Chapter 3 – Chances?
The old Eiris general sits at the metal desk. The small 9 foot by 18 foot room had been a last minute requisition for the meeting the General had been summoned to. The old man looks up at the display in the wall. On it listed the names and pictures of highest fleet generals in command. He was a bit shocked to see his name among them. General Alto Siszero, Command fleet: None. The line said. It had been over 40 cycles since the general had commanded a fleet, now he was relegated to reports, combat and deployment theory testing. The list blinks as another picture and name is updated as available for the meeting. Nearly half of the Generals were on fleets deployed to combat actions or securing borders. Looking back down at the desk, the white and grey magnification wrap around his eyes refocuses to provide perfect vision. The writing on the two black tablets lying on the desk would be nothing but giant blurs, but the band across his eyes records the data and transmits the image into his eyes. Looking at the tablet to the right it lists the gather order from the supreme general himself. The other pad was a comprehensive report of Vino cloaking methods he was told to write prior to the meeting.
Siszero runs his hand across his round head, barely any of the ridges across his head from his youth remained. The longer the male ridges along the head of the Eiris lasts, the more of a good soldier they were viewed as. As he had climbed past his 100th cycle the ridges had disappeared rapidly, now at 120 cycles the ridges were pretty much gone. Even his grey skin was whiter, lacking more and more color each year. His fingers hurt lightly as he finishes the report, linking several other reports at the bottom. He hoped this would serve the military and placate the Supreme Commander. Siszero looks around at the room. The tiny room would have incited a furious anger even 30 cycles ago, now his outlook had changed. He viewed the room as a blessing, showing utilitarian needs of the fleet and military above catering to his ego.
A soft beep sounds from the display behind the desk bringing Siszero’s attention back to it. The final General had arrived and would be heading to the meeting immediately. Like clockwork a knock comes from his door. Siszero’s eyes squint to show an alert distrusting face. He spins to his right to face the door at the corner of the room.
“Come in.” Siszero says. The door opens, pushed by a younger Draia man. The man wore a thick black cloth uniform. The Adjunct General insignia glinted brightly on his shoulders. The more pinkish skin of the Draia seemed to match Siszero’s own color more and more each day.
“General Siszero, all Generals have been summoned.” The man says as he stood just inside the door of the room.
“Don’t worry Roark. It’s probably just a sendoff meeting, you ready to take over all these wonderful reports?” General Siszero jokes as he picks up the pad and drops it back onto the desk.
“Sir, you consider your position too lightly.” Roark says still rigid at the door.
“Perhaps I do, but I can’t imagine my importance in this meeting being large.” Siszero jabs back. Roark stands silent knowing the old man’s penchant for pessimism would win the day regardless of the argument. Siszero slides the pad back over to him taping several buttons to send the report to the meeting place. Standing up and walking away from the desk the chair moves back into the desk to present more available room to its occupants. Roark steps back out into the hall to allow the General to exit the room. As Siszero steps out into the hall, he looks around seeing no one else in the hallways before continuing. “My mentor retired shortly after this age, perhaps it is best if I to take my leave. It would mean my secrets go to you and you alone. It would also make you eligible for a fleet command.” Siszero looks up at Roark who continues to stare straight. Though the Eiris and Draia have roughly the same average heights, Roark had grown to be 6.5 feet tall while Siszero had never made it past 5 foot 2 making for an odd sight to see the two walking about.
“If the General is to retire, then it is the General’s wish to retire. I chose to serve the General for the great wisdom and experience that could be imparted to me. That is no less true today than it was 23 cycles ago.” Roark says after Siszero had turned to walk away. Siszero stops after a step, looking back at Roark still standing there. Siszero looks back forward, resuming his walk toward the meeting place. The light click of the boots echo in the hall. The heavier click from Roark matches Siszero’s in stride behind him as they go from hallway to hallway. The two only take a few minutes before they reach a guarded door.
“I’m sorry General but orders are for all adjuncts to remain outside.” The guard says. The black armor of the Black Guard shines bright from the hall lighting, but the two men did not budge from the door. General Siszero comes to a stop shortly before the guards. He turns to look at Roark who stands four feet behind.
