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Of Nite and Dei [Chapter 22]

Table of Contents
Chapter 19 l Chapter 20 l Chapter 21
Palma landed outside a large building near the center of the city. Mighty stone steps lead from the street to the main doorway. Palma walked in and nodded at the officer who sat at the security desk in the main lobby as Palma moved quickly to a set of stairs.
Looking up at the large column of stairs, Palma noticed a large space in the center with plenty of room for his muscled body to fly through.
With several powerful motions of his large black wings, Palma took off and soared straight upwards through the stairwell and he swiftly arrived on the sixth floor.
Palma made his way through the hallway and past the receptionist who tried to protest as Palma made his way into a room where the door had a golden plaque with bold black lettering stamped firmly into the metal which read: “Police Commissioner Gabriel Palma.”
Inside, Palma’s father Gabriel, an older man with brown wings and dark hair like his son’s, stood pouring a dark liquor into a crystal tumbler with a brass ring around the rim. Though the senior Palma’s hair had streaks of white along the sides. Gabriel turned to Palma, his eyes narrowing on him, “Son,” he took a sip, “I should have known he would send you.”
“Hey Pops,” Palma said simply as he shut the door behind him, “we need to talk.”
“Warren fucked me,” Gabriel said, drinking from the glass deeply, “utterly and completely fucked me.”
Palma nodded.
Gabriel turned to Palma, and asked, “So, what’s the game plan?” he hissed as he took a deep drink from the tumbler of booze, “So, who did I piss off inside the organization?”
“Trueman, mostly,” Palma said, “but Sorjoy’s taking full advantage of it.”
“What else does that little shit got on you?” Gabriel narrowed his eyes on Palma, “how fucking sloppy have you gotten, boy?”
Palma shrugged, “probably the same shit Trueman has on you.”
Gabriel threw his glass down onto the ground, causing it to completely shatter into shards as it struck the floor, “Guardian Dammit, boy!” Gabriel roared.
Palma took a step back to avoid the flying shards of glass from the broken tumbler as his father bellowed.
“You had one fucking job! Keep your fuckin’ nose clean!” Gabriel shouted, “But no! Not my stupid son-of-a-bird son! He’s got to get his hand caught in the honey pot… and by who? Erik fuckin’ Sorjoy?” Gabriel sneered, “That kid Sorjoy is as clean as a damn whistle and here you are getting caught by that little punk scout of The Scale!”
“Pops I-” Palma was interrupted quickly.
“No!” Gabriel screamed, “you’re out of excuses,” Gabriel barked, “and I’m done protecting your dumb-angel-ass. I can’t do shit for you anymore, boy.”
Palma looked to his feet and nodded, “No Pops, you can’t. That’s why I’m going to do something for you. I’m going to save your ass, but you gotta do what I say. Got it?”
“Really?! You’re going to do something good for me? That would be a first,” Gabriel gave Palma a cold glare, “Well spit it out. What do my shit-for-brains son and little Erik want from me?”
“For you to resign,” Palma stated coolly.
Gabriel’s knuckles went white as he glared at Palma, “What?!”
Palma now took a more aggressive stance against his father, “I said: You’re going to resign,” he said, lacking any emotion in his voice, his face stoic.
Gabriel’s lip quivered in rage as he stared down at his son, “I am not going to resign my post as Commissioner…”
“Don’t worry Pops,” Palma smiled wickedly, “I’ll take your spot.”
“You?!” Gabriel roared, marching up to Palma and sending his large fist towards Palma’s face.
Palma blocked it, grabbed Gabriel’s fist, and pulled it tight under his armpit, kneeing his father in the gut, causing the older man to double over.
Palma took a swift step back to allow Gabriel to fall to his knees, “It’s time to retire, Pops. You’ll be fine. Move down south,” as he lorded over his fallen father.
Gabriel wheezed and glared up at Palma, “You... little… shit… what dirt do you think Trueman has on me?”
Palma said nothing, giving a nonchalant expression as he shrugged.
“That little slut? She went and got a rape kit and filed a full report against your stupid ass,” Gabriel snarled, “your fuckin’ DNA is all over it. Trueman has it and he’s held that shit over me for years. You think Sorjoy and Trueman aren’t going to do the same fuckin’ shit to you?”
Palma frowned, “...The girl I fucked is Sorjoy’s personal assistant.”
Gabriel grumbled, getting to his feet slowly, “Oh, is she now?”
Palma grinned, “How’s this Pops? You’re not that old you can still get the job done. Resign, promise me you’ll kill the bird, run down to south before anyone catches wind of it. I'll claim to know nothing, you get to remove the black-mail over my head and I’ll run this department exactly how you always did.”
Gabriel smiled, “Now… for once… you’re actually using that fucking brain of yours!” Gabriel laughed, grabbing Palma by his shoulder, “That’s my boy,” he gave Palma a wicked grin, “To be honest with you, it will be satisfying to finally kill that little slut. Finally shutting her the fuck up will be a nice end to my long career.”
Because if I can’t have you, Cleo, then no one can have you,” Palma thought to himself as a demonic grin crossed his face.

Sorjoy sat in his office, listening to Palma and Gabriel’s conversation in his lavish office from a small receiver, “Palma you sorry sad sack of shit,” he said venomously, “like I’d let you or your father touch her.”
Sorjoy got to his feet, walking towards his office door. He opened it, spotting Cleo sitting at her desk, her violet eyes darting between multiple icons on her screen, occasionally tapping here and there.
Cleo eventually noticed Sorjoy, she turned to him, “Mr. Sorjoy, something I can help you with?”
“I wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed myself with you at the wedding,” Sorjoy said with a warm smile.
Cleo gave a nod, “it was a lovely affair, sir. Mr. Hoffman chose a lovely bride.”
Sorjoy chuckled, “she wasn’t the most beautiful woman at the wedding. If you ask me.”
Cleo turned to her computer screen, “Mr. Sorjoy, we are on the clock and as I stated: the event was me accompanying you to the function as a last resort, as you put it.”
“So, I can’t speak my mind?” Sorjoy asked, “you were, well, are beautiful.”
“Mr. Sorjoy,” Cleo said, narrowing her eyes on him, “This is not appropriate workplace behavior.”
Sorjoy nodded, “yes and I wanted to address another situation: Based on your records from HR, I see that you’re renting a small home outside the city limits. No doorman or other form of security.”
“Sir?” Cleo asked, her well-sculpted eyebrow raised.
“With this ‘Cerberus’ group placing letters addressed to you in my limousine, I feel it’s important that you find yourself in more secure accommodations,” Sorjoy offered.
Cleo narrowed her eyes, “Mr. Sorjoy, if you’re about to suggest that I move in with-”
“There are condominiums on the middle floors of the Fondsworth, Inc building,” Sorjoy interrupted, “and if you are an employee you can receive a significant discount for purchasing one.”
“Mr. Sorjoy, while you pay me fairly well you do not pay me enough to live in one of the condominiums in The Fondsworth Building,” Cleo pointed out.
