It was a cold, rainy day on the planet of Kuragin. The previous day, Michael Williams, the new Adamarian president, had just held an emergency session of Congress to determine what would happen to the nation after the death of President Karkin. Shortly after, Williams was sworn in as the new president, and Congress began to formulate plans for a war against Calvaria. For centuries, the two superpowers had fought each other. The Kuragin government (now the Adamarian government) would win some, and then the Calvarians would win others. Territories were traded constantly, especially on the galactic rims of each nation's boundaries, where smaller conflicts raged ceaselessy, even when the bigger two were not at war. Now however, things would be different. This was to be the First Calvarian-Adamarian war, unlike the dozens of Calvarian-Kuragin wars that had occurred in the past. Williams intended to see that the Adamarian's thirst for vengeance after losing the last war would be appeased, and even hoped to wipe their nemesis' existence from the brikverse for good. But this would be far easier said than done...
Director Bradshaw: "Steele, do you really think we can beat the Calvarians this time?"
Martin Steele: "Certainly. Williams and Davidson have been increasing and expanding military power and now Congress has just signed a Declaration of War. The people are hungry for payback against the Calvarians and with that old hasbin Karkin out of the way we're already on the way to victory. The economy has done a complete 180 and now we are back on the path to success!"
Bradshaw: "I'm just wondering what this is all about. Why would Williams want a couple of bankers like us to attend a supposedly secret cabinet meeting?"
Steele: "You have a lot to learn, my boy. Anyhow, just pay attention; I'm just happy to know that now we don't have some socialist scumbag trying to make off with all our bills..."
Steele, Bradshaw, and the few remaining members of the Presidential Cabinet step into the meeting room, where Williams and General Davidson are waiting for them.
Williams: "Ah, hello gentlemen, glad you could join us."
Steele: "Wouldn't miss it!"
Williams: "Davidson and I were just finishing some things up. Once you all take your seats we can get started."
Steele: "Alright, Mr. President. Though I'm glad to be here, I hope this won't take long. Your lack of any decent chairs isn't very comforting, literally."
Williams: "Sorry, that was the result of one of the former President's budget cuts. Of course he has himself a nicely cusioned office chair made from ebony, a nice piece. I hope to get some chairs in here soon. Anyway, on to the main reason why I called you here."
The room falls silent as Williams explains part of his plan to ensure Adamarian domination.
Williams: "Gentlemen, for too long we have been oppressed, be it by our own foolish officials or the powers of another state. I'm certain you understand that I refer to Karkin and the Calvarian Empire, respectively. Well, Karkin is now dead, and as I'm sure Mr. Steele is all to happy to confirm, our economy is back on track."
Steele: "Indeed! People have gone out and begun to spend more and more, helping our economy grow, while the reduction on taxes for goods made in Adamarian space has prompted many more businesses to open up and create more jobs. The market is flourishing!"
Williams: "As you can see, we are on the road to greatness. Military enlistment has also gone up greatly, and soon our military prowess will exceed that of the Calvarians. However, the Calvarians themselves have one advantage over us that, until recently, we have been unable to match: Magic. The Calvarian people are rich in magical knowledge and that is something that could easily repel even the strongest army. However, a very recent discovery has come to light that could very well turn the tables in this conflict. Allow me to present..."
The group gasps as Williams retrieves an ancient scroll. The old parchment must be centuries old, but has managed to stay together for years. The scroll is covered in runes that glow an ominous red.
Williams: "This artifact was retrieved from the planet Falrena, an ancient world on the border of our territory with the Calvarians. Only three men survived the incident there that claimed the lives of hundreds of soldiers and miners, and they claim that the massive digging operations on the planet, originally meant for creating war materials, instead discovered a powerful magical relic of unknown origin or power that nearly wiped out all life in the nearby vicinity."
The group of cabinet members flies into an uproar.
Member 1: "Are you serious!?!?"
Member 2: "Our ancestors forbade magic! And what of the people!?!?!"
Member 3: "We have no idea how to control magic! Much less use it as a weapon!"
Member 4: "What the hell does it say!?!!
Williams: "BE QUIET!"
The group calms down, but stares at Williams, wondering just what he'll be able to say now to redeem himself.
Williams: "Listen, this is the only way that we can guarantee victory over Calvaria. Besides, how many texts have been written that clearly detail how to effectively use magic? Many of which, I'm sure, you could find in an average library! The only thing we need is to discover enough magical relics and train enough sorcerers to effectively wield it. And besides, who said that the people even have to know? Or, why not take a poll or pose the question to the public, 'how many of you are indifferent or favor the use of magic?' Think about it."
The cabinet members fall silent, taking all of this in. Some nod their heads in agreement.
Williams: "Allow me to introduce General Davidson, who will be leading our armed forces against the Calvarian threat."
Davidson: "Thank you Mr. President."
