So… Who do you like?


I just realized I have a lot of characters XP

I just realized I have a lot of characters XP

Alright, so I did one of these a long time ago, and I decided it’s time I did another one. This is a poll for who your favorite character(s) is/are from my current WIP novels. Note: I probably missed a bunch of characters from The Dark Menace because the cast in that story is huge. Also, you don’t need to have read all my stories, or even be up to date on any of them. Just, if you recognize a character that you liked, place a vote for him/her. I’m curious who you guys like.

Looking forward to the results! 🙂

Tours yruly

More Quotes! =D


Sooo, what in the world is all this about? You might ask. Well, remember how I did the first and last lines of the stories I’ve completed? Well, as a sort of advertising campaign, I’ve decided to do the “best” quotes from my current stories. There are quotes around best because one of the quotes isn’t actually the best, but I made it a point to have at least one quote from the main character per story. Enjoy, and hopefully these intrigue you enough to go and check my stories out. 🙂

I love space. :)

I love space. 🙂

1. Galactic Battles: The Dark Menace

The weak are conquered by the strong, and the crafty take advantage of the naive. Whilst one conquers by force, the other conquers by deception. Tell me, which is the foe greater to be feared?

– Richard Homling

So, yep, Richard is the main character for The Dark Menace, which is a science fiction novel staged in a galaxy of my own creation. It is going to be, by far, the longest story I have ever written, and is very much a work in progress, though there is substantial reading material currently available.

Ah, don't old books look cool?

Ah, don’t old books look cool?

2. The Storyteller

Time is a dangerous subject.

– Phillip

In everyone lies a story, some just never get told.

– Unknown

Our job as storytellers is not to force the story into our mould. We create the story to be sure, and we end it, but what happens between then is merely guided. On occasion, you will find that the story develops itself, and it can take paths you did not intend.

– The Storyteller

To me, The Storyteller has a special place in my heart because it is almost a parallel to what us actual writers/authors do, only with the spin that storytelling is now a super-power. Staged in a medieval world of fantasy, wrought with magic and the like, Philip, the protagonist (and the one with the lame quote), must travel on a journey to hunt down and defeat a mysterious being, the Executioner.

That looks cold....

That looks cold….

3. Heartless: Cold Hands

Lord– It is a troubled age that we live in. You know, God, that we are surrounded by trials and tribulations. Friends fall all around us, yet I know that with faith in You, we will stay strong.

– Anna Flyer

Okay, okay, I’m sorry I wasted a bullet.

– Morpheus

It’s a cold world. A world like this calls for cold action.

– Morpheus

Cold Hands is a lot more than an apocalyptic novel, as the most recent chapter of it just revealed. This is a novel looking at just how bad the world can get, and as you can see, especially from the last quote, the world has become very harsh. Anna is the protagonist, and her quote is actually taken from a prayer. The second quote might not seem like much out of context, but inside of the story it goes far to show the brutality of the new world. (Also, because Cold Hands is the featured novel on my blog, there is a lot of extra content for it. Check out the table of contents (ToC) to find it!)

My own picture! :)

My own picture! 🙂 (Actually my picture composited with another picture)

4. Unseen: Right Behind You

Hope is after all no more than wishes, and wishes, when unsupported by action, are nothing more than empty thoughts.

– Samuel Dalus

As I said when I first started writing it, Right Behind You is not a horror story. XP Not that I have anything against horror stories, it just isn’t one. There is not much in terms of chapters out for this story, though I believe I have written some seventeen thousand words for it. This is partially science fiction, though not too much, and follows the story of wheelchair-ridden genius and billionaire, Samuel Dalus as he discovers a new race, the Unseen.

Alright! That’s it. Hopefully one of these intrigues you. I look forward to seeing more of you guys on my blog. 🙂

Tours yruly

Galactic Battles: The Dark Menace: Chapter 12


Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72

 

So this chapter of The Dark Menace is a shorter chapter, but I didn’t have as much to say. Mainly all I was doing is introducing a few new characters. Yes, I do realize that it has been forever since I’ve posted anything related to Galactic Battles, but give me a break alright? I’ve been busy. Okay, so I’m pretty sure you didn’t come here to listen to me complain, so just scroll on down, and enjoy chapter 12 of The Dark Menace🙂

 

XII

The Twin Sisters of Demise

Date: Feb 10, 900 A.C.

__________________________________________

And-Son knelt in front of the Imperetor who sat on his throne with an air of indifference. Silent Imperial Warlords flanked the elevated seat and stood alongside the elaborate rug that led towards the Imperetor and on which And-Son was genuflecting. 

“I have finally arrived,” the prone figure said, voice slightly muffled by the floor.

“Yes, my pupil. I am glad to see you. I felt the death of E An Por. However, I see that you do not have the esteemed Senator with you. Why is that? What caused a devoted student of mine to fail? Who was the cause of this error?”

With each question, the pitch of the Imperetor’s voice dropped several semitones, and his voice was a mere growl on the last word.

Silence hung in the air the way a curtain hangs from its rack; dead, motionless, and– silent. And-Son felt the beat of his heart quicken. Though his feelings to the Imperetor were mostly of respect and fealty. There was still enough fear left behind to wonder what the Imperetor was implying. However, he knew better than to answer Malvolent’s rhetorical questions, so he remained silent.

Something began prodding at And-Son’s head, but he resisted the urge to scratch. Then he realized it was inside his head. For some strange reason though, he felt no fear. Instead, as his world slowly shrunk before his eyes, And-Son felt nothing. When he dreamily realized that he was dying, he felt deeply grateful that his service had earned him the right of dying painlessly, and when he finally rolled over as a corpse, his presence left the galaxy entirely.

“Take him away,” the Imperetor said, gesturing vaguely in And-Son’s direction. Two Imperial Warlords, their masks leaving their faces expressionless, stepped forward, and seizing the body, dragged it away between them. Two more of the silent soldiers quietly filed in to positions flanking the Imperetor while the murmuring of the voice pickups transmitted the message for the coordinated system of people to fill in the gaps left behind.

“Draconian,” the Imperetor said.

The dark ruler’s disciple stepped out from the shadows a moment later. 

“You called me master?”

“Yes. I think it is time you paid a visit to DAMARS and see what new things they have for us.”

Draconian stiffened. He was not about to disobey his master, but of all the places in the galaxy, DAMARS was the place he hated the most. It made no difference that he had been born there. As long as DAMARS existed, there was always the chance that something new, more powerful than he would be created, and the Imperetor would discard him for that new creature.

As of yet, nothing had been made to suit the Imperetor, but genetics were an unpredictable field, and he never knew just when his replacement might arise. Thus it was that Draconian’s reply was tight-lipped. 

“Yes master.”

***

Richard stood with his head bowed as Savantone intoned the funeral speech for E An Por. It had all been so sudden. “If only–” Richard thought. There had to have been something he could have done. If he had not been defeated so easily, he could have saved the Defen. Why? Why did someone have to die?

“…and as we lay our friend to rest, all feelings of revenge must be laid to rest as well, for it does a Defen ill to maintain such feelings of anger, hatred, and bitterness.”

This struck Richard particularly hard. He had just been on the point of planning some method to exact his revenge on And-Son. Was he not allowed some way to exact his solace? Why did the code of the Defen have to be so strict?

