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Rise of the Resistance (War for Orion Trilogy Book Two)

 

War for Orion

Rise of the Resistance

by

Conner Walworth

 

War for Orion Copyright © 2014 by Conner Walworth.

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

For information contact; address www.connerjwalworth.wix.com/author-page

Book and Cover design by Conner Walworth

ISBN: 123456789

First Edition: June 2016

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Characters

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[] Chapter 1

Gaea was quickly looming into view as Anlon walked to the cockpit. His home planet looked serene from above, but he knew chaos was ensuing below. The Queen’s entire fleet had been obliterated during its last stand on Hera, and now the crodillians controlled the galaxy. The only hope left were the three hundred or so ships waiting on Ares, but anyone who knew about them didn’t count on them saving Orion.

The crodillians had shown Orion how monstrous and bloodthirsty they were in Demeter’s demise. Many races had been filled with rage, but it had struck fear in many more who knew their homes could be next. Anlon wasn’t sure how many would be willing stand up against the crodillians before it was too late and that’s why his mission was so vital. If he couldn’t find a way to defeat the enemy, there was no chance any race stood up for their freedom.

Anlon plopped down next to Falcone who turned to him. “Put on the stealth field just in case there’s people watching for incoming ships. I don’t want to take any chances of getting shot down because someone thinks we’re crodillians scouts.”

Anlon reached up and pushed some buttons above his head then pulled a knob. “If there’s someone watching for us, they’ll never see us coming.”

Drakos Mavros entered Gaea to an empty airspace. It was the only ship in the sky for as far as Anlon could see. The sky was calm and blue with a few white clouds scattered far apart. He’d never seen the sky so lifeless his entire life on Gaea, and it turned his stomach over seeing it like this. The planet was defenseless, and those who could stand up to the crodillians, appeared to have gone in hiding, leaving the entire planet vulnerable to attack.

“I didn’t think the Queen actually took every ship to fight at Hera,” Falcone said under his breath. “There’s nothing left here. These races will be slaughtered if there’s a fight.”

“Is there any chance they have stealth fields on?”

“Doubtful. Even the spaceport is empty,” Falcone pointed as they passed. “Everything is just gone. It’s a ghost town.”

Anlon looked out the window. Not only were there no ships, there was absolutely no activity on the surface. The last time he had been to the spaceport it was teeming with life. Now, not a single living thing could be seen roaming the streets. He’d expected to see at least a few races walking the streets, most likely putting together a plan for rebellion, but it was clear no one wanted to stand up to them. Instead, they’d chosen to hole up wherever they thought they were safe.

Camillus approached from behind. “I’m picking up a few transmissions of races gathering in case of a crodillians attack.”

“Where are they gathering?” Anlon asked. “Neither one of us has seen any sign of life yet.”

“Around the Capitol building in downtown Hassental, though there are some other more remote places I’ve picked up too. It sounds like the biggest group will be centered there.”

“That’s suicide,” Falcone shook his head. “After what they did at Hera, everyone here should be gathering in a hidden spot, not in an open public place for the crodillians to pick them all off.”

“You can’t expect them think anything different,” Nimesha approached from behind. “This is their planet and their galaxy they’re standing up to defend. None of them were on Hera, so none of them have any idea what the crodillians are capable of. Seeing and hearing are two very different things.”

“They should still be smarter than to gather in someplace so obvious,” Falcone piloted the ship hard to the right. “It’s survival. What they’re doing right now will make it that much easier for the crodillians to kill them. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that.”

“They don’t know any better. They’ve never seen a war. This generation has only heard of war,” Camillus said. “There is no military left here to guide them. All that are gathering are common races with families they want to protect.”

“They should know better, even after only hearing what happened at Hera. There were countless ships defending it and it still went down,” Falcone turned and nudged Anlon. “Your house is coming up. Where do you want me to land the ship?”

“Right there, by the shed,” Anlon motioned. “Everything we need will be in there.”

“I hope you’re joking,” Nimesha looked at him. “We’re going to need a lot more than what’s in that little shed if we’re going to help Orion. I thought there were cruisers and racks of weapons for us to pick up.”

“You’d be surprised at what’s in that little shed,” Anlon grinned. “Where do you think those weapons came from that we used on you during our first encounter?”

Nimesha rolled her eyes. “Don’t remind me.”

“I haven’t heard anything about this yet. Come on Anlon, remind her so we can all hear it,” Falcone smirked. “I want to know every detail of what happened.”

Nimesha pushed his head the other way. “All you need to know is Anlon is a horrible shot. Don’t ever count on him to save your life.”

“Hey!” Anlon interjected. “You should be happy I missed you.”

“Never said I wasn’t,” Nimesha winked. “Just said I’d rather put my life in someone else’s hands. How many times did you fire at me?”

Falcone landed the ship on the lawn and lowered the ramp, letting in a fresh gust of warm air. It was calm and silent outside with slight breeze. This didn’t seem like a planet about to face a devastating war.

“It’s good to be back on actual land instead of being underwater or cramped in a ship,” Falcone stretched his feathery arms out.

As Anlon was exiting the ship, he heard a crash come from behind and he instinctively pulled his laser pistol from his side and aimed it towards the sound. He lowered the weapon when he saw a familiar person with long blonde hair looking right back at him. A smile stretched across her face and her blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight streaming in the ship.

“You think you were cramped, try hiding in that small compartment the entire trip,” she walked down the ramp.”

“I definitely wasn’t expecting to see you anytime soon,” Falcone chuckled and embraced her. “So you decided to come after all?”

“You didn’t expect me to stay behind and let you guys have all the fun did you?”

“Can’t say I did,” Falcone winked. “Who brought you up to the surface to sneak you on the ship?”

“I persuaded Bimisi it was in the best interest of Orion that I go on this trip,” she flashed a smile. “I am the Princess after all, so I should know what’s going on in Orion.”

“I can’t wait until he sees you’re here,” Anlon pointed to a silver humanoid emerging from the ship. “His face will be priceless.”

Camillus’ body immediately slumped upon seeing Kanti and he dashed to her, arms flailing and eyes red.

“What are you doing here Kanti?” Camillus exclaimed with anger in his voice. “You’re supposed to be on Nesoi with the Council! You can’t be here with us. Not now, it’s too dangerous.”

Kanti rolled her eyes. “You really thought I was going to stay hidden there while you all went out to save Orion?”

“You’re the Princess!” Camillus threw his hands up. “Of course I thought you’d have the common sense to stay there!”

“Your point is?” Kanti shrugged. “Up until not too long ago, I didn’t even know I was the Princess. There was no possible way that I was ever going to stay hidden there. Princess, or no Princess, I’m helping you on this mission. I refuse to watch in hiding as my friends put their lives on the line to save the galaxy I’m supposed to lead.”

Nimesha walked up to her. “Kanti, this is going to be dangerous, you really shouldn’t have come. The crodillians are poised to start taking over all of Orion. If they find out there’s a Princess, they’re bound to start hunting you down,” she took her hand. “I respect your decision, but it’s reckless.”

“If they’re really are going to take over all of Orion, how would I be any safer on Nesoi?” She raised her eyebrows. “They’d find me sooner or later, and honestly, I’d rather it be sooner.”

Camillus grabbed her with both hands. “The city was hidden underwater! They never would’ve found you there!”

“Then I suggest that we not be found while we’re trying to save Orion,” Kanti grinned.

Nimesha looked back at Camillus and couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re braver and more defiant than I thought Kanti. I would’ve never guessed you would defy your own Council to come with us. You’ll be fine with us though, no matter what Camillus or the Council tries to tell you. You have some of the best races in the galaxy protecting you, at least one anyway, I don’t know about anyone else here yet.”

Falcone shrugged and turned. “No changing that she’s here with us now. So what are we waiting for? Let’s go see what’s in that shed.”

Anlon wrapped his arms around Kanti. “I’m glad you came. I just hope Nimesha is right about us being okay. If the crodillians do find out about you, they’ll send out everyone to find you.”

“We’ve been fine this far. I’m sure we’ll be fine a little longer.”

“The Council isn’t going to like this one bit,” Camillus pushed his way past them. “Imagine what they’re going to say when they find out the Princess is with us,” he continued to mutter. “They’re going to kill us!”

Anlon and Kanti followed Camillus to the small shed. Nimesha and Falcone entered before Anlon could show them in and he laughed when he saw them standing next to each other dumbstruck. It wasn’t much different than the look he had given Moran his first time and he knew that they’d be just as amazed when they saw what was hidden underneath.

“Uh… I think someone stole all of your weapons and replaced it with a bunch of junk,” Nimesha tossed a screwdriver. “There’s nothing here that’s going to help us.”

“No, it’s all here,” Anlon walked past her. “You just have to know where to look is all. My dad did a really good job of hiding this stuff.”

“Please, show us where to look,” Falcone put his palms out. “Because right now, I’m not seeing anything at all that’s going to help us against the crodillians.”

Anlon pulled open a drawer and took out a picture of his family. He took the back of the frame off and touched a black bug that pricked his finger for blood. Shortly after, a monitor protruded from the ground, making Falcone and Nimesha jump back.

“Definitely didn’t see that coming,” Falcone said.

“Welcome Anlon Valens. I’m glad you’re back,” the monitor said.

Anlon walked over to it and placed his hand on a pad and stated his name. A rectangular opening appeared in the ground and Kanti pushed her way past Falcone and Nimesha to go down.

“Excuse me you two, Princesses first,” she winked. “Have to make sure I get all of the best stuff.”

Anlon followed her down the stairs. “Don’t worry there’s more than enough for everybody,” he said over his shoulder. “I don’t think we’d be able to bring everything that’s down here even if we tried.”

Anlon led them down the bluely lit tunnel and to a steel door. He placed his hand on a pad and stated his name, which was followed up by a hissing noise as the steel door opened. Anlon followed Kanti who’d immediately dashed into the enormous room.

Nimesha and Falcone stood behind Anlon motionless. “Why is this underneath your home exactly?” Falcone asked.

“My Dad put it here. Moran told me the Queen let him keep a few things from some past missions. He never told me about it, so to answer your question, I don’t really know.”

Nimesha walked forward. “A few things? There’s enough stuff down here to supply a small army.”

“It may have to if the crodillians attack,” Falcone walked toward a section with pistols. “Is everything here categorized?”

“Everything,” Anlon nodded. “You haven’t even seen the good stuff yet. Just keep going further down and you’ll find it.”

Camillus walked past Anlon. “Got anything down here for humanoids?”

Anlon shrugged. “There’s a bunch of stuff down here I’ve never seen before, so I’m sure there are a few things that would be useful to you.”

Anlon parted ways with the others and walked over to a section with different body suits. He saw one similar to the one Moran had given to him when he’d broken into the prison and took it off the rack. After that, he made his way over the gadgets, which everyone else had seemed to skip over in favor of larger weapons, and started to go through the rack. He pulled off a bracelet and turned it over, unsure of what it was, surprised when a flame shot out from it. Without thinking, he dropped it and backed up, not immediately realizing he’d pressed a button to cause the flame to shoot out. Anlon bent over and picked it back up to take a closer look. A holodisplay came up giving him options to cut, freeze, electrocute, and burn. He put it on his wrist and continued to go through the shelves of gadgets. There were countless small things he knew would come in handy, so he pocketed as many as he could.

After finding all the gadgets he wanted, he walked over to the pistol and rifle section. This decision was much easier because he knew exactly what he wanted. The matte black pistol and rifle had immediately caught his eye upon entering the bunker. The weapons were cold to the touch as he lowered them from the shelf and flipped them over in his hands to examine closer. They were different than what he’d trained with. The weapons were lighter and heavily modded with scopes, lasers, and longer ammunition magazines.

Anlon slung the rifle over his should and hung the pistol from his belt before heading towards the section with specialty weapons. He walked down and looked at each weapon before picking up a black bow. It was half as tall as he was and there was a scope fitted on the front. He’d never seen anything like this, so he was unsure of how to use it, but he couldn’t turn down taking it. He hung it on his shoulder by the strings and then grabbed a cannon launcher from the shelf to add to his stockpile of weapons.

“Almost done getting stuff?” Kanti said from behind him. “Looks like you quite a few things there.”

Anlon quickly turned around, setting down the cannon launcher. “Yeah. Just a few more things and I’ll be done.”

“A few more things? You don’t have enough already?”

“We don’t know if we can come back,” Anlon shrugged. “May as well make sure we have more than enough stuff to last us for the mission.”

“Well, I guess you’re more prepared than them,” she motioned towards the others. “They look like they’re kids in a toy shop and can’t figure out what they want.”

Anlon laughed. “It’s cool stuff Kanti!”

“Yeah, yeah. What else are you getting over here?” She picked up a cannon launcher.

“Nothing. I think I have everything I need. I’m sure Camillus will find things the rest of us forget about,” he replied.

“As long as you can hit what you aim at we’ll be fine,” she winked.

“That’s not cool,” Anlon muttered. “We ended up needing her help, so it all turned out okay that I couldn’t hit her.”

“Don’t expect the crodillians to change sides if you can’t hit them.”

“I don’t expect them to do anything short of killing everything that breathes,” he led Kanti deeper into the bunker.

“What’s this way? It’s pitch black.”

Anlon turned around and walked backwards. “Follow me and I’ll show you!”

He led Kanti into the darkness and the lights slowly started to flicker to life as they progressed deeper. Different types of cruisers and gliders emerged from the darkness and he could hear Kanti’s pace start to pick up from behind until she was leading him.

“This is what is further down in the room,” he jogged to keep up. “Cruisers and gliders for all types of terrains and missions.”

“What ones are we going to take?” Kanti asked, looking around at all the different options. “We don’t even know what we’ll need.”

Anlon walked to a bulky black cruiser covered in armor. “I think we’ll take this cruiser and,” he looked around with his hand on his chin. “That one over there,” he pointed to a slimmer topless cruiser.

“Combat and stealth,” Kanti nodded. “Guess if one approach doesn’t work, we’ll use the other.”

“Have to be prepared for anything. We don’t know when the crodillians are going to show up or where we’ll end up after Ovrea.”

“What about glider bikes?” Kanti asked. “They’re small enough that we can fit at least four underneath the ship.”

“Wouldn’t hurt to have them,” Anlon shrugged. “I’m not sure how much we’ll use them with the cruisers though.”

Anlon led Kanti over to several black gliders lined up next to each other. He got on and pulled up the holodisplay. Several weapon options pulled up and he scrolled through them.

“I think these will be perfect for us,” Anlon looked to Kanti. “There’s enough weapon options on here to keep us safe from anyone who decided to attack, along with a lot of other handy stuff.”

“What do you mean, other handy stuff?”

“Look,” Anlon motioned. “They can change color and even have stealth mode. They’re sure to be faster than the cruisers, so who knows, maybe we’ll end up using them more.”

“Impressive,” Kanti nodded her head. “They do a lot more than a regular glider.”

“Let’s go see if the others have finished getting their stuff. I don’t want to spend too much time here with the crodillians out there.”

Anlon and Kanti walked back to the front of the room to see the others waiting for them. They had piles of weapons and gadgets, making what Anlon and Kanti had look like nothing.

“You two need a little alone time?” Falcone winked. “We’ve been waiting up here for quite some time.”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Kanti rolled her eyes.

“Does everyone have everything they need?” Anlon looked around. “We don’t know if we can come back here once we leave, so you need to be sure.”

“We’re ready to go,” Camillus answered. “The faster we get out of here, the faster we get Kanti back to Nesoi.”

“Whoa,” Kanti backed up. “I am not going back to Nesoi after this. I’m going wherever you guys go. Who cares what the Council want of me, I’m their ruler, they’re not my rulers.”

“You’re not coming with us. Period,” he replied with a hint of anger in his voice. “You’re going back to Nesoi.”

Anlon put his hand on her shoulder to calm her down. “Let’s load up our equipment and we’ll worry about this in a minute. I really don’t want to stay here any longer than we have to.”

Kanti rushed up the stairs with her weapons, leaving the others behind. Nimesha looked over to Camillus like she was going to say something, but kept quiet. Camillus seemed bent on taking her back and no one was ready to say anything to him yet, not until they were airborne.

“You guys all go load your stuff up and I’ll pull the first cruiser out,” Anlon picked up his equipment.

“Cruiser?” Falcone looked at him. “Where’d you hide those?”

First cruiser?” Nimesha echoed.

“Yeah,” he motioned towards the back of the room. “There’s a bunch of cruisers and gliders back there. I thought it’d be best if we brought some along with us. It’ll be a lot quicker than walking everywhere.”

“Well, I’ll go get the ship ready to load them,” Falcone walked up the stairs.

Anlon turned around and headed towards the black combat cruiser. He touched the door and stepped back as it opened straight up, revealing a spacious and button filled interior. He set his equipment down inside and got in the driver seat. The door automatically closed and displays started lighting up all around him in a frenzy. It was overwhelming at first, but at closer look, the controls and displays were simple.

His finger hit a red button and the cruiser roared to life as the displays dimmed some, making it easier to see out the windows. More buttons and panels emerged as he flew the cruiser through a small tunnel whose exit was at a hill near the back of his yard. When he exited, he saw Drakos Mavros a few thousand yards away and he flew the cruiser towards it.

When he reached the ship, he saw Nimesha already outside showing him where the storage for the cruiser would be. He pulled the cruiser underneath the opening and exited. When the door shut, arms came down from the ship and pulled the cruiser into a snug compartment.

“The other cruiser can go over there,” Nimesha pointed. “And Kanti said you were bringing four gliders along too?”

“Yeah, I thought they might come in handy. It looks like they can mount on the armored cruiser.”

“We should be able to get all the gliders in a single compartment,” she pointed to another spot. “They’re not too big, so squeezing them in should be no problem.”

“We can all go down together and bring the rest up,” Anlon told her. “It’ll get us out of here quicker.”

“I’ll go let the others know.” Nimesha walked up the ramp. “Start heading that way and we’ll catch up.”

Anlon walked back down to the room and waited for the others to arrive so he could them show which cruiser and gliders would be coming along. He got in the second cruiser and hooked one of the gliders to it before leaving through the tunnel, the others close on his tail. He loaded the cruiser and took his glider over to where the others were waiting. Once they were all loaded, they boarded Drakos Mavros to start their trip back to Nesoi.

Kanti started arguing with Camillus the second the ramp hissed shut. Anlon left the two of them and met Falcone in the cockpit.

“Everything ready to go?”

Falcone nodded. “Cruisers and gliders are correctly loaded and we’re about to take off.”

“We need to go now!” Camillus came running up from behind.

“We’re going,” Falcone tried to calm him down. “I was just making sure everything is good to go.”

“I’m picking up transmissions that the crodillians have just started to attack!”

Nimesha jumped in the co-pilot seat. “What do you need me to do Falcone?”

“Get on the weapons just in case,” he lifted the ship off of the ground while pulling different knobs above his head. “Everyone go man a turret!”

Anlon ran after Kanti and Camillus to man one of the turrets. He hopped in the seat and looked out of the window and terror washed over him. Crodillian ships were gunning down buildings and burning everything in their paths. Buildings were crumbling to the ground and fires were raging, filling the air with thick, black, smoke.

“We’re taking fire!” Falcone came on the comline. “Get them off of us or we won’t get off this planet alive!”

Anlon turned the turret around to see four, small, crodillian ships approaching them from behind with their weapons blazing. Their laser fire struck the ship and sirens started beeping around him. He put enemy ships in the crosshairs started returning fire. One of the enemy ships erupted in flames and the other three split up, leaving him no visible targets.

“I’ve lost all visual,” Anlon spoke in the comline. “They’ve split off from each other.”

“They’re hiding in our blind spots. These little bastards are smarter than they look,” Falcone replied. “Hang on tight. You all are about to get another good view of them.”

Before Anlon could ask why he had to hang on, his head slammed against the head rest and he was staring straight up to the battle raging above. The ship dropped as quickly as it’d risen and the enemy ships came back into view. Anlon quickly locked on to one of them and began firing relentlessly until it burst in flames. He saw the other two break off once again and his body lurched to the left as the ship turned. Two more explosions erupted from above and he knew the others had taken out the remaining ships.

“That’s all of them for now,” Falcone informed them. “Keep your eyes peeled for anymore of them. I’m sure they know we’re here now that we’ve taken out four of their own.”

Anlon pivoted the turret in all directions, but saw nothing as they got closer to exiting Gaea. Enormous fires raged below and crodillians ships littered the planet’s airspace, converging on any ship that wasn’t theirs. It looked as if they had only one thing in mind: destroy the planet.

“We may have a problem up ahead,” Falcone came over the comline again. “We have a huge mother ship and a lot of smaller commander ships around it. You all might want to come up here and take a look at what were about to face.”

Anlon exited the turret and met up with the others in the cockpit. Falcone wasn’t exaggerating, there was an enormous ship surrounded by thousands of smaller ones, all waiting for them to get closer.

“What are we going to do?” Camillus asked. “There’s no way we’re getting through that!”

“Calm down, Camillus. Let’s talk out all of the options we have before we give up,” Nimesha said.

“There are no other options but giving ourselves up if we want to live!” Camillus exclaimed. “Look how many of them there are!”

“It does look pretty hopeless,” Kanti agreed.

“Hate to make things worse, but we have a lot more incoming enemy fighters,” Falcone told them. “Our options are quickly dwindling to nothing.”

“Tell me you have an idea,” Anlon let out a deep breath. “We can’t give ourselves up, and if the Princess is captured along with us, Orion will never be saved.”

“I may have one idea,” Falcone twiddled his thumbs. “I don’t know if it’ll work before we’re shot down though.”

“I don’t care what it is. Do it,” Anlon ordered.

“Hang on everyone, this may get a little bumpy.”

Anlon sat down next to Kanti and she grabbed his hand, clenching until he could feel it. He looked over to her and gave her a reassuring smile that everything would be just fine. Falcone speed the ship up, straight towards the enemy fleet. Anlon could hear Drakos Mavros taking heavy fire, but knew the bigger problem lay right in front of them.

“What are you doing?” Camillus shrieked. “You’re going right into them!”

“Hang on!” Falcone pushed the Sonodrive button.

The enemy ships disappeared and stars started streaming around them. After several long seconds Falcone disengaged Sonodrive and slumped back in his seat. He let out a long deep breath and started laughing.

“What were you thinking?” Camillus got up from his seat. “You could’ve gotten us all killed!”

“Looks like we’re all alive and fine to me,” Falcone looked around. “I don’t see what the problem is. You wanted me to get you out and that’s exactly what I did.”

“Do you know how dangerous that was?” Camillus asked hysterically.

“Of course I do, but I didn’t see many other options for me to take at the time,” he answered. “I didn’t see you coming up with any bright ideas.”

“I’ve never actually seen someone do that successfully,” Nimesha asked. “They definitely weren’t expecting it or we’d be dead right now.”

“Whatever,” Camillus waved his hands in the air. “Let’s just get Kanti back to Nesoi.”

“I don’t think that’s an option right now,” Falcone shook his head. “The crodillians will surely be keeping an eye out for our ship now that we’ve escaped.”

“So you’re suggesting we keep her with us?”

Falcone nodded. “Any extra trips we make now will just increase the chances of us getting caught. We need to make as few stops as possible.”

“I agree with Falcone,” Kanti smiled. “We need to go straight to Ovrea and talk to the Elders.”

Camillus walked past them and went upstairs to a bunker. Anlon turned to Kanti and a big smile formed across his face.

“Looks like you’re coming along with us after all.”

“I was coming all along,” Kanti leaned back in her chair. “If I’m really the Princess, I can’t just sit around and watch while Orion is burned. You saw what they were doing to Gaea, I won’t watch that from behind a screen, I’d rather give my life trying to prevent it.”

“Gaea is going to end up just like Demeter,” Nimesha stared straight ahead. “They were burning your home, just like they burned mine.”

“We’ll stop them, Nimesha,” Kanti put her hand on her shoulder. “They won’t be able to stop us once we get our hands on the information we’re looking for.”

[] Chapter 2

Jahdiel whipped around, putting her face within an inch of the Captain’s. “What just happened to that ship?”

“I’m not sure Jahdiel,” the Captain stuttered. “I believe they used sonodrive. I’ve never seen anyone do that successfully. The risk is unbelievable, only a great pilot can pull that move off without killing himself and the entire crew.”

“You should’ve taken them out!” Jahdiel shouted. “They’re resistance! Rebels! They’re to be killed on sight from here on out, and if you have any second thoughts as to whether they’re rebels, it’d be in your best interest to be safe and assume so. We show no mercy, Captain. Merikh will have my head if he hears of this, and trust me when I say, I won’t think twice about putting the blame on you.”

The crodillian Captain straightened his posture and looked straight ahead. “We tried, Jahdiel. There were several attempts on Gaea to destroy the ship.”

“They were right there in front of your ship. You had the opportunity to take them out and you failed, not just your men, you,” she shook her head. “Letting them escape makes us look weak, especially if other rebels hear of this.”

“We should be able to track them down,” the Captain replied. “We can send ships to each planet to watch for that ship, though they may beat us to whatever planet they’re going to.”

Jahdiel stared at the Captain, holding in the urge to kill him for his mistake. She knew she couldn’t kill him, she wasn’t a crodillian, she was a human, but the urge was still there. A human killing a crodillian, even if she was under only Merikh in rank, would likely not go over well. So, she just made a mental note never to work with this Captain again if she could avoid it.

“How are things going down on Gaea?” She changed the topic. “I assume your men are performing better down there than they are up here?”

“No resistance at all up to this point. There seems to be a small force gathering around the city Capitol. It’s as if they’re rounding up to start a rebellion once when we step foot on their planet.”

“I want to know exactly where they are. We’ll make an example of those who dare defy us.”

The Captain pointed to a big building in the center of a burning city on the holoscreen. “Right there. We see a lot of races outside, but we’re still trying to estimate how many have taken shelter within. It’s a very big building so there could be close to ten thousand if my reports are correct.”

“Kill them all,” Jahdiel ordered. “But leave the building standing. I want any thoughts of future rebellion to leave the minds of all races in Orion. The sight of this building will remind them of what happens if orders aren’t followed.”

“I’m not sure we can kill them all and still leave the building intact.”

“Do I need to lead the attack myself?” She moved so close to his face she could feel his quickened breaths on her lips. “You know I’m more than capable of leading an attack.”

“No. I just think that keeping the building standing is much more work than it’s worth. We could just bomb the entire building and eliminate the threat without losing any of our own.”

“Are you in charge, Captain?” She took a slight step back and cocked her head while crossing her arms.

“No, Jahdiel, not while you are on my ship. You are in full command of everything.”

“Then do as I just ordered you!” She shouted. “Keep the building standing and bomb anything else that you want! Lure them out of the building for all I care! It doesn’t matter how you kill them all as long as the building stands when you’re finished.”

“Yes, Jahdiel,” the Captain turned around and walked down to the main deck without a second glance back.

Jahdiel took a seat in her chair and watched as more ships left the Colchian to descend to Gaea. She could see the fires blazing and the smoke billowing in the sky from the previous attack. The atmosphere was thick with the dense black smoke, suffocating the entire planet. If there was a rebellion brewing, it wouldn’t last past this next attack. She had gotten to know the crodillians very well during her time as an outcast, and if there was one thing she’d learned, it was that they loved the smell of death on their hands.

Their lust for destruction wasn’t something she liked, and she knew that Merikh didn’t either. He had been her mentor in a way and she knew more about him than any of the crodillians thought they knew. Jahdiel knew he hated that he had to destroy his galaxy because it left nothing for him to rule. He liked power, but if all that was left were ashes and bones, that power was useless. The rest of the crodillians just wanted to kill and destroy anything in their paths, damned be if they would be able to survive after destroying everything. Soon they would learn that times were rapidly changing. The pointless bloodshed would have to come to end, for some time anyway.

She’d agreed to come back for vengeance, but also because something inside had urged her to. It was hard for her to put into words, but she’d trusted the instinct, hoping it would reveal itself before it was too late. Orion was as good as conquered after the attack on Hera and the burning of Demeter was a necessity to prove their power and strike fear into every race. She’d lost sleep over the slaughter, wishing she’d never said a word. It’d been her idea and all the blood was in her hands even though she hadn’t stepped foot on the planet.

Jahdiel stared out the window and watched as more fires began to erupt on untouched parts of the planet. Soon, all the on Gaea would get to see who’d just led the strike on their planet. One of them, a human, wrongly outcast to death and forgotten many years ago. Now she was a traitor to them.

Anlon sat next to Kanti and pulled out his comlink. The Council hadn’t called him yet, so he had a feeling they didn’t even notice Kanti missing yet. He wished that he could keep it from them, but he knew that was no way to gain their trust.

Alura picked up the call. “Anlon? We weren’t expecting you to call us so soon. How are things going?”

Anlon looked over to Kanti. “Well, we haven’t gotten to Ovrea yet to find out how to defeat the crodillians, if that’s why you thought I was calling.”

“Then why are you calling?” Alura cocked her head. “Has something happened?”

“Uhhh… you could say that a few things have come up that none of us were expecting,” Anlon shifted the comlink to get Kanti in the picture. “First off, we have an extra passenger.”

“Kanti!” She shouted. “What is she doing with you?”

“That’s probably a story for another time,” Anlon said.

Alura turned around to face a guard in her room. “Get Bimisi in here immediately!”

“I wanted to come along, Alura, it’s not Bimisi’s fault,” Kanti tried to calm her down. “I ordered him to bring me to the ship. I’m the Princess, therefore, he couldn’t deny my order.”

“This isn’t what we agreed upon Anlon Valens!”

“No one on this ship knew that Kanti was on board until we landed on Gaea,” he defended himself. “If we’d known earlier, we would’ve come right back and dropped her off.”

“Well, that’s exactly what you’re going to do right now!” Alura replied. “Turn the ship around and come back here immediately.”

“No,” Kanti took the comlink. “I’m not going back. I’m helping Anlon with defeating the crodillians. If I die, then I die. I will not stay hidden while the rest of Orion is slaughtered like animals. If I’m truly the Princess, I need to be leading the races of Orion against the crodillians, not hiding like some coward.”

“And how do you propose you lead these races if you’re dead?” Alura asked. “A leader has to be alive to lead.”

“I won’t die, that’s how I’ll lead,” she replied. “I’ll show every race in Orion the crodillians are not to be feared. If their leader stands up to them, so will the rest.”

Anlon moved so he could be seen. “Even if we did want to bring Kanti back, that’s not a possibility right now.”

“Why is it not possible? What’s happened?” Alura’s voice became filled with concern.

“The crodillians have just attacked Gaea,” Anlon informed her. “We barely escaped, and when I say barely, I should probably say luckily.”

“This is why Kanti is supposed to be here! It’s too dangerous out there right now.”

“There’s no way we can take her back now, we’ll take the risk of getting caught,” Anlon told her. “We were being chased and Falcone initiated sonodrive. He disengaged a couple seconds later, but we still aren’t sure if they have capabilities to track.”

“I don’t like this, Anlon. Kanti needs to be here where she’s safe, not out there where the crodillians are attacking, but if there’s a risk they could capture you traveling back here, then continue to Orvea. Finish the mission.”

“We’re headed there right now,” Anlon smiled. “We’ll all be fine, don’t worry Alura.”

“It’s not you I’m concerned about, it’s Kanti. The crodillians will surely kill Adira and Orion needs the Princess to take her place when they do.”

“She’ll be fine, Adira, we’ve made it this far.”

“Bring her back when you’ve gotten what we’ve agreed upon,” Alura hung up the comlink.

“Guess she’s not too happy I snuck off Nesoi,” Kanti laughed.

Anlon turned to her. “It’s not funny, Kanti, this is serious. Alura is right, you really shouldn’t be here. The danger is incredible, but I also think you’re right too. Orion needs to know you’re fighting for them. As much as I hate to say it, this is probably the only way.

Anlon and Kanti walked to the cockpit of Drakos Mavros. Anlon stood over Falcone and looked out the window to the endless blackness with speckles of white. There wasn’t a single planet in sight, just a vast expanse of emptiness.

“So, I just got done talking to Alura,” Anlon told Nimesha and Falcone.

Nimesha started laughing. “What’d she say about Kanti? I bet that she wasn’t too happy with you when she found out.”

“She wasn’t,” Kanti smiled. “But I think I reminded her that I’m the Princess and I can make my own decisions. She’s just an advisor, she can’t force me to do anything.”

“Oh?” Falcone said. “I bet she liked that too, taking orders from someone half her age.”

“You don’t even know, Falcone,” Anlon put his and on his hips. “After that little spat, I had to take Kanti completely out of the frame so Alura wouldn’t tell the crodillians right where we were.”

“It wasn’t that bad. I just had to let her know the Council can’t order me around like I’m some kid.”

“I have to admit, it was pretty inspiring the way you talked,” Anlon winked. “Who knows, maybe you could actually lead the rebels when the time comes.”

“Before she can lead any rebellions, we have to get to Ovrea,” Nimesha reminded them. “Right now, it’s looking pretty hopeless, inspiring speeches and all. By the time we get there, there might not be a galaxy left for Kanti to rule.”

“Well, I don’t feel safe initiating sonodrive right now,” Falcone told them. “If there’s a fleet at Gaea, who knows where all their other fleets are. I really don’t want to come out in the middle of a battle.”

“So, we’re traveling the old way?” Kanti leaned on his seat. “There has to be another way.”

“No, we’ll use sonodrive, but I don’t think it’s safe right now. Let’s wait a little while before we make the jump. I’ll start listening to the comms to see if there’s any activity out there.”

“Falcone’s right,” Anlon agreed. “We may lose some time, but we don’t have much of a choice after what just happened on Gaea.”

“Get comfortable you two,” Nimesha said over her shoulder. “Neither of you have traveled the old way yet. Long story short, it’s boring.”

Anlon turned around. “It’s okay, I have some holovideos that I can watch. I’ll work on some fighting techniques.”

“Me too,” Kanti turned around to follow him.

“Make sure to watch those videos and actually learn something useful,” Falcone chuckled before picking up a comlink.

[]Chapter 3

“It’s done, Jahdiel.” the Captain told her. “We’ve wiped out all the rebels and we have kept the building intact.”

“Thank you. I want you to take the Colchian and all of the other ships down to the ground. Don’t kill anyone else. I want races to rule when this is over,” she ordered him.

The Captain walked back down to the deck of the ship and Jahdiel watched as he ordered the crodillians to land the ship. The Colchian began to descending to Gaea soon after he left them and she got up from her chair to go to the bay. She was going to be the first one off the Colchian. Every survivor would know she, a human, was responsible for this.

She made her way down the hallways and into the bay. The thud of the ship alerted her that they’d touched down and she swung her leg over the glider. When the bay doors opened, she sped off into the terror struck streets of Gaea. Burning buildings zipped past her and dead bodies lay sprawled across the ashy streets. The sight was heart-wrenching, knowing thousands innocents had been slaughtered, but she was now at the point of no return and shook the thought from her mind. She’d betrayed her own and now she had to live with it.

Jahdiel brought the glider to a stop and got off, standing the in the streets, wiping ashes from her face that were raining down from the black sky. Crodillians were rounding up survivors up ahead like they were animals being led to the slaughter house. She wasn’t sure what the significance of this building was, but apparently it had meant something to these races or they wouldn’t have chosen it for the start of their rebellion. As she neared the building she saw hundreds of survivors gathered in a group with crodillian weapons focused in on them. None of the survivors were putting up a fight and stood in a circle helplessly, holding hands and crying.

When she reached the steps of the building, she stopped and took a deep breath. If these people didn’t view her as a villain yet, soon they would. Soon, every race in Orion wouldn’t have a shred of doubt in their mind who the real monster was. She ordered the crodillians to get a crew ready to film her victory speech. It was time for all in Orion to know Gaea had been conquered. The death and destruction would be filmed for all to see, along with the survivors. Seeing survivors might prevent any further rebellions from starting.

When she reached the top, she watched curiously as one of the survivors left the group and approached her. The crodillians aimed their weapons at her, but Jahdiel held her hand up.

“Don’t shoot!” She ordered them. “Let her come up here and speak with me. We have invaded her home, it’s the least we can do.”

The crodillians looked at each other, unsure whether to take the order, but lowered their weapons. A girl covered in black grime walked up the steps and stopped directly in front of Jahdiel. Tears were streaming down her face, smearing the dirt down her cheeks.

“You’re brave to leave the group like that,” Jahdiel told her. “If I hadn’t have been here, they would’ve shot you.”

“I don’t care if they shoot me,” the young girl told her. “I wanted to ask you why you’re doing this. Why would you help them destroy our home? You’re one of us. This is your home too.”

“Ha! One of you?” Jahdiel put her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “I used to be one of you. A lot of things have happened since then. That was an old life, but I’m no longer the person I was, nor am I one of you.”

“But you’re still human. Those are monsters,” the girl pointed at the crodillians. “You’re not one of them.”

“You’re too young to understand. You don’t have to look like a monster to be a monster. I can assure you, I’m worse than every one of them combined,” Jahdiel pushed her back in the direction of the crowd. “Go back to the others.”

The girl turned back around. “I’m not too young understand! You’re a murderer! Look what you’ve done to my home!” She pointed to the burning buildings. “You killed my parents! You’ve taken everything from me.”

Jahdiel could see the crodillians staring at her in the corner of her eyes. “Go back down with the rest of the survivors.”

“No!” The girl shouted. “I won’t go back! I refuse to let you do this.”

Jahdiel pointed to a crodillian. “Take her back to the crowd. I’m about to give my speech.”

The crodillian walked forward and picked up the screaming girl. “You’re a monster, just like them, if you keep doing this!”

Jahdiel shifted her attention to the cameras that were now being put around her. She waited for the crodillians to give her the go ahead to start her speech. When she began, the young girl was still causing a ruckus below, but she was with the rest of the crowd. The girl had seen what had happened to the last races to put up resistance, why would she want to risk death too? Shouldn’t someone her age be afraid?

One of the crodillians gave her a nod to begin her speech. She straightened and looked into the camera.

“Hello Orion, this is Jahdiel. As most of you may already know, I came here with the crodillians. It was made very clear that we would be ruling Orion, and not the Queen, after we destroyed her fleets at Hera,” Jahdiel looked around to the burning city around her. “We’ve now taken Gaea, but with many more casualties than were necessary. Your races defied our orders and rebelled.”

The cameras shifted to show images of the death and destruction that had befallen Gaea not even an hour ago. Fires were still raging and thick black smoke was billowing in the skies, blocking out all sunlight. Gaea was lit dimly orange and black dirt was sprinkling down from the skies.

“A rebellion was being organized right here, at this very building. We warned if there was any sign of rebellion, no mercy would be shown. That’s exactly what was done. We killed every last rebel there was.” She held out her hands to show all of the dead bodies scattering the streets. “Is it so hard to listen to what you’re told? Thousands of deaths could’ve been avoided, but races wanted to rebel against us! Have we not shown our strength and dominance? The Queen can’t save you and we are far more experienced in war than any of you.”

The cameras swung around to show the thousands of crodillians now gathered around the buildings. Ships were scattered in the streets and more were still flying in the sky, looking for any signs of rebellion and firing weapons at any slight sign.

“We’ve been merciful though,” Jahdiel continued. “We’re gathering survivors and we’ll let them live their lives as normally as they can, as long as they don’t rebel. We have a small group of survivors here with us now that’ll be let go as soon as we know there will be no more rebellions.”

The cameras zoomed in on the small crowd that had been gathered before the building. The little girl that had been talking to Jahdiel earlier was still resisting, but was now putting up an even bigger fight that the cameras had focused in on her. It was like she knew all eyes were on her. Jahdiel quickly motioned towards the crodillians to take the camera off the crowd, but it was too late.

The girl ran towards Jahdiel, shouting at her wildly. One of the crodillians lifted his weapon and carefully aimed at the girl. Jahdiel waved her hands frantically to stop him, but he shot her anyway, a grin crossing his monstrous face. The girl’s lifeless body dropped at the edge of the white steps and blood trickled down from her head into the streets. Jahdiel stood motionless and stared at the dead girl laying at her feet. Her stomach twisted in a knot and tears began to come to her eyes, but she clenched her fists and held them back as best she could. After taking a deep breath, she looked back up to the cameras with fury in her eyes, trying to keep all of her emotions bottled up.

“This is what happens to rebels,” she pointed, gritting her teeth. “No matter the gender, race, or age. All rebels will be killed! We want peace and we’ll kill every race that doesn’t want the same thing we do. The crodillians rule Orion now. Fall in line, or be killed.”

The cameras cut off and Jahdiel dropped to her knees. She picked up the little girl off the ground and held her tightly in her arms as she took the body to the group. Rage filled their eyes, but none of them were going to rebel against her now, not after seeing a little girl killed.

She set the girl down at their feet. “Bury her properly,” she hung her head. “I didn’t want this to happen. I’m sorry.”

The group stared at her confused and one of the older men spoke up. “Why do this if you know things like this will happen? You surely know that we’ll rebel, no matter what we say to you now.”

She took in a deep breath. “It’s too late to go back now. I won’t be accepted after what I’ve done. I have to finish what I’ve started and live with myself for as long as I can,” she turned back around and walked back up the steps to the Capitol building.

Merikh walked down to the dungeons which had changed quite a bit since his arrival on Hera. When he’d first taken over the palace, the dungeons weren’t even in use. In fact, they didn’t look like they had been used in years, at least not how they were meant to have been used. He’d changed that. Now, they were put to good use on a regular basis.

There were plenty of prisoners he’d captured within the Palace, and many were unwilling to accept the crodillians were now in power. He’d decided to make a showing of anyone that defied him, utilizing the dungeons. Every captured race within the Palace had been taken to the dungeons to not only think about what they’d do, but to witness what happened to any that decided not to listen. Unfortunately, not a single race wanted to listen, every last one of them resisting his orders.

After the death of one of his men and the near escape of several prisoners, the dungeons had been transformed into a torturing chamber. One problem had arisen from that decision, it had provoked the even the weakest of the prisoners to rebel. It had left him with only one option, kill every last one of them, except for the Queen who was chained in a cell by herself. She was left alive to live in the dungeons that wreaked of her future if she followed the others’ lead: death.

Merikh walked through the dungeon, feet squishing on dead body parts that had slid through the cell doors. He was used to the smell, it was no different than war, and the feel of death on his skin invigorated him. It was a feeling he didn’t quite understand, and he hadn’t always felt it, but once the war began, it’d overtaken him. He was hostage to the feeling, but he didn’t want to escape it, for some reason, he craved more. His foot splashed in a puddle of blood as he reached the cell at the end. He opened it and stepped in, immediately being struck in the head from something in the shadows. Merikh lashed out with his long, claw-like, hands and struck something soft. When he pulled his hand back, blood dripped down his fingers and he licked it off with a grin of pleasure. Adira emerged from the shadows with fresh claw marks streaking across her peach face. The blood dripped down a draught face hidden by a clump of tangled hair.

“That’s no way to treat a guest, Queen Adira. You’re supposed to show respect, especially to one who traveled so far to see you.”

“I don’t show respect to monsters,” she pushed the mess of hair from her face and spat in his eye. “My people will kill you. They’ll slaughter every last one of your kind.”

Merikh wiped the spit off his face and stared at her, gritting his sharp teeth. “I have a lot of manners to teach you, Queen. If I weren’t alone, you would’ve left me with no choice but to kill you.”

“Go ahead, get it over with now. I won’t listen to a word you say. Killing me now will save you a lot of trouble.”

“Ah ah ahh,” Merikh held his finger up. “If you don’t cooperate with me, then Orion will suffer very much like the rest of your Palace staff did, in fact, I’ll make sure it’s worse than what you saw. You don’t want that now, do you?”

“What are you talking about? You’ll kill until you’re satisfied, no matter what I do or how well I please you.”

“Not exactly,” Merikh walked out of the cell. “I had other plans besides completely eliminating all life in Orion, though I will admit, it would be much easier that way if all are like your staff.”

“What’s changed since you arrived? Do you feel sorry for us?”

“I want something to rule: races and planets. I want true power,” Merikh grinned. “I can’t have that if I wipe out all life can I? Who would be left to rule if I did that?”

“I won’t let you rule Orion,” Adira crossed her arms. “Neither will any of the races of this galaxy, especially after what you’ve already done. You’ve made them hate you, despise you, and the only thing they’ll want to do is kill you.”

“You see, Queen Adira,” Merikh pulled out a holopad. “You and Orion don’t have much of a choice but to let me rule. What you do have the choice of, is determining how I rule your galaxy.”

He turned the holopad around for Adira to see. She stared in shock at the images of Gaea displayed on the screen. The city was completely destroyed and fires were raging on every corner. She looked up at Merikh with tears in her eyes and he couldn’t help but grin.

“How can you expect to rule when you do things like this? Orion will never let you rule. They will rebel until every last one of you are dead. They’ll hunt, torture you, sacrifice you, whatever they need to do to exterminate you, they’ll do it.”

“I don’t want to rule like this,” he put the holopad away. “This wasn’t my choice. A rebellion was gathering at the Capitol building, and it was after everyone was warned not to rebel. I warned them all what would happen, yet they still planned to defy me.”

“So you kill everyone?” Adira asked. “How does that make any sense if you want to rule this galaxy? You killed innocents who were no doubt willing to subdue to you.”

“I had to make a point,” he got closer to the Queen. “Defy me and you will pay for it.”

“That’s why Orion will never follow you.”

“There are still survivors on Gaea,” Merikh revealed. “We only killed the rebels and destroyed the city, unfortunately. All of the survivors were let go and told to live freely, but were warned of the consequences of rebellion. I’m sure they understand after being so close to all of it, but I’m not quite sure about the rest of the galaxy.”

“You really expect them not to rebel against you after you have destroyed their homes and killed their families?”

“No. I fully expect every last one of them to rebel,” Merikh said. “But that’s why I came down here to talk to you. We have some things to work out.”

“I won’t help you rule Orion,” Adira stuck her chin up. “If you want them to follow you, you have to do it on your own.”

“You won’t help me rule it,” Merikh started to close her cell. “You’ll be saving the lives of millions who you claim to protect. Without your help, I’ll kill every last one of them.”

Merikh could see the Queen contemplating in her cell. He’d offered her something she couldn’t turn down. Save the lives of those she swore to protect, or be responsible for their deaths. He’d known what her answer would be before he came down, but she was taking a little longer to agree than he imagined she would.

She held her hand out to stop him. “What do you want me to do?”

“I knew that you’d come to your senses,” Merikh grinned. “I just want you to send a message to Orion. Let all know that we’re going to conquer Orion, but it’s up to them how it’s done. Peacefully or not so peacefully. Trust me when I say my men would rather it be the latter, so I’d encourage you relay to your people how important it is to take my offer of peace.”

Adira nodded her head. “I can do that, but what are you going to do to them after you’ve taken over the planets?”

“Nothing,” Merikh said. “I’ll deploy troops on the ground, but everyone can live their lives normally. There will be no killing if there is no rebellion.”

“You can’t expect there to be no rebellion. There will always be a small segment of the population who’ll defy you.”

“I don’t all of them to listen,” Merikh acknowledged. “But I believe a message for peace and cooperation will squash any thoughts of a major rebellion. My men can clean up the small stuff with ease.”

Adira though for a moment. “So, if I send out a message telling the remaining planets to surrender, you promise nothing bad will happen to them? You’ll spare their lives?”

Merikh nodded. “It’ll be as if nothing ever happened. All pasts will be forgotten and only a new ruler will be on the Throne.”

“I’ll do it,” a smile crossed the Queen’s face.

[] Chapter 4

Donnchadh looked down at the crodillians and criminals gathered in the hangar, waiting patiently to hear what he had to say. Jahdiel and Merikh told him he had to talk to all of them as one in order to gain the trust of the crodillians. In order to lead them, he had to prove he was not only a worthy leader, but not biased towards any group.

He’d promised Queen Adira he would delay her death by bringing Kirill back to Hera, but that was much easier said than done. Now that his path had been laid out, he had to walk extremely carefully and cover up missteps in the process. There would be countless obstacles in the way, but none would prove bigger than the crodillians themselves. Not a single man could have even the slightest suspicion he was a double agent, or he’d be killed and any chance of a rebellion would be squashed. It wasn’t just Adira who was counting on him, it was the entire galaxy.

Donnchadh held his arms up to quiet everyone in the hangar so he could speak. After a couple of moments the entire bay was silent and all eyes were focused on him. Some were curious as to why he was speaking to them, but others appeared to already know and were disinterested, mainly crodillians.

Donnchadh cleared his throat. “Most of you are probably wondering why I’m the one speaking to you today and not one of the crodillian Commanders,” he stared over the silent crowd, thinking about what to say next. “Well, I’m going to be leading this mission. I know it may be a surprise to you, it definitely was to me, but I’ve been chosen specifically for this mission because I’m the best fit.” Whispers started to erupt from the crodillians after the comment and he saw some of the criminals grin to one another. “I’m only leading you because I’m very familiar with where we’re going. It’s not because I’m better than any of you, I just have more experience,” Donnchadh spoke louder. “We’re going to Erebos to detain Kirill and the Deimos Brotherhood,” he saw confused looks on the faces of the crodillians and some angry ones on the criminals.

“Why are you detaining them?” One of the convicts shouted at him. “They are the same as us. They’re criminals. It sounds like you plan on taking them out.”

Before he could answer a crodillian spoke. “What’s so important about them? Why do we need you to lead us to capture them if they’re the same as them?” The crodillian pointed to the group of convicts, causing yelling to erupt.

“Merikh wants to speak to the leader,” Donnchadh shouted over the commotion. “I’m not sure why, but I can assure you that no harm will come to him or the Deimos Brotherhood,” he turned to the crodillian. “I used to be a part of the Brotherhood. Getting to them won’t be easy if you don’t know where they’re at.”

“Then you can tell us and we’ll go get them,” a crodillians Captain responded, stepping forward to be seen. “We’re more than capable of following directions, and as you’ve all seen, exterminating anyone that dares stand against us.”

Donnchadh looked at the scar ridden crodillian. He was a darker color than most and his skin looked diseased in many bubbling spots. His black uniform distinguished him from the others and Donnchadh knew this was one of the ones whose trust he must have if he was going to succeed.

“It’s not that easy,” he replied. “I promise you, Kirill is already planning for an invasion. Even if you do win, you’d lose many of your own, and you still wouldn’t take out the entire Brotherhood. We train to keep hidden and kill any enemy.”

“We’ve conquered one entire galaxy and we’re about to conquer a second,” the Captain turned to the crodillians and raised his arms, bringing applause. “Do you think we can’t accomplish this small task?”

“I believe you can,” Donnchadh assured him. “But they’re a group of assassins, trained killers. Merikh believes my coming along will lead to no bloodshed. They know who I am, so they can believe that no harm will come to them. Their leader will trust me, but he won’t trust you at first.”

“If all Merikh wants is for them to come peacefully, why do you, an inferior race to crodillians, have to lead us?”

“Because I’ve killed more races with my bare hands than you have behind the controls of your ship,” Donnchadh glared at him. “Because he wants me to prove my loyalty to the crodillian cause and the only way to do that is to lead an assault to capture the only other thing that I’ve been loyal to,” Donnchadh leaned forward with his hands clenching the podium. “If you would like to try leading, come up here and kill me, I won’t lose sleep over one more death on my hands.”

“It seems Merikh may have chosen well,” the Captain grinned and crossed his arms, puffing out his chest. “But I don’t think it’s possible for you to pilot these four ships yourself. You need our help if you’re to get to this planet.”

“I didn’t count on doing this on my own,” Donnchadh nodded. “I’ll assign a Captain to each of the four ships, starting with you. What’s your name?”

“Kellagh,” the crodillian answered.

“Kellagh,” Donnchadh repeated. “You can choose any of the four ships to command until we’ve reached Erebos. I won’t interfere with anything you do. I’ll lead silently and let you do what you do best. I’m here merely to get Kirill to surrender, nothing else.”

Kellagh nodded. “If I can, may I choose the other three Captains myself? I know which will be best suited for the mission.”

“They’re your ships, you choose,” Donnchadh nodded.

Kellagh turned around and started to push his way through the crowd as Donnchadh stepped down from speaking. He wasn’t sure if he’d gained the trust of the crodillians yet, but he knew he’d gained their respect, and that’s all he needed. The trust would come soon, if he didn’t reveal his hand too soon.

Donnchadh walked up to the group of criminals and stood in front of them silently until they all focused on him. They seemed restless, which was to be expected. Traveling with the crodillians wasn’t sitting well with him, but none of them were left with a choice.

“You’ll get along with the crodillians. You will not fight with them or you will be severely punished, no matter who starts the fight. They spared our lives, now we must follow their rules.”

“Why would we want to fight them?” One of the races asked. “We all want the same thing: to kill.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Donnchadh looked around. “That won’t include the crodillians, you don’t have to like them or even be friends with them, but you will respect them. They did spare you lives after all.” Donnchadh turned around and headed in the direction of one of the crodillian ships. “If you don’t want to be on the same ship as them, I suggest that you all board this one.”

Donnchadh boarded the ship and heard the entire group of convicts following close behind him. It didn’t surprise him they were all boarding the same ship as he was, the fact that they were comforted him. He didn’t like them, but they were much better than the crodillians. Once he reached the cockpit, he sat in the pilot seat and looked to the hangar. Three groups of crodillians split off to the three other ships and Kellagh was heading to his ship with none by his side. He switched to the co-pilot seat and waited for Kellagh to board the ship. Donnchadh had a feeling Kellagh was piloting this ship for a very specific reason, and that meant his guard would have to stay up at all times.

Kellagh sat down next to him and strapped in. “So, we’re going to Erebos?”

“Yes,” Donnchadh nodded. “The Deimos Brotherhood has a huge hidden base there. It’s where Kirill and most of the assassins will be hidden, unless he’s sent them to other outposts.”

“And Merikh wouldn’t be happy if we used any type of force on them?”

“That’s correct. He wants no casualties. Your leader wants to speak to Kirill himself.”

“That’s no fun,” Kellagh started to lift the ship and exit the hangar. “How does he expect us to get them to come peacefully if they’re as dangerous as you claim them to be?”

“Let me worry about that part.”

Kellagh got on the comline. “Set your destination to Erebos. Follow my lead. Don’t do anything without my specific orders,” Kellagh told the pilots of the other ships. “This is going to be a very different mission than we’re used to, but Merikh ordered complete peace, if any of you break that order, I’ll kill you myself.”

Kellagh initiated sonodrive and Donnchadh got up from the co-pilot seat. He needed to figure out exactly how he was going to get Kirill to cooperate peacefully. It wouldn’t be easy, and that’s one of the reasons he hadn’t thought about it yet. His main focus was delaying the death of the Queen for as long as possible, so it really didn’t matter to him how long it took Kirill to cooperate. In fact, the longer it took, the better.

Pyrrhus piloted his small evac pod through Ares’ atmosphere and chose to land at Lacedaemon. It was where most of the leaders would have gathered if they left their home planets upon the crodillian invasion. Lacedaemon was well equipped for any type of invasion, or war if it came to that. The quierleons didn’t just train for war, they prepared for it on their home planet daily. Though most of Orion saw it as pointless, it was part of the quierleon culture, dating back centuries. They were known to have been superior warriors in the past, and now they’d have the chance to prove their superiority against the crodillians.

He’d never gotten to see first-hand what the quierleons were capable of, but he’d heard they were silent, quick, and deadly. They used a combination of advanced weapons, hand to hand combat, and blending in with their surroundings, making them the best warriors in the galaxy’s history. Pyrrhus knew all of their skill would be needed if they were to defeat the crodillians.

As soon as he saw Lacedaemon appear through the thick sea of forest, he called the dock on his comline. He didn’t want to take the chance of surprising them and getting shot down accidently. The go ahead was given to him like he expected and he squeezed his evac pod between two ships.

The dock, and the city of Lacedaemon, was swarming with more races than he’d ever seen in the city at one time. He’d expected it to be a little busy after the defeat at Hera, but nothing like this. Ares was getting ready for a full scale war against the crodillians.

Pyrrhus climbed out of the pod and was immediately approached by a dock worker. “What’s your business here? Are you taking refuge, or are you taking up arms?” The worker looked down at her pad, waiting for an answer to put in.

“I’m here to lead the fight against the crodillians.”

The worker looked up routinely. “You can go to the recruitment office, which will be that way,” she pointed. “They’re taking anyone that they can get right now.”

“I need to know where the planetary leaders and military officers are, not the recruitment office.”

“I’m not sure I can reveal information like that to you.”

“I’m General Pyrrhus,” he looked down at the girl. “I led the fleet that was defeated at Hera. I’ve come to offer my help, or whatever I can to ensure defeat doesn’t befall this planet.”

The bay worker looked at him surprised. “One moment General, I didn’t recognize you.”

The girl pulled out a comlink and told the person on the other end what she had just been told. Pyrrhus could tell that whoever was on the other end didn’t believe her because she had to repeat herself several times. He grabbed the comlink from her and spoke into it.

“Where are the leaders and officers?” Pyrrhus demanded. “I don’t have time to play games, let them decide if I’m who I say I am.”

“We’ll send a cruiser for you right away, sir.” the voice stuttered.

Pyrrhus handed the comlink back to the girl. “It’s not every day you see a man who’s supposed to be dead.”

He turned around and walked over to a bus station, where he was sure he’d be picked up. He sat down an observed Lacedaemon. It made him happy the quierleons didn’t mess around when they said they trained for war. Now that he was able to observe the city, he could see defense raised at every corner, and many building were being fortified. Along with the dense forest surrounding the city, this would be a hard place to overtake. The quierleons stood a good chance if they were invaded.

Looking to his left, there were two tall buildings with large gun turrets erected on top that were able to take out cruisers with one good strike, and with a perfect hit, an enemy ship. Other buildings had similar turrets and armored cruisers were skimming through the crowded sky. The most unique thing that he saw though was the city force field. It wasn’t activated yet, but he had seen the strange bulging balls from the ground as he landed, and now that he had time to actually focus on them, he knew exactly what they were. He had only heard of force fields and seen blueprints of prototypes, but he’d never been informed of their actual existence. From what he had been told about them, this city would be well defended from any aerial attacks.

A cruiser pulled up in front of him and a young man got out to open the passenger door. Pyrrhus stood and got into the cruiser without a word. The young man closed the door and got back in the other side to fly the cruiser. The driver was silent, and Pyrrhus thought it better not to start a conversation with the young man. He looked out of the window as the cruiser rose in the sky and observed other parts of the city still being fortified. If he was going to help defeat the crodillians he needed to know what he had at hand, and right now, it seemed he’d have more than enough to hold back the enemy.

Pyrrhus felt the cruiser start to descend as they reached a grey stone building in the center of the city. It rose above all the others and seemed very calm compared to the rest of the bustling city. The entire front of the building was held up by a large kneeling quierleons made of marble. Every time he saw it, it impressed him. The amount of time that went into creating this building was astounding. The cruiser landed on the lawn and Pyrrhus got out of the cruiser and climbed the hand-chiseled stairs to the stone doors that read: Only the worthy shall enter, in ancient quierleon above the frame. They slowly swung open and a dark skinned man stepped out.

“Didn’t expect to see you again, Pyrrhus,” the Prime Minister of Ares said. “Anyway, welcome to Ares. We have many impending matters to discuss and I’m sure you’re input would help us a lot.”

Pyrrhus nodded. “You have no idea how helpful my knowledge will be.”

“I have a pretty good feeling,” the Prime Minister turned around. “If you follow me, I’ll show you where the rest of the leaders and officers are being held.”

Pyrrhus followed the Prime Minister down the tall and wide stone hallways and through several rooms that had been changed into bunkers. It may not have looked chaotic on the outside, but he knew that it wouldn’t be that way where they were heading. There had to be hundreds of leaders and officers housed here, and not all of them would agree on every decision, which meant only one thing: chaos.

The Prime Minister opened a door and motioned for Pyrrhus to go in first. He immediately saw this room was different than the others he had been in. It was much larger than any of the others, and was overcrowded with hundreds races of all ranks. There were maps, video feeds of planets, and many other things scattered in different areas throughout the room. From first glance it looked like a mess, but Pyrrhus could tell there were sections for everything and that everyone was working in their area of specialty, giving whatever advice they thought would be helpful.

The Prime Minister nudged him. “You can go up there.”

Pyrrhus looked to where he was pointing and saw a stage with a podium. “You want me to speak to all of these races?”

