by R. Frink
An epic tale of 5 soldiers involved in a war between humanity and a powerful alien race.
Chapter VIII: Encounter in Vinci I
Hero's Legend – Briefing Room
With Kyros standing by her side, Alverdine smiled at her pilots. “You all did well,” she began. “This was our first challenging battle and we emerged as the victors.”
Alverdine strolled across the room passing each of the pilots. “However, you are still a long ways from where I want you to be. The ship pursuing us has proven itself quite competent. We have to improve our teamwork if we want to continue to be victorious.”
The young general paused, letting her words sink in. “We still have some time before we arrive at Vinci I. I suggest that you all relax until we get there. Any questions?”
Lucius raised his hand and Alverdine nodded in his direction. “Is Meri okay?”
“Aside from some minor cuts and bruises, she's fine.” Several sighs of relief emitted throughout the room. “She should be back on her feet within a day. Anything else?”
The room remained silent. “Well then, you are all dismissed.”
As the group of pilots made their leave, Alverdine approached Phoenix before he left the room.
“Phoenix,” she called. He turned to face her.
“Yes, ma'am?” he asked, a curious note is his voice.
“I wanted to say you handled Kedalion fairly well against such a strong opponent,” Alverdine praised. “I did not want that accomplishment to go unnoticed.”
Phoenix's handsome face brightened at her words, a large smile claiming his lips. “Thank you, ma'am.”
Alverdine couldn't help but grin at the young man's enthusiasm. “However, if you want to beat that opponent, I urge you to continue your training with General Kyros.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Phoenix replied, his eyes glancing at the green haired general standing behind Alverdine.
“Good, you are dismissed.”
Purgatory – Ice's Quarters
Ice leaned back in his chair with his eyes closed and his mind reminiscing on the previous battle. The excitement from his duel with Phoenix still lingered. The boy was still no match for him, but his skills had improved and he had the markings to be among the best. A loud knock on the door sent Ice reeling back to the present.
“Enter,” he said to his visitor. The door slid open and the visitor stepped into the room.
“Ice,” Elteo spoke, approaching his commander. Ice straightened up in his chair and turned his head in the direction of the Taetren's voice.
“What is it?” Ice asked.
“What were you doing with that pilot?” Elteo questioned.
Ice tilted his head. “What do you mean?”
“I've seen you fight before, I've been in fights with you before. You held back that entire battle. Why?”
“I wasn't holding ba–”
“I want to be able to trust you, so do not lie to me. Why didn't you kill that pilot?”
The room became silent until a small beep sounded from Ice's desk. He pushed the button to his video com and the screen turned on with the face of a Taetren woman.
“Commander Ice, the Elders wish to speak to you.”
“I see. I'm on my way.” Ice turned off the video com and rose to his feet. As he passed Elteo on his way to the door, the lieutenant grabbed hold of Ice's upper arm.
“I want an answer,” Elteo demanded. Ice grabbed the cane that was propped up near the door and slowly turned his head.
“I don't have one,” he replied, leaving Elteo alone with a puzzled look etched in his features.
Kozar – Kiri's Quarters
0525 – May 18, 2107
Prince Kiri struggled to get his remaining boot on, hopping about his room in a frantic motion. With an extra hard tug, his foot slid into the shiny black footwear and he quickly tied the laces. He walked to his bathroom and examined his image, cursing his royal heritage and its complicated princely garbs. His long black hair was pulled up in high ponytail, held up with a beautiful hair tie decorated with precious gems. The Taetren prince heard a knock on the door and sighed as he went to open it.
“Are you ready yet?” Farui asked. He received no answer as Kiri’s blue gaze became fixed on his commander's tall form. He, too, was clothed in his royal attire. The younger prince couldn't help but think how brilliant Farui looked in crimson and gold, the official colors of the Beilond family. It was a large contrast to the blue and white he wore, colors of the Kridah family.
“Kiri?” Farui called impatiently.
“Oh, I...” Kiri stammered, snapping out his thoughts with flushed cheeks.
“Your collar is crooked,” the older prince stated, moving his hands from his sides to shift the young Taetren's collar into the correct position. Kiri's blush grew deeper when his commander’s hands rested on his shoulders. Farui's light brown eyes scanned his young companion for any more mistakes.