Richard quickly pushed these thoughts aside. He knew all too well why such feelings were discouraged throughout the Defen order. Better to keep a level head and plan for the good of all than deal with things his own way for his own purpose.

It was at this point that Richard, even with his own primitive mental skills, detected a surge of emotion. Ivan stood up abruptly. His face was dark, and anger rippled through him.

“And-Son betrayed us, he betrayed me, he killed one of our friends, and you tell us that we should not seek vengeance for this foul deed? How can you say this when your friend lies dead before us? This is no savior’s code. This is the code of a coward. Just because he defeated one Defen doesn’t mean he can defeat others. If you are all so fearful, then why even call yourselves Defen? We may as well cower in holes.”

“Sit boy,” Savantone said quietly, gesturing smoothly with his right hand. Ivan felt a gentle but insistent force pressing him back down, and he sat, albeit unwillingly. “You do not know what you speak of Ian.

“The Defen– Excuse me, Vilth, you speak of is no longer of this galaxy. He was, no doubt, killed by his master after Joh here foiled the ploy to once again capture the senator. Your harsh words are pointless, and aimed in the wrong direction. Devote your efforts to locating the source of this corruption in our midst, and you will have served well.”

Later, after the funeral, another meeting was held between the Assembly members, along with a few guests. 

“Senator Westerbridge,” Savantone said, addressing one of the guests that had been invited. “Do you have an idea why you would be hunted like this? Is there any secret information you have that would be of such value to some enemy that they would hound on you like this?”

“I’m sorry, but I cannot think of anything,” Jennifer replied, after a moment’s thought.

“She is a prominent figure in the senate, that is, not counting those who disprove of her occasional controversial points of view,” Senator Shore put in.

“Hardly more prominent than others, Jeremy.”

“Prominent enough.” 

“If prominent characters are who they are searching for,” Yris, the Assembly’s Archiver began.

“Then why not target me?” The Dictent, also present, finished.

“Exactly.”

“A good point Yris, Dictent,” Joh said.

“There must be some other reason,” Savantone intoned grimly. “And this worries me. So far, our enemy has been one step of us the whole time. We need to catch up and figure out exactly what is going on. Admiral Yive, I assume your scouts have discovered nothing?”

“Nothing of value, I’m sorry,” the Admiral said, shaking his head quietly.

“Then we have to wait,” Savantone sighed. “Wait, and see what happens next.”

***

Draconian hated waiting. But that was exactly what he was forced to do know as his ship was repaired. Sure he could just phase over to DAMARS, but that would leave him mentally drained, and ill-equipped to deal with what might be there. To tell the truth, half of him was quite satisfied that his journey to DAMARS was delayed so, but the other half, the more sensible half, knew that too many such delays would earn him the same fate as And-Son.

True, he was a favored pupil in the eyes of the Imperetor, but that did not mean he was above and exempt from all punishments. He had countless scars on his body to remind him of that. A banging on his spaceship woke him from his thoughts. He glared out of the cockpit at the mechanic who, suitably cowed, gave him a thumbs up. 

Draconian boosted the throttle and was satisfied at the roar of the rocket engines. So much for waiting.

***

The planet of Miralku, ice, jungle, desert, and ocean combined, was home to the genetic research facility known as DAMARS. Draconian’s memories of this planet were none too fond. This was no time to orbit it though. He had received the green light for landing a minute ago, and swinging the nose of his spaceship around, he lined himself up for touchdown.

The operation was executed without a hitch, and upon his exit from the plane, Draconian was greeted by a bobbing and bowing scientist who beckoned him into the building. Ever suspicious, Draconian tightened his mental grip on his enerblade.

“I assume you are here to investigate our progress towards DAMARC Type T. They’re called Type T because they’re twins you know. We’ve succeeded in making it so they mind-sync. It has had quite interesting results. Because they essentially share a more developed but single brain, they are capable of achieving some ridiculously interesting feats. We’ve had them do things like–”

“Just shut up and show me the new DAMARCS,” Draconian growled, and mentally pricked the scientist on his neck for emphasis. An audible gulp followed as the loquacious researcher put an end to his flow of words.

They rounded a corner, at the scientist, remembering his previous instruction, gestured to the viewscreen before them. Draconian, despite his forebodings, was curious about the new DAMARCS, and peered through the window quite eagerly.

A pair of what appeared to be young girls, around the age of sixteen, were engaged in battling some dueling robots. Each of the two girls had a pair of practice enerblades, and their execution was perfect. They danced around the robots in perfect synchronization. Their blows weaved in and out creating a network of attacks and parries that both confused and distracted the robots’ artificial intelligence.

“Quite remarkable don’t you say?” the scientist said agreeably.

Draconian whirled on him and seized him by the throat.

“What did I say about shutting up?” the Vilth growled. He had seen what he came to see, and what he had seen did not sit well with him. This new DAMARC was more than competition for him; it was pure, threatening– rivalry.

The scientist’s face turned white as paper before Draconian finally dropped him. With a voice void of emotion, the Vilth said, “Prepare them for a journey. I’ll be taking the two to my master.”

“Y-yes, Lord Vengance,” the scientist stuttered, and scrambled off.

***

Draconian stood silently with a hand on either of the girls’ shoulders. The Imperetor was examining them, feeling their powers, finding their strengths and weaknesses. Finally he sat back, ready to give his verdict. Draconian held his breath.

“It is an interesting pair we have here, my pupil. I think they will serve well as assassins for our cause.”

Draconian exhaled. If they were to be assassins, that meant they held no future rivalry for him. Then his enerblade shot from his belt to his master’s hand. “Leave now my pupil. It is time for me to establish my dominance.”

Draconian bowed deeply and exited. No one wished to see the Imperetor demonstrate his superiority. Even from where he was standing he could hear muffled cries. These reminded him of a time not too long ago when he had suffered the same treatment, and he zoned out, ignoring the noises completely.

The doors swung open, indicating the ordeal was over, and the two DAMARCS walked out, wobbling on their feet. An intricate design had been carved on their faces and hands, and it was clear to see that Malvolent had broken them; their minds were obviously under control.

He stood a side to let them pass, then entered the room after them. Draconian’s enerblade came flying towards his face, and it was only his lightning-quick reflexes that saved him as his hand shot up to catch the weapon deftly. Silently he returned it to his belt.

“Well, Draconian,” Imperetor Malvolent said, breaking the silence. “We have ourselves a new pair of assassins. Their name shall be feared all throughout the galaxy. Especially among the ranks of the Defen. I have christened them as:

“The Twin Sisters of Demise. Suitable, don’t you think?”

Draconian nodded mutely.

 

Tours yruly

Galactic Battles: The Dark Menace: Chapter 11


Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72

Well, here is chapter 11 of The Dark Menace. Sorry all who have been waiting so long for it, but it takes quite a while to write one of these chapters, especially since I have a minimum chapter page limit for myself. Anyways, enough of my rambling on. Enjoy. 🙂

 

XI

 

And-Son

Date: Feb 8, 900 A.C.