“Well, yes,” the Prime Minister nodded. “They need to hear from someone that has seen the crodillians first-hand. Right now, things are looking pretty bleak and most of them have given up hope. They need you to give them a little boost. Something to change the attitude in here a little bit.”

“I honestly don’t think there is too much hope right now, Gidon. With the way the crodillians do what they want with ease, things are looking pretty bleak.”

“Well, just go up there and tell them what you’ve seen!” He urged. “They need to hear something. I mean, you survived! That should be all the hope they need.”

Pyrrhus walked up to the stage and looked around the room. He could hear the voices slowly fading as races saw who was standing before them. They all whispered to each other and pointed for others to look until all eyes were on him.

“Most of you know who I am,” he started. “I’m General Pyrrhus and I led the fleets that were supposed to protect Hera and the galaxy. We failed. Miserably at that. We weren’t prepared for this enemy and we made the mistake of putting almost all of our ships in one place,” he looked around the room to see that he had the attention of every race. “I urged the Queen to allow a small portion of every fleet to come here just in case of failure. That decision has left us with around three hundred ships, plus whatever extra there are on Ares and whoever else wants to join the fight with their own ships.”

“Then we need to attack now!” Someone from the crowd shouted, starting a rumbling of agreeing whispers. “If we have ships, we need to try and stop them!”

“No,” Pyrrhus boomed. “We will not attack now. The crodillians are more powerful and intelligent than anyone initially thought. That’s why I abandoned the fight at Hera, I had to make sure that every survivor knew just how powerful they really are. There are too many leaders who think we can just go fight the crodillians like another normal enemy we’ve read about. We can’t. Our only option right now is to lay low and keep a close eye on the enemy.”

“Coward!” Another shout erupted from the room. “You left your men to die and want the same of all of our families! They’re counting on us to save them. We won’t sit around and wait for the crodillians to take another planet.”

“I left them to die in order to make sure that Orion survived! We haven’t been defeated yet, though the crodillians may think so,” his voiced boomed off the stone walls. “If I would’ve stayed with my ship, I would’ve died and none of you would know what to expect from them! You would’ve foolishly sent our last line of defense to face sure death, and with that, the death of your families you want to protect. The war is not over yet, so stop acting like we’ve been defeated. I have knowledge that can help us defeat the crodillians! I’ve seen how they fight and I know how they’ll fight us when we go to finish them off!” He looked around. “Some of you want to attack now, is that right?”

Pyrrhus looked around to see nods from some of the races and looks of fear on the faces of others. These were leaders, but none of them knew what to do, they’d never faced adversity like this. None of them had ever thought anything like this could even happen on Orion. Adira stressed peace so much, and had been so good at keeping it, all had forgotten about the evil lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to lash out.

“They destroyed thousands of our ships while barely taking a dent in their own numbers. What do you think the outcome of three hundred of our remaining ships against them will be like? The outcome will be no different!” The room was dead silent for the first time since he’d come up to talk. He’d finally gotten the reality of things through all of their heads, though it really shouldn’t have been hard after the display at Hera. “What remaining forces we have, need to be used wisely, and that doesn’t include taking the crodillians head on again. It failed once and I guarantee you it’ll fail again. I didn’t abandon my men just to end up losing the war against the crodillians. I left them to make sure there is absolutely no chance the crodillians take over! We’ll avenge the lives of all those that have been lost and of those that’ll be lost in the coming months. The only way to win this war, is to let them think that they’ve won while slowly recouping.”

A few cheers erupted from the crowd of leaders and officers. He could see some were still skeptical, but it didn’t matter, after listening to what some of them had to say, he knew he had to lead them now. If he let one of the other General’s lead, then the same outcome would most likely happen and he wasn’t about to watch that.

“For those of you who question my leadership, call the Queen’s Council. There are seven of them hidden safely on Nesoi. I’m confident that they’d rather have me lead a rebellion strike than anyone else in this room,” Pyrrhus stepped down from the stage and walked over to Gidon.

“I didn’t know the Council was on Nesoi,” Gidon said.

“We sent them there in case the fleets at Hera were destroyed.”

“So, you were prepared for this?”

“I didn’t like putting all of our ships in one place, and luckily some other races didn’t either and we were able to get some ships here. Allocating all our defenses to one spot wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but we had to follow orders, and honestly, none of us had any better ideas.”

“Do you think we really stand a chance after what you’ve seen?”

Pyrrhus nodded. “We’ll defeat them. I’m sure of it. It’ll take time and we’ll lose many more lives, but we’ll win this war.”

“I’m behind you all the way, along with the quierleons. Do you have a plan on how you’re going to defeat them yet?”

“Not yet, but I’ll contact the Council once I have an idea of what I want to do. If they agree, then we’ll start the rebellion.”

[] Chapter 5

Jahdiel looked out of the Mother Colchian as they entered Heran airspace. The planet looked much different now that they’d conquered it. When they’d first arrived, the planet with thriving with bright hues of blues and vibrant shades of green. Now, the sky was filled with thick, grey, smoke and the land was charred black from fires that had raged for days. The races inhabiting the planet had decided to put up a fight and the crodillians had made them pay dearly for that decision. Few building were left standing after the fights and rotting bodies lay scattered in the streets for animals to pick.

The survivors had gone into hiding, and though it would’ve been easy to hunt them down, Merikh ordered they be left alone. It had been very unlike Merikh, but Jahdiel knew it was a lost attempt to win the hearts of the living races. He’d already killed their families and destroyed their homes, letting them live was a big chance to take, and she knew deep down, it’d be one of the mistakes that could lead to his ultimate demise. She’d made the same choice on Gaea, but not because she knew Merikh would approve, but because the death was beginning to tear her apart. Nightmares haunted her every night and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could live with it.

Her ship landed in the Palace’s hangar and she shook the thoughts running through her mind. This was one of the few buildings that hadn’t been destroyed when they’d taken over. Upon arrival, she’d immediately recognized it and told Merikh to keep all the ships clear of the area. The crodillians had obeyed the orders and the Palace had been left untouched by war.

She exited her ship and passed a pair of crodillians standing guard at the doors. She nodded her head as she passed them and made her way to the reception room. Merikh had taken a liking to the room when they’d first arrived and Jahdiel knew he’d most likely be in there getting updates.

She walked down the once clean hallways, not happy that the crodillians had made such a mess when taking it over. There’d been resistance from the Queen’s guards, and the crodillians immediately attacked them, even against her direct orders to take them alive. They’d seen a threat and instinctively attacked like savage animals, leaving the hallways stained with blood and the stench of death. Holes were in every wall from laser impact and chunks of floor were missing from grenades. She’d wanted to keep the Palace as perfect as possible, but the crodillians never turned down a chance to kill an enemy, or destroy anything in their vicinity.

Luckily, the entire Palace hadn’t suffered from reckless crodillians. Once the entire guard was taken out, the rest of the staff surrendered peacefully. They didn’t stay that way for long and she’d heard Merikh dealt with them accordingly, though she wasn’t sure she wanted to see the remains. With all her time spent with the crodillians, she’d learned several things, one of which was they never ran out of unique ways to kill.

Jahdiel opened the door to the reception room and saw Merikh sitting in a chair, surrounded by flickering screens, just as she’d imagined he’d be. As she got closer, she could see that there was someone next to him in chains. Once she was within a few feet of the figure, she recognized the person Queen Adira.

The Queen didn’t look well, she was thin and looked very fatigued. Her bones were protruding from her deeply cut cheeks and her eyes were deep black and hazy. Rags were draped over her instead of a proper gown and she was chained by her ankles, wrists, and neck. Jahdiel knew she’d been locked in the dungeons and witnessed the slaughter of her staff. What Merikh was putting this woman through was beyond cruel. No one deserved to be treated like this and from the fresh bruises on her body, it was clear Merikh was only just getting started.

Jahdiel approached her leader, who still hadn’t noticed her enter the room. “I see you have yourself a new pet.”

Adira quickly turned around and spit on Jahdiel. “If I’m a pet, than what does that make you? No human should be doing what you’re doing.”

Jahdiel reeled her hand back and slapped Adira across the face. “Next time you spit on me, I’ll kill you.”

Merikh stood up and pushed Jahdiel away from Adira with his long hands. “You won’t touch the Queen again unless I tell you that you can. Don’t let me see an outburst like that ever again, or it’ll be your last.”

Jahdiel looked at him surprised. “She just disrespected me! Do you expect me not to react to that?”

“You started it, Jahdiel,” Merikh said. “She’s going to help us, but if you continue to treat her like that, she’ll change her mind and then our jobs will be much harder.”

“What are you talking about?” Jahdiel asked. “The Queen won’t help us with anything, she’ll betray us.”

“She’s going to demand calm in Orion.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s about to send a message to all of the races of Orion to let us take their planets without any bloodshed.”

“And you think that they’ll listen to her? She’s our hostage. They’ll think we forced her to say it. Look what you’ve don’t to her, do you really think anyone will listen to what she says?”

“They may not,” he stroked his chin with his long claws. “But I think they’ll listen because it’s coming from their Queen, no matter how she looks. She’s been as defiant as the rest of this galaxy, but she doesn’t want to see unnecessary deaths that she could’ve prevented. I’m sure she can relay that across so all the races understand.”

“So you’re going to help us?” Jahdiel looked to Adira.

“No,” she spat. “I’m going to protect those who can’t protect themselves from you. That’s my job as Queen. I won’t let anymore races die because your bloodthirsty friends want to kill everything that moves.”

“How did you get her to agree to this?”

“She saw what you did to Gaea. I must say, it was very impressive, especially the little girl,” a grin crept across his reptilian face. “She knew if she didn’t agree, we would have ravaged every remaining planet the same. You encouraged her as much as I did.”

“When is she going to send the message?” Jahdiel asked, hiding the sorrow she felt inside from her face. “I’m sure there are rebellions being put together all over Orion after what I did to Gaea.”

“She’s sending it out now,” Merikh said. “Once she sends it, we’ll get ships ready to go to the remaining planets and we’ll dispatch troops to stay there until tensions have lowered. Even after that, I think we’ll keep them there as assurance.”

Merikh walked back towards the screens and pressed a few buttons. Three monitors in the room hummed to life and the image of the three of them appeared on the middle screen. The other two screens were focused on one individual each: Adira and Merikh.

“We’ll start the message now.” Merikh told a few nearby crodillians. “The sooner we get it out, the better. Jahdiel and I will introduce ourselves first.” Merikh pressed some more buttons and a red light came up, alerting them that they were being recorded. “Hello. My name is Merikh and I’m the leader of the crodillians who’ve just overtaken Orion. Next to me, is Jahdiel who is second in command of the crodillian forces? We’re sending you this message to inform you that we want the bloodshed to come to an end,” Merikh looked to the Queen. “Your Queen and I have talked to great lengths and she has told us there are no fleets left to put up resistance against us. We’ve conquered Gaea, Demeter, Themis and Hera. Soon we’ll be coming to the remaining planets, and we’ll be merciless at any sign of rebellion. I don’t want to slaughter innocents because I believe enough lives have been lost, therefore, your Queen and I have struck a deal.”

Merikh shifted the camera to focus on Adira. “Orion, this is your Queen. Right now I’m strongly urging you to listen to Merikh. Surrender yourselves peacefully. Do not rebel against their rule and put up no resistance upon their arrival. I know they’ve slaughtered your friends and families and have destroyed places you call home. Sadly, there is no hope of defeating them right now,” Adira took a deep breath. “I foolishly brought the fleet of every planet here, to defeat the crodillians, but I didn’t know how powerful they really were and every ship was destroyed. They lost little of their own and have shown they can overtake the remaining planets with ease, even if you rebel, as was demonstrated on Gaea.” Adira looked away from the cameras and closed her eyes. She stayed silent a moment and looked back at the camera with tears in her eyes. “It hurts me to tell you this, but you have to surrender to the crodillians. Merikh and I have come to an agreement, one that I made to save your lives. Let them come to your planets and conquer them. Please, please, do not resist. They’ll let you live out your lives normally, unless you don’t heed my warning and rebel, then all will perish. Let them on your planets peacefully and they’ll kill no one. There may be new laws put in place, but I urge you to follow them, no matter how bad you don’t want to. We don’t have the strength to fight them, and small rebellions will only lead to unnecessary deaths,” she wiped the tears streaming her face with her blood-crusted arms. “I’m still your Queen, though I’m no longer ruling. I urge you to listen to me this one last time.

Merikh shifted the camera back to himself. “You really should listen to your Queen. We want peace and have shown you only a fraction of our true power. If you rebel, you’ll see the full force of our power. We’ll be at the remaining planets soon and expect no resistance, but don’t think that we won’t be ready for it. If you test us, be ready for the consequences.”

Merikh cut of the message and nodded to the Queen. “I think they’ll heed your warning, it was… very honest. You spoke much more than I thought you would, but because of that, I think that you saved a lot of lives. You should be proud of yourself, Queen.”

“I just want there to be peace,” she looked to the ground. “Sometimes that means giving in.”

“You really think there won’t be any rebellions?” Jahdiel asked.

“No,” Adira said. “There will be rebellions, there always will be, but they won’t be very big. There are some races who just don’t like to be ruled and will listen to no one. It took a lot for my Council and I to keep Orion peaceful and neither of you have the patience I did to make it happen.”

“The rest will not suffer because of them,” Merikh said. “We just needed everyone to think that. I’ll order my troops to only kill the rebels.”

“Thank you,” Adira smiled half-heartedly.

“I want you to get ships ready to depart, Jahdiel,” Merikh told her. “The message will reach all of the planets soon, so by the time you reach the first one, they should just let you in their airspace.”

“I’ll get the ships ready,” Jahdiel said as she turned to leave the room.

Merikh looked to the Queen. “If they listen, I may let assist in ruling this galaxy. It’ll be more peaceful that way.”

“I’ve helped you all I want,” Adira snorted. “I can’t make them stay peaceful forever, but I’ve saved some lives for the time being.”

Donnchadh looked down at his holopad to read all of the current news. He saw Gaea had just been ravaged and taken over, but before he could read the article and look at pictures, new urgent news streamed across his device. This wasn’t news from the angry races of Orion, it had been posted by Merikh himself. Donnchadh clicked the news article and saw it was a video. He watched it and immediately got up to see what he rest of the crew was doing. Unfortunately, they’d all seen the video too and weren’t happy in the least bit.

“What’s this?” One of the races yelled. “We don’t want peace! We want revenge! We want to kill!”

“Calm down,” Donnchadh urged. “This doesn’t mean that there will be peace.”

“Who would be foolish enough not to take a peace offering from the crodillians?” Another asked. “Look what they’ve done to the planets they’ve already taken over.”

“Yes, but that will be even more reason for the rest not to come peacefully,” Donnchadh told them all. “Do you really think these races will lie down and be taken over peacefully after witnessing the death of close friends and family? I don’t think they will. In fact, I know they’ll all rebel.”

“Donnchadh is right,” Kellagh said. “I’ve been keeping up with reports of planets and so far every one of them has had some type of rebellion. You’ll get your bloodshed, as will I and the crodillians.”

“And look at the Queen in the video,” Donnchadh pointed out. “She looks frail, beaten, and is chained like a slave. This isn’t what she wants, she was forced to say it and every race can tell by one quick glance. Just be patient and you’ll get your bloodshed.”

Once Donnchadh saw his crew calm some and he went back into his bunker. He sat at his desk and stared at the wall blankly. If Merikh really did want peace, this could change things quite a bit. The Queen would most likely stay alive, even if Jahdiel did want her dead, and Donnchadh could just bring back Kirill. He could let the Deimos Brotherhood stay under the radar for a while, claiming they were all gone. There would be larger rebellions eventually, if not right away, and the Deimos Brotherhood would be a good ally to have against the crodillians.

Donnchadh got out of his chair and started to pace the room. He wanted to help aid in a rebellion and being inside with the crodillians would give Orion an advantage. It would be dangerous for him, and if he got caught he would surely be killed, along with anyone he contacted. It’d be worth it though, especially if the crodillian leader thought peace was a possibility. Donnchadh knew what the chances of that would be, but if Orion could fake it, they could strike with the element of surprise.

[] Chapter 6

Pyrrhus stood with the Prime Minister as he called the Queen’s Council to discuss the rebellion plans. They’d all just seen the message from the Queen, and deep down, he believed it was a message with a message with hidden meaning. Obviously she’d been forced to say what she did, but the way she said it and the look in her eyes, told him all he needed to know. Several things she’d spoken could be taken one of two ways and he was going to take it the way he thought best for Orion.

As of right now, things were bleak, but it was only the beginning. With that speech, she’d bought not only him time, but the entire galaxy. He needed to relay to all races to abide by what she’d ordered so that they’d stand a chance. If they could trick the crodillians into thinking they’d lay down their weapons, all the better. For the first time in several weeks, things were starting to look good for the rebels.

Aldrick’s image appeared on the screen displayed in front of all races that’d wanted to listen in. “How’d you know we weren’t killed on Hera, Prime Minister Gidon?”

“He didn’t. I did,” Pyrrhus said. “I knew that you were on Nesoi and I’m trying to make sure that the leaders gathered here on Ares make the right choices in our upcoming rebellion.”

“Pyrrhus?” Hildereth, the quierleon Council member asked. “We all thought that you were dead. How did you survive? We had multiple reports that all fleets were destroyed and survivors were hunted down.”

“I left my ship before the battle was over,” he hung his head. “It was apparent we were greatly mistaken about their power, as they quickly took ships down with ease. I was able to escape before my ship was destroyed and I came straight to Ares.”

“You were right to leave,” Aldrick said. “You didn’t believe that all the ships should have been brought to Hera in the first place. If not for you, we wouldn’t even have ships hidden on Ares. We should’ve pressed the Queen harder to heed to your advice.”

“Well, that’s why I’m contacting you. I think it’s time we prepare for the inevitable.”

“You want to use those ships already?” Reginold asked. “Even after the Queen just sent out the message for peace?”

“No,” Pyrrhus assured them. “But there are others here on Ares who want to foolishly send out the last hope we have. If I hadn’t made here when I had, every one of those ships would be on their way to Hera.”

“The ships stay on Ares,” Aldrick said sternly. “The Queen put us in charge and that’s what all of the Council will want. If any on Ares have questions or concerns, then send them here to speak with us. We’ll give you our location if you really need it.”

“I don’t think that’ll be necessary, but I want to use those ships soon,” he said. “First, I want to get a rebellion force established throughout Orion, then we can worry about the ships.”

“You want to rebel after the Queen said not to?” Alura asked, coming into the screen for the first time.

“I believe that the Queen is only buying us time. She knows we’ll rebel, and by giving that speech, she’s allowing Orion to recover from recent attacks and band together for one last fight.”

“The only message she sent to us was to be at peace with the crodillians. How hard is that to understand?” Alura asked.

“Adira would never want us to lay down and surrender,” Aldrick looked to Alura. “I believe that Pyrrhus may be right. We know Adira well, and I promise you, she’d rather die than hand over the Throne to monsters.”

“Even if he is right, they said that they haven’t shown their true power yet. How are we to stand a chance against them when they have only been toying with us?”

“Anlon is getting information that may help us if we do end up needing it,” Reginold revealed to Pyrrhus.

“Yes, you’re right,” Alura nodded. “But you seem to have forgotten he has the Princess with him. Once the crodillians find out, what are the chances he returns to us?”

“What are you talking about?” Pyrrhus asked. “What did you send them to get?”

Alura let out a breath. “They think that the Elders can help by revealing information about how the crodillians were defeated last time. It’s a long shot, but they were never going to stay here.”

“That was a long time ago,” Pyrrhus said.

“Even if none of the originals are alive, they’ll have passed the information down to the other Elders,” Hildereth replied. “They pride themselves in their history, but rarely take part in the present.”

“Why don’t you just contact them by comlink?” Pyrrhus asked. “It’d save a trip and you’d get your information much quicker.”

“They like to stay completely secluded from the rest of Orion,” Aldrick said. “Even if we tried, we’d never get through to them. The only way to speak to them is in person. That’s why we sent Anlon and his friends, though the Princess was never supposed to go along. She defied out direct orders.”

“Do you believe the Elders will have any valuable information?” Pyrrhus asked all of them. “I can’t remember the last time anyone mentioned them contributing to the good of Orion. This is the first time I’ve heard of them since I was a child.”

“We don’t have many other options right now,” Alura said. “Maybe with their lives on the line they will help us.”

“If you sent Anlon to get information on how to defeat the crodillians, that means you’ve planned to use the ships on Ares the entire time.”

“Yes. We have been contemplating about it,” Alura nodded. “But that was before the Queen’s message. We’ve spoken, and we believe it’s best that we follow what the Queen has told us. If Anlon does get information, we’ll have it for later use, if need be.”

“Let me set up rebellions!” Pyrrhus urged. “The crodillians will never stay peaceful for long, no matter what you tell yourselves. Adira bought us time and spared millions of lives! She wants us to rebel, I promise you that. We can’t squander our chance because the crodillians claim that they want peace. By the time other realize it was a lie, it’ll be too late to stop them from killing every last one of us.”

“They’ll burn our planets if we rebel!” Alura stared with fear in her eyes. “Look at what happened to Gaea because they rebelled! That was only a small group willing to risk their lives and they lost not just theirs, but thousands of others who wanted no part.”

“They were seen,” Pyrrhus said. “If they let us live our lives normally, I can set up hidden bases on the planets. If they don’t see they rebellion forming, how are they going to punish us? They don’t know this galaxy like we do.”

“I’m sorry Alura, Pyrrhus is right,” Aldrick said. “Things have changed since we spoke last about what course of action to take. We need to be ready when the crodillians do decide to change their minds.”

“It’s foolish,” Alura shook her head. “What’ll happen to all of the innocents if we get caught? Have you that about that?”

“What will happen when the crodillians decide to break their promise and we aren’t prepared?” Hildereth asked this time. “Look what happened to us last time we weren’t prepared. We barely survived! How are we supposed to sit around while we have a chance to take our homes back and save millions of lives?”

“We won’t get caught,” Pyrrhus said. “I know of many hidden military bases where we can gather thousands of rebels without raising any suspicion. Once the rebels are there, they’ll never have to leave for anything. There’s only a slim chance we will get caught, but it’s what Adira wants us to do. She doesn’t want us to wait idly, she wants us to prepare for war.”

“How are you going to do this?” Alura asked. “I mean, setting up rebellion forces? That’ll take months of traveling from planet to planet.”

“If they’re really going to let us live out our lives normally, that means that we can travel right?”

Alura shrugged. “I guess so, go on.”

“That means that I can travel to planets as a merchant and find those who want to rebel. I’ll gather them up and send them to bases to get ready to strike when the time is right.”

“How are you going to find these races without the crodillians finding out?” Alura asked. “Word will spread you’re gathering rebel forces, and don’t be fooled, the crodillians will catch wind of it.”

“Do you really think that it’ll be that hard to keep quiet?” Aldrick asked. “Families have been torn apart and homes have been destroyed. There will be more than enough races that want to rebel, and no race would dare speak about this where a crodillian can overhear.”

“He’s right,” Pyrrhus said. “I’ll be able to find races fairly easily, and from there they can find others. I don’t need to find every rebel, or go to every corner of every planet, I just need to find a few and be certain they’re able to lead.”

“So I guess that means there’s no chance you send someone else to do this in your place?” Alura asked.

“That’s correct,” Pyrrhus nodded. “I need to make sure that this is done without mistakes. There’s no margin for error, not now, not ever.”

“You do know you’re the best General we have, and if you die, the only military leader with any experience in fighting the crodillians will be gone. There’ll be no way we stand a chance in winning this war if that happens.”

“If Anlon is able to get information from the Elders, any General should be able to lead an attack, you won’t need me. You already have everything you need to win.”

“We would prefer to have you leading the attacks,” Aldrick said. “You’ll know what to be prepared for. Information will only go so far.”

“If the crodillians are true to their word, then I’ll be fine. There’s nothing to worry about.”

“You’re willing to put your life on the line because they gave their word?” Alura shook her head. “I don’t think they’re very trustworthy.”

“They’re not,” Pyrrhus agreed. “But they may keep their word long enough for me to get done what needs to be done.”

“Fine,” Alura raised up her hands. “Go set up rebellion forces, the rest of the Council will get together and talk about changing our plans now that you’re alive. You seem to have convinced two already, and I’m sure others will agree with you once we speak.”

“Thank you,” Pyrrhus smiled. “I’ll let the other leaders know what I’m doing and what you’ve ordered. I’ll set up the forces as quickly as I can.”

“Good luck, Pyrrhus,” Aldrick said. “You’re going to need it.”

“Tell the rest of the Council to get in here quickly,” Alura ordered. “We need to make sure this is what we want to do before we commit to it. Once we begin, there won’t be any turning back.”

Aldrick nodded and pulled out his comlink. He sent the remaining members a message to arrive as quickly as possible. It didn’t take long for them to arrive, considering they were in an underwater Palace with few places to wander off to.

Aldrick looked around to make sure that they were all present before he spoke. “We’ve just received a call from Pyrrhus.”

“He’s alive?” Bertrade asked. “I thought that he died back on Hera with the rest of the military.”

“As did we, but we just saw him and spoke with him,” Alura said. “I can assure you that he is very much alive and well.”

“Pyrrhus insisted the Queen doesn’t want us to lay down our weapons and surrender to the crodillians. Instead, he believes, as do I now, that the Queen wants us to rebel against this enemy.”

“Then why would she send out a message for peace?” Aida asked. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

“So we have time and assurance that we won’t be killed,” Saidi said aloud.

“So, you believe it to?” Hildereth asked.

“Yes,” Saidi shook her head. “I’ve been listening to the speech over and over, and the more that I listen to it, the more I think she wants us to rebel. The way she said things, voice inflections, gestures, it all leads me to believe she wants us to take back what’s ours.”

“What things makes you think that?” Alura asked. “I heard or saw nothing that encouraged rebelling.”

“She said small rebellions will lead to death, that was her trying to say, create a large, strong, rebellion that stands a chance. I think that, because at the beginning of the speech, she said we don’t have a chance right now. If we can establish a strong rebellion on every planet, then we do stand a chance,” Saidi said. “The last thing she said is, if we get caught then they’ll be merciless, so we have to keep the rebellion hidden from them. Nowhere in her speech did she tell us to give up all hope, she was telling us discreetly to be smart and not get caught.”

“She bought us time,” Aldrick said. “Pyrrhus believed the same thing and contacted us so that he could personally start forming a rebellion force.”

“That’s great,” Saidi said. “The crodillians will never expect it after the message the Queen sent out, not if all stay calm.”

“What about if we get caught?” Alura asked.

“It’s a risk we have to take. It’s also a risk that Adira would want us to take,” Saidi said. “She brought almost every ship to Hera to take the crodillians out in one flail swoop, so I know she wouldn’t want us to give up hope.”

“There are risks in war,” Hildereth said. “Right now, we don’t have a choice but to take big risks. There are no small risks in any decision we make from here on out.”

“But the crodillians have asked for peace,” Alura said.

“They demanded peace or death,” Aldrick said. “They didn’t ask us anything. Adira took the chance to buy us time. There’s no other reason why she’d request we all surrender without a fight.”

“If the crodillians think the peace is real, they’ll never see us coming. Especially if they don’t know about the few hundred ships on Ares. I promise you, she’d give her life before revealing that.”

“I’m guessing that the rest of you are also sided with Pyrrhus?” Alura asked.

The entire Council shook their heads. Alura let out a deep breath and shook her head. “Then let’s make sure this rebellion is done right and succeeds. I’ll contact Anlon and tell him to get to his information quickly.”

“Alura?” Anlon asked. “We haven’t gotten the information yet. We’re still traveling without sonodrive.”

“Well, initiate sonodrive and get to Ovrea as quickly as you can and find the Elders,” she ordered him.

“What about the crodillians? What if we get out of the jump in the middle of a fleet? Falcone hasn’t received any responses from other ships in the area yet.”

“They’ve just said they won’t kill any more races, you’ll be fine. Just get there as quickly as you can.”

“What are you talking about?” Anlon asked. “They want peace?”

“The Queen sent out a message to Orion requesting peace on behalf of the crodillians. They want no more bloodshed, which gives us the chance to set up rebellion forces, but we also need that information from the Elders.”

“What are we…,” Anlon started to ask, before he was cut off.

“Just get to Ovrea as quickly as you can and we’ll answer all of your questions when you get back. Travel is safe again in Orion, and that’s all that you need to know for the time being.”

Anlon nodded and hung up the comlink. He quickly left the room he was training in and rushed to the cockpit of the ship where Falcone and Nimesha were bragging to each other about their pasts. He pushed his way in-between them and cleared his throat obnoxiously when they didn’t respond to him.

“What do you need?” Nimesha asked. “When I said it was going to be a while before we got there, I meant it.”

“We need to initiate sonodrive now,” Anlon told them.

“I’m not initiating sonodrive until I get a response back from another pilot. I’m not going to be locked up in some crodillian cell so they can eat me.”

“It’s fine,” Anlon assured them. “They’ve asked for peace. We can travel safely now.”

“The crodillians asked for peace?” Nimesha laughed. “Who told you that?”

“Alura just called me and told me the Queen sent out a message for peace all over Orion,” Anlon said. “Alura said we need to get the information from the Elders as quickly as we can. Time isn’t something we have to waste anymore.”

Nimesha looked to Falcone. “That was unexpected. Why does Alura want us to get the information so quickly? If they want peace, does it really matter how long it takes us?”

“I don’t know,” Anlon shrugged. “She won’t tell me anything else until we come back with information.”

“Well,” Falcone looked to Nimesha and shrugged. “Initiate sonodrive. We’re about to find out what’s on the other side.”

Nimesha chuckled and pressed the button to activate sonodrive. Drakos Mavros lurched forward and white lines streamed past them through the cockpit window in blurs. Anlon turned around and took a seat close to the cockpit. He knew it wouldn’t be much longer until they arrived on Ovrea now that they were using sonodrive and he wanted to be ready to go as soon as they touched down. He didn’t trust the crodillians would be peaceful and didn’t want to take any longer than he had to get this information.

[] Chapter 7

Pyrrhus and Prime Minister Gidon called everyone into the Debate Hall to discuss battle plans. Many gathered already knew what was going to be said because the leaders present during the call had told others and it’d spread like wildfire. Still, there were some who didn’t believe and the meeting had to be called to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Pyrrhus stood on the stage behind a podium with the Prime Minister close by his side. Leaders were quickly filing into the room, trying to get the best spot possible to see those on stage. All the tables and equipment that had been scattered around the room were now moved out of the way to create as much space as possible. Once Pyrrhus saw that leaders had stopped entering the room, he got ready to make his speech.

“A lot of you already know what’s going on, but I still have to make sure that everyone us up to date,” he started. “I’ve talked with the Council and they’ve sided with me in not attacking the crodillians right now, as those who were present can confirm. I did tell them that we’ll eventually attack, but a few things must be done first.”

The room darkened and a screen came on behind Pyrrhus. He moved over so that everyone could see a map of Orion displayed. It was zoomed out, making every planet visible. Several areas were marked red, Demeter being completely crossed out, and a skull in Hera’s place.

“The crodillians have taken over four planets already and will take over the remaining planets very soon, including Ares. I’ve decided that instead of waiting around for that to happen, I’m going to start getting rebellion forces established on as many planets as I can,” he pulled out a laser and pointed to a planet. “Hermes will be the first planet I travel to following this meeting. It hasn’t been conquered yet, and there is a concealed base in the woods where all rebels will be safe. My plan is to get there before the crodillians so I can get as many races moved as possible,” he looked around the room to look for any who were against his idea, but found none. “After Hermes, I’ll go to Gaea. Though it’s already been conquered, the crodillians have said that peace will ensue on every planet. I know an excellent base where survivors can gather without crodillian knowledge. From there, I’ll travel to the remaining planets and set up base after base until I feel we are strong enough to put up a fight.”

“If the crodillians find out, they’ll kill you and anyone that’s planning to rebel,” someone in the audience said.

“Yes,” Pyrrhus nodded. “But it is only a matter of time before the crodillians break their promise of peace and start killing innocents again. When they decide to do that, we’ll be prepared. Either way, we’re going to strike them, so if you’re not with us, I suggest you leave now and find someplace where neither of us can get to you. The Queen has bought us time for one reason, and one reason only. We’re going to fight. We’re going to take our homes back.”

“How soon will we strike them?” Another member of the audience asked.

“As soon as we can,” Pyrrhus told them. “We’re gathering information right now on possible ways to defeat them. By the time that’s done, I should be close to finishing the establishment of bases. We won’t strike as soon as I’m done because we’ll have to get a battle plan in place, but we’ll attack soon after I’ve wrapped up,” he looked around the room for anymore questions. “Prime Minister Gidon will be in charge while I’m gone. He knows what the Council wants, so don’t push for things that won’t happen. When the time to strike comes, you will all know. Be patient and don’t give up hope.”

Pyrrhus stepped down from the stage and made his way through the thick crowd of leaders. He exited the Debate Hall and headed directly towards the hangar without a word to anyone. When he arrived, he saw his ship already fired up and ready for take-off. He boarded and sat down next to the pilot.

“Where are we headed to?” The pilot asked.

“Take me to Hermes,” Pyrrhus answered. “We have a rebellion to start.”

Anlon stood up when he felt Drakos Mavros decelerate from sonodrive. He quickly ran up behind Falcone and Nimesha to see if there were any enemy ships already at Ovrea. All that loomed before them was a bright white and blue planet.

“Well,” Falcone said. “Looks like we got lucky. No crodillians in sight.”

“You’re saying,” Nimesha smiled and let out a laugh. “There’s not a ship to be seen for miles, but that could change at any moment.”

Camillus and Kanti approached them from behind. They both looked out the window over his shoulder and were also surprised that there were no ships. The area was lifeless, silent. It was the complete opposite of the rest of the galaxy, but Nimesha was right, it could change in the blink of an eye.

“Now that we’re here, where do we go, Camillus?” Falcone asked. “It was your idea to come here, now tell me where to land this beauty.”

“It’s right there,” Camillus pointed to the South end of Ovrea covered in the whitest snow. “Just land there. I’ll direct better once we’re in Ovrean airspace.”

“Alright,” Falcone piloted the ship in the general direction Camillus had pointed. “I hope you know what you’re talking about. I don’t want to be flying all over the place because you don’t know where they are.”

Anlon stared out of the window and watched as Ovrea got closer. The closer they got, the whiter it seemed to get, already making him feel cold. Once Falcone entered the planet, the ship was swarmed with grey clouds and visibility was near impossible.

“Got to love Ovrea,” Nimesha said. “They have the best weather. Snow all year long with the harshest blizzards you’ll ever get stuck in.”

The ship rocked slightly as winds picked up, but Falcone had no problems. Once he flew out of the clouds, blankets of ice laid before them. Miles and miles of pure, white, ice and tall mountains with peaks that were enveloped by the clouds.

“Where am I going now?” Falcone asked. “All I see is a bunch of snow and mountains to maneuver through.”

“You see those mountains over there?” Camillus pointed.

“Yeah, there’s only a few of them,” Falcone nodded sarcastically. “Right over there, and there, and there’s some more over there.”

“Go to those,” he pointed to a cluster of smaller ones. “We won’t be climbing any of the others you see around us.”

Falcone piloted the ship to the mountains and intensity of the storm picked up dramatically. Nimesha looked over to him to see if there was anything she could do to help, but it was obvious Falcone didn’t want to be disturbed. He circled around the mountain, looking for a spot to land, and after finding no place on the mountain, worked his way to the base. He took the first clear spot to put the ship down.

“This is one hell of a storm,” Nimesha said. “We should probably stay in the ship until it passes. It’s not a good idea to try climbing in this.”

Camillus shook his head. “It’s not going to pass anytime soon. I’m looking at the radar and this storm could last for hours. It’s massive.”

“We should wait it out,” Falcone said. “Going out in this could cause more problems than it’s worth. I’ve been caught in stuff like this before and I’d rather stay someplace warm until it’s calmed some.”

“We can’t wait anymore,” Kanti said. “We have to hurry and find out what the Elders know. Orion is depending on us. This is just a storm, we’ll be fine.”

“They Elders will still be there if we wait a couple of hours and the crodillians have said they’ll be peaceful,” Nimesha said. “There’s really no rush right now.”

“We’ll be able to travel through it fine,” Anlon said. “It’s just snow. How bad could it be?”

“And it’s freezing cold. This isn’t your typical Gaea winter where a jacket keeps you warm,” Nimesha crossed her arms. “Plus, who knows what’s lurking around out there. We’ll hardly be able to see what’s in front of us, we could be attacked by wild animals.”

“We have to go now,” Anlon urged. “We’ve taken our time long enough, we’ll be able to travel through it.”

“It’s quite a long way to travel,” Camillus told them. “It’s at the very top of the mountain. If we wait for this to pass, there’s no guarantee it won’t be followed by another storm just as big. Anlon and Kanti are right to want to leave now.”

“Well, Nimesha, looks like the ones with some common sense are outnumbered on this one,” Falcone chuckled. “Bundle up warm because if you don’t, you’re going to freeze in places you never knew could freeze.”

Anlon and Kanti walked up the stairs and went to his bunker. He opened his closet and pulled out two long sleeve shirts and two pairs of pants similar to his suit. He changed into his shirt and pants, instantly feeling warmer. Anlon looked over to see that Kanti was still changing into hers and he rummaged through his closet some more, pulling out some heavy sweatpants, gloves, masks, and coats. He walked over to Kanti and handed pairs of each to her.

“Just in case the suit can’t keep up with the cold out there,” Anlon smiled.

Kanti took them from him. “I can already feel the cold coming off the walls of the ship. I’m sure that it’s more than freezing out there.”

Kanti was right, he could also feel the temperature of the ship rapidly dropping. The metal was emanating the cold from outside. He put on his pants, coat, and gloves and waited for Kanti to finish getting hers on before walking down to the deck with her.

“Everybody ready?” Falcone asked. “The ship is reading a temperature of negative forty out there. It looks like we came on a good day.”

“Ohh I’m ready,” Nimesha purred. “I don’t know about you humans, and bird, but I’ll be warmer than all of you.”

“Actually, I think Camillus over there will be the warmest since he doesn’t even know what cold is,” Falcone smirked.

“Very funny,” Camillus walked past him. “But unfortunately, the technology inside me is sensitive to temperature this cold, so I’ll be feeling it in a different way than you, but I’ll feel it. Now let’s go before it gets any worse out there.”

Falcone opened the ramp of the ship and all of them were hit with a blast of frigid air. Anlon quickly found out that the suit wasn’t designed for weather this cold, as chills ran down his whole body and his skin began to prick. He put his mask on and walked out of the ship into the knee deep snow.

“I think the armored cruiser will probably be our best bet,” Anlon said. “It’s at least covered so we’ll be provided some protection from this.”

Camillus shook his head. “If we’re going to use anything to get up this mountain, it’ll have to be the glider bikes. There’s places where the cruiser won’t be able to travel and walking in this isn’t the best idea.”

“Great,” Kanti said. “We’re all going to freeze to death. Remind me to listen to you next time Nimesha”

“Ahh come on, it won’t be that bad,” Nimesha smiled. “It’ll only feel twenty degrees colder flying on that thing.”

Falcone walked down the ramp as the gliders were lowered from the compartments. He closed the storage areas by hand and hopped on one of the gliders. Nimesha walked over and got on one of her own, as did Camillus. Anlon got on the last one and Kanti boarded behind him, wrapping her arms tightly around him.

Anlon started up his glider and looked over to Camillus. “Lead the way!”

Anlon followed Camillus as he began up the steep, white, mountain. The frigid air pierced his eyes through the mask he was wearing, causing his vision to blur. Camillus was traveling up the slope steadily, but very carefully, watching out for any danger. Anlon could feel Kanti start to hug him tighter, but he wasn’t sure if it’s because she thought she was going to fall off, or if she was trying to get warmer.

The further they traveled the mountain, the colder the temperature became and the harsher the storm raged. It wasn’t unbearable yet, but Anlon had a feeling that it would be very soon. The raged with fury, and soon, keeping Camillus in sight wasn’t easy. Anlon stuck to him as best he could, but the storm was becoming blinding. Getting stranded alone on this mountain would be sure death, and a cold one at that.

Jahdiel walked into the reception room to see if Merikh was there keeping up with news of the conquered planets. It didn’t take her long to see him absorbed in one of the screens, talking to a crodillian on the comlink. It sounded like everything was going just as planned, which would make what she was about to request that much easier. She stopped once she was behind him and lightly tapped his shoulder with her finger.

“Merikh, I need to ask you something,” she said. “It’s about the fleets.”

Merikh spun around in the chair. “What is it? Why aren’t you with them right now?”

“I wanted to see if I could conquer multiple planets at a time.”

“No,” Merikh said without a second thought. “You’ll use two fleets per planet like we discussed and you’ll be present for everyone.”

“But I think it’d be better if we just used one per planet,” she insisted.

“No, Jahdiel,” Merikh repeated. “Two fleets per planet. One will always stay here and another will stay on standby in case of an emergency on another planet.”

“Merikh,” she kept pushing. “If we only conquer one planet at a time, it could take weeks to conquer the remaining planets. We could speed things up by doing it my way.”

“It’s too risky to send one fleet alone. I won’t do it, not now. We’ve won and I won’t take any missteps because you want to speed things up.”

“But if they’re not going to rebel, what’s there to worry about?”

“Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re not going to rebel,” Merikh warned. “If we conquer the planets with one fleet and there is a large scale rebellion at the same time you’re trying to conquer another planet, then we’re in trouble. If we come with two, they won’t think to rebel against us, and with another on standby, there is no chance they’ll succeed.”

“They have nothing left,” Jahdiel urged. “There’s no reason to be cautious now. We haven’t been up to this point and look where it’s gotten us.”

“Ahh,” he held a finger up. “And that’s why they’ll rebel. They have nothing left to lose. Their Queen just told them to surrender, and what choice do they have but to surrender?”

“None. It’s their only option if they want to live,” she answered. “And that’s exactly why more than one fleet is unnecessary.”

“All it takes is one rebel. That lone rebel could persuade an entire planet to rebel, then an entire galaxy. On top of that, we don’t know if they hid ships from the Queen. We know nothing about any of these races except that they’re desperate. Desperate races do desperate things. If they decide to give in to that desperation, I’ll have fleets ready to wipe them out.”

Jahdiel held her breath and looked at one of the screens directly in front of her. It was of Gaea and she could see that the fires had finally settled. There were a few races roaming the streets and crodillians were watching them with weapons at their sides. There were other races cleaning up the streets and repairing buildings that had crumbled. It was weird to see the crodillians not killing, but it wasn’t because they didn’t have the urge, they feared their leader, and they respected him. She knew it wouldn’t last long and the crodillians would become bloodthirsty, and of course, so would Merikh, and when that happened, Orion was doomed.

“Okay, Merikh,” Jahdiel gave up. “One planet at a time with two fleets.”

“I’m glad you understand the importance of being cautious,” Merikh turned back around in his chair. “What planet are you going to take first?”

“We’ll go to Ovrea,” she responded. “It’s a quiet planet, but it’ll be a quick planet to conquer and it’ll discourage races from retreating to the outer reaches of Orion.”

“Then go,” Merikh motioned with a flick of his claws. “The quicker it gets done, the less chance the races have to think about rebelling against us, if they are foolish enough to think about it.”

Jahdiel nodded and left Merikh alone in the reception room. It hadn’t gone as she had planned, but she wasn’t going to complain. If he wanted to take his time, then so be it, she would take her time. He’d talked about the races of Orion being foolish for thinking about rebellion, but she was starting to think he was the foolish one. In the other galaxy, he’d never shown mercy, but things changed once that they’d gotten here. She didn’t mind, but she was starting to think the power was getting to him, it was blinding him.

There was also the thing with the Queen. He’d promised she could kill her, but she was starting to doubt that after recent events. Adira seemed like a bargaining chip right now, a way to ensure there was no rebellion, but Jahdiel had other plans. If Adira was no longer hers to do with, then Merikh would’ve have broken a promise. She didn’t like that. She was starting to feel used for the first time since meeting Merikh, but she would stay quiet and see if things changed. If not, then she may have to reconsider some things, but that would come in time.

Jahdiel walked into the hangar and saw several transport ships waiting to meet with the fleets in space. There were four General’s assigned to each Colchian waiting patiently for her arrival. She walked up to them, already knowing which one would accompany her during her travels.

“Merikh has ordered that one Colchian always stay here on Hera,” Jahdiel informed them. “Another will also stay here on standby in case it’s needed while taking over one of the planets. My Colchian and Maolmordha’s Colchian will be the ones that are taking over the planets.”

Maolmordha grinned and stepped forward. He was a strange looking crodillian, and if it weren’t for his cunning skills, he would be serving the lowest job a crodillian could in a fleet. He wasn’t dumb and that’s the only reason he was in his position. Besides Merikh and herself, he was the best crodillian Commander. Probably the deadliest, even more so than herself.

Maolmordha had four orange eyes, and his skin was a burnt black with some hues of yellow visible underneath. His skin was scaly and cracked with red fluid seeping through the gaps. The crodillian’s body was disproportionate, with one arm twice the size as the other, and it looked more like an oversized club than an arm. Maolmordha was a monster, by looks and on the inside, but he was exactly what Jahdiel needed.

“We’re going to leave now, Maolmordha,” Jahdiel told him. “We’re going straight to Ovrea. I’ve already marked it on your map for you,” she looked over to the other two General’s. “You can go up to your ships and make sure your crew is ready for war, if it comes to that.”

They nodded to her and she got on her transport ship without another word. She flew up to her Colchian and prepared to leave for Ovrea. She’d already called ahead of time and told the Captain that they’d be leaving today, but she wasn’t sure at the time if she would be conquering planets alone or not. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t be, but that wasn’t her call and she wasn’t going to argue it any further. Once on board, she made her way to the Command Deck where the crodillian crew was eagerly waiting for the orders to depart.

She stood in front of her seat with her arms behind her back. “Get the Colchian ready to go to Ovrea at once. Once we arrive, we’ll wait for Maolmordha’s Colchian to exit his jump. You’ll receive further orders at that point.”

She sat down in her chair and prepared for the jump. It was going to be slow conquering one planet at a time, especially if rebellion broke out. It’d be very boring going from planet to planet if there was no action, so she hoped there was rebellion, but if there wasn’t she’d make sure it was done right. She felt the ship starting to engage and prepared to see what, if anything, was waiting for her at Ovrea.

Donnchadh called Kirill for the first time since his failed assassination attempt on Queen Adira. He never thought he’d talk to him again, but he needed to warn Kirill not to attack. If his crew had been disappointed with the Queen’s message, he didn’t want to see the crodillians’ reactions when they’d seen. It was his job to make sure Kirill was aware that the surrender wasn’t an actual surrender, it was a strategic move. If he wasn’t smart and ignored his advice, all of the ships would destroy the Deimos Brotherhood in the blink of an eye before moving on the rest of Erebos.

Kirill’s image popped up on the comlink. “Donnchadh? Is that you?”

“Yes, it’s me,” he replied. “I need to tell you something important and you need to listen carefully.”

“How’d you survive?” Kirill ignored him. “I thought you were sent to Keres. How did you get off alive?”

“The crodillians took any prisoners willing to help them and killed all of the others.”

“You’re with the crodillians? I didn’t think you were one of the lucky ones,” Kirill grinned. “Is that why you’re contacting me? Are you going to get me in there with them?”

“Not the way that you’re hoping. But if you listen to me, I’m sure you can get what you want.”

Kirill’s grin disappeared. “What do you mean? Why are you contacting me?”

“I’ve been sent to capture you and bring you to Merikh, where Jahdiel will end up killing you,” Donnchadh skipped all the other details.

“So, you’re coming to kill me is what you’re saying?”

“No,” Donnchadh shook his head. “I’m buying time. The Queen needs it if we’re to start a rebellion.”

“You’re what?” Kirill’s face started to redden. “You’re helping the Queen? How dare you betray me and work for the Queen after I sent you to kill her. Why would you even contact me?”

“Because I’m trying to save Orion,” Donnchadh tried to calm him down. “I have something else planned that may work now that Merikh seems to want peace, though I highly doubt that that’s long term.”

“What are you waiting for? Tell me before I hang up.”

“We’re almost to Erebos right now,” he said quickly. “The crodillians have been ordered to take you peacefully unless you resist. If there’s any sign of resistance, they’ll kill you and every member of the Deimos Brotherhood. I need you to surrender peacefully.”

“Why? So you can transport me easier and have me killed?”

“Hear me out,” Donnchadh urged him. “If you come peacefully, then the Deimos Brotherhood won’t be wiped out. You can try to cut some type of deal with Merikh since he wants peace. That’ll buy me time to organize a rebellion and the Deimos Brotherhood could be a valuable asset to a successful rebellion.”

“You want me to pretend to make a deal with Merikh so you can start a rebellion?” Kirill started to laugh. “You really think that’s going to work?”

“They trust me,” Donnchadh said. “I’m leading the ships that are coming to take you. They’ve put me in command.”

Kirill thought for a moment. “I guess it could work. Do you think Merikh will actually listen to me and strike a deal?”

Donnchadh nodded. “Convince him that you have services he can’t live without. If you do that, there’s no reason for him to kill you.”

“Then there’s Jahdiel,” Kirill pointed out. “I kind of screwed her a while back. That’s something that can’t really be forgiven.”

“I’m sure you two can work something out.”

“I can always have her killed, I guess,” Kirill shrugged. “I’ll have it made look like an accident.”

Donnchadh ignored the comment. “Just know that whatever deal you make is only temporary. We can’t let the crodillians take total control of Orion. I’m sure that even you know that.”

“How much longer until you arrive on Erebos?”

“Soon,” Donnchadh answered. “Are you going to do what I told you?”

“Yeah. Yeah,” Kirill waved his hand. “Surrender peacefully so we can get rid of the crodillians once and for all.”

“I’ll call you again right before we land,” Donnchadh hung up.

He’d expected Kirill to follow along with his plan. Though he wasn’t much different than Merikh deep down, he’d always be up for a plan that had the potential to put him in power. With the crodillians in control, he had absolutely no chance to be in power. They were much more powerful than any enemy he had ever faced. Kirill wasn’t old, but Donnchadh knew that he couldn’t be patient much longer. He’d never truly get the chance to rule, but he was needed in order to put together a rebellion, and if he thought there was a chance for power, Donnchadh would allow him to think it.

He let out a breath and sunk his face into his black hands. He was scared and wanted to do what the crodillians told him and be done, but he couldn’t. He’d followed twisted, cruel, orders enough in his life. He was treading very dangerous waters right now, but if he didn’t, who would? The videos of Gaea were only a small example of would happen to rebellions. He was sure almost every race would obey any order give, so that left only him. Races couldn’t give up like this and someone had to risk their life to save Orion, otherwise they were all doomed. Pasts no longer mattered, even if he was one of the biggest traitors in Orion’s history.

[] Chapter 8

Kirill immediately called his contact who’d been out of touch with him since around the time of the attack on Hera.

The contact’s blue image popped up. “It’s not safe to be contacting me, Kirill. There’s a reason I haven’t reached out to you yet.”

“I think it’s safe.”

“They’ve killed everyone else in the Palace except for the Queen! Please tell me how I’m safe from these monsters.”

“They haven’t killed you yet, you’ll be fine.”

“The only reason they haven’t killed me is because they haven’t found the secret tunnels yet! If they find them, then I’ll end up like the rest of the Palace. Tortured to death in the dungeons and left to rot away.”

Kirill ignored him, knowing he was blowing things way out of proportion. Sure the crodillians were probably killing everything they saw, but his contact was safe from harm. The tunnels were well hidden. “We have more important things to discuss. If you want, we can talk about your tragic situation after.”

“Don’t mock me! You have no idea what it’s like hiding like a rat,” the contact let out a long, exasperated, breath. “What do you need to talk to me about? If you’re still thinking about taking Adira’s spot on the Throne, I hate to tell you, but that’s out of the question.”

“No. No. I don’t want to discuss that quite yet,” Kirill waved his hands. “Donnchadh is still alive. The crodillians freed him from his imprisonment.”

“What? You’ve seen him?”

“He just contacted me!” Kirill revealed. “He wants me to surrender to the crodillians.”

“He’s working for the crodillians now?” The contact asked.

“I’m not really sure who he works for,” he shrugged. “He said they freed him from Keres and now he’s leading a bunch of ships to capture me. Maybe he’s just helping them, but I know him, he has other motives driving him.”

“Why would the crodillians send him to get you? They have their own for that. They’ve proven to be more than capable of doing near anything.”

“He said they’re going to kill me. But that was until the Queen released a message for peace. Things may have changed since Donnchadh left to get me.”

“So that was a public message,” the contact mumbled. “I wasn’t sure what they were doing in that room.”

“You heard it?”

“Just because I’ve been hiding in the tunnels, doesn’t mean that I haven’t been listening in on things,” the contact a sly grin crossed the image’s face. “I missed the whole Donnchadh thing, but I heard the Queen’s message. I wasn’t sure if it was really being sent to all of Orion or if they were just playing her.”

“Well, it was definitely real, and Donnchadh wants to use it against them.”

“How exactly would he use that against them?”

“He wants to take me to the leader so I can strike a deal,” Kirill answered. “He said that it’ll buy him enough time to start a rebellion.”

The contact’s head nodded. “I do think that’s a good idea. It’s the best chance we have to get out of this mess. Unless we do something, this entire galaxy will fall apart.”

“No,” Kirill shook his head. “I think it’s a terrible idea. The plan is foolish and reckless.”

The contact looked at Kirill with a look of confusion. “You don’t think his plan is a good idea?”

“No,” Kirill laughed. “It’s awful, but Donnchadh thinks it’s great, which I can play against him.”

“I’m kind of lost here. Where are you going with this?”

“I told Donnchadh I’d follow along with his plan. I’m not.”

“You don’t plan on attacking the crodillians without any type of assistance, do you?”

“Hell no!” Kirill chuckled. “Even I’m not that dumb. I know what I have on hand and it’s no match against the crodillians. My men will be best fit fighting on the crodillians’ side and that’s what I’ll propose to their leader.”

“Their side?” The contact leaned forward. “You can’t be serious. Oh, Kirill, don’t do this.”

“I’ll strike an alliance with the crodillians,” he lifted his chin proudly. “We have almost the same goals in mind, so why not work together?”

“I can give you plenty of good reasons why not to work with them!” The contact said.

“Well, I don’t want to hear any of them,” Kirill glared. “Just because we strike an alliance doesn’t mean I can’t betray them later. I’ve been patient this long, I can be patient some time more.”

“You really don’t want to mess with the crodillians, Kirill,” the contact warned. “I’ve seen what they do. You don’t want any part of it. If you were wise, you’d get off of Erebos as quickly as possible.”

“I’ve seen what they can do,” Kirill said. “And they seem to be doing almost exactly what I want to do. We have many things in common. I believe we’ll get along just fine.”

“Since I’m apparently not going to talk you out of it, how are we proceeding?”

“I’ll surrender when Donnchadh comes to get me,” Kirill nodded to himself, already falling in love with his plan. “But I’ll reveal his betrayal to the crodillians and let them kill him for it. It’ll gain the trust I need in order to speak to Merikh. From there, I’m sure we can work some things out. I’m a flexible man, I’ll make something happen.”

“Your plan sounds like may work, but are you sure that’s what you want to do?”

“Of course I’m sure that’s what I want to do. Donnchadh came to kill me, now I’ll make sure the crodillians kill him. He’s failed me and he’s crossed me, for that, he’ll pay with his life.”

“I don’t care about Donnchadh,” the contact said with a flick of the wrist. “I’m talking about working with the crodillians. You won’t win the hearts of Orion teaming up with them. These creatures have torn apart families and ravaged planets. When they catch whiff of this, it’ll be seen as betrayal. Any chance you had that they’d follow you would be gone.”

“Then I’ll have to find a way to make sure no one finds out my true intentions,” Kirill grinned. “I won’t need the crodillians forever.”

“And they won’t need you forever either.”

“They may not, but I’ll be done with them before they’re done with me.”

The contact let out a breath. “Let’s hope so. For both of our sake’s.”

Pyrrhus’ ship entered Hermes’ atmosphere and headed towards Thermopylae. He could tell the races were confused about what to expect from the crodillians. They’d heard the Queen’s message, but had also seen the death and destruction suffered by several planets. The spaceport and surrounding city wasn’t teeming with life as it normally was, but those outside appeared ready to rebel upon sight of any crodillian.

He’d been smart to choose this planet first, otherwise every race would’ve been slaughtered. The closer his ship got, the more he could see going on in the city, and it didn’t look good. Many of the roofs occupied by several races holding cannon launchers, and what few ships there were, were circling the city waiting to attack. Pyrrhus would have to calm things down quite a bit, but at least he wouldn’t have any problems finding rebels to fight for his cause. The whole planet seemed defiant and that was good news for him.

The pilot landed the cargo ship and Pyrrhus stepped onto the spaceport. He wasn’t approached by anyone, in fact, he was completely ignored by every race on the pad. He walked through the city where races were giving out weapons and headed directly to the bar. If there was a leader in charge of this recklessness, he’d be in the bar getting drunk. At least that’s what he’d be doing if he was in charge of something with so little thought put into it. The door was already opened when he arrived and he stepped in the dimly lit building.

“And then we’ll blow those bastards to pieces and send them back where they came from!” A white female human pumped her fist in the air. “No one comes to our home and kills our families, not without paying the price!”

A group of men were gathered around her, but Pyrrhus wasn’t sure if it was because of her looks, or because she had such a strong, demanding, voice that boomed to every corner of the bar. She was over average height for a female human, standing about as tall as himself. Dark brown hair touched the shoulders of her old battle armor and her green eyes pierced through him when she turned his way. A sonic rifle was slung over her back and she held a laser pistol in her right hand.

Pyrrhus pushed his way through the group of male races. “Blow who to pieces, may I ask?”

“The crodillians of course,” she answered. “Who else? Have you not been watching what’s been happening around Orion recently, or have you just been living under some rock?”

Pyrrhus leaned in closer. “Oh, I’ve been watching and listening. And if I remember correctly, and this is a big if, the Queen said not to rebel like fools. At first glance, this would look like rebelling like reckless fools.”

The female pushed him back with both hands and pointed her pistol at him. “You want us to surrender as the Queen suggested. That’s not the Queen I know. The Queen I knew would never surrender, no matter what the cost.”

“Maybe that Queen was trying to save your ass,” Pyrrhus crossed his arms.

The female raised her eyebrows. “And how is that, Mr. What’s your name?”

“Pyrrhus,” he answered. “General Pyrrhus.”

Whispers erupted around the room as he spoke his name. He could see races pointing at him, as they were finally matching the name with the face. The female seemed to back up a little before regaining her composure and lowering her weapon.

“Why are you here to stop a rebellion, General?” She asked. “I wouldn’t think you would want us to stop rebelling against these monsters. You know as well as any that we can’t let them take over this galaxy.”

“You’re right. I don’t want to give our homes to them,” Pyrrhus nodded. “They killed my whole crew and crews of my comrade’s. I want them to pay, but not like this. We have to be smart about how we proceed. Making a demonstration like there is outside will only lead to the deaths of many who could help win a rebellion.”

“Then how do I fix it?” The female asked. “Would you rather I lay down my arms and surrender to the crodillians?”

“If surrender makes the crodillians stop killing the races of Orion,” he nodded and took a step forward. “Then yes. Surrender is what you must do.”

Yells of protest emerged throughout the bar and some of the races began throwing objects in his direction. The female held her hand up and the room immediately calmed down.

“I’ve heard of you General Pyrrhus and I know that surrendering isn’t in your nature. Why would you suggest we surrender without a fight?”

“It’s what the Queen asked us to do,” Pyrrhus shrugged. “Isn’t that enough reason?”

“She was forced to say that,” the female replied defiantly. “Are you foolish enough to believe she said that on her own accord? She’s been beaten, starved, and tortured.”

“She said it on her own. No one forced her to say a word of it,” he grinned, knowing it’d anger her. “But you apparently didn’t pay close enough attention to what she said, though I admire you for doing all you’ve done on Hermes thus far.”

“I paid attention!” The female shouted. “She was chained like an animal and has lost all hope. I will not give up hope! I’ll fight until my last dying breath.”

