- Resistance -
In With The Enemy
Brandon J. Wysocki
Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Cover Art By
With some elements furnished by NASA
It was dawn in Kelgar, the city was beginning to come to life, though that life was very different for the people of Gratuak under the reign of the Faalcomana. The citizens carried themselves in a meek manner, some of them were outright subservient. In truth, the humans were now second-class. Though at this point they were usually granted peace so long as they did nothing to disturb the Faalcomana, everyone knew that at any moment they might be subjected to searches or interrogations. Sometimes they were simply the victims of blatant abuse of power and bigotry.
Though most humans did well to maintain as much of their existence as possible inside of what had informally become designated human zones, to best earn a living, many people had to try to integrate into the districts that the Faalcomana had claimed nearly exclusively as their own. Most of the economy now revolved around catering to the needs of the Faalcomana, or even working directly for them in a variety of ways. Occasionally that even went as far as selling oneself to the Faalcomana.
However, in all of this, many humans in Kelgar had learned a new sense of community. They had to. In their ghettos, former inns and commercial buildings had been repurposed as shelters for those in need. In these times, many were in need.
The citizens were oppressed and spiritually defeated; seldom did those grim circumstances slip the mind of anyone for even a moment. But they had become accustomed to this way of life over time, and it was certainly preferable to a direct conflict with the Faalcomana.
As was customary, Faalcomana soldiers scoured the streets of Kelgar, searching for any sign of resistance as they continued to make their presence known. Jeccan’s ideals of fair treatment for the beings of Gratuak restricted the power of the Faalcomana, but did not remove it from them. They were allowed to detain suspected members of the Coalition, or any other potential threat, and handle direct confrontations with “appropriate” strength. The Faalcomana feared they were losing tabs on the ever growing Coalition. Though they had not tried anything major in more than a year, the pervading sense was that they were lying low only to conspire and amass a means to launch a more effective resistance.
Six Faalcomana soldiers were walking together near the area in which the confrontation had occurred the evening before. They had walked this area many times through routine patrols such as this. To them the task had become monotonous, and so it was especially startling when they turned the corner to see four comrades lying dead. The two lead soldiers rushed to the bodies to see if things were as they appeared. The other four soldiers held their rifles in the ready position, covering the lead officers and scanning their surroundings. As the two soldiers came closer to them, it was readily apparent that the four were in fact dead. They both shook their heads at the sight. “Here’s one of the squads that failed to report in. I fear the others shared their fate,” the one officer said to the other, who responded by shaking his head. The other lead soldier then turned to the rest of the group and spoke.
“Call for a shuttle. We must honor our fallen.” He then turned and spoke confidentially to his fellow lead soldier, “you know who did this.”
General Tettarov had traveled to Wreithelosheve, the second planet conquered by the Faalcomana and currently governed by Jeccan, Fre’erik’s younger brother. He had quickly arranged a meeting with Jeccan in Sancharann, the capital city of Wreithelosheve’s large southern continent. The two would be gathering in the throne room of the palace of Sancharann, an impressive original monument of the native people retrofitted with advanced amenities by and for the Faalcomana.
Jeccan, with traditional casual garb flowing over is figure, was standing in front of one of the many large windows in the room, awaiting Tettarov’s arrival. Jeccan, like Fre’erik, Tettarov, and many other higher-ranking Faalcomana, was larger than the average Faalcomana, although he was slightly smaller than Tettarov or Fre’erik. His slightly tan colored skin was noticeably softer and smoother than his brothers. His facial features in general were gentler than the fierce look of Fre’erik.
The throne room door opened, drawing the attention of Jeccan, who turned to it and saw General Tettarov being escorted in by two Faalcomana guards. The fully armed and armored guards walked Tettarov into the room and proceeded to turn and exit the room after bowing their heads to Jeccan.
“What brings me the pleasure of your company, General?” Jeccan said in kindly greeting Tettarov, though in their native tongue and deep voice, it hardly sounded as such. The two had many differences in opinions and principles, but they also had a great mutual respect for one another, as most Faalcomana did.