“You are to stay here until I get out. If I do not return for a 100 micro-cycles or a milli-cycle or 10 milli-cycles you will not leave that spot.” Siszero said. The tone of his voice easily conveyed a sense of worry. Roark stepped to the side and began to ponder what it could mean. When the summons had arrived Roark checked the military history for mandatory gathering of Generals. Only twice in recorded history of the Coalition had such a gathering occurred. The first had been at the start of the coalition. The Tonarach had been a tyrannical oppressor who had taken over the home world of the Eiris and subjugated the Eiris to their will. The Generals of the rebellion banded together forming the coalition. The coalition was a military might who, at the time, had a sole goal of destroying all gate users. They hunted the Tonarach to extinction.
The second had been over 300 cycles ago before the largest coalition fleet ever constructed set off to complete a full bombardment of the Neerkin home world. Following the bombardment, three Neerkin fleets entered Coalition territory and decimated 92% of coalition space forces. Armed with all this information Roark ponders deeply.
“What could have happened to warrant an ordered gathering?” Roark thinks to himself. The thought makes him unconsciously shudder. He looks over at the guards to see if they had noticed. The two guards continue to look straight, their weapons still resting on their arms, always ready for danger.
Siszero looks around at the room. There is a door on each wall of the hexagon room. Five feet into the room is a large hexagon table with each point of the table situated to face a door. Siszero walks to the point that was at his door. As he approaches the table two Farasha Generals already there notice him. Farasha General Aldorin stands two points to Siszero’s left and Farasha General Quoris at the point to Siszero’s right, staring at General Aldorin.
“Welcome General Siszero.” The tall General Quoris says politely. Siszero opens his mouth to answer but is cut off by Aldorin.
“We were about to start without you.” The shorter General Aldorin says.
“Generals! This is no time to be bickering.” Another taller Farasha says jovially as he enters the room opposite to Siszero. The man had often been said to speak in a higher joyous tone of voice. This trait would even become exasperated if he were sparing with another of equal or greater skill. This earned him a title of blood thirsty General.
“I thought they said no Adjuncts. What are you doing here?” General Aldorin says pointedly.
“So rude indeed. I am the supreme commanders Adjunct. I lead a fleet just like you all. I am the same rank, same stature. I will lead this meeting unless the supreme commander wishes to interject of course.” The taller Farasha replies, a big smile across his face. The look quickly made Aldorin uneasy. Siszero looked on, unfazed by the exchange. The Farasha looks around happy at the discomfort before noticing Siszero. Upon seeing the General’s ease he questions him directly. “I see my inclusion in this little gathering does not seem to weigh on you General Siszero.”
“General Letum. I have met more than a few men like you. All have perished in a manor more befitting the slimy carious beetle.” General Siszero says referencing the beetle whose preference for feces over other food is well known.
“Are you saying I like to eat shit?” Letum asks, his smile fading quickly.
“No, I’m saying one day you, like others, will wave your little hands wildly at a giant. You will greatly overestimate your power before falling under boot, and your broken body will lay there like the lowest of bugs.” Siszero answers staring back at General Letum. The two other Generals smile at the insult dealt to Letum. A booming laugh echoes in the room from various speakers.
“Siszero your directness and honesty are still refreshing!” The loud voice resonates through the room clearing any smiles from the Generals face. Letum turns around to a large screen on the wall behind him.
“Supreme Commander, I am sorry I didn’t introduce you properly.” Letum says his smile large again. He bows to the screen which displays a large white circle with a long line running from the bottom to the top.
“I was just enjoying myself. Unfortunately, other things must now be discussed.” The voice replies back.
“Yes sir.” Letum says still bowing to the screen. Letum stands upright and turns to face the table again, the large screen seeming to hover behind him. Pressing a button on the table the two empty corners of the table display holographic images of General Borheag, another Farasha General and General Mirhee the only current Ling Fleet General in the coalition.
“Finally.” The historically impatient General Mirhee says.
“Generals, thank you for all attending.” Letum says smiling again.
“It’s mandatory, don’t thank us General Creepy.” General Mirhee replies. Siszero looks over at the holographic image of Mirhee smiling as it looks at where Letum stands.
“The supreme commander is here so I can’t be goaded by your jabs, especially when I can’t reach across the table and silence you.” Letum says, smiling directly at the holograph of Mirhee.
“This is serious. Please move past your petty squabbles and hatred. We have even brought General Siszero from his lab for this.” General Quoris says looking around at the table. General Mirhee scoffs but doesn’t push further.
