by R. Frink
An epic tale of 5 soldiers involved in a war between humanity and a powerful alien race.
Chapter VI: Imperial Victoria
Kozar – Kiri’s Quarters
As quietly as he could, the young prince walked down the white hallway until he stood before the door to his room. Quickly, he entered a 5 digit code into a panel next to the door and with a small click, the door slid open. He moved to take a step inside but a strong hand gripped his shoulder causing the young Taetren to jump. He turned around to find his commander, Prince Farui standing behind him. For a moment, wide blue eyes stared into sharp light brown ones until Kiri averted his eyes towards the ground.
“Oh, Commander, is there something I can do for you?” Kiri asked. Farui said nothing as he stepped inside Kiri’s room, dragging the young prince with him. When the door closed behind them, he glared into his subordinate’s eyes.
“Where have you been?” the older prince growled.
“I got a drink with a friend, that’s all.” Kiri answered, his eyes still gazing at the ground. He felt his chin being tipped upwards by Farui’s fingers so that their eyes met.
“Look at me when you speak to me.” Farui commanded.
“You are to alert me the next time you go off on your own. Understand?” Farui ordered his fingers gripping the boy’s chin a little tighter.
“Yes, sir,” Kiri answered quietly. Satisfied, Farui let go of his chin and began to move towards the door.
“I’m sorry, Commander,” Kiri apologized. The small voice caused Farui to halt and turn around to face his soldier.
“When we are alone like this, I want you to call me Farui, like before,” Farui told him in a softer tone. A small smile came to Kiri’s lips and he nodded.
“I’m only hard on you because I want you to become a great warrior, a great person, so that Maeyin would have been proud,” Farui explained as he placed his hand against Kiri’s cheek, caressing the soft skin.
“I’m not doing this for my brother,” Kiri stated boldly. “I’m doing this for you.” Without a word, Farui stepped away and moved towards the exit.
“Stay close to me. Remember you are still very young,” the older prince said before leaving the room. He sighed as he walked down the hallway to his own room, his cold demeanor returning.
“That fool…” he said to himself. “…can never replace him.”
Hero’s Legend – Training Room
0635 – May 16, 2107
Phoenix slowly walked into the training to room to partake in another session of training. His muscles still cried out from his sparring match with the dark haired girl, Meri, who was significantly stronger than she looked. Solemnly, he joined the other five pilots as they awaited instructions from their generals.
“We still have a few more hours until we reach Sector 3, so we’ll use some of that time to practice more. Pair up with a new partner and keep at it,” General Alverdine announced.
Phoenix looked around for a potential partner, watching Meri approach Uri, or Lucius. He turned his head to the side to see Fiammetta pairing up with the other twin.
“Hey kid, I’ll be your partner,” Karna said smugly. The young blonde turned to the right to face the older man. Phoenix nodded, but a small knot in his stomach grew.
The two moved into fighting poses. Just as Phoenix readied himself, Karna rushed towards him with his fist pulled back. Taken aback, Phoenix moved his arms upward to block the blow. He successfully blocked Karna’s punch, but the force of the blow caused him to stumble back. Karna took the opportunity to swing his other fist into Phoenix’s face. The younger man cried out as he took the hit full force, falling to floor in a heap. Although a little stunned, Phoenix rose from the ground and wiped the blood from his split lip. He dashed towards Karna and threw a punch towards his face, but his fist was caught in Karna’s large hands. The older pilot used his hold on Phoenix to throw him to the ground.
“Had enough, kid?” Karna asked haughtily. Phoenix only glared at his teammate, slowly rising to his feet. He rushed towards Karna once again, his vision clouded with rage. Karna moved to counter but found himself being picked up and thrown over someone’s shoulder. Phoenix stopped in his tracks, surprised to see General Kyros standing over Karna’s body.
General Alverdine, having watched the whole thing, walked towards the scene and helped Karna to his feet. The two other pairs stopped their sparring to watch the scene.
“I don’t like to see bullying among my soldiers,” she told Karna.
“It wasn’t bullying, ma’am,” Karna began nonchalantly. “I was teaching him a lesson.”
“Oh really? What kind of lesson was that?” Phoenix asked, barely holding back his rage.
“I was showing you what it takes to be a real ace,” Karna retorted.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Phoenix replied taking a step closer.
“I’ve seen your type before. You’re just a rookie with good connections. You didn’t have to earn this spot like the rest of us.”
“Enough!” Alverdine spoke stepping between the two. Her mahogany gaze fell on Karna. “Everyone here deserves to be here. Anymore of this foolishness and you’ll earn yourself a 24 hour stay in the brig. Understand?”
Reluctantly, Karna nodded. Alverdine turned towards Kyros. “Take care of Phoenix’s injuries; make sure he’ll be okay for the mission.”