“An urgent appeal, Lord Jeccan.” Jeccan could not help but grin at the comment. He immediately knew what that meant, rarely did Fre’erik or any other high ranking Faalcomana from Gratuak visit him for a purpose other than insisting that he act in agreement with them, namely in handling the humans whose planets they had seized control of. “I know we have presented our side to you on many occasions, but the situation is escalating. We must take action; however, we will not do so without your consent.”
“I will never be a part of the slaughter of innocent beings.”
“That’s not what we are asking.”
“You can call it what you like, but from the beginning, Fre’erik has dealt wrongfully with the inhabitants of these worlds, and has always sought to eliminate them. Now, with this resistance, he is reaping the fruitage of his actions. I can only sympathize so much.”
“You are not without opposition from the beings either, my lord; surely you do not believe Fre‘erik has brought this all on himself?”
“Some opposition is inevitable, but Fre’erik has antagonized these beings from the start, making the conflict worse than it had to be.”
“There should be no conflict, we should have demonstrated long ago that any defiance was futile!”
“Our invasion sufficiently demonstrated that. These ones are not fighting us because they believe they have a chance to defeat us, they are doing it because they believe they have no choice. That belief is a direct result of Fre’erik’s dealings with them.”
“Your alternative approach has not generated the desired difference in their disposition. How can you account for that?”
“Even my ways are drastically different from their former ways. It will take time for them to adjust.”
“You will stand by that even as Faalcomana are losing their lives?”
“The proposed alternative of annihilation is unacceptable. I wish the situation was different, however this is what it is. We must maintain a moral course and bring honor upon the Faalcomana and our ancestors.”
“By restricting the use of our power, you are bringing death upon the Faalcomana! Your actions and your relations with that girl are on the edge of treachery!”
“Remember your role, General!” Jeccan sternly snapped back. Tettarov immediately composed himself and humbly bowed his head to Jeccan. He then continued talking, however now he spoke in a much calmer manner.
“I’m sorry. But we cannot continue to be on the defense, we cannot let our own actions lead to our demise, as it did our ancestors.” Jeccan, already angered by Tettarov’s bold words just a moment earlier, was not in the mood to humor his dogmatic assertion.
“Were you there when that happened?” he said pausing briefing to let him consider the question. “You use ancient tales as the justification for violence. Did you witness our kindness causing our downfall? Were you there when our wise forefathers called for the destruction of any race that could ever possibly stand against us? This conflict has been predicated on twisted truths, or perhaps blatant lies,” he said in condemnation.
Tettarov was angered by Jeccan’s reply, but he did not wish to be responsible for any increased tension between himself and Jeccan, so he responded with a measured response. “It is disappointing that you question the history of our kind. It is all that we have left with which to remember and honor them.”
“We honor them and the memory them by becoming greater as a race. But we do not become a better race by destroying one.”
“That is not what we want. We are not asking for use of unrestricted force to destroy all the inhabitants of these worlds, we are asking for it so we can be on the offensive and stop this growing opposition before they become too great. We need to protect ourselves.”
“There’s too little of a difference between that and destroying the entire race, at least with you and my brother involved. You have driven them to fight against you. You cannot incite these people to violence, then destroy them under the guise of self-defense.”
“Then what can we do to protect ourselves?”
“You must call for peace.” That concept was as foreign as it was disturbing to Tettarov, but he did his best to hide his hatred of the idea and the people that it would protect.
“Your brother will never call for peace.”
“Yet he will complain as the victim in war,” Jeccan said incredulously. Tettarov immediately realized that he was at an impasse. He took a moment to contemplate his next words.
“We only want a home for our kind, one that is secure and peaceful.”
“What being doesn’t?”
“Don’t forget how it is we found the first world; warring with themselves on their moons. They were destroying themselves, and they had weapons at the ready that could have eradicated all life on their world. If they could not coexist with themselves, how could they ever coexist with us?”