“If you really paid attention, this rebellion you’ve put together wouldn’t be so…,” Pyrrhus stroked his chin and wrapped his finger around his braided beard. “Obvious is the word I was looking for. Yes, obvious. It’d be much more discreet, like the Queen tried to tell you, if you’d heard a word she said.”

“What?” She sounded confused. “She never said anything like that.”

“The Queen obviously couldn’t tell us to rebel openly, or we’d be killed, as would she. Another thing she couldn’t say was to establish secret rebellion forces. So, she said it a little less obviously,” Pyrrhus told her, knowing he’d finally gotten her attention. “There was one last thing that she didn’t tell them, that I’m sure you have no clue about either, so I’ll tell you now. We have around three hundred ships ready for battle waiting at Ares.”

The bar got quiet when they heard about warships on Ares. The female took a step closer to him and leaned in.

“You’ve come to help us then?” A smile crossed her face and she began to laugh.

Pyrrhus grinned. “I’ve come to do more than help. I have a hidden military base for you to take rebels to. You’ll be able to train and take refuge there until we’re ready to strike.”

“That’s just what I wanted to hear.”

“What’s your name?” Pyrrhus asked her.

“Zarah,” she answered.

“How’d you end up here on Hermes?” He asked. “You’re not native, I can tell by your voice.”

She looked down to the ground, a look of sorrow washing over her face. “I came here after my family was slaughtered on Gaea. I knew it was where many races would come and I wanted to be a part of a rebellion. I refused to accept defeat. There was no chance in hell I’d accept their peace offering.”

“Well, it looks like you are the leader of a rebellion now,” Pyrrhus put his hand on her shoulder. “We won’t let the crodillians take Orion from us, but we need them to think that for the time being.”

“Where is this base that you’re talking about?” Zarah asked. “No one here has mentioned a military base to me.”

Pyrrhus turned around. “I’ll take you to it myself.”

He led her out of the bar and into the streets where he stopped a race about to board a glider. Pyrrhus handed over some currency in his pocket, which was much more than the glider was worth, and the race happily took the money before running off.

“We can talk more on the way there,” he said, throwing his leg over the glider. “Come on, get on.”

Zarah got on the glider behind Pyrrhus and he took off towards the dark green forest. He wasn’t taking a traveled road, but it was a secret base that very few knew existed. It wasn’t too far off from Thermopylae, but it was far enough that no one had ever accidently stumbled upon it. Pyrrhus steered the glider through the trees, zooming in and out, barely missing several large limbs hanging low.

“Why do those races follow you?” He yelled over his shoulder.

“Back there?” Zarah asked.

“Yeah,” he replied. “They were all gathered around you like you were their leader, but you don’t carry yourself like one. You’re humble, forthright, not like a military leader. What’d you do back on Gaea?”

“I didn’t do anything important, really,” she said. “I was just a regular citizen. I worked at a high school as a principal.”

“So you’re used to leading groups of races?” He said more to himself than to Zarah.

“Yeah, I guess, but nothing like this.”

“They follow you without question,” he said. “When I walked in, the first thing I saw was a group of races gathered around a strong leader. They were listening to every word you said. Everything that came from your mouth was absorbed by them. Those races believe they can win a rebellion because you’ve told them they can.”

“They killed my whole family,” she said. “My husband and my two little girls. I watched them get blown to pieces right in front of me. My whole life, gone in the blink of an eye.”

“I’m sorry,” Pyrrhus comforted. “They can’t come back, but we won’t ever let anyone forget them. We’ll make the crodillians pay for what they’ve done.”

“I know they can’t come back,” she replied. “That’s why I came here. I didn’t want to just be part of a rebellion, I wanted have a chance to lead something successful. Funny thing is, I never thought they’d follow me like this.”

“But they do and now you’re their leader,” Pyrrhus reassured her. “Did you set up all those men on the rooftops and have the ships circle Thermopylae?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “Most of the military leaders are gone, though there were a few of lower ranks hiding here when I arrived. They didn’t want to defend Hera. They hid here like cowards while their families were killed. How could someone do that?”

“I don’t know,” he shook his head and steered the glider around and enormous tree. “Someone heartless is all I can guess.”

“They were trying to start a rebellion when I arrived, but no one was listening to them. Most were cowering indoors, praying that a miracle would save them,” she told him. “I was one of the first to arrive here from Gaea and I immediately told every race what I saw happen. At first, they came to comfort me and help me. Once I saw how bad they needed a real leader, I had no choice but to take charge. There were several male races trying to lead, but they wanted to take the fight to Hera. I saw what happened on Gaea and I knew that wouldn’t work, so I started to speak out and they listened, so I kept talking to them. Of course I saw the message for peace, but I still ordered ships to circle and races to go to rooftops. I let everyone know that if they tried to kill us, we wouldn’t go down so easy. Hope was something they needed, something I myself almost lost on Gaea.”

Pyrrhus brought the glider to a stop. “You’ve brought them more than hope, and soon, you’ll help bring them victory.”

He got off of the glider and walked over to a small concrete building covered with thick layers of moss and leaves. A wooden door creaked open and he stepped in. Zarah followed him in the building. There were several broken chairs and other useless equipment scattered across the deteriorating room.

“Where’s the base?” She asked.

“It’s underneath us,” Pyrrhus grinned. “It’s another reason I chose Hermes as my first stop. The crodillians can’t stop what they can’t see.”

“An entire military base is underneath us?”

He walked over to the wall in front of the door and put his hand on a picture of Orion. There was a noise of concrete scraping on concrete and a stairway was revealed in the new opening.

“Yes. There’s an entire military base right underneath us,” he turned around to face her. “Want to have a quick tour of the place?”

“Of course I do,” she followed him down the stairs.

“This is the Dining Hall,” he pointed as they were walking down the stairs. “From here, you have several places you can go. To the left and right you have regular bunkers for males and females.”

“Do I need to separate them?” She asked. “There’s going to be families here and I’d rather keep them together. We’ll be fighting as one, I don’t see a need to separate gender.”

“Your call. You’re in charge of this place when I leave,” he informed her. “Do whatever you think will help us win this war. These are your races, you know them better than anyone else.”

“Okay,” she nodded. “What about those hallways?” She pointed.

“The ones right in front of us are recreation and your bunker.”

My bunker?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “You’re the General here, so you get you own bunker,” he led her down the hallway to the bunker. “Place you hand here,” he motioned.

Zarah placed her hand on a pad and the door hissed opened, revealing a very luxurious bunker. There was an oversized bed in one corner of the room and all the walls were lined with bookshelves. The room was filled with hundreds of books, more than anyone would have time to read in a year spent alone.

“This bunker will now recognize your hand and will only open to your hand. Same with the entrance. Once you find officers to appoint under you, you can also assign their hands to the scanner on the entrance, but no one else.”

“Wow,” she said looking around the bunker.

“Now we’re going this way,” Pyrrhus left the bunker and took a right. “This is the weight training and hand to hand combat room.”

“This place is huge,” she looked down at the floors below her. “How’ve you been able to keep this hidden?”

“This base can hold thousands of races at once and keep them in here for months at a time without leaving. It’s not hard to get people in here without anyone noticing, especially at night,” he informed her. “Anyway, once you leave this area, it’s the simulation room. Good for pilots and those who want to face different combat scenarios,” he continued through the room without stopping. “The last one on this side is the medical room. There’s no nurses now, but I’m sure that you’ll find plenty in Thermopylae who’ll be willing to help.”

“There are going to be thousands who will want to come here,” she replied. “I’m sure I’ll find more than a few willing to work here.”

“I know you’ll find them,” Pyrrhus nodded, going back to the Dining Hall. “But you have to let everyone know that once they come here, they can’t leave.”

“They have to stay here?”

“Yes,” Pyrrhus nodded. “The crodillians will be here soon. We don’t want them to find this base because someone is careless and either opens their mouth or leads them here. There’s more than enough here to house thousands for months, which means they shouldn’t need to leave, only come.”

“I understand,” Zarah nodded. “I’ll let every race who is interested in coming know.”

“Good,” he led her down another hallway. “This is the library. Pretty self-explanatory, mostly books on war, but some may find it worth their time to gain knowledge, though most will probably train. There’s the Briefing Room,” he pointed at the end of the library. “Comes with everything you’ll need. There are maps of Orion, Hermes, or any other planet you may want to see. You’ll be able to contact me or any other General from the comline system that’s hooked up. You’ve been granted full access to anything and everything necessary to the success of the rebellion.”

“Am I going to plan out my own rebellion here?” Zarah held him back from moving on to the next room. “Like, actually plan it all myself?”

“Of course not. You won’t plan the entire rebellion alone,” Pyrrhus put his hand on her shoulder. “You’ll just plan out Hermes, but you’ll have officers you choose to help you. There will be some who are knowledgeable on things like this, and I will also have military leaders helping you with strategies if you need it.”

“Okay,” she nodded wide-eyed. “It’s just so much to take in at once.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll have a lot of help,” he walked straight down the hallway to the very end and opened a set of metal doors. They hissed open and he walked inside, putting his hands on his hips. “Now this is where all the cool stuff is kept.”

The room was filled with weapons, small ships, glider bikes, and different land to air combat vehicles. There weren’t any big warships, but there were enough weapons and small vehicles to start a decent rebellion and have a shot at winning.

“No one needed any of this stuff?” Zarah asked him.

“No,” Pyrrhus rubbed his hand over his head. “The goal was to stop the crodillians at Hera. I didn’t think it was possible, but it was my duty to try, though I didn’t stick it out.”

“You were actually there?” Zarah looked at him. “I thought you were commanding from somewhere else.”

“No. I was there,” he looked down. “I abandoned my ship so I could warn the remaining planetary and military leaders not to make the same mistake twice.”

“If you hadn’t made that choice, none of this would be happening right now,” she said. “You know them better now and we’ll defeat them this time. We’ve all lost friends and family we love. We’ve had to leave things behind we never thought we would. Now we have to come together, forget the things we regret, and keep our loved lost ones in our hearts. They’ll help us through this. Even if it’s hard to believe, they’ll give us the strength and courage we need to endure the coming months.”

“You’ll lead these rebels to victory Zarah,” Pyrrhus put his hand on her shoulder and looked at the weapons and vehicles parked in front of him. “The crodillians will be here soon, but they’ll never see all of this coming. Not until it’s too late.”

[] Chapter 9

Anlon and Kanti laid on the cold ground, snuggled up tightly, trying to share body warmth and avoid freezing to death from the frigid temperature. The storm had taken a turn for the worse, making it impossible to reach the peak of the mountain in one trip. Camillus had stopped them, telling them their only chance of survival was to try and make it through the night. They hadn’t been prepared to stop so long, leaving them all underdressed for the intense storm. Luckily, they’d found a small cave large enough to fit all but one of them and Camillus had offered to be the odd one out. It wasn’t any warmer inside, but they were protected from the whipping winds and pounding of snow.

Anlon woke up to a nudge in his side and saw the sun was peeking through the white clouds. He got up from the ground and left the cave, relieved to see the snow had stopped falling.

“I think the storm has finally passed over us,” Camillus said.

“I don’t think the others are ready to move yet. It was a rough night.”

“We don’t have a choice,” Camillus said. “There may be another storm rolling in, but I’m having a hard time telling whether it will fall apart or not.”

“I guess I’ll wake them up,” Anlon moved towards the cave.

“We’re close to the top,” Camillus said over his shoulder. “They’ll have shelter much better than what we have right now.”

Anlon nudged the others awake and waited next to Camillus as they all crawled out. They came out one by one, stretching out all the soreness from the rocky ground, looking to Anlon and the humanoid groggily.

“Already time to go?” Falcone asked. “We didn’t even get a full night’s rest. How do expect me to run on that?”

“We’re close to the top,” Camillus ignored the sarcasm. “The quicker we get there, the faster you’ll be somewhere warm. Not to mention safe from any further storms.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Kanti asked. “Let’s get moving.”

“You heard the lady,” Falcone walked to his glider. “Let’s get moving.”

They all got on their gliders and followed Camillus to the top of the mountain. He hadn’t lied when he said they were close, Anlon just hadn’t been aware how close they’d been to finishing the trip. It was only about a twenty minute ride, but he understood Camillus’ decision to pull over. They couldn’t see well in the storm, but the path had slowly narrowed the further up they’d traveled, and now, it was very clear. If they hadn’t have made the stop, he had no doubt one of them would’ve fallen off the side.

Camillus stopped and hopped off his glider, motioning the others to make the walk with him the remaining way. When they reached the peak, an ancient building was visible in the center of a small canyon. It was a dark grey stone, native to Ovrea, and there were multiple age cracks spanning several feet long on the building. There were different sculptures scattered around yard and a well-kept path leading straight to the ancient building’s entrance.

“Wow. This place is amazing,” Nimesha said. “It looks nothing like the rest of the planet.”

“It’s considered sacred ground,” Camillus informed them. “Very few are privileged to come here and very few know of its existence.”

“How’d you find out where it was at then?” Kanti asked.

“He knows everything. He’s the know all humanoid,” Falcone chuckled.

“No, I don’t know everything,” he glared in Falcone’s direction. “This is one of the places the Queen implanted in my memory. When she had me built, she thought it was important I know of this Temple.”

“Well, we’re all lucky she did. And soon we may find out just how lucky,” Nimesha walked up the path to the Temple. “If we’re really lucky, they’ll have a weapon that can wipe all the crodillians out in one swoop.”

“If only we were that lucky,” Falcone replied.

The others followed her up the path to the building. Before they could reach the doors of the Temple, they were stopped from behind by an Ovrean.

“Why do you go there?” His voice boomed through the mountains.

“We’ve come to speak to the Elders,” Anlon answered.

“If the Elders wanted to speak with you, they would’ve sent someone for you,” the rock man responded. “Seeing as they didn’t, you need to leave.”

“We’re not going anywhere until I say so,” Kanti stepped forward. “We’re going to talk to the Elders and you’re going to take us to them.”

“You will leave this Temple immediately or I will force you to leave.”

“Do you know who I am?” Kanti asked, obviously knowing he didn’t know that answer to the question.

“No,” the rock man answered her. “It doesn’t matter who you are. If the Elders haven’t asked to see you, you’re not welcome here. This is sacred ground and I’m asking you to respect my request to leave peacefully.”

“I’m the Princess of Orion,” she ignored him. “My mother couldn’t travel here due to unfortunate circumstances, so I’ve traveled in her place. If you don’t know already, Orion is in a little bit of trouble and we’ve been led to believe the Elders may be able to assist us.”

“The Elders have said nothing about the arrival of a Princess,” he replied, standing his ground firmly.

“Ahh,” A voice came from behind the Ovrean. “So it is true. Queen Adira has a daughter. She did an excellent job of concealing you all of those years. I must admit, she had even myself fooled for some time.”

A smaller Ovrean appeared from behind the guard. He looked frail and old, with brittle cracks on his light grey body. His cane tapped on the ground until he reached Kanti’s feet.

“And what is your name, young Princess?” He asked.

“It’s Kanti,” she smiled. “Who are you?”

“I am Zimran,” he bowed. “It is a pleasure to finally meet the Queen’s daughter. We never believed you died, but we had no proof of your existence, so we had to accept it all these years. We’ll make sure to go back and change the records now that we know otherwise.”

“You believed she was alive?” Anlon asked.

Zimran nodded. “We’re the keepers of knowledge. We know most everything that happens in Orion, even things that are supposed to be hidden. We’ve bestowed it upon ourselves to make sure the histories are recorded correctly with as little information lost as possible. Someone must to it, so we take it upon ourselves.”

“Excellent. That’s just what we wanted to hear,” Falcone said. “Then you’ll be able to help us.”

“Come in. Come in,” he ushered them. “We can talk more inside of the Temple. It is much too cold to be speaking out here. It hurts my old body being out here for too long. I’ve become sensitive in my old age.”

They followed Zimran up the stone steps and to the red wooden door. Zimran easily pushed it open and motioned them all inside. The interior was made of the same stone, as if they were in a giant hollowed out rock. The floors and walls had been polished to give it a shine, but other than that, it was natural, unaltered stone. Long banners hung from the ceiling with the emblems of all past leaders.

“Come,” Zimran motioned. “I will take you to the guest chamber.”

They followed him down the hall into a large room filled with more doorways. The part of the room they were in now appeared to be some type of lounging area with a table and couches they could sit on.

“You all can stay here as long as you need. Our doors are always open to the Princess,” Zimran told them. “This is where you can eat and relax. The other rooms are for you to rest. There is not much here, but it should be enough to suffice for a short period of time. If we’d known of your arrival, we would’ve prepared something more elegant.”

“It was very last minute and we didn’t have time to wait for word to get to you. We don’t plan on staying here long either,” Anlon told him. “We came here to see if you had some information that may help us.”

“Hmm,” Zimran thought aloud. “And what exactly are you looking for?”

“How to defeat the crodillians,” Kanti replied. “They’ve come back to Orion and are killing everything in their path.”

“And you believe that we can help you defeat them?”

“We didn’t travel through that cold for nothing,” Falcone smirked. “Pretty nasty weather you guys got here. I’m definitely marking it off my list of possible vacation spots.”

Kanti glared at Falcone. “Yes, Zimran, we think that you may be able to help us tremendously.”

“I’m not all that sure there is anything we can do for you that would help you defeat them. We just keep records of histories, nothing else.”

“We just need to know how you did it the first time,” Camillus said. “And whatever else you may know about them. We know nothing and have lost almost all of our forces trying to stop them. Even the smallest bit of information will go a long way.”

“We have heard of their recent arrival,” Zimran nodded. “But the Queen has also requested peace. Not too long ago either, if I’m correct.

“You know the histories better than any of us, do the crodillians really want peace?” Camillus asked.

Zimran stroked his chin. “The histories would say otherwise. They’ve proven to be a violent race throughout their history here.”

“Then we need your help,” Kanti pleaded. “Anything that will help us defeat the crodillians.”

“I will speak to the others,” Zimran nodded. “I’ll come back once I have gathered them all and we can all speak together. You will get all the information you need, if we have any.”

“Thank you,” Nimesha smiled. “We can’t defeat them without your help.”

Zimran nodded and slowly walked out of the room. Anlon and the others stood quietly, anxious for him to return. If they weren’t able to tell them anything useful, then Orion could very well be doomed. Anlon was sure they knew something, the crodillians couldn’t have changed that much since the last war.

“Settle down!” Kirill ordered. “I have pressing matters to discuss with you, and every one of you needs to listen carefully to what I tell you.”

The members of the Deimos Brotherhood instantly quieted down. Kirill stood above all of them and looked over the crowd. He’d brought every one of his men, and women, back from whatever missions they had been on to be here. Since the crodillians had invaded Orion, there hadn’t been much work to be carried out anyway.

“As you are all well aware, a race called the crodillians had magically appeared in Orion and are currently destroying the entire galaxy.” Boos and shouts came from the crowd. Kirill held his hands up to quiet them down so he could finish. “But there is also something that you are unaware of,” he paused a moment to make sure that everyone was paying attention. “They’re coming here, to our base, to capture me and kill anyone that tries to stop them.” Kirill let them start talking amongst themselves for a moment. The assassins all turned to each other, confused, and then back to Kirill, waiting for more. “Donnchadh has called me and said he’s personally leading the mission for my capture. He requested that I turn myself over peacefully so his new leader, Jahdiel, may kill me with her own hands. He also said if anyone as much as raises a finger in protest, he’ll launch an attack to obliterate Erebos entirely.”

Kirill grinned to himself. He could see the anger growing on the faces of his assassins and knew he would be able to easily fool the crodillians too. He was making Donnchadh look like a ruthless traitor and that’s exactly what he’d hoped for. None of the assassins needed to know Donnchadh’s true plans. That information wasn’t any of their business. It was for him, and him alone, to know.

“I believe we should listen to him and surrender peacefully.” Boos and shouts from the crowd erupted once again, this time much louder than before. There were even some shouting to kill Donnchadh and to attack the crodillians at first sight. “We won’t be prisoners!” Kirill shouted over the noise. “We’ll make Donnchadh look like the traitor he is. He should’ve never have contacted me, now we’ll use it against him. They should be arriving here very soon, and we’ll be waiting for them, unarmed. We’ll tell the crodillians he wanted us to attack them and take them out. And why wouldn’t they believe it?” He looked around the room. “How else would we know they would be here unless he gave us a warning? They’re a strong opponent, but will be an even stronger ally!” Kirill pumped his fist in the air. “We won’t attack them. Our surrender will prove we respect them and it will gain us an indispensable ally! We’ll show them what we can do and leave them no choice but to side with us. Finally, we’ll be on top, unlike the rest of the races of Orion who are cowering in fear. Soon, they will fear not just the crodillians, but us. We will rule them!”

The races pumped their fists in the air and started cheering. He could see he’d easily fooled every one of them. If there were flaws in his speech, none of them had picked up on them. All they cared about in the end was killing and wielding power. If surrendering meant they could ultimately live to kill more, he knew they would have no problem with it. It was how he’d trained them, and why he’d personally exterminated any he thought straying from the path he laid for them.

“Everyone go on the other side of the lava lake now,” Kirill ordered. “We’ll wait for our new allies to arrive and show them how eager we are to work with them. Leave all weapons here, give them no doubt that our only intentions are to work with them.”

The room quickly cleared out as the races made their way to the other side of the lava lake. They were all using the path that traveled underneath the lake, exiting through a secret passageway on the other side. Before Kirill could follow them all out through the tunnel, he was stopped by Ulisse. The arachnid was intentionally lagging behind the others.

“This isn’t right Kirill,” Ulisse told him. “We’re betraying one of our own.”

“Donnchadh?” Kirill almost chuckled. “He’s no longer one of us.”

“He is,” Ulisse insisted. “We left him behind to die on Hera, but he survived. It’s partly my fault he’s not here with us right now. We shouldn’t be betraying him like this now, even if he is coming to attack us. He warned us. Donnchadh is trying to help us, not kill us.”

“He’s coming here to send me to a sure death along with anyone who opposes him.”

“But he warned you he was coming,” Ulisse said. “He saved all of our lives by giving us a chance to leave and now we’re going to take his?”

“Would you rather see me die and him live?”

“No,” Ulisse shook his head. “But I don’t think we should lie to the crodillians so that they kill him instead. We don’t need to mention him at all.”

“Ohh, Ulisse,” Kirill placed his hand on hairy body. “Donnchadh should already be dead, so what does it really matter if they kill him? Don’t you think that we are more deserving to live? We’re stronger than he is. We’re willing to do things he isn’t.”

“What makes you think that the crodillians won’t kill us after they kill him?”

“I don’t know if they’ll let us live, but if we’re alive, wouldn’t you rather not be one of their enemies?”

Ulisse thought a moment. “If we betray Donnchadh now, what’s to say another one of our own won’t betray us somewhere down the line later?”

“We’re not betraying him, Ulisse. We’re using him as a means to survive. We don’t know if they’ll kill him anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The crodillians said they’re being merciful right now. I’m sure they’ll give him some type of fair trial.”

“You’ve seen what they’ve done. You can’t honestly believe that.”

“Look, Ulisse,” Kirill began to glare. “You’re either with me or you’re not. Just know now that lying about Donnchadh is the only way you’ll survive. If all of a sudden you want to be a hero, then go ahead and try to save him, but don’t say I didn’t warn you of the consequences. Men like us have to make hard decisions, and trust me when I say this is one of the hardest I’ve had to make.”

“Okay,” Ulisse nodded with a slight sigh. “I guess I understand. It’s just, I knew him so well.”

“He’s different now,” Kirill lied. “He wants us all dead, even if he did warn us. If you don’t go along with this, he’ll have you killed without a second thought. I can see the look in his eyes, it’s changed. He’s always been overly ambitious, and now, he’s seizing the opportunity to take out the only threat standing in his way.”

Ulisse nodded and left the room to meet the others at the lake. Kirill stayed behind so he could walk down the tunnel alone. He figured some races might be against what he was doing, but he didn’t care. This was his best chance at getting what he wanted. No assassin would get in his way. If Ulisse hadn’t agreed, he would’ve killed him on the spot and left his body to rot. It wouldn’t have been any harder of a decision than it was to lie about Donnchadh’s true intentions.

[] Chapter 10

“Jahdiel, we’re a couple of minutes from arriving at Ovrea,” the approached her from behind.

“Excellent,” she looked out of the window with her arms behind her back. “Make sure that all of the fighters and bombers are manned, ready to attack at my command I want there to be no delay if things look like they’re going to turn against us.

“Yes ma’am,” the Captain nodded and left her alone.

She still wasn’t pleased that Merikh hadn’t wanted to even consider her plan. She’d been listening in to reports of the planets they’d already assumed control of and there weren’t even the slightest signs of rebellion. The races of Orion had given up. A fight against the crodillians was hopeless and everyone could see it clear as day. There was no way Merikh wasn’t seeing the same thing she was, but for some reason he was being passive. Usually, he gave her a nod for whatever she wanted to do, but lately that wasn’t the case. Things were beginning to change between the two of them, and she didn’t like the feeling of it. It was as if she had been a pawn, not a leader, and her use was almost up.

Jahdiel felt the ship decelerate from sonodrive and she shifted her attention back to the window. Ovrea loomed in front of her. A planet she knew as a cold hell. It was the last place she’d want to lead any type of rebellion.

She looked down to the crodillians below her. “Order the bombers to depart. Start looking for places to land on Ovrea.”

The crodillians below her quickly sent orders to the pilots and it wasn’t long before a stream of ships were speeding towards the frozen planet. It was one of the least likely planets of them all to rebel due to the frigid temperatures. It was crystal white with hues of light blue peeking through the layers of ice and storm clouds were scattered in clusters all over the planet. This wouldn’t be one of the planets that she landed on, she hated the cold. She would just take the crodillians’ word on it and leave a few hundred unlucky ones to freeze away.

“The bombers are reporting no rebelling ma’am,” one of the crodillians shouted up to her.

“Have they established control in any towns or cities yet?”

“No ma’am, I don’t believe so,” another replied, pouring through feeds on the screen in front of him. “They’re still looking for signs of life. I’ll have them circle back around to see if they’ve missed anything. It looks like a very treacherous planet to live on.”

Jahdiel waited patiently in her seat, awaiting the next update. She knew it would take them awhile, especially if the races were in hiding which was very likely. The temperatures were a good reason to hide, but the crodillians were an even better reason.

“We’ve just located a city,” a crodillian reported. “They’ve come out of their homes and are standing outside with their hands in the air. It appears they’re giving themselves up.”

“Yes. They’re surrendering,” Jahdiel said under her breath. “Land some bombers in the city and take control of it. If this city is surrendering without a fight, the rest will too.”

“Would you like us to dispatch fighters to add to the numbers looking for cities?”

“No,” Jahdiel shook her head. “We can’t overtake every city here. We’ll just establish ourselves at a few and move on to the next planet. The only reason we’re here is to make our presence known.”

“We haven’t received any other reports of cities found yet. It could be some time.”

“You will in time, just be patient,” she said. “There is nowhere else for us to go for the time being. We can wait until they’ve found enough cities to establish strongholds.”

Jahdiel pulled out her comlink and called Merikh. Usually, she wouldn’t do this until she was sure the planet was taken over, but she’d seen no reason it wouldn’t be. She wanted him to know that she’d been right, and that he’d been wrong. There was no rebellion and there would never be a rebellion. His answers would reveal his true feeling towards her. If she was just being used, she’d be able to tell very quickly from his tone and responses, though she wouldn’t mention anything about it. She had no true friends, she hadn’t for years. Acquaintances were all she had and they were all loyal to Merikh, one slip of the tongue and she’d surely be dead.

“What do you have to report to me? I hope there was no trouble in taking Ovrea,” Merikh looked bored with the Queen chained next to him.

“No,” Jahdiel shook her head. “Quite the opposite, actually. Ovrea has surrendered with their hands in the air. They didn’t even put up the slightest bit of a fight against us.”

Merikh nodded. “I’m glad to hear it. This doesn’t mean that every planet will be the same. You’re still to follow your orders. I won’t put up with you defying my direct orders. Every other General has been briefed with my decision.”

“I understand,” Jahdiel nodded. “I wouldn’t want to be caught by surprise by some little rebellion.”

She could see a slight flash in Merikh’s eyes that she knew was anger. She’d mocked him, but there was nothing he could do about it until she arrived back on Hera. By then, she would’ve conquered every planet and he’d most likely already have forgotten about it. The Queen on the other hand, had a smug look on her face after the comment. Jahdiel didn’t know if it’s because she’d caught on to what she’d said to Merikh, or if there was something else going on. Surely there wasn’t, she had no outside contact with anyone. If she wasn’t locked up in a cell, she was chained next to Merikh.

“Hermes will be the next planet that we take,” Jahdiel told him.

“Aren’t there other planets much closer to Ovrea?”

“It’s their core trading planet,” Jahdiel informed him. “If there is any rebellion brewing, then after we conquer Hermes, there’ll be no chance of success.”

“Why didn’t you go to this planet first?”

“I wanted to see how a less populated planet would respond.”

“I see,” Merikh said. “No matter. They’ll all respond the same. Just get the job done.”

Jahdiel saw the look on the Queen’s face again, but once again kept it to herself. Pointing it out to Merikh could raise his suspicions about herself and her motives. “If they do decide to rebel, we’ll be ready for them.”

“Why are you killing your own races?” Adira spoke up.

“Because you killed me, in a way,” Jahdiel answered. “It’s only right that I return the favor.”

“None of these other races did anything to you, it was me,” Adira said. “There’s nothing to gain by helping these monsters, they’ll only do the same to you in the end. After all, you’re just like the races you’re wiping out. What makes you any better than them?”

“Why don’t you let me worry about my own choices and you can worry about what few you have left, if any.”

“I wonder if you truly have any more choices left than I do,” Adira chuckled before getting hit by Merikh.

“Continue conquering the planets Jahdiel, we’ve spoken enough,” he hung up the comlink.

The Queen had just risked her life to talk to Jahdiel, but why? She knew that Merikh would severely punish her for the comments, but there was a reason Adira had risked punishment to tell her these things. She too, must see that Merikh was only using her. Had he been using her the entire time? From the minute he’d seen her arrive through the Black Hole?

Since arriving in Orion, her role seemed to be slowly diminishing with every passing day. The power she’d wielded in the other galaxy was slowly fading away. Was she really any better off than Adira now? The Queen may be chained to Merikh, but Jahdiel was stuck in a ship full of crodillians, with Maolmordha close by, likely to clean up any acting up on her part.

She’d made the call to confirm where she stood with Merikh, and her instincts were confirmed. Adira’s comments only reassured what she was thinking, but Jahdiel didn’t know what to do. She was chained, like the Queen, and had to follow orders or be killed. The Queen knew something she didn’t though, she had seen it on her face. Something was going to happen soon and the crodillians wouldn’t be expecting it. Jahdiel decided she’d follow orders until then, once that time came, she’d decide what to do.

“Something is definitely going on with the Elders,” Nimesha said, breaking the silence in the room.

“Yeah, Zimran has been gone awhile,” Falcone said. “He said he’d be right back.”

“He seemed kind of reluctant to tell us anything alone,” Kanti pointed out. “Maybe some of the Elders don’t want to reveal information to us. He could be lobbying for us.”

“I’m with Kanti,” Anlon said. “If they’re going to give us anything then they all have to agree on it. If even one doesn’t want to, it could take some time.”

“They hear whispers from all over Orion,” Camillus said. “It’s their job to know things. I’m sure someone leaked that we’d be arriving so they should’ve already gone over most of this.”

“He just didn’t seem like he want to help all that much. It felt as if he were holding things back,” Nimesha said.

“They know what’s best,” Camillus replied. “You have to trust their decisions. If they don’t want to help us, or are reluctant to reveal information, then there’s a reason.”

Zimran quickly came into the room. He seemed frantic, like something had just interrupted him.

“Follow me,” he motioned. “I’ve gathered six of the Elders to speak with you. Unfortunately, the others weren’t here and I wasn’t able to locate them.”

They followed him down the stone halls and into a room with a large rectangular stone in the middle. Stone chairs were put around it and they all took seats at the opposite end of the table as the Elders.

“I’m sorry, but introductions must be skipped today,” the Elder seated in the middle of the others said. “Time is short and I’m told you seek information on how to defeat the crodillians.”

“Yes,” Kanti answered. “We’ve come to Ovrea in hopes that you may be able to help us.”

The Elder nodded. “We may not be able to help you in the way you want.”

“What do you mean?” Anlon asked. “You don’t have any information on how you defeated the crodillians last time?”

“You see,” he held his hands out. “We barely defeated them last time they tried to take over Orion. There was really nothing special we did, it was just mistakes on the crodillians’ part.”

“Great,” Falcone mumbled. “I’m sure the Council will love to hear that. It’ll really encourage the rebels.”

Kanti shot a look at him. “I’m sure that you can still help us. They’re taking over Orion now as we speak. Anything would be helpful.”

“We know of their recent actions,” the Elders said. “They’ve just taken over Ovrea.”

“What?” Anlon asked aloud. “They’re here right now?”

“They’ve come peacefully and we told the cities to surrender. There will be no bloodshed, don’t worry.”

“You can’t be okay with this,” Kanti said. “You must want to defeat them as much as we do. It can’t be satisfying to give up your home to these monsters.”

“We don’t like it, no, but what choice do we have?” The Elder responded. “The Queen has used every fleet Orion had, there’s no chance we defeat the crodillians now.”

Nimesha smiled. “Not quite. You may have missed a little bit of information.”

The Elder looked to her confused. “What are you talking about?”

“There are around three hundred ships gathered at Ares ready to rebel once we get information from you.”

“Three hundred?” The Elder shook his head in dismay. “That’s still no match for the crodillians. Did you not see what thousands did?”

“You have to tell us what little you know,” Kanti insisted. “Even if it barely defeated the crodillians last time, it could still work this time. They may make the same mistakes again, who knows.”

Zimran tapped the Elder’s shoulder. “She’s right. Their technology is much more advanced than the previous time we faced the crodillians. It could provide an additional advantage.”

“Fine. What I’m about to tell you is no secret,” the Elder said. “We utilized surprise attacks. Their powers were too much for us to overcome. They almost entirely wiped us out, so one of the General’s recommended guerilla warfare. Something that we thought would make their powers useless. If they couldn’t focus in on where we were coming from, how could they thwart us?”

“What are you talking about their powers?” Anlon asked. “Those big guns on their ships that wipe out entire fleets?”

“No. Not those,” he shook his head. “They have some sort of telepathic powers that allow them to control large objects. Did you not know of this already?”

“So they’re true,” Camillus said aloud. “I’ve read about them, but I thought they were only fictitious.”

“No, they’re real,” the Elder assured him. “This new weapons they’re using is something we haven’t seen before. I’m sure they’ll resort to their powers soon, if they haven’t forgotten how to use them.”

“How exactly do they work?” Kanti asked. “And how does guerilla warfare work against it?”

“When we first attacked, we gathered in big groups, like the Queen at Hera,” the Elder revealed. “They were able to somehow direct large objects at the fleets. They destroyed communications and wreaked havoc every time we got close to them. At first, we didn’t know what was going on, but we found it was them. By that point, the war seemed all but lost.”

“So their powers are what almost defeated you?” Kanti asked.

“We weren’t ready for them. It was something their race had concealed from everyone,” the Elder nodded. “By the time we figured it out, it was too late. Their ground troops had won and we had lost many of our fleets.”

“This helps us!” Anlon said. “None of us knew about the powers and now we know we must attack using guerilla warfare.”

“That still barely won it for us and we had many more ships at our disposal than you do right now.”

“But it’s hope,” Kanti said. “If our rebellion is to be successful, we need to give those rebelling something to cling to. If they have that, they’ll stop at nothing until victory is achieved.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” the Elder said. “You all would rather go extinct than be conquered.”

“And wouldn’t you?” Nimesha asked. “We’ll be slaves if we don’t try to do anything.”

“And you will be dead if you try.”

“We have the new technology you were talking about,” Falcone pointed out. “You didn’t have sonodrive, force fields, and stealth fields when you fought them. These are all relatively new to us and we can use them all to our advantage.”

“We didn’t, that’s true,” the Elder nodded. “But how will so few ships be able to defeat their thousands?”

“We lure them into traps,” Nimesha grinned. “We use the stealth fields to our advantage. Like you said, they can’t defeat what they can’t see.”

“It could work,” the Elder nodded. “That’s only if you’re able to get close enough to them without being caught.”

“Not only that, but guerrilla warfare is perfect for our numbers!” Falcone said. “All we have to do is figure out their tactics and then lure them into the right positions.”

“Then it seems we’ve given you everything you need,” the Elder bowed his head.

“Are you sure there isn’t anything else that you can tell us?” Kanti asked. “I mean, you keep the histories. All you know is that you barely defeated them and they have telepathic powers?”

“They are a mysterious race,” the Elder said. “We’ve never had one of our own work closely with this race. They work alone, only amongst themselves. Maybe if you captured one of their own, they could reveal more, but I’m not sure. We have only speculated about them and all we know is they possess special powers.”

“Thank you,” Kanti smiled. “Though you weren’t able to reveal much, it may have been just enough to save Orion.”

“I’m glad we could be of assistance, and we wish you luck on your mission,” the Elder smiled. “We hope to see you again soon once you’ve won your war, Princess.”

The guard walked into the room. “The crodillians have found yet another city.”

Zimran nodded. “Escort our guests out of the Temple and make sure they get to their ship safely. They have important information to relay to their rebellion.”

The guard nodded and motioned Anlon and the others to follow. They quickly walked out of the room and back to the Temple’s yard. He led them to where they’d left their gliders.

“The weather is supposed to be like this for another couple of hours,” he said. “You can get to your ship without worry of getting hit by a storm. Once there, I recommend you wait for the storm to hit, then you can get off of the planet undetected. There are bombers all over, if you leave in this weather, you may get caught.”

“Thank you,” Falcone said. “We’ll leave once the storm hits.”

Anlon and Kanti both got on their bike, as did the others. They fired them up and started making their way back towards Drakos Mavros. None of them wanted to get caught outside in a storm, but deep down, they all wanted one to come quickly. If the guard was right, they could easily get off of Ovrea and head straight to Ares where the rebellion could begin.

[] Chapter 11

Zarah gathered all the races in the center of Thermopylae. It’d been a last minute thing and she’d others spread the word that she’d be speaking to the public for the first time. Prior to this, she’d spoken to much smaller crowds, though everyone had heard of her speeches. Not everyone agreed with her, but none spoke out against her.

She hadn’t told anyone one the speech was going to be about, hoping the mystery would encourage races to come that would otherwise blow her off. Word of mouth spread quick, and most races knew she’d gone off with Pyrrhus earlier. Not everyone may like her, but they would still come to hear what she had to say, even if it were only to hear about the General. Orion was in trouble and she was the only leader Hermes had whether they knew it or not.

Zarah looked out into the crowd from the balcony and saw that it was quickly growing. It seemed like every race in Thermopylae was gathering to hear what she had to say, and that was great news. The more races she could get to come back to the base with her, the more rebels they’d have to fight the crodillians. Once the flow of races meandering into the large crowd slowed, she began her speech.

“You all are probably wondering what I have to talk about today,” she looked around, becoming nervous for the first time. “I see many who’ve never listened to any of my speeches personally, yet you still came today to hear me. I can assure you that was a good choice, a very good choice that will save many of your lives. As most of you have probably heard, I talked to General Pyrrhus today.” She watched silently for a moment as the crowd started speaking to each other. Some looked surprised and others just grinned because they had witnessed it. “He showed me something. Something that changes everything I’ve been doing here in Thermopylae. There’s a base hidden in the forest that can hold thousands of you. Thousands!” She held out her hands to emphasize. “We must go there to stay hidden from the crodillians until the time is right.”

“You want us to cower away in the forest?” A man shouted up to her. “You’ve talked about attacking and now you want to hide? I bet you want us to surrender our city to them next!”

A group of races started shouting and she held her hands up to try and quiet them down enough so she could speak. The outburst wasn’t unexpected, but she’d hoped there would be none. Now, she had to convince all without a doubt that her decision was the correct one.

“We’re not hiding like cowards,” she glared at the man who’d started the commotion. “We’re buying time so that thousands may live. I will not fight the crodillians when they arrive here. I won’t have the lives of those who die on my hands.”

“Who said you had to order an attack?” The man shouted back up. “No one made you in charge of us! You started by giving us speeches of encouragement and now you want us to lay down our weapons and surrender! I will order an attack if you don’t!”

“You will do no such thing,” Zarah stared at him with rage beginning to boil in her. “You’d be killing thousands of innocent lives for nothing but pride. There are others out in Orion, like us, who will be doing this exact same thing. There are plans being put into motion, but we must be patient and wait for the time to strike.”

“We are alone!” He shouted. “No one is coming to save us, Zarah! We’ve been left here to die by the Queen! I will not surrender. I will fight until one of those monsters takes my life from me!”

“There are a few hundred warships left to fight the crodillians,” she quieted the restless crowd with the revelation. “The Queen didn’t leave us alone, or ask us to surrender. She made it appear that way so the crodillians would feel comfortable. Our leader bought us time to save lives and eventually rebel to take our homes back! How is any rebellion going to be successful if we all act on our own? If every planet and race must act at the same time if we are to succeed. We have to wait for the rest of Orion to be ready, not just us.”

“We won’t do it,” he crossed his arms. “You’re being just like the Queen. You’re leaving the rest of us to die.”

“I am being just like her. I’m trying to save lives!” She shouted. “We must make the crodillians think that they’ve won. If one city, one city, rebels when they come to conquer, they’ll expect the rest to do the same. The rebellion that’s being put together will be a waste of time because you want to be selfish.”

She looked around to see that the crowd wasn’t sure which person to side with: Zarah or the man. She had to admit, if she were in their shoes, it’d be a tough choice after losing everything. It was her job now to convince all of them that she was the right person to follow.

“It looks like there are only two choices right now,” she looked back and forth between the crowd. “You can side with me and survive, or side with him and rebel when the crodillians arrive. Just remember who has promised you life and who will be destroying any hope of a successful rebellion for the rest of Orion. Your actions will change the fate of the entire galaxy.”

The crowd frantically looked to each other, trying to figure out who to side with. None had ever heard from this man before, but he was preaching what Zarah had previously claimed to be the only way. Now, the one who wanted to rebel, wanted to hide like the woman she’d criticized so much.

“Before you make you decision, I must warn you, if you come with me there’s no going back. If your family doesn’t come with you, you won’t see them again unless they choose to come later. Only I know where the base is, and only I will be leaving the base to gather others later. If you don’t join me before it’s too late, you’ll never locate the base,” she looked to the outspoken man. “But also know that you will be safe. There are places to train and learn for war. There is food, weapons, and vehicles. When it’s time to rebel, we’ll win, but we have to wait for the rest of Orion. So, if you’re with me, then go to the edge of the forest and I’ll take you to your new, safe, home. If you’re with him,” she pointed. “Then stay here, but I can’t promise you’ll survive.”

The races of the crowd slowly started making their decisions. At first, the crowd lingered back to stay in the town, but once one race walked towards the forest, others followed in large clusters. Soon, one turned into hundreds and then into thousands. Only a few hundred had opted to stay in the city with the man, and they all stood around him confidently. She was happy that much of the city had chosen to come with her, but she still felt she needed to have one last word with this man before leaving him.

“I can still use your help.”

The man turned up his nose. “I won’t help you, Zarah.”

“Can’t you see if you rebel now that you’ll surely die?” She pounded into him as best she could. “Your few hundred stand no chance, but you can still help all of those who have come with me.”

The man clenched his fists. “We could’ve won if you hadn’t taken all of them.”

“And we still will win, in time,” she assured him. “But until that time, can you help me?”

“If it means saving their lives, then yes,” he let out in a defeated breath.

“I need you to report to me on the crodillians,” she said. “Tell me where they are, what they’re doing, and anything else that can help the rebellion. Anything you can tell me will be helpful. You and your races will be crucial if we’re to lose few lives.”

“I’ll do it,” he said.

“Thank you,” Zarah took his hand. “What’s your name?”

“Dorjan,” he shook her hand firmly.

Pyrrhus’ pilot landed the cargo ship at the Hassental spaceport and was approached by armed crodillians. Pyrrhus opened the ramp to the ship and walked out with crates in his arms and a large smile on his face.

“What’s your business here, human?” One of the crodillians asked, pointing his gun at his head.

“I’ve brought supplies,” Pyrrhus set it down. “For the survivors. You may check them if you would like or take what your own need. We’re all in this together now.”

The crodillian stepped forward and ripped off the lid with his long claws and dug through the crate.

“What is this stuff?”

“It’s food,” he said. “Everything here has been destroyed, so I thought I could help by bringing food. Does your race not eat this stuff?”

The crodillian glared at him and shoved the containers over. “Whatever. Take it to the survivors. We don’t want your food.”

Pyrrhus picked up the crates and walked over to an abandoned cruiser. He set the crates down on it and started it up. As he hopped on, a light flashed in his eyes, catching his attention. It was coming from a nearby building, and looked as though it was pointing directly at him intentionally. It was a very small beam, but he was sure it was some sort of message. He lifted the cruiser up and headed straight for the building.

As he made his was towards the building, he couldn’t help but think about how much life had been lost here. Buildings had crumbled to the ground and bodies scattered the streets, staining them with red where they were left to rot. The smell was horrid, but the sight was even worse than the putrid smell burning his nostrils. This had once been a thriving, prosperous District, and now it was lifeless. Nothing like it’d been only a few days ago. He stopped the cruiser at the building the light had been emitted from and stepped out of his cruiser with caution. Pyrrhus walked to the broken front door of the building and halted when he felt something pressed to the back of his head.

“I heard that you might be coming here,” someone said from behind him. “I didn’t actually think you’d be so obvious by coming through the spaceport. Someone of your status should’ve been a little less obvious.”

“And who are you?” Pyrrhus asked.

He felt the weapon lower from his head so that he could turn around. He still wasn’t sure who he was looking at when he turned around, but he didn’t look like a man to mess with. A man of tall stature and branded skin stared at him with piercing green eyes.

“I’m Moran Borislav,” he answered. “No need to introduce yourself. I know who you are.”

“I figured as much,” he replied. “Why did you want me to come here?”

“It’s as close as I wanted to get to the spaceport,” he said. “Once I heard reports that a ship had entered Gaea, I knew it was you. No one else has come since the attacks and I don’t expect anyone else after you leave. We’re in this alone.”

“How’d you know that I was even coming?”

“I used to work for the GSOU,” Moran answered. “I have contacts everywhere who give me information. They said you needed someone to run some sort of rebel base here, I thought that I may be able to help, so I waited for you to come.”

“How many are left alive here?”

“A few thousand I suspect,” Moran shrugged. “Maybe more, but I’m not sure yet.”

“Are they all gathered in one place?”

“You could say that,” Moran smiled. “I’ve been gathering up any survivors as I can find. When I find them, I bring them to my place.”

“Do you know if Xiphos was destroyed when the crodillians attacked?”

“The military base?”

“Yes. It’s on the outskirts of the District. It’s not very well hidden, but it’s far enough away that I think the crodillians will ignore it.”

“It could be, but I won’t know for sure until we go back to my place and look it up on some updated holomaps,” Moran walked to the cruiser and got in. “I’ll take you there now.”

Pyrrhus got in and Moran lifted the cruiser off the ground. He sped over the wreckage of buildings and bodies that were piled up on the streets. No crodillians stopped them on the way, but Pyrrhus could see most of their ships were gathered at the Capitol building. Moran continued on without a glance anywhere but straight ahead and stopped at a building that looked like it had once stood hundreds of stories tall. All that was left now was a couple of stories with the rest of the building scattered around the street in chunks.

“You’re staying here?” Pyrrhus asked.

“Yeah,” Moran got out. “Safest place on Gaea right now, if Xiphos isn’t left standing that is. This place survived the initial attacks and can survive another hundred more if it needs to.”

“It looks like it didn’t hold up to well.”

“Not what was above ground,” Moran shrugged. “But below ground is as good as new.”

“Ahh,” Pyrrhus grinned. “I guess I should’ve known you’d be prepared for anything.”

“More like I got lucky I had a place underground,” he chuckled. “I never really planned for anything like this.”

Pyrrhus followed Moran into the building to an elevator shaft that was missing the elevator. Moran stepped into the shaft and began down a makeshift ladder into the darkness. Pyrrhus followed his lead, hoping the ladder was sturdier than it looked. It took them awhile to reach the bottom, but when they did, Pyrrhus was amazed to see how many survivors were gathered underground.

The place was huge and every space was crammed with races that’d survived the attacks. He saw holoscreens displayed on some of the walls and races were looking at them intently, watching every move the crodillians made. Women were tending to children, and some of the men were working on weapons. Everyone seemed to have a job and it was fairly quiet for as many races that were crammed down here.

“This is amazing.”

“We’re running out of room,” Moran replied. “If Xiphos really is still up, everyone here will be happy to get out of here. Every day it get more cramped.”

“But still,” Pyrrhus looked around. “It’s really amazing how many lives you’ve saved. If you hadn’t have brought them here, who knows what would’ve happened to them.”

“I couldn’t leave them to die,” Moran said. “I heard of rebellions before the crodillians attacked, but I knew that was dumb. I gathered as many as I could get to listen down here. It wasn’t many, but that changed after the invasion.”

“It was definitely smarter than rebelling.”

“Pull up images from the outskirts of Hassental,” Moran ordered one of the races working with holomaps.

The race immediately switched the image from a crodillian camp to the outskirts of Hassental. She started to slowly move adjust the frame until Pyrrhus put a hand on her shoulder.

“That’s it,” he said. “That’s Xiphos.”

“I’ll start moving races from here once you’ve left and are on your way back to Ares.”

“I can’t go back to Ares now,” Pyrrhus said. “I still have rebellion bases to set up on other planets.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Moran said. “I have plenty of ex-military here that know of bases that can be used on other planets. I’ll have them go out and start establishing bases elsewhere on Gaea and other planets.”

“No,” he protested. “I have to do it myself. I have to make sure that it gets done. This is my responsibility.”

“And it will get done,” Moran assured him. “But Orion also needs a military commander who’s faced the crodillians before. You got lucky here, but don’t think you’ll get so lucky on the other planets. Sooner or later someone will recognize you that’s not on our side.”

“Are you sure your men can get the job done?”

“Yes,” Moran nodded. “They’re well trained and none of them are big military commanders, so they shouldn’t raise any questions when traveling to spaceports.”

“I thought that would be the best way.”

Moran held his hand up. “It was the only way, but the crodillians may be ready for you next time. Orion doesn’t need to chance their commander getting caught doing something others can do. This galaxy needs you getting everything ready for the rebellion.”

“I’ll keep you updated on what’s going to happen,” Pyrrhus said. “Get all of the survivors to Xiphos safely, and once you do, prepare them for what’s ahead. You’re now an important commander too. Stay safe, General Borislav.”

Donnchadh opened his bunker door to see Kellagh standing with his arms crossed. He didn’t look pleased, in fact, he looked like he wanted to rip his head off of his shoulders.

“Is everything alright?”

“We’ve arrived at Erebos and I’ve led the ships to where you told me to go.”

“Is there resistance?” Donnchadh quickly stepped forward.

“Quite the opposite,” Kellagh said. “And I don’t like it, as do none of the others.”

Donnchadh quickly made his way to the cockpit of the ship to see what Kellagh was talking about. He found out within a couple of seconds what had him so upset. The entire Deimos Brotherhood was waiting outside for the crodillians to exit their ships. They weren’t attacking, nor did it appear as if they would, they were just standing there. He hadn’t expected the entire Brotherhood to be waiting, and definitely not outside where they could be killed so easily.

Kellagh came up from behind him. “They knew we were coming, Donnchadh. Why did you contact them without informing me of it?”

“I didn’t contact them,” Donnchadh lied. “They must’ve caught word of us coming. They have men stationed all over Orion, one of them was bound to send word to Kirill.”

“Don’t lie to me,” Kellagh glared.

“I’m not,” Donnchadh moved to within a couple inches of his face. “They have technology in that base that can detect incoming ships and spies that are trained to get secret intel. Once they saw our ships, their intel was confirmed and they came to meet us.”

“Then why surrender peacefully when they could’ve struck us by surprise or just leave?”

“They know when they’re outmatched.”

“I’ve told the other ships to wait for your command. What do you want to do?” Kellagh asked.

“What do I want to do?”

“Are we to attack them?”

“No!” Donnchadh left the cockpit. “Tell them to land their ships and to wait inside. I’m about to find out what’s going on here.”

Donnchadh quickly ran to the hangar and found a glider bike he could use to ride over to the Deimos Brotherhood. He got on and as soon as the ship landed, he lowered the ramp and sped towards them. The dry wind stung his eyes as he approached Kirill, who was standing in front of the Brotherhood with his hands on his hips. Donnchadh stopped his bike in front of him, but didn’t get off.

“What are you doing, Kirill?”

“We’re surrendering, like you told me to,” Kirill answered.

“You gathered the entire Brotherhood, when I said that we only wanted you?”

Kirill grinned. “They didn’t want to leave me to die.”

“I told you that we’re going to rebel!” Donnchadh hissed. “You’re going to mess everything up! The crodillians are second guessing me now because you were already waiting for me. I’m losing their trust.”

“Ahh,” Kirill grinned wider. “It seems your crodillian friends want to talk to us too.”

Donnchadh turned around to see Kellagh and the Captains approaching on their gliders. The rest of the crodillians were quickly approaching from behind on foot with weapons raised.

Donnchadh whipped around. “Just play along!”

Donnchadh waited for the others to reach him on their gliders. None of them looked happy and now he would have to try to repair the trust the Kirill had just severed.

“What are you telling them?” Kellagh asked.

“I just asked them to surrender peacefully,” Donnchadh replied. “They’ve all agreed and, in fact, had already decided on surrender when they saw the ships coming in.”

Kellagh looked to Kirill. “Are you the leader that Merikh wants?”

“I am,” Kirill nodded. “And I’m also surrendering, like Donnchadh just told you.”

Donnchadh didn’t like the tone of voice he was using and knew the man was up to something. The rest of the crodillians were closing in, and he wondered if Kirill was waiting for them all to come in close so he could attack them somehow. Everything seemed off, this wasn’t the Kirill he’d come to know so well.

“But,” Kirill continued. “It’s not quite like Donnchadh just told you.”

Donnchadh slowly turned to Kirill and saw a grin flash across his face. He immediately knew Kirill was about to use him to gain the trust of the crodillians and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He’d already lost whatever trust he’d gained when Kellagh saw the Deimos Brotherhood waiting for them upon arrival.

Donnchadh pushed his glider straight ahead, full throttle, away from the Brotherhood and the crodillians. He knew that he’d most likely die out in the grey wasteland, but it was better than being taken back to Merikh as a traitor. He’d rather take his chances out here and hope they didn’t come after him to kill him. The glider screamed as he continued to push it forward, further into the wasteland he knew would be his ultimate demise.

“Go after him!” Kellagh ordered his men.

“Don’t,” Kirill put his hand up. “He’ll die slowly out there. Nobody lives out there long without any survival gear. The fool left with nothing but a bike that’ll take him so deep he’ll never be able to return.”

Kellagh held his hand up to stop the crodillians. “And why would you betray your own man like that?”

Kirill shrugged. “He was no longer one of my men and he wanted to betray someone that I want to become allies with. I couldn’t let him mess that up.”

“You want to be an ally of Merikh?”

“Yes,” Kirill nodded. “That’s why I chose not to attack you like Donnchadh wanted and waited for you where we did.”

“Just because you surrendered, doesn’t mean he’ll let you live. Merikh does want to kill you after all.”

“But you must take me back to him alive, am I correct?”

“Merikh does want you taken back alive,” Kellagh nodded. “And you’ll go back alive.”

“Then I’ll be able to talk to him once we’re on Hera,” Kirill grinned. “My men will also come along peacefully. If they resist, you may kill them all.”

Kellagh chuckled. “Your men are with you all the way?”

“Yes,” Kirill said. “We’ll be a strong ally for Merikh and every one of us wants the opportunity to fight for him.”

“I’ll take you and your men back to Hera,” Kellagh said. “Merikh is a hard one to convince, I will warn you now, but you’ll get your chance.”

“He won’t be able to turn down an alliance with the Deimos Brotherhood,” Kirill stepped forward. “With us, Orion will bow down to him.”

[] Chapter 12

Anlon and the others waited for Falcone to get in the cockpit and lift the ship. Anlon and Kanti immediately pulled up the weather and were relieved to see they’d made it to Drakos Mavros just in time. The storm was a mere minutes out and looked larger than the one they’d got stuck in.

Anlon looked out of the window and saw huge black clouds forming in mere seconds before his eyes. Soon after the sky was entirely black, ferocious winds hammered the ship and snow began to pound the metal. Nimesha jumped in the seat next to Falcone, and Anlon, Kanti, and Camillus all strapped into seats behind them.

“Hang on!” Falcone shouted over his shoulder. “This is going to be a rough ride. Luckily, you all have me piloting or you’d surely die.”

Anlon prepared himself for the ride as Drakos Mavros rose in the sky, rocking violently back and forth. It was clear it took all of Falcone’s concentration to keep the ship from veering off path from the strong winds and blinding snow because his he was leaned forward in the seat and totally silent. The guard had been right when he said they wouldn’t get caught, but he might not have been right about them escaping. The storm was definitely more violent than any of them had expected.

Falcone put the engines at full throttle and pushed the ship forward, looking out for any crodillian ships as they broke through the clouds to get above the raging storm. They’d seen plenty of enemy ships roaming the skies on their way to Drakos Mavros, but it seemed that they’d all left the area for the incoming storm. After a couple of minutes they exited the planet, but were confronted with an even worse sight than the storm. Hundreds of crodillian ships surrounded them and another huge ship that was directly in front of them. They’d just exited Ovrea into a fleet of surprised crodillian ships who were clearly prepared to blow them out of the sky. Anlon turned to Kanti who was already unstrapping herself from the seat. Camillus tried to pull her back down, but just missed her as she ran to the cockpit and stood over Falcone’s shoulder.

“We have to get out of here now,” Kanti demanded. “We’ve come too far to get caught now.”

“I’m trying to find a way Kanti,” Falcone assured her. “Just give me a minute.”

“I’m not seeing a way out of this one” Nimesha said. “If we try anything, they’ll blow us away.”

Anlon got up from his seat. “They should let us travel peacefully after the Queen’s message. We don’t have anything to worry about.”

“Don’t count it,” Falcone replied, searching for ways out. “We’re the only ship up here. It’s pretty obvious we’re up to something.”

Before any of them could utter another word, a transmission came through their comline.

“Surrender yourselves immediately, or be shot down,” the voice ordered.

“Do it now,” Camillus demanded. “We have too much at stake now to try to escape.”

“Camillus, we can’t,” Kanti replied. “Who knows what they’ll do to us if we surrender.”

“I know what they’ll do to us if we don’t,” Falcone said. “I see no other way but to surrender.”

The voice came back on. “You are about to be shot down. Surrender now. This is your last warning.”

Nimesha responded to the voice. “We’re surrendering. What do you want us to do?”

Kanti shot a look to Nimesha. “We can’t give ourselves up!”

“There’s no other choice,” Anlon put his hand on her shoulder. “We’ll still get out of this. Just a different way than planned.”

“Wait for a convoy of our ships to surround yours,” the voice said. “They’ll take you to the Colchian.”

“I’m guessing that’s the big ship right there,” Falcone pointed. “Must be where their General is.”

“Great,” Kanti crossed her arms. “Now we’re going to be prisoners.”

A convoy of small bombers surrounded Drakos Mavros and led them to the Colchian. They escorted Falcone into the hangar of the massive ship and he set it down in the middle of several enemy ships. The entire bay was filled with warships and crodillians were busy at work with repairs or moving equipment. It appeared as if none were surprised to see them, as none stopped what they were doing to look their way.

“Don’t reveal Kanti’s identity,” Camillus ordered. “They don’t know the Queen has a daughter yet, and though that could save us, I only think it’ll cause more problems.”

“There’s no getting off of this ship alive,” Anlon looked around. “We were probably better off trying to escape when we had the chance. We’ll have to do whatever we’re told here.”

“At least here we won’t be dead,” Camillus said.

Falcone got up from his seat. “Yeah, you hope we won’t be killed. But now how are we going to tell the Council and everyone else how to defeat the crodillians?”

