eight had been sitting down, likely the first to die in the opening volley of an attack. The speaker who had been standing at the front on a cement platform had fallen forward his skeleton legs still facing up as they lean against the cement platform. Hocdin looks on, a bit of horror running through him. Those not killed first looked to have run but at least another 15 to 20 died within seconds of the first. Others had managed to flee to the entrances of the nearby dead businesses, others fled into stairwells.

Hocdin pulls his attention away from the sight and looks around suddenly surprised he had let his attention drift to one thing for so long. He doesn’t want a repeat of Sear or Sornin. Content that no one was there he pulls a rope from his belt and attaches it to a metal support beam that held up the top tier balcony. He lowers himself to the bottom level lightly coming to rest on his feet. Hitting a button at his waist the mechanical latch at the end of the rope disengages allowing the rope to reel back into his belt. He walks over to the bones of the speaker, moving his hand up the body scanning it for any hidden chips. He is surprised he wasn’t able to find a chip until his hand passes over the speakers head a second time. Pulling the skull to the side Hocdin hears a click as something hits the back of the skull. Looking at the side he can see an artificial patch of skin that would be right behind the ear. He pushes the skin a bit seeing a mini connection port. Hocdin pulls a cable out of the glove and plugs it into the port becoming slightly grossed out by the act. His glove returns several error messages and Hocdin gives up figuring the device was entirely drained since the host had not been supplying it power for some time.

Hocdin closes his eyes for a few seconds before clenching his left fist and putting it into the back of the skull shattering the back of the weathered skull. His stomach twists from the action almost causing him to throw up. He moves the skull back to see the two inch diameter data and charging device. Reaching a few fingers in he is able to pull off the primary connection cable and pull the cylinder out. Looking at the cylinder in front of him he finds and pushes the four square buttons at the other end of it. Four prongs release lightly letting Hocdin remove the four bioelectricity charging convertors and batteries. Hocdin looks around before pulling out two power cables from his glove and hooking them directly to where two of the bioelectricity charging convertors had been. Hocdin flips it over seeing where he had disconnected the primary data cable which connected to the outside of the skull. He pulls the data cable back out of his glove and connects it directly to the plug. The device senses the data connection and begins a system check on the module. Hocdin watches his screen as the module fails through the bioelectricity charger checks and proceeds to commence an emergency data dump to his suit. Hocdin watches the partially encrypted rows of two word increments. Hocdin suspected the data was likely an extensive list of names, possibly enemies or fellow religious members. He knew it would take some time to forcefully decrypt it all.

With the module finally powered down after the transfer Hocdin’s visor lights up with sound warnings, causing him to jump to his feet spinning around to see six individuals standing at the middle tier railing. The individuals were covered nearly head to toe in robes, their faces covered by tactical masks, but the hands that clutched the guns pointing at him gave away the race that they all were.  Hocdin moves his eyes from one to the next counting the four Farasha among them. Hocdin knew things weren’t in his favor. He drops his gun hoping these people were from the same religion and he could buy time to figure a way out. Certainly if these people possessed the same fighting potential as General Rustin his chances of surviving a battle with them was impossible. Hocdin goes to open his mouth and broker a peace when the world goes black around him.

Chapter 17.2 – Raid!

The pain was unexpected as the light of the world comes back. With the pain encroaching more into his consciousness Hocdin moans lightly. He wonders where he was, or perhaps if he even wanted to know. Moving his feet and hands lightly he could tell he had been bound skillfully. Light blurs his vision a bit as he tries desperately to see what is around him. He can hear the movement and discussions of a group in the distance but the light from several windows is too bright. Blinking his eyes a bit he can make out the outline of one person as the person moves back and forth behind a large blob which could be several people. A sharp headache begins to intrude on his psyche. His mind turns slowly trying to figure out what would cause such effects to him. Deep down Hocdin was sure he knew and the answer should be relatively easy, but thinking was not easy for him to do right now.