__________________________________________

Richard was called to the Assembly soon after Savantone himself had left, and it was with a foreboding heart that the young Defen went; for though his mission’s failure had not been directly his fault, he felt that there should have been something he could have done.

Richard had very high expectations of himself. The enormous responsibility thrown on his shoulders had made a man of him way before his time, and somewhere, he was always thinking that there was something he could have done better. He hated it when something he attempted failed, and always found himself dwelling on the past to determine what he could have done better.

So it was to Richard’s great relief when the Assembly members greeted him with smiles and congratulated him on a successful recovery of what could have turned into a terrible disaster. They did not see things in the same light as Richard did. All they saw was that an important senator had been saved by a young student whom they had high hopes for.

“You showed marvelous coolness considering the situation,” E An Por said quietly. “I congratulate you. It is not often that students are so capable in time of need.”

“I have had good teachers and plenty of experience sir,” Richard said with a respectful bow, though inside he was bursting with joy. This was the exact reverse of what he had expected, and he could not help but admit to himself that he was relieved.

“We believe we can trust in your discretion, which is why we have summoned you here,” Joh Probationor said, staring intently at Richard out of his brilliant blue eyes.

“I will do anything for the Assembly,” Richard confirmed, and he was surprised to realize that he meant what he said, and that indeed he was willing to do anything for this group of people who had quickly become so close to him. Just a month ago, he despised them, believing that all big organizations simply wished for more power and dominion. How enlightening that month had been.

“We thought as much,” Savantone said; he sounded meditative. “Now, we have our suspicions, but we need confirmation. After all, we are the highest of our order, and there are none who would not recognize us were we to go undercover.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Your relations with your brother are strained are they not?” Joh asked.

“Yes– sir. But I do not see how that applies to the current situation.”

“It is very important Rich,” E An Por said gravely. “We have suspicions about And-Son. We believe– never mind what we believe. Tell me, has your brother been acting strange of late? Does he seem to be giving in to a darkness inside him? Had he seemed– angry, frustrated, and overall unusual?”

“Well–” Richard did not know how to answer this question. He had no wish to lie to the Assembly, yet he did not want to betray his brother, even though he knew that Ivan was in the wrong. Instantly his most recent fight with Ivan came to mind, and he vacillating between revealing what he knew, or keeping it to himself.

“Speak,” Joh said sternly.

“Whatever you tell us will be for the good of everyone as a whole,” Savantone told him encouragingly.

Despite these comments though, Richard had to recall his previous declaration of fealty to make his decision, and he spoke with forced words when he raised his voice again.

“My brother– he seems to harbor an anger against me. Yet I do not see the source of this feeling. I have done nothing in the past to harm him, yet he appears to compete with me in everything we undertake. I do not know why this is. And-Son, well, I am unsure if his influence with my brother is healthy.”

The Assembly exchanged knowing looks, and Richard wondered what he had said to cause such a disturbance. Even with his raw, little-trained mental abilities, he could feel the mood shift in the group as a whole. He waited, shifting his weight slightly, then realizing he was dismissed, left hurriedly.

As Richard travelled the numerous passageways to his room, he pondered upon this new development. So he was not the only one who had noticed Ivan’s behavior too. But what was this about And-Son, what could they suspect about him? Richard had noticed that And-Son was of the moody type. He seemed to be constantly brooding, but surely this was not unusual? There were many Defen who were naturally quiet. Richard finally resigned himself to the fact that the Assembly could see more than he could.

Then, as he rounded a corner, Richard bumped into somebody. His newly honed reflexes snapped into action as his sharp eyes caught a falling object. Instinctively he reached out mentally, and the descent of the object, which he now realized was a holo-projector, was stalled.

Lifting his eyes, Richard started to apologize profusely but was cut off.

“Why, it’s Rich Hom!” a merry voice exclaimed.

“Jenni– Senator Westerbridge,” Richard said formally, handing her the holo-projector. “How do you do?”

“I am perfectly well,” Jennifer said. “But you look like you’ve seen a ghost. What has happened?”

“Do I really look that bad?” Richard asked, rubbing his thumb along his jaw. Now that he thought about it, he certainly felt bad. His interview had left him unconsciously drained, for he had a natural instinct for honesty, and the fact that he had come so close to lying about his brother had sapped his resilience.

The two stood awkwardly in the hallway, then Richard moved to one side to let the Senator pass, but she stepped to the side also to let him pass, and they found themselves once again obstructing each other’s passage.

Jennifer laughed awkwardly, and Richard once again stepped to the side to allow her to pass. As Richard walked away, he sensed the Senator turn around, so he turned too.

“I’m glad you followed my advice, and I hope you save your planet,” Jennifer said sincerely.

“And I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you for your advice,” Richard said, equally sincerely.

“I didn’t think my advice would be the means of saving myself from captivity,” Jennifer said with a small laugh, and Richard got the feeling she was talking to herself more than she was to him.

Richard stood uncertainly, feeling like he should say something, but he could not think of anything to talk about.

Fortunately for Richard, he was saved the trouble of thinking of something to say when alarms started blaring all throughout the complex.

“What’s happening?” the Senator asked worriedly, looking around as if the surroundings would shed some light on this new development.

Richard was doing his own looking around and did not answer. He hurried over to a panel on the wall. He keyed in a Defen channel and spoke into the intercom.

“What’s going on?”

“This is E An Por. And-Son has gone rogue. Repeat, And-Son has gone rogue.”

If Richard’s face was white before, then his face now was beyond white. His first thought was for the safety of his brother, then Jennifer brought him back to reality by saying, “What is it? What’s going on?”

“A Defen has gone rogue,” Richard said, tight-lipped. Just then, Jennifer’s holocell beeped. She activated it.

“Jennifer, a Defen has gone rogue!” It was Senator Shore. “You need to get to safety as soon as possible.”

“Ok. Where should I head?”

“SEP 5; hurry!”

“You’ll be alright?” the Senator asked as she returned her holocell to its rightful place.

Richard nodded and started off at a jog for the Assembly chambers, but after a few tense seconds, he burst into a run. He arrived in the chamber to find E An Por engaged in a duel with And-Son. Red flashed against green, and sparks flew as the enerblades cleaved into metal and fortisteel.

For a moment he was bewildered, then he drew his own enerblade and, igniting it, leaped into the fray. E An Por frowned slightly at Richard’s impulsive entrance, but he was not given long to meditate on it, for And-Son sent a console flying at his head. The Assembly member barely managed to dodge, leaving Richard to fight by himself for a moment. And-Son pressed his advantage, and with a flurry of three blows, pushed Richard back into a corner.

Richard swept his enerblade down to parry a low cut by And-Son, and the latter, seizing his chance, hit Richard on the head with a high kick. Then E An Por attacked And-Son, and Richard was for the moment forgotten.

Richard’s vision was swirling. Before, the enerblades had been blurs, but now the men themselves were slurred together. His hand instinctively switched his enerblade off as he sunk to the ground. He saw E An Por leap forward with a powerful lunge, and Richard’s heart leapt with him, but And-Son jumped to the side, and mercilessly hacked at the now open Defen.

E An Por threw himself to the right, away from And-Son, but he was not quick enough, and the tip of the fallen Defen’s enerblade seared the former’s side. Seeing the Defen wounded seemed to wake Richard from his stupor, and he stood up, albeit unsteadily, and reignited his enerblade.