“Nimesha!” Kanti grabbed her arm. “Hide somewhere in the ship!”

“You want her to what?” Camillus asked. “Are you trying to get us killed?”

“No,” she replied. “If we’re going to have any chance of escaping, it’s with Nimesha’s skills.”

“No way,” Camillus said. “We’re not taking any risks here.”

“She’s right,” Nimesha said. “I’ve been doing stuff like this my entire life. High risk missions where I keep to the shadows are my specialty. I won’t get caught.”

“Do it,” Kanti said. “There should be compartments or something you can hide in while they search the ship.”

“There’s ducts you can fit in,” Falcone told her. “They won’t think of looking in those.”

“Lower your ramp and exit your ship now,” a voice ordered. “Don’t delay or we’ll force our way in.”

“Lowering the ramp now,” Anlon replied. “We don’t want any trouble.”

“I’ll meet up with you guys soon,” Nimesha dashed to the rear of the ship.

Anlon lowered the ramp and was the first one to exit, with Kanti close behind grasping his hand. There was a squad of crodillians at the base of the ship with their weapons pointed directly at them. The two of them waited for the others to come down, fearing what could happen to them.

“You’ll follow me,” a crodillian in black ordered them. “I’ll take you to the one in charge. She’s the one who requested to see you.”

They all nodded and walked slowly through the hangar. Anlon tried to absorb the surroundings as best he could, looking for any possible ways out later. He looked to Kanti and she grabbed his hand tighter. He gave her a look to reassure her that everything was going to be okay. The crodillian led them up a flight of stairs and into the dark corridors.

The alloy the ship was made out of was like nothing Anlon had ever seen. It was a dark grey, almost black, and it seemed to emit a pulsing green light underneath the dark outer layer. He wasn’t sure if he was seeing things, but to him, the ship itself seemed to be almost alive. It was like a breathing creature that took on a life of its own. They all walked quietly behind the crodillian down several more similar looking hallways and stopped at a giant door. The crodillian pressed some buttons on a pad and the door hissed open, revealing an overly large room that was over-looking Ovrea.

“Bring them over here,” a voice came from a corner in the room. “I want to see them for myself.”

The crodillian started leading them towards the window, where a female human figure came into view. She still wasn’t facing them, but instead had her hands behind her back and was looking out of the window.

“They’ll be fine there,” she turned around. “I believe they’ll cause me no trouble.”

The crodillian who’d led them in the room turned around and left them alone with the woman. Anlon couldn’t figure out why she’d want to lead crodillians, she wasn’t one of them. Her jet black hair, dark skin, and green eyes had to look as alien to those monsters as they looked to him. This woman was just a normal human, who’d betrayed her own kind to lead these monsters.

“So you’re Jahdiel,” Kanti said, getting a hushing look from the others.

The woman chuckled. “Yes. That’s me. And who are you?”

“I’m Kanti and these are my friends,” she held out her arms.

“So, Kanti,” Jahdiel said. “Why are you and your friends trying to escape me?”

“We weren’t,” she lied. “We saw the Queen’s message and thought that we could move freely without harm. That’s why we came here peacefully to speak with you. We aren’t afraid of you.”

“Ahh,” her black hair bounced as she nodded. “That would make sense, if you hadn’t escaped me on Gaea and destroyed several of my fighters.”

Kanti glanced at the others, who didn’t know how to respond.

“Last time was just bad timing,” Anlon said. “We were leaving right when you came and our pilot kind of freaked out. Your men shot at us first so we had no other choice but to shoot back.”

Falcone glared at him. “Yes, Jahdiel. I already had the ship in route and you all of a sudden attacked. I ordered them to keep our ship in the air.”

“You took out several of my ships.”

“Your ships attacked us!” Kanti replied. “If we hadn’t defended ourselves we’d be dead.”

“My ships were ordered to attack threats,” she pushed her hair back. “Obviously, you and your friends were seen as a threat.”

“We don’t want any trouble,” Camillus intervened. “We’re sorry for taking out your ships, we acted out of fear is all. We’re all on the same page now.”

“I would’ve done the same,” Jahdiel nodded. “But I don’t believe you were just traveling and happened to run in to us twice. You were here for a reason and you were at Gaea for a reason. What is it?”

“It was just coincidence,” Anlon answered. “We travel to many planets.”

“I know when I’m being lied to. I’ve lived with monsters who’ve tried to take my position for the past fifteen years,” she replied. “You’re lying to me. If you don’t want to tell me what you were really doing here, then I’ll hold you as prisoners until I return to Hera.”

“You can’t do that,” Kanti protested. “You made a deal with the Queen.”

“And I’m upholding our deal,” Jahdiel motioned for the crodillian to come back in the room. “I’m not killing you. That was all the deal was.”

“How can you do this?” Kanti asked, as the crodillian came in. “You’re destroying your own home.”

“Hold them in a cell until we reach Hera,” she told the crodillian. “I don’t trust letting them go. They’re up to something.”

The crodillian nodded and motioned for them to follow him back down the hallways. Anlon pulled at Kanti to get her to move and they followed the crodillian out. They walked down the halls and came to another room with cells that had green force fields instead of doors. The crodillian pushed them inside and reactivated green force field on, locking them all inside.

Donnchadh got off of his glider, covering his face from the smoke billowing from the engine. He had ridden it until the engine finally gave out and now he was stranded in the wasteland. There was no chance he’d followed this far, but he kept going until there was no chance anyone could find him without putting their own life at risk. The crodillians were merciless and bloodthirsty monsters, he’d rather the grey desert take his life than them.

It was only just now occurring to him that maybe the wasteland would be just as merciless, in its own way. He’d put so much focus into escaping the crodillians, that he’d forgot to keep track of where he was going and how far he’d gone. It was definitely far and there was no chance he’d make it back to any city by foot. He had nothing on him that would help him survive, and he’d have to try to live off of the land until he fell upon a city or tribe.

Donnchadh looked around to see if there was anything he could use as shelter until he gathered supplies for the journey back, but all that surrounded him was grey dirt and rocks. There was absolutely nothing here that he could use to live off of. He did see a small canyon a little ways in the distance and decided that he’d head there to see if there was any type of shelter or food.

As he started making his way towards the canyon, he felt the winds begin to pick up and looked to the sky. Thick black clouds were moving in, and he knew he had to hurry if he wanted to survive. Erebos’ were notoriously brutal and anyone caught outside during one without any protection would surely die.

Donnchadh picked up his pace to a jog to reach the canyon, hoping he could get there before the cackling storm. By the time he reached the canyon the black clouds were right on top of him and he had no choice but to keep going forward without scouting the canyon for possible threats. He ran forward as orange liquid started trickling down from the sky. It was a form of lava, but it was harmless compared to the real thing. It was no more than a form of water. Donnchadh saw a small hole that looked like a cave and he sprinted towards it, but was knocked from his feet before he could reach it.

He lifted his face from the dirt and saw a huge creature hovering over top of him. It had eight legs with razor sharp claws on the end and scaly black skin with six red eyes fixated him. Donnchadh slowly reached down to his pants to grab his pistol but grasped nothing but air. He cursed to himself and grasped the blade on his belt before lunging up at the creature. The reaction was to slow and the eight legged creature swiftly moved out of the way. After regaining his balance, he decided to wait for this strange creature to make a move. It wasn’t long before the creature shot straight forward and then shifted direction to straight up, catching him completely off guard. Instead of trying to strike the creature, he jumped out of the way, unsure of what this thing was capable of.

He’d never faced a creature like this before, so he wasn’t completely sure how to kill it. The creature came back down and spun in a circle, clawing at the spot he’d just been standing. It turned back around and faced him again, coming right at him with a high pitched squeal, but this time took a hard right to circle around him. The grasp around his blade tightened as he struck the creature the second it began to pounce on him. The scaly creature shrieked and backed away from him with a hissing noise.

Donnchadh grinned to himself, as he saw he’d put a decent sized gash in the beasts chest. There wasn’t much time to think about what to do next, as it came straight towards him again fury in its eyes. Without a second thought, he lunged towards the creature, blade extended before him. The creature tried to pull up to avoid him, but he was too quick and struck the creature again. Before it could back up and escape him, he jumped on its back and dug his finger into the scaly skin. The creature squirmed in pain and tried to throw him off, but was unsuccessful in every attempt. Donnchadh pulled his blade up and pushed it into the skull, yanking back with all his force once he was sure it was deep enough. The head split open and the body slumped lifelessly down to the ground as black liquid oozed from the fresh wound.

He stepped off the body and wiped the bodily fluids of the creature off of the blade. The orange drops began to pound the grey dirt and the winds picks up, creating a howling in the canyon. He quickly ran over to the small cave he’d seen before the monster attacked and got inside for cover. Quickly, he looked around to see if there was anything else in here with him, but as far as he could see, he was alone. Searing pain began to throb in his head and he grabbed it with both hands before falling over on his. His throat began to constrict and he clawed at it desperately, trying to get as much air in his lungs as he could. The life was slowly draining from his body and he looked around frantically, hoping something could save him.

He stumbled out of the cave and fell hardly to the wet ground. The orange liquid pounded on him, but the only thing he could hear were his gasps for breath and his slowing heartbeat. Once his vision began to blur, it sunk in. Death had finally found him. Even with all of his training, nothing had prepared him for surviving in an environment that could kill with ease. It was unforgiving and he’d made the mistake of thinking he was stronger and smarter than he really was.

He turned over and looked up at the orange liquid pounding down on him. Several seconds later, he felt the pounding of the liquid seize. He tried to clear his vision to see why it had stopped, and made out a dark figure standing above him. Donnchadh tried to push himself up, but his body failed him and he collapsed back to the ground. The figure got closer to him and reached a hand towards him right as he blacked out.

[] Chapter 13

Pyrrhus landed on Ares and was glad to see things seemed to have calmed down some since his first visit. Races were going from place to place as if it was any other day, and if he wasn’t leading the rebellion, he wouldn’t even suspect what was coming. He left the spaceport and waved down a cruiser to take him to the Capitol building where he’d discuss recent events. The driver got him to the building within minutes and he went straight to the Debate Hall. A calmness was in the room as he entered. Every race was at a station, busy working with a group, and the noise was kept to a low level. He walked around until he found the Prime Minister watching one of the video feeds of Hera.

“I’ve established bases on Hermes and Gaea.”

“Just those two?” Prime Minister Gidon asked. “I thought you weren’t coming back until you had a few on every planet.”

Pyrrhus shook his head. “I didn’t think so either, but I ran into Moran Borislav on Gaea.”

“The Queen’s man?”

“Yes. Part of the GSOU unit,” he nodded. “He already had thousands of survivors under his protection and said he had men ready to set up bases elsewhere in Orion. He seemed to have everything planned out before my arrival.”

“Doesn’t surprise me.” Gidon said. “The Queen’s men are always thinking ahead and are natural leaders. I presume if you hadn’t run into him and told him what we were doing, he would’ve started his own rebellion. What about Hermes? Who’d you put in charge there?”

“A lady named Zarah.”

“Zarah?” Gidon repeated. “Should I know of her? The name doesn’t sound familiar.”

Pyrrhus shook his head. “No. I didn’t even know her name until she introduced herself.”

“Military?” Gidon asked.

“Just a regular human woman,” Pyrrhus answered. “She was on Gaea when the crodillians attacked and left her home to go to Hermes. She lost her whole family and wanted to lead a rebellion so that was the planet she chose.”

“And the races of Hermes just picked up and followed her?” Gidon asked surprised. “They followed some random woman they’d never seen or heard of?”

“She’s a strong woman, Gidon. She had a whole group around her when I arrived. On top of that, she had the city ready to attack in case of an invasion. They were very well organized considering she had few resources and no military experience.”

“Just a random woman did all of this?” Gidon said aloud, stunned. “Do you think she’ll turn out to be good in her new position?”

“Of course!” Pyrrhus replied. “I wouldn’t have put her in charge otherwise. There’s just something about her, an aura, she gives people hope and they follow her without question.”

“That’s what we need,” Gidon said. “Leaders who give the races hope of ultimate victory.”

“She’s definitely giving it to them. I have no doubt she’ll lead them to victory either. The woman was made for this role.”

“I can’t’ wait to meet her,” Gidon smiled and then let out a sigh. “Did you see that the crodillians took over Ovrea?”

“Yeah, I heard about it on the way back,” he answered. “Ovrea would’ve never put up much of a fight, even without the Queen’s message. There’s really not enough races there to put up any type of resistance.”

“When do you think they’ll be here? It can’t be much longer.”

“Don’t know,” Pyrrhus shrugged. “My guess would be we’ll be last since the quierleons are the most likely race to rebel. Their human leader will know that and she’ll wait.”

“I would think the opposite, but you’re probably right. Who knows what goes through that twisted woman’s mind.”

“I can’t even imagine,” Pyrrhus shook his head in disgust. “How could a human work for those things knowing what they have planned?”

“Her mind has to be clouded with hatred. There’s no other way she’d destroy her home like this.”

“Are the other leaders here keeping track of her movements?”

“Yes,” Gidon answered. “More so than any of the crodillians. She’s still at Ovrea, though it appears that they’ll be moving on to the next planet soon. We’ll know which planet they’re at next the second they arrive there.”

“Do you mind if I update the leaders on my progress?” He asked. “Let them know what is being set up and such?”

“Go ahead,” Gidon pushed him towards the stage. “I’m sure they’d all love to hear some good news for a change.”

Pyrrhus walked up to the stage and stood in front of all the races who still hadn’t even noticed him in the room yet. Gidon handed him a microphone and he tapped it a couple times to get the attention of the leaders in the room. A high pitched screech echoed in the room and they slowly looked up from their work, straightening when they saw who stood before them.

“I’ve come back from my travels earlier than I expected,” he told them. “I found two great leaders for Hermes and Gaea and I’ve promoted them to General’s. The one on Hermes is a woman named Zarah, she has no military experience whatsoever, so I’m going to assign some of you to help her out. Though she has no military experience, she has leadership skills like nothing I’ve ever witnessed. She’s one of rebels, her entire family was killed on Gaea and after that, she made her whole purpose to lead a rebellion. There is no shred of doubt in my mind she’s the one to lead them to victory,” he looked around the room briefly. “I put a man named Moran in charge of the base at Gaea and he’s the reason that I’m back so soon. I believe some in this room know him because he was waiting for my arrival. He offered to help me set up bases by sending men he knows well to do it in my place. Though I was reluctant at first, I know he’s right and that I should be here planning for the rebellion,” Pyrrhus took in a deep breath. “I know that you may be losing hope right now, keeping up with every detail that’s going on in Orion, but I’m here to tell you, don’t. We’re going to win this war. I’ve seen it in the eyes of Zarah, Moran, and all the survivors that’ve rallied around them. This war isn’t lost yet, it’s still far from over. Keep eyes on the crodillians and let me know immediately if they’ve come to Ares. The rebellion bases will be finished being established soon, but the crodillians may still strike first. I believe that we’ll deliver the first blow, but I need you to keep me updated.”

Pyrrhus walked off of the stage and was drowned in a wave of clapping and hollering. They hadn’t had much to cheer about recently, but he’d finally given them something to look forward to. A slight bit of hope. He walked to Gidon and headed for the door.

“I’m going to call the Council and tell them I’ve finished. I want to hear what they want to do.”

Gidon nodded and Pyrrhus left the room that was still erupting with cheers. He closed the door to the Debate Hall and pulled out his comlink.

Aldrick picked up. “Have you finished already, Pyrrhus?”

“I have,” he answered. “I’ve set up two strong bases on Hermes and Gaea. You’ll get to know the leaders very well in the coming days. They will keep us all updated on their progress.”

“Just those two?” He interrupted. “I thought there’d be many more than that.”

“I’ve had help with the others,” he said. “Moran Borislav had men ready to go to the remaining planets to set up bases. He wanted me here, setting up battle plans.”

“Excellent!” Aldrick beamed. “We’ve all come to the agreement that you’re in complete control of everything. You don’t need to ask us permission about your strategy, all you have to do is run it by us. We’ll give suggestions, concerns, and anything else that comes to mind, but you’re the man in charge.”

“Me?” Pyrrhus asked stunned. “But I thought you were going to make final decisions.”

“We were,” Aldrick nodded. “But after much discussion, you’re the only one who has faced the crodillians. You’re the one who’s committed his life to understanding war and know better than any about what to do. You should be the one making decisions in these times, not us. It’s time to put your training into action.”

“I still don’t know very much about the crodillians, not as much as I would like to anyway. Have you heard back from Anlon yet?”

“No,” Aldrick shook his head. “We’ve heard nothing, but don’t doubt the boy, the Princess, and their friends. They’ll report back soon. Adira put a lot of trust in that boy for a reason.”

“Ovrea was just taken over. Could something have happened to them there?”

“There’s a possibility,” Aldrick nodded. “But I don’t think it’s very likely. The crodillians held up their end of the promise and took it over peacefully. It may be that Anlon and the Princess are just waiting for them to leave before they come back.”

“I hope so,” Pyrrhus said. “If the Elders were able to give them anything, I sure need it right now. Battle plans are going to hinge on our knowledge of the enemy.”

“Do you have a plan in mind?” Aldrick asked. “Any ideas of how to lead the rebellions on each planet?”

Pyrrhus let out a deep breath. “I have an idea at the moment, but I’m going to sit down and put things together. I’d like to hear from Anlon first, but I’ll start as soon as I’m done speaking with you.”

“Then don’t let me hold you,” Aldrick replied. “Get your rebellion ready. Find out what you want to do and how you’re going to do it. Whatever you decide, we’ll back up. You’re in charge of this rebellion now, Pyrrhus. I know you’ll lead us to victory.”

Pyrrhus stared at the comlink as the image of Aldrick flickered off. He hadn’t seen this coming at all. He was just supposed to be in charge of leading the ships, not the entire rebellion itself. There was no telling how others would respond after finding out he’d abandoned his crew, and he knew they’d all find out soon if they didn’t already know. It still hurt him that he’d left his men, but if he hadn’t, this rebellion wouldn’t be happening. He told himself he’d done the right thing and the Council insisted he had too. If they had thought it was the wrong decision, they wouldn’t have put him in charge. He and his rebels would wipe out all of the crodillians, he just needed to sit down and figure out how exactly they were going to do it.

Kirill followed Kellagh off his ship and down the marble halls of the Queen’s Palace. A lot had changed the last time he’d been here, but that was mostly the blood spattered on the walls and char marks from weapon fire. He followed Kellagh silently to the reception room where a crodillian was sitting in the middle surrounded by screens. As they moved toward tall creature with dark green skin, Kirill made out the images to be of Gaea. Kellagh stopped behind the leader and motioned for Kirill to stop with his hand.

“I’ve brought you back Kirill,” Kellagh said.

The crodillian turned around and looked at him with his red eyes. “Why didn’t Donnchadh bring back Kirill, Kellagh? What did you do to him?”

“I did nothing to him,” Kellagh backed up a step. “I’ll let you talk to Kirill about it.”

Kirill stepped forward with a smile. “He was planning to attack you and then start a rebellion.”

“Oh, was he?” Merikh didn’t sound convinced as he stood, towering over Kirill.

“He contacted me before he arrived,” he continued. “He said he wanted my group to attack your ships. He said he would then be free of you and that together he and I could start a rebellion to wipe out the crodillians and take the Throne. The traitor wanted to take what you’d worked so hard for after you gave him a chance to prove his loyalty to you.”

“You really think a small rebellion would’ve even have come close to succeeding? Have you not seen what my fleets have done to the rest of this galaxy so far?”

“I know we could’ve taken your ships down,” Kirill snarled. “You were obvious coming in. My group specializes in eliminating even the toughest of enemies, and I assure you, the fleet you sent wouldn’t have been our hardest job.”

Merikh grinned, revealing his sharp grey teeth. “We would’ve sent another, bigger, fleet to take you out, Kirill. You wouldn’t have beat us.”

“I’m not dumb,” Kirill said. “I know what power you wield, I’ve seen it firsthand. You are by far one of the strongest enemies as a whole that I’ve ever seen, but why stay enemies?”

“So, you are getting to something else,” Merikh grinned, folding his fingers together. “What is it that you really want?”

“I want to be your ally,” Kirill told him. “I want to work with you not against you.”

“We both know that there may be a conflict of interest,” Merikh chuckled. “I believe you remember Jahdiel?”

“I do remember her,” Kirill nodded.

“I’ve told her she can kill you.”

“I would like it if Jahdiel didn’t kill me,”

“I told her she could, how can I go back on that?” Merikh held his hands up. “What do you have to offer that’s worth going back on my word?”

“I’ll be your strongest ally,” Kirill tried to convince him. “I’ve never faced an enemy like you and you’ve never faced one like me. I have resources all over Orion, and I could wipe out even the slightest bit of rebellion in the blink of an eye. All without you having to risk any of your own ships.”

“And why would you want to work with me, Kirill?” Merikh leaned forward. “I’m taking over you galaxy.”

“Because we both share the same goal,” Kirill grinned.

“Oh? And what is that, may I ask?”

“To see Orion burn.”

Merikh grinned. “It seems we do share the same goal.”

“I have the services you require to make sure that’s possible. You may have strong fleets, but my men know Orion better than any. If the two of us team up, nobody will dare stand against us.”

“I like you,” Merikh put his long hand on his shoulder. “It looks like Jahdiel doesn’t get to kill you after all. Besides, you are much more valuable than her. To tell you the truth, she no longer has much to offer me.”

“So we are allies then?” Kirill asked.

“Yes,” Merikh nodded. “If your group is as a strong as you claim, and this isn’t the first time I’ve heard they are, then we’ll rule Orion for a long time. Who would dare rebel against the notorious Deimos Brotherhood and the merciless crodillians?”

“Not a single race,” Kirill grinned widely. “Not a single race.”

[] Chapter 14

Jahdiel called Merikh to give his daily update. She knew he was already aware of what’d happened, but she didn’t want to give him any reason to discard her before she was ready. It would come soon, but until that time came, she needed to make herself indispensable. The rebels she’d caught would be the most eventful thing she’d have to report to him. It was no coincidence that she’d caught them trying to evade her twice and she couldn’t wait to tell Merikh and see the look on his face. If this was a sign of things to come, there was no way he could dispose of her, she was much too knowledgeable of the galaxy. A rebellion would put him at the mercy of her once again.

Merikh’s image popped up on the comlink. “What do you have for me?”

“I’ve caught rebels,” she grinned.

Merikh’s facial expression didn’t change. “Really? What have they done?”

“They were trying to evade my detection on Ovrea.”

“And that makes them rebels?”

Jahdiel nodded. “This isn’t the first time this ship has tried to evade me.”

“I’m sure there are several similar ships throughout Orion,” he rolled his red eyes. “You’ve found nothing, Jahdiel. Orion will not rebel against me.”

“No,” she shook her head. “They were on Gaea when we attacked. They took out several of our fighters. I can guarantee you this is the same exact ship.”

“Why am I just now hearing about what happened on Gaea?” Anger flashed across his face. “I should be told of things like that as soon as they happen.”

“They escaped the first time,” Jahdiel clenched her fists. “And I thought it irrelevant to bring up to you. We’re at war, we’re going to lose ships. I can’t contact you every time we lose a man.”

“Fine,” Merikh nodded. “But we’re at peace with them now. Why would they try to evade you knowing this?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “They say they weren’t, but I can tell they’re lying.”

“Do you still have them on board?” Merikh asked.

“Yes,” she nodded. “They are being held in one of the cells.”

“Keep them there,” Merikh shrugged. “If you think they’re rebels, it’s your job to make sure they don’t rebel. This is your only duty.”

“There could be others helping them that I don’t know about. I should sent out parties to search for them.”

“I don’t think rebellion will be a problem, if it ever was to begin with. No race would be foolish enough to rebel against us, especially now. I’m sure you’ve made a mistake, but I’ll determine that when you come back.”

“What do you mean?” She asked. “I know they’d be foolish to rebel, but why so much more now?”

“Jahdiel,” Merikh scratched his head with his black nails. “I’ve made an alliance and you’re not going to like it.”

She cocked her head. “An alliance? With who? Someone in Orion?”

“Yes, it’s someone in Orion,” he nodded, turning the comlink to bring another figure in the frame. “Kirill.”

Jahdiel clenched her fists. “You can’t! You said he was mine to kill!”

“Jahdiel, calm down,” he held his hands up. “He is beneficiary to us. I can’t let you just kill him.”

“Yes you can!” She raged. “I already can’t kill the Queen. You can’t possibly think I’m dumb enough to not see you’re using her to prevent rebellion, but that’s fine,” she cooled down some. “I can live with not killing her, but I can’t live with not killing Kirill.”

“Jahdiel,” Kirill smiled slyly. “It’s been a long time since I’ve talked to you. So much spite in your voice. Can’t we just apologize and move on from the past?”

“Shut up,” Jahdiel spat. “Don’t think that you get to live for long.”

“You’re not killing him,” Merikh glared. “That’s an order.”

Jahdiel stared at the image silently, wanting to kill both of them where they stood. She should’ve known Merikh would stab her in the back again. First, she couldn’t kill the Queen. Then, she couldn’t conquer planets her way. And now, she couldn’t kill the man responsible for her old life being destroyed. The way Merikh treated her was changing rapidly. Who knew what else he would do to her next.

She faked a smile. “I understand, Merikh. What made you become an ally with Kirill? What kind of lies did he tell you?”

“He told me no lies,” Merikh responded. “Only the truth.”

“Please,” she snorted. “He’ll do anything to live. The man has always been a coward.”

“Watch your tone, Jahdiel,” he snarled through his sharp teeth. “I’m still above you in rank.”

“I actually have much to offer as an ally,” Kirill intervened. “I’m the leader of the Deimos Brotherhood.”

“Congratulations.” she clapped. “You’re in charge of a club.”

“It’s an organized group of assassins, actually,” Kirill grinned. “You see, they’ll find and take out races that want to rebel, like those ones you were talking about. I’ll deal with them.”

“I’m capable of doing it myself.”

“His group won’t let them escape,” Merikh said. “They’ll work undercover to find these rebels, and will destroy them from the inside. That’s more than you can do.”

“I already have men getting ready to leave,” Kirill held his chin up. “If there are rebels, which I believe there are, they’ll never know my men have infiltrated within their own ranks.”

“This is unnecessary, Merikh,” she shook her head. “We’ve been fine without his help this far.”

“You just said you caught rebels,” Merikh replied. “How is this unnecessary if you yourself think there are more rebels besides the ones you captured?”

“Fine,” Jahdiel crossed her arms. “What does Kirill have to gain from all of this? He’s not helping you from the kindness of his heart.”

“Actually, we want the same thing,” Kirill smiled wider. “You see, before you came to Orion, I was planning to do the very thing you’re doing. Just in a much subtler way.”

“Oh yeah?” Jahdiel raised her eyebrows. “How come you haven’t done it yet? You’ve had plenty of time since my departure.”

“I’ve never had as many fleets as you have at your disposal,” he replied. “With the three of us working together, nothing will stand in our way.”

“You want more than that,” she rolled her eyes. “What other reasons are motivating you to help us?”

“Well, maybe I also want to live to see another day,” he winked. “Life is always a good motivator.”

Jahdiel clenched her fists until her knuckles whitened. “He’s using you, Merikh.”

“If he was using me, I’d know. I can sense when I’m being played.”

“And how would you know?” She asked. “Look what he does for a living, do you really think you’d see it coming if he sent someone to kill you?”

“Why would I kill him?” Kirill asked.

“Because you want all the power,” she answered. “You want to rule Orion by yourself, not with another. That’s why you tried to kill Adira. You didn’t want to share any power with anyone. Greed consumes you.”

“I had no power when I sat by her,” Kirill glared. “I have what I want now. Merikh and I share the same vision, there will be no problems. On another note, tell me more about these rebels you caught, maybe they’re planetary leaders.”

“Ha,” she rolled her eyes. “More like some stupid boy, a loud mouth girl, and some of their friends.”

“He is offering to help, Jahdiel,” Merikh’s red eyes darkened. “I suggest you welcome it.”

“Fine, I’ll show you images of them.”

She walked over to her desk and turned on the computer. She scrolled through different commands and stopped at the security cameras. The screen scrolled down until she saw the cell holding the helpless rebels. An image of them cowered in the corner was enlarged for Kirill to see.

“You know any of them?” She asked. “See any planetary leaders held up in there, Kirill?”

She didn’t hear a response from the other side. She took the image of the cell off the comlink and switched it back to Kirill and Merikh. After switching back, she saw Kirill whispering to Merikh, but they weren’t letting her hear a word.

“Anyone going to answer me?”

Merikh cleared his throat. “It appears you may have caught someone extremely important, and you were right about them being rebels.”

“Thank you,” she raised up her hands. “Now, who are they?”

“You have the Princess, along with some stupid boy who’s been screwing up all my plans.”

“The Princess?”

“Yes,” a grin crossed his face. “I’ve been trying to get her, but that boy has made things quite difficult. They also succeeded in turning one of my best assassins against me, though I’m not seeing her in there.”

“Who’s the boy?”

“No one important,” Kirill shrugged. “Just the son of someone who used to pose a threat to me until I had him killed. The assassin on the other hand, is someone you want to be careful of. I can assure you, she’s somewhere in your ship waiting for the right moment to kill you.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Come back to Hera immediately and don’t get killed,” Merikh answered. “Kirill believes the Princess may solidify our rule.”

“You think she’ll send out messages like the Queen, you mean?”

“If the Queen and her daughter are safely with us, no one will rebel,” Merikh said. “We’ll even make it look like they’re ruling as one happy family.”

“She won’t help you. Trust me, I’ve talked to her,” she told him. “You’d be better off letting me kill her before she does start something much bigger.”

“No!” Kirill intervened. “She comes here.”

“What about the other planets?” She asked.

“They can wait,” Merikh waved his hand. “If Kirill says the Princess is important to ruling, then I trust him. We’ll finish establishing our strongholds after the Princess is in our possession.”

She let out a deep breath. “I’ll see you soon then, Merikh.”

Jahdiel cut off the comlink before he could reply. She no longer cared what he did to her, he’s obviously ran out of use for her. Her leading role had been diminished to almost nothing more than an errand girl. Any opinions or thoughts she had were now seen as irrelevant, leaving her with only one option – escape his grasp. She knew Kirill was up to something else, even if Merikh didn’t believe her, but she wasn’t going to save him. If he wanted to team up the assassin, fine, but that meant he’d lose her, and he didn’t know just how valuable she was to him yet.

“There has to be a way out of here,” Kanti said. “Shouldn’t Nimesha be here by now?”

Falcone looked around the cell. “There’s no way out without something that can cut through that part of the wall,” he pointed. “The guard put a code in there, so if you can access the wires behind it, maybe you can find a way to short it.”

Anlon smiled. “I may have something that can do that.”

“You do?” Falcone asked. “I sure don’t see anything.”

“It’s right here,” he held up his arm. “I took this from the shed. It has a laser on it. I’m sure it’ll cut through the wall.”

“Try it and see if it works,” Camillus said.

“And what about after that?” Kanti asked. “What about all of the armed crodillians roaming about their ship? Do you really think we’re going to get far before being caught?”

“We’ll worry about that once we’re out of the cell,” Falcone replied. “Right now, we’re getting out of here. I hate feeling like I’m trapped in a cage.”

“And when we all get shot?” Camillus asked. “What then?”

“Just don’t get shot,” Falcone winked. “Pretty simple, if you ask me.”

“Oh. That’s right,” Camillus responded. “It’s easy to avoid that, especially when we’re sneaking through their ship!”

“Calm down, Camillus,” Kanti said. “I’m sure they have orders to use non-lethal rounds.”

“How do we even know where to go from here?” Camillus asked.

“I was paying attention on our way up,” Anlon said. “I think I can take us back to the ship.”

“And what about the hangar full of crodillian soldiers?”

“Hey, it’s cutting through,” Anlon shifted their attention to something else. “It’s going through this like it’s paper!”

“Great!” Kanti hurried over. “But that looks nothing like Emer taught us.”

Anlon stared at the tangle of wires in disbelief. “I guess they do things differently in the other galaxy.”

“What now, metal man?” Falcone asked.

“I break you guys out of there,” Nimesha popped from around a corner.

“Am I glad to see you!” Falcone spread his arms. “No one here knows how to break out of here!”

“Just hold on,” she approached the pad. “I should be able to open from out here.”

The feleen took something from her pocket and waved it over the pad. The numbers that were used the most stuck out from the rest with a bright blue mark and she punched them in a random order. The green field flickered and shut off.

“How’d you know the code?” Kanti asked.

“I had to get through a couple other security doors on the way up,” she turned. “I saw them use the same code so I just crossed my fingers that this one was the same.”

“Thank you,” Falcone playfully hugged her. “Now you can get us all out of here alive.”

“Quiet!” Camillus hissed. “We can’t just go running around the ship carelessly.”

“Calm down, Camillus, there’s no one in here,” Kanti walked out of the cell.

As Anlon followed her out of the cell, the door to the holding room opened and a crodillian holding a rifle walked in. He ran to the guard without thinking and tackled him, grabbing for his throat.

“Go!” Anlon shouted. “I’ll catch up to you!”

Nimesha led the others out of the room and quickly down the hall. Anlon started to swing back to hit the crodillian, but was thrown off. He hit the floor hard with a hard thud and looked up in time to see the guard grabbing for his weapon. He pounced to his feet and lunged forward to hit the weapon from his hands. The rifle fell to the floor and the crodillian swung his razor sharp claws in Anlon’s direction. He dove to the floor and rolled around the guard in a circle, going for the laser rifle. As he reached out for the hilt of the weapon, he felt blades dig in to the back of his leg. A searing pain shot through his leg as he wailed out and grabbed his calf.

The crodillian jump on top of him, grasping his long fingers around Anlon’s throat. His fingers frantically dug at the nails around his neck, but the grip was too strong. Life was quickly leaving his body and he stretched out his arm as far as he could for the rifle. The guard grinned, salivating at the dying boy, when a laser beam entered his forehead, extinguishing his life. Blood spattered on Anlon’s face and the body dropped on top of him. He pushed it off and bent over his knees once to his feet, gasping for air.

He ran out of the room after regaining his breath and saw the others waiting at the end of the hall. He’d just caused a lot of noise battling with the guard, but there were no crodillians to be seen. As he began running to the door as an alarm rang through the halls and the door started to hiss shut.

“Go!” Anlon ran towards them. “I’ll make it.”

The others moved through the door, but Anlon knew he’d never make it in time. The door shut with him on the opposite side as his friends. He looked around frantically to find a place for cover since the halls would surely be filled with crodillians any moment. He darted in a dark room and hid under a table.

Pattering of crodillian feet echoed down the halls, but none entered the room he’d taken cover in. They were barking orders at each other, looking for the Princess! Anlon stayed in the room silently until he was sure there were no more guards around. Obviously, no one had noticed the group was short one person, or they didn’t care about anyone but the Princess. He snuck through the halls, careful to check every corner before he rounded it. The halls were like a maze, leaving him completely lost in an unpopulated part of the ship. It was eerily quiet, and there wasn’t a single crodillian in sight.

He hoped his friends were able to escape, but looking at his situation, he wasn’t all too confident they’d have any better luck. The guard back in the holding area hadn’t tried to subdue him, he’d tried to kill him. If the crodillians didn’t care about his life, the others were also in danger of the same thing, except for Kanti. He rounded a fourth corner and let out a deep breath when he found a dead end. An air-locked door that was shut was all that stood before him.

He walked over to it and examined, rubbing his hand across the cold metal, trying to find a way to open it. His finger hit a button and he readied his weapon for whatever lay on the other side. The door hissed open and revealed an empty evacuation bay. The only thing in the room were evac pods, or that’s what they appeared to be to him. He’d much rather leave with the others on Drakos Mavros, but he couldn’t expect them to wait for him with the crodillians after them. Kanti’s safety was now top priority. If he wanted to get off this ship, he had to do it on his own.

Anlon walked over to the closest pod and squeezed inside of the opening. It wasn’t too cramped, but it was definitely designed for only one. He closed the latch behind and looked at the controls of the pod. To his surprise, there was absolutely no was to fly it, but a small holomap popped up with planets displayed. None were familiar to him and all were labeled only by numbers and letters.

He took in a deep breath, closed his eyes, and pressed one of the circles, hoping it was a planet where he could quickly find someone to get him to Ares. If the others got off the crodillian ship, he could meet up with them there. If they didn’t get off, he still had a duty to tell the Council how to defeat the crodillians. The cylinder released with a sudden hiss and the pod dropped from the holding area. His pod hurdled out into the darkness, on its way to an unknown planet. He craned his neck and watched as the crodillian ships got smaller and smaller. Hopefully, Kanti and the others were as lucky as him and were able to get off of the ship alive.

“We can’t leave him back there alone!” Kanti banged at the door. “They’re going to kill him! Falcone, Nimesha, you have to help me get him back!”

“Kanti we need to move,” Camillus pulled her. “They’ll be after us once they see we made it to the other side of the door. Our time to escape this ship is running out.”

“He’s right,” Nimesha agreed. “Anlon is smart, he’ll find a way out, but we need to get to Drakos Mavros alive. Once we do that, I’m sure we can find him if he escapes, or come back for him with more firepower on our side.”

“We can’t leave Anlon!”

Nimesha started to run forward, with Falcone close behind. “We’re moving now!” She shouted. “If you want to stay to die, then so be it! I’m not letting those things get their claws on me.”

Kanti followed behind them, with Camillus by her side. She didn’t want to leave Anlon, and she’d rather be caught, but she knew he wouldn’t want that. He’d want her to go forward and get off this ship, with or without him.

Nimesha stopped and held her hand up. “Shhhh.”

Kanti stopped close behind her and peeked around the corner to see why she’d stopped. There was a single guard walking down the hallway with his weapon pulled out. As he got closer, they could hear orders coming to him through a walkie.

“Jahdiel says the human woman that escaped is the Queen’s daughter so we can’t shoot her,” someone said. “We locked down the closest hallway, but we haven’t found them yet, so they may be further down the ship. Keep your guards up.”

As the guard was about to round the corner Nimesha pounced on him and wrapped her legs around his neck. He clawed at her, leaving dark gashes on her, but she refused to let go. Her leg muscles flexed and she dug her nails into his eyes, and couple seconds later, the body dropped lifelessly to the ground with a thump.

“Looks like we may have a little luck on our side after all,” Falcone moved forward.

“Luck?” Camillus repeated. “They know who she is!”

“But they can’t shoot us,” he winked.

“He’s right. If they shoot at us, it’ll risk her getting shot too,” Nimesha said as she moved down the hall. “That may just give us a fighting chance to get off of this ship alive.”

“Do you think they’ll kill Anlon?” Kanti asked. “He’s not with me.”

“Don’t know,” Nimesha shrugged. “I would guess not, because if they don’t find you, he’s their best chance of tracking you down,” she held up her hand again. “Clear.”

They walked down the black and green hallways and saw the hangar approaching quickly through open doors.

“We can’t just run in there,” Camillus pulled at her arm.

“We’re not,” she pushed him away. “I was looking around when we came in. This place is filled with stuff we can use as cover. We’ll sneak our way to get to the ship.”

“And to think I wanted to kill you when we first met,” Falcone said.

“Let’s go,” Kanti moved past them.

“Slow down,” Nimesha caught up. “Follow my lead. I’m the one who does this type of stuff for a living.”

Nimesha darted out the hallway and dove behind a large crate in the hangar. The others followed her lead and she pointed ahead. Drakos Mavros is over there. We can use their ships to help conceal us once we get to that crate,” her finger pointed to a smaller crate fifty yards away.

“So, we’re just going to be out there exposed until we get to that one?” Camillus asked.

“I don’t like it either, but we don’t have much other choice,” Nimesha turned to him. “If we move quickly, we won’t be seen, but after that crate comes the fun. We’ll have to dart to the ship because there’s no other cover.”

“I like her plan,” Falcone smiled. “It’s a little daring, more than I like myself, but I think it’s doable.”

Kanti held in a laugh. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get off this ship.”

They all ran towards the crate in the middle of the bay, keeping close to the enemy ships, and waited behind it as group of crodillians passed. They had come out of nowhere, and if they had waited a couple of more seconds to go to the crate, they surely would’ve been caught. Nimesha peered around the corner of the crate and darted out once there were no enemies nearby. Kanti followed behind Falcone, who was gaining on Nimesha and eventually passed her to beat her to Drakos Mavros. Halfway to the ship, Kanti heard guards yelling from above and looked to see them pointing towards her.

“There they are!” Shouts echoed through the hangar. “There’s the Princess! Stop her before she gets to the ship!”

Kanti sprinted, putting in everything she had, trying to reach the ship before she was caught. It was already slowly starting to lift off the ground, and she didn’t know if they’d forgotten about her during the dash to the ship. She pushed harder and dived for the ramp just as it began to go up. The engines roared as she ran to the cockpit to meet up with the others.

“Falcone!” Nimesha hit him. “You left too early!”

“I saw Kanti right behind us!” He replied coolly. “I could’ve sworn I timed it perfectly!”

“Go back down!” She yelled. “Kanti is over there! We’re leaving without her!”

“Why is she just standing there?” He asked. “She was right behind us!”

“I’m right here,” she said, jaw dropping when she saw herself outside.

Nimesha turned around in her seat and stared. “You were right, Falcone. She was right behind us.”

“Then,” he started.

“Camillus!” Kanti peered out of the window. “We can’t leave him! Land the ship.”

“Too late,” Falcone pushed the ship forward. “We can’t go back now.”

“Camillus!” Kanti shouted, banging on the ship’s walls.

Nimesha put her arm on her shoulder and pulled her back. “He sacrificed himself to save you. They won’t care if we get away. They don’t want us. But now that they think they have you, they’ll let us go.”

Kanti slouched down in a chair and buried her face in her hands. She’d just lost two close friends and couldn’t process it all. She’d met both of them on Gaea after running from Demeter, and now they were gone, just like that. It’d never occurred to her that they could die. Inside, she wanted to give up, but she knew that wasn’t an option. It would never be an option. Anlon had warned her she could die when she’d left Gaea, and she was okay with that, but she’d never that about what would happen if it wasn’t her who died.

[] Chapter 15

Donnchadh blinked his eyes open and looked around him. He couldn’t remember exactly what’d happened after he’d gone in the cave, just a figure hovering over-top him. Now, he was lying flat on grey ground, next to a small cackling fire. There was something near him half-wrapped, which he assumed to be some type of food left for him. He slowly got up and saw a group of figures huddled in a circle around a separate fire a few yards away.

They were wearing light cloth wraps that covered their entire bodies. The cloth was sloppily wrapped and looked like they’d put them on in a rush. On their heads, were two large circular tubes, in the area where eyes should be and some type of rebreather over their mouths. Erebos was a brutal place, but he’d never gone out far past any city, so he didn’t know if this was common dress.

He slowly walked over to the circle. On his way, he reached for his weapon, only to find it’d been taken. One of the figures stood up and walked towards him. The strange circular tubes seemed to adjust as the figure came to him and the wrapped arm came up, signaling him to halt. Donnchadh obeyed and waited for it to come to him. As it did, it reached up with its grey arms and pulled off the grey helmet.

Donnchadh was surprised to see a human woman hidden underneath all of the grey cloth. She had bright radiant skin, luminous red hair, one blue eye, and one green eye. He stared at her without a word until she finally broke the silence.

“Who are you?” She asked.

“I should be asking you the same thing,” he crossed his arms. “You took me. So, who are you?”

“I’m Leilah,” she answered. “And I saved you. I didn’t take you.”

“What are you talking about? How did you save me?”

“You were poisoned,” she revealed. “That cave you went in was a hive of chlidorians.”

“Chlidorians?” He repeated.

“Yes,” she nodded. “They’re an insect that sprays venom in the air. You walked right into their home and you breathed in a lot of that venom.”

“Oh,” he looked at the ground. “Well, thanks for that.”

“You’re welcome,” she smiled. “They’re pretty common out here and everyone gets sprayed with the venom at some time, so we always have an antidote handy. Luckily, we were around when you were sprayed or you’d be dead,” she looked him up and down with her two-tone eyes. “What are you doing out here? You’re definitely far from home.”

“I ran into a little bit of trouble. I had two options of death and I chose the one I thought would be better.”

“I’m sure the other way would’ve been better than letting the planet consume you,” she shook her head. “You didn’t have anything on you. Even if the chlidorians hadn’t gotten to you, something else would have.”

“Yeah, I just wanted to ensure I survived the first threat trying to kill me,” he shrugged. “So, you live out here in this wasteland?”

“Yeah, apparently,” she replied. “We’re nomads. My father broke us off from the larger tribe long ago.”

“Is your father over there?” He pointed.”

“He is,” she gave a slight nod. “He’s our tribe leader.”

“There’s more of you out here?”

“Only what you see. Big groups don’t last very long out here. They slow you down, and when you slow down, predators get to you. That is, if the storms and environment doesn’t first.”

“Are there other tribes that stay in big groups?”

“There are, but my father doesn’t want to join any of them. They stay in one safe place, our group is a little more adventurous.”

“Adventurous?”

“Sure,” she replied. “We like to move around, discover things, you know, stuff like that. We don’t like to stay in one place for too long. You become weak when you settle and feel comfortable.”

“I didn’t last very long myself. I’m not sure how you’re able to do it.”

“You learn in time,” she assured him. “We run into large groups every so often, and when we do, some of their own leave to travel with us. Being cramped up in a cave isn’t fun, even if roaming the land usually means death.”

“How do you do it?” He asked. “Living out here with the predators and storms?”

“We have a good leader,” she smiled proudly. “My father’s father taught him how to live out here without dying. I’m still learning everything, but I’m positive I could live on my own now. The first thing you learn is how to tell when a storm is coming, which you saw firsthand. The storms out here tend to be much worse than what we see hit the cities, we’re not sure why, but they just are. We’re able to tell hours before a storm forms and what kind of storm it’ll be just be how the land acts. After that, we learn about predators and how to survive. To tell you the truth, the hardest part is just surviving off the land.”

“What kind of predators are there?” He asked. “I’ve never seen any near the cities. Nothing that poses much of a threat anyway.”

“Just, deadly, dangerous things,” she shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal. “There are so many different kinds out there, depending where you’re at, it’s hard to name them all. You met the chlidorians which are pretty common everywhere. You have a scorlf, which roams the land and it’s probably one of the most lethal. Once it gets its claws on you, you’re dead.”

“I’m not sure I want to know what that is.”

“Let’s just hope you don’t have to meet one,” she chuckled. “It makes the chlidorians look like child’s play.”

“How is living off the land the hardest with creatures like that running around?”

“There’s not much to live off of,” she held her arms out. “Look around. All there is, is a bunch of grey dirt, and smoldering hot lava. You have to know what to look for to find food. Unless of course, you’re brave enough to hunt down one of those creatures.”

“I figured it was tough living out here.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Why’d you run out here then? Obviously, you overestimated how long you could live by underestimating almost everything out here. Why would you willingly come this way when you could’ve gone towards a city?”

“You don’t know anything that happens around the galaxy, do you?”

“You mean politics and that stuff?” She asked with a chuckle. “We have enough of our own problems here. Keeping updated on that is a waste of time.”

“Well, now is a good time to keep up with that stuff. Orion’s problems will soon be your problems too.”

“How so?” She crossed her arms. “No one has ever bothered us before, why bother us now?”

“I betrayed a race called the crodillians,” he told her.

She shrugged and raised her eyebrows. “Doesn’t mean anything to us. Races betray races all the time.”

“This does affect you,” he placed his hand on her. “They aren’t from here, well, at least not since long ago. Anyway, they’ve come back and they’re destroying Orion.”

“Destroying Orion?”

“They’ve already burned one entire planet. I was being held for crimes when they freed me from Keres. They found out I knew certain things, possessed certain skills, and put me in charge.”

“What are you talking about?” She backed up with fear in her eyes. “Who are you?”

“That’s not what’s important right now,” he waved his hands. “What is important, is this race wants to destroy Orion. They claim to want peace, but I’ve seen their leaders’ eyes and I’ve seen eyes like that before. The crodillians won’t be satisfied until they destroy Orion.”

“Where have you seen eyes like his?” She asked. “If he’s as bad as you claim, this other person must have been terrible too.”

“I used to work for another man who has similar goals,” he replied. “I’ve done many bad things in my life, but I’m trying to change that, or I was. There’s not much I can do from here.”

“And just what do you expect us to do about that?” A voice boomed from behind Leilah.

“I need to get back to the city so I can warn others and try to stop the crodillians.”

“What goes on in Orion is none of our concern,” the large wrapped man told him. “We cannot help you.”

“You’re in as much danger as the rest of Orion,” Donnchadh insisted.

“We aren’t holding you back,” the man held out his hands. “You’re free to go, but we’re not going with you.”

“I’ll die out there.”

“Then you have a choice to make. You stay with our tribe as one of us, or go out there and die. It doesn’t matter to me which you choose or when you choose it.”

Donnchadh clenched his fists. “You’re making a mistake.”

“And it sounds like you’ve made your choice,” the grey figure turned around and walked back to the rest of the group.

Anlon held on to the corners of the pod as it roughly broke through the atmosphere of whatever planet he’d chosen. The pod was shaking violently back and forth and was beginning to turn in a circle. He was sure he was going die, but it was completely out of his control. There were no controls in the pod, leaving him with only one option – hope for the best.

The pod slammed into the ground and threw Anlon forward, banging his head on the front of the pod. Once the pod came to a stop, he slowly got up and pushed open the hatch, ready to finally get out of the cramped area. He jumped out of the pod, rubbing the bruise on his head and looked around to see if he knew where he was.

Unfortunately, he had no idea where his pod had just landed. It was dark, almost no light at all, except a dark orange hue in the black sky. The land was solid black rock with many enormous hills surrounding him. As he kept looking at the land, he noticed a large opening in the distance, and walked towards it, figuring it was his best bet to get out. As he began forward, an orange fog formed in the air. It’d appeared in an instant and thickened until he couldn’t see more than five feet in front of him.

The further that he walked, the more sure he became that there was no help on this planet. It was too dark for any cities to be nearby. If there were any, he’d have seen at least some light illuminating in the sky. It also didn’t appear like this planet could support any type of life. The hard black ground wasn’t viable for a race to live on or any plants to grow.

Anlon was quickly losing hope when he heard something move in front of him. It was quick and caused a stir in the fog. He stopped and held his hand in front of his face to see if he could make out anything, but was unable to see anything.

“Hello?” He called out. “Is there anyone there?”

There was no answer as he heard the noise again from his right. He turned to face the noise, but still saw nothing through thick orange fog. This time, he walked towards the sound, but when he reached the spot, it was empty. The noise came again, and when he whipped around to see what it was, he saw it standing before him.

It was a creature ten feet tall with the body of a snake and a dozen legs. The golden brown body rose straight up and had three hissing heads on top. The red eyes were focused on him and slowly inched towards him. Anlon reach for his laser rifle, but realized he’d left it on the pod. He looked back and forth frantically, unsure of what to do. He stared at the monster for only a second more before he took off running in the direction he’d originally been traveling, or at least what he thought was the direction. There was no way of knowing if there were any more of these things out there, but all he cared about was getting away from the one after him right now.

The sound of the creature’s feet hitting the ground was getting louder. He knew that he couldn’t outrun the monster, but the only option he had right now was to try. Anlon pushed even harder forward and saw a black figure appear in the orange mist. He continued forward, not worried about what it was. As he got closer, he saw that it was just standing there and it appeared to be motioning for him to follow.

Thoughts that it could be a trap entered his head, but he quickly shook them and followed the figure, feeling the monster on his heels. The black figure waited for him to get close and grabbed him by the arm. Anlon eased when he saw it was trying to lead him through the thick fog. The hand guided him until all of a sudden it look go and the figure disappeared. His breathing quickened and he began to pat around on the ground in front of him. An arm reached out from the wall and yanked him forward. His body squeezed through an opening and he felt something slam into the wall just as he made it through.

One of the creature’s heads squeezed its way through, but its body was far too large to follow. Anlon turned around to face the figure and saw it was a race wearing a hooded black robe. It was about his height and had a slight bend in the back.

“Thank you,” Anlon said. “You saved my life.”

“You’re welcome,” the hooded figure responded. “I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen another living race. I couldn’t let you be eaten by that thing.”

“You’re here alone?”

“Yes,” the hooded figure nodded. “I have been for the past fifty years.”

Anlon slouched down in disbelief. If this race had been stranded alone for fifty years, that wasn’t good for him. That meant that there was no way off of this planet.

“Who are you?” Anlon asked.

“My name is Fausto,” he removed his hood.

He was a dark red themin, with grey marks on his body. Anlon could tell he was old from the way his skin wrinkled and the limp he walked with.

“And who are you, unlucky human?” Fausto asked.

“I’m Anlon,” he answered. “Where did I land?”

The themin grinned and held out his hands wide. “The lovely moon, Tartarus.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he closed his eyes. “Out of all of the places I could’ve picked!”

“You chose to land here?” The themin burst out laughing, grabbing his stomach and bending over.

“I was trying to escape from the crodillians,” Anlon told him. “Their pod didn’t have anything labeled, so I just picked one of the planets.”

“Unlucky pick,” Fausto said. “But at least you’re alive, and will be for a long time if you listen to me.”

“I want to be alive, but I need to get off of Tartarus.”

“Not going to happen,” he shook his head. “I haven’t had any luck, and I doubt you will either,” he turned around. “Follow me.”

Anlon followed Fausto through the small tunnel which turned into a massive cave. It was lit a light blue by millions of insects on the ceiling of the cave. There were massive natural rock bridges leading to several different tunnels. Anlon followed Fausto over the one in the middle and looked over the bridge’s steep drop. At the bottom, bright and vibrant plants were thriving. The air felt moist and Anlon searched the cave, finding a waterfall in the distance.

When they finished crossing the bridge, Fausto led him down another dark tunnel that wound in a sharp curve. Upon reaching the end, he saw and opening that revealed Tartarus and the space above. Right in the middle of the opening was a crashed ship covered in years of vegetation.

“This is how I arrived,” Fausto said, walking towards the ship. “Someone attacked me and this is where I ended up. Pretty lucky, if you ask me. You saw all that stuff back there in the cave. As long as I stay here, I’m only going to die of old age.”

“Yeah,” Anlon shook his head. “It was amazing. Do you live off all that stuff?”

“Sure do,” he walked into the ship. “Don’t even need to leave here, but I do from time to time when I think it’s safe out there. I never wander too far though.”

“Why?” Anlon asked. “If it’s so much safer in here, why ever leave?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Sometimes I hope there’s a ship waiting, ready to take me off of this planet and back to civilization. It’s nice here, but I’d love to get to talk to someone besides myself.”

“You just happened to be out there when I crashed?”

“Oh no!” Fausto answered. “I saw your pod falling from the sky. I immediately left to retrieve you, before something else did. We don’t get many visitors, and usually, those things out there get to them before I do.”

Anlon looked around the ship. “Well, thanks again for that.”

“I’m sure you’d do the same,” he replied. “I’ll show you around the cave later. I need to rest right now. My age is wearing on me.”

“We need to find a way off Tartarus.”

“Good luck,” he chuckled. “You can’t do anything I haven’t already tried. My advice to you is to get used to it here. There’s absolutely no hope of getting off this moon. You’re stuck here until you die so you may as well get that through your head.”

Anlon nodded, determined to find some way off. It couldn’t be impossible, there had to be some way Fausto had overlooked. He had an entire ship here, there was bound to be something that could get them off. Anlon started walking around the ship to find something that would save them both.

[] Chapter 16

Moran walked the perimeter of Xiphos with five men he’d handpicked to set up various bases throughout Orion. He hadn’t known any of them before the crodillian attack, but since then had gotten to know them very well. None of them had come to his apartment when rebellion was brewing in the Capital, they’d all been with their families cherishing what they knew could be their final moments. Unfortunately, they’d been right and were the only survivors of each of their families.

Moran had found them gathering groups of injured survivors while he’d been out doing the same. They weren’t encouraging them to rebel by their side, instead they were making sure all had food and shelter. It surprised Moran these men who’d lost their families to the crodillians weren’t blind with rage and urging races to attack. Instead, they understood other families were in similar situations, and those that weren’t, didn’t need to experience the pain of losing loved ones. Each had the goal of setting up permanent refugee camps while obeying the crodillians to avoid further deaths.

He’d convinced all five of these men to bring their groups to his apartment complex, assuring them they’d be safe from any further crodillian attacks. Some had been reluctant at first, but they’d eventually given in. When they arrived at his apartment, they hadn’t done anything but work to improve things. They’d organized groups to carry out tasks, and within a few days’ time, it looked more like an undercover military base than a refugee camp.

No longer were they just making sure their survivors had food and shelter, they were ensuring the crodillians couldn’t harm them again. Cameras had been placed throughout Hassental watch the enemy closely, and so far it had proved to be a good idea, though there weren’t nearly enough to keep up with all movements. They hadn’t been planning to attack, but if they needed to, they’d have an upper hand with the cameras. After several days of watching the crodillians, one of the men pointed out patterns in the crodillian activities. They were consistent and became lazier with each passing day of no resistance. The patrols sent out dwindled down, leaving multiple vulnerabilities at certain times of day, every day.

Moran always encouraged them and made it known how appreciative he was of their selfless efforts. While none had expressed any thoughts of rebellion, Moran always had the thought in the back of his mind. Sure, providing for the children, woman, and elderly was important, but they couldn’t stay hidden forever. He kept the thoughts to himself, but secretly went out on his own to find additional places of vulnerability. It’d been his job in the GSOU to scout out threats for weaknesses, and now, it was his job as General to the same for the most dangerous enemy he’d ever faced. The biggest difference this time – thousands of innocent lives were counting on him.

Now it was up to these five extraordinary men to finish Pyrrhus’ job of setting up rebellion forces. They’d done it once on Gaea, and they’d be able to do it several more times on other planets. Moran had filled them all in on every little detail, something the rest of the survivors hadn’t had the privilege of yet. They’d only just finished moving them, but none were aware of what Moran’s intentions were. There was speculation throughout the base, but he’d kept quiet about it.

These lucky men now had the mission of establishing similar bases throughout Orion. He’d let these men know they were going to rebel from the very outset. Every one of them had agreed without hesitation. They were fighters and would obey orders if it meant the survival of Orion, even if it was at the cost of their lives. Each had been briefed on where bases were on certain planets and which places should be most populated with survivors.

He stopped at the gate and faced all five of the men. “You’re about to change the fate of Orion. Not too long ago, it was helpless, bleak, but now there’s nothing but hope. We’re not as few as we originally thought, and soon our numbers will grow at an exponential rate. It’s because of you and others like you,” he pointed. “That we stand a chance. The rebellion forces are necessary for us to beat the crodillians and each of you are setting them up. I have no doubt that you’ll be successful and that when the time comes, you’ll lead us to victory,” he put his hand on one of the men’s shoulders. “Now go out and find rebels. I’ll keep in contact with each of you and you’ll know when the time to strike has come. When that time comes, we’ll wipe out the crodillians once and for all. They don’t know what’s brewing right under their noses, and there’s no possible way they’ll be ready for it. We may be fewer in numbers than when they’d arrived, but we now have our backs against the wall and will do everything we possibly can to survive.”

The five men smiled at him and pumped their fists in the air. Moran knew they were ready to go out and find rebels. They may have lost their families, but now they were going to bring hope to other families and that was more than enough to keep them going. They were strong, determined, men and nothing would keep them from completing their missions. They knew death was probably, but they’d make sure their deaths meant Orion’s eventual freedom.

Jahdiel contacted Merikh to fill him in on recent events. His image appeared on the comlink, and he obviously didn’t want to talk to her. She knew she’d upset him last time, but she didn’t care anymore. Changing now wasn’t something she wanted to do to please him, even if it did mean she’d most likely end up like the other races of Orion.

“What is it, Jahdiel?” He asked expressionless.

“There have been some complications,” she answered. “It’s been resolved, but I thought it best to let you know.”

“Ah,” Kirill grinned. “So they proved to be trouble to you. I told you Nimesha is the best at what she does.”

“I’m not speaking to you,” she shot. “I’m speaking to Merikh. When I’m ready to talk to you, you’ll know.”

Did they prove to be trouble?” Merikh asked her.

“They escaped from the cell,” she told him. “The guard left the room empty.”