Kyros nodded and tapped Phoenix shoulder. Phoenix brought his attention to Kyros and silently began to follow him to a separate area of the training room. It was a small room with various training equipment and a small cot. Phoenix sat down on the cot and watched Kyros open a drawer and pull out a white box. The general sat next to him and opened the white box, pulling out a thin plastic package. He tore it open and drew a wet folded cloth from its contents. With the cloth in hand Kyros turned to Phoenix and gently pressed it against the cut on the boy’s lip. Phoenix flinched at first but a cooling sensation followed the initial sting.
“Thanks,” Phoenix said, though it came out muffled with the cloth still pressed against his lip.
Kyros gave him a small smile in return. The small gesture caused Phoenix to really notice the proximity of the general’s face. He tried not to be too obvious about it as his green eyes discretely studied the older man’s features. Kyros’ face was even more beautiful up close. He possessed kind eyes that reminded Phoenix of his brother. Kyros pulled the medicinal cloth away and checked for any other injuries. Satisfied the split lip was the worst of it, he gently patted Phoenix on the shoulder. The two of them stood and began to return to the rest of the team.
“Wait!” Phoenix blurted out. Kyros turned around to face him. “Can you be my sparring partner next time?”
Kyros replied with a nod.
“Thank you,” Phoenix uttered, lowering his head to hide the small blush on his cheeks.
Purgatory – Bridge
Ice felt relieved to be back in his commander’s seat. After greeting his fellow crewmates, he felt content listening to the sounds of the others conversing while running small system checks. It was that morning when he got word Purgatory’s standby status would soon be lifted.
“So, where’re we headed?” A familiar voice spoke in English. Ice nearly jumped in his seat at the question and turned his head slightly towards the sound of the voice.
The tawny haired Taetren chuckled. “Are you that surprised?”
“I was certain that you would leave,” Ice responded honestly. He smiled and added, “I’m glad you didn’t.”
“I haven’t been very fair to you,” Elteo admitted. “I’ll work harder to understand you.”
“I’ll meet you halfway. I want us to be able to work as a team.”
“Then let’s try this again.”
Hero’s Legend – Bridge
“General Alverdine, we have video of the Imperial Victoria. It’s being attacked by the Slaerin II! Sensors are picking up several Specter and Wraith models in the area,” a man sitting in the front of the panel announced.
“Upload the video to the central overheard,” Alverdine commanded. For a moment, Alverdine watched the overheard, seeing a dark blue ship being swarmed by several enemy mechs. The Imperial Victoria’s only defenses were a few gun turrets and a handful of Komodo suits. After assessing the situation, Alverdine pressed the blue button on her armrest to access view of the Dragoon pilots.
“Fiammetta, Uri, and Lucius launch with the Dragoon Units 1, 2 and 4 and push back the attackers,” Alverdine ordered. “Meri and Karna launch with Units 3 and 5 to protect the Hero’s Legend.”
The pilots understood their orders and rushed to their mechs. When the others left Phoenix’s face showed up on the small hologram screen.
“What are my orders, General?” He asked.
“Phoenix, man the gun turrets and provide backup for Meri and Karna.”
“Wha – why aren’t I piloting with the others?” Phoenix replied with a look of dismay on his face.
“You’re not ready to pilot Kedalion,” Alverdine told him simply.
Phoenix looked away with disappointment and confusion etched on his features.
Sector 3 – Zone 1
Meri’s fingers tingled with excitement and anxiousness. She watched as her other comrades flew ahead of her to encounter the enemy. After all the pain and suffering the Taetrens had inflicted upon the Earth, she smiled at the thought of being able to return the favor. She moved her Unit 3 in front of the Hero’s Legend, ready for any kind of attempt to harm the ship.
Karna mirrored Meri’s actions, positioning his Unit 5 to left of the ship. As his eyes watched for the enemy, his mind drifted back to the training session earlier that day. His heart burned with jealousy and frustration that the rookie was assigned to the Kedalion. A machine like that belonged in the hands of someone more experienced like himself or one of the others. Karna knew the only reason it was assigned to the kid was because he was Professor Demarys’ younger brother. He had looked up Phoenix’s piloting history and found it was mostly high scores in simulations. His only real battle experience, prior to his capture, was a few lucky takedowns in the Battle of Grand Canyon a few months ago.
“I won’t be showed up by a kid,” Karna muttered to himself.
Keeping their distance, Uri and Lucius both equipped their Dragoon’s rifles and picked off the enemy’s machines. Fiammetta flew the Unit 1 in close to slice the mechs that the twins missed. Bit by bit, they drove the enemy closer and closer to the Slaerin II.
Slaerin II – Bridge
A young Taetren female stood from her commander’s seat unbelieving what she was witnessing. Her once dominating forces suddenly pushed back with only a few mechs and within such a short time.
“Princess Saeri, what do we do? Casualties are skyrocketing!” a male Taetren asked earnestly, who sat at a panel similar to the set up of Purgatory.
“Tell our warriors to retreat,” Princess Saeri commanded. “I will consult the Elders.”
Hero’s Legend – Bridge
“General! The enemy is retreating,” a woman from the front panel exclaimed.