And-Son paused for a moment to look at Richard, and E An Por took his chance with a quick lunge. But And-Son was ready, and once again sidestepping the wounded Defen’s blade, he swung his own enerblade down and decapitated his opponent. Richard stopped halfway through his stride as the head of E An Por rolled to a standstill at his feet.

Richard felt sick, as he looked down at the head of the fallen Assembly member, and he must have looked sick too, for And-Son laughed at him in disdain. Then, as the clomping of coms’ boots echoed down from a hallway, And-Son turned and ran off.

It took Richard a few seconds to recover from the shock, then anger took over, and he sped after And-Son. He could sense the presence of And-Son just around a corner and still moving. Richard had not been at the ACC for very long, but he had been there long enough to know his way around, and he soon realized which direction And-Son was heading; the senator quarters.

He put on a burst of speed and reignited his enerblade as he rounded another bend. In the distance, he caught sight of a corner of his quarry’s robe disappearing around the corner.

When he finally reached the twist in the hallway, he paused for fear of what he might see when he turned. But the pause was momentary, and he sped up almost instantly. His eyes quickly took in the fact that a door was open, and he dashed in, to find himself at the point of And-Son’s enerblade.

And-Son slowly rotated and Richard moved with him to avoid being cut by the blade. When And-Son finally stopped guiding Richard, the latter found himself standing next to Senator Shore and Jennifer.

At the slightly shocked expressions, which Richard and Jennifer both sought to conceal, And-Son said with a smile, “Yes, yes. Senator Westerbridge, meet Rich Hom, Rich Hom, meet the Senator. Oh– wait, you’ve already met haven’t you?” And his voice became savage, “When Rich saved you, Senator, from our clutches. But, no matter, we get what we want in the end.”

“Not if I have any say in it!” Jeremy Shore said, drawing from a hidden holster a small pistol. He fired, but there was a flash, and And-Son absorbed the energy bolt with his enerblade.

“I don’t need you,” And-Son said coldly to Jeremy, his weapon descending, only to be halted by its yellow counterpart.

“Not if I have any say in it,” Joh Probationor said quietly.

If And-Son had been hoping for as easy a victory against Joh as he had had against E An Por, he was disappointed greatly. E An Por had been a negotiator, and the skills he had gained with an enerblade were those required for a Defen. Joh Probationor on the other hand, had devoted as much of his education as a Defen as he could to the enerblade arts, and was a proficient master of that iconic weapon.

Ducking a high sweep from And-Son, Joh attacked with a low cut, which And-Son jumped over. However, Joh, surprisingly spry for his thirty-eight years, executed a whirlwind clothesline at And-Son’s legs, so that the evil Defen’s landing on the ground left much to be desired.

He scrambled to his feet, then assumed a brazen look as he faced his opponent. There was a bout of feinting and feeling on both sides, as they each tried to open the other up. Then Joh struck a series of rapid blows to the sides, shoulders and head of And-Son in quick succession. These the red-wielding Defen blocked, but they left his lower body open, and Joh struck at And-Son’s stomach with a mentally reinforced kick.

And-Son raised a knee to ward off the blow, but that didn’t stop him from shifting a few feet backwards. He gave an animalistic growl, then charged forward again. Joh stopped him midway with a mental shove that actually sent And-Son flying back. The Defen-turned-Vilth, realizing he was defeated, broke through a window to follow the emergency escape route that had been planned in case things did not go according to the Imperetor’s format.

Joh made as if to go after him, but apparently decided against it.

“Let him go,” he said to himself. “He can do no more harm than he has already caused.

“How are you kid?” Joh said gruffly to Richard.

“I’m fine sir,” Richard said, returning his enerblade to its rightful position. “What happened to– Ian?”

Joh chuckled. “Sleeping. Slept through it all. Had a hard day before I guess. Would you believe it? Sleeping, while a Defen rebelled. Sleeping. Just think about it.”

 

Tours yruly

Galactic Battles: The Dark Menace: Chapter 10


Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72

X

 

Encounter with the Enemy

Date: Feb 6, 900 A.C.

__________________________________________

After Richard came back from his first mission, he began involving himself in politics. He was trying to get the Galactic Regime to send supplies, if they would not send troops, to Darthamoor. So far, his efforts had been met with moderate success, but the strain of politics was getting to him.

Richard was not a politician. He was a straightforward get-to-the-point type, and elaborate speeches along with embellished orations were definitely not part of his repertoire. As such, he found such events tiresome, and longed for some sort of adventure.

Multiple times Richard had visited Savantone, asking over and over if there was naught he could be assigned to do, but there was nothing for a Defen of Richard’s experience, and he had to content himself with idling.

In the meantime, tensions had begun to arise between Richard and Ivan. Richard’s early graduation to Defen had always been a sore point with Ivan, and the fifteen year old found himself feeling jealous. Ivan was careful not to let his emotions show though, for he knew that jealousy was something that was not permitted in a Defen.

However, when Ivan was sparring with his trainer, he unleashed all his pent up bitterness and envy with whirling strokes and powerful cuts. The Defen training Ivan, a man by the name of And-Son, seemed to encourage this style of fighting, though this was only when there were no other Defen around.

Ivan’s jealousy made him wish to better his brother. As such, he began an intensive study of enerblade arts. He found that Padalin, the eight art, suited his style of hack and slash fighting extremely well. However, realizing that he lacked defense using that art, he also began learning the twelfth art, Shockwave.

And-Son urged Ivan’s study of combat, telling him that a Defen who could not fight was useless, and that there was no point to devote oneself half-heartedly to something.

Richard had not been neglecting his weapon studies either. As he found time hung heavily on his hands, Richard decided that he may as well improve his fighting. He recalled what Elle has said, and began studying Collosum and the Collosum armbreaker.

Richard also found himself intrigued by Repaarte. The smooth and flowing motion of that art really bonded with him, and the encouraged calm and peace of mind that the enerblade art brought with it helped to relax him after a stressful day of politics.

Richard’s interest in Repaarte also brought him in contact with the unarmed style of combat Janyo, twenty-first on the list of enerblade arts, though technically the only place the enerblade came into that was when the learner sparred with a Defen armed with an enerblade.

After a particularly difficult day in the political realm, Richard found himself in the Defen training arena with a sparring enerblade practicing the Collosum armbreaker. He had paused for a drink, with sweat pouring down his face and body, when his newly discovered mental senses detected the approach of two people.

Turning around, Richard realized it was Ivan and And-Son. He gave a friendly wave, then returned to cooling off.

Ivan entered the arena with a sparring enerblade and began warming up. Then he called out to Richard.

“Hey! Want to have a fight?”

“I’ve no objections,” Richard said, putting his drink down and leaping into the arena beside Ian.

The two combatants circled each other for a moment, then Ivan gave a yell as he brought his enerblade in a wide arc heading for Richard’s head. Richard barely had time to dodge, but with the ease and calm that came from Repaarte, he swung a smooth cut to Ivan’s side.

Only a practiced eye could have seen the torque that lay behind Richard’s seemingly weak stroke. However, Ivan’s Shockwave block was ready, and Richard was stunned when Ivan’s blade met his and a jarring shock ran from his wrist to shoulder.