“Earrings?” Farui inquired, as he tapped his own diamond shaped earrings.
“Oh!” Kiri exclaimed as he ran back into his bathroom. After a moment, Kiri returned with crescent shaped earrings hanging from his pointed ears.
“Alright, let’s get this over with,” Farui grumbled, leading his young subordinate out of the room. Kiri nodded and locked the door behind them, stifling a small giggle at his commander's apparent discomfort.
The two walked down the hallway in silence until Farui turned his head slightly to Kiri's and announced, “I have some news of Purgatory.”
“What is it?”
“It seems they too were no match for the human's Dragoons. Quite disgraceful for one of our most advanced ships,” Farui explained, displeased.
Kiri's stomach sickened with worry. “Are Elteo and Ice okay?”
“They're both fine, but I'd imagine their pride is quite wounded.”
The younger prince sighed in relief, bringing his hand to his heart.
“The Elders are fools to put so much faith in a human child,” Farui continued, eyes narrowing.
“Commander!” Kiri cried in a sharp whisper. Farui smirked at Kiri's disapproving tone. They stopped in the middle of hallway. The red clothed prince leaned in closer to Kiri's face, placing a hand underneath Kiri's chin.
“You see nothing wrong with it?” Farui questioned his voice low.
“I have faith in the Elders and I have faith in Ice from my own experiences with him,” Kiri answered. The young Taetren prince smiled, trying to lighten up the mood. “And Ice is not a child. By human standards, he is well into adulthood.”
Farui began to walk again with an unimpressed look on his face. “Human standards are lax.”
Kozar – Docking Station
A small crowd grew around the newly arrived Slaerin II. Excited faces waited for Princess Saeri's emergence from the large vessel. At the forefront of the crowd, stood two members of the royal families, flanked by several bodyguards. A small Taetren girl nervously craned her head back, her hazel eyes searching for something in the crowd. She sighed and brought her attention forward, her small fingers playing with the lace of her red and gold dress.
“He will be here,” an elegant feminine voice spoke. The little girl looked up to the tall Taetren woman standing beside her, holding a bouquet of brightly colored flowers. The woman leaned forward and smiled, her long turquoise hair falling over her beautiful navy and cyan dress. “He has certain duties to uphold as Crown Prince.”
“My brother thinks little of his duties,” the Taetren girl replied, discernible emotions absent from her voice. “He will no doubt shame the family again.”
“Glad to know you think so highly of me, Rolay,” a new voice quipped causing the two Taetren females to turn toward it. Approaching from the side entered Farui and Kiri just as the doors to the Slaerin II began to open. The crowd began to grow wild with anticipation.
“You have proven me wrong this time, I am thankful,” Rolay replied, but her scornful gaze did not lessen.
The crowd's noise doubled at the sight of Princess Saeri being lowered down from the ship. She gave the crowd a large smile as she searched for her older sister. Her smile grew wider and her hand lifted up in an energetic wave.
“Soria!” The young princess cried. Once at ground level, she strolled quickly to her sister.
“Dear sister, welcome back!” Princess Soria beamed as she handed the bouquet to Saeri. The younger sister took the flowers and held them close to her heart.
“From your garden?” Saeri asked. Soria nodded, her brown eyes wet with tears of happiness. “Thank you.”
Hero's Legend – Phoenix's Quarters
A ringing sound jolted Phoenix from his deep sleep. He moved his heavy limbs to get out of bed and walk to the table where his video com stood. With the press of a button, he turned the device on and sat in the chair. As he blinked the sleep from his eyes, the image of Data and Fawn grew into focus.
“Hiiiiii!” Fawn greeted.
“Sis! Bro!” Phoenix cried, elation overcoming his grogginess.
“Hey little brother, we just made it to our research site in Sector 4 so we decided to check up on you. How are things?” Data questioned.
“Things are good.” Phoenix replied. “I got to pilot Kedalion yesterday!”
Fawn raised both eyebrows and moved in closer to the camera, nearly pushing Data out of view. “Really? How was it? I'm surprised Alverdine let you in that thing already.”
