Chapter 6 – A disturbance.
The cold rock of the tunnel was unforgiving to sleep on. The tall man lays there slowly waking realizing he was still in a cold unforgiving tunnel. He looks around unhappy that the dream of a warm bed was gone. He inspects his surrounding suspicious of everything. He slowly moves getting to his feet. He stretches his legs and arms in the tall passage near the alcove he had slept in. His timing is perfect as an energy resonance bounces through the tunnels. Quickly alert he hunches over in a defensive posture. The group he had been avoiding for 54 milli-cycles had finally caught up. He scowls at the thought that the blissful sleep he had badly needed had led to him nearly being captured. His enemies had managed to track him without alerting him thus far. With them so close he knew he would have to set up a trap and fight the group. To survive he would need to finally kill them or wound them enough to allow him to escape. He ducks back into the sleeping alcove, while it had almost killed him, he would be able to press himself against the back wall enough to not be seen by lights and give him a chance of a surprise attack.
As the group nears he feels a familiar energy resonance as the coded energy bounces through the tunnels. He places his hands together quickly sensing and decoding the energy to get the message. He opens his eyes shock filling his face at finding out another Vino leader was in the tunnels. The leader was following the group that hunted him. He lifts his left hand upwards in front of him pulling in white energy; it twirls in a complex format on top of his hand before dispersing. He can feel the energy fly rapidly through the tunnels. He hopes it will reach his ally. The man sits in the alcove preparing to act on his original plan if he didn’t get a response. He plans out his moves as the group comes into sight. The response he hopes for makes it to him as the group gets within 50 feet. He approves of the plan and moves away from the back wall of the alcove.
The group of six bounty hunters sees the movement in the distance. They stop, pointing their lights over at the alcove. The group sees the Vino man hunched there. They point their guns rapidly but are unable to fire before the Vino puts up a barrier across the whole entrance of the alcove. The Vino sits there hands in his lap concentrating on his barrier. The group runs to within 15 feet firing at him. As they finally come to a stop the two bounty hunters to the leader’s left continue to fire as the lead calls for the other three to stop. He pulls one of the bounty hunters close and yells into his ear. The man nods as he slings his weapon to his back and digs around in a satchel before pulling a coned explosive charge. The man runs towards the wall, he looks down at the explosive keying in a sequence to prime it.
Half way to the wall the man carrying the explosive is struck in the back by a ball of fire. The blast shreds his armor killing him and sending his body flying forward. His body hits the wall before falling to the ground. The explosive charge hits the wall but without a user to engage the wall clamps it tumbles down the rock face hitting the ground and rolling around until it faces the remaining bounty hunters. Three of the bounty hunters turn toward where the attack had come from ignoring the explosive charge. The second Vino stood there with a shield up. The three begin firing at the second Vino but only get a few rounds off before the explosive charge detonates.
The explosion knocks everyone around kicking up dust. The four remaining mercenaries stand there looking at the corpse of the fifth bounty hunter who had been dispatched by the coned explosive charge. The first Vino opens his eyes seeing the confusion and lack of weapons fire he dismisses the static barrier switching to a portable shield ability and charges out of the alcove at the two bounty hunters that were originally firing at him. He hits the two bounty hunters with the shield. They are sent flying backwards hitting the opposite wall. Finally coming to their senses they raise their guns to fire at the Vino, but the image of the Vino in front of them begins to disintegrate. Horror and confusion fill them as their guns and hands fall to the ground. The Vino blade had sliced so quickly they didn’t even see it. They look over at the Vino as shock prevents them from moving at all. He swings the blade around cutting their heads off.
The two remaining bounty hunters open fire on the second Vino unaware that their primary target had already dispatched the two mercenaries guarding their backs. The second Vino watches as the first Vino runs his sword through the bounty hunter leader. As the leader stops firing the last man realizes something is wrong. He turns to see the Vino generating a fireball only a inch from his face. He reacts in an instant; the Farasha blocking ability scatters the energy of the fireball. He jumps to the side hoping to kill the Vino. As he falls towards the ground he desperately tries to turn his gun around to target the Vino. Just a mere inch from the ground and the second Vino hits him with a fireball sending the body skidding along the ground.
“Thank you. I have been avoiding them for a long time in these tunnels.”
“Why even avoid? They were weak.” The second Vino says walking up, even his walk having an air of arrogance.
“Their leader was well known for hunting single Vino. Had he known there was another of us here he would have retreated and left the system.” The first Vino replies as he kicks the body of the Bounty hunter leader over to reveal the face. The second Vino rubs his own right shoulder remembering a battle long past. The first Vino sees this and continues. “I see you already met with him once. Drop the arrogance then.” The first Vino looks around still wary of any others mercenaries.
“Hmm, yes.” The second Vino answers as he lowers his right arm till his palm is over the chest of the leader. The second Vino struggles a bit as he gathers and converts the energy into a special orb in his hand eventually melding into a round almost flat circle expanding further then his palm. Finally gathered the color shifts to brown before the Vino activates the ability. The energy dries and cuts a hole into the center of the chest of the leader. Where the flesh and bone had been now dust falls to the rock surface beneath the body of the leader. Blood slightly oozes out of the wound on to the dust and rock surface.