A few moments pass before Hocdin realizes the armor suit that he had been wearing was no longer on him and not in his field of vision. It was obvious though that this group wanted him alive. Hocdin wonders if the illusion of him being one of them wasn’t entirely lost. A few minutes pass as his system works out the chemical clearing his vision with each passing minute. Looking back over at the blob he could make out six individuals huddled down with the sixth walking around the edge of them trying to see parts of something lying on the ground that the group was discussing. Hocdin concentrates on the object the six were gathered around, occasionally he could see a glint as something moved. Hocdin didn’t need many clues before he could see the thick crystal pages being flipped. Such a treasure to this religion had easily been guaranteed by the commander’s words on Sear so it wasn’t a surprise they would be feverishly combing through it.

He could hear a whistle and the group turn to look at something in the corner. Instantly Hocdin closes his eyes in fear he’d be found out. He can hear something being thrown coming to the usual thud of metal hitting the softer skin of a palm. The light boots walking toward Hocdin puts a scare into him. With the cloudy state of his mind he knew that he would be unable to get away, less so now. He hoped the group still needed him alive. The injection to the neck was quick, the effects of the metabolism accelerant even quicker. The fog in his mind lifted, his ears returning to the usual sensitivity.

“He’s still asleep” The man calls out pushing a button causing the needle on the device to pull back in. Hocdin could hear the man heave the injection device back, it hitting a softer object, likely furniture or clothing. The man walks away from Hocdin the sound of his boot against the stone surface was surprisingly loud in the room. Opening his eyes lightly Hocdin watches the legs of the man as he goes to stand behind four individuals still huddled over the crystal holy book. He looks around the room but not much else was clearer past the distance of the group. The shadows seemed to blend causing the walls they were cast on to seem like a bottomless pit. With this odd vision Hocdin reached the realization that he had been hit with a specialized tranquilizer once fancied by the governments criminal system. Even after the initial sleeping effect was over the prisoners were so hopelessly incapacitated by the side effects that they were often easily manageable for up to 16 hours and could be given doses every 11 hours without risk of overdose.

The accelerant continued to work as more of the conversation from the huddled group came through to him, their dark shadows of the huddle no longer looking like an abyss. They were having a fervent discussion about their interpretations of passages. Some of which Hocdin had even read during his travel to this planet. The topic soon shifted to what they think the promised planet is like and what they would say to their god if they met him. Hocdin watched the group, realizing that only one of the six was actually a Farasha, meaning there were at least three more individuals that were not in this room. He sized up the individuals there, though still slightly groggy he could feel the gate properly again and could feel the power coming from the one Ling and one Draia. Both were low level likely not surpassing a lighter pink rank, only being considered for amplification duty if they had bothered to even join the military. The three Eiris often talked among themselves but occasionally asked the Farasha her opinion.

The discussion lasted a few minutes, enough time for Hocdin to get most of his vision back. He scanned the room again finally locking eyes on another in the darkest corner to Hocdin’s left. He stares into the man’s eyes, realizing that he had been the one to throw the accelerant. He had commanded the other to do something and he had complied without question. He had been watching Hocdin the entire time, knew he was awake even before the accelerant had been injected. Hocdin discarded any surprise plan, any chance of escaping.

“Valo Kal Horun, may he strengthen us all.” Hocdin says, the words startling the group of six, but the words not phasing the other one sitting in the corner. Hocdin continues to stare at the man. The lines on his face giving away that the Farasha was likely 90 cycles old at least. The group looks at Hocdin then back to the man in the corner before going back to Hocdin.

“Anyone can read the words, especially when you have that.” The man responds gesturing slowly at the book on the floor.

“Surely not just anyone can have that.” Hocdin replied smiling a bit hoping to disarm some of the menace in the man’s voice.

“Who’d you get it from?” The man asks, his voice containing an accusatory tone. Hocdin realizes that the question wasn’t really about who handed him such a book, but who he murdered to steal such a book. Though he had a huge advantage here, his search had shown him that this order was at least 300 cycles old, likely far older.

“When I came of age and proved my belief by trial of wisdom and honor I was blessed with the family relic, and a story of how my ancestors rescued the book from nefarious clutches, at the expense of all but my great great grandfather.” Hocdin extolls. The words and story having an obviously profound effect on the group of six, but the leader was an extremely weary individual who had survived a lot to still be here while the bones of at least a hundred were strung about in the bazaar. This fact caused Hocdin some confusion. He knew Rustin had started this quest. Quoris used the same skills and both were linked to the current supreme commander. He couldn’t figure out why these people were hiding and not ruling? The older Farasha gets up walking towards him. He knew he would need to decide before the man got to him if these were friend or foe.

