Chapter 22.1 – Early
“How is she doing?” Ryan asks as Jason plods down the snow covered path, the wind kicking up again forcing him to wait to answer. He opens his mouth to answer again but stops once more as the sound of the window on the cottage in the distance slides open with the woman popping her head out.
“I hope you die in that cold you filthy assholes!” She yells out before putting up her middle finger to the group. She ducks back into the cottage slamming the window shut. Jason sighs as he closes his eyes and shakes his head.
“A few hours aren’t enough to fix that kind of damage. Having the gate ripped open is one thing but to have the trauma of her family dying is adding a lot of negativity to cloud the whole situation.” Jason responds.
“So we just wait here till she calms down?” Amelia asks looking at Jason.
“I know it sounds callous, but I am freezing I can’t stay out in this, it’s negative 30 out here and the wind chill is something terrible like negative 45.” Sophia butts in. Jason waves them down as both Jason and Amelia go to reply. In the distance pounding is heard as the woman throws pots and pans against the walls.
“It’s ok, we have to leave. Even though she doesn’t understand the gate at all, she can still sense ours nearby. Instead of the feeling we get normally, it just comes through in waves of sound or emotions for her. If the gate manifests as emotion, it sends her in wild ways, obviously some of them destructive. Other ways it’s like screaming in her head that she can never shut out. These cases become more common the closer we are. The further away the less likely she will feel us. Hopefully if she can sort something out in the next few hours or days, we can try to fix things. I tried explaining as much as possible to her, but I don’t know if she quite heard me.
“She has everything she needs?” Amelia asks.
“Yeah, the fire is stoked to provide good four or five hours of heat, and there is enough spare logs in the cottage to heat the place for a week. We went overkill on the food we brought with us. Of course we never expected this blizzard. With how unstable she is, I hate to say it but she might try to leave, without training the blizzard could kill her. I can only hope she works through things and stays put.” Jason replies, the comments moving the other three a bit.
“If there is nothing else we can do, I am getting an odd feeling from the town nearest to the ritual site.” Ryan says looking in the distance.
“Sophia, will you be able to keep up? It is about a hundred miles and will require a lot from you. I don’t want to make you do this but I feel like I need to conserve as much as possible to ensure if I need to fight that fleet I can. I know it’s a lot to ask given how new you are.” Jason asks looking Sophia in the eyes.
“It was a bit hard to try it out earlier but I’ll try my best, I just have to use the black orbs to teleport right?” Sophia answers back. Jason nods in affirmation. The four make quick work of the distance, all happy to be out of the blizzard to a warmer negative 1 degree. They look out at the town from the mountain near the ritual site. The cloud cover had cleared prior to the attack so now a layer of orange snow covered the town and surrounding areas. They make their way down to the edge of the town intentionally avoiding contact with any residents, but as they come closer to the busier portions of town they can see families walking about doing shopping, children playing with the orange snow. They each reach down and grab a ball of snow looking at the orange tint of the snow.
“It’s like in the sphere.” Sophia says. The statement seemed obvious, yet Jason, Amelia and even Ryan couldn’t place the feeling they got from it. Even Ryan who had only been a gate user for a few days had gained so much experience manipulating energy spheres that the feeling of the primal energy seemed foreign to him. The three turn to look at Sophia but only Jason can see that the energy in the snow was echoing off of Sophia’s gate making it open further without her being conscious of it.
“This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen.” Jason says looking around at the children and families. The statement was a bit confusing to Sophia and Ryan, but Amelia understood perfectly.
“Can we stop them?” Amelia asks.
“No. Hopefully the foundation is strong enough to hold this change.” Jason responds. Ryan and Sophia’s eyes go wide as they look around, the realization finally hitting them.
“The targets are still in the target location. We can attack the largest population directly!” Aldorin says.
“Attacking the population doesn’t fix the issue with the target.” Letum responds.
“But it will prevent more like him. If he and the woman are all that’s left of their race they can only do so much. Plus we lost a significant amount of soldiers when we tried to rescue the first fleet assault and the two targets weren’t even there.” Aldorin replies, his hologram flickers from the constant movement around the moon.
“He has a point, their population is quite advanced and with how much of our fleet ended up as wreckage, they will certainly advance greatly in the next cycle if left to a slow war like on Ashk.” Quoris says siding with Aldorin. Letum doesn’t take Quoris’ dissension well.
“Where is Kirii and Mirhee?!” Letum yells pounding his fist on the table.