“Your addiction to using that spell will kill you one day.” The first Vino says walking past the other Vino as he still gazes down at the body of the mercenary leader. The first Vino can see the exhaustion on the others face after using the ability. The second Vino looks back at the first with contempt in his eyes.
“Where are you going? It’s the other way.” The second Vino says a slight anger in his voice. The first stops and turns to face him.
“What do you mean?” He inquires unsure of what is going on.
“Have you really been under the surface of this planet for a milli-cycle?” The second asks in an arrogant tone.
“Yes I have. What is going on?” The first asks
“Since we couldn’t reach you, we leaders decided this place would be our meeting grounds.” The second says smiling. The first is weary of the verbal barbs so he decides not to continue and just follows the second out of the tunnels. The walk through the tunnels is long with some of the tunnels being no more than a foot in width at sections or three feet tall at others. The tunnel system once belonged to a race of omnivore beetles that had died off thousands of cycles prior after the vast majority of the planet’s life was eaten. Now the tunnel system which spans the whole planet was home to vast oceans and occasionally, hiding Vino. After nearly 70 minutes the two make it to the entrance of the surface.
The moonlight shines against the dark orange skin of the two Vinos who stood atop the rock plateau overlooking the tunnel entrance. They seem to smile as the other two exit the tunnels. To the left a taller Vino woman and right a shorter than average Vino male.
“Ah good, Kildeo found Njecki.” The shorter Vino man says.
“It seems Kildeo decided to be excessive as always. Just kill them and be done with it. You should waste little time dispatching enemies, and even less toying with their pathetic corpses.” The Vino woman on the plateau adds. Kildeo and Njecki shift their gaze from the man and woman like they are being scolded.
“I don’t agree. They could have had a much more amazing battle if they had taken a bit more time.” The man replies looking over and up at the woman.
“That is why I hate you.” The woman replies as she looks down at him, the scorn obvious in her face. The man looks sad for a bit but turns and follows the woman away from the edge of the plateau. Kildeo and Njecki look back up to see no one looking back anymore. They look at each other, unhappy but believing the other had been the reason for the harsh words from the woman.
“Suffer the consequence of the mark that you left behind and curse your weakness now.” Njecki says as he looks at Kildeo. Kildeo looks surprised, but watches as Njecki place his palms downwards and uses energy around his body to propel himself up onto the plateau.
“Damn you!” Kildeo raises his fist as he watches Njecki reach the edge and walk away from him. Now that the three were gone he falls to a knee coughing up a bit of blood. He strengthens his resolve and gets to his feet. He walks forward grabbing the rock face and begins to climb up the wall.
“He is getting weaker.” The woman says as Njecki walks up to the table and chairs sitting at the middle of the plateau. He pulls out a chair and stares out at the wreckage of a ship burning in the distance.
“Leader Kuren took care of the rest of them before I could have any fun.” The shorter man says sitting in a chair. Njecki looks over at Kuren who sits in the chair unmoving. She had long established herself as the most ruthless Vino in over 1000 cycles. She was a tall eight feet two inches, seen as one of the tallest Vino women on record and observed by most of the Vino clans as the sole ruler of the Vino.
“Quit pouting Durosis. If you weren’t so short I’m sure you could have made it here to fight.” Kuren says insulting the other Vino who was sitting. The man’s six and a half foot tall stature was a half foot shorter than any other adult Vino. Njecki was happy he stood seven foot seven inches; the average adult Vino height. While Kildeo liked to lord over others because he is seven foot ten inches tall.
“He is getting weaker. He exhausts himself for a pointless trophy. Battle should be about the fight. Take a trophy in the fight!” Durosis says getting louder.
“You wouldn’t understand. None of you would.” Kildeo says as his lower body still dangles down the side of the plateau. Sweat pours down his face as his arm muscles flex while he holds onto the floor. The three Vino watch him struggle to pull his full body onto the cropping. Njecki sits down in the chair to the right of Kuren. Kildeo finally gets his legs over the ledge causing him to roll a few times on the floor before stopping on his back, breathing heavily. A few minutes pass before Kildeo stands and walks to the table and falls into the remaining chair. The normally pristine black uniform of the Vino is splotched with sweat and dirt. The other three sit quietly each wondering why Kildeo is so out of shape.
“The meeting.” Kuren says looking around the table for acknowledgement from the other three before continuing. “Something unexpected has happened. An untouched planet has become a threat to the Coalition. They have already lost a ship and crew.”
“A ship and crew is minor.” Njecki responds looking at Kuren.
“But it’s what comes next that is wonderful.” Durosis says smiling very wide as he leans forward. Njecki is slightly disturbed by how happy Durosis seems.
“They sent the quadrant three border fleet for the planet.” Kuren says with a smile. She leans back pressing her hands together.