Davidson: "Gentlemen, the time has come to take the fight to this menace and take back our place of dominance! Already the military is readying itself for the biggest offensive it has seen in decades. Our strike will be swift and true. All we need now is the magical effects that Williams has proposed. Our nation is mighty and strong, but we cannot hope to best the Calvarians if were are not on the same level as their men are. They already have advanced technology and potent warriors; the addition of magic to our forces will finally level the playing field."
Williams: "Mr. Steele, I would very much like it if you and the board of directors of the treasury would attempt to do everything you can to support the war effort. We will need it."
Steele rises from his chair and shakes the President's hand.
Steele: "I would be honored, sir."
Williams: "Thank you."
Steele: "Gentlemen, I have the utmost faith in our president and our nation! I believe that this conflict will result in the greatest victory our people have ever known. Who stands with us?"
Williams had finally managed to persuade his peers. His charisma and natural charm certainly hadn't failed him yesterday or today. And now he prayed that it would aid him more in the future. The cabinet members all rise and applaud. At last, their nation would be free and dominant. The Brikverse would see the Adamarian Federation as a potent force and a great ally. His dreams, and the dreams of all the Adamarian people, were coming true at last.
After the cabinet members had left the room, Williams, Davidson, and DARKSABER began to discuss their next move.
Davidson: "We forgot to address Congress on this issue."
Williams: "I wanted to see what the Cabinet thought first. Besides, I'm sure they'll come around. They might be a bunch of corrupt snakes but even they can't override the will of the people."
Davidson: "Wouldn't that be a detriment to you as well?"
Williams: "I am the voice of this people. All my life I have wanted better for them, and now that dream is finally becoming a reality. I will do whatever it takes to ensure that it does."
Davidson: "I'm going to prep the commanders."
Williams: "Tell them to be ready. Once Congress and the people show that they are behind us one hundred percent, I intend to launch an assault against our foes the likes of which has never before been seen."
Davidson: "You do realize that their alliegance to the Third Alliance has bought them some allies? This could be a difficult campaign, even with magical aid."
Williams: "Oh, I'm aware of that. I intend to also send a request for our nation to begin aiding the Anti-Immortal Alliance. I believe it could win us some valuable allies."
Davidson: "Are you sure? Most of them seem pretty...well, for lack of a better word lazy when it comes to taking action."
Williams: "I'm sure they'll come around. We have a lot to offer."
Davidson: "Well, if there's nothing else, I'll be on my way."
Williams: "Good afternoon, general."
Williams: "Well, now that we're alone, I'm sure you've been wondering just what role you play in all this."
DARKSABER: "All I've been wondering is why I haven't been able to kill some Calvarians yet."
Williams: "Oh, don't worry. You and your friends will get plenty of time for that. Starting now."
Williams: "The loss of Outpost 79 undoubtedly resulted in the Calvarians acquiring some particularly volatile information. I'm certain they know that something's going on at the facility on Falrena. You're going there ahead of the main military force to secure whatever it was the miners discovered there. Zero witnesses. And if you encounter any Calvarians, kill them on sight."
DARKSABER: "Sir, yes sir!"
Lightyears away from the secret meeting, Katrina was making her final preparations for the journey to Falrena. For what seemed like the millionth time, she was leaving the palace again to go off to a distant world to repel some threat that seemed to have little significance against the Empire. Byron's discussion with her was taking its toll. She could hardly focus. Katrina knew that would have to change before she made it to the planet.
Katrina sat inside the passenger bay of a Great Wyrm dropship. The cabin was cramped thanks to the number of Neo-Crusaders riding with her, but at the same time it was comforting. The low hum of the dropship's engines was rather soothing. The soldiers aboard were silent. Katrina put her head against the dropship's wall and began to breathe deeply. She wanted to know more about these men. She focused, drawing on their thoughts, trying to latch onto their minds in an attempt to discover any paricular weaknesses or strengths they might have. All of them were naturally Calvarian, but other than this, she could not discern. She tried harder, forcing her thoughts onto the minds of the soldiers. Her thoughts were like spears trying to break through a fortress. None of them let their guard down; their minds were conditionend against magical intrusion, that much was certain. Still, nothing. A few moved their shoulders or their heads, occasionally rubbing their helmets in discomfort from her attempts, but she could not read their minds no matter how hard she tried.Wow,
she thought. He really did get the best of the best.
Clearly, these soldiers were trained for more than just physical warfare.
Katrina stopped, and again, the thoughts about Ben-Jammin came back to her. How?
she thought. Or rather, why? Why is it me? Why did he tell Byron instead of me?
Then she realized her pride was getting the best of her. Well that was a stupid thought,
she told herself. If he's attracted to me then I don't think he would just come right out and tell me. Would he?
She sighed. This could be the hardest battle I've ever fought...
Soon after, the dropship's engines shifted, and began the descent on one of the Rebirthing
's exterior landing decks. They were still in atmosphere, so they could safely use the platform without worrying about being suffocated in space. Then again, the Neo-Crusader's armor could resist the void of space, and Katrina could probably use magic to protect herself.