“No recommendations Siszero?” The Supreme Commander asks as Siszero stands next to Aldorin in the holographic room aboard Aldorin’s flagship.
“It is hard to say what will happen. We did not see the results of the first strike, but it did look like several people were killed near the targets location.” Siszero answers back.
“Perhaps a side effect of the weapon against the target’s defense.” Quoris says.
“The second field he used did create a scattering effect. It could still poison the planet and kill them off slowly.” Aldorin adds. The Supreme commander doesn’t say anything, but after a few minutes of silence Letum looks down at a console shortly before the symbol of the Supreme Commander vanishes from the wall. Letum seems to be in great thought as he reads something on the console. A look of slight concern enters his face before the usual smile returns. Siszero is unhappy about everything in that turn of event.
“You have your permission to fire again.” Letum says before turning and walking out. Quoris watches Letum leave a bit surprised. The display forcefully shuts down the image of the chamber.
“Perhaps the mighty trio is fragmenting. I’ve never seen that kind of infighting and blatant ignoring of someone like that. Perhaps things might end up better when this settles.” Aldorin says turning to Siszero before continuing. “Of course strangling Letum with you at my side would have been quite exciting.” His smile still as wild and mischievous as it had been in the meeting room. Siszero laughs a bit watching Aldorin stroll out of the meeting room.
“Do you believe Aldorin is right?” Roark asks as he leans against the wall just out of the holographic sensors range.
“Something is wrong, but Aldorin being right has never struck me as something I thought or said often, so I would prefer to reserve judgment on all of this.” Siszero says looking at Roark. Finally resolved, he makes his way out of the room with Roark in tow. The two make their way slowly to the bridge avoiding the tram tubes to give them more time to talk. As they go through a transition area designed to limit damage between sections Siszero and Roark know they have a few seconds of unmonitored time to talk.
“Did you plant it for Orlen?” Siszero asks.
“It’s ready.” Roark replies. The exchange was brief but the window of them walking through the massive safeguard is a quick process and if it took too long it would raise suspicions. The two make their way through the ship quietly listening to the chatter of crew they pass. A sense of dread and eternal worry filling the crew as the fate of Borheag’s fleet had now spread to the entire Coalition. Coming up to another safeguard they wait for several seconds for a few workers to exit the corridor in front of them, pretending to be courteous by letting them go in front. The two women smile at Siszero and Roark at the kindness and scurry down the hall. Siszero rolls his eyes at seeing the two’s expression change to a more gentle smile while looking at the Stoic Roark.
“The signature capsule and our transportation?” Siszero says once the two enter the corridor.
“Done and done.” Roark says looking around at the rough thick metal, a menial thought comes to Roark’s attention so he continues while they are out of the corridor. “This is the newest capital ship right? I don’t remember seeing those safeguard walls in others.”
“Yes, Aldorin was lucky to secure it, though Borheag would have benefited far more. It’s likely he would have only lost a third of his crew from the beam of nobility I told you of. Those safeguard walls would have prevented much of the systemic damage his ship suffered.” Siszero replies.
“It seems so logical, why aren’t more of our ships using such walls?” Roark asks as they climb a stairwell to the main bridge.
“It is a lot of extra metal, and the last Great War was with the Neerkin, they didn’t exactly leave a lot of ships in pieces large enough where these kinds of safeguards would have mattered.” Siszero ends as the door to the command room opens. On the front view screen the moon is sliding off to the right giving a crisp picture of Earth.
“The target is already moving at great speed to a better position to block any attack.” The tactical officer says. The group on the bridge watches the gold dot on the overlay of the planet jumps from section to section across the continents.
“Order the rest of the fleet to stay at these coordinates.” Aldorin says keying in a set of coordinates into a pad on his chair. Siszero can see the tactical screen and the coordinates Aldorin had keyed in. He smiles a bit.
“What?” Roark asks.
“He’s having the fleet stay a bit further back than Borheag’s Eiris Eye was when it was hit.
“But surely now that we know his gate is 128% he could hit anything in the system with such a beam.”
“Yes, but it takes time to travel that kind of distance.”
“Tell the fleet to have engines at full, have continuous cycle of evasion protocols activated.” Aldorin adds. Siszero looks over at the back of Aldorin a bit shocked that the rude once adjunct of General Rustin had managed to actually be a General of some tactical skill.
“Sir we’re entering firing range. The weapon is ready.” The tactical officer says.