“Do you believe that there was never strife and war among our ancestors, even as there is a conflict between us now? Arguably our greatest moment of unity was brought on by our dire circumstances, because we could not afford such dissension. And just as that may have benefited us when we were at our lowest, it might also serve these humans that you have oppressed.”
“What if it has to the point that they are now a danger to us?”
“It is what you have driven them to. They have nothing to lose. Of course they are a danger to you. A wounded animal fighting for its life is at its most dangerous, why would we or they be any different?” Jeccan spoke very matter-of-factly.
Tettarov was greatly angered by his acknowledgement of the threat, and with his seeming lack of concern. “And you will continue to bind our hands even as you see that they are a threat?” he asked, the anger and frustration beginning to rise in his voice.
“You feel that your hands are bound only because you refuse to see any other way to use them.” Tettarov closed the distance between he and Jeccan slightly, and spoke in a bold and straight-forward.
“I will not jeopardize our kind,” he asserted as the two stared fiercely into one another’s eyes. Jeccan closed the distance even more, so that they were nearly nose to nose.
“I will not jeopardize our kind…or their honor.” He let his words sink in for a moment before continuing. “Is it not recorded that our ancestors said, in the moments as our predecessors boarded the great vessel, that in all we do, it must be ‘our end before our indignity.’” With Tettarov unable to muster a response, Jeccan savored a brief moment of silence. “They could only choose ‘a fine few,’ to carry on our kind. I pray you do not force me to make that same decision.” Still the two stared one another down. Jeccan’s resolve was clearer than ever. Tettarov knew it was time to excuse himself from this fruitless exchange.
He turned and began to walk out before stopping and turning back to face Jeccan for a moment. “Faalcomana are dying, and will continue to so long as you will not back down. Their blood is on your hands.”
“Not yet, but it will be if you go to war with those people.” Caught off guard by the threatening response, and upset with their exchange, Tettarov could only begrudgingly say his farewell.
“Faalcomana, my lord.” Jeccan did not reciprocate ‘Faalcomana,’ as it was used as a saying of solidarity in the cause of honoring their ancestors and ensuring a prosperous future for their race. Since Jeccan questioned the integrity and intentions of Fre’erik and company, he could not honestly say it in return, so he chose not to. He simply bowed his head in return. Tettarov bowed and exited the throne room as Jeccan watched on, also disturbed by the exchange.
Just outside of the throne room were the two guards of Jeccan’s, two Faalcomana soldiers that accompanied Tettarov, and two Faalcomana guards standing by Marael, the young native woman who had gained the affection of Jeccan. She had a unique and stunning beauty that even most Faalcomana could not deny. She was adorned with cosmetics, jewelry, and attire usually reserved for wives of high-ranking Faalcomana, adjusted to fit her small frame. Tettarov despised Marael because of her race, and even more so because of her relationship with Jeccan, something viewed as detestable by many Faalcomana, even many loyal to Jeccan. Marael was in her mid-twenties, and by no means naïve, thus she knew how most Faalcomana felt about her.
Tettarov made no attempt to hide his disdain for her, but when that failed to antagonize her, he resorted to verbal attempts. He got uncomfortably close to the much smaller woman and snarled as he looked down on her. “You’re disgusting relationship may mean the end of us, but I will not allow that” he said angrily in his native tongue. Understanding his language well, Marael stood firm before the intimidating figure of Tettarov.
“I know you do not like my kind or the feelings that Jeccan and I share with one another. While I’m sorry it offends you, I make no apologies for who I am or how I feel,” she said firmly in her own language. Tettarov cocked his head and gestured to his ears as though he could not understand what she had said, smirking slightly as he did. Marael now opted to speak to him in his language. “I know you understand what I said. I will not apologize for or change my feelings for Jeccan.”
The confrontation put the other Faalcomana in the room in an unpleasant position. The guards for Marael and Jeccan were to protect and aid Marael, but to do so here would mean to oppose a very high-ranking Faalcomana. The majority of the Faalcomana in Sancharann had grown fond of Marael because of her kindness and the genuine interest and concern she had shown for them and their culture; these guards were no exception, hence their predicament.