“Hey, don't hog the camera!” Data complained, pushing his fiancé a little to get back into view.
Phoenix giggled before saying, “It was great. The controls are so fluid; it was like the machine was an extension of myself.”
“I know what you mean. I guess we'll have to thank my soon-to-be-hubby over here,” Fawn said as she poked Data in the cheek. Data folded his arms and nodded with an accomplished look on his face.
“All in a day's work.” Phoenix and Fawn both rolled their eyes.
“Well, Phoenix it seems you're doing pretty well. Data and I have lot on our plate as I'm sure you do as well. We'll talk to you soon, okay?” Fawn said. The blonde pilot's face fell a little but kept a small smile knowing he would see them again soon.
“Yeah,” Phoenix replied. “Love you.”
“Love you, too,” Data and Fawn both said. The trio waved goodbye to each other and the video feed went dark.
Vinci I – Docking Station
“Welcome to Vinci I,” said Senator Hillstrom as he greeted the two young generals. Vinci I was a remarkable research colony, home to the top scientists and engineers the world had to offer. The outer layer of the colony housed the world's most advanced laboratories and its core was structured like any small city, even night and day was simulated.
“Hello, Senator,” Alverdine replied as she looked over her surroundings, marveling at large size of the docking station.
“I must thank you again for your successful escort. Your ship will be resupplied and fully repaired,” Senator Hillstrom continued. The older man chuckled as he watched the two continue to gawk at the station. “It is quite an exciting place. You should consider letting the rest of your crew disembark during your stay here. Vinci I's maintenance crew should be able to handle all your needs.”
General Alverdine rubbed her chin in thought. “I see, I suppose the crew could use a change of scenery, how about it, General Kyros?”
Her green haired companion nodded. Alverdine smiled and turned her attention to the senator.
“I'll take you up on that offer.”
Purgatory – Bridge
“Commander, it looks like Hero's Legend has docked inside Vinci I,” Elteo informed Ice as he entered the room and sat down in his seat.
“I understand. It would be suicide to pursue them while they're in the protection of Vinci I,” Ice responded. He leaned back in his chair and began to tap in his fingers on the armrest as his mind began to form a plan.
“Should we just wait for them to come out?” Elteo mused.
Ice remained silent for a moment but then suddenly stood up. “No, I have an idea. Can you get me a clip of Spyflies?”
“What for? They're not going to do us any good out here,” Elteo retorted.
“I know, that's why I'm requesting a transport shuttle as well.” The silver haired man picked up his cane and began to make his way to his quarters with Elteo following.
“Ice...” the lieutenant warned, starting to see his commander's logic.
“This is better than doing nothing, and this will be an excellent chance to gather more information on our enemy.”
“If you're caught we won't be able to help you,” Elteo cautioned.
“I won't. My cover will be that of a visiting civilian so make sure my shuttle reflects that.”
Elteo folded his arms and sighed. “Yes, sir.”
Vinci I – Shopping Plaza
“Oh man, it's nice to get off that ship,” Lucius muttered as he stretched his arms high above his head. Next to a fountain, stood the small group of Lucius, Uri, Fiammetta, and Phoenix.
“Yeah, this place even reminds me a little of home,” Fiammetta mused as she looked around the plaza. Surrounding the fountain, were a chain of small shops selling clothing, food, and various accessories.
“I know what you mean,” Uri agreed. “I didn't know there was anything like this in the middle of space.”
“So what do you guys want to do?” Fiammetta asked her male companions. The three young men looked at each other and shrugged.
“This place is kinda big, I'll go get us a map,” Phoenix offered. The other three nodded and the youngest member walked in the direction of an information booth.
“Hey, Fifi,” Lucius called. “Are you sure Karna didn't want to come? We probably won't have another opportunity like this for awhile.”
Fiammetta shook her head. “I told him that, but he insisted on keeping Meri company.”
“His loss,” Uri commented in an aloof manner.
“I'm back,” Phoenix announced as he returned to the group with a holographic map in his hands. The group huddled closer as a 3 feet by 2 feet image projected from the device. “We're here,” Phoenix stated, pointing to a blinking red dot on the image.