In fact, Richard found his right arm fairly disabled, and he had to dodge Ivan’s next two furious cuts. Quickly switching his enerblade to his left hand, Richard did the best he could to mount a defense against Ivan’s heavy two-handed strokes.

But Richard’s left hand was nowhere as practiced as his right hand was, and the young Defen found his guard slowly weakening. He knew he would have to do something soon. Ivan had beaten him into a corner, and was now forcing him to his knees.

Then Richard saw Ivan’s legs. Though Shockwave was an excellent defensive technique, it did have one fault, and that was the lower portion of a Defen’s body. Even if the art was mastered, the lower part of the Defen’s body would always be a weakness unless another defensive technique was combined with it.

Richard waited his chance, then he gripped Ivan’s legs in a scissor like grip between his own legs. Using the arena’s side ropes as a sort of launchpad, Richard pushed off so that he spun in a circle on the floor with Ivan’s legs still gripped in-between his.

Ivan did not stand a chance, and he fell to the ground with a loud thud. Before his younger brother could do anything, Richard brought his enerblade to Ivan’s throat. Then drawing his weapon back, Richard stood up and offered a hand to Ivan.

The defeated however, just pushed the offered hand away and stood up.

“I’ll beat you next time Richard!” Ivan called after Richard as the Defen exited the arena.

“I’m sure you will,” Richard called back, depositing his sparring weapon in the rack and exiting the room.

And-Son stepped up to offer Ivan some consolation, but the seething boy turned on his trainer savagely.

“You said I was ready!”

“You were,” And-Son told his pupil calmly. “Only you let your rage control you. If you had channeled it to enhance your combat abilities and discover Richard’s weakness, you would have seen that he could easily have been defeated. You need a third more precise art than Padalin.”

Ivan took a few breaths to calm himself, then he said, “And what art is that?”

“I was thinking of Phantom.” And-Son said, and he led his student away, explaining to him all the while the intricacies of the tenth art.

Meanwhile, Richard was pondering the outburst of anger he had noticed in Ivan as they fought. Richard himself did not realize that his quick promotion had been the cause of the tension between them, and being the kind of frank open boy that does not let jealousy bother him, did not understand what was affecting his brother.

Richard also realized that the rage Ivan was experiencing was contrary to Defen beliefs, and for a moment, he considered telling Savantone about his brother, then he changed his mind; his brother was not a bad person, and would no doubt get over his anger soon.

The door to Richard’s apartment slid open the instant he hit enter on the virtual keypad. He was about to enter when he sensed a familiar presence. Turning with a smile on his lips, Richard greeted Savantone who greeted him back before Richard’s greeting had finished.

Richard realized that Savantone had something bothering him to speak so shortly, so he asked what the matter was.

“Oh, nothing much, except have you noticed anything strange about your brother or And-Son lately?”

Richard was on the verge of saying yes, then he shook his head. “No.”

Savantone looked relieved.

“Well then, I’ve noticed that you have been rather restless lately.”

“Well,” Richard faltered. Patience was a key characteristic of a Defen, and he did not wish to admit to failure in that respect even though he did wish for change.

“Were you going to say something?” Savantone asked politely.

“Uh– no– no, it’s fine. You were saying?”

“I was saying that I have a task for you. Senator Westerbridge is going on a three day diplomatic mission and in these troubled times, it has been decided that she should have some protection with her. She already has a squad of coms traveling with her entourage but we have decided that it would be just as well if a Defen went along as well. You have been chosen to be that Defen.”

There was a pause, then Richard spoke up.

“Are you saying that this is my– my first solo mission?”

“Yes,” the aged Defen said with a smile. “Now go and get ready, they leave in half an hour.”

Richard could hardly contain his excitement as he entered his room. Even though it was not more than a diplomatic mission, it was his first solo operation and he felt both anxious and thrilled at the same time. It was a feeling that left him in a state of on-his-toes enthusiasm.

He did not have much to prepare, so his packing was done in about five minutes, but with all the added scurrying around and extra checking that Richard did, he took thrice that time. At the end of that, Richard realized he had accidentally packed his enerblade in the midst of his extra clothing, and it took him another five minutes to find it.

He gave one last preliminary check, then rushed off to the hangers where he was sure they would be waiting. Richard arrived just as the squad of coms was forming up. The senator was the first to see him, and waved him over.

“Well, Rich Hom, a Defen to protect me.” She said with a smile. Then she pouted in a playful manner. “I still don’t understand why they are taking all these new safety precautions. It’s not like the diplomatic service can’t take care of itself.”

Richard, who had seen his home planet get taken over before his very own eyes, was inclined to take a graver view of the case.

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures Senator,” he said. “After you.”

The Senator looked surprised at the sobriety of Richard, but she boarded the ship. Richard gave a look around then entered after her.

Half an hour into the flight, after Richard had worn off his nervousness and excitement by constantly checking the spaceship’s numerous functions, he settled down beside the com Squad Leader.

“So,” Richard said. “I never heard our destination. Where are we headed?”

“Ever since the beginning of the war there have been rumors that the border planets are divided and might switch to the enemy’s side.” the com said. “We are going to Forrerth to set them at peace.”

“I see.” Richard said. “By the way, I don’t think I got your name. I’m Rich Hom. Who are you?”

“Drax. I am Drax.”

“Well,” Richard said, rising, for once again, the nervousness brought about by his first solitary mission returning. “I must go now and attend to my duties. Nice talking to you.”

He headed into the pilot’s cabin. The copilot looked up as Richard entered.

“All fine over here?” Richard asked, preparing to return the way he had come, for the last three times he had asked that question, the pilot had assured him with a smile that everything was going perfectly well.

However, a look of worriment came across the copilot’s face, and Richard, noticing it, instantly hurried forward.

“What is it?” Richard asked, peering out the viewscreen as if doing so would allow for an improved knowledge of the situation.

“Well, nothing as yet,” the copilot said slowly. “But–” here he paused.

“But?” Richard urged.

“Well, we will be coming out of Machspace in a few minutes, and our preliminary communications have not been answered. Of course there could be a problem with their contact systems, and that is what we believe it to be, but the pilot and I had thought you’d best be informed.”

“Thank you,” Richard said. “And I’m sure we’ll find it’s nothing. Still, if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll remain in the cockpit for a while.”

The two coms told Richard there was not a problem, and finding an empty seat, the Defen sat down. Though Richard had made a pretense at calmness, really he felt just the opposite, and when they came out of Machspace, he looked up hurriedly.

He had no chance to exclaim, no chance to shout, as the cannon bolt came flying in from the cannons of a Destroyer-class Spacecruiser and blasted a hole in the spaceship.

“We have a pressure leak!” The copilot said.

“Bring everybody to the forward compartments! We’ll seal off the rear.” the pilot shouted.

Richard hurried back into the spaceship and told all the coms to hurry forward. The Senator, who had felt the shock, came out from her room.

“What is it?” she asked.

“We’re under attack.” Richard told her. “Hurry forward!”

A few seconds later, the pilots sealed off the rear compartments and let in the emergency supply of air.

“How’s the situation?” Richard asked, rushing forward.