“Surely with the Supreme Commander sharing the same religion you shouldn’t have anything to fear?” Hocdin says watching carefully for what effect the statement would have. The effect was immediate surprise, followed closely by anger, ending in confusion.

“So I was right, you can talk like us briefly but you aren’t one of us. Was the story about your great great grandfather even partially true?” The man asks coming closer. The staff he used to walk looked strong and would easily be able to deal a killing blow. The anger in the man grows as he continues to interrogate Hocdin for answers. “Who did you kill to get such an amazing relic of our order?”

“I tracked it down from a clue whispered by a dying man.” Hocdin replies, giving enough information to warrant his life but not enough to seal it. The six look around at each other unsure of how to take the response.

“Did you kill him?” The man asks his voice inquisitive but having less anger.

“Yes after a long and painful battle. He was quite skilled in the abilities of your order, being a Farasha.” Hocdin replies knowing a death blow against him was possible. Hocdin figured with the Ling and Draia so low level it was obvious these individuals hadn’t fought against other gate users. With them not aligned with the Supreme Commander but having the same skills the only ones to hunt and silence individuals without it spreading had to be the Black Guard of the Supreme Commander. Even if they could use the same skills they weren’t used to sensing gate levels giving Hocdin the chance to generate a barrier to prevent instant death from a strike by the man. The man twitches the staff as the words take full affect but something causes him to hold back. Hocdin had noticed their racial demographic including the corpses had been an even mix of all the Coalition races. The Supreme Commander’s Black Guard however was exclusively Farasha so if Hocdin had killed a Farasha with such abilities it occurred to the man as well as Hocdin that it might not be one from the religion. The man knew that stopping the staff had tipped off Hocdin that he was having doubts. The man clinches his jaw unsure of how to move forward.

The man turns and paces back to the dark spot and then back to where he had been standing near Hocdin. Deep thoughts going through his mind, he was obviously angry that this non-believer was on their planet, in their meeting place. The most egregious act of blasphemy though was that he had carried a lost relic of their religion. The man clinches his jaw again as he comes to a stop a few feet from Hocdin. He looks down at him as Hocdin returns the gaze.

“I give you my promise on the holy book of Valo Kal Horun that you are pardoned from any transgression that you may have inflicted on a member of our order, but we must know who it was. If you do not answer, we will kill you now.” The man says pointing the staff towards Hocdin, both hands on it ready to strike. Hocdin knew a shield at this point would save him but with so much unknown it may only be temporary. If any of these seven contained the abilities of Rustin he would only temporarily gain his freedom. Hocdin looks over at the other six then back up to the man resigned to play this out.

“General Rustin.” Hocdin says intently watching the man and the group. The six don’t seem to have a clue who he was talking about, but the older man recognized the name but couldn’t immediately place it.

“The betrayer.” He gasps for a second before becoming angry. “You’re a liar!” The man yells bringing the staff up to Hocdin’s throat. Hocdin moves his head up trying to pull away from the staff.

“No I’m not!” Hocdin yells out.

“General Rustin the betrayer was killed by Urjo.” The man says but stops, his eyes going wide as he looks down. He continues “Hocdin. Urjo Hocdin, is it really you?” The man backs away, putting the staff back at his side to lean against it. Hocdin breathes a sigh of relief. The man continues to talk.

“Despite killing the betrayer you were never a member of our religion. How did you find that relic and get here?” The man asks his tone now very calm.

“General Rustin said part of a clue upon his death, regarding the planet Sear.” Hocdin answers. The rest of those in the room were still not sure what the two were talking about. Sear’s history was nothing but a legend in the Coalition. Not wanting to be asked more questions Hocdin continues with the story. “Your order had command of a base there prior to the Neerkin war.” The old man nods a bit unconsciously, but stops when he realizes he had done it.

“Go on.” The man orders. Hocdin sighs a bit.

“One of your religious order, on Borheag’s fleet let slip Valo Kal Horun to a source of a longtime friend. It provided me with the other half of the clue that Rustin had said, linking your order and Rustin to Sear.”

“Cicsoria!” The Ling says realizing who Hocdin had meant.

“Shut!” The old man yells at the group.