“You are a conniving woman who feels only for herself. Your relationship with Jeccan is an abomination. You whore yourself to him in exchange for your safety and the safety of your kind. You disgrace your kind and mine.”
“You dishonor your ancestors…” she began to say to him in retaliation, but Tettarov quickly eliminated what little space was left between them, causing her to stumble back a couple of steps as his body came in contact with hers. At that moment her two guards stepped between them, going as far as each placing a hand on Tettarov, who was noticeably larger than everyone else in the room. He was at first outraged by their actions, but it quickly dawned on him that he had crossed a line and would do well to not further any strain between he and Jeccan. He stepped back, and the guards did likewise. Though she was not too shaken by the situation, she took a second to collect herself before deciding to continue to exchange words with him. “We’ve done nothing to you. Why do you hate us?”
Tettarov grinned at the question, as if it was preposterous. “I hate the persistence of your kind. How many insects and rodents have been displaced and killed by your kind as you sought to expand your cities? That is how it is between your kind and mine. You are nothing more than stubborn vermin we long to rid our new homes of,” he said with a sense of superiority.
“This is our world,” she said resolutely as she continued to stand bravely in front of Tettarov. He snickered in response.
“The planet belonged to the primitive, populous creatures before your kind rose up. Now you share their fate; we have come – smarter, larger, and stronger,” he paused briefly as he prepared to speak in her language. “Your worlds belong to us,” he said unflinchingly. The two stared one another down.
“We won’t let that happen.” Tettarov had grown tired of the conversation, and decided he would end it. He simply shook his head no. Seeing her words and stance as having no substance, a disagreeing head shake was more than an adequate response in his mind.
“I’m sure you will be going to Jeccan about this. You long to drive our kind apart,” he said as he turned and began to walk away.
“You’re wrong in so many ways,” she said defiantly in her own language. Tettarov paid the comment little attention as he continued walking away with the soldiers that had accompanied him following close behind. Marael was upset by the encounter. She had hoped over time these types of encounters would subside. Though the frequency of them was much less than it had been, this was in fact one of the more intense encounters she ever had. “Thank you,” she said graciously to her two guards. They merely bowed their heads in response. “Jeccan needn’t know about this.” All four guards nodded their head in response to the comment. Marael stared down the long corridor, watching as Tettarov and company walked away, shaking her head in disgust and disappointment.
The Faalcomana fortress in this region was the old City Center of Kelgar, modified to better suit the needs of the Faalcomana after they usurped the city. It was four towers connected by fifth story skywalks. The Faalcomana had tailored the South Tower for many ceremonial purposes. Various spiritual gatherings and ceremonies, such as worship and rites of passages were held on its lower levels. Outside of that, it was used for non-military storage; it housed, among other things, the morgue.
Inside the morgue, it was cold and dark, with large stone tables all throughout on which the bodies of the fallen were placed. Faalcomana tradition was to cremate the remains of the dead to free their spirit in order for it to reach the eternal realm. They believed that the timelier they were in “freeing” the spirit, the healthier it would be for all that awaited it. Those viewed as the most disgraceful and unrighteous to the Faalcomana were denied any kind of postmortem rite with the goal of hurting or even killing the spirit within, believing it could essentially be starved to complete nonexistence if it were deprived of the next realm for long enough (though there are variations of this doctrine).
The bodies of the four Faalcomana killed in the confrontation the night before, along with the other three the Coalition group had found murdered, were carefully brought in and placed on the tables, each one of them still in their bulky armor just as they were in battle. Since these seven served and died for the Faalcomana cause, they would be honored and cremated no later than the next sunrise. After all of the bodies were placed, the eight Faalcomana who carried them in exited the morgue, closing the large steel door behind them. With the door closed, the only light remaining in the room were small torches that barely graced the eerie room with a glow. The corpses laid completely still, fitting perfectly with the lifeless environment in which they were placed.