“It’s not as bad as we first feared,” the copilot told him. “It was a glancing shot at most, and was hardly at full power. The real trouble is going to be from those.” At this, the com pointed towards the two Destroyer-class Spacecruisers turning to bear on them while smaller fighters flew out from their hangers.

“Can’t we turn around and escape?” Richard asked.

“No, we can’t, unless we want to blindly use Machspace to get us out of here.”

“Well isn’t that better than getting destroyed?”

“Whatever you say,” the pilot said, and for the first time, Richard realized that they were looking to him for command.

“Wait I–” Richard began, then he stopped. The first sign of weakness was a commander going back on his orders, and he wasn’t going to make that mistake.

“Try to aim for a trajectory along the one that we came from,” Richard told the pilot, as he swung the ship around, rolling to avoid another cannon bolt.

“Yes sir,” the two coms said in unison, and giving the ship a final adjustment, the pilot flicked the Machspace switch. A warning appeared on the tactical displaying telling the pilot that the route had not been calculated yet, but he selected the override and they shot off into space.

A few minutes later, the pilot pulled them back out of Machspace.

“What now sir?” the pilot asked, turning to Richard.

“I suppose we head back. The planet has obviously been taken by our enemy, and the sooner we can bring this news to the Head, the better.”

“Alright then,” the pilot said, but before he could adjust their course, he was interrupted by an exclamation from the copilot. A Destroyer-class Spacecruiser had just appeared on the tactical display and a strong tractor beam was holding them stationary.

“Sir! They followed us,” the pilot informed Richard.

“I suppose we can’t run?” Richard said.

“No, there is no way we can break away from the tractor beam in our damaged condition.” the copilot told him.

“Is there a problem?” the Senator asked, coming into the cockpit. She needed one look at the situation to answer her question.

“What will we do sir?” the pilot asked, as he and the copilot turned to face Richard.

The Defen was silent.

“What will we do sir?” the pilot repeated, his voice rising in volume and his tone betraying the urgency he felt as the tractor beam began to pull them in.

“Do we have cargo?” Richard asked.

“Only what we were going to use to barter.” the copilot informed him.

“Well dump it out in the path of the tractor beam, then engage the thrusters and try to break away.” Richard ordered.

“Empty the cargo!” the pilot commanded, bending over the controls as he prepared to divert all available power to the thrusters.

The copilot flicked a switch and as the cargo was ejected into space, the pilot pushed the throttle forward. The spaceship gave lurched forward, halted, lurched forward again, then halted. The engines strained with a whine, and beads of sweat formed on the pilot’s forehead.

“Can’t you divert any more power to the thrusters?” Richard asked. “What about the auxiliary lights?”

The pilot hurried to do what Richard suggested, and with a groan, the spaceship left the iron grip of the tractor beam. The people in the cabin gave a cheer, and directing the spaceship in a course for Gorthormer, the pilot reentered Machspace.

“Back so soon?” Savantone said, as Richard encountered him in a hallway after leaving the spaceship.

“There were unexpected problems,” Richard told him.

“Oh?”

“Our enemy is one step ahead of us again. They captured the planet.”

Savantone looked up quickly.

“I must go and inform the rest,” he said. “Go and rest. We will decide what you can do next.”

Galactic Battles: The Dark Menace: Chapter 9


Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72

IX

A Rescue

Date: Feb 4, 900 A.C.

__________________________________________

The noises produced by the factory were enormous. There was a continuous clanking of metal feet, and the hissing of welders was never ending.  The whirring of drills, automatic screwdrivers, and fans also permeated the factory. The start-stop sound of the assembly line conveyor belts also added to the din while the flushing sound of hydraulic oil being pumped into hydraulic tubes went on unceasing.

Imperetor Malvolent walked up and down the assembly lines, hunched over with his white, gnarled hands behind his loosely cloaked back. He smiled grimly as the continuous line of mechs rose from the end of the assembly line and were handed their weapons. A mech was made about every second, and this had been going on for three days now.

‘The great advantage about using robots,’ Imperetor Malvolent soliloquized as he entered the code that allowed him access to the internal structures of the factory. ‘Is that they do not need food, require very little maintenance, and work nonstop.

‘In the past three days, 259 200 mechs have been made. 194 400 of these are MBMs, 32 400 of these are Subservice Mechs, 16 200 are Captains, and the remaining 16 200 are Elite Mechs. Quite a handy army, in addition to the one that I already have.’

After a brief inspection to make sure the factories were running at max output, Imperetor Malvolent disappeared and appeared in the factory that made his GI 85 T-swoops.

The two mechs that superintended the operations were not the least bit flustered as they saluted and escorted the Imperetor through the factory.

After checking to make sure everything was at full functionality and nothing needed repairs, the Imperetor turned to head to the factory that made his spacecruisers.

These too he inspected and the inspection was such that when he exited, he said to himself almost gleefully. “My revenge is coming.”

***

After Richard became a Defen in Savantone’s bunk room, he was told by that sage man that he still had to go through the formal ceremony of presentation where he would publicly proclaim that he was now a Defen.

Presentation was the ceremony where he would be publicly presented the enerblade of his previous choosing by the one who had trained him.

Now, the matter of choosing his enerblade was a serious one, and Richard looked upon it as a daunting task. He had had some training in that area, and having fenced before, considered himself a fair hand at handling a weapon such as the enerblade. Savantone had also trained him in the absorbing of laser bolts though there was not much to train as the core of the enerblade did most of the work.

Savantone brought from some unknown storage a great many enerblades. All were shiny and new. Some were a metallic silver, others were a machined black. There were curved ones, straight ones, ones with ridges, ones with none. There were some that had rubber grips, and others with metal grips. Yet though Richard tried many, none of them seemed to suit.

He could hold them and all, and he could even handle them the way he had been taught to do so, but there was something missing. Something that he could not place but yet knew was not there. Savantone had been observing him closely, and after Richard had gone through each and every one of the enerblades and was about to choose one, the old man said.

“Do not choose one that does not suit, I think I may have the one that you seek.” So saying, the aged man got up from the floor where he had been sitting and hobbled back into the storage room from which he had come.

When he came out it was with an enerblade unlike that which Richard had previously seen. Its handle was a smooth black, and its grip was a ridged, metal grip. The pommel was a squat cross and around the emitter it had small curved blades, not sharp ones, but circular ones that went around it, a bit like large washers.

“It is an older one,” Savantone said, “But I think it will suit your purposes.”

Richard took it from Savantone’s hands almost reverently. It fit perfectly in the palm of his hand, and after tossing it up and catching it a couple of times, he activated it. The blade was a beautiful black, one which he had never seen before. The enerblade too was lighter than most of the previous ones. This, Savantone said, was because it was not equipped with the energy blasters that the other ones had on their tips.

“It’s great.” Richard said with a grin. “There’s none in the universe that could suit me better.”

“Also, you must choose a new name, for it is best your enemies don’t know your real name.”

“What sort of name should I choose?”

“Most Defen choose a name that is similar to their real name but not so close as to allow connection.”

After thinking for awhile, Richard said, “What about Rich? Rich Hom?”

“Hmm, a little obvious, but it will do if you’re satisfied with it.