Kirill grinned wider, showing his white teeth. “I’m sure that was the doing of Nimesha. No doubt she lured him out somehow. She always was a resourceful one, and one that no one could take down.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” she replied. “We have the Princess and that’s all that matters.”

“And the others?” Merikh asked. “You haven’t mentioned what happened to them.”

“They evaded capture,” she let out in a single, quick, breath. “Three left on the ship and the boy left on an evac pod.”

“How do four of five prisoners escape a ship full of armed crodillians?”

“Ask Kirill, it was his assassin that was on board. She’d obviously scouted out the entire ship before freeing the Princess. I can’t ensure every crodillian does their job, and right now, it appears none of them were doing their jobs.”

“If one of his assassins was able to successfully escape my ship alive, then he wasn’t lying when he said he was a good ally. My men are the best, only an exceptional race could evade them.”

“She was one of my best,” Kirill straightened up with a gleam of pride in his eyes. “Not all of my men would be able to do that, but then again, I brought every race in the Deimos Brotherhood for a specific reason. Some for what Nimesha just demonstrated, and others for reasons entirely different. Each of them has their purpose and I make sure to put their skills to use.”

“For any race to do that is a very impressive feat. I haven’t known anyone to escape from one of my cells, let alone escape the ship with the entire crew hunting them down.”

Jahdiel rolled her eyes. “They still left the Princess behind, that was the only one that mattered.”

“You haven’t seen the last of Nimesha and that boy,” Kirill warned. “They’ll come back for her, trust me.”

“Yeah,” she crossed her arms. “Well, not before she’s on Hera in the control of Merikh. Once she’s there, it’ll be your job to make sure no one takes her, not mine.”

“Maybe,” Kirill winked. “Be careful on your way back. There’s no telling where she is right now.”

Jahdiel clenched her fists and hung up the comlink. She hated Kirill, but now he was one of Merikh’s puppets and she’d have to put up with his smirking face. He could try to get under her skin, but she wouldn’t let him know he was doing it. Soon, he’d be irrelevant. She was already planning ways to escape Merikh’s grasp, and every time she talked to him, the more her mind urged her to do so.

“Merikh, may I go see the Queen?” Kirill asked. “I would find it satisfying to let her know Kanti will soon be on Hera with us.”

“Go ahead,” a grin crept across his green face. “Let her know that we are fully in control of Orion now.”

Kirill turned around and left the reception room. He walked down the bloodstained marble halls and made a pit stop in the library. There was one survivor in the Palace Merikh wasn’t aware of yet, but he was sure he’d let him survive once proper introductions were in place. He walked to one of the bookshelves he knew to be an entrance to a hidden system of tunnels. Slowly, the shelf moved to the side and revealed the system of tunnels behind.

A black figure with a glass head holding a brain stepped out. Kirill hadn’t seen him in person for a very long time and was glad to see him again. If it weren’t for him, his rise to power would’ve been much slower.

“Abdul,” Kirill smiled. “It’s been a long time, my friend.”

“It has. Far too long,” he smiled back. “And somehow, Adira never even guessed that I was the one betraying her the whole time. Full trust was placed in me, without even a second thought, even when she’d become aware of a traitor amongst her Council.”

“Well, she’s about to find out you were the one stabbing her in the back the entire time,” Kirill grinned with pleasure. “We’re going to speak with her right now.”

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” he replied. “Does this also mean that I no longer have to hide in those wretched tunnels?”

“I’m going to work on that,” Kirill answered, turning to leave the library. “I haven’t exactly told Merikh yet about you hiding from him.”

“And you brought me out?”

Kirill shrugged. “He trusts me now. I’d say even more than his woman, Jahdiel. I tried to tell you we’d get along fine.”

“How is that?” He asked. “You’ve just met him. He’s known Jahdiel for years.”

“I’ve shown him her irrelevance. What I have to offer is much more valuable. Something no single person could ever offer and he knows it.”

They walked down the marble hallways to the dungeons. The stairs winding down, were littered with body parts which made them slick and treacherous. Abdul looked to Kirill with wide eyes.

“And now you can see why I hid from these monsters. This is atrocious. No civil being could be okay with something like this.”

Kirill rolled his eyes. “They just killed the rebels. I would’ve killed them myself if they hadn’t.”

“Those were more than rebels. They were very wise and important figures in Orion. It was them who ensured stability and peace. Without them, it’ll be hard to attain that again.”

“And now we no longer need them,” Kirill walked into the dungeons. “Merikh and I are ruling Orion now. I’ll put my own replacements in their spots. They may not gain the respect of everyone in Orion, but they’ll strike fear into each and every one of them. That fear will keep them in line more than respect ever would.”

“If Merikh lets you live that long.”

He looked to Abdul. “I wouldn’t worry about that. I already have a plan in place to make sure I’m the sole ruler of Orion.”

“Already vying to overthrow him so soon?” Abdul chuckled. “You’ve just met the bloodthirsty crodillian. Aren’t you going to give it some time to decide whether he lives or not?”

“I don’t plan on letting any inferior races live,” Kirill arrived at the Queen’s cell. “Crodillians are one of those inferior races. I’ll wipe them from the existence of this galaxy and return it to its true glory.”

“But they’re strong,”

“And they’re uncivilized monsters who’ll destroy any type of society that I want.”

The Queen appeared from the shadows. Her rags were dark brown and her wrists were crusted in red blood and sores. “Always vying to betray someone. Are you sure the crodillians are the ones you want to betray this time?”

“Hush,” Kirill ordered with a motion of the hand. “What I have planned is none of your business.”

“Of course not,” Adira replied smugly. “I wouldn’t want to be a part of the plan that gets everyone involved slaughtered. I’m perfectly fine here in my cell where it’s safe from your plights.”

Kirill’s face reddened. “I have someone with me I think you’d like to meet.”

Abdul stepped forward. “Your majesty.”

“You traitor!” Adira grasped the cell’s bars with both hands. “I trusted you more than any of the others!”

“And that’s what enabled be to be so successful. The thought that I was the one betraying you never even crossed your mind. I really take pride in that. Countless years of playing you, and if it weren’t for this moment, you never would’ve found out.”

“It doesn’t matter now. The crodillians will have both of your heads when they find out what you’re up to.”

“They won’t find out until I want them to,” Krill said.

“You really think they trust you?” She asked. “How many other races, besides their own, do you see within their ranks?”

“Two,” Kirill answered. “And it’ll be one before very soon.”

“It may not be the one you’re thinking of,” Adira chuckled with a glint of satisfaction in her eye. “Why are you here, Kirill? I don’t think it’s to have a nice conversation with me, as I wouldn’t want to have one with you anyway.”

“No, it’s not,” Kirill crossed his arms, furrowing his brows. “I’ve come with some information you may like to know.”

“Oh?” Amusement covered her face. “And what could you possibly have to tell me that I would care about?”

“Our daughter is about to make a visit to Hera.”

Adira’s eyes widened and her body slumped. “You wouldn’t.”

“I would and she’s on her way as we speak.”

“They’ll kill her like they’re going to kill me and you!”

“I’ll just make sure I survive any possible attacks. As for you, good luck locked up in that cell.”

“You’re a monster!” She yelled. “This is your bloodline! Your own daughter!”

“I don’t care about her,” Kirill said. “I didn’t even know of her existence until not too long ago. To me, she’s just another girl. If her death means I rule Orion, then so be it.”

“You’re never going to rule, Kirill!” Adira began hitting the cell door. “Save your daughter! Don’t bring her here to die!”

“She’s coming and the next part of my plan will take effect.”

“Your plan will never work! It’s already broken.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. The wheels have already begun to spin and I’ll come out top. Merikh is playing on my ground. He doesn’t stand a chance against me.”

“You think their monster of a leader actually trusts you?” She asked. “He’s just using you, and when he’s done, he’s going to throw you out just like he has Jahdiel. That thing played you from the second he saw you. He’ll put whatever you have started to a stop before it get much further.”

“He hasn’t thrown Jahdiel out yet, I haven’t given him enough reason to yet.”

“Oh, he did before he even met you. I’ve seen the way he talks to her,” Adira responded. “He doesn’t treat her like an equal, she’s being used. She’s just too naïve to see it. Just like you.”

“He can use me if he wants, but it’s only because I’m also using him.”

“He will be finished with you first,” Adira said. “He’ll never let you beat him. I’m sure he already has orders out to kill you at any sight of misbehavior.”

“I’m the only one with a chance of winning. I told you, he’s on my ground.”

“Do you think if you kill him Orion will bow down to you? Is that your master plan?”

Kirill stared at her expressionless. “Worry about yourself, Queen. You’re not in a very good predicament.”

“The crodillians won’t succeed Kirill and neither will you if you stick with them,” she warned him. “You need to switch sides before it’s too late.”

“Switch sides?” Abdul asked.

“Yes,” Adira nodded. “There are rebels. I know it.”

“There are no rebels,” Kirill replied. “Every town has been surrendering peacefully.”

“Do you really think they’d attack in small numbers?”

“I don’t care if there are rebels,” Kirill smiled evilly. “I’ll wipe them out if they pose a threat to me.”

“You’ll wipe out the ones who you later expect to bow down to you?” Adira grinned with pleasure. “No race of Orion will ever bow down to you if you’re seen next to Merikh. It’s you who’s in the predicament. You’re stuck in-between two sides, both the wrong choice because neither wants, nor needs, your help.”

“You’re right. The inferiors won’t bow down,” Kirill said, holding his anger in. “But those who want a pure society, like me, will bow down willingly and thank me for what I’ve done.”

“And that’s why you’ll never rule,” Adira backed up in her cell. “Nobody wants the society you dream of. They’d rather die than kill other races of Orion. You’re an even bigger monster than Merikh. At least he isn’t biased in who he kills. That monster just kills anything that breathes.”

“Your daughter will be here soon!” Kirill raged. “And when she gets here, you’ll both will play along!”

“We’ll tell them whatever you want,” she shrugged. “But it’ll all be for naught because the races will rebel no matter what we tell them to do. Orion is stronger than either one of you monsters wants to believe. The races will survive this, while you, I and your daughter will die.”

“My mind is made up,” Kirill turned around. “I won’t aid a few rebels who’ll surely die. The crodillians are my best ally in this war. I side with the strong, not the weak.”

“And that’s where you made your mistake,” Adira whispered down the hall to him. “The rebels have hope. They have a cause to fight for, a reason to live. They’ll stop at nothing to make sure you and Merikh fail. They are the strong and you are the weak.”

Kirill marched up the gory stairs and down the halls. Abdul jogged to catch up with him and to calm his temper.

“Kirill,” he puffed. “You may want to listen to some of the things Adira said.”

“What?” He flung around. “You want me to listen to her?”

“Hear me out,” Abdul insisted. “She’s right about you being used. I’ve been watching them in the tunnels, and they’ll never truly be your friends. They’re much like yourself, too much so for me to be comfortable.”

“I don’t need them to be my friends, Abdul. I just don’t need them to be my enemy.”

“You may not want the rebels to be your enemies either.”

“We’ll just have to wait and see. Won’t we?

“You know, once the rebels find out you’re helping Merikh, there’s no turning back. You’ll have to move forward, regardless of the consequences. No matter what ends up happening, you’re going to always been an enemy to Orion.”

“Let me worry about how things unfold. I’ve spent most of my life thinking about how I’ll take Orion. It’s right in front of me now, I won’t let what a few think of me keep me from taking it,” he marched forward.

[] Chapter 17

Zarah stood above the races in the Dining Hall with both hands grasped to the rail. There was no podium in the room and it was essential every race saw her so she’d stood at the top of the stairs. Every race needed to be reminded that every choice meant life of death from here on out. If the crodillians found out about this base, every last one of them would be slaughtered and their planet burned. Not very many of the races had seen firsthand what the crodillians could do, but it was her job to make them understand. Simply being aware of what they were capable of and witnessing it in person were two completely different things.

Once they’d arrived at the base, she’d left them alone to settle into their new home. Living underground like this would take them all some getting used to and she wanted to make sure they were comfortable before speaking to them. Settling in was no over, though. It was time to bring their focus back on the imminent threat. The crodillians were bound to be on Hermes soon and she needed every race to be prepared for the worst.

She look down and cleared her throat once all the races were silent. “I know that living down here may be a little harder than you may have initially thought,” Zarah looked around the room, seeing nods of agreement. “It’s hard for me too, but we’ll all get used to it. We won’t be stuck down here forever in hiding, it is only temporarily.”

“How long is temporarily?” Someone asked. “I’ve heard rumors that we’ll never be allowed to leave here. That this rebellion you’re talking of isn’t real.”

“Those rumors are false,” she assured them all. “Bases, just like this one, are being established throughout Orion. Races, like you and I, are abandoning their homes in hopes this rebellion will pull together. I truly believe with all of my heart, that this rebellion will be successful.”

“How much outside contact do you have?” Someone else asked. “What’s going on right now? We can’t access anything of the outside world from down here.”

“I’m not sure at this exact moment,” she shrugged. “I can tell you the crodillians still haven’t come to Hermes. Dorjan, the man who was against coming here, agreed to stay in Thermopylae with his rebels to gather intel. When the crodillians arrive, I’ll let you all know. Now for the other stuff, it’ll have to stay between myself and those I choose as officers,” she looked around the room for any ready to speak out against her decision to keep intel from them. “I’ve appointed ten officers to assist me with getting the rebellion ready. You all know who you are because you received a letter this morning. You will report to me immediately after this meeting.”

“What about the rest of us?” A Filibian asked. “What are we to do?”

“You’ll report to areas that fit your skill set. I won’t determine what your skill set is or where you’re placed, it will be up to you. Each of you know what you’re good at and I trust that you’ll report to the correct area. At the front of the Dining Hall, I’ve put a map of the base,” she told them. “Each area is marked. For example, the kitchen. We need races to make food for us, so if you’re a cook, you can report to the kitchen. If you’re a nurse, you report to the medical room and so on and so forth. I won’t force you to move anywhere, but remember, there’s more to a rebellion than just fighters. Every job is important, so I’m leaving it up to you to choose wisely,” she paused a moment. “Are there any questions?”

She gazed around the room and didn’t see any races raise their hands or speak up. It was going much smoother than she’d expected. Sure, some had spoken out, but none were against her decisions. Allowing them to choose where they wanted to fight in the rebellion had been a tough choice, but one she thought would make them fight harder. None would feel as if they’d been forced to do anything, making them fight as one and not just individuals wanting to survive.

“The appointed officers can come to the Command Center,” she said. “The rest of you can find your place within this base. Once you’re in place, I’ll find leaders and supervisors for every section. They’ll work with you to set ground rules. Once they’re set, they’re to be followed unless an amendment is made. We must all work together now, times may be hard, but we’ll push through.”

Zarah left Dining Hall and walked down the empty halls to the Command Center. She stood at the end of the rectangular table once in the room and patiently waited as her appointed officers filed into the room. Once she counted that all were present, she began to talk.

“I’ve appointed you all for a reason. Pyrrhus has given me detailed reports on every race, and you were the most qualified to be officers. Now most of you, like me, have never been in the military,” she saw nods from all but two officers. “But you all possess skills vital to leading a successful rebellion. Some of you are leaders. Some have knowledge with weapons and fighting tactics. Others know how to put together battle plans. Military experience is only a plus, but surely not necessary in order to succeed,” she smiled widely, trying to make them feel comfortable. “We’re rebels. We’re the last hope for Orion and you ten are the best races there are to lead this rebellion. All of us, even those out there, had to leave their old lives behind and start a new one. Life after this war will never be the same as before, but we can try to make it as close to the same as possible. Right now, I want all of us to become acquainted. From here on out, we eleven will always be together. We will train, eat, sleep, and learn together. We’ll know each other inside and out, and when the time comes to attack the crodillians, we’ll defeat them as one.”

The races smiled to her and began to chatter amongst themselves. She could see the enthusiasm and determination in their eyes. They may have lost their old lives, but each and every one of these ten races was willing to fight to the death in order to get it back. She dug through a lot of background papers to find these ten and her work was already paying off. They’d lead the base to victory.

“It sure doesn’t look like there’s a rebellion being put together here,” Falcone flew the ship on Ares. “It looks pretty peaceful, if you ask me.”

“The Council said that the three hundred ships were here,” Kanti said. “The rebellion has to be here. Maybe they’re just concealing themselves from enemies. My mother did send out that speech for peace.”

“I’d think they’d want to attack any incoming enemies. This is the quierleons’ home planet after all. They’re not known to give up anything without one hell of a fight,” Falcone said.

“Not exactly,” Nimesha said. “They’re greatly outnumbered. They’re most likely waiting for the right time to strike. The quierleons are masters of war. Being predictable isn’t something they’re known for either.”

“Well, where do I go?” Falcone asked. “There are plenty of places the planetary leaders could be.”

“Lacedaemon,” Nimesha told him. “It’s the capital of Ares. Every leader from every planet in Orion is likely to be hiding there.”

“All in one place?” Kanti asked.

“It’s very heavily guarded. The place always was when I was assigned to missions here. It’ll be hard for the crodillians to take the city, especially with the increase in security.”

“Then to Lacedaemon we go,” Falcone piloted the ship in the direction of the capital.

It took them fifteen minutes to see the city approaching from the cockpit of Drakos Mavros. The city was impossible to miss. A blue semi-circle force field covered the city and a sea of lush green tress surrounded it. While the rest of Ares had been quiet so far, Lacedaemon was booming with life. Small fighter ships circled around the dome, and it wasn’t long before one of the fighters was alongside them.

“What’s your business on Ares?” A voice asked on the comline.

“We’re here to meet with the planetary leaders,” Nimesha answered. “We have vital information on how to defeat the crodillians.”

“Go ahead,” the fighter broke off.

Falcone piloted the ship over the massive sea of trees and through the blue force field into Lacedaemon. He found a spot at the ship dock and slowly took Drakos Mavros down, setting down with a light thud. The dock was teeming with robots, mechanics, and pilots. Tools were scattered around ships and large parts lay on the ground where someone was busy working away on it. They were preparing to take their ships into battle. He powered down the engines and lowered the ramp.

“Let’s go tell these leaders what they’re up against. I’m sure that they aren’t prepared for what they’re about to hear,” Falcone rose from his seat. “It sure caught me off guard when I heard about their magic powers.”

“I would guess they don’t even have the slightest clue as to what they’re up against,” Nimesha followed him down the ramp.

“Just where are they going to be? I doubt they’ll be somewhere where everyone can find them easily,” Kanti said.

“That’s where you’re wrong. There’s no point in them hiding. If the crodillians attack, every race here will die,” Falcone said.

“They’ll be in the Capitol building,” Nimesha said. “It’s where the Prime Minister stays and where I’ve gone on every one of my missions. They’re all very likely to be gathered there. It’s one of the most secure places on the entire planet.”

They walked through the busy dock and waved down a bypassing taxi. It stopped and lowered to the ground. The door flung opened and they all entered the back seat.

“Where are you off to?” The driver asked, putting his arm over the seat and turning.

“The Capitol,” Kanti answered.

“Lots of races coming and going from there recently,” the driver lifted the cruiser. “I’m guessing you won’t tell me what for, besides a rebellion of course.”

“We have information that’ll lead us to defeat the crodillians,” Kanti said.

“Oh?” The driver grinned and laughed. “I sure hope you’re right. Have you seen what they did to Demeter and Gaea? Pretty nasty stuff! They seem unstoppable.”

“Well, they aren’t,” Kanti glared.

“Hey! I’m no military man or nothing. I don’t know what’s possible and what’s not possible. I just know what I see, and so far,” he looked back, taking his hands off the wheel. “Well, I think you know.”

“That’s enough. Leave the girl alone,” Nimesha said. “Just drive before you make the girl mad and I have to kill you.”

The driver turned back around and focused on the sky ahead. The city was bustling with races getting ready for an attack. They all sensed impending rebellion and were preparing themselves for invasion.

The driver landed the cruiser and opened the doors. “Don’t worry about the fare, it’s on me.”

“Are you sure?” Kanti asked.

“I wouldn’t want to charge the woman responsible for saving Orion,” he winked and drove off.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to just walk in there,” Falcone said. “They look like they have things locked up pretty tight.”

Kanti and Nimesha looked over to see he was right. There were armed guards walking the perimeter out front and war tanks were parked on the yard with the barrels aimed to the streets. Barricades had been set up on corners and they only way through was to cross over them.

“Lead the way, Princess,” Falcone held his hands out.

Kanti walked forward and was met by a tall, brown, human man. He was bald, with blue eyes and a black braided beard. She’d never seen him in person, but she knew exactly who he was.

“General Pyrrhus,” she held out her hand. “It’s an honor to finally meet you.”

“No,” he bowed. “The honor is all mine, Princess,” he looked to the others. “I’m glad to see you got off Ovrea okay. The Council and I were worried that something may have happened to you.”

“We ran into a little bit of trouble on Ovrea,” Nimesha revealed. “We lost Anlon on the way back.”

Pyrrhus looked to them worriedly. “Follow me. Now what happened?”

“That woman named Jahdiel,” Kanti spat the name with venom. “She forced us to surrender peacefully or she’d shoot us down.”

“The crodillians got there right as we located the Elders,” Nimesha interrupted.

“She let you go?” Pyrrhus asked.

“Are you kidding me? Nimesha broke us free from the cell she put us in and we fought our way off the ship.”

“You what?” Pyrrhus turned around. “How’d you manage to do that?”

“We do have one of the best assassins in Orion traveling with us,” Falcone grinned. “And Anlon took out the guard that would’ve stopped us.”

The best, Falcone,” Nimesha corrected. “I’m the best assassin in Orion.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said with a flick of the wrist. “Anyway, Nimesha, Anlon, and Camillus got us off that ship.”

“So, you left without both Anlon and Camillus?” Pyrrhus asked.

“We didn’t have a choice. Security doors blocked Anlon off. Even if we had time to get him, we would’ve gotten caught. They somehow found out that Kanti was the Princess, once they knew that, we knew we had to get off the ship. Camillus sacrificed himself in order for us to escape,” Nimesha said.

“I’ve heard some about the humanoid, but not much.”

“He was more than just a robot. Camillus was just like you and me. He could think, feel, and knew how to be a friend,” Kanti’s head hung. “He transformed his image to be me. The crodillians took the bait and let us go.”

“Nice,” Pyrrhus opened the doors. “So, you don’t know for sure if Anlon is okay?”

“We don’t know what happened to him,” Kanti shook her head. “I feel horrible. Nimesha forced us to move forward. I didn’t want to leave without him, but I knew it was the right choice.”

“Nimesha is smart. From what the Council tells me, the kid is smart too. I have no doubt he’s alive,” he led them down the stone halls. “Did the Elders reveal anything to you?”

“They did and you’re going to want everyone to hear this!” Kanti replied. “The crodillians haven’t even showed their true strengths yet.”

“How could they be any stronger?” He asked. “They’ve wiped out almost all of our ships and have lost only a few hundred of their own.”

“They have telepathic powers, Pyrrhus. They’ve just been toying with us,” Nimesha said. “If they really wanted to, they could wipe out this entire galaxy within a month.”

Pyrrhus stopped in front of a door. “What else did they tell you?”

“That the monsters were barely defeated last time. The Elders seemed to think it was luck more than anything. Honestly, I don’t think they believe we stand any chance,” Falcone said.

“I believe we do stand a chance.” Kanti said. “They defeated them using guerrilla warfare tactics last time. The Elders said big clusters enable them to use their telepathic powers. If we don’t gather in one place, they can’t use it against us.”

“The Elders also said they didn’t have stealth fields when they first fought the crodillians. That’s something we can use to our advantage,” Nimesha said.

“They’re impatient and overconfident. We’ll lure them into traps,” Pyrrhus thought aloud. “They may not be as invincible as they first seemed.”

“So you think we stand a good chance?” Kanti asked.

“I think we stand a decent chance,” Pyrrhus nodded. “I don’t know about those powers, but hopefully we never get the chance to see them. I have some other things being set up that’ll help us out tremendously when the time to strike comes.”

“You’re gathering rebels,” Nimesha said.

“Oh, more than that,” he grinned. “There are rebellion forces being set up on every planet. I set two big ones up with thousands of rebels on Hermes and Gaea. I believe we can use them as distractions as we take down their fleets.”

“You mean sacrifice them?” Kanti asked surprised. “We can’t do that.”

“You misunderstand what I mean. They’ll be rebellions. Big rebellions. Every one of the bases these rebels are gathered at, are well equipped with weapons. They won’t be martyrs,” he clarified. “From my reports, the crodillians only have four fleets. Two always overtake a planet while two stay at Hera. I believe if I order all of the bases to rebel when the two crodillian fleets arrive here, they’ll only leave one to conquer us and send the other fleets to stop other various rebellions,” Pyrrhus paused. “Just thinking out loud, but once I tell the other military leaders what you just told me, we’ll put an unbeatable battle plan together.”

“Where are they?” Kanti asked. “The leaders?”

“Right in here,” Pyrrhus opened the door and walked in. “Let’s tell them what the Elders told you.”

Pyrrhus led them to a stage at the front of the packed room. Tables and monitors were spread throughout the room and leaders huddled tightly around them. In the upper part of the room, holoscreens were pulled up, displaying the crodillians current movements on every planet. Every one of these races seemed determined to beat the crodillians and Kanti knew the information they’d just gotten would only increase their chances for success.

Pyrrhus held up his hands and the room became quiet. “Someone very important has just arrived on Ares with crucial information in our fight against the crodillians. The Princess is here with me right no,” he motioned to her.

Chatter erupted around the room, as some leaders found out for the first time the Queen had a daughter. Some had already heard the whispers among higher ups and others knew as much about it as the rest of Orion. Even so, every one of them was surprised and didn’t know how to act to her presence amongst them.

“She and her companions have traveled to Ovrea to speak with the Elders,” he continued. “They’ve fought the crodillians before and provided us with a piece of information that none of us knew about. They possess telepathic powers,” he paused while the chatter got even louder. “We can’t attack them in large groups. We must utilize other tactics. The Elders said last time they were defeated, the Orion fleets and armies used a type of guerilla warfare. This is how we will defeat the enemy.”

“Our ships are so few!” One of the leaders said. “How are a mere three hundred or so ships supposed to stand up to thousands using guerrilla warfare?”

“We’ll utilize the rebellion forces being set up,” he answered. “I believe if we strike on multiple fronts at a time that they’ll be vulnerable. Right now, I need all of you in charge of watching the crodillians to closely watch how they take over planets. We’re going to make them think this one is the same as any other planet when they arrive,” he ordered. “Those of you in charge of making battle plans with me, utilize guerilla warfare tactics or things similar. If we are to take back Orion, we must first win the battle of Ares.”

Kanti stepped forward. “I know this is the first time I’ve spoken to any of you, but I need you to know that this is possible. We will beat the crodillians. They’ve destroyed both places that I’ve called home, as I’m sure they’ve destroyed yours. We’ll strike them back,” she looked around the room, with a gleaming face. “The crodillians think they’ve beaten us, but they haven’t; we’re still here with more fight than ever. We now know more about them, than they do about us. We know about their secret weapon, but they don’t know about our secret rebel forces, fleet, or new technology. They think they’ve won, but they’re wrong! I can see by looking at each and every one of you that you’ll fight until your last breath. They may have destroyed our homes, but not our hope.”

The room washed over in deafening applause. She’d never spoken to a large group before, especially not on with races as important as these. She didn’t know why or how, but it’d just come naturally to her. Something inside told her to encourage the leaders and her body had reacted without a second thought.

Pyrrhus led her off of the stage and nudged her in the side. “I think I just got an idea after that inspiring speech of yours. How do you feel like inspiring thousands of rebels throughout Orion?”

[] Chapter 18

Donnchadh stuck close to Leilah as she lagged her father and four other members of the nomadic tribe. He’d learned that her father’s name was Reamonn and he’d left to travel on his own after his father’s death. The man hadn’t been very old at the time, but managed to survive on his own and quickly gained followers, though not many lasted long.

Leilah revealed her mother had died when she was young and it’d been extremely tough on her father. He’d gone into a rage, not caring whether he lived or died for months, which was apparent by his scar-ridden body. He was missing his left eye and the right eye had blue fog over it from being cut. Stitches went from his jaw up to right below his ear and he was missing a whole chunk from his head.

Leilah hadn’t told him she hadn’t reacted the same was as her father because she understood life on the move, even at a young age. Every day her mother warned her of the perils that waited on the land, and that had prepared her for the loss. Yes, it’d been hard, but Leilah assured Donnchadh that her outlook on life didn’t change much. In fact, if anything, it became clearer. She said after her mother’s death she understood things better, but hadn’t told anyone but him. It was a secret she’d kept for countless years, afraid of what her father would say if she told him.

So far today, they hadn’t run into any strange creatures. Traveling with the tribe made him feel safer, and knew if he did run across anything the tribe would take care of it. Another thing that hadn’t seemed to be a problem were storms hitting them. Each time it’d appeared as if they’d be stuck in one, it blew over as the tribe members had told him. Leilah insisted it was because they’d learned how to live in the wasteland, but he didn’t quite buy it. If they’d missed one, he could’ve accepted it, but not several of them. No one was that lucky.

So far, today was the longest day of travel since joining the tribe. It felt like hours dragging by, but he knew from the position of the sun, it had been around three hours. The walk was exhausting, they were in the mountainous part of Erebos and had to watch for lava streaming from cracks. His legs were on fire and the fatigue was wearing him down quickly. He wanted to tell the others to slow down, but he didn’t want to appear weak, so he pushed his body forward.

Why they were going through the mountains was beyond him, but it was what Reamonn had ordered the others to do and they followed without question. In this part of Erebos, predators and storms weren’t the only thing they were fighting against; they had to fight against the terrain and the lack of food.

“I don’t know how you guys do this,” Donnchadh panted. “It’s dangerous and tiring. How do you live like this?”

“This is how I grew up,” Leilah answered. “I haven’t known anything else my entire life.”

“Haven’t you ever thought about going to one of the cities? Life would be much easier.”

“We have been to some of the cities. Are you wondering if I want to leave this life to live in one of them?”

“Yeah. It’s much better than fighting for your life every day. Fighting these creatures, trekking the terrain, and braving who knows what else.”

“This is where I belong,” she climbed up a large rock. “I’d find it hard to live like you, like you find it hard to live like me. I’ve become used to this life. Surviving is what I’m good and I wouldn’t feel right giving it up.”

“I don’t think so. Living the way I do is simple. You don’t have to fight to survive every breathing moment, and trust me, no matter how much you like fighting to survive, it’s a relief to be able to relax every now and then.”

“It doesn’t sound that simple with the crodillians out there,” she jumped from a rock. “Orion will be fighting for their lives more than us.”

“True,” he followed her down the rock not quite as elegantly, stumbling at the bottom. “But you’ve been facing death your entire life. The crodillians will be defeated in time. Once that happens, the races will be able to live normally again. They won’t have to worry about if the coming day is their last.”

“It’s not quite that hard for us to live out here as others.”

“Of course it is!” He replied. “Predicting when storms are going to hit and being prepared or predators. There’s no way I could survive as long as you, even with years of training. Training only goes so far and luck isn’t something everyone has on their side.”

“And you are correct,” she nodded and came to a stop. “You wouldn’t be able to do any of what we do because you’re not like us.”

“Oh, come on. You aren’t going to give me at least a little bit of credit. I did kill that serpent thing.”

“We have help. But don’t mistake that for luck. Luck has nothing to do with the way we survive. You survived that serpent by luck.”

“Help?” He asked. “What do you mean you have help?”

She looked to her father ahead of her and lowered her voice some. “We have special abilities. They help us be prepared for things and defend ourselves against threats.”

“I don’t understand, Leilah. What special abilities do you have? Instincts?”

“More than that. We can see things before they happen, if that makes sense to you.”

“You can see the future?”

“Not like you’re thinking. No,” she shook her head. “We can see and feel danger before it happens. Visions come to us. It’s the only reason we survive out here. Without it, we’d be like you, and we would die within days.”

Donnchadh stared at her. “Are you serious? I’ve never heard of anything like this! It’s incredible, Leilah.”

“And it’s why we live out here on our own,” she continued forward. “We can’t live with others. They’d abuse our powers as the tribes have. If the tribes want to use our powers, imagine what would happen if the rest of Orion found out about us.”

“That’s the thing!” Donnchadh smiled widely. “Orion needs your help right now!”

“We can’t help. Once we reveal ourselves, then what?” She asked. “The war with the crodillians will end, but what’s to say there won’t be another between the races of Orion?”

“There won’t be. There hasn’t been a war in hundreds of years, and even that doesn’t count because it was also against the crodillians.”

“Maybe this is the reason we were led to you,” she mumbled. “All of us had the same vision of you in trouble,” she looked at him with worry in her eyes. “And not with just the chlidorians’ hive, but with what must be the crodillians and some human man. We didn’t know what it meant, but we knew where we could find you.”

“Then you’re meant to help me!” He insisted, grabbing her arm. “Your visions guide you from danger and you’re in danger of the crodillians, whether you want to believe it or not.”

“I believe you and I believe you may be right,” she said. “But my father is the one who needs to be convinced. He had the vision too, but is hesitant to do anything more. We haven’t seen anything else yet. After we found you, the visions went away. We don’t know why we were led to you Donnchadh, we just were.”

Donnchadh just nodded and walked forward. His fatigue went away with the realization he’d just found the races to help save Orion. They’d been led to him for some reason, and he was positive that reason was to aide in a rebellion. Now all he had to do was convince Reamonn that leaving the wasteland of Erebos was the right thing to do. That was easier said than done.

Abdul stood outside of Kirill’s room, nervous to enter. The talk with the Queen had opened his eyes, but Kirill was still blinded by power. He’d worked with the Queen since the beginning of her rule, and despite what Kirill thought, she was a very wise ruler. Adira saw things happening before they even happened. That’s why she’d had such a peaceful reign and was considered one of the best rulers Orion had ever seen.

Now, he just had to convince Kirill to make a move. The Queen hadn’t suggested it because she didn’t care whether Merikh or Kirill survived. But Abdul knew if Merikh killed Kirill, he’d surely be next and that was motivation enough to push for his leader to make the first move. It’d be tough considering Kirill was bent on not betraying Merikh until the right time, but the time was now and he had to prove it before it was too late.

“Kirill,” Abdul walked into his room. “I’ve been thinking long and hard, and we need to exterminate the crodillians as soon as possible. I have a bad feeling about teaming up with them, as I have voiced with you from the start. There’s just something about them that’s off. They’re not trustworthy.”

“You worry too much, Abdul,” Kirill waved his hand. “I told you they’re a good ally and once I have what I want, we’ll dispose of them. You don’t need to worry about anything. It’s my job to worry about things like that.”

“The Queen is right. I’m not going agree with you on this one. Teaming with the crodillians will only lead to more trouble, most likely your death. When that time come, you better believe I won’t be around.”

“And I will kill Merikh first. I have already told you this. There’s nothing for you to worry about.”

“How can you promise that?” Abdul asked. “He has the army, not you. You’re greatly outnumbered and you’re a guest in his home.”

“I have the assassins,” Kirill rolled his eyes. “All I have to do is assassinate Merikh and I’ve won. The crodillians won’t attack me without a leader. Complete utter chaos will ensue, leaving the Throne for my taking.”

“They’ll just kill every living thing they see once you do that. They’re bloodthirsty beasts without any type of morals.”

“Look,” Kirill walked over and put his hand on his shoulder. “Once Kanti is here, everything will be fine. Merikh will be happy and he’ll think he’s in complete control. Once we’ve killed him, we can even make it look like we came to her rescue. The rebels will think we’re heroes and everything will be fine.”

“It won’t be that easy.”

“Sure it will. Stop worrying so much.”

“Merikh won’t let you win,” he continued to pound in his leader’s head. “You think this is the first time he’s used someone like you?” He asked. “I can assure you that it’s not and that he’s already planning for you to kill him. This isn’t one of your usual targets, he’s wiped out the Queen’s entire fleet. Their leader has resources that’ll enable him to beat you unless you act soon.”

“The Queen put her entire fleet out in the open to be wiped out. Even I could see that coming. What Merikh won’t see, is my assassin in his room.”

“He’s smart, Kirill. You can’t play him like you think.”

“Then what do you suggest I do? Take him out before all the planets are conquered?”

“I suggest you take him out as soon as possible. So yes, that means before all of the planets are conquered. If you were smart, you’d do it now before word of you working by his side leaks.”

“Ridiculous!” Kirill shook his head and threw his hands up. “What you’re suggesting is preposterous. You’re overthinking things from being around the Queen too long.”

“I assure you I’m not. Just think what would happen if you acted now. Wouldn’t Orion see you as a hero? You’ll gain the trust of every last race. You’ll lead the rebellions to wipe out the remaining crodillians, and in the process you’ll kill thousands of races you plan on exterminating. When the war is over, you’ll have gained all their trust and it’ll be easy to make this galaxy pure again,” Abdul told him. “Think of the propaganda you could put out there that’d get races on your side to take out the unworthy. All you’d have to do is strike fear in them and they’d bend to your will. Acting now is in your best interest.”

“I know what’s best. When I think the time has come to take their leader out, I’ll do it. Right now isn’t the time.”

“You’re not listening!” Abdul shouted. “Kill him now.”

“I’ll think about it,” Kirill said. “You still haven’t thought about Jahdiel. What’s to say she won’t stand in my way once I kill him?”

“They’ll never follow her, she’s human. They only follow her now because Merikh orders it. When he dies, it’ll be complete chaos. The upper ranking crodillians will fight each other for power, giving you the chance to come in as a hero and lead a rebellion to wipe them out.”

“You really think he’s going to kill me?”

“I know he’s going to kill you,” Abdul nodded. “If you want to live, then listen to what I’m telling you and take him out now. He may be a good ally, and may get you close to your goal of genocide, but you’ll never actually get there. Merikh is just as bloodthirsty as you, and he too is waiting for the right moment. You need to strike early to ensure your survival.”

“I still want to use him more, but you may be right. I’ll put some more thought into it.”

“Poison him. Make it look natural. Don’t let the crodillians think you were behind it. And act quickly, every moment you wait could mean your death.”

“I know just the race to take him out,” Kirill grinned. “I’ll wait a little longer, but I promise you, he’ll be dead before killing me even crosses his mind. Maybe he’ll even have conquered a few more planets for me by then.”

[] Chapter 19

Anlon sat in the pilot seat of the crashed ship, frustration gnawing away at him. He’d searched the ship from top to bottom and hadn’t found a single thing of use. It seemed impossible to have gotten so far, just to end up somewhere where everyone would forget about him. A war with the crodillians was looming, and once that was over, he’d be counted as just another fatality of the war. No one would come for him. Ever.

“Why!” He slammed his fists on the controls of the ship.

Searing pain coursed through his hand and he yanked it back, wiping fresh blood off on his suit. He reclined back in the chair and noticed the walkie of the comline dangling from a cord. Anlon jumped from the chair and grabbed it, pressing the button on the side. Just like everything else in the ship, it didn’t work. All that came back light static.

“Thought I didn’t already try that?” Fausto asked from behind. “It hasn’t worked since I was attacked and crashed here, otherwise, I’d be out of here and you’d be dead. You should be happy that stupid thing doesn’t work.”

“What’s wrong with it?” Anlon asked. “Why can’t you fix it?”

“That’s fried,” he pointed. “Don’t know how, but the circuits burned up when I was shot down.”

“So, it’s impossible to fix?”

Fausto nodded and put his hands on his hips. “I’ve tried everything to get that thing up and running again and nothing has worked.”

Anlon clenched his fists. “There has to be some way to fix it! Come on, think!”

“You see any ship yards around here?” He looked out the window as if he’d find something.

“There’s nothing on this wretched planet!”

“That’s my point,” he looked at him. “There’s nothing on my ship and there are no scrap yards I can go to. That means this thing will never be up and running again.”

Anlon grinned. “You sure about that?”

“I’ve been here for fifty years,” he crossed his arms. “Don’t you think I would’ve found a way to fix it by now?”

“I think there is a way to fix it now.”

“Is there something you saw that I’ve missed for the past fifty years?”

“Not necessarily something you’ve missed for fifty years,” he answered. “But there is something that’s been here as long as me that you missed.”

Fausto uncrossed his arms. “Your evac pod?”

“Exactly!” A smile grew across his face. “My evac pod will have a comline on it! I can’t believe I was so dumb not to use it before getting out of it. I’m sure the boards are similar enough to work.”

“I guess the boards could work, though they’re bound to be a little bit different,” Fausto said. “But there’s one little thing that you’re forgetting.”

“And what’s that? All we should need are some circuit boards and a couple other parts. I’m sure we can find whatever we need somewhere on your ship.”

“The three headed monster out there,” Fausto reminded him. “You know, that thing that almost killed you until I saved you.”

“Oh,” he replied, deflated. “We could try to avoid it.”

“It’s not the only one out there. I’ve seen several of them from the cave. I don’t know what they’re called, but I’ve seen them preying on other creatures that wander out there. The place is a graveyard.”

“It’s our only hope to get off of this planet! It has to be worth a try!”

“Yeah. And if you fail, you’re dead.”

“Come on Fausto!” He urged. “If I’m going to go back to the pod I need your help. You know the terrain better than I do.”

“Not much. You’ve been out there further than I’ve ever gone. Plus, I’ve never fought one of those things. I’ve just observed them and I would like to keep it at that.”

“We won’t fight them unless we have to. You know how they’ll react from observing them so you should know a way to get around them.”

“I would much rather stay here, safe in my cave,” he replied. “You’ll live a very comfortable life here. It’s pleasant and there’s nothing that wants to kill you.”

“I need to get off Tartarus,” Anlon urged. “Orion is at war with an ancient race who have weird powers. I don’t know if my friends escaped to warn the rebels, which means it’s now my duty.”

“Nothing will change your mind? I can’t say anything that’ll make you stay in this cave?”

“Not a single thing. We’re both getting off of Tartarus or we’re going to die trying,” he crossed his arms defiantly.

“I haven’t even shown you around the cave yet,” he walked forward. “But then again, it would be good to see other races after all these years.”

“So, you’re going to help me?”

“What choice do I have? You don’t think I’m going to let you go alone out there and die, do you?”

Anlon smiled. “What do you know about those things out there?”

“That we’re going to need some weapons or we’re about to become their lunch,” he opened a crate, revealing a variety of rifles. “I don’t have much, but hopefully we only run into one of these things.”

Anlon picked up a sonic rifle and examined it. “And if we happen to run into more than one?”

“Then I hope you can run faster than what I saw.” He picked up another sonic rifle and cocked it.

Fausto led him off the ship and back into the dimly lit cave. They traveled back the same way they’d come when going to Fausto’s ship. It was such a peaceful place, and Anlon didn’t blame him for not being eager to leave it to face those creatures, but there was no other choice. If Orion wasn’t in trouble right now, he wouldn’t mind staying here, though he’d have to have someone with him, preferably Kanti. It was nice here, but not nice enough to live alone for the rest of his life.

When they reached the end of the cave, Fausto squatted down and looked out through the tight entrance.

“There’s nothing roaming around out there right now that I can see,” he observed. “The fog is gone, so we should be able to see them coming from a distance.”

“Where do they come from?”

“You see those rocky areas?” He pointed. “Those are holes that they’ve somehow dug in the rock. I guess they’re little tunnels and they wait in there for prey to come by.”

“So, we just avoid the holes,” Anlon thought aloud. “Got it.”

“Not quite that easy. They can sense when prey is around. I don’t know how you managed to have only one come after you earlier, but I can see at least four holes on the way to your pod.”

“We’ll be quiet. Hopefully they’re all out hunting or something right now.”

“We can only hope,” Fausto squeezed out of the hole. “If not, we’re dead.”

Anlon followed his lead and squeezed his body through the hole. He was back on the black rock again. The rush to get to the pod had quickly vanished as he realized one misstep could mean his death. He willed himself to follow Fausto forward.

They lightly walked across the black rocky land, careful to watch their surroundings. Fausto mentioned other creatures on the land, and neither one of them wanted to be caught off guard by one of them because they were so focused on the big predators. The pod was far, and Fausto had been wrong about there being four holes, Anlon could now see six in the distance. As the first one neared, they veered right, to completely go around it. They passed it without any incident and trekked forward.

He turned to Fausto and smiled. “One down. Five more to go.”

Fausto shot him a look and motioned him to be quiet and keep moving forward. He lifted his sonic rifle and continued. The pod was still far off and the second hole was quickly approaching. In the corner of his eye, he saw Fausto’s body tense up and his rifle raise. There was definitely a creature in this next hole, but it seemed to be feeding on something, paying them no attention. Fausto tapped his shoulder and motioned him to go left, carefully. His heart pounded, and he feared the creature would hear it, but they passed without a glance from the beast.

Anlon looked to his right, seeing a path that would take them around several holes. He veered from Fausto’s lead and was stopped by a hand pulling his shoulder.

“I’ve never been out there,” he said. “I have no idea what we could run in to. Those things usually steer clear, so it’s probably best we do the same.”

“It’s okay. We’ll be fine,” Anlon assured. “We’re just doing it to get around those three holes,” he pointed. “As soon as we pass them, we’ll get back on track.”

Fausto nodded with reluctance and they started for the open rock field. The black rock seemed softened beneath his feet, but he shook the thought off, knowing it was his imagination. They sped up some, being a little less careful as they passed the three holes. The pod was now very close, but it wouldn’t be as easy to get to as they had thought. His pod was within fifty feet of a hole and he knew why the creature had been on him so quickly. The thing was nowhere in sight, but he had a feeling it was lurking around the dark land waiting for his return. Anlon silently crept past the hole and sped up to get to the pod. He turned around and saw that Fausto closely behind, rifle pointed directly at the hole.

“Hurry up and get what we need from that pod,” he said. “I don’t feel safe out here. I feel like we’re being preyed on by more than just those creatures. It’s too quiet out here.”

Anlon nodded and crawled into the pod. It felt smaller than he’d remembered as he wiggled his way to the communications system in the front. Sure enough, there was a comline, though it looked a little different than what he was used to. He was sure the circuit boards would be the same though and he started tearing the comline apart. Once he had it apart, he started taking boards off, having no idea what to look for and just shoved everything in his pockets to be safe.

As he finished taking the boards out, he heard rustling from outside. Anlon reached for his weapon and poked his head out from the pod. Fausto was crouched down with his weapon raised.

“Nice of you to come out and join me,” he whispered.

Anlon raised his weapon. “Sorry, but I didn’t know what I needed, so I just grabbed everything.”

“That’s nice,” he replied. “I’d rather never come out here again if I don’t have to.”

“What do you want to do?” Anlon asked, following the creature who’d emerged from the hole with his weapon.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Shoot it.”

“Right now?”

He nodded. “It’s two against one. We’re bound to bring it down if we act quickly.”

“What about the other things?” Anlon asked. “Won’t we cause them to come out?”

“Did they come out last time?”

“Guess not. Shoot on three?”

“Three,” Fausto fired his weapon.

He struck the creature in one of its heads and it darted towards the two of them in a wild frenzy. Anlon rolled out of the way, barely escaping a direct strike from the creature. The sonic round had done some serious damage to its head and he raised his weapon to inflict more damage. This time the round caused the creature’s head blow up and it writhed on the ground in pain. It went into a rage and came straight towards Anlon.

He looked to see where he could go, and dove behind the pod for cover. The creature struck the pod, causing it to topple on its side. Anlon scrambled on the hard ground to escape another strike when he was sprayed by blood. Something fell on top of him and he began wriggling in fear to escape the creature. His heart pounded as he scrambled to his feet and began firing at the creature. Fausto lowered his weapon and started laughing.

“I think it’s dead. Actually, it’s been dead since it landed on you.”

Anlon lowered his weapon and tried to slow his breathing. He was sure the thing was alive when it’d fell on him. “What’s so funny? We still have a few more to deal with right behind you.”

Five more were slowly making their way towards them. Anlon knew they were helpless against this many. It took the two of them to bring down one. He looked around for someplace to go and pointed to the rock field they’d traveled on briefly. Fausto gave a quick nod and they darted for the soft land.

As soon as they set foot on the rock, the creatures backed off, but kept their eyes fixed on them. Anlon kept walking sideways and the beasts continued to back up, as if avoiding something. He grinned to himself and started walking back the way they’d come. A slight vibration pulsed through the ground and he stopped to look as his feet. In the corner of his eye he saw Fausto doing the same and was about to ask a question when the vibration came again, this time harder.

He looked up and saw something even worse than the golden three-headed monsters. There was a black creature slowly creeping towards them with four red eyes looking directly at him. Its scaly body looked as rock hard as the ground and its four legs were causing the vibrations with each step it took

“Any suggestions?” Anlon asked.

“Yeah. Run!”

They turned and ran from the creature as quick as they could. The four legged creature quickly gained on them with ease and Anlon could feel the saliva hitting his neck. There was no way to escape the beast. There was no place to hide where they’d be safe, not on this bare land. He frantically looked around until a terrible idea sprang in his head.

“The holes!” Anlon yelled to Fausto. “Jump in the holes! It can’t fit in the holes!”

He saw Fausto jump in without thinking and hoped there were none of the golden creatures waiting for him inside. He jumped in next and fell for several seconds, before hardly hitting the ground with a thump. The beast’s snout was snapping ferociously through the hole, but it was far from reaching either one of them. The hole was too small and too deep, but he knew they weren’t out of trouble quite yet.

“Fausto?” He called. “Where are you?”

“Down here!” He shouted. “This is a series of tunnels!”

He felt his way down the dark tunnel until he ran into Fausto. He wasn’t sure how the tunnels were made, but it definitely hadn’t been by the golden creatures. The rock here was just as hard as above and the only thing that could’ve created this was a race with some type of tool.

“I think all the holes may be interconnected,” Fausto said. “We can probably just travel through them back to my cave.”

“Is it safe?” Anlon asked. “There could be those creatures waiting for prey in here.”

“Our other option is to go back up there,” he pointed. “Even the golden creatures didn’t want to face that thing.”

“Which way do we go? I can see the tunnel breaks off into several directions right up there,” Anlon pointed.

“I think we take the one on the left. That’s in the general direction we came.”

“Let’s go then,” Anlon walked towards the leftmost hole.

They walked down the tunnel, keeping an eye out for any of the golden creatures. Luckily, it didn’t look like they even lived this deep. The further they traveled, the smaller the tunnels got, until it was the perfect height for the two of them. Anlon rubbed his hands on the walls to help guide him in the darkness. The little light there was, was quickly fading away the further they traveled.

Strangely enough, he felt safe, though he knew he shouldn’t, not on this planet. Soon, they’d be enveloped in complete darkness, which was probably even more dangerous than walking up on the land, but all fear had left his mind. After seeing what was on top of the land, he was sure nothing down here could come close to being as dangerous.

“Follow the tunnel,” Fausto whispered. “And hope that there’s nothing else down here.”

Anlon kept trudging forward, guiding himself with his hand. The texture of the wall suddenly changed to a soft gooey texture. Before he could tell Fausto, he ran face first into his back.

“Something isn’t right. Did you feel the wall?”

“Yes, but our only option is to go forward. If we turn around now, who knows what will be waiting for us,” Fausto said.

Anlon shook his head and remembered the gadget he had on his wrist. He fumbled with it and got it to emit some light. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for them to see a few feet ahead. An oozing white liquid ran down the walls for as far as he could see.

“Do you know what it is?” Anlon asked, rubbing his hand through it.

“Never seen anything like it.”

“I don’t think we’re alone down here,” Anlon said. “Something had to have made this stuff. Are you sure we’re headed in the direction we came?”

“I don’t know, to tell you the truth,” he shrugged. “We’ve been walking blind for a while and I may have lost my sense of direction when running for my life up there. We could’ve also missed a turn when we were in the dark.”

Anlon continued forward. “I guess we’ll find out if we end up in the nest of some monster.”

The white goo on the wall built up thicker the further that they went and quickly covered the entire tunnel from ceiling to floor. They slugged through the thick residue and came to an opening that dropped straight down. Anlon peered over the drop and backed up into Fausto.

“It’s almost a straight drop, but there are footholds we can use to get down.”

“What?” Fausto asked, pushing forward to look out the tunnel. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m too old to be running this much and climbing down walls like this.”

Anlon looked back out and thought it appeared to be a cave with an orange pool at the bottom. It was lit a light blue, making it clear the only way to the bottom was to climb down.

“Looks like it’s the only way, Fausto,” Anlon started to climb down. “It’s only a few hundred feet, I’m sure we’ll make it.”

“Yeah, only a few hundred. I knew I should’ve stayed in my cave.”

Anlon climbed down, making sure every foothold was secure before taking the next treacherous step. He called all the footholds up to Fausto so he’d know where to go before making his moves. It took them awhile, but they eventually reached the bottom without falling or anything attacking them. Now, they had to find a way out.

“Have you found anything Fausto?” He asked, afraid to break the news to him.

“There’s no way out!” Fausto replied. “We have to go back up and through the tunnels.”

“Or there’s that exit,” Anlon pointed.

“No. There’s no way we’re getting out that way.”

“Is it any riskier than getting eaten by that four legged creature?”

“How are we going to even travel through there?”

Anlon looked at the exit to see if there was something that would let them pass over the lava that streamed through a tunnel with light beaming through at the end. The cave was close if they’d gone the right direction, but the only way to get to it was to cross the lava. Anlon walked around the cave, frantically trying to find something, anything that wouldn’t burn up. He kicked nearby rocks in the lava in frustration when he’d found nothing. Fausto turned to him to see what was the matter and ran to him with a smile spread across his face.

“You’re a genius!”

“What?” Anlon asked. “I didn’t find anything.”

“The black rocks! They don’t sink! We can use them to get across!”

Anlon looked down and saw the rocks floating on the lava. “Let’s find one big enough to fit the both of us!”

They turned and scavenged the cave for a rock large enough for the both of them. There were plenty of the black rocks scattered throughout the cave, but none were large enough for even one of them. Fausto called over from the other side of the cave.

“This one big enough?” He pointed.

Anlon’s jaw dropped when he saw a rock that appeared to be carved in the shape of a raft. A smile grew across his face and he shook his head at their luck. It took the both of them to pull it back and a swarm of blue insects flew out and encircled them. The rock smashed to the ground as they both raised their weapons and began firing.

“We need to get out!” Fausto shouted over the blasts. “I can’t get an aim on any of them and I think we’re just pissing them off.”

“I’ll pull the rock into the lava lake. We’ll get on it and shoot them if they follow us through the tunnel.” Anlon slung the rifle over his shoulder and pulled the raft, swatting the insects as they swarmed him.

The insects seemed to grow in number, gathering in large clusters before striking. Anlon pushed the rock in the lava and hopped on top. He quickly motioned for Fausto just as the cluster raged towards the raft floating on the lava. Anlon pushed off the wall with all his might and the rock slowly started traveling down the river. Fausto leaped forward and crashed down on his stomach next to him.

The cluster raced towards him and he fired his weapon, causing many of the insects to drop to the ground and the cluster to break off, reforming near the top of the cavern. Anlon looked behind him and saw they were nearing the end of the river as the cluster came again. This time, they both fired, killing nearly half of them before they broke off once again. Anlon didn’t give them the chance to come at them again, jumping on land as soon as they’d exited the tunnel.

“Guess we know where the goo came from,” Fausto followed his lead.

“It looked like something locked them up behind the rock intentionally,” Anlon said.

“Let’s hope whatever did, is long gone or is no threat to us,” he looked around to see where they were at. “We definitely didn’t end up where we should have.”

“I don’t think we should’ve taken the left tunnel to begin with.”

“My cave is right over there,” he pointed. “Either way, we made it back safe. Not as close as I’d thought, but we’ll make it back fine.”

“We’re finally going to get off this planet,” Anlon trudged forward.

“Finally? You just got here. Try living here for fifty years.”

“I’ll pass. I’ve already seen everything I want to see on this moon. I’ve been here far too long.”

Anlon and Fausto walked back to the entrance of the cave without any further trouble. They could see the four legged creature off in the distance feeding on several of the three-headed creatures. They squeezed through the entrance of the tunnel and back into the cave. Soon, if Anlon had grabbed the correct circuit boards, they would be off Tartarus. He could see the joy in Fausto’s eyes, though he wouldn’t admit it, and he too was excited to get off Tartarus, though he was nervous to find out what’d happened to his friends once he did. Hopefully they were as lucky as himself.

[] Chapter 20

Jahdiel watched out of the cockpit as she closed in on the Palace. She could see races roaming the streets, no longer afraid of the crodillians. Deep down, she knew the peace wouldn’t last for long, they were too bloodthirsty to allow others to live amongst them in harmony. She’d lived with them long enough to know they’d never be civilized. They were nothing more than intelligent, powerful, predators.

Kanti stirred in her seat and she turned to see what the Princess was doing. It was odd she’d just now become restless considering she’d been silent the entire trip. Her silence had been a surprise at first, as she thought Kanti would’ve put up much more of a fight. The defiance she’d seen in her eyes in her chambers was no longer there, instead, there was emptiness. This girl had sacrificed herself to save her friends, which could ultimately lead to her death. Jahdiel admired the sacrifice, though it was utterly foolish.

The ship docked in the hangar and the ramp slowly hissed to the ground. Jahdiel got up and motioned Kanti to follow her down the ramp and into the Palace. The girl quickly obeyed and followed in silence through the bloodstained halls. It bothered Jahdiel the crodillians had been so messy in overtaking the Palace, but there was nothing she could do about it, not since being demoted in the eyes of Merikh. The crodillians would do what they wanted, unless ordered differently from their leader. Soon, the rest of Orion would look the same, she knew it.

She neared the end of the hallway and opened the door to the reception room to see Merikh, Kirill, the Queen, and an abomination. They were all intently looking at the screens in front of them. The room as eerily silent as she pulled the Princess forward.

“Here’s the Princess you two want so bad. Who’s the experiment next to you?”

“My name is Abdul,” he answered. “I’m a longtime adviser of the Queen and friend of Kirill.”

“Those two to go together real well,” she chuckled in amusement. “How’d you survive the initial attack? I could’ve sworn the crodillians cleared every crevice in the Palace.”

“I got lucky was all. They passed over me several times.”

“Kanti,” Kirill walked forward with his arms out. “It’s so nice to finally see my daughter.”

Kanti backed away. “Some father you are, bringing me to the enemy.”

“Enemy?” He smiled with a glint in his eyes. “Why, the crodillians are our friends, Kanti. They aren’t our enemy.”

“Friends?” She repeated in disgust. “Look at my mother. She’s chained up like some animal when that thing should be. Look at Orion, it’s burning because these monsters thirst for blood. You call them our friends? What kind of sick monster are you if you can’t see what they’re doing to our home?”

“The Queen is being treated well,” Kirill glanced over. “She’ll tell you as much. Things are changing. The crodillians had to show force to get Orion to listen.”

“What’s wrong with you?” She asked. “How can you do this?”

“He’s my ally. Together, we will rule Orion. Peacefully without confrontation of any kind from those that heed our commands.”

“Queen Adira was already ruling Orion peacefully. You’re the ones that ended that,” she replied. “Peace will never come again, no matter how hard you try. Someone will always want to rebel, and eventually, someone stronger than the two of you will come along. Once that time comes, you’ll pay for what you’ve done with your life.”

“Power changes are common throughout history,” Merikh said. “In this instance, force was need, but that’s not uncommon. Your galaxy may despise us now, but in time, they’ll come to see it was necessary. There won’t be any thought of rebellion in a few years’ time.”

“And I’ll assume you’re the monster in charge of all the others going from planet to planet killing off races.”

“I’m Merikh,” he nodded. “And to answer your question, yes, I would be in charge of those crodillians that you are referring to.”

“Why’d you bring me here?”

“You’re the Princess. Why wouldn’t we bring you back to your Palace? This is where you belong, isn’t it?”

“Well, it’s obvious don’t need me,” she crossed her arms. “There’s nothing I can do to help you. There’s nothing I’ll agree to do to help you.”

“Oh,” he held up a finger. “But we do need you and you will assist us in any way necessary. You see, we truly do want peace in Orion, but we fear the races may not want it at this moment.”

“And I wonder why,” Kanti huffed. “Oh, I know! You’ve been picking them off, one by one.”

“Be reasonable, Kanti. We’re trying to make things better for everyone here,” Kirill’s eyes furrowed.

“Better for everyone, or yourself?”