“Well, as General Quoris has so eloquently said, I shall move forward to the purpose of this. “ General Letum says tapping at a keypad on the table before continuing. “You are about to see a high level operations video of combat on a minor world taken 232 micro-cycles ago.” Letum hits another button on the table causing each wall of the room and the table top to display the same video, which was compiled from several different video feeds into a single stream. The video shows the bridge of the Nexus and its crew just moments before the two Gold level gate users appear. All the Generals gasp as the video shows the two teenagers going to Gold level.
“This is a new level for the Vino. If they can do this, we could see Gold level combat on Ashk or Visius. Even new minor worlds could create new fronts of war we won’t be able to extinguish.” General Mirhee says. The two worlds Mirhee referenced were well known to everyone in the coalition, both were homes to very primitive civilizations that gained significant numbers of gate users. Coalition law dictated extermination of any civilization if the social graces of the civilization advanced significantly slower than the technological or gate evolution of the people. This had led to nearly a dozen exterminations in the Coalition’s history and currently fueled the war on Ashk and was prompting buildup of forces around Visius.
“General Siszero?” Letum says catching the General’s attention away from his deep thoughts. “Your report, it is finished yes?”
“Yes, General.” Siszero replies looking back up at the group of men now looking at him. He taps on the virtual keyboard in front of him accessing the file he had sent from his room. The data is moved into view of each of the monitors forcing the paused video into the top half of the screen.
“If you can please, go through your findings.” General Letum says bowing lightly with his right arm out exaggerating the motion that he ceded the topic to him.
“Yes. This contains data from nearly a million military and bounty hunter reports in the last 200 cycles. Vino technology advancement cycles have continued to extend. The last significant cloaking system the Vino employed was 11.5 cycles ago and was defeated by technologist systems in under 43 milli-cycles. A predicted step in cloak technology is not expected in over 23.5 cycles, at the earliest.” Siszero says.
“Are you saying the Vino had no hand in this?” Quoris asks.
“There is no way. They had to have!” General Aldorin interrupts, hitting the table with his fist. Siszero looks exasperated before eyeing the group, waiting for more interruptions.
“The scan software aboard the Nexus is top of the line. Its software and hardware are updated to the newest models. Even if that is only done every 60 milli-cycles, as are all our gunships assigned to surveillance are. It is disturbing that such an event occurred. Something is not right, but the only scenario that would allow for Vino to be on planet for such a long period to accomplish such a feat like this would be done by a splinter group.” Siszero says but is cut off before he back up his statement.
“The reports are inaccurate then!” General Mirhee exclaims.
“A splinter group?” General Quoris inquires ignoring Mirhee. The Farasha seemed to be very intrigued by this option. General Letum frowns at Siszero turning away from him. The other General’s furl their brows in interest at the sight of the adjunct general of the supreme commander doing such a thing.
“This is a very unpopular opinion, and consists of a secret event that took play about 40 cycles ago. After I took over the statistic operations division a theory operation mysteriously appeared in the primary simulation runner. It hadn’t been started, the inputs in the simulation were empty but the theory had data to run off of that I couldn’t find. I ran it not thinking too much of it. It took nearly half a cycle before I remembered it was running one day. When I pulled it up, the results were less than exciting. It detailed the rift of two Vino groups, one traveling to the fringe of the galaxy near Neerkin space and the other staying and fighting us, just like we’ve seen with the minor worlds these last 2200 cycles. The technology cycles would be highly different, the fringe Vino were shown to even surpass us easily in fleet and gate users. When I brought it up, I was told at the end of a weapon to be silent. I have tweaked the simulation a few times in the past 40 cycles. Each time it gets a bit more terrifying.” Siszero explains. The Generals are stunned at the information.
“A General’s secrets are his power. Letting one slip like this weakens you.” The Supreme commanders voice booms in the room.
“I have many more secrets. All of them are more valuable then that one. The line of Generals will be succeeded in my Adjunct General Roark. He will have my secrets and he knows the stakes.” General Siszero answers back his voice filled with barbs.
“Well said.” General Letum replies standing straight, his smile returning. Siszero mentally kicks himself for using that gambit here. He had hoped to goad information from Letum or the Supreme Commander but they had called the bluff and stood strong. The seriousness of the situation had called for radical actions. No other General at the table had been brought up by a General Mentor. He was only one of three in all of the Coalition to hold a line of secrets passed from General to pupil.