“Roark?” Siszero says quietly waving for the man to come over and look at the screen he now stood at. The scanner technician looked a bit shocked to see General Siszero and adjunct General Roark standing behind him.
“This is the earth, with all of these red dots?” Siszero asks the technician.
“Yes, those are the red gates.” The technician replied. Roark looks over at Siszero wondering if that’s why he was call over.
“How many are there?” Siszero asks.
“21 million.” The technician answers. Siszero looks over at Roark.
“You remember how many there were when the Nexus struck?” Siszero asks trying to confirm the number he already had in his mind.
“Hundreds, at most. No single red was within fifty miles of another usually.” Roark answers giving Siszero the answer he expected. “But with the two targets, they could easily.” Roark stops as the orange glow tints the whole room. Siszero and Roark turn back to the front screen.
“Fire.” Aldorin orders, the tint dwindles as the beam fires out of the front of the ship. A partial royal shield covers half of the planet.
“A partial royal shield, that’s never been recorded.” Siszero says
“113% gate use!” The tactical officer yells. The sensor officer gasps behind Siszero causing him to turn back to the station. The number of red users skyrockets into the hundreds of millions, while several million move up to green status. The longer the beam continues the higher the numbers climb. As the beam stops nearly a billion of the humans now sit at red.
“The numbers aren’t stopping!” The sensor technician exclaims.
“Recharging 1.2 micro-cycles!” The tactical officer adds.
“General!” The sensor technician yells shoving his console data onto the main screen. The room looks on unsure of what is happening.
“What happened?” Aldorin replies unsure of what is going on. Siszero looks at the raw data collected from the beams power and that of the previous energy which had dispersed into the atmosphere of Earth.
“The beams energy, despite being blocked, resonated with the energy from the previous blast, causing it to become energetic and affect those it had come in contact with, which is a majority of the planet.” Siszero explains.
“.7 micro-cycles!” The tactical officer yells.
“If we hit them again would it be possible that the people will revolt, they had significant unrest and revolutions so far?” Aldorin responds.
“It is possible.” Siszero admits knowing that if he said anything else the Supreme Commander might seek a punishment for it.
“Sir, the planet is in a sustainable cascade evolution.” The sensor technician adds. Roark looks over at Siszero unhappy with how things are turning out.
“Recharge done!” The tactical officer exclaims.
“Fire immediately!” Aldorin says turning back to the front screen. Roark and Siszero turn to the sensor station to watch what might happen. The orange glow fills the room again as the weapon masses. The glow disappears. Roark and Siszero spin to look at the screen. There was no glow, no beam, nothing firing.
“A communication is coming through. It’s cutting through all safety and encryption protocols!” The communication officer yells as she turns to look at General Aldorin.
“From where?” Aldorin asks but the communication officer doesn’t have the opportunity to answer as the speakers come alive.
“Hello, I am referred to as the Valo Kal Horun.” Siszero and Roark look at each other quickly.
“What have you done?” Aldorin asks.
“What I should have done 322 cycles ago when your scientists came to my planet of Draenian and installed your technology to power that weapon. Now I shall reclaim what was lost to time and end the abuse of your own ignorance.” The channel cuts off.
“Sir the forward specialty bay says something is going on with the weapon.” The communication officer relays. Aldorin furiously taps his pad pulling up video view of the bay. The weapon levitates above the pedestal it had sat on. The power cables that feed the weapon straining to stay attached. Flares of light shine off of the weapon as it slowly disintegrates.
“The Ling attendants say nothing will respond to their manipulation. The energy is far too powerful they can’t even get close. One has already lost a hand.” The communication officer says.
“What about Draenian, can someone stop whoever is doing this from there?” Aldorin frantically asks.
“Military command is unresponsive.” The communication officer says. Siszero steps back to look at an unoccupied logistics display. He sits down as Roark comes to look at what he is doing. Siszero enters his identification and pulls up the communications system. He scans channels picking up hundreds of encoded military and private channels, however nearly half of the territories he expected to pick up weren’t responding.
“Sir we were able to get a hold of General Vig of fleet 22. He is having the same communications issues as we are.” The communications officer says.
“Retreat back to central command. Tell the quarantine fleet to stay at the edge of the system.” Aldorin orders. Siszero gets up from his chair as Roark stares at him waiting for something. Siszero looks around the room briefly before returning Roark’s stare and nodding to him. The two leave the command room.