“Now to get you the clothes of a Defen.”

“I think I’d prefer the ones I’ve got on,” Richard said, looking at the tattered robe Savantone wore.

“No, you must sell your clothes, I’ll get you a couple of suits. You are– what size?

“Or perhaps you’d best come with me and we’ll get you suited up.”

So saying, Savantone brought Richard to a clothes maker and ordered two robes, one brown the other black; five loose, plain white shirts; five pairs of pants to match; and a hooded cloak. Richard had to admit, after putting on one of the shirts and pants that it was a lot more comfortable and lighter than his stiff uniform had been.

“The robe will by given to you at your presentation,” Savantone told him. “It is one of the finest I’ve seen. Waterproof too. Mine’s too well ventilated to be waterproof, even if it did have the waterproofing.”

This was the first time Richard had heard Savantone joke and he felt unsure as to whether he should laugh or keep the same stolid face that he normally carried around with him. This thinking about feelings brought to his mind the death of his family and he instantly felt guilty for enjoying himself so much when his family had just died. This then brought on a pang of sadness and Richard remained quiet the rest of the way back.

The truth of the matter was that Richard had been so busy in the past four weeks, for four weeks it had been, that he had not had the time to think about the deaths that had taken place around him. But now that the excitement of getting his enerblade and becoming a Defen had worn off, he felt the pain greatly.

Savantone took his silence as a matter of course, thinking that Richard was perhaps overwhelmed with the responsibility he was entailing in becoming a Defen. Savantone knew too of the death of Richard’s family, and it is possible that the he thought about that, but Richard never found out.

Either way, Savantone said to Richard, “You’d better go to your room and rest yourself a little before the ceremony. It is in three hours so you have plenty of time to rest.”

***

Commander Grennet had by this time lowered himself from underneath the docking platform onto the ground below, and he now took cover behind a rock, trying to avoid the constant stream of hot sparks that flew down from above.

He knew soon that they would gather enough men to dare to come down. If he had had a couple of IC’s he might have been able to frighten them off, but even if he did do that, it would not have been long before they sent back to that dreaded planet he had come from to call Draconian Vengance.

The Commander heard grappling hooks attaching to the side of the docking platform and posing himself behind the rock, he grit his teeth and braced himself for the worst.

***

Richard awoke at the sound of a com knocking on his door. Getting up and straightening his new clothes as best as he could, Richard walked over to the door. He had to take a few seconds to compose himself before he could open the door, for he had cried himself to sleep, and he still felt a little unnerved.

But when he opened the door to face the saluting com, the latter could see nothing unusual about the new Defen, and led him through a series of corridors. It was not long before he arrived at the presentation area, and Richard entered the backstage where he was told to wait until called up.

Savantone was just making his opening speech, and, as it was short and precise, there was only a short interval before a stage hand motioned the flustered Richard to go onstage.

Richard was in a daze, and he accepted the enerblade with thanks, buckling it on to his belt unconsciously. He put his arms robotically into the sleeves of the robe and recited blindly the speech which he had memorized before. Richard recalled later on that there had been a deafening applause, but at that time, he saw and heard none of it; he was too dazed to do so.

It was only when he had returned to his room that he fully realized what had happened, and he put his hand to his hip to feel the cylindrical handle of his enerblade. Then he felt both a wave of responsibility and joy flow over him as he realized that his dream had come true, and he would be able to head back to Darthamoor and free his people.

***

Now it happened that when Commander Grennet sent out his urgent message that he required help, there was a small trader flying within range of the Fifth network. This trader relayed the signal to a patrolling D-cruiser which in turn relayed it to the ACC which, upon receiving the message, relayed it to the Defen Assembly, as this kind of mission was more suited to them.

The Assembly received this news with consternation, for Commander Grennet was probably the most experienced if not the best commander in the line, and it would be a great blow to lose him. Besides, he was also a leading figure among the men, and if anything happened to him, all morale would be lost. With this in mind, the Defen Assembly was determined to choose Defen who could do the job.

There was one problem. Due to the recent threatening events, most of the other Defen were away trying to keep the peace, and Savantone was not able to leave as he had some more students to train.

“Who can we send?” Savantone asked gravely, looking at the faces of the Assembly members who had not been sent out on missions.

A Defen, E An Por, spoke up:

“My pupil, General Elle can go. She has just completed her training. She has been taught and has mastered twenty of the thirty-five enerblade arts. Including the fifth art: Repaarte; Collosum: the eleventh art; the fifteenth art: Yestrr; and more.

“She has had field experience– having commanded a battalion in the Hiron War. Also, she has some diplomatic experience. In fact, I have her learning from a senator right now.”

“That is good,” Savantone said. “But a mission of this importance and danger calls for more than a single Defen. Are there any others that we should send?”

“What about those two new knights?” A respected Knight who went by the name of Joh Probationor spoke. “Are they not ready for field service? There is no better teacher than the real face of war.”

“I disagree, General Probationor,” Savantone said calmly. “There are better teachers than war. However, what you say is true. The two do need some field experience as a Defen. Field experience they have already, but experience as a Defen is something else entirely.

“This will also give General Elle a taste of what it will be like to educate a new Defen. She will be able to impart some of her experience to the two boys. Still, it pains me to be forced to send out unripe youth into the midst of battle.”

“Alas, it cannot be helped,” E An said softly. Of all the Defen, not even Savantone could surpass the pained expression on his face. “Call Ian Ling, General Elle, and Rich Hom in.”

Richard was surprised to receive orders to go to the Assembly, and still more surprised when he saw his brother there. He would have called out to him had not another person entered; a stranger. This was General Elle.

Tall, dominating, with her hair tied into a stiff braid, General Elle was the perfect figure of command. Her clothes were crisp, her hair was crisp, even her face seemed crisp, if that was possible. She stood before the Assembly calmly but respectfully, with both hands behind her back, coolly examining the scene. Yet though her presence was domineering, there was a sense of humility about her, as she surveyed her former teachers.

“General Elle,” Savantone said. “I can only suppose that you have heard rumors that Commander Grennet is alive. Well, I am here to tell you that those rumors are true.”

Richard’s heart skipped a beat, and he would have given a leap of joy had he not been in the presence of his superiors. However, Savantone’s next words instantly caused him to sober up.

“Commander Grennet is stuck on a planet previously unknown, but which Galactic intelligence has determined to be part of network called the Fifth Network. Apparently it is ruled over by a crime lord who goes by the name of Zee Turncoat.”

Elle raised an eyebrow, questioning.

“The name is odd, yes,” Savantone said. “But what I am here to tell you is that we are assigning you the mission of rescuing Commander Grennet. You will fly there in a Guardship which has the location of the Fifth Network programmed into its navigational computer. You, General Elle, will be in command. Rich Hom and Ian Ling, will be following you. You will be giving them some extra combat training. However, your priority is a quick in, then a quick out. Do not, at any cost, engage the enemy.”

“Yes, Advisor Kay, it will be done immediately,” General Elle said, giving a small bow, then she exited the Assembly room, followed closely by Richard and his brother.