Sorjoy chuckled, “there are a few vacancies, why let them remain vacant? You’ve been a valuable asset to me. As such I cannot risk losing you. I can arrange for you to live there for the next year or so, in order to keep you protected. Rent would be considered a non-issue.”
Cleo frowned, “it seems more like you’re trying to keep me under your watchful gaze and I think that would be a conflict of interest.”
“Cleo,” Sorjoy said, glaring at her, “I have two ways to protect you from Cerberus: I can fire you, or I can move you into this building: Make your choice.”
Cleo’s eyes went wide as she stood up abruptly, “Mr. Sorjoy, I’m going home.”
Sorjoy stood up straight, looking down on Cleo, “oh, are you now?”
“Yes,” Cleo stated, taking her laptop and moving to the elevator, waiting for the doors to open for her. She stepped inside and turned to Sorjoy, “I have some packing to do, apparently,” she explained as the doors closed.
Sorjoy grinned, “Perfect.”

Cleo walked to a waiting limousine, cursing under her breath as she spotted Naberious holding the door for her, “thanks, Nab.”
“Did something bad happen up there? You seem like you’re upset,” Naberious asked.
“We’ll talk about it on the ride home,” Cleo snapped, pulling out her tablet once she was inside.
Naberious soon was in the driver’s seat and rolling the partition between the passenger and driver cabins down. “Want to talk about it?”
“Sorjoy wants me to live in his little ivory tower,” Cleo stated.
“Oh,” Naberious was silent for a moment, “how are you going to afford that?”
“Sorjoy says the company will foot the bill,” Cleo said as she tapped on her tablet.
“Mind if I say something?” Naberious asked.
“Go ahead,” Cleo shrugged.
“Seems you’re pissin’ and moaning about something that’s a pretty sweet deal,” Naberious reasoned.
“I’m not pissing and moaning!” Cleo shouted.
“Oh, but you are,” Naberious chuckled, “living in a luxury condo in the same building you work? Sounds so terrible,” Naberious said sarcastically.
Cleo sighed, “he just wants to lock me up in a tower and try to keep me as a little wage slave..”
“Like a fairytale princess?” Naberious laughed.
“Fuck off!” Cleo exclaimed, “granted… Teryn did just move out… it’s going to be kind of lonely in the old room.”
“So what’s the problem?” Naberious asked.
“The problem is this was all kicked off by those idiots at Cerberus who left a note in the limo!” Cleo hissed, “which, by the way, I’d love to know how that got by you!”
“The envelope was not there when I parked,” Naberious sighed, “whoever slipped it in did so without opening the door.
Cleo looked around the cabin, examining it carefully before she spotted the sunroof, noticing it was slightly ajar. A very tiny gap that barely let any light in could be seen. She pointed to the sunroof, asking, “Nab, is the sunroof opened?”
“Hmm? Not according to the indicator,” Naberious pressed a button on the dash, the sunroof shifting slightly, closing the small gap.
“I’m guessing the sunroof doesn’t have an alarm?” Cleo asked.
“The whole limo is alarmed, why?” Naberious asked.
“Because the sunroof was opened,” Cleo pointed out again.
“Fuck,” Naberious cursed under his breath, “I’ll check the system later.”
“Yeah and maybe lock the damn sunroof,” Cleo sighed as the limo pulled up to her home.
“So, do you think Mimi is going to get pissed about you moving out?” Naberious asked.
Cleo shook her head, “Mimi has bigger issues on her plate than whether or not I’ll be paying rent for the next few months.”
Cleo left the limo just as she spotted the cleaning imps leaving, Mimi supervised their departure.
Ipszwellia beamed at Cleo, waving weakly.
Cleo stopped and smiled at Ipszwellia, “Hello, Ipszwellia was it?”
Ipszwellia stopped, gasping in surprise, “y-yes Miss?”
“Ipszwellia, how would you like it if I hired you to be my new house imp?” Cleo asked.
Ipszwellia’s small eyes grew wide, “R-Really?!”
Mimi, who was standing in the doorway, lifted an eyebrow as she eyed Cleo on the front lawn.
“Yeah, I have a new place and I’ll be so busy working, I won't be able to keep it clean on my own,” Cleo mused.
Ipszwellia beamed to Cleo, “I’d be honored!” she tittered, excitement filling her to her very core.
Cleo pulled out a business card, handing it to Ipszwellia, “Call me for the details - I’ll need you to start as soon as tomorrow.”
“Thank you so much, Miss!” Ipszwellia gasped as she took the card and quickly rushed to catch up with the other cleaning imps.
Cleo smiled, but that smile dropped once she turned to Mimi.
Mimi let loose a plume of smoke from her lovely lips, “Something you want to tell me, dear?”
Cleo gave Mimi a nod, walking up to her, “Mimi, I’m moving out.”
“Says who?” Mimi narrowed her eyes, “your debts aren’t fully paid off.”
“Teryn left,” Cleo now glared at Mimi.
“Teryn was bought and paid for,” Mimi explained, “your little white-feathered ass is not.”
“I’m not one of your girls anymore!” Cleo shouted.
“Aren’t you?” Mimi smiled, “you went on a date the other day with one of my clients, did you not? I put the money towards your lease, did I not?”
Cleo glared at her, “So, what? I’m stuck here? You won’t let me leave?”
“I never said that,” Mimi said, taking another inhale of her cigarette through her obsidian cigarette holder, pouting her perfect lips at Cleo, “I said that in order for Teryn to leave, her bill had to be settled.”
“Her bill?!” Cleo shouted.
“That pretty little dress that you wore to get Sorjoy all hot and bothered at the wedding? Who paid for that dress?” Mimi reminded Cleo.
Cleo turned from Mimi.
“Look at me,” Mimi hissed, “you fucking bird.”
Cleo turned to face enigmatic Mimi again.
“You think you can just leave without telling me? Who made these plans for you? That hotshot Sorjoy? Is he going to pay for you?” Mimi asked.
“He doesn’t know-” Cleo was cut off.
“Right,” Mimi continued, “he doesn’t know who owns your ass.”
Cleo narrowed her eyes on Mimi once more, “what is my bill?”
“It depends,” Mimi said, turning to walk inside.
“Depends on what?” Cleo asked, following her inside.
“It depends on what you think your freedom is worth,” Mimi smiled, “little girl.”
“Okay, Mimi,” Cleo shut the door behind her, “let's negotiate.”

Gabriel Palma walked up to a podium before a slew of press. The podium stood before the police department's steps.
“Citizens of Seraph City,” Gabriel Palma began, “My tenure as Chief of Police has lasted for many decades. In that time, I have placed Law and Order at the forefront of my goals as your Commissioner.”
Cameras flashed as several officers lined up behind Gabriel.
Palma was among them, standing to the left of his father.
Sorjoy stood in Trueman’s manner, watching the events unfold on a large TV.
Trueman, sat before the screen, scowling at the image, “So, as you said, you forced Gabriel Palma out. His son… however… he’ll be taking his father’s place?”
“Yes, Grand Patriarch,” Sorjoy stated.
“And you have his loyalty?” Trueman asked.