Suddenly the last Faalcomana corpse that was brought in began to move, and after a slight struggle, it sat up. After sitting up, it began looking back and forth, surveying the room. Then a Faalcomana corpse on another stone table attempted to roll off the table onto its feet, but the effort resulted in it falling flat to the floor, the sound echoing within the room, but not penetrating the room’s thick walls. With all of the commotion, two more corpses began looking around the room. Then the Faalcomana that sat up removed its mask, revealing that it was in fact Johvad.
“Everyone be careful,” he sternly whispered to the others.
“Sorry!” Zaeleth retorted face first from the ground.
The other two Faalcomana, who were actually Faltensee and Kadel, sat up. Johvad worked his way out of the bulky armor so he could aid them. Zaeleth crawled out of the armor while still on the floor, hopping to his feet as soon as he was out of it. He and Johvad helped Faltensee and Kadel up and out of their armor. All four then grabbed additional gear they had stashed in their respective suits of Faalcomana armor and began equipping it on themselves.
“Well, that was the easy part,” Zaeleth said as they were finishing up. Faltensee pressed a few buttons on his wristcom to send an update out to all relevant parties. All four men stood fully equipped with their masks ready on top of their heads.
Zaeleth, being in his early twenties, was nearly half the age of the three men he was with. However, his unkempt hair and what he had of a beard managed to make him appear older than he was. He brought a certain energy to the group that had served them well since he joined them in his late teens.
“I have notified the others of our position,” Faltensee said. Zaeleth quickly took in their grim location as he ravenously consumed a nutrient dense, paste-like food from a tube to hold off his hunger and remain energized. His shameless display of his appetite, for which he was known, drew the attention of his comrades. He extended the tube out to them, stopping just short of directly feeding Johvad, who immediately waved it off. Zaeleth quickly shrugged off their disinterest before taking another large bite. It helped lighten the mood for the group.
“What do we do now?” he asked as soon as the bite had become manageable enough so that he could speak clearly.
“We wait,” Johvad quickly responded. Zaeleth surveyed the room once more, then lightheartedly grimaced to make it known that he was less than thrilled with their situation and setting. Still looking around, he found his attention focused on the tube of food in his hand. His eyebrows raised up at the sight, as he contemplated another bite.
Aboard his ship as it headed toward Gratuak, Tettarov had connected with Fre’erik using the video communication system to update him on his meeting with Jeccan. “He did not waver.”
“Nor did I expect him to,” Fre’erik said, frustrated but unsurprised by the news. “He has left us no choice. Give the order; send the battalions out.” Tettarov was uneasy about the plan on multiple counts.
“You are sure?”
“I am sure that we must unify the cause of our kind, and unleash our power to destroy all who oppose us.” Tettarov quickly reminded himself that any lives sacrificed would serve to save many in the future.
“Faalcomana,” he said resolutely.
“Faalcomana.” The transmission ceased, and Tettarov prepared to give the order to send two battalions to search for something they were not meant to find.
In the Old Palace of Sancharann, Jeccan and Marael were at last alone. Though they had seen one another and been with each other periodically throughout the day, it had all been in the company of others. Jeccan had a busy day, dealing with Tettarov was only the beginning of it. Jeccan and Marael thoroughly enjoyed the company of one another, but they always felt uncomfortable in the presence of others, perhaps that was one of the reasons others were unable to see the beautiful and genuine bond they shared. Throughout the years of their relationship they had been viewed as a disgrace to their respective kind, and as pets to one another. Many attempts to undermine their connection had been made, but slowly their relationship had come to be accepted. Although it was seldom appreciated as the wonderful union it truly was.
They had the large balcony doors open to allow the cool night breeze to blow through the room. The two were snuggled together on an extravagant chaise lounge, Marael was dwarfed in the arms of Jeccan, but she was very comfortable there. They both closed their eyes and inhaled the cool fresh breeze as it traveled to them. As monstrous as Jeccan would ordinarily be viewed, in this capacity he appeared peaceful and loving, at least as much as someone with his outward attributes ever could. “Why can’t it always be like this,” Marael asked in a soothing and loving tone. Jeccan smiled at the thought.