“Let's see what we got...” Fiammetta thought out loud as her grey eyes scanned the map. A large eager smile spread across her face. “Hey! This place has an ice cream joint.”
“Ice cream? I could go for that,” Lucius replied.
“Me too,” Phoenix beamed.
“Mmmm...I hope they have Rocky Road...” was Uri's response.
The auburn haired woman laughed. “Alright, it's settled then. To the ice cream place!”
Vinci I – Civic Building
Alverdine and Kyros stood in the corner in a large room, patiently waiting for Senator Hillstrom to finish talking to his advisors. The two advisors left the area and the senator approached them with an apologetic look on his features.
“I'm sorry to keep you waiting for so long, but this is an important public announcement,” the middle aged man stated.
“Senator, I must question our continued involvement in this,” the young general began. “What is it exactly that we're protecting you from here?”
“The UEF has obtained intelligence of an attack on my person and this colony,” the senator explained. “Although we're skeptical of the probability of the attack, you and the Hero's Legend are here as an extra precaution.”
“I see...” General Alverdine responded with a raised eyebrow.
“If you'll excuse me, my speech begins shortly,” Hillstrom pardoned as he exited the room.
Alverdine turned to Kyros. “Why do I feel like we're getting the typical military bullshit answer?”
Kyros grinned and mouthed the word “follow.”
“That seems like the best course of action.”
Vinci I – Central Plaza
“So, what's this about?” Uri questioned as he and the other DSF pilots began to join a large crowd forming in front a small stage and podium.
“General Alverdine called and said we could keep our eyes open for anything strange,” Fiammetta explained.
“What kind of strange are we looking for?” Lucius asked.
“The dangerous, armed kind I would imagine,” Fiammetta replied.
Phoenix only half listened to his teammates as his eyes scanned the crowd for any oddities. In the corner of his vision, he saw a flash of silver. He turned around in time so see someone with long silver hair separate from crowd and sneak behind a cluster of buildings.
“Ice?” he murmured. The young pilot began to make his way through the sea people in the direction of the silver haired stranger.
“What was that, Phoenix?” Fiammetta asked, her head turned around but found that Phoenix was already lost in the large crowd. “Hey, where'd he go?”
The mass of people erupted in applause as Senator Hillstrom took the stage and stepped onto the podium. With a large smile on his aging face, he waved to the people, and then signaled for silence. As his speech began, Alverdine and Kyros stood on either side of the backstage doors.
“Something doesn't feel right,” Alverdine whispered. Kyros nodded in agreement. Her mahogany eyes glazed for moment before she shook her head, a frantic expression emerging on face.
“They're attacking from the sides!” she yelled. She and Kyros left their posts and stormed the stage with their firearms secure in their hands. With two fingers, she signaled her partner to go to the senator as she pointed her gun upward. As shots began to fire, Kyros pulled Hillstrom down from the podium, the senator scarcely avoiding several bullet wounds to the head. People in the crowd began scream, quickly pushing their way away from the gunfire. With one hand keeping the senator down, the green haired general used the other to return fire towards Hillstrom's assailants. His violet eyes searched and found three dark figures moving about on top of one of the nearby buildings. His hand tensed as he focused his gun in their direction. He fired three times and the assailants dropped dead.
“My side is clear!” Alverdine informed, squatting down next to Kyros and Hillstrom. “Are you hurt, Senator?”
“No,” Hillstrom stammered. “I’m just glad things are playing out the way General Heisler said they would.”
“I want a full explanation later!” Alverdine pulled the cell phone from her waist. “Fiammetta, do you read me?”
“Yes, ma'am! What the hell is going on?” Fiammetta replied as she and the twins pushed their way through the panicking crowd.
“There are an unknown amount of enemies attacking the colony.”
“Our primary objective is to make sure no civilians are killed, secondary objective is to take out these assassins.”
“Understood, ma'am,” Fiammetta answered. “Phoenix disappeared, should we look for him as well?”
Kyros visibly tensed at the young woman's words. His eyes pleaded with his Alverdine's.
“No, Kyros will search for him. Just worry about the enemy.” Alverdine placed the phone back and faced Kyros. “Go.”
Kyros smiled and took off with his body low to the ground. Alverdine grabbed the back of Hillstrom’s suit.