Sorjoy gave a nod, “yessir, absolute loyalty. I have complete control over him thanks to him tilting his hand a bit too hard.”
Trueman nodded, “I see.” Trueman grinned, knowingly, “well done then. Perhaps I was wrong regarding your will to lead.”
Sorjoy smiled, “more so than Hoffman?”
“Let us see about that, yes? For now,” Trueman motioned to the screen, “let us see the fruits of your labors.”
Meanwhile, at the press conference, Gabriel continued his speech, “As such, it’s with a heavy heart that after so many years I resign my position as Commissioner-” Before he could complete his sentence, a shot was heard and Gabriel collapsed.
There was shouting, screaming and the camera shifted position.
Trueman grinned a half-smile as Sorjoy’s eyes went wide.
“What the hell just happened?” Sorjoy shouted.
The news anchor’s voice soon came over the TV in a panic, “We can confirm that shots were fired from the rooftop! We are unsure if Commissioner Gaberial Palma was injured!”
From behind the podium, over the doors of the police station were three explosions, followed by the unfurling of a trio of massive banners which reached down to the ground.
Each banner had the silhouette of a wolf’s head in black, the banners blue, yellow, and purple respectively. The eyes of each wolf matched the color of each banner.
Finally, the TV flickered for a moment, with a logo of the three wolves silhouettes, with eyes that matched the three banners.
On the screen was a trio of individuals, each with a dog’s head mask.
The voices were obscured as they spoke.
“Dear Seraph City,” the middle angel seemed to speak, “We are the heads of Cerberus.”
The leftmost voice now began, “and if you are seeing this, then Commissioner Gaberial Palma is, sadly, deceased.”
“Such is the fate of any of those who would dare to harm our leader,” the rightmost figure shouted, “Persphone!”
“It is not you we have come to claim,” the middle head called, “it is those who sicken this city from the top down.”
“So if you are of meager means, eeking out your existence as we all are, know we are with you,” informed the leftmost head.
“If you struggle to make ends meet,” the rightmost head continued, “Know we are with you.”
“But if you rule over all of us with dirty money, corrupt power, or other ill-gotten gains,” the center head declared, “know we are your sworn enemy!”
All three now spoke, “We are here to Tip the Scale. We are Cerberus!
Sorjoy narrowed his eyes and grabbed his phone, calling Palma. “Answer the phone, you useless bastard,” he whispered under his breath.
Soon the image returned to the sight of officers pulling the banners down and Palma shouting orders to his officers.
Trueman said calmly, “Leave the man to handle the situation,” Trueman said as he turned to Sorjoy, “let us see the sort of man he is when the ‘heat’ is on, so to speak.”
Sorjoy turned to Trueman, shocked, “Sir, this is an attack on us. If Persephone knows of The Scale and Cerberus gave that message, is that not a declaration of war?”
Trueman gave a nod, “it’s a gauntlet thrown at our feet, certainly,” he turned to Sorjoy, “how would you respond in kind?” Trueman asked cryptically.
“What do you mean?” Sorjoy asked, “We have to take the fight to them directly.”
Trueman nodded, “So, you’d plan to assassinate their Leader then?”
Sorjoy paused for a moment, “Wait, wasn’t that why they said they attacked Gabriel?”
Trueman smiled and turned to Sorjoy, “Yes. Perhaps you should consider that. Who was the aggressor here? Why was Gabriel the target?”
Sorjoy narrowed his eyes, “so you’re saying…?”
“Perhaps you do not have as much control over the younger Palma as you thought,” Trueman said, his smile vanishing. “I suggest you speak to your dog and reaffirm his training.”
Sorjoy bowed to Trueman, “I will sir. Thank you.”
Malik entered the room, bowing gracefully, “Mr. Trueman, the project is ahead of schedule.”
Mr. Trueman gave a nod to Malik, “Mr. Sorjoy, I believe you have some business to attend to, as do I.”
“Of course, Mr. Trueman,” Sorjoy stood up and made his way out of the manner, heading to his limousine which was waiting outside.
Once Sorjoy was gone, Mr. Trueman looked down the steps with mild contempt before following Malik towards the atrium. “Completely rudderless, nothing like his father. A shame, to be honest. I do not think he will do well as Grand Patriarch.”
“But Mr. Hoffman?” Malik asked as he escorted Mr.Trueman through the thick foliage of the atrium.
“Hoffman is an even poorer choice,” Trueman sighed, “I’m merely pitting them against one another to determine who is the less of two poor outcomes.”
Malik gave a concerned sigh, “Are there no other candidates?”
“None within The Scale,” Trueman admitted, “thus why this project is so important.”
Malik and Mr. Trueman soon arrived at the location of the Heart of Lucifer.
Several Imps stood around the diamond with multiple scanning devices, computers, and finally, a pair of imps stood under the Heart of Lucifer.
The Heart of Lucifer was lifted high enough to allow them to work underneath it. There, the pair were drilling away at the hardened diamond.
“How much longer?” Mr.Trueman asked, his breath shorter than normal.
“Almost to the core, but we aren’t sure how much pressure is inside,” one of the imp technicians advised, “so please, stay back!”
The pair with the large drill soon shouted, “We’re through!” and a hissing noise could be heard.
Mr.Trueman watched as the blue liquid turned an even more radiant blue. Below the diamond, a small clear flask filled with the liquid before the technicians capped the flask.
One imp held the filled flask up, his eyes mesmerized by the swirling blue liquid and strange metallic flakes within it.
Mr.Trueman snatched the flask from the imp, “it is the blood of Lucifer… the last Patriarch only had a single ampule of this fluid… and he squandered it like a fool. But I…” Mr.Trueman smiled triumphantly, “I will use it properly.”
Malik frowned, “Mr.Trueman, sir?”
“To the elevator,” Mr. Trueman ordered, “Now!”
Malik nodded and hurried Mr. Trueman along from the atrium to the elevator, “Mr. Trueman, sir, are you certain this will work?”
“If it doesn’t, then I may just lose my faith in the Guardian Lucifer,” Mr. Trueman looked at the fluid, “it must work.”
A concerned look crossed Malik’s face, “Of course, sir.”
Mr.Trueman walked into Kaelen’s room, followed by Malik.
Malik walked to a medical drawer and pulled out a fresh syringe.
“Quickly, Malik,” Mr. Trueman ordered, “Quickly now.”
Malik nodded, unwrapping the needle and inserting it into the flask. He drew the blue liquid from the flask into the needle.
Malik walked over to Kaelen and injected the fluid into a vein in his forearm.
Kaelen’s veins turned blue for a moment at the point of injection. After a moment or two, Kaelen’s body convulsed, the devices hooked up to him showing an increased heart rate.
Mr.Trueman smiled wide, “Yes! Yes! Revive my son, Guardian Lucifer!”
Kaelen’s convulsions slowed down and finally, he settled back to rest.
Mr.Trueman walked up to Kaelen, slowly feeling his arm, “he’s stronger… but… Kaelen? My son? Are you there?”
Malik looked to the floor slowly, giving a heavy sigh, “I’m so sorry, Mr.Trueman.”