“One day it will be,” he responded in her native tongue. He spoke it slowly and very softly, doing much better with it than most other Faalcomana. “I had always desired peace between our kinds, but now I see the harmony that we can have…that we should have. I will not give in to the pressure from my brother and those who believe as he does. I will continue to stand and even fight for what is good.”
“Why can’t they see it as you do?”
“Fear. I’ve tried to leave all of the hardships we experienced, and the hardships that we were told of our ancestors in the past. They cling to them. The fearmongering has blinded them, and it has made them hateful and violent.” He had many thoughts racing in his mind as he spoke, leaving him visibly uncomfortable. Mariel could see it weighing heavily on him. In all of their years together, she had heard more from others about the past of Jeccan and the Faalcomana than she had from him, though she wasn’t sure how much of it were true. “We came through many tribulations,” he paused, again distracted by the thought of it all, “but that doesn’t excuse their actions.”
She snuggled in closer to him, pressing her head into his chest and wrapping her arms tightly around him as much as she could. He warmly reciprocated the affection. He adored how genuine she was, not just in her display of love, but in all that she said and did. “You’re a good man.” Jeccan truly appreciated her kind words, but he didn’t feel good, or not good enough. At times, with his relationship with Marael and with the much greater peace he had achieved on Wreithelosheve, the conflict on Gratuak nearly slipped his mind, but today he was reminded of how complacent he had been at times, and how little progress he had effected there.
“We were once a great race, I know we can be again,” he said slightly discouraged, almost as if to affirm his own beliefs. Marael turned within his arms to face him, and as she gently caressed the rough skin of his face, she began to move her lips to his.
It was midday in Kelgar and inside the South Tower, the four that had infiltrated it prepared to set out on their respective missions. They were hoping to capitalize on the element of surprise, knowing that without that advantage they would be grossly outnumbered and overpowered.
“Kadel and I will make our way to the power control room,” Faltensee said.
Johvad followed up with “and we’ll get to the communication tower.”
“Once in place, we wait for the go ahead,” Faltensee finished.
“That’s when the party really starts,” Zaeleth added. Johvad nodded his head slightly to the side and shrugged his shoulders to acknowledge that was one way to put it.
“They are too arrogant to stay thoroughly on guard within their own fortress, but do not do them the favor of underestimating them,” Johvad said. The two groups of two, after pulling their shielded black masks over their head, shook hands by clasping the base of the thumbs, as was the custom of their group, who were often called Guardians, though any official title was rarely used within the organization.
Outside on the streets of Kelgar, thirty men of a forty-man assault team had entered the city in an unassuming and inconspicuous manner. Each one within the city was carrying minimal equipment. They were simply to blend in with the citizens of the city until the appointed time to rendezvous with the rest of the team, who would be bringing additional equipment and weaponry in from the north of the city, close to the Faalcomana base. As the thirty men, Motaham being among them, remained undercover within the city, the remaining ten, accompanied by Sivtal, made their way around to the north of the city with the bomb and equipment in tow. They were following along the Ducog River, which ran through the wilderness on the outskirts of Kelgar, straight through it to Lake Arino.
Faltensee and Kadel were working their way through the lower level of the South Tower. They were moving toward the power control room in the basement of the North Tower, which also housed the docking bay, munitions storage, and most of the soldiers’ quarters. They were using schematics of the City Center buildings from before the Faalcomana invasion. Though the Faalcomana had modified the buildings over the years, they trusted that the original floor plan would still prove useful. The Faalcomana kept the fortress dimly lit, as they became acclimated to such an environment during their arduous space journey. This dim setting was providing cover, or at least a sense of it, for the men as they moved about, but it also added to their discomfort.
They both crouched with their backs to the wall, with one on each side of the corridor they were in. They began to hear two Faalcomana talking, their voices emanating from an intersecting hallway. Faltensee waved Kadel to cross over to his side of the corridor, which Kadel promptly did. The two, with Faltensee leading the way, made their way up to the nearest doorway. Faltensee looked into the room to ensure it was empty, after which they both took cover in it.