“She is likely dead now. Borheag’s fleet is almost entirely gone. Borheag’s own flag ship lost all but 10% of their personnel.” Hocdin says, a bit of sadness coming through his voice, the news hitting the group heavily. The group had little to think about as the building reverberated lightly, a moment later it shook. A speaker on the wall comes alive.

“Troo” The sound comes through, laser fire in the background, before the speaker goes silent. Everyone in the group jumps to their feet aware that whoever had come through the speaker was now dead.

“Three of you prepare the ships, the rest of you activate the defense grid on level 79. If Tiris is still alive, make sure you all get to the pad with her.” The old man barks out orders spurring the six younger members into action. The old man looks back at Hocdin unsure if he could really call this man an ally or not. However Hocdin had no intention of putting his life in the man’s hands now that he was the only one there. Activating energy for a small knife, the metal forms around his finger allowing him to slice through the metal bindings. The old man is shocked as Hocdin’s hands come free, soon after the leg bindings are cut and Hocdin is standing up. The old man backs up raising his staff in a defensive posture. Hocdin walks around the range of the staff toward the center of the room, only giving the man a slight glance. Once towards the center he can see his gear stacked in a pile against a pillar that was just outside of his sight from where he had been bound. He rolls his eyes lightly at the odd fact that what he needed was there.

“I will fight you if necessary!” The old man says. Hocdin looks at the man as if he had told a bad joke.

“Listen, you don’t use any of the stances, you haven’t used any of the power that I saw in Rustin and General Quoris, I suspect if I wanted to kill you, it would be an easy thing to do. I did get part of my answer here. This religion isn’t part of the Coalition. So with no protection from the Supreme Commander, I can only imagine that it is in fact the Black Guard that is down there attacking?” Hocdin says as he quickly straps the armor back onto his body.

“Yes, they have hunted us for sixty five cycles now.” The old man replies to the surprise of Hocdin. The information complicated matters extremely. Hocdin slaps the visor back on activating the combat face guard. Thin pieces of metal meld from the top of the helmet to cover Hocdin’s face, the visor expanding to give a full visual display of more than just the minor eye slits. Hocdin grabs his rifle as the building shakes from explosions. His visor links in to his ship and displays him on the 86th floor of the building while the explosion came from the 78th floor. Hocdin walks to the dual doorways and looks out into the hall. The hallway was on the outer edge of the building, to the right it led down to floor 85, left, up to 87. With no one there he motions of the old man to come over.

“Come on, we’re going to get you to your ship.” Hocdin says. The old man is shocked by the words, but he realizes he had little choice in the matter. He nods and hobbles quickly over to him. Hocdin looks up and down the stairways again, his visor listing no new sounds. He motions for the old man to head up the stairwell to where the three Eiris men had headed. He follows the man up the stairs, pulling a pistol out in his left hand while keeping his rifle trained down the stairs at the lower levels. Two more explosions rock the building nearly toppling the old man and Hocdin. This time one was from the upper level and the other from level 79. Hocdin figures the Black Guard bombed the shielding the old man had mentioned. With the explosion above it seems the old man might be the last surviving member of this group.

They reach the 88th floor, taking a corner to continue up the stairs to the 89th and 90th floor. The old man ducks as laser fire careens down the stairs. Most of it misses but a few hit the edge of Hocdin’s armor as he backs up into the stairway. Angered a little by the lack of warning Hocdin generates a barrier in the middle of the 89th floor as he takes the lead moving up the stairs. The four Black Guards continue to charge down the stairs. Hitting the barrier Hocdin can see the white energy in the hand of the lead soldier as it slices through the barrier with ease. Using that as a queue he opens fire but the laser fire is mostly absorbed by the armor, the rest is blocked by the ability of the Black Guards. Hocdin teleports to in front of the soldiers throwing a concussion grenade above his head as he kneels in front of them and generating an air force bomb into the left side of the stairwell. The concussion grenade goes off along with the air force bomb. The pressure knocks the soldiers to the outside edge of the stairwell. With any window on the stairwell gone, the soldiers risk being pushed out of the 89th floor.