Mr.Trueman took the syringe, looking at Malik, “I suppose I have nothing else to live for.”
“Mr. Trueman?!” Malik shouted as he watched as Mr.Trueman injected the remaining blue fluid into his arm.

Jax pulled a rifle from a window sill and ducked behind a wall, heaving a sigh of relief. “Fucking A man,” Jax’s brow was furrowed, sweat seeping down his face.
Jophiel handed Jax a cloth, “dry yourself off, wipe your prints off the gun and leave it. We’ve gotta go.”
“Did I get him?” Jax asked.
“He went down like a sack of shit,” Jophiel said as he slid his mask on, “which serves the bastard right. A corrupt cop who killed Guardian-knows how many people.”
Jax nodded, “Never killed anyone before.”
“Me neither,” Jophiel said, offering Jax his hand, “but let's just trust in the fact he deserved it.”Jax grunted as Jophiel hefted him up, the pair heading out of the room and through the fire escape on the other side of the building. Both angels climbed down the fire escape and slipped out of the room as best they could.
Upon reaching the ground, each slipped on normal respirators and vanished into the crowd.
After a few minutes of using the chaos to escape, Jax and Jophiel each met up on the outskirts of town and they pulled out a phone.
Jax hit the call button and kept the small phone on speaker while Jophiel ensured they had not been followed.
Mimi’s voice soon chimed in over the line, “Speak,” her lilting voice carried over the phone, beguiling her intent.
“We’re clear,” Jax said.
“Good,” Mimi stated, “that cock-sucker was a real pain in my ass.”
“What’s next?” Jophiel asked.
“What’s next,” Mimi instructed, “is the two of you skip town for the better part of a month or two and lay very, very low.”
Jax frowned, “What do we do for cash?”
“Boys, boys, boys,” Mimi laughed, “didn’t we take care of that?”
Jophiel sighed, “you gave us enough for a week. What are we gonna do for a month?”
“Are your hands broken, boys?” Mimi gave a sinister laugh, “Go find yourselves some jobs.”
“And what do we do after that?” Jax asked.
“Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” Mimi said. The call ended.
“What?!” Jax shouted, dialing the number again, the call going straight to voicemail.
Jophiel sighed, “We gotta go, man, we’re too hot right now.”
Jax snapped the small cellphone in half, and grunted to himself, tossing both halves across the alleyway.
Jophiel looked back on the city and narrowed his eyes, “I guess we can’t do anything but wait and trust Persephone.”
Jax nodded, “I hope to get a call soon,” as he glared at the city in the distance, “I still got a score to settle with Fondsworth.”

Three Months Later
Shuttle Goodwill
Yuki smiled as she woke from her sleep, excited that the day was finally here.
Tarrabetha seemed equally excited, but Yuki was certain her emotions were affecting Tarrabetha’s or was it vice versa?
Tarrabetha smiled wide as she floated through the air, “oh, I can’t wait to talk to Tom!”
Yuki smiled, “And I can’t wait to see my son!” While Yuki missed Serren very much, her joy at finally arriving at Dei to see her son was overwhelming her longing for Serren.
At the same time, Tarrabetha and Yuki’s joy had spilled over to Issla and Briggett as they were both in a cheery mood.
“Well, we’re within radio range,” Briggett stated.
Tarrabetha grinned and floated over to the radio equipment, “This is Shuttle Goodwill, announcing we are only three hours from our descent!” Tarrabetha announced in a well-practiced Dei accent.
Yuki was impressed with how well Tarrabetha spoke Dei. Though she was still curious how or why no one on Dei had known about a Niten shuttle.
After a short delay, Tarrabetha heard Thomas’s response, grinning wide, “Oh, Tommy, I cannot wait to be closer to you…” she grinned wide, “I want to kiss you so bad!”
Tarrabetha waited a few more moments before a reply came from Thomas, “Can’t wait, Tarra! When you land… okay?”
Tarrabetha beamed, turning to Briggett, “Please, let me get off the ship with Yuki? Please?! It’s the last chance I’ll ever have to meet him!”
Yuki’s face fell slightly, “Tarra… he’s never seen you, right?”
Tarrabetha laughed, “Well, no,” she frowned, “why, is there something wrong with me?”
“No, no, it’s just… how can you… feel something for him if you’ve never met him?” Yuki asked.
“Because of how well we flirt,” Tarrabetha grinned.
Issla sighed, looking out the main viewing window, “Tarra, Yuki has a minor point: Even if you meet, we have 72 hours to leave.”
Tarrabetha turned to her colleagues and grinned, “Well… yeah… I’m kind of going to stay on Dei.”
“What?!” all three of the crewmates shouted at Tarrabetha.
Tarrabetha staggered back, “What? I love Tom and I wouldn’t ask him to leave his home and I’ve already been gone-”
“No!” Yuki shouted, rushing to Tarrabetha, “you do not want to live here! Why do you think I’m trying to bring my son home?!”
Tarrabetha was confused by Yuki’s confession, “But, Yuki, didn’t you live there?”
“Yes!” Yuki shouted, “and trust me, you’d be miserable there!”
Issla frowned, “I have to agree with her Tarra… we don’t know much about Dei culture and you’d be the only Niten Dragon on the whole planet. Honestly, I think it’s a bad idea.”
Tarrabetha frowned, “I’m seeing Tom! No one can stop me!”
I can stop you,” Briggett ordered, “now let's get ready for landing. The only person getting off this shuttle is Yuki.”
Issla nodded, “Tarrabetha, it’s a bad idea. You know how miserable we feel when we land. That isn’t decompression, that’s the way all of the Dei Angels feel. Stressed, anxious, and worried. Is that how you want to live?”
Tarrabetha pouted and floated away from the three of them, small tears floating after her.
Yuki could feel how upset Tarrabetha was, and decided it best to not bother Tarrabetha until they landed. Still, she felt a new level of nervousness as everyone was concerned regarding how they would handle Tarrabetha once they landed.
After a few hours, the shuttle was entering Planet Dei’s atmosphere.
Yuki watched as the shuttle took a long and gradual descent through the atmosphere.
“Everyone strap in for our descent,” Briggett announced.
Yuki moved to strap-in, adjusting her straps slightly as she did so. She rubbed her brow, painfully. Somehow she had gotten a pair of bumps on her head at some point. Where the bumps came from she was unsure. Yuki wondered if something had bumped her head while she was sleeping.
The rest of the crew strapped in as well, Issla checking their altitude and heading.
“Currently ten minutes to landing, cruising through the upper atmosphere, heat shields are holding,” Issla announced.
Biggett now stated as she gripped the controls, “holding re-entry angle steady, speed dropping below supersonic.”
Tarrabetha’s seat was closest to the communication panel and she spoke into a handheld radio, “Shuttle Goodwill coming in t-minus 9-minutes there, handsome!”
Yuki just did her best to hold on as the shuttle shuddered and rocked back and forth for a moment.
Yuki felt the ship begin to drop as it continued. Briggett’s hands were firmly on the control stick, however, guiding the ship down slowly.