Katrina and her troops stepped out onto the landing deck, where she was surprised to see General Schmidt.
Katrina: "General! What are you doing here?"
Schmidt: "I am vere to direct ze ground troops for when ve reach Falrena. Ze Emperor wants to secure ze planet fully."
Katrina: "Where is the captain?"
Schmidt: "Ill, I'm afraid. He's in ze medical bay. I came up to greet you in his place and now I vish to take you to ze bridge."
Katrina: "Lead the way."
was a massive ship, one of the biggest ever constructed by Calvarian hands. It was a formidable dreadnaught, armed with enough firepower and enough ground and aerospace units to occupy an entire system, much less a single planet. It was clear, however, that Ben wanted to take no chances; whatever was on Falrena was probably dangerous if it required a ship such as the Rebirthing
and her attendant fleet to take on.
Katrina: "White? That's not a common color for an imperial ship, don't you think?"
Schmidt: "Ze ship vas crafted in New Eden. It reflects their style."
Katrina and her companions stepped into the bridge.
Naval officer: "GENERAL AND KNIGHT ON DECK!"
All the naval crewmen stopped and saluted.
Schmidt: "At ease!"
FRANKLIN: "Ah! Lady Candor! Glad to see you're here!"
FRANKLIN was a cyborg that helped Captain Gallus run the ship.
Katrina: "What, afraid I wouldn't make it from the surface to a ship in atmosphere in one piece?"
FRANKLIN: "No, ma'am!"
FRANKLIN: "You're just in time! The captain just came through with a transmission!"
A light flickers on the front desk, and a small hologram of Captain Gallus appears on the desk.
Gallus: "Ah, Lady Candor, there you are! My apologies for *cough cough* not meeting you in person; As you can see, *wheezing cough* I'm rather ill at the moment."
Katrina: "I'll come see to you if you wish. I'm sure my healing powers could help."
Gallus: "Oh, thank *cough cough* you, dear, but I don't think that will be nece- *cough* -sarry,"
Katrina: "You sure sound like you could use it."
Gallus: "It's fine, *cough* really! There's plenty of med droids and *cough* doctors down here to aid me. I'll *wheezing cough* see you tomorrow; I'm sure these meds are working..."
Katrina: "Well, okay, if you insist."
Gallus: "FRANKLIN will *cough* show you your quarters. The three of you have command of the ship until I *cough* return."
Schmidt: "And how long vill zat take?"
Gallus: "Doc's been giving me *cough* good readings, so hopefully soon."
Katrina: "Alright, well hope to see you tomorrow."
Gallus: "Likewise, *cough*. Goodbye!"
Gallus' hologram deactivates.
Schmidt: "Zat man must be crazy to refuze a Knight's help."
Katrina: "Its alright, I need to save my energy anyway."
FRANKLIN: "Don't worry, the captain will be fine! My calculations estimate that he will make a full recovery before we reach Falrena! Besides, what could go wrong, when the three of us are watching the ship?"
Schmidt: "I've been asking myzelf ze same thing."
Later that day, Katrina headed to her new quarters. It was a massive room with cabinets and shelves all around, with a good number of weapons and an open area for weapons practice.
Katrina: "Well, looks like I found that change of scenery I wanted."
She sat her armor and weapons aside. Now I just have to focus on controlling my emotions...
That would be easier said than done. But why? She had managed to become a master of controlling herself and her emotions; why were her thoughts now so different? What does he see in me?
She was an immortal and a Knight. Nothing more. All the years of her life, no matter how long that might be, would be sworn to the defense of Calvaria from any threat. Simple as that. Simple. She liked simple. Go kill some monsters or enemy soldiers, get some rest and call it a day. All the years of her life it would be that way, and she didn't want it to change. Now, things were getting complicated. She certainly didn't like that. But she did like Ben. Who wouldn't? Charismatic, powerful, smart, strong, and utterly fearless. It was fitting that he was something more than human. Byron and Fiengar were similar; they never experienced something like this as far as she knew. Why was she so different? It was hard being the only female Knight left, there was really no one she could talk to about this sort of thing. Byron and Fiengar would never understand. Talk to Ben.
No, stupid idea, she told herself. But then again, didn't he say that she was his closest friend and confidant? What about Byron and Fiengar? Did he actually value her more than them?Maybe Byron was just joking,
she thought. He did have a history of that. She remembered the time that one of the oldest, largest bookshelves in the palace broke and spilled hundreds of books across he Arcaneum, and Byron placed the blame on Fiengar and his "werewolf instincts". It was funny, but he would land himself in trouble one day. And if he was joking about all this then he would pay dearly for it.
But what about what Ben said to her on the landing pad? "Do be careful"? He was sincere, that was certain. She just couldn't wrap her head around all this. Whatever it was, I can't let it get to me. I have a mission,
she told herself. That would take her mind off of things. Go to Falrena, and find out what happened there. Though somehow, it seemed like it was the greatest task she had ever undertaken...