“Looks like you’re with me.”
Vinci I – East Plaza
“Freeze!” Phoenix yelled with his gun pointed at the silver haired stranger. The man lifted up his hands in surrender, dropping his cane. Slowly, he turned around, revealing his beautiful face and striking blue-purple mixed eyes.
“Ice? It is you,” Phoenix said, lowering his gun a little.
Ice grinned. “Phoenix, I was hoping we wouldn’t meet under these circumstances.”
“So, you’re behind this attack,” Phoenix declared as he stepped closer to the older pilot.
“I don’t want to hurt you, so please just come quietly,” Phoenix pleaded, causing Ice to raise an eyebrow.
“You’re very bold to think you can capture me.”
“Hey, I’m the one with the gun,” Phoenix replied with a small pout.
“It’s cute that you think that matters.” Without warning, a long leg extended upward into a sharp kick knocking Phoenix’s gun out of his hands and out of reach. “Naive, but cute.”
As he rubbed his bruised hand, Phoenix stared at Ice with a mixture of awe, fear, and anger.
“If you want to capture me, you’ll have to fight me hand to hand,” Ice stated, moving into a fighting stance. “Your move.”
Phoenix moved his body into a fighting stance as well. His eyes focused on Ice’s body, trying to decide whether to attack first or wait for Ice. His thought process halted when Ice rushed towards him, thrusting a fist towards his face. The young blonde managed to dodge the attack by shifting his body to the right. His good fortune ran out when Ice followed the punch with a swift kick to his abdomen, causing the pilot to double over and fall to his knees.
“Stand up, I know you have more in you than that,” Ice commanded. Phoenix glared daggers at the man before realizing it was useless on Ice. With a pained grunt, he got back on his feet.
Phoenix acted first, throwing a fist towards the blind man’s face. However, his wrist was caught firmly in Ice’s grasp. He attempted to use his other arm, but was caught in the same manner. Ice kneed Phoenix in the chest and let go of his arms, causing Phoenix to fall backwards. Acting quickly, Phoenix caught hold of Ice’s shirt to steady himself, but instead caused the older pilot to fall with him. The two fell in a heap with Phoenix lying on his back and Ice awkwardly on top of him. After recovering his bearings, Ice took control of his position, hastily pinning Phoenix’s wrists over his head and using his knees to prevent Phoenix usage of his legs.
A deep blush formed on Phoenix’s cheeks, when he noticed Ice’s face only inches from his own. The older man’s long silver locks fell over his shoulders and pooled around each side of Phoenix’s head. Ice’s long bangs tickled Phoenix’s face, but the younger pilot remained silent, too enthralled with Ice’s exotic eyes and full lips. Ice chuckled and leaned in closer until Phoenix felt a warm breath against his ear that sent shivers down his spine.
“It wasn’t me,” Ice whispered. He pulled away and let go of Phoenix’s arms. Phoenix didn’t stir and just waited for Ice’s next move. “Don’t let me beat you this easily next time.”
With that, Ice stood up and made his escape, waving goodbye as he did so. Phoenix sat up and stared in the direction Ice disappeared. In the distance he could hear gunfire and screams, but nothing registered except the lingering warm of Ice’s body. Two strong hands squeezed the top of Phoenix’s shoulders, causing the young man to look behind his back.
“General Kyros?” Phoenix spoke, finally breaking out of his trance. Kyros pulled the young pilot to his feet. He grabbed hold of Phoenix’s wrist and nodded his head in the direction of the Central Plaza. The two ran down the deserted area until Phoenix slowed down and stopped.
“Wait, I dropped my gun!” Phoenix yelled, backtracking to retrieve his weapon. Kyros turned around to see four men in black emerge from the rooftops and point their guns as his young apprentice. Fear seized his heart as he thrust his body forward to reach Phoenix in time.
“Phoenix! Get down!” Kyros cried out. Phoenix threw his body to the ground as Kyros dashed forward to shield him from an onslaught of bullets. Phoenix kept his eyes squeezed shut and his hands over his ears during the deafening hail of gunfire. Suddenly, there was silence followed by the sound of a body dropping to the ground.