Issla announced, “temperatures are nominal, speed has dropped below supersonic, engaging terrestrial engines.”
The shuttle shuddered once more and Yuki felt a sensation of the ship lurching forward for a moment.
After this, the ride grew much smoother, and Yuki looked out to see a set of dark clouds below. Yuki took a deep breath as the ship dipped through what she knew as the smog of Seraph City.
Tarrabetha smiled as the radio chimed in, “Shuttle Goodwill, this is ground control. You are cleared to land at the landing site designated Alpha, please confirm navigation.”
Issla announced, “radar showing active landing site designation Alpha, plotting our landing now.”
“We’ve got a lock on you,” Tarrabetha announced, “see you soon, Tommy!”
As the ship descended through the clouds the dark city below was a familiar sight to Yuki, who was growing nervous as she found she could sense far more of her fellow Dei’s emotions than she normally could.
It was as Issla explained: anxiety and stress.
To Yuki’s surprise, she watched as the ship lowered further and further, eventually touching down on a runway of sorts like any other airliner.
“Touchdown,” Briggett announced.
“Confirmed landing, Shuttle Goodwill, please taxi to hanger alpha for unloading and refueling,” Thomas’s voice crackled over the radio.
“Confirmed, Tommy!” Tarrabetha turned to Briggett.
“Taxing,” Briggett announced.
Yuki was confused as the ship began to roll down a long ramp which led to an underground hanger of some kind.
The ship came to a complete stop inside of a large hanger that was a few hundred meters underground.
Yuki unstrapped herself as the ship shuddered once more and Yuki saw a massive ramp similar to the one they had launched from on Nite. This one, however, had the launching track going above ground from down below.
“Shuttle Goodwill, you are locked and loaded. Refueling you now and unloading your cargo,” Thomas announced.
Tarrabetha grinned wolfishly, “Oh, Tommy, fill me up good, okay?” She giggled.
Briggett sighed heavily, “Tarra, not over official channels!”
Tarrabetha grinned at Briggett.
The radio soon buzzed back, “Always Tarra, always,” Thomas announced.
Yuki heaved a sigh, “so, how do I disembark?”
Briggett nodded, “Tarrabetha, ask about Yuki, can you?”
Tarrabetha nodded, “Tommy what are we doing with our extra passenger? She needs to get off.”
Yuki sat in her seat, looking out the window to where the control tower was.

Meanwhile, in a control room, the imps quickly rerouted the radio call.
Sorjoy stood in his office as the red phone rang. He answered it quickly, “Yes?”
An imp cleared its throat, “Mr. Sorjoy, sir, we have communications from the Shuttle Goodwill.”
Sorjoy narrowed his eyes, “What do you mean? That ship was not due until hours from now…”
“It apparently landed early,” the imp informed, “they’re requesting instructions for the miner.”
Sorjoy nodded, “I’ll send someone, tell her to wait.”
The imp relayed the information quickly, speaking to the radio himself, “Shuttle Goodwill, please wait. Someone will be there to escort Mrs. Karkade.”
The imp waited for a moment before there was a return communication, “Confirmed. Where’s Tommy?” Tarrabetha asked.
The imp frowned and shrugged to his cohorts, “He’s only handling the control tower responses. We are in charge of disembarking Mrs. Karkade.”

Shuttle Goodwill
Tarrabetha turned to her crewmates before asking the next question, “Tommy, are you there?”
A new voice came through the radio. “Tommy stepped away for a minute Tarra. This is Hammond, I’m his co-worker he never lets on the horn.”
Terrabetha turned to Briggett, “oh, crap, do you think Tommy is in trouble?”
Briggett rolled her eyes, “you were flirting with each other pretty heavily over official channels. Bet his superiors weren’t too pleased with that.”
After nearly half an hour a knock soon came on the door.
Briggett turned to the door, “guess it’s for you, Yuki.”
Yuki walked to the door, spotting a man dressed in a street cop’s uniform, “I guess this is my ride,” Yuki announced.
Briggett walked over and hugged Yuki tight, “good luck, Yuki.”
Issla smiled at Yuki, “I hope to see you soon.”
Tarrabetha smiled, “and tell Thomas, if you spot him, that I love him and that…” Tarrabetha looked to the floor, “that I’m sorry it might be a very long time before we talk again.”
Yuki nodded, giving each crew member a hug, “I’ll see you guys really soon, I promise.”
Issla smiled at Yuki as the airlock opened.
The officer smiled at the women, “Ladies, nice to see you. Name’s Azreal Palma,” Palma grinned as he walked into the cabin, checking to make sure the outer door was closed behind him.
“Officer Palma,” Yuki smiled, “nice to meet you.”
“I assume you’re Yuki Karkade?” Palma asked, looking at Yuki.
Tarrabetha grinned, “No, that’s me!” she laughed.
Palma laughed, “Good one.”
“So, where am I headed?” Yuki asked.
“I’ve been told to take you to see your family,” Palma explained, stepping away from the door, “after you.”
Yuki gave a nod and walked into the airlock. “You’ve seen Niten Dragons before?” she asked.
Palma gave a nod, “I’ve seen those three.”
“I have a whole lot of questions for Fondsworth,” Yuki informed.
“We’ll get to that, first let's get your family situation squared away,” Palma said with an innocent smile as he led Yuki out of the ship and down the steps.
Yuki sighed, “Right, right,” she sighed as she walked towards Palma’s squad car.
Palma opened the back door for her and closed it, hopped into the driver's seat, turned on the lights, and drove off.
Yuki sat in the back of the police car, looking up at the buildings passing her by. She looked up to the sun, barely visible through the smog in the air, and heaved a sigh.
“Missed home?” Palma asked her as they drove on.
“No,” Yuki confessed, “not one bit.”
Palma laughed, “so, I have to ask, what was Nite like?”
Yuki smiled, “It’s beautiful.”
Palma nodded, “I bet.”
Soon they pulled up to the Fondsworth building, Yuki’s brow furrowed as she looked up to the building. “This isn’t my home.”
“Your family moved since you were last here,” Palma explained, getting out of the car and opening the door for her, “please, follow me.”
Yuki got out with some apprehension, confused as to why her family would be in this large skyscraper.
Palma turned to Yuki, “Please, Mrs. Karkade, follow me,” Palma insisted.
Yuki followed tentatively, walking through the eerily empty lobby. She looked around slowly, having visited the main HQ of Fondsworth once or twice before.
Maybe Aphod moved into one of the Condos somehow? She doubted that much changed in the six months she had been on Nite.
Palma led the two to a single elevator, far back from the rest, with a set of golden doors.
Yuki gave Palma an odd look as he approached the elevator and opened it.
Palma stood behind Yuki and now she felt a sinking feeling in her gut.
Yuki turned to Palma as he took a step forward.
“Get in,” Palma said, the pleasantries gone now that she was cornered.
“Where are you taking me?” Yuki demanded as Palma forced her into the elevator by walking forward.
Once inside Palma didn’t say another word, merely blocking her path and pressing a button on the elevator.