“It’ll be better for all of those pathetic races you keep talking about,” Merikh answered. “We’re going to ask you and the Queen to send out a message. You’ll tell them all that there’ll be peace, and that you and the Queen are perfectly fine here. In fact, tell them you’re guiding us in our decision making. If they really love their Queen, they’ll listen.”

“Tell them yourself. I won’t help you.”

“If you don’t tell them, and they do rebel, I’ll burn every last planet to the core,” Merikh’s red eyes came to within inches of hers and his scaly skin rubbed on her. “No race will be left standing against me when I’m done.”

“When do you want me to speak?” She spat.

“We’re going to take you out to the front of the Palace now. You and the Queen will stand side by side. After you make your speech, we’ll let you live freely in the Palace. It’s very simple, Kanti. You’ll soon see that it’s the right decision.”

Kanti nodded. “Then let’s get this over with.”

“Take them both to the front of the Palace, Jahdiel,” Merikh ordered.

Jahdiel motioned to them and they both followed her out of the room. They walked briskly down the bloody halls until they reached the front doors. A pair of crodillians swung them open, allowing the three of them to exit the Palace. Jahdiel turned around to face the two of them, seeing Kanti whispering in Adira’s ear. A grin flashed across her face and the two of them looked to Jahdiel innocently. They though they’d been quiet, but she’d caught every word. Without a keen ear, she’d never made it up the ranks to her current position.

“I knew you seemed different when I’d picked you up, Kanti,” Jahdiel put her hand on the humanoid.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’ve learned to keep my ears open at all times over the years. I heard every word you just told your Queen.”

“Jahdiel, please don’t stop us,” Adira took her hand. “You must see we’re only trying to protect our home.”

“I know what you’re doing. I’ve seen firsthand what the crodillians can do, and unfortunately, I’m responsible for much of it,” she said. “If there was any way to change the path I’ve taken, I would. You don’t need to worry about me trying to stop you. I’ll act as if I didn’t hear a thing.”

“You’re his slave, aren’t you?” Adira asked.

“It hasn’t always been the way you see it now. Back in the other galaxy I was respected. I felt wanted, but now, I’m just a way for him to accomplish his goals. We both know what’ll happen to me when he’d done.”

“I’m sorry,” Adira said. “I truly am. I want you to know that before it’s too late. If I could take back sending you through the Black Hole, I would. You didn’t deserve it and you shouldn’t be helping the crodillians. It’s my fault we’re in this position.”

“It’s the past. I hated you for a long time, but recently, I’ve stopped caring. I’ve made mistakes of my own so I know how easy they are to make. Coming back home really opened my eyes and now I have to figure out how to make up for them.”

“You’ll find a way,” Adira grabbed her hand.

Merikh emerged from the doors with Kirill and Abdul close by his side. He pointed to something out in the yard and a large camera floated down in front of Adira and Kanti. Jahdiel took a step to the side, giving a slight nod to the Queen, just as Merikh motioned for Abdul and Kirill to stand next to her. The crodillian leader stood next to the Queen and Princess and nodded.

“Hello, Orion,” he said. “You’re all well aware of who I am by now. With me today, I have Queen Adira and Princess Kanti. They’re both living here peacefully with us. Just recently, we’ve spoken, and we all feel that there may be some tension throughout Orion. Well, we want to end it and that’s why the Queen and Princess are going to speak to you today.”

Adira turned to face Kanti and then turned back to the camera. “Races of Orion, I’m truly sorry. I’ve terrible made mistakes and those mistakes have cost countless lives to be lost. I was foolish and I thought I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t,” she paused. “Today, Merikh and I have talked about peace. I know you all closely listened to my last message and I’m glad that you all acted so quickly, though I’m saddened I couldn’t witness it in person.”

Merikh looked over to her and motioned with his hand for her to get to the point. Adira looked to Kanti and gave her a quick wink before a grin inched across her face. Kanti’s body shimmered black and turned to a silver humanoid. Before Merikh noticed, Adira quickly finished her message.

“I regret that you will all have to act on your own now, as I’m sure I’ll be killed for this. I know you’ve been hiding and putting together a rebellion. The time for that rebellion to strike has come. We won’t let the crodillians kill anymore of our own while we stand by and watch. The time to fight is now! We will not surrender to the crodillians! We’d rather die than hand over our home to you, Merikh.”

He turned to the Queen and slapped her with his long claws, leaving streaks of blood streaming down her face. The leader looked to Camillus and clenched his fists in a tight ball. The humanoid levitated off the ground and exploded in a ball of sparks, pieces falling to the ground with clunks. He moved to the Queen in a swift motion.

“You would all be smart to disregard the Queen’s foolishness,” he glared to the camera, eyes raging bright red and teeth salivating. “If there is any sign of rebellion, by anyone, we’ll kill every race on the planet and then burn it to the core. You’re no match against us, and would be wise to succumb to my request for peace. We’ll be coming to the remaining planets, and will expect no resistance. Do not test us or you will see our full fury unleashed upon you.”

The camera cut off and Merikh picked up the Queen using his telepathic powers. He turned her and brought her close to his snarling mouth.

“I bet you didn’t know about these powers. We were saving them in case of something like this. Your rebellion is hopeless. We’re too strong for the few survivors to stand even the slightest chance.”

“They’ll defeat you,” she grinned with defiance. “Even with your magic, they’ll kill every last one of you monsters.”

Merikh threw her to the ground and walked back to the Palace. “You were right when you said you wouldn’t get to see the rebellion. Your life has now come to an end.”

Jahdiel walked over to the Queen and helped her up by the arm. Adira put her grasped her hand and smiled.

“Merikh is going to kill you now.”

“The rebels needed me to tell them it was time. They needed me to give the word. My death will only help their cause and I believe with all of my heart that they’ll win.”

Anlon stood behind Fausto as he laid on the ground, trying to replace the circuit boards that he had torn from his pod. Neither one of them was sure how to replace them, but it was Fausto’s ship so he let him go to work. So far, he wasn’t having much luck. The boards were much different than the original and there’d been no response from the comline after several attempts. After an hour, Fausto finally got up off of his back and stood to face Anlon.

“This is it,” he put his hands on his side. “If this doesn’t work. I’ll take you on a tour of the cave. You’ll need to know where everything is in case something happens to me. I’m old and my time is coming to an end. I could drop any moment now.”

“Just try it!” Anlon pushed him out of the way. “If it doesn’t work, I’ll try to fix it myself. There’s no way I’m going to give up.”

“You’re more than welcome,” Fausto stepped back.

Anlon held down the button for the comline and chose a channel he knew to be for Ares.

“Hello?” He asked. “Is anyone there?” Anlon waited, but silence was the only thing that came back. He held down the button again. “Is anyone there?” He waited. “Why isn’t this stupid thing working? Answer me!” He slammed it down and got up from the chair.

“Given up so quickly?” Fausto chuckled. “At least we had an adventure before being disappointed.”

“This is Pyrrhus.” A crackled. “Who is this? All messages are being relayed back to the Capitol right now.”

Anlon looked to Fausto and dashed over to the comline. He fumbled to pick it up and pressed the button.

“This is Anlon Valens!” A smile spread across his face and his stomach bubbled with relief. “I’m stuck on Tartarus right now and I need a ship to get me immediately!”

“Anlon?” Pyrrhus asked. “How’d you escape the crodillians’ ship?”

“You know about that?”

“Kanti and the others are here right now. They were able to get off safely, but had no idea if you’d even survived. They held on to hope, but none looked to sure.”

“They’re alive?” Anlon jumped, his head hitting the ceiling.

“Yes. Very much so,” Pyrrhus said. “They arrived a few days ago.”

“I can’t believe it. After the doors blocked me off from the hall, I had to find another way off. They somehow found out who Kanti was, and didn’t really care about me, so I was able to wander the ship until I found some evac pods.”

“How’d you end up on Tartarus?”

“None of the planets were labeled on their mapping system,” Anlon said. “I just wanted to get off of the ship and I didn’t think I’d end up someplace like this. Luckily, Fausto was here to save me from the stuff out there.”

“Fausto?”

“Yeah. He’s been stuck here for fifty years and he saved my life. Anyway, we need someone to come pick us up now!”

“We’ll send a ship immediately. All I need is your coordinates and we’ll be there soon.”

Anlon gave him the coordinates and hung up the comline. He turned to Fausto and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him hardly. A smile crept across the old themin’s face and he began laughing out before falling to his knees with tears in his eyes.

“Looks like I saved your life, so now we can call it even.”

“I was perfectly fine here either way, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to a warm meal and a soft bed.”

Anlon sat back down in the seat and leaned back, closing his eyes. He’d soon be off Tartarus and would be reunited with Kanti and the others. He wasn’t sure he’d ever see any of them alive again after escaping the ship. His heart was pounding in his chest and eagerness was taking his body over. Now his mission was complete. What he’d do now that that was done, he wasn’t sure, but he’d find something to do. Sitting around idly while a war was going on wasn’t something he was going to do. If there was any way he could contribute to the rebellion, he was going to do it.

[] Chapter 21

Donnchadh sat next to Leilah, huddled around a small fire in the shelter of a small cavern they’d found while traveling. A violent looking storm had rolled in, and instead of avoiding it, Reamonn ordered them to all rest until it passed. It was by far the most ferocious storm he’d ever seen his entire time traveling to and from Erebos. The roar of orange drops pouring from the sky filled the cavern and crackles of lightning flashed across the sky, hitting the ground and creating areas of blue electricity all over the land.

He turned around to look at Reamonn who was huddled around his tribe in the opposite corner. The leader was talking in a hushed voice, glancing to him every once in awhile, but in level voice where he couldn’t make a word out. Every time Donnchadh looked to Leilah, she quickly looked away, avoiding any type of eye contact. Something was wrong, he could feel the tension, and it was time to find out. If it meant upsetting Reamonn, then so be it. He was done following them around this wasteland while Orion was in trouble.

“What’s Reamonn talking to the tribe about?”

“I don’t know,” she replied, not hiding the lie well. “I’ve been over here with you. How am I supposed to know what he’s telling them?”

“But you’re being quiet. I can feel that there’s something wrong. You’re hiding something and I want to know what it is.”

“I shouldn’t tell you, but whatever. We’ve seen some more things,” she revealed. “Nothing that concerns you. Just visions that don’t feel right.”

“If it didn’t concern me, why would they keep it from me?”

“Let Reamonn decide his course of action, Donnchadh,” she urged. “Let him make the decision. You don’t want to push him to do anything.”

“What’s going on?” He asked again, pushing himself from the ground. “I want to know. Tell me.”

“Wait for them to finish. If he wants to tell you what we’ve seen, he’ll tell you. I’m not going to go behind my father’s back.”

“What if he doesn’t tell me?”

“Then you aren’t meant to know. This is up to him. We don’t even understand what we’ve seen.”

“Leilah,” he whispered. “If this has something to do with what’s happening in Orion, I need to know.”

Donnchadh saw Reamonn look over to them from the corner of his eye. He made direct eye contact with the leader and held it until he turned to face his tribe again. There was something up and he was going to find out what it was whether Leilah wanted him to or not. As he stood, Reamonn and the others rose and came over. They stopped in front of him and Donnchadh stared at the leader’s scarred face.

“You’ve caused a lot of problems. We should have left you to die. Saving you was a mistake on our part.”

“What do you mean?” Donnchadh asked. “What’s going on?”

“We’re seeing visions of Orion,” he said. “This isn’t normal for us. We haven’t seen a vision outside of these lands for a long time. You’ve brought danger to us. We saw none of this until you showed up.”

“You’re seeing the crodillians? What are they doing?”

“No,” Reamonn said spitefully. “What are you doing? Why were we led to you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“This man,” Reamonn said. “The one who you were getting to help you, the one you’ve worked for, we know of him and we know of what he does. He’s not a man any race who wants to help Orion would work with.”

Donnchadh looked to Leilah. “That was an old life. I thought I may be able to use him to help get rid of the crodillians. I would never work with him again after breaking free from him and seeing the wrong choices I’d made.”

“You’ve endangered all life in Orion by introducing that man to the crodillians. It appears as if they’re now allies and hell is about to be unleashed because of you. All of these things we’re seeing now are your fault.”

“Then help me stop it!” Donnchadh pleaded. “I was trying to stop it when I contacted Kirill. He wasn’t supposed to betray me! I didn’t know he’d team up with those monsters.”

“Why didn’t you reveal you past when you first woke? Why’d you keep something like that from us?”

“It didn’t matter. Nothing from any of our pasts matter now. All that matters is what we’re doing now and what we’re going to do to prevent the crodillians from destroying this galaxy.”

“Save it? You’ve already doomed it,” Reamonn’s face reddened. “You’ve single-handedly brought danger to every planet and moon of Orion, including us.”

“Help me. Together, we can lead a rebellion. We can stop this with your help.”

“There’s already a rebellion. They’re small and will undoubtedly fail. From what we’ve seen, they don’t stand a chance. Each of those races is marching right to their grave.”

“There’s already a rebellion?” He asked. “Where is it? Who’s leading it?”

“It doesn’t matter. I just told you it’ll fail. You’ve doomed Orion and I believe we were led to you, to kill you. It’s up to us to rid the galaxy of you.”

“I think we were led to him for exactly what he’s pleading us to do,” Leilah broke her silence. “We should listen to him and help. Let’s go to the rebellion and assist them.”

“No, Leilah,” Reamonn said. “We won’t help a hopeless rebellion. I won’t put your life, or the life of any in this tribe, at risk because this being brought war upon on our home.”

“It won’t be hopeless with your help!” Donnchadh said. “Where’s this rebellion you’re seeing?”

“It’s on Ares. They have a few hundred ships and are readying to strike the crodillians,” Reamonn said.

“A few hundred ships?” Donnchadh repeated. “They weren’t supposed to have any. If there’s even a slim chance, we need to help them.”

“Father,” Leilah said. “I believe we can help their rebellion, our rebellion. This war concerns us too, and we’re now obligated to help them if we too want to survive. Seclusion from the rest of the galaxy isn’t any option any longer.”

“I will not hear it Leilah!” Reamonn yelled. “We will not help them. This isn’t our war.”

“Then Donnchadh and I will leave on our own!” She yelled back. “We will do something. We won’t lay down and hide like cowards.”

“If you don’t hide, then you will be slaughtered with the rest. You’ve seen the same visions as us and you’ve seen the bloodshed.”

“The visions are urging us to help! We can help the rebellion avoid failure the same way we avoid death every day!”

“We cannot help them,” Reamonn turned. “It’s hopeless. The visions have told us that much.”

“If you don’t help, you’re just as responsible for all of the deaths as I will be,” Donnchadh said. “You have the ability to help and you’re turning your back in their time of need.”

“We’re not responsible!” Reamonn flung around and grabbed Donnchadh by the throat. “You brought this upon Orion! You are responsible!”

“He’s right. If we don’t help, then we too are responsible. This ability we have, it could aid the rebellion. This ability could lead the rebels to success,” Leilah said.

“We’ve never used it in the way that you’re talking about. It wasn’t meant to be used this way,” he released Donnchadh.

“It’ll work. I can feel it. Why else would we see things happening in Orion? It’s not just coincidence that we’re all of a sudden seeing things. The rebellion is starting and we’re seeing it as if we’re there. We’re meant to help,” she insisted.

“How can you side with him?” Reamonn asked. “You saw the man he worked for. You’ve seen what this race has done with his hands.”

“And Donnchadh has changed,” Leilah defended him. “We saw him because they were trying to kill him, because he was trying to stop all this from happening. We didn’t find him, he found us.”

“If we help, then everyone will know about our powers. There’ll be no coming back here if we’re able to help the rebels succeed.”

“And if we don’t reveal ourselves, there will be no more Orion,” she replied. “The visions of blood and death, those are for us too. We’re in just as much danger as the rebels. We have no choice but to help them. Once we arrive, we’ll be welcomed and respected, not abused like you think. If we are successful, we’ll worry about what we do with ourselves then if anything arises that makes us feel uncomfortable.”

“Fine,” Reamonn nodded. “We’ll help the rebellion, but only because you believe in it, Leilah. I’m not doing this for Orion. I’m doing it for you and because I believe it’s also what your mother would want to do.”

“I know just the place where we can get a ship to get off Erebos,” Donnchadh said.

Anlon and Fausto stood next to his crashed ship and looked to the sky. It’d been several hours since Anlon had talked to Pyrrhus and they both knew the rescue ship would be here anytime soon. Neither one of them wanted the ship to miss them so they’d stood in the same spot where they’d be visible to any passing ships.

Anlon looked back and forth, for any sign of help when he saw an extremely familiar ship break through the thick clouds. The sleek black ship caused a smile to creep across his face and tears to come to his eyes. Drakos Mavros slowly lowered down into the hole of the cave and landed by the crashed ship. The ramp hissed down and Kanti rushed out, embracing him in her arms. When she pulled back, she looked him in the eyes and kissed him deeply. It caught him by surprise, but he was happy to do the same back, not realizing how much he’d missed her.

“I can’t believe you’re alive! I thought I’d never see you again,” she said.

Anlon smiled. “I can’t believe you are either, but I sure am glad you are. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

Falcone and Nimesha walked down the ramp of the ship, making sure not to interrupt the two of them. Fausto walked over to them and smiled widely, holding out his arms and looking to the sky.

“You don’t know how happy I am to finally be able to see living races again.”

“How long have you been here?” Falcone asked.

“Fifty years,” he answered. “Fifty long and lonely years I’ve been secluded in this cave.”

“You’re lucky you survived that long here,” Nimesha looked around. “The stories I’ve heard of Tartarus are terrible. Very few get off this planet alive unless they know it well.”

“Oh,” he chuckled. “And do Anlon and I have a story to tell you about what’s out there!”

“This is Fausto,” Anlon walked over, holding Kanti’s hand. “I would’ve died out there if it weren’t for him.”

“Well, let’s get off this planet! I’ve been waiting fifty years, isn’t that long enough for a themin?”

Anlon laughed and followed him up the ramp, with Kanti close by his side. Falcone and Nimesha went to the cockpit and lifted Drakos Mavros from the cave. Anlon looked out the window as the hellish planet shrunk below him. He sure wouldn’t miss this deadly place, from the creatures lurking around to the hard land. Once they were in space, the ship lurched forward with a jolt.

“So how’d you get off of the ship?” Anlon turned to Kanti.

“Mostly Nimesha,” she pointed. “And Camillus. Definitely him.”

“Where is Camillus by the way?”

Nimesha turned around. “He sacrificed himself for Kanti. He changed his image so the crodillians would think he was the Princess. Luckily for us, they took the bait and let us go.”

“They’ll kill him when they find out!”

“They already have,” Kanti said. “The Queen sent out a message for rebellion. Camillus switched his image during the speech and Merikh used his powers to blow him up. It’s fueled the rebellion. The races are furious and want to strike now, but Pyrrhus has called for calm as he finishes putting together battle plans.”

“How did Adira send out a message for a rebellion?” Anlon asked. “I thought she was being held prisoner.”

“Merikh is a fool. He underestimated how much the Queen values her own life,” Nimesha grinned. “Honestly, the Queen caught everyone by surprise, the rebels included. No one expected her to give the go ahead publicly, at least not so straight forward.”

“I thought it was another message for peace, but she knew it was Camillus next to her the whole time and they timed it out perfectly. As soon as he changed to show Kanti was safe, Adira rushed to get every word in she could,” Falcone said. “It was one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen. The two of them gave their lives so we could all have chance to live.”

“They haven’t killed my mom yet. That monster is waiting,” Kanti grabbed his hand. “Pyrrhus said there’s no way they’ll allow her to live, but they need to make an example of her, so they’re waiting.”

“Merikh has threatened to burn every planet and kill every race if we rebel,” Nimesha said.

“We’re still rebelling, right?” Anlon asked. “Pyrrhus wouldn’t back down. The crodillians made that same threat before any of this started.”

“You bet we are!” Falcone said. “You think some ugly looking thing like Merikh will scare any of the races out of rebellion?”

Anlon grinned. “He’ll never know what hit him when we strike.”

“You have no idea. Pyrrhus has set up rebellion forces all over Orion! We have more than just a few hundred ships. We have bases all over with thousands of races who are ready to take their homes back,” Kanti said.

“We stand a pretty good chance. The crodillians have been pretty predictable so far, and Pyrrhus thinks we can use that against them,” Nimesha said.

“They haven’t seen anything yet!” Falcone added. “When we strike, it’ll send them into chaos. Their leader is counting on fear to keep us all at bay, and so far, we’re doing a good job making it appear that way.”

Anlon smiled to himself and hugged Kanti. They had helped Orion in speaking with the Elders. There were rebels all over Orion and he knew they stood a good chance once banded together as one. He also knew when they killed Adira it would only fuel the rebel cause even more. There was no way the crodillians were going to stop the rebellion from succeeding, it was already rolling and it would be impossible to stop once everyone was on board. Death was impossible to avoid, but he knew the races of Orion understood and wouldn’t stop fighting until they’d taken their galaxy back. Adira had told him she believed in him and he was now going to prove to her she’d placed her trust in the right person, even if she wouldn’t live to see it.

[] Chapter 22

Zarah stood behind the races she’d chosen to be her officers. They’d come much further along than she’d imagined they would in such a short time. Keeping them together had proved to be a wise decision. Each of them had come to know each 0ther very well from rarely leaving the other leaders’ sides. Every strength and weakness had become exposed and they’d worked on ways to improve both during their own free time. Zarah knew once battle came, all of their time spent together would pay off huge.

Of the ten officers she’d picked, there were two clear leaders of that group who’d taken complete control during exercises. Ludwig, a short and scarred quierleon, who immediately fit into the role, showing the other’s ways to fight from his own training. He was one of the few at the base to grow up on Ares. Luckily for them, he’d chosen to leave that life behind when he’d become of age, but never forgot what he’d learned. Strangely, he hadn’t been the most vocal at the beginning, but once he’d gotten a hang of the routine, others followed his lead and he began to speak up. He’d approached her to set up a daily routine more than just physical and she’d approved it, knowing he knew better than any what they needed to do to prepare. Knowledge was one of the biggest things he stressed and he required every officer to read about different war tactics during library sessions. She too had taken up the practice, and slowly but surely, she’d seen an improvement in herself.

Yvette was the other officer that stood out amongst the group. She was a light brown and white kaneen who was the exact opposite of Ludwig. She’d been very vocal after being chosen as officer, but she had absolutely no prior experience. Yvette had been the manager of a large production farm on Demeter before it was burned and she escaped. Upon arrival only one thing was on her mind, killing every last crodillian responsible for taking her home and family from her. It was clear she was hurt from looking in her eyes, but talking to her, it was impossible to know her true feelings. She kept her emotions in check, knowing if she wanted revenge, they’d only get in the way.

Both races encouraged and motivated every officer and race within the base. The expectations for them was growing, but they rose to the challenge every day. She knew Pyrrhus didn’t expect too much from them, but why should he? None of them had any real experience with leading an entire base, especially not a base full of rebels with no more training than themselves. But she knew right now, Pyrrhus would be very pleased with progress and the officers’ attitude toward the war. The base didn’t feel like a bunch of untrained races. Every race knew their job and they carried them out without question or mistakes.

None of them walked around with a sense of defeat, though it would be easy after what the crodillians had done to their planets, and what was going to happen to others in time. It was clear they lacked numbers against their enemy, but each still believed there was no chance of defeat, not now, not with this base. They trained hard and walked with a sense of pride that radiated throughout the entire base. This confidence all stemmed from her and the officers she had chosen to lead.

Zarah looked at every one of them and smiled, knowing that these were the ten races that would be standing by her side when they won the rebellion. They would all be saviors, all because Pyrrhus had believed in her and her capabilities. He could’ve easily chosen someone else over her, but he’d placed his trust in her and she was going to prove to him she was up to the task.

“It’s time to go to the library,” she informed them.

They immediately stepped out of their simulations and followed her down the hall to the library. The halls were teeming with races who were hustling to get various things done and prepped. Allowing the races to choose their own jobs had also proven to be the right decision. Every race had chosen wisely and put their unique set of skills to use. There were plenty of cooks, nurses, janitors, and even the children were finding ways to help. She honestly hadn’t expected things to go so smoothly, but she was glad that they had.

There’d also been a small group of races who’d approached her about scouting the land. At first she’d been reluctant, but the races had been persistent and she’d eventually given in. Scouting was necessary and she felt she was able to trust the races from revealing the location of the base. Knowing the best places to fight in the forest would just give them one more advantage against the crodillians when the time came. Every day they came back with additional maps and put them on the walls in the Command Room for her and her officers to view. Traps were being set and updated schematics were put up daily.

Zarah pulled open the library door. “I’m going to go to my quarters while you all read,” she told them. “I have books of my own in my quarters and I think it’s time I took a look at them. I’ve gone through several of the ones here, but I have a feeling the ones in my quarters will prove useful.”

“We’ll win this rebellion. You’re a great leader. Without you, I don’t know where we’d all be,” Yvette said.

Zarah smiled. “Thank you, but I can’t take the credit for everything that’s happening here. You ten officers are more to thank than me. It’s you who’ve pulled this base together. Every one of them is following your lead, not just mine.”

“No,” Ludwig said. “You brought us here. When we win this rebellion, it’ll be because of you. You brought us together and you’ll lead us through to the end. We merely assisted you in achieving what you’d achieve without us by your side.”

Zarah blushed and nodded. “Call me when you’ve finished. I want to meet back up with you.”

She left the races to learn in quiet. Library sessions rarely resulted in group discussions until after time was up. Once that time came, Ludwig shared additional knowledge that he’d learned on Ares. His knowledge, paired with the information in the books, was preparing them well for the upcoming battle. The Queen had risked her life for every single rebel. She was selfless, and Zarah admired her for that. She knew if she was caught in the same position of life and death, she’d also choose death if it meant the rebellion would succeed. Only in such selflessness could this rebellion amount to anything. Lives would be lost and she was prepared for hers to be one of them.

Moran walked down the wide halls of Xiphos. All the survivors had been thrilled to come here and were pulling their weight. Each had been assigned a specific duty, and each and every one of them did it without hesitation. Most had continued to do what they’d been doing at his apartment, but new survivors had trickled in each day, and he made sure they were put to work. Too much still had to be done for any to sit around with the crodillians out there.

No race was too good for any job. Pasts were merely that, pasts. What they used to do no longer mattered. The only thing that did was survival and that meant doing things some may not want to do. Some races had approached him feeling they were better off somewhere else, but he’d put them back in line. With the rebellion on the horizon, there was no time for that attitude.

Every passing day new intelligence came in on the crodillians, and each time it made him feel better. It seemed they got more careless every day, and that gave Moran hope that the rebels could win, even with being outnumbered. He’d take precision and heart over sheer numbers any day. Bodies didn’t win wars and neither did weapons. Determination and heart is what won wars and he knew this was something his enemy didn’t fully grasp. Sure, you could kill hundreds of rebels, but hundreds more would come replace them. In the end, the side with the most heart would win and that’d be his side.

Since moving to the base he’d sent out several scouts, but the last one had almost been deadly. The races had been tailed by crodillians all the way back to Xiphos. Luckily, the snipers had seen it and were able to take the crodillians out, but that had only been the beginning. More crodillians had arrived several hours later, looking for their comrades and suffering the same fate.

Since that scout, he hadn’t sent out any others, for fear they’d be found. The time for that was over. The rebellion was looming and they needed to know where every crodillians was, along with finding additional races to fight for them. Everyone had seen the Queen’s message and it had inflated the confidence every race, especially those who’d gone into hiding.

He stopped in front of a group of races who were cleaning weapons and checking vehicles to make sure everything was functional.

“You guys up for doing something else for a while?”

A young boy nodded and stood up. “What do you need us to do General Borislav?”

He flinched at the word General. He didn’t like it, but it was how the entire base referred to him. “I need a scout party to go out. We need to pick up a few hundred more survivors before the rebellion starts.”

“Do you think it’s going to start soon?” A black Feleen asked.

“I believe so. Things appear to be coming together on all the planets,” Moran nodded. “You guys up for it?”

“Yeah!” The young boy responded.

“Take that vehicle,” Moran pointed towards a big bus. “Get as many in there as you can. Don’t drive it back here, but get as close as you can and have them walk the rest of the way. Keep going back out until you can’t find anymore. I don’t want any of our own left out there when this starts.”

“Yes sir!” The boy motioned all of the others to follow.

He didn’t have any problems getting anyone to listen to him, even if it put their lives in danger. Scouting was no easy or safe task, and they could’ve said no, but they didn’t. No matter the age, each race he spoke to was willing to lay down their life.

The races he’d sent out to establish bases had been just as selfless. Multiple reports flowed back from every one of them, none reporting anything but success. Several more bases been set up on Gaea and at least one had been set up on every other planet in Gaea. The crodillians had let them enter peacefully, and were just as careless on the other planets as they were here. They thought they were invincible and that all the races were cowering in the shadows from them, but they were making a fatal mistake. A rebellion was being set up right under their noses and they were too dumb to see it happening. Pride was blinding them and that pride would end up killing them.

Jahdiel sat next to the Queen, listening to Merikh, Kirill, and Abdul argue. Merikh was bent on killing Adira and refused to heed the advice of the others. She was personally on Kirill’s side because she’d seen the Queen’s true side. The side she hadn’t known before being outcast and it made her want to lay her own life down to save her and get her to the rebels. She’d fallen in love with the selfless leadership, wishing she’d never brought harm to this woman and the races she loved so dearly.

Unfortunately, all she’d known that past fifteen years was death and destruction and it not only fueled her to do regrettable things, it’d blinded her into destroying her true home. The hate had dissipated, being replaced by remorse. Not only was her leader going to kill an innocent woman, he was going to kill millions of innocent races.

“She will die, Kirill!” Merikh slammed his fist down. “She’s made me look weak, but when I kill her, I’ll reassert my power and spread even more fear throughout Orion.”

“That’s what she wants,” Kirill pleaded. “Can you not see that she planned this all out?”

“I don’t care if she planned it out! If her wish is to die, then I’ll grant it!”

“It’ll spark rebellions all over Orion,” Abdul warned. “It’s still peaceful right now, why not let it slide? You’ll be showing mercy and the races may believe you’ll hold true to your promise of peace.”

“I won’t be seen as weak. If they want to rebel, we’ll crush them like we did when we arrived. Every last one of them will burn with their beloved planets.”

“If you kill her, you’re going to give them hope! It’ll fuel them to fight even harder. You’ll be lighting a fire that’ll be hard to extinguish,” Kirill said.

“If I kill her they will lose all hope!” He protested. “How will they fight without a leader?”

“There’s already someone else leading them. She said those things because there’s already a rebellion, they’re just hiding from you,” Abdul said. “One wrong move and they’ll strike. They’re just waiting for you to do something.”

“Nonsense. If there was a rebellion, my men would know.”

Jahdiel looked to the Queen who had a grin on her face. How could she possibly be grinning now when they were talking about killing her? It only made Jahdiel admire her even more. She put her hand on the Queen’s and gave a slight nod. She wanted Adira to know that she’d forgiven her before she died. It was the least she could do for such a selfless woman.

“I’m warning you. Do not kill Adira,” Kirill said.

“You warn me?” Merikh stood, clenching his fists and salivated from his long teeth. “And who are you to warn me? You’re nothing more than a weak human.”

“I’m an ally!” Kirill stood up and bumped chests with him. “We’re in this together. If you screw up and start a rebellion by killing the Queen, I suffer too!”

“So you’re afraid of a little rebellion?” Merikh mocked. “What about your invincible group of assassins? Why don’t they do something about it? You promised me they could stop this from happening.”

“How are my few hundred supposed to stop thousands that’ll you’ll surely stir up by killing their leader?”

“So, they’re not as strong as you claim? Then let me worry about the rebellion! It’s my forces that I’ll use to stop it, not yours!”

“You haven’t finished controlling all of the planets yet,” Abdul said. “Wouldn’t it be wise to finish conquering first? At least then, any rebellion would be minimal. You could always kill her once you have firm control.”

“Yes,” Kirill nodded. “If we conquer the remaining planets, we could possibly find the center of the rebellion. If neither of our men have found it yet, it’s on one of the remaining planets.”

Merikh thought for a moment. “How many planets do we have left, Jahdiel?”

She looked up for the first time. “We have four remaining planets. Apollo, Ares, Nesoi, and Plouton.”

“How fast can we take them over?” He asked.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Depends if you let me do it my way.”

“Whatever way is quickest,” he flicked his hand and turned from her. “Do what you have to do. Just conquer those remaining planets quickly.”

Jahdiel nodded and looked sadly to the Queen, letting out a silent breath. Merikh started arguing with the others again, oblivious to the Queen whispering something to Jahdiel.

“I will kill the Queen when the remaining planets have been conquered. You all have only delayed her death.”

“It was the right thing to do, Merikh,” Kirill said. “If they want to rebel, we need to be in full control. Acting too soon could be the end of us.”

“We’ll be in full control very soon, don’t you worry about it.”

Merikh waved at Jahdiel, dismissing her from the room to take the Queen back to the dungeons. Somehow, Kirill and Abdul had delayed the Queen’s death, but she knew that it wouldn’t be for long. When Merikh wanted to do something, he did it. He was starting to get a bit careless, and more like the other crodillians. Or had he been like this the whole time and she just hadn’t noticed until now? She’d become no more than a tool in his plan and no longer seemed like an integral part of anything he did, so maybe that’d opened her eyes to his true ways. He’d exhausted his use for her, and she could see the same happening to Adira. Unfortunately for him, killing Adira would be his one fatal mistake. It would fuel the rebellion far more than Merikh wanted to believe. There was just something about Adira that inspired as sense of hope. Her death would bring a fury that even his forces wouldn’t be able to stop.

[] Chapter 23

Pyrrhus stood at the podium in the Debate Hall which was packed with leaders standing shoulder to shoulder. Since the Princess’ arrival they’d all been working diligently to pull their weight and impress their new leader. Each group was working on a specific part of the battle plan, and when all were completed, everything would be brought together. Pyrrhus knew he never could’ve come up with this battle strategy on his own, no matter what any of the other leaders said. It was a group effort, starting with Anlon and the Princess, and then through all of the leaders. Everyone wanted to survive, and they had all put differences aside to ensure everyone’s survival.

“Our final plan has been put together,” Pyrrhus informed them. “You all acted quickly and I thank you for that. You’ve taken my original plan, and have improved it a hundred fold. What we have now, is the war plan that will lead us to victory!” He pumped his fist, gaining some cheers from the crowd. “It is risky, but I believe that it’s the only way that we’ll win this war.”

“When they come to Ares, they’ll have fallen into our trap!” Gidon said. “There will be no way for them to escape us!”

There were more cheers from the crowd and a lot of smiles as Pyrrhus looked around. Much had changed since he first arrived, but it was due to more than just him. They’d worked together in a time of need, instead of against each other as was so common in politics. They’d all realized the urgency of the impending invasions and did the right thing for their galaxy.

“They’ve been taking over planets with two fleets while leaving two back at Hera. We’ll only face one, no matter how many they send here at first,” Pyrrhus told them. “The rebellion forces that we’ve set up throughout Orion will act to our advantage, especially those on Hermes and Gaea. Zarah and Moran have been leading them well and have reported nothing but stellar progress since my departure. When the crodillians send their ships to attack us here, we’ll unleash the rebellion on every planet in Orion. They’ll have to choose how to proceed, and we’ll deceive them into the wrong choice,” Pyrrhus looked around the room and saw that he had the undivided attention of every leader. “When they arrive here, we’ll only show them fifty of our ships. The rest will be hidden using our stealth fields behind the enemy. When they hear of the large rebellions on other planets, they’ll surely leave only one fleet here to deal with the small number of ships they see. Little do they know, that’s exactly what we want them to do. Once there is one fleet left, we’ll engage, then retreat to the planet,” he looked to Gidon. “We’ll bring the fight to the land where the rebels will be at an advantage. They’ll use the forests as cover when we tell the crodillians we surrender. We’ll lure the monsters to the forests where the battle for Ares will begin. The moment we strike the ground forces, we’ll strike their ships in space. Our ships still hidden under stealth will converge to their commanding ship and take it over. There will be close to two hundred to do the job, and with a majority of the crodillians fighting on Ares, there won’t be many left to defend their ship from the ambush.”

Cheers and smiles emerged from all over the Debate Hall. It was a very risky plan, but none seemed to care. They truly believed it was the only way to win this war, even if it meant they could possibly die. There were thousands of rebels on Ares, but they still lacked numbers to fight the crodillians head on. The city was well defended, but they weren’t going to fight in the city, they were fighting in the forests for one more advantage. A lot of lives would be lost, but there would be many more crodillians fatalities, he was sure of it.

“The rebels in the ships will kill all the crodillians and take control. Once they’ve accomplished that, they’ll send down half of their ships to assist with the battle on the land. They’ll take out any crodillian ships overhead and then fight side by side with all rebels on the ground. The crodillians may be strong, but we’ll see just how strong they are without their ships and Commander. This is our land, our home, and we won’t let them take it easily. Once we have defeated them here, we must quickly go to Gaea and Hermes. They too will be under attack, and though I believe they can hold up while we fight our battle here, I don’t think they’ll survive without our help,” he paused a moment to take a drink of some water before continuing. “We’ll use the captured command ship to our advantage. We’ll travel to Gaea in it, and catch the command ship there by surprise. We’ll exterminate any crodillians on the ground and assist with getting the injured medical care on the ship. The base there isn’t as well hidden as on Hermes, and I fear they may lose many lives.”

He looked up to see that many of the smiles had washed off the faces of the races. They were now realizing for the first time that many innocent lives would be lost. There was little that they could do to save those lives except hope the battle on Ares was a quick one. If not, Ares’ races could be the lone survivors of this war.

“After we’ve defeated the crodillians there, we’ll go to Hermes and do the same. Hopefully, the command ship there won’t have heard of our surprise attack, though we’ll be prepared if they have. Zarah will undoubtedly lead the rebels strongly until we arrive, and once we’re there, we’ll help her finish off the crodillians. That will leave one enemy fleet left. Hera’s. We’ll take it back by brute force. We’ll kill their leader and reclaim our galaxy!” He pumped his fist.

Cheers erupted throughout the room as they heard the end of the speech. He’d made it sound simple, though he knew it was far from it. This plan was full of risks, hope, and luck. If the crodillians didn’t choose to go to any of the other planets to stop rebellions, then there was little chance the plan would succeed. He was betting on the crodillians overestimating their strength as they had many times before. It was the only weakness he could find and he was going to try to expose it.

“There’s still one more part,” Pyrrhus silenced them with a motion of his hands. “The Princess is to make a speech that will be sent out to Orion. I know that it’ll mean the death of the Queen, but she’s already dead. She was dead as soon as she told us to rebel. We need Princess Kanti to make a speech to encourage the rebels even more. Give them hope and fire that will push them even harder. When they see the Princess fighting alongside with them, they’ll fight until the end, no matter how hopeless it looks,” Pyrrhus looked to Gidon. “She’ll be arriving back on Ares soon. I’ll tell her to get her speech ready, and once it’s sent, be ready for an attack. They’ll know our location and our rebellion will have officially started.”

Donnchadh lead the nomad group across the grey, desolate, wasteland of Erebos. They were close to the Deimos Brotherhood’s base now. He could see the mountains and the lava lake slowly coming into view over the horizon. Reamonn had been silent the entire journey, as had been the rest of the tribe, except Leilah. She’d stood by his side the entire way while the rest lagged behind with Reamonn. They were reluctant, but she was with him all the way and was forcing the others to follow her lead.

If it hadn’t been for Leilah, he wouldn’t be leading them to this base. He didn’t know why she’d sided with him when her father hadn’t. This probably wasn’t the first time she’d questioned one of Reamonn’s decisions, but it was clearly the first time she’d been vocal about it from his reaction. He also couldn’t help feel it was her who’d led the tribe to his body. Since waking, she’d been the one by his side, not the others.

He came to a halt and turned to Leilah. They were all wearing their grey cloth suits, and it was hard for him to imagine the radiant and rebellious woman hiding underneath. She was beautiful and didn’t belong out here in the wasteland, yet she was, and she was strong enough to survive on her own. She did have the special abilities to assist her, but he knew she could survive without them.

“The base is hidden in the mountains,” he pointed.

She looked ahead. “How are we supposed to get across the lava lake?”

Donnchadh looked around the grey land, trying to find something he’d only heard of. A secret entrance Kirill had talked about several times that traveled under the lava lake to the base of the mountain. He’d never bothered to look on Kirill’s map to see where it was because he never thought he’d use it.

“There’s a secret entrance somewhere out here in the wasteland,” he answered. “I’m not quite sure where it is, but I know it’s out here. It’s going to be concealed very well, but it’ll still be out of place.”

“You’ve led us here and you do not know how to get in?” Reamonn asked from behind. “I thought you knew this place.”

“I do. I’ve never used the secret entrance though, it was only for emergencies, and I’ve never had the need to use it.”

“Then how are we supposed to get there?” Reamonn asked. “You don’t expect us to travel across a lava lake, do you?”

Leilah grabbed Donnchadh’s arm tightly and looked down to the ground. Her grip loosened up after a couple of seconds and she broke up their argument with a flick of her hand.

“I know where it is,” she said. “The secret entrance to the base. I can take you to it.”

Donnchadh and Reamonn both focused their attention on her, surprised that she claimed to know its location.

“How do you know where it’s at?” Reamonn asked. “We don’t travel around this area of Erebos. We steer clear if possible. I know what’s out here and I don’t like it.”

“I saw it in a vision,” she answered, breathing deeply. “It just came to me.”

“Where is it?” Donnchadh asked. “Where did you see it in your vision?”

“It looked to be in some type of cave. I can feel where it’s at. There’s something tugging at me to move in that direction,” she pointed.

Donnchadh looked to where she was pointing and saw a cluster of rock formations. He had no doubt it was hidden in there. Leilah had somehow found where the secret entrance was using her abilities, and it shocked not only him, but the entire group. Each of them was looking at her with wide eyes, but none wider than her father’s.

“Let’s go. It’s pulling me to move forward. We can’t stay here much longer. It’s time to get off Erebos and get to Ares. Something big is about to happen.”

Leilah took lead of the group, with Donnchadh by her side, and they quickly moved to the cluster of rocks. Once they’d trotted through the grey dirt to the rock cluster, they squeezed in-between a crevice and through a hole in the middle of the formation. Leilah continued forward, disappearing into the dark hole. Donnchadh followed closely behind and squinted his eyes once inside, trying to adjust them to the dim light of the cave. It felt wet inside, which was odd, because most of Erebos was dry. Once they’d traveled down the cave further, he knew this wasn’t a natural cave. Kirill had made it. That’s why it didn’t feel like the rest of Erebos, it wasn’t meant to be here at all. Leilah stopped at the end of the cave and rubbed her hand across a grey metal door. Donnchadh knew the type of metal well and stepped forward and examined the door.

“How were you able to find this place when the rest of us weren’t?” Reamonn asked. “Not a single one of us felt this or saw this, only you.”

“I’ve always seen and felt things you haven’t,” she said. “But I’ve always kept them to myself, afraid of what they might lead to, but now I know why I see things you don’t. I’m meant for something more, something bigger than myself.”

“I don’t understand. You’re just like us. You are no different.”

“No, I am different. I see and feel more than you in every vision that comes to us, but I’ve never understood it. For years I tried, but eventually I gave up because I knew when the day came for me to know why I saw more, a vision would tell me. I was never meant to stay here. That’s what I’ve been seeing these past few weeks,” she said. “You won’t be able to help the rebellion. Only I can help the rebellion. I’m the only one who will see and feel things that’ll help lead the rebels to success because I can see the future much clearer than any of you. It’s why I unconsciously urged you to help Donnchadh and it’s why I urged we leave Erebos. If I stay, Orion will fall. I’ve seen it and now I understand it. Without me, without Donnchadh, there won’t be an Orion anymore.”

“We saw the same thing,” Reamonn replied. “We all saw the bloodshed and death. You aren’t seeing anything we haven’t seen.”

“But I saw much more uncertainty. I saw horrible things, but nothing set in stone, and since then, I’ve had a tug to leave Erebos and help the rebellion. I’ve had these deep visions before, but never this strong. There’s no way I can turn from this.”

Donnchadh put his hand on a scanner, letting father and daughter talk alone, and the door hissed open. He turned to them and motioned them to follow without a word, momentarily ending their hushed conversation. They traveled down a narrow tunnel directly underneath the lava lake and stopped at another door. He put his hand on the scanner and the door hissed open as he took his helmet off.

“I’m not sure what we’ll run into in here,” he said, turning to the others. “I don’t know for sure if everyone left with Kirill. I left too quickly to see how many were out there. It looked like everyone, but Kirill always has a backup plan of some sort.”

“It’s safe. There’s no one inside,” Leilah said.

Donnchadh nodded, believing her, knowing without a doubt her sense were right. He led them inside of the abandoned base and through the eerie hallways. Everyone had obviously left in a hurry as it appeared as if very little had been taken along with them. He was sure they’d snuck a few weapons and essentials, but definitely a lot less than they should’ve brought. There was no way any of them could’ve actually believed they’d come back, but looking at the base, it was obvious Kirill had persuaded them it was going to happen. Each of the assassins were his puppets, ready to bend to their leader’s will, as he himself was once willing to do. It was foolish and it would lead to their deaths.

Donnchadh and the tribe entered an elevator and ascended to the hangar. When the doors slid open, a beauty laid in front of them. A slick black ship that he never thought he’d see again – Cerberus.

“We’ll take that ship,” he pointed with a smile. “But first, we should go to the armory and get some weapons and armor. There will be plenty left behind for us to use after seeing the rest of the base. The assassins left with bare essentials so we’ll have a pick of whatever we want.”

He led them across the hangar to a large room filled with weapons and top of the line battle armor. This was the room where every assassin kept their equipment used for missions. On top of the weapons and armor on the walls, there were lockers with assassins’ names on top. Donnchadh walked down each row, opening the personal lockers to reveal what was inside. Almost every locker was full and he could see the gleam in the tribe members’ eyes.

“Grab what you need and whatever else you want. This man, and all these assassins, betrayed me. Whatever you see in front of you is ours to take. Everything in here is the best on the market, so take as much as you can.”

Donnchadh walked over with Leilah as she took off her grey cloth suit and walked to a locker with red and black armor. It was a durable, light-weight, material made of part fiber and part metal. The suit she’d chosen was able to resist laser fire and was extremely flexible. The suit hugged her body as she put it on and her orange hair seemed to glow like a raging fire.

“You look much better in that armor than you do in the grey cloth.”

“And you look better in the cloth wrap,” she joked and hit him. “Let’s get some weapons and head to Ares. I can feel things starting to brew in Orion. Tensions are rising and the rebellion will start very soon.”

Donnchadh nodded and walked over to the weapons rack, grabbing a few rifles, pistols, and knives. Once it appeared as the tribe had grabbed everything they wanted, he led them to Cerberus and the nomads boarded a ship for the first time in their lives. Donnchadh went to the cockpit and pressed several buttons, prompting the engine to roar to life. Leilah took sat next to him in the co-pilot seat just as he was lifting Cerberus off the ground. The dock extended out of the mountain and he flew the ship off, exiting Erebos for what he hoped was the final time. He looked down at the grey and orange planet below him, never wanting to return to it again for any reason. This life was over and he wanted to leave any memories of it behind to die. He initiated sonodrive and the ship lurched forward towards Ares and the impending rebellion.

[] Chapter 24

Abdul waited behind Kirill for an answer. He was trying to convince him now was the time to get rid of Merikh, yet again. The time for stalling had come to an end, but as usual, Kirill wasn’t heeding his advice. Rarely did the man listen to others, but this was something he really needed to listen to because Orion was in more trouble than he could imagine. The crodillians were reckless, and if not put to a stop, everything would be decimated. If that happened, there would be nothing left but dirt for Kirill to rule. That was if he was lucky enough to be spared.

“Kirill, you need to kill Merikh now. If you wait any longer, the rebels will find out that you’re on the wrong side of the rebellion and they’ll come after you too.”

“Let them come after me,” he shrugged. “How successful do you think they’ll be? They have four fleets of crodillians ships to defeat, and after that, they have to go through my assassins. They can hate me all they want, but there’s no way they can defeat me.”

“You’re underestimating them. They have nothing to lose, they’ll keep fighting until they win. Right now, they fear nothing because everything has been stripped from them.”

“They have lives to lose. Homes, families, and planets that can be destroyed, Abdul. Don’t tell me they don’t have anything to lose.”

“You think they care about what little they have left?” Abdul exclaimed. “The crodillians have destroyed and taken everything! They’ve killed their families and friends! They have nothing left to lose and everything to gain. I promise you, they’re determined more than any of your men. Once the rebellion begins, it’ll be unstoppable.”

“My men are just as determined as I am.”

“When the rebels find out you’re helping Merikh, you’re doomed. I don’t know how many times I need to drill this into you. The rebels will claw and scratch until they’ve killed every last crodillian, then comes you. You’ll be seen as a traitor and they’ll come for you, along with your trusted assassins. I wouldn’t count out your own turning against you, not after siding with the crodillians.”

“Is there something you want to share with me? Are you working with the rebellion forces and trying to turn my own against me and my cause?”

“Kirill!” Abdul grabbed him with both hands. “I’m begging you to listen to me before it’s too late.”

“I’ll kill him when I am well and ready!” He pulled himself from Abdul’s grasp. “And I suggest you be fine with my decision. I’m tired of hearing of this.”

“I’m trying to help you, but you’re too blind to see it,” he turned. “Merikh will kill the Queen soon and there will be a rebellion. Once the Queen is killed, you can’t switch sides, they’ll see you the same as Merikh. After that, your vision of a pure galaxy will never happen because you’ll never get the chance to rule them. They’ll kill you first. Every last one of them.”

“You had better watch it Abdul. Don’t think I won’t kill you!”

“You won’t touch me,” he said over his shoulder. “I’m the only true friend you have left. I can see the loneliness in your eyes, Kirill. If you would listen to me, you’d have friends again.”

Falcone flew the ship over the lush forest below and let off the throttle, getting ready to land at Lacedaemon’s spaceport. Defenses were at full force and the force field was covering the entire city. Strike by the crodillians was imminent after the Queen’s message and the entire city was on edge, ready to lay down their lives if it came to that.

“I don’t think there’s any safer place in Orion right now,” Nimesha said.

“Right now, that is,” Falcone replied. “Just wait until the crodillians get here. Then we’ll see just how safe it is.”

“The crodillians are the ones who need to be worried,” Kanti came up from behind with Anlon close by. “Pyrrhus knows what he’s doing and I guarantee Lacedaemon will be ready for the crodillians. They can bring everything they have and I’d still pick our side to win this battle.”

“Still doesn’t mean that I want to be hanging around when they get here. I’d prefer someplace safe from any chance of death,” Falcone winked. “Anlon’s cave back on Tartarus seemed pretty nice from what Fausto told me. Maybe I’ll head there after dropping you guys off.”

“Why don’t you ever take anything seriously?” Kanti rolled her eyes.

“I take a lot of things seriously! All I’m saying is that this is going to be a long, hard fought, rebellion. I know what you have pictured in your mind and I’m here to tell you it’s nothing like that. We’re going to be fighting in the bodies of our fallen friends. Those around us will think about giving up and even you won’t be able to blame them. When the time comes, you’ll understand.”

Anlon put his hand on her shoulder. “It looks like there are races waiting for us at the dock. Things must be ready to kick off.”

They all looked out of the cockpit window and saw Pyrrhus standing with the entire Council around him. None on board had been aware of their arrival and each were surprised the Council had left the safety of Nesoi.

Falcone softly touched Drakos Mavros down and lowered the ramp. Kanti and Anlon dashed down as soon as it touched ground. They immediately went to Pyrrhus and the Council, letting the others catch up on their own. Both could tell something was up due to the members’ eyes. Each of them was looking at Kanti with what seemed to be fear, and strangely, hope.

“Pyrrhus,” she nodded her head slightly. “Council.”

“We’re glad you made it back safely,” Alura said. “You really shouldn’t be leaving the protection of Ares for any reason from here on out. This will be the safest place for you when everything begins.”

“I couldn’t resist going along to retrieve Anlon. He did save my life on the crodillian ship, along with Camillus. The least I could do was be one of the first to thank him for his sacrifice.”

“Understandable, and we also thank Anlon greatly for that. But now, you must remain here under the protection of the quierleons,” Aida said.

“I’ll go wherever I’m needed,” she put her hands on her hips. “The rebellion is about to begin and I’m not standing on the sidelines watching my people die. I’ll be with them in the trenches.”

“You won’t be just watching. The fight will be here, along with every other planet in Orion,” Pyrrhus said.

“You’ve completed the battle plans?” Kanti asked.

“They’ve been finished and sent out to all rebel bases,” Aldrick nodded. “Pyrrhus has gone over it with us and we believe it’s the only chance we have at survival. It’s brilliant, but it’s extremely risky.”

“What’s the plan?” Anlon asked. “I’ve kind of been stranded with Fausto on Tartarus, so sorry if I’m a little behind you guys.”

“We’ll go over it later. Right now, we have a request for the Princess,” Pyrrhus replied.

“What’s your request?” She asked.

“We would like you to give a speech,” Bertrade answered. “A speech that we’ll play for every rebel across Orion. You will give them the hope and courage that they need to fight the crodillians. Many will die, but we need you to make sure they never give up hope. It’ll be hard for them when they see their friends fall in battle and you’ll be the one to make sure they know all the lost lives are for a greater cause.”

“Do you really think I will give them hope and courage? Why not someone like, Pyrrhus? The leaders here may know me, but the rest of Orion has never heard from me.”

“They need you,” Aldrick put a firm hand on her shoulder. “You’re their Princess, and soon, you’ll be their Queen. It’s time you spoke to those you must protect.”

“They haven’t killed my mother yet. She’s still alive, isn’t she?”

“She’s alive for now,” Bertrade answered. “But once you give the speech and the rebellion starts, she’ll most likely be killed. Merikh will try one last flex of power to urge us to stand down, but we’re prepared for it and we won’t let him scare us.”

“Then I should wait! If they haven’t killed her yet, then I have to wait. There’s still a chance we can save her. We can send in someone on a search and rescue mission.”

“You can’t wait. The rebels need you right now. They need a Queen to lead them. Your mother knew as soon as she made her speech that she’d die. They’ve just waited for some odd reason, but her death is inevitable,” Aldrick said. “We need you to make the speech now. Crodillian ships have just left Hera and are surely headed this way. Time is of the essence. If we don’t act now, we may never get the chance again.”

“Won’t it be too late for a speech if they’re headed out already?” Anlon asked.

“Only two ships left Hera and there are four planets that still haven’t been conquered. If they’re headed here, we’ll get the message out just in time, if not, then I promise you that they’ll be here soon after it’s sent out. Either way, sending the message now ensure all races in Orion see it. It’s too late for the crodillians to put a stop to what’s about to come.” Pyrrhus said.

“We don’t know what order they’re going to take over planets, but we’re crossing our fingers that those ships aren’t headed here,” Hildereth spoke for the first time. “If they aren’t, then we still have time to get things together, but that’s why we need Kanti to make the speech now. Other races’ planets are about to be conquered and they can’t lose hope. We must let all know that we haven’t forgotten about them.”

“What if they do come here?” Kanti asked. “Then what do we do?”

“Then the rebellion will start sooner than planned. All of the rebellion bases on the other planets are waiting for my word, but there are still a few things I would like to do here first,” Pyrrhus answered.

Alura crossed her arms. “Like your speech, Princess.”

Kanti nodded. “I’ll do it. I’ll give them all a speech, but I can’t promise that it’ll be any good. I haven’t done anything like this before. I was raised on a farm, not in Palace.”

“A message from their future Queen is all they need. They’ll rally around you and fight for you until the death,” Alura took Kanti’s arm with her soft hands. “We’ll take you back to the Capitol building until we’re ready for you.”

Kanti nodded and followed the Council to a nearby cruiser. Anlon watched silently next to Pyrrhus as she got in with the seven members and the cruiser lifted off. He turned to the General, seeing fiery determination in his blue eyes. Anlon knew without a doubt at that moment this was the right man to lead the rebellion. The General had heart and was ready to give his life.

“What’s the plan, exactly?” Falcone asked. “We heard what you had last time, except Anlon because he wanted to take a little vacation, but what’d you finally come up with?”

Anlon rolled his eyes at Falcone’s comment and looked to Pyrrhus.

“We’re going to deceive them,” he answered. “When they arrive here, I’ll send a message to all of the rebel bases that the rebellion has officially begun. The hope is, that all but one ship leave to squash the rebellions elsewhere because our ships will be hidden under stealth field, making us look easy. We’ll box in the remaining enemy ship and engage the fifty that they’ll see. They should send out fighters to attack and we’ll retreat to Ares, saying we surrender. We’ll lure them into the forests where we’ll attack them while the concealed ships converge on the command ship to take it over. After that’s done, we’ll help clear up the crodillians on Ares and then assist the other planets that are under attack.”

Anlon raised his eyebrows. “It sounds brilliant, but what if all the ships stay here?”

Pyrrhus shrugged. “We don’t think they will. All they’ll see is fifty rebel ships. No reason to keep three of those huge ships here when there’s full scale rebellions on other planets. All those planets are well equipped for war and once word gets out that the rebels are easily wiping out ground troops, they’ll send ships in for assistance.”

“It makes sense. Merikh is clearly over confident in his abilities and will underestimate the strength of the rebellion,” Nimesha nodded. “They’ve never seen stealth fields, or so we believe, so taking over the command ship should catch them by surprise. They’ve also never seen an entire galaxy of races band together for one common cause.”

“Precisely. We used everything the Elders gave us and more. Attack, run, and use our new technology. That monster won’t know what hit him.”

“Won’t they wipe out the rebel bases on the other planets with ease?” Anlon asked. “They may be well-equipped, but even Ares will have a difficult time standing up to a whole fleet. The only difference between us and them is that we have about three hundred ships at our disposal.”

Pyrrhus grinned. “Oh, I think they’ll put up a good fight. The two biggest rebellion forces are on Hermes and Gaea, and they have some pretty good leaders. Not to mention, the bases are fully stocked for full scale war. They may not have the air support we do, but they have the ground support.”

“Wasn’t Gaea destroyed?” Anlon asked. “It was getting bombed heavily when we escaped. There can’t possibly be too much left of it.”

“It did take a heavy beating, but your friend Moran didn’t let that stop him from saving survivors to start a rebellion.”

“Moran is alive?” Anlon smiled.

“He’s alive and very well. He was waiting for me when I arrived to set up a base. The man tracked me down and showed me all the survivors he’d hidden in the basement of some crumbled building. We were able to find an untouched base named Xiphos and sent survivors to finish setting up bases throughout Orion.”

“He’ll lead a great rebellion. The crodillians have no idea what they’re up against. Moran is a genius and will lure them into traps all over the place,” Anlon said.

“They won’t know what they’re up against on Hermes either,” Pyrrhus continued. “I put a woman named Zarah in charge. She’s in a hidden underground base with just as many rebels as Moran, if not more.”

“So there really is a hidden base there?” Nimesha asked. “I never could find it myself. I went several times and could never get anyone to lead me to it.”

“There is,” Pyrrhus nodded. “Why were you trying to find it?”

“Old life. Might’ve been a high profile figure or two that Kirill wanted me to take out.”

“Anyway,” Anlon intervened. “Everything is going well there?”

“Zarah has exceeded my expectations. She was a high school principal in her old life, and now, she’s doing one hell of a job leading that base. From the reports she’s given me, things are running very smoothly. She’s appointed ten officers and every other race on base has some sort of job to keep them busy. They’ll be ready to rebel the second I give the order, giving the crodillians plenty of problems.”

“What about the other rebellion bases?” Falcone asked.

“They’re smaller, but Moran sent very trustworthy men to set them up. They won’t be able to stand up to an entire fleet, but with every planet rebelling at the same time, the crodillians will have to choose where they go. That means they’ll most likely choose Gaea and Hermes because the rebels there will have the best chance of taking the planets back.”

“So once Kanti makes her speech, the rebellion will begin?” Falcone asked.

“Pretty much,” Pyrrhus nodded. “If the crodillians aren’t on their way here right now, they will be after the speech. We aren’t going to hide our location. We want them to strike us right here.”