“Why did you not pick a Ling for your seat? To choose a weak Draia? Pah!” General Mirhee’s tone tells of his anger and disgust for Siszero choosing Roark above the other candidates he had.
“I already get enough anger from my own people for not choosing an Eiris. My choice is made. He will be a better soldier and General than you.” Siszero says looking over at Mirhee.
“We are getting off topic again.” Quoris says looking around the table again. General Letum smiles before opening his mouth but is cut off.
“That is the Nexus, captained by Wiss Tinaro isn’t it? My fleet is heading to that planet right?” Captain Borheag cuts in. Letum looks unhappy at being cut off again but quickly reinforces his smile before answering.
“Yes it is General. Let me play more of the video.” Letum says pressing several buttons removing Siszero’s report from the screens enlarging the video again. The video shows the three deck crew saluting Captain Tinaro. Letum unhappy with the pace hits several buttons causing it to skip ahead. The screen blinks off and on briefly as the Generals look on in deep interest. The screen shows several video feeds from helmet displays and the overhead video from the Nexus. Letum, happier with where the video is, smiles and continues. “There we go, the combat. Watch carefully.”
Letum taps the video button causing the screens to play again. The Generals watch on, some in horror, others shock, as the two humans, one of the most minor of races they track easily crushing a squad of commando’s considered to have the third highest combat training in the military behind special operations and the black guard of the supreme commander. Siszero stops the video. His eyes and mouth wide open.
“Yes General Siszero?” Letum asks, his smile gone. General Siszero manipulates the video at the table magnifying the video streams from the leader of squad five and the overhead stream from the Nexus. They show Amelia standing in a pose ready to strike squad five. The Generals look at the still image unable to figure out what to make of the stance.
“What is it Siszero?” General Quoris asks turning to face him. The horror and confusion on Siszero’s face troubled the General greatly. Not responding Siszero types rapidly on the table pad bringing up a second screen on the displays.
“Analysis in work.” The white screen displays. Both videos slowly move forward, little lines are drawn occasionally over Amelia’s body as the program scans the video display of her movement and attacks on the squad. With each attack, minor bursts of white dots appear on the screen. The Generals look on, confused but interested in what is happening. As the program finishes the analysis the room collectively gasps at the results.
“This is impossible, how can my men compete against this?” General Borheag asks, displaying his knowledge of the technique.
“Moki stance. Name: undefeatable strike. Skill Level: Highest Known. 98% completion.” The white screen displays under the video. Siszero closes his eyes lowering his head in despair. His heart beats fast. He keeps asking himself how such a thing could happen.
“What kind of an attack is that? It says highest known skill.” General Mirhee asks uncharacteristically.
“It isn’t something we’ve taught in a lot of cycles as its chief architects and users are dead. It is the pinnacle of Moki fighting. Besides the creator of the stance and strike, only two others ever recorded were able to use the stance at that level of proficiency. Each of those warriors were said to be able to take out whole armies by themselves. Thousands of Moki and they were considered but pieces of paper to be torn apart by a user of the undefeatable strike. She mastered the Moki hand to hand strikes to 98 percent. Her use of shielding lets us know she is unable to use all of the Moki abilities. The white dots were the invisible energy released from her hand, and not the strikes from the blades. To not only know of this stance but to use it with such proficiency is impossible. It would take a hundred cycles of just training to reach that level of ability.” Siszero explains, his voice shifting between frantic and knowledgeable reciting. The General’s look around at each other uneasily, not happy at this addition.
“So we have a man who can use a royal class shield and a woman who somehow has mastered a Moki stance and attack that only three people prior have done. Not even to note that the Moki have been extinct for over 300 cycles.” Quoris says, the calm in his voice skirting fear. Siszero’s mind spins trying to come up with answers, but none come back. Letum not saying anything clicks a button and maximizes the video feed again to show the remainder of the video. The group of Generals watchs as the two humans defeat the ground forces, even seeming to play with the Nexus as it flies around attempting to deal damage to the two. The video comes to a stop as earth is barely visible from the rear of the Nexus as it flew away at high speed. The picture of Amelia in the Moki stance replaces the video at the top of the screen with the analysis below it.