Alverdine grinned at the news of their victory. “All pilots return to the ship. We have completed our mission. Well done.”
The dark haired woman turned to her partner. “I’m relieved. These Dragoon models are truly amazing.”
Kyros nodded in agreement.
“But this easy victory won’t happen often. They’ll come back and be more prepared than ever.”
“General Alverdine, we’ve received a message from the Imperial Victoria. Uploading to central overhead,” informed a crew member from the front panel. Alverdine and Kyros turned their attention upward. The image of a young man in his thirties appeared wearing the uniform of a captain.
“Thank you, Hero’s Legend for assisting us. Senator Robert Hillstrom and I wish to have a conference with you to thank you in person,” the captain of the Imperial Victoria spoke. The video message ended and Alverdine faced the front panel.
“Send them a message that we will meet them in 45 minutes and prepare a small transport ship.”
“Kyros, watch over the bridge for me. I’m going to debrief the pilots,” Alverdine commanded as she stood up from her seat. The young general nodded, watching her leave.
Hero’s Legend – Briefing Room
Silently, Phoenix left the room. The victory was swift and easy and there wasn’t much to tell. After a few compliments, General Alverdine released them from their debriefing to allow them to get ready to meet the crew of the Imperial Victoria.
“Phoenix.” Upon hearing his name, Phoenix turned around to see General Alverdine following him.
“You’re wondering why I didn’t allow you to participate as a pilot this mission,” Alverdine stated as a matter of fact.
Phoenix nodded, still feeling a small weight in his stomach from the dismissal.
“You have excellent reactionary skills and there’s no doubt that you have a natural talent for piloting. However, after watching you train with the others, the skills you need to succeed on this team are not quite there yet. You have troubles thinking ahead and you haven’t quite grasped reading your opponent. The Kedalion is a special machine and I think you need a little more time before I can let you use it,” Alverdine explained, her voice soft but stern in her criticism.
Phoenix nodded, her words sinking in, they did nothing to ease his disappointment and his features fell into a state of melancholy.
“Chin up.” Alverdine said, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Kyros will help you catch up with the others. Fawn vouched for you and that’s all I need to know that you have what it takes.”
Phoenix lifted his blonde eyebrows. “She did?”
“Yes, before she left with your brother. She thinks the world of you,” Alverdine told him. The young pilot turned away with a small smile forming on his lips.
“Sis…” Phoenix murmured. His gaze lowered to the ground.
“Hey now, don’t turn to mush on me. We still have a meeting with the Imperial Victoria,” Alverdine replied, patting his pack. Phoenix straightened up.
“Yes, ma’am and…thanks.”
Alverdine flashed him a smile. “Don’t be late.”
Imperial Victoria – Hangar
“Captain Charles Ertman, it’s an honor to meet you both,” the young captain of the Imperial Victoria saluted before he offered his hand. General Alverdine and General Kyros each shook his hand. Standing behind them were the six Dragoon pilots all in their blue and black uniforms. As his commanding officers exchanged pleasantries Phoenix looked around his surroundings, finding the Imperial Victoria had a hangar similar to the Hero’s Legend.
“It’s a pleasure as well,” Alverdine replied.
“Word of your beauty do neither of you justice,” an older man standing next to the captain spoke. He wore an expensive grey suit and had combed back graying hair.
“You must be Senator Robert Hillstrom,” Alverdine replied as they shook hands. “Please, you flatter us.”
“Nonsense, one might argue that you are more beautiful and talented than this ship’s namesake.”
Alverdine’s eyes widened, her kind smile falling.
“Yes, one of the most powerful soldiers of my time. It’s was a true shame that both her and her son were taken from us.”
Kyros closed his eyes and turned away, his thin eyebrows lowering.
The senator noticed the change in the two generals and ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m sorry for such depressing talk. Please, I would like to meet the young men and women who saved my life and this ship.”
“Of course,” Alverdine responded, a weak smile claiming her features as she moved to introduce the rest of her team.
Slaerin II – Communication Chamber
A young Taetren female stood in the middle of metallic cylindrical room. Her head was lowered, her short salmon colored locks falling over pale brown eyes. Two pinkish triangles marked her tanned skin and her short eyebrows drew together in a frustrated scowl. A holographic video of five Taetren adults appeared before her.
“My Elders, thank you for meeting with me,” she said, bowing even further.
“What news do you bring us, Princess Saeri?” Queen Kridah asked.
The princess straightened her back. “My forces were overwhelmed today by the new Dragoon units. In order to continue pursuing the Imperial Victoria, I will require reinforcements.”
A Taetren female with long wavy turquoise hair and dark skin spoke, “We will send reinforcements immediately.”
Princess Saeri nodded her head gratefully before bowing once more. “Thank you…Mother.”
“Expect the arrival of Purgatory shortly,” began King Beilond. “Commander Ice’s Leviathan should be a fair match with the UEF’s Dragoon model.”