For Yuki, the elevator ride felt like it took forever.
Once it came to a stop, Palma stepped out, motioning to Sorjoy’s office door.
“Palma?” Cleo shouted, glaring at him, “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Palma placed his fingers to his lips to hush Cleo, “Shh.”
Cleo turned from him and Yuki as Palma walked to the office door, opening it and letting Yuki walk in.
Yuki walked in, only to have the door shut behind her. She turned to see an expensive desk with a large high-backed leather office chair. An arm clad in an expensive suit placed a small tumbler of liquor on the desk before pressing a button on a small device which began to playback an audio recording.
A cough was heard, as well as some sounds of a microphone scratching fabric and thumping as it was placed down on a surface of some sort.

Ever since the first Dei ship came close enough to the orbit of Nite, the people of Dei have both feared, and wondered: what lay in the nearby world? One man, long ago however did venture to Nite.
“Daddy?” Yuki’s eyes went wide, “Why do you have a recording of my father?!” Yuki demanded, but the man behind the desk did not answer as the recording continued.

What he saw did not shock him nor did it frighten him. Rather it filled him with joy; the very first Dei to meet Nite knew two things.:
Nite had things Dei needed. Meat, Vegetables and other foods that Nite had an overabundance of, so much so that it would spoil if not harvested or otherwise preserved.
Nite could not know of Dei because the ideas of money, greed and murder would slip into the Niten world's society and poison it. Nor could Dei learn of Nite, for our own greed would plunder their world.
From that day a secret order known as “The Scale” existed within Dei’s high society. The most powerful men and women of Dei, from the most successful CEOs, to the elected leaders of great nations, make up its esteemed membership.
The job of The Scale is to protect Nite by any means necessary from discovery by Dei. Our founder is the first man to return from Nite. His knowledge in which the order has passed down through several generations is our burden.
From my father and his before him, from the very man who breathed in the air of Nite. Its existence purely secretive, those who left the Sect could only do so by leaving the mortal coil. Not even the Nite themselves knew of The Scale’s existence.
My Son, this is the burden that I have to give to you now. I know the path I set before you is difficult, this is no simple task.
But, if it were simple I would not trust you with it. You have the tools my son, you must now go forward, let nothing hold you back and ignore mercy and morals. Your ends will justify any means, for your burden is sanctified by the Guardian Lucifer Himself.
I know you could not be here in person, there is far too much for you to do and you make me proud. Ignore your sister's resentment. If you do, it will pass, as will I.
Yuki narrowed her eyes on the desk, “Why do you have my father’s voice on a recording? And what is he talking about?”
Sorjoy stood up from the chair, turning to Yuki, “It’s pretty much the only thing dad left me.”
Yuki shot to her feet, “Erik?!” she shouted, shocked.
“Nice to see you again,” Sorjoy said, pulling a pistol from his pocket and aiming it at Yuki, “little sister.”
submitted by Zithero to libraryofshadows

Humanity's Vengeance: the Fall of Praxis Three (Part Two)

Part One
(As requested, here's part two! Hope you all enjoy it! Any feedback is welcome!)
Xarrix tried to tell himself not to be afraid.
It was an easy thing to say, but a much harder thing to do. The landing craft pitched beneath his chitinous feet as it screamed toward planetfall through a sky thick with flak and anti-voidcraft fire. Its deck shook violently as it veered to avoid being incinerated, and more than a few of the troopers around him lost their footing, stumbled and fell.
Xarrix did not have teeth, but if he did, he would have gritted them with the effort it took to keep his fear-glands under control. His twin antennae palps twitched. He looked down at his weapon and checked its readiness for what must have been the millionth time. It was not a weapon made by his people. No laborer or hive metallurgist of his people had brought it forth from the foundries of their homeworld. The weapon had been made by humans, for humans, on a planet populated by humans many hundreds of light-years away from the battle raging outside.
The landing craft had no windows. It had been deliberately designed that way, for it would hardly help a soldier’s morale if he were able to look outside and see other troopships being blasted out of the sky. But even without windows Xarrix knew. The noise alone was so loud that those with external auditory organs tried to cover them. He was grateful he did not have any. The small pinprick holes on either side of his cranium could be easily covered with a specialized membrane beneath his carapace.
He felt his hearts began to race as the dropship continued its rapid descent, tightening his hold on the rail overhead to keep from tripping. Xarrix was no warrior. None of his people were, not by nature, not like other species.
Not like the humans.
The insectoid Kaleekians, the race to which he belonged, were builders. Not fighters. They had made their world of Andrax into one great, globe-spanning hive, carving vast networks of tunnels and building massive mound-like nest cities both above and beneath the ground. For the wealth of Andrax lay in its soil, in vast deposits of ores and metals so rich that the output of just one mine could equal that of an entire star system. With such a bounty beneath their feet, what else could the Kaleekians have become but a race of metalsmiths, craftsmen and architects? Indeed, it came so naturally to them that most Kaleekians had never contemplated being anything else. Even their religion, music and poetry revolved around the shaping of stone and metal. Their music employed the same hammers and other tools they used in their cavernous forges, and their gods were the Builders, immortal architects who placed every star in the sky and forged every planet upon their celestial anvil. The Kaleekians believed that every blast of steam from the great smithies was the Builders’ breath, and every forge and workshop was a church to their glory.
And so the Kaleekians had prospered for millenia. Their hives grew larger, their forges grander. They sold the things they made to surrounding systems, and brought great wealth to their people from trade. Kaleekian goods became known across multiple sectors for their beauty and quality, and as their technological prowess grew, so too did the variety of the things they made. Starship parts, electronics, consumer goods, it didn’t matter to Xarrix’s folk. They were happy to accept contracts from just about anyone, as long as the terms were fair, and they could hone their craft in peace. And for thousands of years, they had done just that.
But this golden age had also sown the seeds of their downfall. Xarrix knew that now. All his people did, though they hadn’t known it at the time.
The only thing the Kaleekians had refused to make were weapons. They were creators, not destroyers, and the idea of using their great halls to churn out tools of death and destruction appalled them. There were other places that made weapons in great quantities, other forge worlds. Those who needed or wanted weapons could go there, but not to Andrax. No weapon ever came from its foundries or smelters, not for offworlders and not for the Kaleekians themselves. And why would they? What need did the chosen of the Builders have for weapons? If they were attacked, they could simply go underground and seal themselves away, for in those vast underground caves they had everything they needed to be self-sufficient. But why would anyone want to attack them? The Kaleekians were not warriors, they did not make enemies the way other races did. They dealt fairly with everyone who approached them. There was no reason for them to fight anyone, nor for anyone to fight with them.
It made Xarrix shudder now, to think that his people had ever been so naïve.
That naivete had died the day Praxian ships had entered Andrax’s upper atmosphere and subjected their innocent planet to a storm of orbital weapons fire. Their world had cried out and shuddered in pain, and some of the great caverns had collapsed, killing millions of Kaleekians in an instant. The great mound-cities on the surface had burned to ash along with their race’s innocence, and when the invading armies had landed, the Kaleekians had nothing to defend themselves with.