“Is there any way I could help?” Fausto asked. “I don’t know much of what’s going on in Orion since I’ve been on Tartarus for fifty years, but I’m willing to help in any way possible.”

Pyrrhus looked him up and down. “How’d you end up there? And how did you survive?”

“A raider shot my ship down while I was carrying out a run. After I crashed, they left me alone. I got lucky and was stranded in some cave that had everything I needed to survive: food, water, shelter, and much more.”

Pyrrhus nodded and stroked his chin. “We could always use more pilots, if you’re up for it.”

“You have yourself a pilot then,” Fausto took Pyrrhus’ hand.

“Let’s get you all back to the Capitol building,” Pyrrhus led them towards a second cruiser. “Get some rest and we’ll go over what we need to do after Kanti has given her speech. There’s still a lot that has to be done and time is quickly running out.”

Anlon followed Pyrrhus to the cruiser and sat in the front seat. The others got in the back and the cruiser levitated off the ground. He looked out the window and saw fairly empty streets. Races were scattered on rooftops and he knew this was the last time anyone would see peace like this for a while. Once the rebellion started, the bloodshed would be endless. It would consume the galaxy, but it’d only be temporary, and if they played everything right, they’d come out on top when it was all over.

[] Chapter 25

A buzzing comlink awoke Zarah from her deep sleep. It was the first time since taking over the base that someone was calling her. Usually, it was her waking someone for instructions or how to do things better.

She picked up the comlink and put it to her ear. “Hello?”

“It’s Dorjan, Zarah. The crodillians are finally here. They’ve just landed some of their ships.”

She straightened up and got out of bed immediately. “How long have they been on Hermes?” She threw clothes on.

“A couple of hours now,” he answered. “I didn’t think it was necessary to call you right away. I thought it’d be better if my men and I watched them for a while. Try to scout them out and get a sense of how they act.”

“What have seen from them so far?”

“I’m not entirely sure, to be honest. They came and attacked, but then turned around and left. It was strange to say the least, especially since they were supposed to come peacefully, but it was just another reason I waited to call you.”

“What do you mean they attacked and left?”

“It looked like they were going to wipe out Thermopylae, but for some odd reason they stopped all at once. We took heavy fire for several minutes and all at once it seized and the ships left for some time before returning.”

“Did any of your men provoke them to attack?”

“No. No one did anything. We saw them coming and got into our positions. I watched every one of my men and not a single one of them came out of hiding. The enemy didn’t even know we were here.”

“That’s odd,” she thought aloud. “How long did they leave for again?”

“They came back shortly after withdrawing as if nothing had happened. They were gone for ten minutes at the most.”

“What else do you have besides that?”

“They’ve settled in the upper-class parts of Hermes. Bases are set up in the larger buildings is what I’m guessing from where I’m positioned. Ships and vehicles are nearby and there are a lot of crodillians roaming the streets. They’re armed to the teeth and look ready to kill anyone that gets out of line.”

“So, we know where their base is now,” she grinned. “Can your men do anything else to give us an upper hand when the rebellion starts?”

“We may be able to help out a little. We can set up bugs throughout their camps so we know their moves before they make them. It’d definitely help the rebels, but it may be a little tricky. The streets are filled with these monsters so we’re going to have to find other ways in the compounds.”

“How much confidence do you have in your men?”

“A lot of damn confidence. If they don’t want to do it, I’ll do it myself, but I know they’d never turn this down. We may not be spies, but we know our way around this city.”

“It’s up to you. It’d be a great help for the rebellion, but I won’t order you to do it. The choice is yours, but I already know what choice you’ll make. You’re a warrior, a fighter, you’ll get the job done,” she said.

“We’ll carry it out tonight,” he replied. “And thank you Zarah.”

“For what?” She asked. “I haven’t done anything yet. I’ve been hiding here in the base with the rest of the rebels.”

“You let me help you. You could’ve taken the rebels with you to the base and ignored me, letting me make a stupid mistake which would’ve killed me, but you didn’t. You befriended me, and for that, I thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Everyone deserves a chance. I couldn’t let my initial feeling towards you get in the way. Making the choice you did wasn’t easy, nor was mine, but both had to be made for this rebellion to be successful. Neither of us were wrong, so I’m glad you stood up to me. If you hadn’t we wouldn’t be in this position right now,” she said. “Anyway, I’ll wait for you to call me back once you’ve bugged them.”

Zarah left her quarters and went to get the officers. They’d chosen not to room separately from the other races, instead choosing to sleep alongside them. She thought it was brilliant and would build the bond between the entire base, not just the officers. When the war started, they’d already be used to acting as one.

She woke up Ludwig and Yvette, telling them to wake the others and meet her in the Command Room. It was time to let them know the crodillians were now residing on Hermes. They’d then relay it to the rest of the base, and any of the races operating outside of the base would now no longer be allowed to leave. Enough intel had been gathered and getting caught wasn’t part of her plan. Too much preparation had gone on to ruin it due to a careless mistake.

Zarah walked into the Command Room and fired up the comline. Not only would she be talking to her officers, she would be talking to Pyrrhus. They’d gotten their rebellion plan put together for Hermes, and they needed to go over it with him before proceeding. He was a true General, if there was anything wrong with it, he’d let her and her officers know. A blue screen lit up and she waited for the officers. Ludwig and Yvette were the first two to walk in to the room, with the other eight close behind.

“Hermes has been taken over by the crodillians,” she told them.

“We knew that it would happen soon,” Ludwig said. “When will we strike?”

“Not yet. I haven’t gotten word from Pyrrhus and there is something that has to be done before we strike.”

“We’re ready when Pyrrhus gives the word. The entire base is ready to take back Orion from these monsters,” Yvette said.

“Dorjan and his men are going to help us. They’ve been watching the crodillians and have concluded their headquarters are in the upper-class section of Hermes. They haven’t done anything yet, but they will soon.”

“They’ve told us where the crodillians are holed up, what else could they possibly do?” Yvette asked.

“They’re going to scout,” Ludwig grinned. “They’re going to learn the enemy we’re going to face. Habits, routines, and anything else that’ll give as an advantage.”

“Not only that. They’re going to bug all the buildings. We’ll know what tactics they’re going to use and any commands that are coming in as they come in.”

“Even better than scouting. They’ll infiltrate their bases and give us the upper hand,” Ludwig leaned back with a grin.

“I haven’t gotten a report on their numbers yet, but we’ll know once Dorjan has the bugs placed, along with a lot more intel.”

“Are we still set on our battle plan?” Yvette asked. “Nothing has changed?”

“The plan is still the same. In fact, we’re about to go over it with Pyrrhus and see if he wants to give any suggestions to us.”

Zarah called Pyrrhus on the comline and his image appeared on the wall. He was surrounded by hundreds of other races doing different things in the background. She was sure they were all working on the rebellion and didn’t bother to ask who they were or if they were listening. All that mattered right now was her base, nothing else.

“What news do you have for me Zarah?”

“The crodillians have landed on Hermes.”

“We’ve seen, but that is good news,” he smiled. “Three ships left Hera and we were unsure where they would all be going until coming out of their jumps. We’re pleased with where they’ve gone so far.”

“I don’t know if that’s good news. The base will be on high alert soon and any slip up and the rebellion will begin earlier than planned,” Zarah crossed her arms. “But if you say so, I guess it is.”

“It was vital to our plans that they come to Ares last. If they hadn’t, we would’ve had to strike earlier than we wanted to. Ares is where the rebellion will begin, but everything has to be in place in order for us to succeed. Failure on Ares will mean failure for the entire rebellion. Everything hinges on a victory here.”

“I understand,” she nodded. “I contacted you so that we may go over our battle plan for the rebellion. There were some points I wanted to touch on, but more than anything, get feedback.”

“I can gather some of the military leaders right now to help you.”

“We’ve already come up with one we are confident in. My officers and I wanted to go over it with you. It’s too late to make any major changes to it, so we’d rather keep them out of it.”

“Okay,” he nodded, looking impressed. “Let’s hear it.”

“We’re going to lure them into the forests. We’ve scouted them, and we’ve found many spots where we’ll be at an advantage. We’ll finish setting up traps throughout and lead them right into the war vehicles,” Ludwig said.

“We’ll scatter our rebels throughout the entire forest. That’s where we feel where we’ll be at our biggest advantage,” Yvette continued. “We’ll keep most of the rebels hidden until the crodillians have run into the war vehicles. Once they see they’ve run into that trap, they’ll be boxed in when they try to retreat. There will be no way for them to escape and they’ll have to face us on our terms. Hopefully the panic makes them think irrationally for some time. If so, we should be able to eliminate a good number of them before they get somewhat organized again.”

“I like the idea. It’s actually pretty similar to what we came up with here,” Pyrrhus said. “But there’s a part of my plan that may hurt yours. I don’t know if you planned for it, but you need to know about it.”

“What do you mean?” Zarah asked.

“Our plan on Ares, is to get all but one of the fleets to leave us, which means one will most likely head to Hermes. You don’t have an entire fleet of crodillians on your planet right now, only a few thousand. Once the fleet arrives, that few thousand will go up quite a bit. You’ll be greatly outnumbered and you’ll be on your own for some time.”

“Why would they come back here? There’s other planets they could go to,” Zarah replied.

“Your base is one of the two biggest rebellion forces we’ve established. Once you rebel, they’ll quickly find out you pose one of the greatest threats. Our plan is for one of the fleets to attack you on Hermes.”

“You actually want them to attack us?” Zarah exclaimed.

“You won’t fight them on your own for long. We’ll come to your aid once we’ve won here, but it’ll still be a good amount of time to hold them off.”

“We could already be wiped out by then!” Yvette said. “Are we just here as some sort of distraction? Bait?”

“No!” Pyrrhus replied. “You will be successful. You can hold them off until we arrive. I truly believe you can. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have come up with this plan. Everything that’s been put together depends on trust and all the rebellions acting as one. None of us can give up hope or doubt the other. We must trust one another and believe we’ll get through.”

“We can hold them. We’ll have to change our plan some, but we can still use the forest to our advantage. The only thing we really need to change is how soon we reveal our true numbers and maybe expand how much forest we fight over. Thin the enemy out some,” Ludwig stroked his chin.

“Dorjan is also helping us,” Zarah said. “He’s going to bug the crodillians’ base. We’ll know what they’re doing as they’re doing it. We’ll be outnumbered, but knowing there moves could allow us to hold them off until you finish your battle.”

A sly grin inched across Pyrrhus’ face. “See, I knew you’d be able to handle it.”

“We have yet to see if we can handle it. You should’ve told us much sooner than now what your plan was,” Yvette said.

“We’ve only just now finished it. Ares is the only planet left to be conquered and I believe it was intentional. The time is near for our rebellion to spring into action and the enemy can feel it.”

“We’ll be ready to strike when you give the word,” Zarah said. “We’ll make our adjustments quickly.”

“The Princess will be giving a message soon. Let your entire base see it. It’ll give them hope. We’ll send it out to every planet in Orion in hopes that it brings in more rebels to the fight. Once it’s sent out, be prepared to fight. Kanti’s speech will be the signal for the beginning of the rebellion.”

“We’ll be ready. Don’t you worry,” Zarah smiled widely.

The image of Pyrrhus blinked off the wall and left Zarah alone with her officers. She could see the fight burning in their eyes, despite what Pyrrhus had just told them about the fleet and how long they’d have to hold enemy back. They were ready to fight, and she knew they’d fight well. All of their training would finally get to be used and they’d get revenge on the crodillians for killing loved ones and destroying homes.

“Go tell all of the races to get ready for the rebellion,” she told them. “The second Pyrrhus gives us the word, we’ll strike, not one moment later. Prep the vehicles and update all on the battle plan. The time is near.”

Ludwig and Yvette gave her a quick nod and left the room, with the others following close behind. She hadn’t been prepared for what Pyrrhus had told them, but she believed in her officers and rebels. Though they would be in combat with more forces than expected, she truly believed they stood a chance if Dorjan succeeded in bugging the crodillians’ base. Without the bugs, winning would be hard, no matter what Pyrrhus tried to tell them. Either way, she was ready to lay down her life so Orion could be freed of these monsters. She knew every other rebel on the base felt the same way. There was no other group of races she’d want to lead into this rebellion. This was now here family.

Jahdiel saw Hermes quickly approaching through the cockpit. The planet was illuminated with light, but seemed quieter than it should be for the planet of trade. Not a single ship was in orbit and from where she was at, she couldn’t see any in the planet’s airspace either. No commotion on land nor air. Calmness was all she saw and that wasn’t a good sign of things to come for the crodillians.

Mixed feelings had washed over Jahdiel since last talking to the Queen on Hera. When she’d first arrived, she wanted to burn every planet, but now, she knew her mind had been clouded with hate. She’d lacked facts, and for fifteen long and brutal years, she knew nothing but hate and lies. In only a few short months, all of that had changed. Fighting for the crodillians was something she no longer wanted to do, but she was shackled. There was no other option but to play along for the time being.

It wasn’t until Merikh had started treating her differently did she realize her grave mistakes. Luckily, she still had a chance to live, unlike the Queen whose death she was ultimately responsible for. It was her who’d led the crodillians to victory in the last galaxy, and it was her who’d brought death and destruction to this one. For fifteen years she’d been a puppet, always in the claws of Merikh. Only one choice stood before her now and it pained her more than she could’ve imagined months ago. She had to finish what she started and take over the remaining planets in Orion. If she didn’t, she’d be killed and the crodillians would finish the job.

“Tell the pilots to man their ships,” she said down to the deck below her. “They are to take the planet peacefully. Do not engage unless engaged upon.”

The crodillians below her relayed the message to the pilots and fighter’s and bomber’s streamed from the Colchian, quickly descending upon Hermes. From here, she saw no resistance, but she couldn’t see on the planet itself. She pulled up imagery on one of the bombers and watched his feed.

Hermes was eerily quiet, not a race to be seen for as far as the eye could see. She didn’t think there’d be many out after Merikh’s message, but being this quiet was quite a surprise. The bomber continued to fly over the land, only to find more empty cities and green forests. Every race had either gone into hiding or they’d abandoned the planet.

She saw a bomber begin to drop bombs on the city her feed was approaching. “What are they doing!” She shouted, standing up and grabbing the rail in front of her. “Tell them to stop now!”

The crodillians below sent a message to the ships, but the bombing took several minutes to seize. She clenched her fists, knowing that whoever was in that bomber had deliberately disobeyed her. This was no accident and she wouldn’t let it slip. It was time for her to make a point. This was her fleet and she was ready to let them all know it, even if they wanted to kill her for it.

“Call them back,” she ordered.

One of the crodillians looked up. “You want us to stop the invasion?”

“Yes! Tell them all to come back to the Colchian now! And whoever was flying that bomber is to report to me as soon as they arrive back.”

She saw the crodillians reluctantly send the message to the invading fighters and bombers and they obeyed the order and docked the Colchian within minutes. Jahdiel sat in her seat and stared out to Hermes. She waited for the crodillian who’d defied her to come, but after several minutes she knew he wouldn’t see her. The crodillians below were whispering softly, as if hiding something from her.

“Do you not think I can hear you? Is there something you want to tell me?”

Several of them looked up to her, but none responded. They knew something she didn’t and they were obviously trying to keep it from her. Leading them was becoming more difficult every day. Somehow, they’d all forgotten who helped them win their war back in the other galaxy, and now she was about to remind them of that ruthless woman. What they thought of her no longer mattered to her. Only a short time remained for her to lead and she was going to make sure each one of them obeyed future orders without a second thought.

“Where is the pilot that broke my order?” She demanded. “Why isn’t the pilot here in front of me?”

“We aren’t sure who dropped the bombs. There was so much going on that we weren’t able to pinpoint it,” one of the crew responded.

“Then I suggest you find out quickly,” she glared. “Starting now.”

The crodillians looked back and forth to each other and then each looked up to her simultaneously. “There’s no way we can find out, Jahdiel. The ships are unmarked and we can’t know for certain who did it.”

She turned around to leave the cockpit. “Then I’ll find out for myself who did it.”

Jahdiel marched down the halls to the hangar where all the pilots were gathered, waiting for her to arrive. One stood out from the rest, and she immediately knew he was the one who had defied her. He stood in front of the others, chest puffed out, and eyes drilling through her. Obviously, he thought he was above her, but was he wrong.

“Which one of you fired after I gave specific orders against it?”

“You said we could engage if engaged upon first,” one of the crodillians in the group said.

“I did say that,” she nodded. “But do you think I’m dumb enough to believe that rebels engaged you? There wasn’t a single race to be seen! You disobeyed a direct order and now you’re trying to cover it up by lying to my face.”

“The Queen called for a rebellion. This is what Merikh would want,” the pilot standing at the front of the group said.

“Merikh demanded peace, and unless my eyes were deceiving me, and I promise you they weren’t, there was peace! Not a single rebel even emerged to fight you. You fired upon them without being provoked.”

“We are carrying out Merikh’s direct orders. We’re doing his will and we don’t care if we kill your kind,” he replied.

My kind?” She repeated in a mocking tone. “Do you not remember who led you to success back in your home galaxy?”

“I remember very well,” he nodded. “Merikh did, not you. It was him who led us to victory. You did no more than the rest of us.”

She clenched her fists and took in a deep breath. “You see me as weak now, don’t you? I’m no longer fit to lead because I’m not burning and killing every living thing there is. Well, get used to it. That’s what your leader wants.”

“You show your weakness by not allowing us to bomb a planet that will aid the Queen’s rebellion. If you were strong, you would side with us. Merikh won’t care if we bomb on planet in order to make a point.”

Jahdiel walked towards him, pulling a blade from her side, and drove it through his heart. “Am I weak now? Am I no longer fit to lead you?” She looked around the group with fire in her eyes. “This is my Colchian and you will follow my orders. If you disobey one of my orders, I will kill you. There are no more second chances.”

She pulled the blade out of the pilot and moved out of the way as his lifeless body dropped to the floor with a thud. She glared at the other crodillians and saw a new look in their eyes: hate. Rage was burning in their eyes and she knew they wanted to kill her, but they couldn’t. They had to obey her. This was her ship and she’d just shown what happened to any that defied her.

“Go back down to Hermes and take it over peacefully. Don’t make me use another one of you as an example because I have no problem with killing any of you.”

She turned her back to them and left the hangar. Jahdiel knew killing the pilot was going to mean her death, but she didn’t care anymore. None of the crodillians would stand for her actions, and when word spread, plots would be put together for her assassination. All that mattered to her at this point was she’d drove a point home. It was her who was the strong one, at least until she arrived back on Hera. Still, she had time to bend the crew to her will and prove they needed her in order to succeed.

She wanted to finish taking over Orion, and there was only one planet left: Ares. She had to be there for Ares at all costs and wouldn’t let anything hold her back. It was Adira who’d given her the courage to kill the beast and she had to finish what she’d started. Adira had taught her many things besides forgiveness since coming back to Orion. The Queen had shown her to stand up for what is right, even after making mistakes, and that’s what she was going to do. She was going to make sure that things were set right, even if she was playing a game of life and death.

 

[] Chapter 26

Moran stood near the outskirts of the base, guiding in new survivors as they approached. The young races he’d sent out were doing better than he’d expected as several hundred races had arrived. Space was quickly diminishing within the base, but he knew it wouldn’t matter with the imminent rebellion. All the arriving survivors had seen the Queen’s message and knew why they were being recruited. Young and old alike were ready to risk their lives in order to get rid of the crodillians once and for all. Many looked like they’d been hiding in rubble and a fire was raging in their eyes.

He saw the young races walking back up with another group of survivors. They were bloody and injured and Moran immediately knew they’d run into trouble.

He yanked the young boy aside as the others went by. “What happened out there?”

“A convoy of crodillians ran into us. They must’ve seen us gathering survivors and they attacked us. The beasts came out of nowhere and caught us completely off guard. Luckily, some of the survivors were good in combat and helped us kill them.”

“Were you followed back here?”

“No,” he shook his head. “We killed them all and hid for a while before continuing on. No others came for the convoy and we moved out by foot after that, careful to keep an eye out for any of them stalking us.”

“Good job,” Moran put his hand on his shoulder. “Go get cleaned up with the others. The time to rebel will be soon. You’ve gathered more than enough survivors to help us succeed. Any others left out there will join the fight when it comes near to them.”

The young boy smiled and ran off to join the rest of his group who’d lagged behind for him. Though some of the survivors had only just arrived, it was time for him to reveal his final plan. Time was short and they had to act quickly. Moran turned around and walked into Xiphos.

The base was teeming with diverse life. Every corner he turned there were races huddled together embracing loved ones they thought they’d lost in the initial attack. It made him happy to see so many reunited, but they would soon be at war, so the happiness would be short lived. It pained him to tear them apart after just coming back together, but they knew why they were here. Each survivor understood the risks involved and were more than willing to fight.

He walked to his personal quarters, which he was sharing with others in order to fit in more survivors. He maneuvered his way through the room and stopped at his desk. A comline was on top and he put the microphone to his mouth.

“I would like to welcome all of the new survivors to Xiphos. Unfortunately, there will be no time for rest. The time to act will be soon and we’re preparing now as I speak. I need you to all gather in the Mess Hall so I can go over everything in greater detail.”

He hung up the intercom and made his way to the Mess Hall. Races quickly pushed their ways down the halls, trying to be the first one to arrive so they could be up front. He still wasn’t used to the whole General thing, but all the survivors seemed to love him. He hadn’t had any question his authority yet, but he knew that could change at any moment, especially with so many new races in the base. There was bound to be an ex-military somewhere who’d claim to have more experience.

He squeezed his way through the crowded Mess Hall to get to the front. Moran stood up on one of the tables once at the front, elevating himself above the rest so they could see his face. The room was filled up to every corner and lines of races extended through the hallways.

“You’ve all heard the Queen’s message. She’s told us the rebellion is to start now. I’m still waiting on the go ahead from Pyrrhus, but in the meantime, we’ll start enacting Xiphos’ rebellion plan. First, I’ll need volunteers to act as scouts. You’ll hide throughout Hassental to update us on their position and movements. This part of the plan can start now, so if you’re interested, meet with me after this announcement,” he looked around the room to see more rebels trying to squeeze their way in. “The next part can’t be put into action until I receive the go ahead. Xiphos and every other rebellion force in Orion will strike the crodillians at the same time. Our plan here is very simple. We’re still greatly outnumbered, but we know this land better than the enemy. It’s our home. Hassental lies in rubble, but we’ll use that rubble to our advantage. We’ll fight on multiple fronts: the city and the country,” he saw fear on the faces of the rebels, but he knew when the time came, they’d fight bravely. “We’ll utilize guerilla warfare tactics in the city. Attacking and retreating, using the crumbled buildings for cover and hiding when they come after us. In the country, we’ll face them head on with our war vehicles. This will spread out their forces, making them choose which front they want to commit the most soldiers to.”

“How will it be determined who goes where?” One of the rebels at the front asked him.

“You’ll choose which front you want to fight on,” he answered. “But we need rebels for both fronts. If everyone chooses one, I’ll be forced to move some to the other against their will. I don’t want to force you to fight on a front that you don’t want to, but we need rebels fighting in the city and in the country. We have to spread out their men. We can’t take on that many head on.”

“Who will lead the units?” Another asked, this time from the back. “You’re the only General we have. We have no officers amongst us.”

“You’ll choose your officers. You know who’ll be a better leader than me. Choose the best leader, or leaders, for your unit. I’ll be leading the strike in the country because it’ll be the most dangerous. I’ll get updates from the city, but you’re on your own in the decisions that you make, so pick someone who can lead well,” Moran looked around the room for anymore questions. “Not all have to fight. I won’t force woman, children, and elderly to fight, but all are welcome to help. If a woman wants to fight on one of the fronts, she can. If a young child wants to, it’s up to his or her parents. This rebellion will help determine the outcome of our galaxy’s war. It’s not my say who can fight and who cannot. This is your home as much as mine. If you want to fight, then I stand by your side and wish you the best of luck.” He looked to all the races. Each of them was staring at him intently and it was clear none would stay behind from the look in their eyes. “Those of you who want to be scouts, can meet with me now. The rest of you, be ready to start the rebellion at any moment.”

He got down from the table and stood at the front of the room. He watched patiently as many of the races left the Mess Hall. It took several minutes for the room to clear, but several had stayed behind. Scouting wasn’t the most glamorous job, and he didn’t expect many to volunteer, but he was satisfied with the few he saw before him.

A familiar face walked up to him with a smile. The young boy who’d gone out scouting for survivors now stood at his feet. Moran put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and smiled back. The rest of the group he’d gone out with were also stayed behind to volunteer, along with a few other younger rebels who knew they wouldn’t be much help in a fire fight.

“I’m glad you’ve all volunteered,” Moran said. “You’re about to take on one of the most important jobs in this rebellion, whether others believe so or not. It’s you who’ll be assisting the units in the city by calling in enemy positions. I’m not sure how many units there will be yet, but I don’t want my men ambushed because the cameras we’ve set up malfunction in battle. Thanks to you, it’ll be the rebels who’ll be doing ambushing.”

“How will we work?” The young boy asked.

“You’ll work alone. Each of you will all spread out throughout the city. Try to get to the highest vantage point you can so you can see everything. There are going to be a lot of crodillians, and I want you all to see every last one of them.”

“Who’s going to help you?” He asked. “Don’t you need someone to warn you of incoming enemies?”

“I’ll be fine,” Moran assured the boy. “I’m fighting on open land. They’ll see me because I won’t be trying to hide. You all worry about the rebel units in the city, not those of us in the country. Grab what you need now, you’ll be leaving by the end of the day to find a place to stake out. Once there, get comfortable. This is going to be a long and bloody battle.”

The group turned around and left the Mess Hall, except for the young boy. Moran looked at him and turned his body squarely to face his. He looked like he was ten years old with his shaggy brown hair covering his pained hazel eyes. That wasn’t the only thing he saw though, there was determination despite the losses of loved ones he’d seen over the past few months. He wasn’t sure if the boy was going to live, but he knew he would give it everything he had until that time came. The boy was fighter.

“You’re a brave kid. What’s your name?”

“Ezio,” he answered.

“You’re going to help us win this rebellion Ezio, I know it.”

The boy smiled and Moran turned him around so he could get ready to leave. Ezio would now be on his own and the entire rebellion would be counting on him. What he saw and reported would directly affect how many of the rebels survived and just how successful they were. Men and women would be fighting on the ground, but it was up to the kids whether they stood a chance or not.

Kanti opened the door to the small home one of the rebels had offered up for her, Anlon, Nimesha, and Falcone. She’d urged the rebel that it was unnecessary, but it was a useless effort. The rebel and her entire family had found out she was the Princess had refused to let Kanti decline the offer.

She saw Pyrrhus’ big frame standing in the doorway as she looked up. “Is something wrong?”

“All the other planets have been conquered now,” he revealed with a grim face. “The Council and leaders are meeting right now and I thought that you might want to be there. They’ll surely go over new developments they have arisen.”

“Sure thing,” she said, turning around to get the others from the house. “Is the plan being put into action now?”

“Soon. The ships have arrived back at Hera and they should be here within a day or two.”

“I have to give my speech now?”

“Yes, we need you to do it soon. We want the message out before the crodillians depart to come here. If it doesn’t get out quick enough, we may be fighting more of those things than we want to.”

She walked in the living room to see the others sitting on couches talking. This was the first time they’d relaxed since leaving Gaea for the Deimos Brotherhood and they were all aware it was only for a short time.

“Hey guys,” she said. “Pyrrhus wants us to go to the Capitol building to sit in with the Council and the planetary leaders. The remaining planets have been taken over and the rebellion is about to start.”

Anlon and the others quickly got up from the couch. “Let’s go. I’m ready to do something besides sit around. It doesn’t feel right with everything that’s going on,” Anlon said.

“We’ve barely escaped death several times,” Falcone moaned with a sly grin. “How could you possibly be ready to leave the comfort and safety of this home?”

Pyrrhus chuckled. “The meeting is about to start, so we need to hurry if we’re going to make it on time.”

Anlon put on a pair of shoes and walked out of the door with Kanti. A large cruiser was waiting at the edge of the street and they both go in next to each other. Their bond had grown much stronger since leaving Gaea and had evolved from a friendship into something greater. Neither one of them was sure what it was and didn’t think it could be love, but they had almost died many times together. Each time, bringing them closer. They were almost always together now and seemed to always know what the other was thinking, which would be crucial during the rebellion if they were fighting alongside the rebels.

Pyrrhus and the others got in the cruiser and he lifted off. The Capitol building wasn’t far from the house. It would’ve been a fairly short walk, but Pyrrhus was clearly in a hurry with all the other things he had going on. Once they arrived, they walked up the stairs and briskly skimmed down the halls to the Debate Room. When they entered, they could see arguments going on between some of the leaders as the Council sat on the stage in silence. It was obvious from a quick look, something was going on.

Pyrrhus took them up to the stage and walked over to the Council. Kanti and Anlon stood next to each other and waited for Pyrrhus to motion them to come over.

“What’s going on?” Kanti asked. “Has something happened?”

“They’re second guessing our plan,” he said. “That’s what’s happened. All the planning and now they’re letting fear get the best of them.”

“Who?” Kanti asked.

“A few of the planetary leaders. They’ve spread doubt throughout to the others and now that an attack is imminent, they’re panicking. None have ever faced anything like this and they believe surrendering is their best option.”

“But they were okay with it a couple days ago!” Kanti clenched her fists. “Why are they worried now?”

“It’s what fear does to people,” Pyrrhus said. “They’re just afraid of dying. They’ve seen what the crodillians can do and now that they’re about to face them, fear has consumed them. The realization that they may die is setting in for the first time.”

“They can’t back out now! It’s more than just their lives that are at stake here. The entire galaxy is in peril. This battle is bigger than them,” Kanti said.

“It only takes a few to spread fear like this. The Council doesn’t know who did it, but this is what it’s been like since they’ve arrived in the Debate Hall.”

“Then I’ll change it. I’ll show them we stand a chance, even the few who don’t think we do.”

Kanti walked to the front of the stage and the room quickly quieted down. All the leaders knew who she was now. They all shifted their focus to her and what she was about to say.

“I hear that fear has spread amongst you. I hear that you no longer believe in this rebellion. How could you possibly want to back out now?” She asked. “We’ve come too far to give up now! Every survivor out in Orion is counting on us! We are their leaders, we are supposed to protect them. Together, we’ve set a plan in motion that cannot be stopped and will not be stopped. Thousands of rebels have gathered around our cause to get rid of the crodillians and now we must carry through,” she walked across the stage and looked to the leaders before her. “I know you’re afraid, and that’s okay, I am too. You can’t let that fear control you though, we can defeat the crodillians.”

“But Princess,” someone from the crowd said. “What if our numbers aren’t as large as we have been led to believe? What if no one but Ares rebels when the time comes?”

“Our numbers are larger than we know,” Kanti replied. “How could any race sit by idly as these monsters are burning their homes and killing their families? Every race in Orion will be by our side when the call to fight comes. I promise each and every one of you we’ll have more than enough rebels to win this war. Yes, the crodillians are strong. Yes, the crodillians have powers we haven’t witnessed in person yet. But we have something to fight for, unlike our enemy. We have a cause to fight for and we have everything to lose if we don’t fight. The Queen wouldn’t tell us to rebel unless she truly believed we stood a chance. She’s been their prisoner, and she believes in all of us. She sacrificed her life in order to make sure we fought for our freedom. How could any of you deny her wish? She told us never to surrender to these monsters and we must obey.”

“The Princess is right,” Hildereth said. “The Queen knows what she’s doing. She knows we stand a chance and has ordered each and every one of us in this room to do exactly what we’ve planned. We are the rebels’ leaders, and without us, there’s not rebellion.”

“If you don’t want to fight, then leave. After I’m done talking to you, I want only those who’ll fight in the rebellion to be in this room. I want leaders who truly believe, like my mother, that we’ll win this war. The phoenix will prevail! I’ll rise and take my mother’s spot as Queen. I will not let Orion be conquered by these monsters! The phoenix will live and Orion will break free of crodillians’ grasp!”

The room erupted in cheers as she finished her speech. Not one of the leaders left the room, and there wasn’t one who sat quietly. She could tell she’d cast any shred of doubt from every one of the leaders’ mind, even the ones who’d originally cast that doubt. She turned around to Anlon who was smiling and clapping for her and walked up to give him a hug. Without him, she wouldn’t be here, and she knew that. Everything had started with them, and it would end with them.

Aldrick came over. “You did good. Now, you need to make a speech that’s even better than that for all of the rebels. Grab their hearts, give them hope, and show them that you too are one of them.”

Kanti nodded. She knew she could do it, especially after this speech. This was totally unplanned, but she now understood her job as Princess. She didn’t necessarily have to fight side by side with the rebels, though she would when the time cam. Instead, her primary job was to make sure they had the courage and hope to succeed. The crodillians may have thought taking over Orion would be easy, but they hadn’t seen anything yet, and she and Anlon both knew it. Merikh was about to see the full strength of the rebellion, and it would be led by her, the Princess that had escaped their grasp.

[] Chapter 27

Jahdiel landed her ship in the Palace dock. The crodillians had obeyed her the second time she’d sent them down to Hermes, but tensions had escalated since then. It was clear from a glance in their eyes that they wanted to rip her to pieces. Because of that, she’d decided it was best to lock herself in her chambers the rest of the journey, just in case one or more of the crodillians decided to act out of impulse. It’d been silent the entire time in seclusion, not a word from any of the crew. That made her want to get away from this all the more.

She got off of the transport ship and walked slowly down the blood stained halls, knowing there was a good chance her own blood would be added to those walls. She entered the room her leader was in silently and came up behind him. The Queen was chained next to him and looked up to Jahdiel as she came to a stop. The chains rattled and Merikh jolted, turning around to look Jahdiel in the eyes.

“You’re back,” he said, glaring at her with his evil red eyes.

“The remaining planets have been conquered. Ares is the only planet left,” she informed him.

“So I’ve heard,” he stood and hovered over her. “Was there any trouble?”

“No. There were no rebellions of any sort. The rebels gave their planets up with ease,” she avoided his intended question.

“Interesting,” he stroked his chin with his dark and scaly hand. “Any other problems I should know about?”

“There was a pilot that defied me and I made sure it would never happen again.”

She saw the Queen look to her with a slight grin crossing her face. Merikh’s eyes were filled with rage and were drilling through her. His mouth opened slightly, revealing his sharp teeth, and he sounded like he was growling.

“I heard you killed him. I hope that rumor is not true. I can’t have a human killing my own. You know that as well as I do.”

“He attacked after I said not to!” She defended herself and inched closer to him. “He defied my direct order and then called me weak in front of a group.”

“And you killed him for it?”

“I showed them who the weak one was,” Jahdiel said through her gritted teeth. “You can’t have soldiers defying your Commander’s orders, can you?”

“You killed one of my own,” he stared with hatred. “I won’t put up with that.”

“I killed one who was defying your orders, not just mine. He defied you. And I showed every crodillian what happens to those that defy you.”

Merikh clenched his claws into a fist and put his snout on her face. “Don’t ever kill one of my own again or I will kill you.”

“None will dare defy me again,” she grinned and took a step back. “They know what will happen if they do.”

She looked down to see the Queen smiling. The time to cower at the sight of Merikh was over, she was going to die soon anyway. Fortunately for her, she was guaranteed at least a few more days since Ares had yet to be conquered.

“There’s still one planet left,” she said. “Let me take it over.”

“We’ll wait before we go to Ares.”

“There will be no rebellions, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’ve seen the invasion of these planets first hand, and I can assure you that no one in Orion is going to rebel.”

“I don’t care if they rebel any longer,” he said. “I want to hear from the rest of the crodillians what they think of you before you’re allowed to depart.”

“What they think of me?” She asked. “I’m their Commander! I’ve earned my place among their ranks and I won’t stand down because I’m human.”

“You’ll never truly be among our ranks. You’re a human after all. It’s impossible to fit in when you’re so different. I’ve allowed it for some time, but I think that time has come to an end,” he said with a snarl. “I’ll let you take over Ares, but after that, you’re demoted. You’ll no longer command a Colchian, not after killing one of my own. You’ll be nothing after this war is over.”

I am the reason you’re here right now!” She protested. “Your crodillians would’ve never gotten you this far if it weren’t for me!”

“You are mistaken. If anyone is responsible for our current position, it’s myself, not some human. You’re lucky I’m letting you take Ares after what you’ve done and the way you’ve just spoken to me.”

She clenched her fists until her nails dug into her skin. This had been coming for some time, yet it still infuriated her to hear the words come from his mouth. All this time, she’d been helping a bunch of monsters with no intentions of accepting her. The entire time their plan had been to dispose of her when her use was up. It wouldn’t happen though, they would pay for it dearly, but she’d have to wait for the right time to act.

“Thank you, Merikh. I know my actions were wrong, and I acted out of fury. I’m sorry and I know this is what I deserve.”

“Leave me,” he waved his scaly green hand. “Wait for me to tell you to go to Ares, and keep out of sight of any crodillians. They all know what you’ve done and I haven’t ordered any of them not to kill you.”

Jahdiel tried to hide the fear on her face and saw a look of encouragement from the Queen. Adira knew she was trying to break free of his grasp after so many years of being in it. She wasn’t sure if she could escape alive, but she’d do everything she could to make sure she hurt him as much as possible.

She turned to leave the room and walked down the marble halls. It was her who’d brought this upon Orion. If it hadn’t been for her, the crodillians may have lost back in the other galaxy and would never be here. Hate had blinded her and she’d brought bloodthirsty monsters back to her home with a chance to take it. Merikh could think she wasn’t responsible for any of his success, but that’d be his fatal mistake. Without her, he was nothing, and it was time to prove it.

Donnchadh saw Ares quickly approaching through the cockpit window. The entire tribe had left him and Leilah alone in the cockpit as they gathered in one of the bunkers. He didn’t mind though, Leilah was the only one that liked him and the only one that spoke to him. It was because of her that he was even in this spot. He’d taught her a few things about piloting, and surprisingly, she had picked up quick. He hadn’t expected her to learn anything, but her abilities extended far beyond what even she knew.

A few ships approached them and the comline came on. “What’s your business?” A voice asked.

“We’re here to help the rebellion,” Leilah answered. “Please let us land, we’ve traveled a long way to come here.”

“You may land,” the voice said.

Donnchadh piloted Cerberus towards Ares. As he entered the planet, he saw Leilah taking in the surroundings of the beautiful landscape. He knew this was her first time leaving Erebos, and seeing a planet as beautiful and natural as this was mesmerizing. He flew over the ocean of trees and neared Lacedaemon, where Leilah had said to go.

He didn’t know how she knew to come here, but she’d been right about everything else so far. She was stronger than any he’d known and would help the rebellion, he could feel it. A force field surround the city as they neared and he knew the rebellion was on the horizon. The spaceport was filled with ships and he squeezed his ship in a tight spot. He and Leilah got up from their seats and went to get Reamonn and the others from the bunker, but were surprised to see them already waiting by the ramp.

“Are you sure this is what you want to do, Leilah?” Reamonn asked. “We can always go back. It’s not too late.”

“I’m helping this rebellion,” she replied, crossing her arms. “Are you coming or not?”

Reamonn nodded and motioned for the rest of the tribe to follow. Donnchadh and Leilah walked off of the ship together and were greeted by a guard holding a holopad.

“We weren’t expecting anyone else to arrive,” she said without looking up. “Are you here to help with the rebellion?”

“We are,” Leilah nodded. “I’ll be able to help your leaders in a way they can only dream of.”

The guard looked up to her strangely and then to Donnchadh. “Are they expecting you to be here? They haven’t told me anything about a malak and a group of humans coming here.”

Leilah smiled. “They are not expecting us, but trust me, they’ll welcome us with open arms. We come with help that’ll lead to victory.”

Donnchadh wasn’t sure if his eyes were seeing things, but Leilah’s skin seemed even more radiant here under the suns. Her red her was glowing and blue and green eyes were even more vibrant than they’d been on Erebos.

“I’ll call Pyrrhus. He’ll meet you here soon.”

Donnchadh looked to Leilah. “You look different. Brighter I think, if that makes sense.”

“I feel more alive. This planet doesn’t wreak of death and despair,” she held her arms out. “I can feel all of the life here, the hope and the fight that’s in these people. We’re all going to live to see the end of this rebellion. I feel it coursing through m. I haven’t seen it in a vision yet, but I can feel it.”

“Have you seen anything else since we left?” He asked.

“Pyrrhus will be here, like the guard said, but you must be calm,” she said. “He won’t like that you’re here, so let me do the talking.”

Donnchadh nodded and waited next to Leilah silently for Pyrrhus to arrive. It didn’t take him very long, and Leilah was right when she said he wouldn’t be happy. He stormed towards them, face filled with fury. Before he was even within ten feet, he began shouting and pointing his finger towards the malak.

“What are you doing here, Donnchadh?”

“He’s with us,” Leilah said.

Pyrrhus’ attention seemed to shift to her for the first time, and his eyes locked in on hers. Donnchadh didn’t know if it was because of her beauty or the way she seemed to be glowing, but the General’s eyes didn’t waver from her once he’d looked from him.

“Donnchadh is with us,” she said again with a warm smile. “He’s helped us come here, I urge you to hear him out. Forget his past and listen to what he has to say now.”

Pyrrhus nodded. “What do you have to tell me, Donnchadh?”

“Kirill has betrayed Orion.”

“That’s nothing new. All he’s done is betray Orion since trying to kill the Queen.”

“It’s much more serious now,” Donnchadh stared, gaining Pyrrhus’ full attention. “He’s sided with the crodillians. I was trying to use him and the Deimos Brotherhood to start a rebellion, but he betrayed me to side with them.”

“Betrayed you?”

“Yes. I was freed from Keres and was made a leader by the Merikh. Jahdiel was going to kill the Queen and I had to find a way to delay her death, so I told them about Kirill. They took the bait and I told the Queen I’d come back for her after I retrieved Kirill and recruited the Brotherhood.”

“You were helping the Queen?”

“I’ve made many mistakes in my life and I wanted to try and make up for those mistakes before my death. So, I decided to side with the Queen and betray the crodillians, though it meant sure death. I told Kirill I was coming and needed him to surrender peacefully so we could later rebel using the Brotherhood. If I had known about this rebellion, I would’ve never asked Kirill for help, but I didn’t, and he betrayed me to side with the crodillians.”

“Why would he side with them?” Pyrrhus asked. “Can’t he see Merikh will never let him rule?”

“He doesn’t want to rule with Merikh. He’ll kill Merikh once he’s ready. He wants to cleanse Orion of any races he sees unfit, crodillians now included.”

“How does she come in?” Pyrrhus pointed. “Who is she?”

“I’m Leilah,” she answered. “We saved Donnchadh on Erebos. He was stranded in the wasteland, but my tribe and I found him. We let him live with us for some time, until we learned of who he was and what his true intentions were. They were noble and true and I told the rest of the tribe that we needed to help him with this rebellion.”

“I really admire you coming here from Erebos, but we have everything ready. You could help with the fight when the crodillians arrive, if you would like. More bodies are always welcome.”

“I’m here for more than being another body. I’ve come to help you in other ways, ways that you’ll need if you want to be successful.”

“I’m not quite sure I understand,” Pyrrhus said. “Help us how?”

“My tribe survived on Erebos because we possess special abilities,” she revealed. “We can see and feel things before they happen. Those abilities are what led us to Donnchadh, though we weren’t completely sure why they’d led us to him at the time.”

Pyrrhus looked to Donnchadh. “It’s true. She told me to come here. I had no idea there was a rebellion here or that I’d meet you.”

“I specifically, am stronger than the rest of the tribe. My visions have much greater detail and I can feel many more things. They can only see things that directly affect them. I can see things that affect everyone, all of Orion. I’ve had it my whole life, but I concealed it, afraid of why I saw so much more. After finding Donnchadh and talking with him, I knew why I was blessed with such great powers. I was meant to help Orion win this war.”

“It’s truly amazing you have these powers, but how exactly is it going to help us?”

“I’ve seen the outcome of the rebellion without my assistance,” she said. “Your plan is good, but you’re greatly outnumbered. Hermes and Gaea are completely destroyed, and the battle here lasts much longer than expected. As you are fighting here, the rest of Orion burns and crumbles. I feel death and I see bloodshed, but the wrong side wins. I’ve never seen the crodillians, but I’ve seen in their minds. They’re monsters, and they’re stronger than anything I’ve ever faced.”

“How do you know about our plan?” Pyrrhus asked, surprised.

“I told you, I have abilities that extend beyond that of the rest of my tribe. I see many things that I keep to myself, but the time for that is over. I was given these powers as a gift. They’ve stayed hidden my entire life, until now. You need my assistance if you are to win this rebellion and I’m urging you to accept my offer.”

Pyrrhus looked taken aback from what Leilah had just told him. Donnchadh knew it was a lot to take in, he was still trying to take everything in himself. If he’d never heard of anything like this before, he was sure that Pyrrhus hadn’t either. No matter how strange it seemed, this was something no one could turn down.

“The crodillians are preparing to strike Ares now,” Leilah said. “You must have the Princess deliver her speech and start the rebellions on the other planets as soon as possible. You want only one ship to arrive here, so you must act quickly.”

“Okay. I’ll get you all a place to stay, though I don’t see how Donnchadh deserves it after all he’s have done to Orion.”

“He’s changed. He’s not the same malak he was before he was sent to Keres. His heart is pure and he’s fighting for the same cause you and me,” Leilah replied.

“The Princess is preparing her speech as we speak,” Pyrrhus motioned them towards the cruiser. “I’ll tell her the time to deliver it is now.”

“I’ll be waiting for you to return after she gives her speech. Once this speech is delivered, the real war will start,” she said.

Donnchadh, Leilah, and the rest of the tribe sat in the cruiser silently. Pyrrhus lifted it off of the ground and started to take them to a place to stay. Donnchadh wasn’t sure how he could help with this rebellion, but he was determined to find a way to help. He’d brought Leilah here, and now he needed to do something else. Sitting around wasn’t an option, it was time for him to give his life to save his galaxy.

He looked over to see Leilah was smiling at him, as though she was reading his mind. If she could truly see his heart and what he wanted to do, then she knew he wanted to die for all of the things that he’d done. It was clearly written in his eyes and in his actions. It pained him to live with killing Armino and all of the other terrible things he’d done in the Brotherhood. He didn’t want to just die, he wanted to die making a difference, doing something that could right all of the wrongs he’d done in his dark past.

[] Chapter 28

Nimesha walked down to the Capitol building to find Pyrrhus. She’d been looking out of the window when she saw a ship she was very familiar with: Cerberus. She didn’t know what it was doing here, but tragedy followed the ship anywhere it traveled. The rebellion had come too far to be torn apart by one of Kirill’s pawns.

As she came to the front gate of the building, the guards moved aside and let her enter. She’d come through enough the past several weeks that the guards knew who she was and allowed her to enter without I.D. Nimesha looked back and forth down the large marble halls and decided to look for Pyrrhus upstairs. After climbing the stairs, she checked a couple of the rooms and found him asleep in one of them. She walked over to the bed and placed her hand on his shoulder, causing him to stir and wake.

“Do you always sleep in your uniform?” Nimesha asked.

“I had a few hours to rest, so I took the opportunity,” he replied, rubbing his hands over his eyes. “Why are you here?”

“I saw a ship, Cerberus, enter Ares a couple of hours ago. I know the ship and I know whoever was in it works for the Deimos Brotherhood.”

“Ah,” he stretched. “Used to work for the Deimos Brotherhood, very much like yourself. I’ve already met those onboard.”

“What do you mean? Who is it?”

“It was Donnchadh and some weird tribe people from Erebos.”

“Donnchadh?” She repeated.

“Yeah, the scumbag malak,” he said. “I wasn’t too happy to see Donnchadh, but he and the people he brought are going to help us with the rebellion. Each of them were very adamant about that, at least two of them anyway. The rest of the tribe didn’t say a word.”

“Help us?” She snorted. “Do you know who Donnchadh is?”

“Yeah, he’s like you if I remember correctly. One of the most notorious assassins in the galaxy. Can’t you see the thrill on my face letting him join us?”

“He’s working for Kirill, I can almost guarantee it. There’s no other reason for him to come here.”

Pyrrhus shook his head. “I don’t think so. He said Kirill betrayed him and tried to have him killed.”

“Of course he did. How else is he supposed to get in the ranks of the rebels?”

“He’s telling the truth, though I hate to admit it. The crodillians freed Donnchadh from Keres and sent him to capture Kirill.”

Nimesha was silent for a moment. “How did he say Kirill betrayed him? What exactly happened?”

“He was trying to get Kirill to come peacefully so they could later rebel from the inside, except your old leader didn’t want to do that. He appeared to have a few other plans that he still has to act on. Hopefully we don’t get to see those.”

“He knows the crodillians give him the best chance of achieving his goal of a pure galaxy. The man is always coming up with better ways to accomplish things. He’ll use whoever and whatever he needs in order to be successful.”

“Trust me, I know. The man has been taking out races for a long time. I have a good idea what he had in mind when turning the malak over,” Pyrrhus said. “Kirill told the crodillians what Donnchadh was trying to do and he ran into the wasteland of Erebos to escape them. Not a wise choice if you ask me, but I don’t understand you assassins. Always think you can run from death.”

“And that’s where the tribe people come in? I don’t know anyone in the Brotherhood who’s part of any tribe.”

Pyrrhus nodded. “Very strange tribe people at that.”

“Strange in what way?”

“They can see and feel things. Apparently, that’s how they survive out there in the wasteland and that’s how they knew where to find Donnchadh.”

“What do you mean they can see and feel things?” She asked. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“I’m not entirely sure, but I can tell you they aren’t bluffing. They know about the rebellion and they know what our battle plan is. That woman knows every little detail. It’s no coincidence.”

“Someone told them,” she shook her head. “How could they know about the battle plan? We haven’t told anyone about it yet except those on Ares.”

“Because they can see things! I don’t know how to explain it, but I promise you it’s true. Leilah’s visions led her here, to the heart of the rebellion, and she said without her help we fail!”

“She saw it happen already?”

“She said that without our help the crodillians slaughter us. Hermes and Gaea quickly fall and reinforcements arrive here to wipe us out,” he said dismally.

“That’s impossible, there’s no way she could know that.”

“I think she does. There’s something about her, though I can’t exactly say what it is. She can see things and knows that they’re readying to strike Ares, and that’s all that matters. We need her help if we want to win.”

“I guess we’ll find out soon whether she can help us as much as she claims,” Nimesha replied. “You know, Anlon won’t like this, right?”

“They’re here to help with the rebellion, why wouldn’t he?”

“Donnchadh.”

Pyrrhus was quiet. “I forgot about that. Find a way to keep it from him for now. We don’t need him going out on some act of vengeance in the middle of our rebellion, especially if his new friends can help us.”

“You know he’ll eventually find out, no matter how hard you try to keep it from him.”

“We need Kanti to make her speech without any distractions. She and Anlon are close, so if he’s troubled, it could affect her speech,” he crossed his arms and let out a breath. “We also don’t need him destroying our relationship with Leilah if she can help the way she claims. If she’s close to Donnchadh, we need to keep him alive.”

Nimesha nodded and bit her lip. “I won’t keep it from him if he asks, but I won’t mention anything to him either. I’m sure we can keep the two away from each other long enough for Kanti to make her speech.”

“Thank you. That’s all that I ask.”

She cleared her throat. “I also think I may be able to help with the Kirill problem. If he’s sided with the crodillians, he’s the more dangerous of the two enemies, especially if the Deimos Brotherhood is by his side.”

“Why do you think he’s more dangerous?”

“He wouldn’t join Merikh unless he thought he stood a good chance of getting rid of him at any given moment. This man calculates every move he makes. He’s always two steps ahead of everyone. How do you think no one has ever caught him?”

“Go on,” he motioned.

“The time will be soon. His goal when I was working for him was to take over Orion. He wanted to kill the Queen and rule in her spot. Now, he’s closer to that than ever, and he’s using the crodillians to suppress Orion. Once the crodillians launch the attack on Ares after we rebel, I believe he’ll kill Merikh. I’m not sure what he’ll do after that, but I believe he’ll slowly carry out his plan of mass genocide,”

“And what do you want to do about it?”

“Let me go to Hera and kill Kirill.”

“You want to go to Hera? It’s overrun by crodillians! How will you even get close to Kirill?”

“I’ve been doing it my whole life,” she crossed her arms and winked. “Now are you going to okay this, or do I have to sneak off on my own?”

“You can go,” he waved his hands. “But I don’t see how killing him will help with our fight against the crodillians.”

“Because you’ll only be fighting one enemy. And trust me when I say this, the crodillians are the enemy that you’d rather be fighting. Kirill is smarter than he appears and when he has his eyes set on something, it’s hard to stop him from getting it. He’s unpredictable and that makes him the more dangerous of the two.”

“Then I hope you can stop him,” Pyrrhus said. “But don’t get mad when I say that I don’t think you’ll even get close to him. Hera is going to be impossible to get on right now. The planet will literally be on lockdown and crawling with the enemy.”

“It doesn’t bother me. I’ve been told my whole life my assignments are impossible, and when have I not killed one of my targets?”

The smile disappeared from Pyrrhus’ face and she knew it was because she’d killed some of his own men. She turned around and left the room without another word. Kirill teaming with Merikh had been unexpected, but she knew it was a deadly combination of foes, with Kirill being the deadlier of the two. She would need to get to Hera quickly, before the crodillians were faced with mass rebellions, and she knew just the pilot who could get her there safely.

Anlon sat next to Kanti on the couch in the living room with a pile of food in his lap. He put his hand on Kanti’s leg and looked to her.

“You have to make you speech soon.”

“I know I do,” she nodded. “Pyrrhus wants me to prepare one, but I don’t know how I can. I’m not sure how I can knowingly lead thousands to their deaths.”

“Not all of them will die,” Anlon reassured her. “Sure, there will be a lot of deaths, but that’s just part of the rebellion. Even if we don’t rebel, they’ll eventually die at the hands of the enemy.”

“Isn’t it my job as Princess to make sure that my races don’t die?”

“That’s what you’re doing,” he answered. “By having them rebel, you’re saving them all.”

“I don’t feel right sending so many off to sure deaths, at least not lying to them about it. How am I supposed to tell them everything will be okay? This won’t be a quick and easy war with a few casualties. This will be weeks long. Even if we do get through this, how will they look at me when it’s over after knowing I lied to them?”

“Then don’t tell them everything will be okay. Tell them what it’ll actually be like, let them know that there’s a lot of death ahead of them. They’ll still fight by your side.”

“That’s not what the leaders will want. They want me to rally them and make them blind to what’s truly lying ahead of them. Telling them the truth could discourage some of them, maybe all of them.”

“But the leaders aren’t the Princess, they’re not the one making the speech. They won’t have to live with the weight of all of those deaths on their shoulders. Tell the rebels the truth and they’ll rally behind you even more. None will turn from a fight now. Each of them will pick up their arms and fight to the death. It’s up to you to lead them.”

“Do you really think they’ll fight as hard if I reveal the complete and whole truth? Even being on the inside, it looks dire.”

Anlon nodded. “They’ll know you’re also one of them, that you face the same dangers, that you’re not immune to death. Let them know everything. Tell them there’s only a slight chance we win, but let them also know the reality of loss or not fighting at all. Don’t hold anything back from them, it’s not what your mother would do. She’d tell them the whole truth, as ugly and bleak as it may seem.”

“You know that the leaders and the Council won’t approve.”

“You’re the Princess,” he shrugged. “The only ones that really need to approve are the ones fighting for you. If you tell the rebels the truth, they’ll fight even harder for you. This is their home, the truth may be bleak, but it’s still the truth. They’ll respect a Princess who tells them the truth much more than one who doesn’t”

“I love you, Anlon,” she hugged him. “I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without you. If it weren’t for you, I’d most likely be dead.”

Anlon hugged her back. “I love you too.”

“We’ll win this war. We’ll get our galaxy back.”

“I know. How could we not with a leader like you? You’ll give the rebels hope and courage they didn’t even know they had. We may be outnumbered, but we have a leader who loves her galaxy as much as her mother. In the end, that’s all that matters.”

Jahdiel snuck down to the dungeons to see if the Queen was locked up in her cell. The stench of dead bodies had gotten worse and she didn’t know how they Queen could ever get used to it. Bugs were crawling all over the floor and they squished beneath her feet as she walked down the gory dungeons.

“Adira,” she whispered. “It’s Jahdiel.”

The Queen appeared from the shadows, beaten and malnourished. Merikh had stopped feeding her real food, and had started giving her scraps and leftovers from his soldiers’ meals. Jahdiel could tell she wasn’t eating any of it, no longer caring if she lived or died. Her face was scabbed from being hit and multiple new wounds popped up on her body every day. Adira was his slave and he treated her as such.

“Why are you here?” She asked. “You shouldn’t be seeing me, not now. Merikh is furious with you. He told all of the crodillians if one of them kills you, he won’t do anything.”

“I know. I knew what would happen as soon as I killed that pilot.”

“Why would you do it?”

“I’m done with it all. I won’t help this monster anymore. I was wrong to help him after you outcast me, and now all that’s happening is my doing. Everything you’re going through, your races are going through, is because of my actions.”

“It’s just as much my fault as it is yours,” Adira took her hand. “I shouldn’t have outcast you without a trial. I should’ve waited, you can’t blame yourself for helping them. If you hadn’t helped them, you’d be dead right now. You did what you had to do to survive. You can’t punish yourself for that.”

“But I brought them back here. I helped them do all of this. I wanted this as much as they did.”

“But you don’t anymore. We’ve all made mistakes, and all of this is my fault, not yours. This all started with my decision.”

“I can’t sit around and watch as they destroy Orion anymore,” she said. “I made sure that Ares wasn’t touched until last, like you told me. Why did you want Ares to be taken over last though?”

“That’s where the rebellion will begin. The rebels have forces stronger than I’ve led Merikh to believe. There was a General who wasn’t fond of my original plan, and convinced me to send ships to Ares, just in case things turned out bad. He contacted me before abandoning his ship and told me where he was headed.”

“Then I must survive long enough to lead the strike against Ares,” Jahdiel replied. “There has to be some way that I can help the rebels.”

“The crodillians will kill you if you try to help them, Jahdiel. You need to get out of here, get far away and hide. Help the rebellion if you can, but not from within the ranks of the crodillians.”

“They’re already going to kill me, there’s no hiding from them. I’ve brought this upon Orion, whether you want to believe so or not, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure that Merikh fails.”

Adira lifted her head up by the chin and looked her in the eyes. “Be careful then. Don’t let them know you’re up to anything and protect yourself at all costs. Merikh wants you dead, and so does every other crodillian you’ll be leading. They’ll hate you, despise you, and will do anything to see you fail.”

“I’ll do everything in my power to make sure it’s Merikh who fails,” she turned to leave the dungeons. “I’ll assist your rebellion as much as possible, and I truly hope they can pull through. Merikh’s forces are much stronger than any of the rebels have previously seen. Once they rebel, they’ll see the full force of Merikh’s powers. He won’t hold back any longer.”

“The rebels will prevail. They’ll win this war,” the Queen smiled.

Jahdiel walked down the dungeons and back to her room. She didn’t see any crodillians roaming the halls, but she kept her hand on her pistol the entire way, just in case. She wasn’t going to let any of the crodillians kill her before she got to Ares, at least not before she wounded Merikh. He couldn’t be allowed to conquer Orion, and she would make sure he didn’t, even if the cost was her own life.

[] Chapter 29

Ezio walked through the rubble streets, making sure to stay out of sight of any crodillians. He’d left Xiphos a few hours ago and had almost run into several convoys of them in that short amount of time. More units had been set up since the last time he’d left the base and he knew they were prepping for resistance.

He continued plowing his way through the streets, trying to find the perfect spot to stake out. Few buildings were left standing, but there was one tall one in the distance. It was the highest skyscraper left in Hassental and it would give him the best view of the entire battle once it began. To get to it, he’d have to go through the crodillian headquarters near the Capitol building. While scouting, he’d avoided it at all costs, but now he’d have to go right through the middle of it. All he had on him was a laser pistol, binoculars, comlink, and some spare rations to get him through a week at the most. He hadn’t planned on going through their headquarters, but he knew there was no other options. If he wanted to save rebel lives, he needed to make it to the skyscraper.