The air force bomb is disintegrated by one of the rear Farasha ability, but is too late as Hocdin grabs the leg of the nearest Black Guard and tosses the soldier over the barrier of the stairwell. The next turns to open fire but notices to late that Hocdin had holstered the pistol and now had an energy sharpened blade. He solidifies the energy but Hocdin having fought one of their ilk before knew what was necessary to cut through the defenses. The blade easily slices through the armor and energy defense slicing half of his chest open. The two remaining Black Guards drop their rifles opting to fight Hocdin with hand to hand energy. One of the Black Guards lunges forward with a simple punch. Hocdin side steps the attack countering with an air gust powered knee to the Black Guards stomach. The shield and armor on Hocdin’s knee shatters but Hocdin is thankful that his own knee survived the attack. The attack shatters the stomach armor on the soldier and crushes the Black Guard’s internal organs before breaking their back. The Black Guard falls to the side rolling down the stairs and past the old man.

The last soldier throws a few quick jabs being far more cautious and prolonging the fight. Hocdin tries desperately to end the battle but realizes his opponent is stalling. Fortifying his shoulder he lets the Black Guard land a hit. As the Black Guard’s fist hits Hocdin’s shoulder an energy trap springs oozing adhesive surrounding and keeping the soldiers fist in contact with Hocdin’s armor. The soldier goes to punch with his other arm but is blocked by Hocdin’s left hand with a counter energy palm, something that would only be possible from having fought another person like this. The Black Guard suddenly knew who they were fighting, but is too late to do anything. Hocdin raises his hand to the soldier’s head, white energy flowing into this palm. The Black Guard flushes their Fist with energy destroying the adhesive. However the gesture is in vain as Hocdin lets loose. The beam of nobility had little counters as it disintegrated the Black Guard’s head and cut into the building behind.

Hocdin breathes heavily but can’t wait long as his sensors give warnings of footsteps echoing from down the stairwell. He waves for the old man to continue. The two slowly hobble up the stairwell to finally reach the platform at the 90th floor. The two ships that were to be used for the religious order lie in flames. Hocdin had hoped he had been wrong about the explosion but deep down he knew this situation was certainly the case.

“No!” the old man cries out seeing two of the Eiris lying on the platform dead from energy rifle rounds. The third had been in one of the craft, likely burned up when a Black Guard threw in a plasma grenade.  As the man kneels down crying over the two dead on the platform Hocdin looks over the edge to see his ship unharmed on the walkway in the distance. He activates the remote controls from his glove issuing rescue orders. He can see the ship engines power on and lift off swinging away from the building it had hit earlier. It ascends quickly toward the platform.

“If you want to live get over here now. We won’t have much time.” Hocdin yells to the man. The man gets to his feet tears still streaming down his face as he hobbles over. Hocdin’s ship spins opening the rear hatch putting it level with the platform. Several more Black Guard soldiers make it to the platform opening fire on the two. Hocdin puts up a barrier behind the old man allowing him to get to the ship. The Black Guard disperses the barrier only to have their energy rounds stopped by a shield. Before the Black Guard can disperse the shield Hocdin tosses up a grenade into the air, the Black Guard watching as it vanishes. The group dives down the stairwell as the grenade goes off at the top of the stairs. Hocdin turns to his right to enter the transport when sunlight reflects in his eye causing him to look up. In that moment Hocdin sees the building from the drawing. The face and architecture were exactly depicted but would have looked different had someone stood from any other building  than the one they stood on now. Clenching his Fist at the illusion Hocdin dives into the closing rear hatch of the ship. As the rear door shuts the ship banks down and away from the building. Hocdin moves up to the cockpit leaving the man sobbing in the back.

Happy that they weren’t being followed Hocdin taps several controls for evasive settings and walks back into the transport hold.

“I wish to see the Valo Kal Horun.” Hocdin says, his words forceful, giving the man no option.

“I am the last of my order, that damn man finally finished us. I will meet the god and ask for power to smite them all!” The old man says his words starting with sobs yet ending with a deep anger that Hocdin can relate to all too well. The old man takes out a device from his robes, handing it to Hocdin. Activating it, it displays a dot on a planet. The planet seems very familiar to him. Eventually the planet becomes small showing the whole system it was in. The realization creeps in, Hocdin’s eyes going wide. Soon the whole system shrinks to show where it was in the galaxy. Hocdin knew exactly what planet it was.

“Gate be damned.”