The Praxians wanted the Kaleekians’ skill and the resources of Andrax for their empire, and they had seized both with ruthless efficiency. They subjugated the Kaleekians and turned them from a proud race of craftsmen and forgeworkers to just one more race of slaves, bound in chains and forced to work beneath the whips and cruel eyes of their new overlords. The great forges were corrupted into factories that produced millions of weapons for the Praxians’ war machine. The hive cities were turned into slave pens. Even the images of the Builders were torn down and replaced with idols of cruel Praxian war gods. All the Kaleekians had achieved was reduced to ruin, or worse, turned to evil purpose. The Kaleekians’ lives were made bitter by their conquerors, and for generations, Xarrix’s ancestors had lived and died in chains.
And then the humans had come.
They had come as a thunderstorm comes—with little warning, little notice, and overwhelming fury. Xarrix had been topside on an errand for one of the overseers when he’d seen the flames of war in the sky. He’d looked on in awe as, one by one, the Praxian ships that held his world in thrall were destroyed. The noise was incredible, and more and more slaves had stopped what they were doing, turning their gaze heavenward even as their masters’ electro-whips fell across their backs.
The Praxians were being annihilated. How and why, Xarrix had not known, but whatever came next could not possibly be worse than what the Kaleekians had already endured. He and the other slaves and swarmed the overseer, and within a day riots and revolts had erupted across Andrax. The Kaleekians had rallied to the aid of their liberators and taken terrible, bloody revenge. Not a single Praxian was left on Andrax alive.
And then the humans had sent messengers to them, bearing words of liberation and news of the wider galaxy. Beyond Andrax the void was aflame, they had said. They too, had suffered at the hands of the Praxians, and now they were bringing a war of righteous vengeance to the empire of the oppressors. They had not asked for Kaleekian aid at the time, but they did not have to. The humans had set them free, given them hope for the first time in living memory. Nothing, not even all the vast resources of Andrax, would ever be enough to repay that debt. To the last hatchling, every surviving member of the Kaleekian race had sworn undying loyalty to the humans and their Terran Confederacy. Kaleekian youths, like Xarrix, volunteered in droves to serve in human armies, and the great forges were put to work once more.
But now the Kaleekians had no problem making weapons. The Praxians had taught them well.
Now, as he hurtled toward the surface of Praxis III, Xarrix clutched his own weapon tight and tried to muster his courage as best he could. Whatever the humans asked, he would do. His oath, and what the humans had done for his world, demanded no less. For dozens of other species conquered by the Praxians, the same was true. The humans had cast off the shackles of each world they took from the enemy’s grip, and more than a dozen races now fought in its armies and fleets.
“Planetfall in thirty seconds!” the pilot yelled over the din. “Get ready, you lot!”
Builders, Xarrix thought, closing his mult-faceted eyes. Please watch over me.
The ship rocked even more violently than before, and the pilot cried out in alarm and veered to avoid a direct hit. “Almost there!” roared the Terran officer who’d been placed in command of Xarrix’s unit. Gon-za-lez, Xarris thought. His name is Gon-za-lez.
“Remember, our orders,” Gonzalez continued. “The orbital shield generator in this sector has be to taken out to clear the way for fire support from the fleet.” He pointed in the distance, drawing their eyes to a massive bunker complex behind the Praxian lines. “That’s it there. We push through these bastards, we kill them, and then we take it out. Our bombers can’t do it—whatever that building is made of, it’s proof against most of our heavy ordnance. So it's up to us. We’re going to break the door down and clear it out the old-fashioned way, then destroy it from within.” His face set in a grim line. “If we succeed, our ships will be able provide us with orbital fire support and make our jobs a whole lot easier. But if we fail, it’ll be a much longer slog to the Praxian capital and hundreds of thousands good soldiers will die before we get there. Is that clear?”
“Sir, yes, sir!” the troopers replied.
“I SAID, IS THAT CLEAR!?” Gonzalez roared.
They snapped to attention, including Xarrix. “SIR, YES SIR!”
The transport ship lurched to a screeching halt. The grinding whir of its landing gears being deployed was drowned out by the noise of war raging outside. Gonzalez shoved his way to the front, flicking the safety off his pulse rifle as the ship’s doors slid open.
The surface of Praxis III was a firestorm of battle. Laser fire of every color stitched the air in all directions, while overhead hundreds of starfighters dueled in vicious dogfights. Every few seconds a burning craft belonging to one side or the other would plummet to its doom in a column of smoke and flames, while the ground was already littered with the dead and the burning wrecks of hovertanks, mobile artillery pieces and heavy guns. There was no cover on the dry and arid surface, no place to hide. The only way for Xarrix and his comrades was forward, and in that direction, several hundred yards distant, lay the Praxian lines. The hell being unleashed by the enemy was terrifying in its ferocity, and despite being under heavy strafing and bombing from the Terrans, the rate of fire didn’t seem to be slackening at all.
Even as Xarrix watched, a heavy gunship bearing the eagle symbol of the Confederacy laid waste to a section of Praxian fortifications with a payload of cluster bombs. A solid line of scorching flames blossomed in the ship’s wake. Hundreds of Praxians were reduced to cinders in an instant, and those unlucky enough not to be killed instantly ran in all directions, shrieking and ablaze, before they finally collapsed.
The sheer diversity of the Terran troops startling, too. There were four-armed hulking Gorgorians fighting and dying on this battlefield, many of which carried heavy assault cannons and multi-barreled auto-guns in each massive hand. Reptilian Scathori, resplendent in their brightly-colored battle-dress, chanted hymns of slaughter as they poured from their troopships and into the fray. Xarrix knew the Scathori well, for they had been friends of his people before the Praxians came. A devoutly spiritual race, they were led into battle by their warrior priests who had eschewed Terran weapons in favor of battle-staves crafted in the jungles of their homeworld. These long rods served as badges of office in peacetime, but in times of war they could be fitted with a miniaturized disintegration weapon that unleashed white-hot beams of energy. Lupine Canorians, those great wolf-like bipeds, howled over the din, almost falling over themselves in their eagerness to close with the enemy. Blue-feathered Solari, six-legged Jorians, and—Xarrix’s heart soared—other Kaleekians like himself.
Sergeant Gonzalez turned to face them. There was no time for a grand speech, nor was one necessary. Instead, he opened his mouth and roared out the battle-cry that had heralded doom for dozens of Praxian worlds—and liberation to those they had subjugated.
“FOR TERRA!” he roared.
“FOR TERRA!” Xarrix cried, adding his voice to the roaring refrain. He had never been to Terra, would likely never see it, but he would fight for it, for Terra and Andrax stood as brothers now.
They poured from the landing craft, roaring and cheering, and all around the maelstrom of death continued unabated.
The Terrans charged over the open ground, heedless of how many of their dead they left behind, and the Praxians—spoiled for choice of targets—began to take a horrific toll. Xarrix saw an entire brigade of Scathori get blown to pieces by a heavy shell, saw the explosion of blood and viscera and severed limbs that flew in all directions. His every instinct screamed at him to run, but he could not. He would not.
