General Casey left hastily as Mark looked to his holoband; there was a much more pressing matter to him. “Virgil? This is Mark. What is your status on locating our target?”
-Minerva, Ash Fields-
It would take several minutes for Mark’s message to reach Captain Virgil, who was stationed as a recon commander on the surface of the once populated Minerva, now all but desolate. He and four other men were lying in a field of ashes that surrounded that single standing house several hundred meters off in the distance.
“Hey, Cap? You got a call.”
Virgil listened to the message and relayed his own as he stared down the scope of his 20mm rifle pointed at the lonely home and the group of soldiers who were gathering around it.
“Good copy, partna. Message took eight minutes to get here. It’s less than we’d thought. I got eyes on the kid. They got some kinda bag over his head.”
Through his scope Virgil gazed at a sight I don’t think he quite believed at first. It was Arcoh, who had stepped out of an airship, and he was now out in the open.
“My god, man, I was thrown way off when they told me that he had the kid, but this is something else. That son of a bitch!”
One of Virgil’s men nudged him and whispered into his ear.
“Captain, we can end this war today.”
“You got a lot to learn, sport. Look at his chest plate—that there is a light-shield generator. Arcoh may be arrogant, but he ain’t no idiot.”
“What’s the call, Cap?”
Virgil sighed and he handed the rifle off to the man on his right.
“We’re going to need to get a helluva a lot closer. Too many secondaries for a firefight. Gotta be three dozen of ’em.”
The soldier took the rifle and smiled. “Just say the word and they’ll never know what hit ’em.”
“They will when I get close. I’m going to need a gravity tug to avoid being noticed; when I land, cover me. Use the 20 mike rounds, in short bursts. That suppressing fire should give us a wide enough window for an extraction. And whatever you do don’t hit the kid, or I will kill you myself.”
“Sending the transmission now.”
I was finally able to stand, barely—I toppled and stumbled with every step, and I fell over catching myself with my knee. And Arcoh then presented his hand to me once again.
“Let me be your voice of reason, Collin.”
I gave him my answer in the form of pulling his hand in and head butting him. There was a struggle, Arcoh fell back laughing, covering his blood-stained jaw and I swiftly received a bash on the back of my head from his legate’s sword.
“I have had enough watching you disrespect our king, you worm! Sire? Should I teach him some manners?”
“No need, Ivan, let him speak. It will be the last time he will do so freely.”
I spoke out against him as Legate Ivan Lennin pressed my face against the ground.
“We’ll see about that, you bastard! You expect me to forgive and forget what you have done? Your sins here will be remembered forever, Arcoh! So you’ll tell me everything I want to know as I steal that last breath from your throat! I SWEAR IT! Even if it is the last thing I am able to do with my life.”
Arcoh’s patience had finally broken for me; he was no longer smiling when he stood up and wiped the blood from his nose. He loomed over me and showed me why the people called him the Snake of Eden.
“I have done all I can to be civilized with you.”
“You have certainly done a wonderful job at that.” I quickly regretted my comment when the legate then broke my leg. Even the excruciating pain barely broke my focus from Arcoh.
“Do not be a smartass with me! You are going to bend to my will, boy! So now we do things the only way they have worked in the past. Ivan?”
“Yes, my liege?”
“Bring him to The Hammer! Have him medicated! We need to adjust his attitude before we can move forward. But first I want him to watch as I destroy the citadel. I want him to watch the end of this inferior race!”
I tried desperately to escape the grip of that 300-pound giant, but with a broken leg it was hopeless, but it still didn’t stop me from gazing up at the sky, and the mountain country of Rayden far above us. Champions hate to lose.
“Excuse me, my liege!” A messenger bolted out of one of the gunships and sprinted towards Arcoh.
“What is it? You are disturbing my thinking space!”
“Apologies, sir! There has been a disturbance detected in the stratosphere.”
“What kind of disturbance?”
“We’re not sure, sir, but it’s disabling all communication capabilities here on Minerva.”
I began to see what the crusader messenger was talking about. Above us the sky was turning black and view of our motherworld was ceasing. This wasn’t a normal storm, it had covered the area far too quickly. It was almost like an explosion, expanding at an incredible rate, stretching to the ends of the earth.
Then came the sound and the shockwave from a single person dropping in from above us. Everything stood still in those few seconds—an interruption like none other. We waited for the ash cloud to settle and when it did I saw a tall, lanky man in a long trench coat. He landed directly between Arcoh and me.
He arose from the ground and even the behemoth on my back didn’t move. I don’t think they could believe what they were seeing. I had no idea but I began to feel something churn in my stomach, like butterflies. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew that presence, I knew that dogged, unkempt beard he wore. All I needed to hear was his voice to know he was there to save me, like he had so many times before, long ago.
“Why don’t you fight someone your own size, partna?”
Within a fraction of a second Virgil took his sword and cut off Ivan’s arm. He fell over backwards clutching his new stump in agony. Then Arcoh reacted appropriately but not quickly enough.
Virgil jumped on top of me pushing us to the ground, then came the rain of bullets from the field across the way—it felt like a swarm of freight trains were flying above our heads. Those 20 mike rounds were a force to be reckoned with; they took out half the soldiers that surrounded us.
I looked back and struggled to free myself from Virgil, looking directly at Arcoh, who was being pushed back into his dropship by his soldiers. I’m sure his words were not too different from my own, as I began shouting at Virgil.
“Wait! Take me back! I need him! You cannot let him leave here alive!”
Virgil heard me but he had his orders. I would have done it myself, but I could not move on my own. He took a cylinder out of his pocket and planted it on the ground in front of us while I attempted to crawl back over to the fire zone.
“I need him, Virgil! I need to know!”
Virgil grasped my shoulders and shook me furiously. “You have this one chance to make a difference in your life! This is it, kid! I am giving you one chance! One chance to change your fate! Are you gonna take it, or let it fly? What’s it gonna be, kid!”
I gave a very wide grin and grasped his forearm. Arcoh and the others rushed towards us as this beam of benevolent light surrounded us. It took us up, a gravity tug, and within seconds we soared through the sky, passing by the surface of Minerva and its smoke-infesting skies.
So I had made my choice. Arcoh had nearly convinced me at my highest point of despair, but what tore me asunder was the fact that he said, “You have no idea who you are,” and he was right. Suddenly I felt all of my priorities shift; the thoughts of this great mystery of my origins and essence created a tempest of rampant emotion in my mind. The Remorans would feed the hunger, and they did everything they could to try and divert the desire I had to seek retribution for all that would happen.