“You intend for my fleet to battle that?” General Borheag asks the anger in his voice blatant. Most of the Generals are stunned by not just the show of emotion, but anger from Borheag had never been seen before. Siszero looks at him, understanding quite well why this normally stoic General was so angry. Facing enemies of this caliber would be like throwing droplets of water into a raging inferno. His bucket of water would do nothing against the fire he would fight. Perhaps not even the combined forces of the Coalition would be able to extinguish it. During the years prior to the war with the Neerkin, the Coalition had the resources to deal with Earth. Now with so few high level gate users reaching Gold status with the constant warfare, there is no guarantee.
“We do have a card to add to your chances General.” Letum says smiling at the holograph of Borheag. The Generals all look at him uneasy for what sort of assistance the most hated General in the Coalition might have to support such an endeavor. Letum waits a few moments before continuing. “We do have a soldier of Gold level that could tip the fight in your favor General Borheag.” Siszero’s mind buzzes with a thought that a Gold level soldier may have escaped his consideration and be able to fight against these two humans. The General’s eagerly wait for a name or rank of this mysterious soldier that could be their savoir.
“General Quoris you will travel to Draunian and give this pardon to the military criminal.” Letum begins before Aldorin cuts him off. The Generals all look on wide eyed.
“No! If he steps off that planet I will kill him with my bare hands!” Aldorin yells nearly lunging onto the top of the table towards Letum.
“Oh General Aldorin, it happened a long time ago, certainly you are still not angry.” Letum says staring at General Aldorin, his smile even wider. The frightening look of Letum seemed to strike the Generals as a new low of creepiness. Siszero recalls the battle of Generals that had occurred 70 cycles prior. A group of egotistical Generals vied for the chair of Supreme Commander. General Aldorin’s mentor had fought Letum’s mentor in a duel and killed him. Letum had great hatred for the line of Generals that Aldorin continues. Now Aldorin would have to sit there and restrain from tracking down the criminal that had ended his own Mentor’s life. Due to this strife, only Siszero had a line unbroken in over a thousand cycles. With that line held many great secrets. It had meant the line was highly cherished in the military. Siszero’s mind and hidden storage contained knowledge of weapons, resources, and even planets that the Coalition had long forgotten. Letum and Aldorin stared at each other for some time before being interrupted.
“Aldorin, this is my will. You certainly understand the grave issues at hand. If you feel you will not be able to handle your feelings, then I will have to give you a task, perhaps leading the strike on this Earth planet to soften it up for Borheag and the criminal to clean up.” The Supreme Commander says. Aldorin bites his lip to stop himself from responding rashly. Letum turns to the screen behind him and bows before speaking.
“Thank you Supreme Commander. General Borheag, we can only offer the man the pardon and hope he feels the desire to help. Sadly there is no way to make him fight with you. If we force him, he could very well join our enemies once on the planet. We will offer incentives, but if he fails to meet up before your assault window you will go without him. You will wait till dawn at the targets location to strike.” Letum finishes. General Borheag angry and no longer wanting to hear any more disconnects his transmission. The holograph of Borheag slowly fades. Aldorin looks around briefly before stomping back out the door behind him. Letum letting his smile fade slightly walks to Quoris and gives him a rolled up sheet of crystal paper. The act at the start of the meeting would work on others but Siszero knew those two were far closer than others suspected. He looks at the paper, the Coalition commanders stamp visible through the crystal. That paper held an unknown power, would it save them or perhaps doom them further. This made Siszero uneasy as he walked towards his own door. The holograph of Mirhee disappears as Letum and Quoris walk out of Quoris’ door. The room had suddenly grown quiet and empty.
“Siszero, my old friend.” The Supreme Commander’s voice echoes in the room just as Siszero’s hand reaches the button for his door.
“I don’t remember an old friend.” Siszero says turning his head to look at the screen from the corner of his eye. He waits for a response, his face giving away his impatience.
“Believe what you will, there may come a time when you will have to give up something valuable. Don’t let old grudges get in the way. We still fight for the coalition.” The voice booms. Siszero grinds his teeth at the words. He turns his body looking directly at the screen his face betraying the great anger that filled him.
“When the nightmares of all the great soldiers you murdered wake you at night, remind yourself who you fight for!” Siszero says pointing at the screen. He turns punching the button causing the door to slide open. He walks past the guards and Roark. Roark looks at the guards briefly before turning and following the still steaming Siszero away from the room.