The three walked to the hanger in an uncomfortable silence. Ivan’s normal loquaciousness was temporarily dampened by General Elle’s presence, and Richard was meditating on this new development. He was quite excited at the idea of field service, but also quite worried. Would he do well? What if he failed? Or made a mistake? This was not training anymore. Decisions that he made could cost lives, and he was not sure that he was ready for such responsibility. But he had been given no chance to back out, not that he would have, but doubt was a hard thing to suppress.

Half an hour after being summoned in front of the Assembly, they were flying off into space. General Elle had a substantial knowledge of how to pilot a spaceship, and so they had not taken a pilot. Once she was sure the course was set, she sent the ship into Machspace.

She turned around in the pilot’s swivel chair to face the two boys. “How about we begin with some introductions.” General Elle said. “We have a half an hour journey ahead of us and we may as well make as much use of the time as we can.

“I am General Elle, recently made General by the Assembly. I have been a Knight for two years now, and spent the customary eighteen years in training. I am now twenty four. I have mastered twenty of the thirty-five enerblade arts and am now working on Glassan and Freedhein.”

“Well,” Richard began tentatively. “I’m Rich Hom, newly knighted Defen. I’ve been training for four weeks. I am now twenty. I have mastered none of the enerblade arts but am working on Parlech and Vrackk. I also have lots of experience commanding troops.”

General Elle face was one of pure surprise. “Only four weeks? There must be something especially special about you that would cause them to knight you in four weeks. What about you, Ian?”

“Well, I am still training, I have not been knighted yet, and I also have not mastered any of the enerblade arts. I am fifteen years old. I have had some battle experience and have fought some mechs.”

“There is a lot more to battle experience than fighting mechs.” Elle said. “But it appears like you’ll get plenty on this one. I’m surprised at the Assembly’s sending out such young people as you, but then, their forces are stretched thin.”

“You are only four years older than me.” Richard observed evenly.

“Yes, but I have the ages of experience that comes from having begun training from the age of four. But, I believe we have some time for some enerblade warm up practice. Who’s in for it?”

Both boys said they were, so Elle led them into the troop bay of the Guardship.

“Okay,” Elle said. “Ian can go first, then you Rich.”

Ian removed from his cloak a training blade, basically an enerblade core, with no blade, so though it would deflect the blows of an enerblade and absorb blaster bolts, it had virtually no cutting power. Elle drew out her enerblade, and ignited it. The blade was a vibrant magenta, and it cast a beautiful soft glow on the cabin walls.

Ian quickly assumed a fighting stance. Elle did likewise. Ian went for a quick low feint followed by a high cut, but the movement of his eyes had betrayed his intentions, and Elle’s blade met his as sparks flew. Then, before Ian knew what had happened, he felt his legs sweep out from under him, got the vague sense that Elle had spun around, and then he found her blade at his throat.

She extinguished the enerblade and helped him back to his feet. “A Defen can attack with more than just his blade. That was a Repaarte leg sweep.” she told him. “Your turn now Rich.”

Rich stepped into the place his brother had so lately occupied. He stood warily as he drew his own enerblade and ignited it. Black and purple flashed as the two blades danced a deadly dance of perfect synchrony. But Rich’s unskilled hands could not last long against the prowess of one who had devoted her entire life to such feats, and his blade was sent soaring from his hand into hers.

“A Collosum armbreaker.” Elle told him, as she handed his weapon back to him. “You should both learn and watch out for it. Used at the right time, in the right manner, with the right amount of force, it can be unstoppable.”

“Got it,” Richard said, as they returned to the cramped cabin.

Elle scanned the incoming data from the planet scan and found a clear area to land, just on the edge of a thick, dense swamp.

“This was the last known location of Commander Grennet; where he broadcasted from. Beyond that, we have no information.”

“It looks like there was a battle here,” Richard said, examining some of the scorch marks. He looked up to Elle for confirmation of this fact, but she was peering intently at their surroundings. Richard stopped examining the marks and turned to look around him as well, his hand falling unconsciously to the hilt of his enerblade.

“What is it?” he whispered to Elle, his voice low.

“Something isn’t right,” Elle whispered back. “I’ve felt something amiss since we landed.

“Draw your weapons!”

The three drew their weapons, igniting them. They stood back to back, prepared to face whatever might come out of the mist and damp that surrounded the edge of the clearing. They were not too soon, for hulking figures soon emerged from the dark recesses. Upon sighting the three humans, they flung their weapons up and began firing rapidly.

The three raised their weapons to block the oncoming onslaught, but it was not blaster bolts they faced, but sparks, and these they were incapable of blocking. They leapt back in shock, Richard and Elle, who took the brunt of it, letting out a few surprised yells as a hot spark touched bare skin.

“Change of plan,” Elle said. “Don’t use your enerblades to block.

“Charge!”

The Elite Guards were taken completely by surprise when the three fugitives charged out, enerblades swinging. They stood no chance as the three dashed into their midst, ducking, cutting, weaving, swinging, forcing them to be unable to use their weapons lest they shoot some of their companions.

In no time, the squad was disassembled, and Richard was about to behead the final Elite Guard when Elle stopped him.

“We need this one,” she said. “For information.”

“You move,” Richard said, gesturing dangerously with the point of his lightsaber at the Elite Guard. “And I won’t hesitate to cut your head off.” He was still sore from the burns he had received from their Promwels.

“Where is Commander Grennet?” Elle asked.

“In the swamp,” the Elite Guard told her, gesturing vaguely behind it.

“But where–” Elle was interrupted by Richard’s blade flashing dangerously close to her face, as it went on its downward sweeping arc. A second later, the Elite Guard’s headless torso fell to the ground.

“Richard–”

“He moved.”

“He could have given us more information,” Elle said, exasperated. “When you’re in the field, you follow orders alright?”

“Yes General,” Richard said. This was the first time he had addressed her directly, and he had used her title instead of her name. She could tell he was not happy. Oh well, let him sulk. He would get over it eventually.

“The question is,” Elle said, voicing her thoughts. “How are we going to find the commander in this mess of swamp?”

“There’s no need,” a voice said from behind them. They swung around enerblades flaring. Commander Grennet stumbled into the clearing. Then, with great effort, he drew himself up and gave the stiff salute he had been trained to do. “Commander Grennet reporting for duty ma’am,” the astute commander said, nodding slightly to Richard and Ian.

Richard was about to step forward and stop the Commander from wasting his energy so, for he could see that the man was greatly worn out, but Elle, who knew the importance of such things to coms, stopped him. She saluted back, in a similar crisp manner.

“General Elle here. I’ll be glad to have you under my command. At ease commander.”

The Commander sagged slightly at this, and would have fallen had not Richard come to his rescue. Commander Grennet gave Richard a nod of thanks, then the four boarded the spaceship, and they flew from the surface of the swamp planet.

***

An hour later, three wounded Elite Guards reported back to their master.

“The commander escaped, sir,” one of them said, cringing at what he knew was to come next.

“Dhad ty oom ueat nhc eommandee rscapew?” Zee questioned, his voice rising in pitch. “Sow uilb lt ehrowt nt ohg erimalkiny!”

“What do you mean the commander escaped?” the translator intoned. “You will be thrown to the grimalkins.”

Then the holo-projector Zee held beeped. He nearly pressed the answer button, then he cancelled the incoming call. What would the Imperetor think of him now?