The room was completely dark, except for what little light it gained from the hallway it was connected to. The two had no idea how big it might be or what it might be used for, but it seemed empty, and that was good enough. They both posted up near the door, and Faltensee began to peek out into the corridor they had just fled. The intersecting hallway from where they had heard the voice was about fifteen feet ahead of the doorway they had taken cover in. Faltensee watched and listened intently as the voices and footsteps grew louder. With his hand on his bo, he remained focused on the intersection of the hallways ahead of him, watching as the massive figures of the Faalcomana became visible in the intersection, but just as quickly leaving his line of sight as they continued down the hallway they were in. Faltensee inhaled deeply through his nose and enjoyed an extended blink of his eyes, then prepared to move ahead.
Johvad and Zaeleth had managed to make their way to a stairwell, which they were using to reach the fifth floor. There, they would cross the skywalk to the East Building and use an elevator, or the shaft of an elevator, to reach the rooftop. The stairwell, like every other area of the fortress they had thus far encountered, had a minimal amount of light. Staying low and moving slowly, they cautiously made their way up the stairwell. Because of what the South Tower was utilized for, it was ordinarily not very populated.
They reached the fifth floor and were only around the corner from the skywalk to the East Tower. Thus far their mission had been very uneventful, which was exactly what they were hoping for. A single encounter could eliminate the only advantage they had on the Faalcomana. They carefully made their way out of the stairwell and rounded the corner. Tucked next to the wall, they were now facing the skywalk, with the majority of the walls and ceiling of the skywalk made of thick glass, it presented a stark contrast to the dim tower.
The two approached the skywalk and nearly positioned themselves on all fours before beginning to move across. They peered out of the skywalk and down onto the city in front of them. In this part of the city, especially at this time of day, they didn’t expect to see a throng of Faalcomana soldiers loading into ground transports and leaving the premises of the City Center.
“Aren’t we supposed to be taking some of those?” Zaeleth asked sarcastically about the transports. It was an unexpected sight for both men.
“That was the idea. This should just make taking whatever vehicles they’ve left behind that much easier,” Johvad responded, as he nearly instantly saw an advantage.
“Yeah, as long as there are some left behind. That’s a lot of soldiers leaving down there.” It was disturbing to see such a multitude of enemy troops assembled and departing as they were. There were so many soldiers that they were certain off-duty reinforcements had been called in. Ultimately, it was fine as they were leaving the City Center grounds, but it was perplexing all the same.
“What is it that they’re doing that they need so many?”
“There’s no way they could be one step ahead of us, is there?” Johvad was deeply troubled by the idea.
“Let’s hope not. Send a message out to everyone. We need to keep an eye on this.” Zaeleth bowed his head and quickly began to do just so.
Down on the streets of Kelgar, most of the assault team had already taken notice of the convoy as it drove eastward out of the city. Moreover, several members of the Guardians roaming the city had noticed as well and began to investigate. As they all received the message from Zaeleth, it did little but reaffirm what they were already doing.
Having crossed the skywalk, Zaeleth and Johvad were on the fifth floor of the East Tower. The set of three elevators were down the hall at the intersecting hallway, and in the sight of the two men. Quietly moving towards the elevators, they heard the chime the elevators make as they travel their course, passing or potentially stopping at a floor, the latter obviously being the worst case scenario for them at the moment. It was the right elevator. Johvad intently watched its display while Zaeleth’s eyes grew so large they nearly filled their respective openings in his mask. As Zaeleth began to move to find a place to hide, Johvad grabbed his arm and pointed to the elevator, hoping he would also see the display saying that the elevator had reached the sixth floor. By the time Zaeleth noticed, the elevator had in fact reached the seventh. Relieved, but nearly overwhelmed with adrenaline, they continued moving toward the elevators.
Faltensee and Kadel were traveling through an underground service passage that connected all four of the towers. They had to make use of their night vision goggles in order to navigate the passage. They could see no opposition outside of the cobwebs. The passages appeared as though they had not been used since the invasion. Puddles had formed from small leaks and random items were scattered on the floor. It was a straight shot from the South to the North Tower, and they did not waste a lot of time traveling it.