“This fringe planet gets a whole fleet devoted to it?” Kildeo asks his voice easily showing anger. The three look at him a bit taken back by the anger.
“Calm yourself Kildeo. This opens a great opportunity for us.” Kuren says chiding. Kildeo leans back thinking he understood the meaning of the opportunity she spoke of.
“You’re right, clipping Borheag from the Coalition would be best. How many ships would we need to strike at the fleet while it engages the planet?” Kildeo asks still unaware of the true meaning of her words.
“Idiot why attack a fresh fleet! We can finally enact plan bloom!” Durosis exclaims with extreme delight. Njecki and Kildeo’s eyes go wide. The two had never expected the bloom plan would ever be brought to this level. The recent setbacks on Ashk had brought many to believe the foolish plans of the leaders would never reach a point of fulfillment.
“My predecessors plan.” Njecki says looking down at his hands. The other three look at him. They know he had spoken out against continuing to spend resources on moving the preparations further when other methods of evasions should be put ahead.
“Yes Njecki, your predecessors plan. He was a great man who served as lead of your clan for many cycles. He believed we would all see his plan fulfilled and now it may. I know you have given dissenting opinions in the last few cycles. However we are here now. There may never be a greater misalignment of the coalition forces. With Borheag’s fleet astray and engaging whatever monster that has been unleashed we could easily enact bloom. “Kuren answers reaching forward with her hand as if grabbing a prize in front of her.
“Just think Njecki, no more caves, no hot sweaty bush trees. Real sleeping quarters without the risk of a Farasha knife at our throats. No bombardments from space!” Kildeo says. The four sit in silence. Njecki looks around the table still conflicted. Looking down he puts his hand to his face in thought.
“I am the representative of my clan, not just a person. Plan bloom is what my clan works towards. I follow the will of my clan.” Njecki says raising his head and looking at the other leaders. The other three bow in agreement.
“It is decided. The joint clans of the Vino will enact plan bloom.” Kuren says as she stands up. The other three stand up after her. Each of them pulls out a keepsake on them. As they press a button on each of the keepsakes they signal their ships to come pick them up. A rumble from two ships can be heard in the distance. The two ships quickly head towards the plateau as Kuren and Durosis walk towards the edge their ships are closest to.
“What was the monster that was unleashed?” Njecki asks. Kuren stops looking back at Njecki as her ship comes to a stop behind her. The oval ship bristled with guns along the front and sides. Kuren smiles briefly before answering.
“The traitor said somehow one of people on the planet opened his gate. You know how the primitive beings can be? He probably wasn’t ready and went berserk. Took out the responding troops and damaged half of the ship. I wish we could help but the planet will likely be razed.” Kuren answers a smile still on her face. She turns and walks to the edge of the plateau where a gangway had extended from her ship to the rocks. Njecki looks down angered by her answer.
“Is life so easy to toss away for her?” He says under his breath.
“Yes. You have only been a soldier for 11 cycles but eventually you will go mad or become hard and cold after seeing friend, family, and comrade stripped from you.“ Kildeo says hobbling towards the edge of the plateau. His ship can be seen arcing down in the sky from its orbit around the planet. The cylindrical ship design was unmistakable. Sacrificing utility and fighting potential for a symbol to torment his foes with. Durosis laughs loudly as his ship comes to a stop at where Kuren’s ship had waited. It was a large blocky ship utilizing all larger weapons. He purposely took weapons with easy to evade slow moving energy rounds, while making his ship easier to hit. This put him at a disadvantage which he loved to overcome to destroy his foes. It did not matter if it was Coalition or bounty hunters he sucked in all the joy possible from a battle. Kildeo and Durosis fly their ships away from the plateau while Njecki waits for his ship to get there from where it hid on the planet’s moon.
He looks back at the wreckage of the bounty hunters ship. He had hoped to hide from them long enough that they would give up and leave. Now their remaining crew burn with the ship. System sensors would recognize the three other Vino ships as they leave. A strike fleet would arrive and find the wreckage. They would slowly scan the surface and find the identification tags of those dead in the tunnel. Eventually they would know of Kildeo’s work in the tunnels and Kuren’s unmerciful approach with the ship. Njecki looks up to see a glint. It was his tiny black ship cutting through the atmosphere. The ship was smaller, oval in shape. As it came closer the smaller damaging weaponry is visible next to disablers and scramblers. His ship was often thought to be the pinnacle of Vino stealth and evasion. The ship was so nimble that he had evaded laser fire from a coalition destroyer and fighter accompaniment for 27 minutes before he was able to make a run for a hiding place.
The ship slowed quickly as it approached the rock plateau. Not wishing to walk to the edge he clicks his control pad commanding the ship to hover a half inch above the rock surface a few feet from him. The ship decelerates rapidly as it comes to a stop where he had ordered. The wind from the ship causes Njecki to take a step back to brace himself from falling over. The chairs can be heard tipping over in the background. No longer wishing to continue the terrible memory of this planet he steps aboard his ship.