He had to keep going.
He had to honor his oath.
They were running now, running full-tilt at the enemy through the blistering, deadly hail that sought to scythe them down. Many died before they knew what hit them. Others fell, maimed and torn, and screamed their last on the dusty, bloodstained earth.
They were getting closer. The enemy lines were nearer now.
Keep going. We have to keep going.
A Gorgorian two steps ahead of Xarrix was hit with a las-round. His head disintegrated, and Xarrix couldn’t help shrieking as he felt himself get sprayed with blood and bits of brain and bone. He spared a brief prayer to the Builders for the dead one’s spirit, but they could not stop to mourn him. If they stopped, they all would die. Even Xarrix, new to the ways of war, saw that clearly.
Closer now. Closer.
Hovertanks began to open fire as they came within range and began pounding the Praxian positions. The roar of their turret guns left a ringing in Xarrix’s auditory organs, but the sound was as sweet to him as music. Even sweeter was the sight of Praxian bunkers and pillboxes being blasted to smithereens.
Closer. Ever closer.
Gonzalez opened up with his pulse rifle, and his entire unit followed suit. Xarrix was not a natural fighter, but the Terrans had trained him well and his movements were smooth and practiced. He brought his weapon up to his left eye, aimed, and fired.
A hundred yards away, a Praxian died.
Xarrix didn’t stop to think about that. He chose another target, aimed, fired, then chose another. And all the while he kept pace with Gonzalez and the others, pounding the earth with his insectoid feet as they closed with the enemy.
He could see the Praxians began to panic, saw the fear on their faces when they realized they were going to be overrun. The sight was very pleasing to him. Now the Praxians knew how his people felt when Andrax fell. Now they knew what it was like to be invaded and besieged and afraid.
As the humans were fond of saying, payback was a bitch.
Several Praxians tried to flee as the Terrans closed the distance, only to be shot in the back by those of higher rank. A second later, the Terrans smashed into their lines.
And then all hell really broke loose.
Gonzalez leapt into one of the trenches, firing at everything that moved and cutting down a dozen Praxian soldiers before they could even bring their own weapons to bear. The Scathori leapt through the air at their hated enemies with savage frenzy, some of them even casting their arms aside and ripping the Praxians apart with their razor-sharp claws and teeth. Even his fellow Kaleekians were caught up in the frenzy of close combat; they poured over the Praxians like a horde of crazed army ants, stabbing and shooting and using their rifles as clubs when their ammunition finally ran out.
Xarrix saw a Praxian soldier, gave a chittering screech, and ran at him. His bayonet plunged into the other alien’s chest like a hot knife through a slab of butter. The Praxian stared, looked up at Xarrix, and gave a dying gurgle.
“For my people,” Xarrix whispered.
He tore his weapon free in time to see another Praxian charging at him. This one must have been an officer, for his uniform was more elaborate than the one Xarrix had just killed, and he wielded a sword whose edges glowed with intense heat.
Xarrix shot him in the chest. The officer fell, dead before he hit the ground, and Xarrix wrenched the weapon from his twitching hands. He put it to good use a second later by cleaving another Praxian in two.
“Keep moving! Gonzalez roared. “Follow me, come on! Do you want to live forever? Forward! Drive them back!”
The Terrans pushed, and kept pushing, and the trenches became a tightly-packed slaughterhouse. Praxian and Terran alike fought with everything that came to hand: rifles, pistols, blades and bare appendages. Xarrix saw a woman get torn apart by las-fire at point-blank range, and even Gonzalez himself narrowly avoided death by seizing a wounded enemy soldier and using him as a shield. When the woman’s killer had emptied his ammunition clip, he tossed the corpse to one side and shot the Praxian as he frantically tried to reload.
Blood washed the trenches in rivers as the Terrans carved a path to their objective, but the Praxians were stubborn. They knew what was at stake and each step toward the blockhouse that housed the shield generator was paid for in blood. Xarrix fought with all his might, spurred on and encouraged by the bravery his comrades. All around him people were blasting and shooting, screaming and stabbing, falling and dying. The ground became so thick with corpses that he had to step high in order to walk over them. Xarrix was careful to avoid the honored dead of his own side, but the Praxians he trod upon without a second thought. One of those Praxians was still alive, though from the gaping hole in his belly, he probably wished otherwise. Xarrix ended his misery by stabbing him in the throat.
The shield generator was almost within reach now. Fifty yards, maybe seventy-five at most—
Without warning, a withering fire erupted from within the complex. Whether it came from automated defense systems or from living soldiers Xarrix didn’t know, but it ripped through the advancing Terrans without mercy. Dozens of humans and their alien allies fell in an instant, cut down like wheat before the reaper’s scythe. In the packed confines of the trench network, the carnage was beyond all hope of description. Xarrix himself only managed to avoid being shredded by throwing himself to one side at the very last instant and taking cover behind a mound of corpses. Many of his comrades were not so lucky. Those who were hastily took up defensive positions and scrambled for what little cover they could find.
“Someone take those guns out!” Gonzalez roared. “We have to get closer!”
“I-I’ll do it!”
Xarrix was as surprised as anyone else to hear himself speak. The Terran tongue did not come naturally to his people—their mouths were not made for it--but the translating device he wore at his throat translated the clicks and hisses of his native language as he spoke. “I’ll go, Sergeant.”
“Don’t be an idiot! You can’t go out there alone! You won’t get ten yards before you’re—”
“But I won’t be going toward it,” Xarrix said hastily, fighting not to let his fear and anxiety show. “I will be going under it.” He lifted his head a little, speaking with pride. “My people were burrowing deep into the mantle of blessed Andrax for thousands of years before the Praxians came. The Builders, our gods, blessed us with bodies well-suited to digging even without machines to aid us. Let me and some others of my kind go, my lord. The shield generator may have a hard shell, but its belly may be soft.”
“Why didn’t you think of this before?!” Gonzalez demanded. “Why didn’t any of you think of this before? You could have made that suggestion to me, I could have taken it up the chain of command--”
“We are not warriors,” Xarrix said defensively. “Not like you. We are new to the wiles and strategy of war. Please, lord, do not bear this against my people. I….I only wish to help!”
Gonzalez nodded once. “It’s a hell of a lot better than any of my ideas. Do it, then!"
Xarrix nodded. “Thank you, lord.”
The human snorted. “I’m no lord. But if you pull this off, you might as well be one. Good luck, kid.”
“And…” Xarrix swallowed. “If I fail? Will I bring disgrace?”
Gonzalez put a hand on his thin shoulder. “No,” he said. “If you fail, you will have done your duty to the best of your ability, and you will have shown initiative and courage. If you die, your honor will be intact.” He slammed a fresh power clip into his rifle. "We’ll distract them and draw their fire to buy you some time! Now go!”
Xarrix let out a shuddering breath. “Thank you, lord.” Then he turned to the nearest group of Kaleekians huddled nearby. “Brothers! Sisters! Come over here and listen to me, I have an idea!”
[To be continued in Part 3]
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