Arriving at the entrance to the basement of the North Tower, they removed their night vision goggles and continued onward. The base of this tower was virtually identical to the South’s. The power control room was a few short turns away. Still vigilant, the two continued heading toward their objective. There was no sign of danger as they made the last turn and finished moving up to the entrance of the control room. Entering the room with great caution and still no opposition, they found themselves in control of the life of the four towers. Faltensee and Kadel let out a sigh of relief. “I hope everything goes as smoothly for the others,” Kadel said, referring namely to Johvad and Zaeleth.
Now at the elevators, Johvad and Zaeleth had to choose one and force their way into the shaft, as actually riding one would be far too bold and dangerous. Neither of the men even thought of taking the right, which had just given them a good scare, realizing the cab was above them blocking their way. “Let’s go left,” Zaeleth suggested.
“Middle it is,” Johvad said to toy with Zaeleth, who was smiling behind his mask. They both positioned themselves by the middle elevator. Johvad removed a piece of equipment from his belt and began to wedge it into the doors of the elevator while Zaeleth stood guard. Johvad made a few forceful motions and the doors opened up. Johvad quickly pulled out a light to illuminate the dark vertical passage. There was a variety of cabling and guide rails on the interior of the shaft. Though the distance to any one of the rails or the cable was only a few feet, it appeared quite perilous with such a long way down.
The doors attempted to close up, however they immediately conceded to Johvad’s push. “Do you want to go first,” he asked Zaeleth. Zaeleth quickly looked back and appraised the scene.
“No, I’m good,” he responded with no hesitation.
Now the display for the middle elevator lit up, and the two could hear its car begin to rumble down below them. “We have to move,” Johvad said hastily.
“Lead the way…that’s what you do,” Zaeleth responded. Johvad grabbed a contraption that would help him scale the guide rails, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath to center himself. After inhaling, he reached out and made the necessary leap to grab hold of one of the rails. He executed it flawlessly, both impressing and inspiring Zaeleth.
“Come on,” Johvad said to Zaeleth as he looked down and watched as the car continued making its way up. Zaeleth, a quick learner and ever eager to excel, made the jump to the rails opposite Johvad, executing it as well as Johvad was able to. “Keep going, if it gets up to us, just do your best to let it ease under you,” Johvad said as he began scaling up the rails. They did well to watch the car as they worked their way up. Zaeleth was moving quicker than Johvad but nonetheless it seemed inevitable that the car would catch up to both of them. Knowing this, Johvad began to focus only on transitioning to the top of the car, aiming to do it as quietly as possible, fearing it might already be carrying Faalcomana, and not just making its way to pick some up. Zaeleth began to realize the same thing, and watched as Johvad prepared to transfer.
Johvad clung to one pole and turned toward Zaeleth a bit, and did just as he told Zaeleth to do. He stepped out onto the car, giving way to it as much as possible and ultimately making a perfect transition onto the edge of the car. Zaeleth emulated Johvad, also achieving success. Now the two enjoyed the ride, focusing mainly on keeping their balance while standing very near the edge of the car. The car stopped just a few floors short of the top, and the two adjusted to resume climbing the rails.
They made it to the next floor before the car began heading back down, taking away a sense of security they had while climbing. They could see a faint crack of light coming from the rooftop access door to the elevator shaft. They both climbed the remainder of the shaft. Johvad carefully worked his way over and up into the doorway. Once there he secured himself into the doorway with a safety harness, put on a small headlamp and began to again use the wedge like tool designed to force the doors open. He gently eased the doors open immediately after he felt the doors pop past the point of resistance. He surveyed his immediate surroundings, then turned back to assist Zaeleth up. Up on the roof and managing to avoid any issues, they shared a satisfying sense of success, but both realized the worst was yet to come.
They took a few steps away from the doors and inhaled the fresh evening air. At that moment, a single Faalcomana walked from around the access room and spoke coarsely but calmly in the language of the two men, “there you are.”
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