As he got closer to the headquarters, the convoys drastically grew in size and firepower, as if they were worried about rebels overrunning them. He climbed up a pile of smoking rubble and looked ahead to find a safe way to the building. Ezio saw a group of eleven crodillians approaching and dodged down in the rubble, tumbling deep down as it broke loose. As he hit the bottom, more rubble came crashing down on him, sending pain arching down his back. Blood trickled down his arm and he looked up to see he somehow wasn’t trapped. Ezio pushed himself up and climbed back up the pile of rubble to see the group quickly approaching the ruckus.

As he looked behind, he saw a clear path to a building with no enemies in the way. He pulled himself out of the hole and darted towards the building, ducking through a broken door as one of the crodillians shot in the spot he’d just been in. Just as he peered around the corner, a grenade came flying his direction. Quickly, he turned to find a way out of the building, instinctively choosing the stairs that took him to the second story of the building. An explosion rang as he reached the top and he pulled out his binoculars to watch the crodillians’ next moves. They turned around and left, assuming he’d died. He turned and looked towards the Capitol building that was swarming with thousands of the monsters. It’d been barricaded with destroyed vehicles and posts were set up at every corner with at least five guards at each. Passage through was impossible, unless there was a way under the streets.

He climbed down the side of the building as another convoy approached from behind, and waited for them to pass before pulling off the sewer lid and jumping in the hole. The tunnels were dark and smelled of feces, and he cautiously walked, unsure of what he would run into. It was unlikely crodillians had come down here, but there was clearly someone hiding here from the horrid smell. His shoes splashed as he walked down the tunnel, and soon he saw makeshift beds scattered on the floors. He stepped over the beds and reached an opening at the end of the tunnel where light was emerging.

It was a circular work room, or that’s what he guessed it used to be. Hundreds of survivors came into view as he exited the tunnel onto the metal grate. They were huddled around each other in a circle and none noticed him enter their refuge. He walked down the metal stairs and a few of the survivors stood up, startled that someone had found them.

“Who are you?” One of them asked.

“My name is Ezio,” he said. “I needed to get to the skyscraper on the other side of the Capitol building, but the streets are filled with crodillians. I thought this would be my safest bet to get across the street. Those things are too big to fit down these tunnels easily.”

“We’re aware of the Crodillians,” another said. “Why do you think that we’re all down here? Why are you trying to get to the skyscraper anyway, kid?”

“I’m going to be a scout for the rebellion. The skyscraper will give me the best vantage point. It’s the tallest building left standing and I’ll be able to see for miles in all directions.”

“A rebellion?” A young girl stood up. “You can’t rebel against them. Look what they did to us last time we tried!”

“The rebellion is already in place. The Queen has ordered it to begin.”

“Your rebellion is hopeless,” the girl told him. “They’re too strong to defeat. They kill everything they come across.”

“It’s not hopeless, not anymore. We’ve gathered thousands of survivors, and there are even more all over Orion! It’s almost time to fight and I’m going to the skyscraper. You’re all welcome to help if you would like. The more we have fighting, the better chance we have in defeating them.”

“Help?” One of the older ones asked. “How are we supposed to help? Aren’t you listening to the girl?”

“You’ll know when the rebellion has started. You’ll hear it above. We’re going to spread the crodillians out, get them away from here so we can attack smaller groups. When you hear that it’s started, come out and fight with us. Anything you do will be helpful.”

“You’re foolish. We won’t go up there to die. Go to your skyscraper, but don’t lead the crodillians to us,” an old man replied.

Ezio looked to the rest of the group and didn’t see any that looked interested in helping, so he let it be. He went back up the stairs and continued down the dark tunnel. He didn’t blame them for not wanting to help, they hadn’t seen Xiphos, so there was no way for them to have any hope after losing their loved ones. They’d been trapped in sewers, hiding underneath the crodillians since the attacks. If he had more time, he would’ve taken them to Xiphos, but time was short. Once the rebellion was over, he’d come back for them and keep this incident to himself. None needed to know about it. These people were only afraid to lose what little they had left.

As he walked down the damp tunnels, he came across another ladder after ten minutes. Ezio climbed it and lifted the lid to peek through the gap. An empty alley laid before him and he pushed the lid off all the way before climbing out of the sewers. The skyscraper was close, he was almost right in front of it, but there was still rubble he’d have to crawl through to reach it. He climbed up the rubble, scraping himself on the twisted metal and ships parts, and carefully crawled down to the other side.

The skyscraper was within fifty yards and he dashed to the front doors with everything he had. As he entered, he came to a quick halt and stumbled to the floor, covering his mouth in terror. Half eaten corpses and ripped apart bodies laid sprawled across the floors and the putrid smell of rotten corpses filled the halls. Nausea overtook him as he walked on the floor to the elevator, body parts squishing beneath his feet the entire way. As soon as the elevator doors slid open, he jumped in, stumbling to his knees and falling face first in more body parts.

Bugs swarmed the warm elevator and began biting him, trying to eat the gore from his body. He closed his eyes and began crying as the elevator ascended. The crodillians had slaughtered these innocent races. They’d torn them to pieces, eaten them, and had left them to rot like they were animals. He’d thought he was safe on the streets after the initial attacks, but he’d been wrong. After seeing this, he knew there could never be peace between the two of them, and knew what would happen to them if the rebellion failed. What lay before him was their future.

The doors slid open and he stumbled on the roof, frantically trying to wipe the blood from his body. Luckily, the roof was empty of any bodies and he looked over the edge into the distance. He knew where Xiphos was, hidden in the forest, and he could see the thousands of crodillians surrounding the Capitol building and many more patrolling the streets in large groups. This was the perfect spot to scout and he’d be able to help every one of the units. He pulled out his binoculars to begin looking for any weaknesses. Moran needed know how many there were and where the best places to start the rebellion would be. Sure, he was young, but he was going to help win this rebellion. There was no way he was going to let these monsters win, not after killing his family and slaughtering all of these innocent races. It was time to stand up to them and make them pay for their crimes.

Dorjan stood in front of his small group of men, masked in the dark of night. He’d gathered them in one of the unoccupied buildings to inform them of what they were about to carry out. There were many faces he didn’t know, but that didn’t matter for this mission.

“I gathered you all here tonight to tell you that the rebellion is about to start, but Zarah needs our help with something first,” he told them. “You’ve all seen the crodillians, so you know where they’ve all gathered since taking our planet. I’ve told Zarah where their temporary base is, but I think there’s more we can do to help with this rebellion.”

“You aren’t thinking about going in there are you?” A kaneen asked.

Dorjan nodded. “We’re going in there. We’re definitely going into the heart of the enemy.”

He saw some of the eyes widen, but he knew they were all up for it. Sure the crodillians were dangerous, but they were originally going to attack them upon arrival. What they were about to do was much more safe, though he wasn’t sure how much safer. They’d still be greatly outnumbered and could be killed within mere minutes if they weren’t careful.

“We need to bug them so we know what they’re going to do. If Zarah’s rebels know where the crodillians are going to be and what their leaders want them to do, we’ll win this rebellion easily. How do you defeat a band of rebels who know your every move?”

“Getting in and bugging them will be harder than winning the rebellion,” a reptilian race said.

“It will be difficult,” Dorjan nodded. “But just think, if we get in and bug them, how will they be able to defeat the rebellion? We’ll always be one step ahead and that’ll ensure thousands of rebels have chance to survive this.”

“What are we waiting for?” The reptilian asked.

“Nothing. We’re going in now. I just have to outline the general plan, and from there, we’ll just do our own thing,” he grinned with a cunning glint in his eye. “Each and every one of you will have several bugs. I doubt we’ll get through this undetected, but if you get in somewhere successfully, bug the place and move on, if not, just get the hell out alive. Once you do bug a place, make note of where it is and the transmission that it uses. Hopefully, with all these bugs we’ll be able to get one in their headquarters and that’ll be the transmission we tell Zarah to set her device to at all times.”

“Are we going in groups?” The Kaneen asked. “If we do, they need to be small. We’ll have to move fast, and if one gets caught, we don’t want a lot of our men going down with them.”

“We’ll do groups of two, or one if you want to go alone,” Dorjan nodded. “We need to be quiet and quick. Don’t try to be a hero. If you can’t get in and out of somewhere alive, move to another place. I’d like to get this done without any fatalities.”

“Can we kill them?” The reptilian asked.

“If they find bodies it may alert them, but to hell with it,” Dorjan grinned. “Kill as many of those bastards as you want. They’ll be coming after our own soon enough. We might as help the rebellion by getting a head start.”

Dorjan started to hand out the small bugs to the rebels in the room and then headed out alone. He didn’t want anyone to come with him because he didn’t want their lives on his conscience if they happened to die while with him. A sonic pistol was strapped on his hip and was carrying a laser rifle in his hands. He didn’t plan on going in quietly and didn’t care if he came out alive. His only goal was to find their headquarters and bug it. That’d give the rebels the best chance of survival and that’s all he cared about. Everything he cared about was gone, wiped out by this savages.

He snuck through the streets, using the dark to his advantage. They were fairly empty so far, but he didn’t want to alert the crodillians of his presence too early if he could avoid it. An abandoned building approached and he entered, going to the roof for a better view of the center of Thermopylae. Savages littered the streets up ahead and their headquarters was easy to pick out. It was a circular building right in the center of all of the crodillian activities, surrounded by multiple vehicles, ships, and groups of the monsters.

He ran across the rooftop and jumped on the adjacent building’s roof. He continued jumping from roof to roof, without a single crodillian even bothering to look up. Once the circular building was in front of him, he came to a stop. Dorjan looked around to see if there was any way for him to get across the big gap without going to the ground. An apartment was underneath him and he climbed down the side of the building, entering the abandoned him. After some digging, he found a long rope and grinned to himself as he threw it over his shoulder and climbed back to the roof. He tied a loop in the rope and slung it across the street to catch a pole sticking up from the building, getting it on his first attempt. Once he was sure the rope was secure and fastened the other end, he wrapped his arms and legs around the rope and inched across.

It was simple enough and not a single crodillian had even glanced above them. He dropped down from the rope and dashed towards the door, slowly opening it to be sure no enemy was waiting on the other side. Once clear, he crept down the dark hall to a dim light shining at the end. When he reached it, he looked over the edge of the balcony into the room below and saw several crodillians in black armor gathered together. They were different than grey uniforms the ones outside were wearing, so he assumed these must be the ones in charge. That, along with all of the comm devices set up, left no doubt in his mind he’d chosen the correct place.

Dorjan pulled a bug out of his pocket and turned it on. He took out small controls and flew it down the unsuspecting enemy. The bug landed silently on their equipment and started sending information to him as he put away the controls and pulled out his rifle. Just because he’d bugged their command easily, didn’t mean he was going to leave quietly. A little chaos had to be made before he left or he wouldn’t have done a good job.

He aimed it at the crodillian wearing the most red badges. The round left the chamber and struck the enemy below, causing his head to explode and the dark blood to spatter on the others’ faces. They quickly turned to see where the shot had come from and immediately spotted Dorjan and began firing on him. In seconds, he was surrounded in a barrage of fire. Laser fire hit the walls around him and he reached down to his side, unclipping a grenade and throwing it over the ledge before running back down the hall to the roof. A bang erupted behind him and enemy screams filled the building as he reached the door. He grabbed the rope and slid down to the adjacent building as quickly as he could.

Dorjan started jumping from roof to roof until he was far from their headquarters and was sure no one was on his trail. He pulled out his comlink and set it to the transmission of the bug and listened to the crodillians frantically trying to figure out what’d just happened. The Commanders were sending a single message through to every crodillian: kill on sight. No rebel was to live.

[] Chapter 30

Kanti pulled out her comlink to call Pyrrhus. Parts of the speech were put together, but most of it was going to come from the heart, not from some holopad. Of course, no one but Anlon knew, and there was no chance she’d let anyone else know until they heard the speech live. It was her duty as the Princess to let the races know the truth, no matter how harsh the reality may be.

Pyrrhus picked up, already knowing why she’d called and told her to be prepared to leave. She hung up the comlink and felt Anlon’s hand on her leg.

“I love you, Kanti. I don’t know how many more times I’ll be able to tell you, but I’m going to tell you every chance I get.”

“I love you too,” she embraced him. “We’ll make it through this. There will be rebels fighting by our sides that’ll want to win this as much as we do. The crodillians will be fighting to slaughter us, but we’ll be fighting for freedom. We have much more to fight for and more surprises than they’ll be ready for. Together, we’ll all come out of this alive.”

“I never thought when you first came to my aid on Gaea that you’ turn out to be the Princess and that we’d be here right now.”

“I still can’t believe that I am the Princess,” she smiled. “These races don’t even know me and they’re about to follow me into a war where we’re greatly outnumbered.”

“You’re a natural leader. Both of your parents are good leaders, though your father chose the wrong side, but they’re both smart and have many who are willing to die for them.”

“My mother’s cause is the one that’ll prevail in the end,” Kanti said. “And all because of you. Everything started with you, Anlon. Your family, meeting the Queen, and then doing everything you did to help her. If it hadn’t been for you, I honestly believe Orion would be doomed right now. As much as you try to say that I am about to save Orion, it was you who actually saved Orion.”

He looked down, denying he’d been much of a help. “Pyrrhus will be here soon, let’s change into the clothes we were given.”

Anlon and Kanti both went upstairs to change into the garments that’d been chosen for this speech. Kanti pulled out a long, light red, dress from her wardrobe. A vibrant orange, the same as the fire phoenix, shone out from underneath. Her shoulders were bare, with thousands of diamonds going around the collar of the dress. She pinned an emblem of the phoenix to her left shoulder and opened a drawer to put on orange diamond jewelry. Once that was done, she pinned up her hair with a similar diamond pin and turned to Anlon.

“You look beautiful,” he smiled. “Your mother would think the same if she was here now.”

Kanti blushed and turned back around and put on red lipstick and eye shadow. “You don’t look too bad yourself, Anlon.”

He looked at his black suit with orange accents in the mirror and placed his phoenix on his left shoulder. She turned around and straightened his tie with a smile.

“Pyrrhus should be here soon. We both look ready to go.”

They walked downstairs just in time to hear a knocking at the door. Pyrrhus stood in the door frame and gave them both a slight nod to follow him to the cruiser waiting at the curb. They entered and Pyrrhus flew over thousands of rebels gathered in the center of Lacedaemon. Anlon and Kanti peered out of the window, amazed at what they were seeing before their eyes. There wasn’t a street visible for miles that wasn’t packed with cheering races and screens were set up throughout the city for everyone to see Kanti speak.

The cruiser neared a protruded balcony with black banners of the fire phoenix on either side and came to a stop. “This is a little more than I was expecting,” she said with a big smile on her radiant face. “I thought I’d be doing it from the Debate Hall and the recording would be spread throughout Orion.”

“No. You’re doing it in front of all those that’ll be following you. It’ll be played live for all of Orion,” Pyrrhus put a firm hand on her shoulder. “The rebels on the other planets have set up screens in the streets like here and will unveil them when you start your speech. Everyone in Orion will know this war has started when you stand on that balcony and say your first word.”

“You’ll do great,” Anlon took her hand. “I’ll be right next to you the whole time. We’re in this together.”

Pyrrhus pulled the cruiser next to the balcony and Anlon exited the cruiser, taking Kanti’s hand to help her off. She lifted her long dress from the ground and turned to face the thousands of cheering rebels below her. Their images were immediately displayed on the screens throughout the city, and her fear of speaking disappeared instantly. She straightened and smiled to the crowd below.

The crowd erupted in more cheering and fighters started darting across the sky, shooting out fireworks and confetti. This is where she felt she was supposed to be. This was her place. Her whole life on Demeter she’d searched for meaning in life and knew this is what she’d been searching for. Not all in Orion may know her at this moment, but after his speech, every rebel would know who she was, as would the crodillians.

She fastened a microphone to her dress and placed her hands on the balcony. “Many of you do not know who I am yet. I’ve only just found out myself who I truly am. My name is Kanti and my mother is Queen Adira,” the crowd erupted in frenzied cheering as she told them who she was. “The crodillians think they’ve wiped all hope from us by slaughtering our families and burning our homes! They think we’ll bow down to them and let them have Orion without a fight! My mother would never let that happen and she made sure to let us all know at the cost of her own life,” she looked down on the crowd with fire in her eyes. “We won’t let these monsters rule us. There will never be peace between us. Many of you may think that it’s hopeless after all they’ve done to hurt us. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not. We’ve been setting up rebellion forces all over Orion, right under their noses and Queen Adira knew it the whole time!” She smiled as the crowd got even louder. “She delayed them, played them, so we could stand a chance when the time came.”

Kanti looked over the crowd to pause a moment. She wanted everything to sink in before the next things she was going to tell them. It was time to let them know the cold hard truth. She hadn’t lied to them, but she hadn’t revealed this would be a long and hard fought war.

“The path that lies ahead of us will be a tough one,” she continued. “Our numbers aren’t as large as the crodillians’. We are much smaller, but we have something to fight for. Every last one of us has nothing to lose and everything to gain! If they win or we don’t fight, we’ll live in fear the rest of our lives. There will be casualties when it begins, we will lose lives in this war, but not as many as if we don’t fight them and free ourselves from their grasp. Thousands will die fighting in this rebellion, but millions will be freed. I can’t lie to you and say this will be an easy task, because it won’t, but this is something we must do.”

She paused another moment to catch her breath. Everything she was saying was coming straight from her heart and she felt the enthusiasm from the rebels below. They were fueling her fire and she was fueling theirs.

“I’ve told you we are outnumbered, but they also possess powers we haven’t yet faced. They’ve only revealed a fraction of their strength in what they have done to us so far. But now, we know everything there is to know about them, where as they know little of us. They haven’t taken the time to study us as they’ve laughed at us instead. They will pay for that mistake!” She held up a fist above her head and pumped it. “They’ve fought us once, and they defeated us easily, but we’ve learned from those mistakes and won’t make them again. The crodillians have become careless recently and we’ll make them pay for it with their lives.”

The crowd seemed to be with her more than ever now. It didn’t matter what she told them, they would fight for her. They hated the crodillians and she was only fueling the hate even more. Deep down, all of them knew what had to be done, she was just reassuring them their urges were correct and they’d have others by their sides when they acted on them.

“We’ve watched them and we’ve studied them. Our battle plan has been carefully planned and put together so that we may win. This is our home and we cannot allow them to destroy it anymore than they already have. We will take back our old lives! We will not ask them for mercy! We’ll show them the full fury of Orion! The time to hide has ended and the time to fight has arrived. Pick up your weapons, because the war with the crodillians has just begun and it will be a bloody war. Ill be fighting with you, if we fail, then we all die together! We’re waiting for you Merikh, right here on Ares. Come and try to take it from us.”

Kanti grabbed Anlon’s hand and threw it up in the air. She waved it back and forth, causing the crowd to go ballistic. Every one of them knew the crodillians would be coming, and every one of them was ready to fight to the end. She hadn’t thought she’d be able to encourage them like this, and she knew the Council wouldn’t be overly thrilled with her ending, but she was fighting by their sides. There was no way she was going to let them go off to die. They’d all started in this together, and they’d all end in this together, whatever the outcome was.

Pyrrhus pulled up the cruiser and Anlon helped her in. The two stood, holding hands, as the General circled around the thousands of rebels below. Pyrrhus didn’t seemed to be bothered with the last part of her speech, in fact, he seemed to approve of it by the large smile beaming on his face. She pulled Anlon in and gave him a kiss for all the rebels to see. Everyone had someone to fight for and this was who she was putting her life on the line for.

Kirill stared at the screen in front of him, not believing a thing he was seeing. This couldn’t be happening, they couldn’t be rebelling. Merikh’s forces were too strong for them to rebel, they stood no realistic chance. They were too dumb to realize it though as they were listening to every word that spilled from the Princess’ mouth. She must know their real chances, and yet, even she didn’t seem to care.

He didn’t actually think they’d rebel after Adira’s message, but he’d been very wrong. This was even worse than anything he’d imagined, all of Orion was seeing it live. The rebels were no longer trying to hide, they wanted the crodillians to know. This wouldn’t bide well with Merikh. He thought he was invincible, that no one would dare stand up to him, but he too had been wrong. Unlike himself, Merikh had the resources to make them pay. Every race in the galaxy would die for opposing him.

Kirill couldn’t have that happen though, he needed the humans to live. The only problem was, both clear rebel leaders were humans and Merikh would kill even humans because of those two kids. That stupid boy, Anlon, had been standing by Kanti’s side the whole time. He should be dead, but Donnchadh had screwed that up, and ever since then, the boy had been destroying all of his plans. Plan after plan had been thwarted because of him, especially getting Nimesha to join him. She was one of his most trusted and lethal assassins, and yet, she’d joined the boy for some reason. Everything he tried to do, seemed to be foiled by this kid. Now, Anlon was unintentionally going to destroy his vision of a pure society.

This time there was no way Anlon would beat him. Kirill was allies with Merikh and there was no chance the rebels would succeed. He just had to convince Merikh of that and have him allow the humans to live. Humans couldn’t die because of two foolish kids and their vision of a free galaxy. It’d be hard to convince Merikh to show mercy after his daughter’s speech, but it could be done. It was plain and clear what every race was going to do: fight the crodillians and take Orion back, or die trying.

If Merikh wouldn’t listen, where would that leave him? In a galaxy filled with these disgusting monsters? That couldn’t happen. His only two choices left were to convince Merikh to let humans live or take him out. He had more than enough assassins to do the job and he had one in particular on his mind. He’d wait a little longer before jumping to that. It’d all depend on Merikh’s actions. If he wanted to reason with him, there was no reason to kill him yet. But if he didn’t, their partnership would come to an abrupt end.

[] Chapter 31

Ezio huddled in a corner on the roof. He’d been watching the enemy for a couple of hours and there were many more than he’d originally thought. Initial guesses had them at five thousand, but it was closer to fifteen thousand roaming the streets below compared to several thousand rebels at Xiphos. Every one of the crodillians would be able to fight, but there were woman and children among the survivors. Of course some would fight, but some just wouldn’t be able to, like himself. He had a job, but the rebels needed bodies to fight against the monsters, not kids watching out.

Ezio pulled out his comlink and called Moran. He wouldn’t be the first one to call him with an update, but he was sure his would be the most accurate.

“Ezio?” Moran answered.

“Yes,” he replied. “I have an update on the crodillians.”

“Let me hear it. So far I’ve heard some encouraging things, we may be a little outnumbered from what I’ve been told, but it’s sounding better than we planned.”

“You’re more than a little outnumbered. They have about fifteen thousand soldiers roaming the streets now. For some reason, a bunch of them came out of the Capitol building not too long ago. There were thousands just holed up there.”

“What?” Moran’s voice tightened. “None of the others have reported numbers like that. How did you come up with that?”

“I’m on top of the skyscraper,” he said. “It was the tallest building left in Hassental, and I promise you I have a better view than all the others. But then again, I’m only ten so I may be overestimating.”

“You made it to the skyscraper? You had to go straight through their headquarters to get there, didn’t you?”

“I traveled underground through the sewers,” Ezio told him. “If I’d taken a different building, I wouldn’t have as good as a view as I do right now. Apparently the others don’t have a great view or they would’ve told you about them streaming out of that building.”

“That’s good.” Moran said. “You’ve done great, kid. I don’t know how you did it, but somehow you did,” Moran smiled on the other side. “Are most of the enemy forces staying around the Capitol building?”

“Most of them are just lingering in the area. I’ve seen some with black uniforms coming and going too. The others wear grey so they stand out the most.”

“They must be their Commanders,” Moran said. “Have other activities increased recently?”

“They appear to be working on vehicles and handing out weapons. It looks like they’re getting ready for an invasion. What’s happened?”

“The Princess just gave a message to all of Orion declaring war on the crodillians.”

“Really?” His voice cracked with joy. “When are we going to start fighting them?”

“I’m just waiting for a message from Pyrrhus. My guess, within a day or two,” he replied. “Do you think it’s possible for anymore scouts to get to your skyscraper?”

“Sure. They’ll have to travel through the sewers, but once they get across the crodillians, the streets to the skyscraper are empty. If they move quickly, they can get up here with no problems.”

“Good. I’m going to send some more your way. I’ll feel better with the units getting information from a few more scouts at your vantage point. That way, every unit can be updated. It’ll be a lot for you to handle on your own.”

“There are a lot of dead bodies here. This place, it’s littered with torn apart and half eaten bodies. Warn them before they come. I don’t think all of them will be able to take the sight of it. It’s sickening what these things did.”

“I’ll make sure to warn them,” Moran promised. “Take care of yourself up there, you’ll have some company soon. Just hang in there, kid.”

Ezio looked back over the edge of the building to the streets below. Crodillian activity had definitely picked up and now he knew why. They were afraid, or maybe they just wanted to slaughter more innocent races. If they were afraid, they weren’t alone because he was too. One of these sides was going to lose the war and he was going to do everything in his power to make sure it was those monsters.

Zarah sat in the Command Room of the base. She, and every other rebel, had seen the Princess’ message. It was inspiring and she wouldn’t want to follow any other woman in to war. She didn’t know her, but there was just something about her that made Zarah want to follow her. Maybe it was because she saw a little of herself in the Princess, but whatever it was, she was ready to follow her to freedom or death.

Ludwig and Yvette sat on either side of her, and they too had voiced their admiration for the Princess. Both knew what she’d done was brave and took a lot of courage. The fact that winning wasn’t guaranteed and the Princess was going to risk her life with the rebels only showed she was a true leader who cared for her galaxy.

They were just waiting now for the go ahead and it would no doubt be coming soon. The entire base was ready to leave and start the rebellion. Training hadn’t been as long as what the military received, but they wanted their homes back and would do anything to achieve that goal. Ludwig, Yvette, and the other officers had told everyone to get to their spots as soon as the speech was over. Every race knew their position in the forest and those who were going to lure the crodillians from Thermopylae knew who they were. There were jobs within jobs now, and every race was ready to do their part attain victory.

Zarah’s comlink rang and she picked it up. “Hello?”

“It’s Dorjan,” a reply came. “We’ve got these bastards bugged, and you should hear all the commotion going on down here.”

“You actually did it?”

“Of course we did it! And we had a little fun while we were at it too, hope you don’t mind.”

“I don’t care what you do at this point. If you have them bugged, that’s all I care about. The Princess just delivered a message to Orion,” she revealed with a wide smile on her face. “We’re officially at war with these savages.”

“I’ll send you the transmission signal for the bug,” he said. “There’s a few more bugs, but the first one I send is the most important. It’s been the most active since I took out some of their Commanders.”

“Take out some more if you get the chance,” she grinned. “In the meantime, send me the transmission and lay low if you want. You’ll know when the time has come for us to come out from the base.”

She hung up the comlink and waited for a message to come through. Sure enough, Dorjan had actually bugged the crodillians. He had ten bugs in all, but she would only use the first one. If it was the most important one, it was the one the rebels would be listening to in the heat of battle. She looked to the officers gathered around the table.

“They’re bugged. We’ll know every move they make before they even make it. There’s nothing these savages do that we won’t know about.”

Ludwig clapped his hands. “This rebellion is ours to win! There’s no way they can beat us!”

“Why don’t we wait to start fighting before you start predicting who wins this war,” Yvette said. “We don’t even know how they’re going to react to us yet and you’re already positive we’re going to win.”

“I’ve trained my whole life for war,” he responded, crossing his arms. “We have the upper hand. We may be outnumbered, but they can’t do a thing without us knowing about it.”

Zarah smiled to herself. She knew she had the perfect officers in this room right now. They were all different characters, but every one of them had the right traits to lead these rebels. They’d be split up soon with their respective units and each had learned the strengths and weaknesses of the others which would be great help on the battlefield. She was ready for the rebellion to begin. The crodillians had killed her whole family and now was her time to pay them back for it. Her old life would never come back, but she’d do all she could to get as close to it as possible.

Kanti and Anlon stood, facing Pyrrhus in front of the Capitol building. Instead of taking them back to the house after the speech, he’d brought them to speak with the Council. Kanti wasn’t looking forward to it, but she was their leader, she had no reason to be afraid.

The followed Pyrrhus through the building and into the Debate Room where only the Council was present. They were sitting on the stage and looked towards Kanti and Anlon as they entered. Pyrrhus stayed outside as they walked up to the stage, hand in hand.

“You will not fight alongside the rebels,” Alura said in a harsh tone. “We cannot allow that to happen. You know that, don’t you?”

“I will fight alongside my rebels,” Kanti shot back. “I’ll lead them to victory, or we can all die together. Abandoning them isn’t an option.”

“Who will lead them if they win and you are dead?” Reginold asked. “Have you not thought of this outcome?”

“I have, but I still stand firmly on my decision. I’ll fight with the rebels and if they need a new leader after, they can choose one.”

“Kanti, please think clearly,” Aida urged. “You’re thinking rashly. I understand you want to fight with them, but the crodillians will have its top priority to see you dead. Those beasts will try their hardest to kill the rebels’ leader and that’s you.”

“They will come after you, Princess,” Saidi agreed. “And if Kirill is working with them, we’ll already have our hands full trying to keep his assassins from getting to you on this planet.”

“She needs to fight with them,” Anlon intervened. “Adira would want her to. Orion is on the verge of collapse, why hold anything back?”

“You!” Alura pointed, standing from her seat. “Can be quiet! We’re talking to the Princess, not you. You’ve already put her in enough danger.”

“He saved me! I left Nesoi on my own. He and none of the others had anything to do with that. If it hadn’t of been for him, I’d be in the possession of the crodillians right now and this rebellion wouldn’t be happening.”

“Let the girl fight,” Hildereth said. “It’ll encourage the rebels to fight even harder. They won’t want to see their Princess die.”

“I believe Hildereth is right,” Bertrade nodded. “She’s already told them she’ll be fighting with them, we can’t pull her out now. If we do, it will look bad. They’ll believe the rebellion is hopeless if they don’t see her by their sides.”

“Oh, you can’t be siding with them now too,” Alura threw her hands up. “She’s the Princess, she can’t fight in a war!”

“I am the Princess and I will fight in a war. A war to free my races from the suppression and slaughter of monsters. A war that will bring back peace to our homes. A war that we will win.”

“Then go,” Aldrick motioned. “Hildereth, Bertrade, and I are on your side. I’m sure I can convince the others to side with you too.”

Reginold nodded. “You’ve convinced me, just don’t die. Orion will need a leader like you when this war is over. You’re strong and stubborn, that’s what they need when this comes to an end.”

Kanti smiled to them and turned to leave the room. She and Anlon walked off the stage and met Pyrrhus at the door.

“That went better than I thought. I thought for sure they’d have your head for what you said,” Pyrrhus said.

“I’m their Princess, they can’t stay mad at me. I’ve rallied every rebel in Orion, how could they possibly stay mad?”

“I don’t know,” Pyrrhus shook his head. “But you sure surprised me with that speech. I wasn’t expecting anything like that.”

Kanti blushed. “I was speaking from my heart. This is my mother’s galaxy, and soon it will be mine. I need to take care of it and that means telling the truth. Warning the rebels of what’s lying ahead, but also giving them hope so that they may make it through.”

“You’re wise for you age,” Pyrrhus opened the door. “Go get some rest before the rebellion starts. I’ll bring you back here once we know the crodillians have moved.”

Kanti and Anlon walked down the steps and left the building behind them. The streets were empty, but they could still hear cheering a couple blocks away. Fighters were still streaming back and forth across the sky, adding to all of the celebration that would end soon. Both of them knew the reality of things after traveling in Orion together. The terror of war and the fear of not seeing loved ones again would soon be in the back of the mind of every rebel.

 

[] Chapter 32

Kirill stormed into the Reception Room that Merikh never seemed to leave. The few remaining screens that hadn’t been shattered to pieces were displaying the Princess’ speech continuously with the crodillian hunched over, fists clenched and growling through his snout. If Merikh had listened to him, none of this would be happening and he would be ruling without resistance. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like listening was something this beast was good at.

Merikh turned to him with fury in his red eyes as he let out a roar. The black deformed crodillian that had brought him back from Erebos appeared from around a corner. Maolmordha walked over, glaring at Kirill with his dark orange eyes and grabbed him with his oversized hand.

“Let go of him, Maolmordha,” Merikh said through his gritted teeth. “We’ll let him try to save his life.”

“Save my life?” Kirill asked. “I’ve done nothing but help you!”

“You said you could prevent this!” Merikh pointed to the screens with his black nails. “You said you could stop any rebellions before they happened, yet it seems to me, you’ve done nothing. From what your daughter says, this has taken time to put together, yet you’re probably going to claim you knew nothing of it.”

“I didn’t know anything about it!” Kirill defended himself. “Do you think I’d have come to you if I’d been hiding this from you? I want the same thing you want!”

“Then why is this happening?” Merikh shouted, slamming his fist on another screen and breaking it. “Why are they rebelling after you promised me you would wipe out any rebellions?”

“Because of what you did to Adira. You sparked something in them after striking her for all to see. That woman was their leader and you publicly harmed her.”

“And now I’ll strike them with full force! I’ll kill every last rebel in Orion. None will survive my wrath. They’ve awoken a monster and now they’re going to pay the price.”

“You can’t kill the humans. Let them live,” Kirill told him.

“Are they rebelling against me?” Merikh asked rhetorically.

“It was a part of our agreement that we not kill any humans. It doesn’t matter if they rebel or not. Just because a few do, doesn’t mean all should suffer the same fate.”

“I remember no such agreement,” he balled his fingers. “You never mentioned anything about saving your own. You said you wanted to see Orion burn, like me. You said we both shared the same vision.”

“You can’t kill the humans!” Kirill insisted, face reddening. “It’s the only thing that I’m asking for. If you kill them, there will be none of my own left. I’ll be the last of my kind in this galaxy!”

“Your own kind?” He chuckled from deep within his stomach. “Do you think I care about saving your own? You offered a service to me and you haven’t delivered on your end of our agreement. And now, your humans will die for it. Your kind will pay the ultimate price for your negligence.”

“Merikh, I’m begging you. Don’t kill the humans. You can kill every other race, but let the humans live. They’ll understand their mistakes once this is all over.”

“You’re in no position to ask anything of me. You’re useless like Jahdiel. You’re lucky I don’t kill you now, pathetic human.”

Kirill clenched his fists. “I gave up everything to side with you! It’s not my fault you started a rebellion with your foolish actions! This is all on you.”

Merikh and Maolmordha chuckled. “You had better choose which side you’re on Kirill. Are you on the rebels’ side, or are on our side?”

“I’ve always been on your side, let me prove it!”

“He wants to prove his loyalty to us,” Merikh looked to Maolmordha with a grin. “Let’s hear what he finally has to offer us.”

“I’ll kill Kanti,” Kirill fumed. “I’ll kill her and you’ll let the humans live once it’s done.”

“Ahh. You’d kill your own daughter so that other humans may live?” He stroked his chin. “Fine. But you’d better act quickly, because we’re still going to war with them. Until Kanti is dead, humans will continue to die, so that should be encouragement for you to act quickly.”

“I’ll kill her,” Kirill nodded. “She won’t be a problem much longer. When she dies, the rebellion will fall apart. Everything centers around her and her mother.”

“I have yet to personally see you hold your end of a deal, but I’m sure you’ll find a way to get this done. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get to see those assassins of yours in action.”

“You will. You’ll see them very soon.”

“In the meantime,” Merikh sat back down. “The first human will die soon for all to see.”

“The Queen?” Kirill asked, already positive of the answer.

“Yes, I’ll kill the Queen. I’ll show these rebels what happens to those who rebel against me. I hope you don’t mind Kirill, but then again, until you hold up your end, I don’t care if you mind. This is my war to fight, you can sit back and watch.”

“You’ll only brighten the flame in their rebellion,” Kirill warned. “They’ll have even more reason to fight you, even more reason to kill you.”

“They’re already going to fight me. Their numbers are no match against my crodillians’ strength. They think they stand a chance, but they’ll all die, including your humans if you don’t leave now to kill your daughter. Move quickly Kirill, once my soldiers taste blood, they are hard to stop.”

Kirill turned to leave but was grabbed by Maolmordha. He yanked him back towards Merikh with his cracked arms and twisted him around.

“Just one more thing, if I kill the Princess first, you didn’t hold up your end of the deal,” the crodillian leader grinned, revealing his teeth.

Kirill left the room and hid the fury raging inside of him. Merikh had thrown him out, rendered him useless, but hadn’t witnessed his full strength yet. The savage didn’t believe his men could actually do what he claimed, but soon he would see. Abdul had been right and it’d been stupid of him to wait, but the result would be the same. Merikh would die, he couldn’t live any longer. If Merikh was going to kill humans, then he’d just have to die.

Jahdiel watched the screen in front of her, smiling at the Queen’s daughter. The Princess had guts, but that didn’t mean she’d survive. She’d worked with the crodillians long enough to witness their brute strength, something which the rebels had yet to see. Hearing about it was one thing, but actually facing it was another thing entirely.

Getting the rebels to accept her help would be near impossible, but she’d have to gamble and hope she lived to see another day. Merikh had still put her in charge of taking Ares which meant she was in control of all the ships. It was unlikely he’d let one lone fleet go to Ares after that speech, but she was in total control of her Colchian. If she had to, she’d fire on the others when the time came, though it’d mean sure death, but it also meant the death of the entire crew. It’d give the rebels some help, and if she could escape, maybe allow her to join them and share information.

She wished she could do something else, but unless she was the only Colchian attacking Ares, there was nothing else she could do. She let out a deep breath and stared at the screen. Things had quickly fallen apart, but she was glad they had. It disgusted her to have ever worked with these monsters and was now willing to do anything to get away from them. It was now up to her to ensure they failed, even if it meant she died before seeing the resistance take down the crodillians.

Leilah and Donnchadh walked to the Capitol building. They knew that’s where Pyrrhus was and Leilah had just seen something crucial to the rebellion. None of the others had seen it, and none of them had wanted to come along. Since going to the house, the entire tribe had secluded themselves in their own room, not speaking to anyone, even Leilah.

They walked up the steps to the building and let themselves inside just in time to see Pyrrhus coming down the stairs. When he saw Leilah, he rushed towards them.

“What is it Leilah?” He asked. “What’s happening?”

“The crodillians. They’re readying for attack.”

“We know that. After the speech Kanti gave, we knew they’d be departing. It was a declaration of war and we expected them to act no slower.”

“Things are a little different than you’re expecting. My visions have changed since the first one, and things are looking a little better, but there’s also new danger. Something I didn’t feel before.”

“Let’s talk this over with the Council,” Pyrrhus started walking down the hall.

“No,” Leilah stopped him. “They can’t know some of the things I’m going to say, otherwise they may try to change tactics which will once again change my visions. They’re a cautious bunch, and right now we don’t need them interfering with what must be done.”

“What do you mean?” He asked. “What’ve you seen?”

“The Princess is in grave danger,” she revealed. “I know she’ll be fighting with the rebels, I’ve seen it, but if the Council pulls her out, the outcome could be completely different. The bloodshed I originally saw, has changed, and she is the reason why. They can’t pull her out even though she’s in danger.”

“It’s Kirill,” Donnchadh said. “He’s going to try to send an assassin to kill her.”

“Damn Kirill!” Pyrrhus swore. “He’s going to bring an end to Orion helping the crodillians. The man has no idea what he’s doing to this galaxy.”

“There’s tension between the crodillians and Kirill,” Leilah said. “Kirill wants different things. He’s sending an assassin to take care of more than just Kanti, he’s sending one for Merikh.”

“Aren’t the Crodillians helping him?” Pyrrhus asked. “Why would he kill their leader in the middle of a war?”

“They disagree on many things. They don’t see eye to eye anymore, but I can’t see which one comes out on top yet. That part hasn’t been revealed to me. I can feel the tensions and anger, but I don’t know what the final result is.”

“That’s good,” Pyrrhus nodded to himself. “If they’re fighting from within, then they’ll be distracted, which gives us a better chance of defeating them.”

“And you have yet more tensions from within the crodillian command chain,” she revealed. “You’ll benefit greatly from a woman named Jahdiel.”

“She’s one of their top Commanders!” Pyrrhus exclaimed. “She ordered the burning of Demeter! That woman is one of the reasons we’re even fighting this war right now.”

“She’s not the same as when she arrived. Her heart has changed after speaking with the Queen. She’s willing to sacrifice her life so the rebellion may succeed.”

“How? What’s she going to do?”

“What she does, will be up to you. I won’t tell you that you have to do anything, but the opportunity to accept her help will arrive. Know that her heart is pure, but it’s up to you what you do with her,” Leilah bit her lip. “There’s one more thing I’ve seen that you also knew was going to happen, but I thought I’d tell you anyway.”

“They’ve killed Adira?”

“Not yet,” she shook her head. “But, yes, they will soon. Make sure your rebels stay focused to their cause, don’t let her death change what they’re fighting for. I’ve seen her die, and it pains me even now as I tell you. What they’re going to do is horrible. It’s heartless, but these are monsters we’re fighting, not our own.”

“Is there anything else you need to tell me?”

Leilah shook her head. “No, not right now. Right now, Donnchadh and I need to wait at the house you’ve provided us with. He’ll have a visitor soon, and he needs to be there to greet that visitor.”

Donnchadh looked to her with a look of surprise. She put his hand on his to calm him.

“We’ll wait for you to come back,” Pyrrhus put his hand on her shoulder with a big smile. “The rebels greatly thank you for your help. I didn’t think you’d actually help us, but I think I’m about to find out just how wrong I was. If this is a sign of things to come, everyone’s mind will be blown by your gift.”

Leilah smiled and the sun shone off her radiant skin, making it glow and her red her glisten. She turned around and walked down the steps back towards the house. Donnchadh followed by her side, unable to take his eyes off of her. She didn’t blame him, she knew she was different. Her whole life she’d felt it, but no one could see or understand so she’d kept it to herself. Now she knew her entire purpose in life. It’s why she’d been granted these special powers. The reason she was born was to stop the crodillians from destroying Orion.

[] Chapter 33

Kirill stood in his room with Ulisse and Abdul in front of him. They’d seen the Princess’ message, but they didn’t know about his meeting with Merikh yet, which is why he’d called them here. It was time for him to admit to his mistakes and move on with his plans.

“Merikh isn’t happy about the Princess’ message.”

“I wouldn’t think he would be,” Abdul said. “You told him you’d be able to stop this with the Deimos Brotherhood. I can’t imagine him being pleased when he saw the message.”

“There was no way I could stop this!” Kirill raged. “They were planning this before I even allied myself with that creature.”

Ulisse and Abdul both traded looks, not escaping the notice of Kirill. He’d let his anger slip and continued more calmly this time. “I knew all along it’d be impossible. I was using him to take over Orion. He has the power to do it, but I never actually expected there to be a rebellion, especially not an announced one.”

“But you were wrong,” Abdul said. “I told you not to side with the crodillians, now you’re stuck with them, for better or for worse. There’s no switching sides or admitting mistakes to the resistance. They’ll kill you either way because you’re seen as a traitor.”

“I’m not stuck with Merikh. I have assassins on my side to help make sure of that,” Kirill pointed to Ulisse.

Ulisse backed up. “Whoa, I don’t want to be on the crodillians’ bad side. I’m living with them right now and I’d rather not upset them. I like living, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to end up like the rebels.”

“Merikh must die now,” Kirill furrowed his eyes. “I’ve waited too long and now I’m suffering for that. He’s going to kill everything in Orion. We have to stop that. I need something to rule.”

“I strongly advise against this Kirill. You’re right, you have waited too long, and now is too late to kill Merikh. He’ll be expecting a desperate move like this.”

“They’re going to kill Adira!” Kirill revealed. “They’re going to do it publicly for all of Orion to see. Do you know how the rest of Orion will look at me if they find out that I let Merikh live after killing her?”

“Why not just leave here?” Ulisse asked. “Join the rebellion. I’m sure they’ll forgive you if you leave before anything happens.”

“No! I won’t join the rebels. I’ve come too far to take that step back.”

“It may be your best option,” Abdul agreed. “Get the entire Deimos Brotherhood out of here before it’s too late. The resistance would happily take them in.”

“My best option is to kill Kanti and Merikh, then nothing will keep me from ruling Orion!”

“You’re going to kill Kanti?” Ulisse asked. “She’s leading the rebellion that may very well get rid of the crodillians.”

“She’s brought all of this trouble down on me. If she hadn’t made that speech, we wouldn’t be talking about any of this right now.”

“We would’ve eventually. I told you to kill Merikh days ago,” Abdul shook his head.

“Everything will be fine,” Kirill assured them. “My assassins are going to kill Merikh and I’ll send Ulisse to take care of Kanti.”

“The crodillians will know you had Merikh killed,” Abdul said.

“And what are they going to do about it?” He asked. “They’ll be too busy slaughtering rebels to care about what happened to their leader.”

“It’s up to you. I’m done trying to convince you what to do,” Abdul put his hands in the air.

“I’m glad to hear it. I was getting tired of your whining,” Kirill crossed his arms. “Ulisse can make a poison for the Princess. Nothing that points directly back to me.”

Ulisse looked between the two of them. “I can do it. I mean, make the poison anyway. I don’t know how I’m supposed to get it to her.”

“You’ll find a way to do it,” Kirill waved his hand with a flick of the wrist. “Just make the poison and deliver it to her any way possible. Once that’s done, she’s good as dead and we’ll be one step closer to our ultimate goal.”

“Things won’t go this smoothly,” Abdul warned. “I believe you’ve waited too long to act. I’m trying to sway your decision, I’m just telling you what I think.”

“We’ll just have to wait and find out then, won’t we Abdul?”

Kanti and Anlon got out of the cruiser and followed Nimesha and Falcone to Drakos Mavros. They’d all been in the house talking when Nimesha all of a sudden brought up that she needed to get to Hera. It’d been totally out of the blue, but it was obvious she’d been waiting for the right time to tell them. Everything was planned out – from how she was going to get there and to how she was going to kill Kirill.

It’d been a surprise to Kanti and Anlon that Kirill had sided with the crodillians, but neither had bothered to ask how exactly she’d found out. They assumed one of the rebel bases had revealed the information and then Pyrrhus had asked her to do what she did best. They both knew about his plan of a pure galaxy and he probably thought the crodillians were his best bet at achieving that.

Nimesha was determined to get there and eliminate him. She swore that he was more dangerous than the crodillians, and they all believed it. It was her who’d worked for him firsthand, so she knew exactly how powerful and manipulating he really was. Everything he’d ever taught her was now going to come around and bite him. She’d only failed on assignment her entire time in the Brotherhood, and that failure had brought her here.

Anlon had offered her Drakos Mavros as long as she promised to bring it back and Falcone had volunteered to go along. She’d resisted at first, but Falcone was persistent, saying he had to make up for doubting her loyalties when they first met. When all was said and done, she’d revealed he was the only pilot that was ever on her mind.

“I’ll miss you two,” Falcone winked. “Make sure to behave yourselves while Nimesha and I are out hunting down bad guys.”

Kanti chuckled and wrapped her arms around him, stuffing her face into his feathers so the others couldn’t see her tears. When she let go, she sniffled, trying to hide her emotions. Falcone reached his hand out to Anlon and he grabbed it.

“Take care of the Princess, got it?” He shook his hand. “Don’t let anything happen to her while we’re gone.”

“I won’t,” Anlon smiled. “She’ll be safe here with me.”

Kanti walked over to Nimesha and hugged her. She wrapped her grey and black furry arms around Kanti and looked at her with her golden eyes.

“I’m sorry I tried to kill you,” Nimesha smiled.

“I know you are,” she hugged harder. “Promise to come back?”

“Promise,” she said. “I wouldn’t leave you guys after making it this far. We’re almost finished and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.” Anlon came over and hugged her. “And thank you for giving me a chance, Anlon. You could’ve killed me back on Erebos, so thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he let go. “Now you two hurry up and come back. We’ll be waiting for you.”

Falcone and Nimesha walked up the ramp of Drakos Mavros. The ramp hissed up and the engines roared to life as Kanti and Anlon moved away from the ship. The nose pointed towards the sky, and the dragon shaped ship sped off to Hera. Anlon looked to Kanti and hugged her, seeing a sleek black ship Drakos Mavros had been concealing over her shoulder. He knew that ship. He’d seen it when Camillus found the races that killed his family.”

“Donnchadh is here,” Anlon whispered.

Kanti let go of him. “What are you talking about?”

He turned her to face the ship behind her. She gasped at the sight and turned to Anlon with worry on her face.

“Just because the ship is here, doesn’t mean he is.”

“We need to tell Pyrrhus. If Kirill is helping the crodillians, he could’ve sent one of his men here to derail the rebellion. That ship could mean only one assassin. Donnchadh.”

Anlon pulled out his comlink and called Pyrrhus. It didn’t take long for him to answer and it sounded like a few of the Council members were speaking in the background.

“Yes, Anlon?”

“Donnchadh is here,” he said. “His ship, Cerberus, is at the spaceport.”

The other end was silent a moment, except for the voices in the background. “I know he’s here. I allowed him to stay after meeting with him and his crew.”

“Do you know who he works for and what he did to my family?” Anlon shouted. “He’s going to destroy our rebellion!”

Kanti put her hand on his shoulder to calm him down. She knew he wasn’t thinking straight and she didn’t blame him. This was the malak responsible for killing his family and he’d tried to move on from it. He accepted it’d happened and let Donnchadh face fair trial, but now he was here in the heart of the rebellion.

“He’s here to help,” Pyrrhus tried to calm him down in a soothing tone. “He’s brought others with him that are assisting us with the rebellion.”

“Where is he?” Anlon asked.

“He’s in one of the houses about a block from the Capitol building. It’s the only glass one on the entire street. You can’t miss it.”

Anlon hung up the comlink and ran to the cruiser. Kanti quickly caught up to him and got in next to him.

“Don’t act brash, Anlon. If Pyrrhus let him stay here, there’s a reason why.”

“Do you know how bad I want to kill him for being here?” Anlon turned to her. “I thought I didn’t want to, I thought I’d forgiven him, but now that he’s escaped imprisonment, the emotions are taking control. He deserves to die on Keres for what he’s done.”

“I understand why you feel that way,” she took his hand. “I really do. I won’t tell you what to do, but whatever decision you make, be sure it’s what your family would want. Remember, you forgave him already.”

Anlon nodded and steered the cruiser towards the Capitol building, looking for the glass house Pyrrhus had been talking about. It didn’t take him long to spot the house shining in the sunlight and he took the cruiser down. They exited and approached the front door of the house. Before reaching it, a beautiful red headed woman with one green eye and one blue eye opened the door. She walked down the steps and stopped in front of the two of them. Neither one could take their eyes off the stunning woman.

“I’ve been expecting you, Anlon and Kanti,” she motioned them in the house. “Please, come in.”

“Umm. We might be at the wrong house. I’m not sure how you were expecting us unless Pyrrhus led me here on purpose,” Anlon said. “I was looking for a black malak with white markings on him.”

“Donnchadh is here,” she replied with a warm smile. “I’ve brought him here with me.”

“And you are who?” Kanti asked.

“I’m Leilah,” she took Kanti’s hand. “My tribe and I found Donnchadh dying on Erebos. We took him in and brought him back to good health. He convinced us to come back here and help with the rebellion.”

“I think he’s lied to you, Leilah. He works for the Deimos Brotherhood. There’s no way he wants to help with the rebellion. The malak has done nothing but destroy this galaxy for years,” Anlon said.

“But you’re wrong about him. He brought me here to help you fight the crodillians. He was helping the Queen before he was betrayed by Kirill and fled to the wastelands where I found him.”

Donnchadh walked around the corner and looked to Anlon with tears in his eyes. He approached and looked to them both with shame and sorrow on his face.

“I’m truly sorry for all I’ve done to hurt you.”

“You killed my family!” Anlon backed up. “You killed one of your friends! You worked with my father and you killed him! How could you possibly come here now to help us? Help the children of the people you betrayed?”

“I know what I’ve done and how it’s hurt many in this galaxy,” Donnchadh looked up from the ground. “I can never make up for all my mistakes and I’m truly sorry for all the pain that I’ve caused you.”

“Why come here? Why ever show your face again after your crimes?”

Kanti took his hand to comfort him, and Leilah walked over to put her hand on his shoulder.

“I can’t explain my past actions,” he replied. “But I’m not the same as I was then. After you caught me trying to kill Adira, she locked me in the dungeons as you saw. She too, wanted to kill me and I wanted her to. She told me of Kirill’s plan and how I was manipulated and used all those years,” he looked Anlon deep in the eyes. “I accepted my fate on Keres, but when the crodillians arrived I knew it was a chance for me to make up for past mistakes. I found the Queen and talked to her. I told her I wanted to help free Orion from the crodillians, so we came up with a plan that would delay Jahdiel killing her. I told Jahdiel about Kirill and I was sent on a mission to retrieve him.”

Anlon let out a deep breath. “How’d Kirill betray you?”

“I didn’t know about the rebellion was being put together here because I’d been on Keres, so I was trying to put one of my own together. I told Kirill to come peacefully so we could rebel using the Brotherhood, but when I arrived he told Kellagh that I planned to assault them. My only option was to flee into the wasteland. That’s where Leilah and her tribe found me poisoned and dying.”

“Where’s the rest of Leilah’s tribe?” Kanti asked. “Pyrrhus said there were more.”

“They’re gathered in one of the rooms,” Leilah answered. “Their powers aren’t as strong as mine. They can’t see or feel things the way I do.”

“I don’t quite think I understand what you’re talking about,” Kanti said.

“I can see things before the happen. I saw Donnchadh dying and knew where to retrieve him. I wasn’t sure why I saw him, but I knew there was a reason. He told us about starting a rebellion, but I waited for my visions to guide me. Sure enough, I saw a desperate and failing rebellion I had to help. Donnchadh proved to me the right decision was to leave Erebos and assist you against the crodillians,” Leilah smiled to the Princess. “I can see his heart, like I see yours, and I promise you, it’s as pure as yours. He is a changed being, just like Anlon. The hate in his heart left long ago when Adira told him to protect you. The same has happened to Donnchadh.”

“How did you…,” Anlon started.

“I see many things,” she interrupted. “It’s best I share only those that are relevant. I’ve been blessed with this ability, but I also must guard some of the things I see, even from those close to me.”

“How exactly are you going to use these powers to help the rebellion?” Kanti asked.

“I know many things that are happening with the crodillians right now, not many of which you yourself aren’t unaware of. There are things I’ve seen none know about, but they’ll be revealed when the time is right. I can’t have anyone acting too soon.”

“I forgive you again, Donnchadh,” Anlon held out his hand.

Donnchadh took it. “I don’t deserve forgiveness for what I’ve done. I’ve betrayed everything I was supposed to protect.”

“But you’ve changed,” Anlon smiled. “You’re making up for those mistakes, you have learned from them. That’s all we can do in life, especially right now.”

“Thank you,” Donnchadh embraced him. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for everything.”

“We have more important things to worry about right now than vengeance,” Anlon looked to Leilah and Kanti. “Orion is in peril and we need everyone to come together if we’re going to make it through this.”

“Old enemies must become new friends. Your family would be proud of everything you’ve done and the man you’ve become, Anlon,” Kanti hugged him.

“We’ll win this war,” Leilah said. “All of us will come together and we’ll come out victorious. These savage won’t hold us in their grasp any longer.” The room was beaming with the radiance of Leilah’s presence. Her presence gave everyone confidence and strength from deep within. “There will be much death and bloodshed, but I see the tide turning in my visions. Where once it was hopeless, now I see a glimmer of hope that’s only shining brighter the longer I’m in your presence,” she took Kanti’s hand. “You will lead the rebels to victory.”

“Let’s show the Crodillians who they’re really up against,” Kanti beamed. “Let’s show them the full force of this rebellion they think they’ve defeated.”

Characters

Anlon Valens – Male human;

Green eyes, tan skin, brown hair

Kanti Cordula – Female human, District of Hassental police officer;

Blue eyes, fair skin, blonde hair

Moran Borislav – Male human, member of GSOU;

Tall and built with branded markings covering body, green eyes

Queen Adira – Female human, Queen of Orion;

Blue eyes, radiant skin, blonde hair

Falcone – Male harkon, pilot;

Dark golden eyes, brown and white feathery skin

Camillus – humanoid, District of Hassental record keeper;

Silver humanoid

Kirill – Male human, leader of Deimos Brotherhood;

Green eyes, dark skin, graying hair

Donnchadh – Male malak, assassin for Deimos Brotherhood;

Maroon eyes, black skin with white markings, horns on head

Ulisse – Male arachnid, assassin for Deimos Brotherhood;

Grey and blue eyes, grey skin from waist up, blue and grey spider waist down

Sanguinarius – Male darza, assassin for Deimos Brotherhood;

Black eyes, red and black marked skin, long slender body

Ferris – Male ovrean, member of GSOU, trainer;

Grey eyes, hard grey skin

Emer – Female quierleon, trainer;

Brown eyes, mocha skin, short and toned stature

Nimesha – Female feleen, assassin for Deimos Brotherhood;

Gold eyes, tall and slender body, black fur with leopard print

Jahdiel – Female human, Orion outcast, second in command of Crodillian fleet;

Green eyes, mocha skin, black hair

Merikh – Male crodillian, leader of Crodillian fleet;

Red eyes, dark green skin, black nails, tall stature

General Pyrrhus – Male human, General of Orion Military;

Light blue eyes, tall with brown skin, bald with a braided beard

Zarah – female human, General on Hermes;

Light skin, piercing green eyes, dark brown shoulder-length hair

Leilah – female human, tribe member on Erebos;

Luminous skin, one green and one blue eye, fiery red hair

Reamonn – Male human, leader of Erebos tribe;

Deformed and heavily scarred body, only one fogged over eye

Fausto – Male themin, old pilot;

Dark red body with grey markings

Maolmordha – Male crodillian, Commander of fleet;

Four orange eyes, burnt black skin with hues of yellow underneath, cracked and scaly body with red fluid seeping out, disproportionate body with one club-like arm

Kellagh – Male crodillian, Commander of fleet;

Bubbly and dark skin with many scars, yellow eyes

Yvette – Female kaneen, officer on Hermes;

Light brown and white, blue eyes, lean frame

Ludwig – Male quierleon, officer on Hermes;

Short with dark skin, black hair, dark green eyes

Dorjan – Male human, Hermes rebel;

Dark skin, brown eyes, black hair, heavy-set

Ezio – Young male human, Gaea scouter;

Shaggy brown hair, hazel eyes, frail body

Prime Minister Gidon – Male quierleon, Prime Minister of Ares;

Dark skin, short, black hair, brown eyes, overweight

 

Queen’s Council

Abdul – Male machine;

Black skin, human-like body with clear glass head

Hildereth – Male quierleon;

Dark skinned, short stature, dark brown hair

Alura – Female filibian;

Blue and green skin, yellow eyes

Bertrade – Female kaneen;

Hazel eyes, light brown body

Aldrick – Male themin;

Brown eyes, dark red skin, tall stature

Reginold – Male human;

Green eyes, balding head with grey hair

Aida – Female cepholode;

Grey body, four arms and four legs, thin body, large light orange eyes

Saidi – Female herman;

Blue eyes, brunette hair in bun, light skinned

 


Rise of the Resistance (War for Orion Trilogy Book Two)

The crodillians crushed all the Queen’s fleets in one fatal blow, or so that’s what they’ve been lead to believe. Even without full knowledge of what remains, Merikh is determined to tighten his grasp on Orion. He’s made clear that any who rise up against him will suffer a fate worse than death. The rebellion’s success now rests on the shoulders of Anlon and Kanti. They have a mission to gather as much intel on this new enemy as they can before their galaxy is destroyed. A few hundred ships and survivors too scared to act won’t win a rebellion, but if they’re able to get enough information, all of that could change. Anlon and his companions set out almost immediately after the events of Hera to begin their quest in finding the crodillians’ weaknesses. Orion is in much more trouble than any could’ve imagined. If they are to survive this threat, everyone must band together as one. Leaders must rise from amongst the common ranks and enemies must forget about pasts and become close allies. Sacrifices will be made and countless lives will be lost. But this is the beginning of a war. It’s the rise of the resistance.

  • ISBN: 9781370025985
  • Author: Conner Walworth
  • Published: 2016-08-28 21:20:18
  • Words: 106171
Rise of the Resistance (War for Orion Trilogy Book Two) Rise of the Resistance (War for Orion Trilogy Book Two)