by R. Frink
An epic tale of 5 soldiers involved in a war between humanity and a powerful alien race.
Chapter IX: Falling Shadows
Hero's Legend – Infirmary
“You really didn't have to stay with me,” Meri said. She reached to the side of the bed and patted Karna's hand.
“I let my partner get hurt. It's the least that I could do,” Karna replied with a small smile. Silence filled the room for a moment until Meri shifted in her bed, tilting her head back in thought.
“The Kedalion is really something, isn't it?” Meri mused.
“Yeah,” Karna answered bitterly. “You got that right.”
Meri faced Karna. “You shouldn't be so rough on Phoenix. He can't choose his brother.”
Karna scoffed. “I'm just waiting for him to prove himself. I haven't seen anything special yet.”
Vinci I – East Plaza
Phoenix slowly peeled himself from the ground. The first thing he noticed was the bizarre pattern the bullet holes formed the on the ground, a too perfect circular shape. The second thing sent a large wave of relief through his body as his eyes found General Kyros standing strong and the body of one of the assassins, lying awkwardly on the ground. Kyros bent down and picked up the assassin by the collar, lifting him up to his eye level. He ripped off the dark mask that covered the assailant’s face, revealing a young man with widened eyes.
“W-What are you?” the assassin choked out.
“Who are you working for?” Kyros asked. Phoenix found that Kyros was soft-spoken, but his voice distinctly masculine.
The assassin kept silent. With narrowed eyes, Kyros set the man onto his feet. He moved his hand from the assassin’s collar to his neck and squeezed tightly.
“Last chance,” Kyros warned his voice calm. “Who are you working for?”
“I don’t have a name,” the assassin wheezed out. “Everything was done anonymously.”
“I see,” was all Kyros said before pointing his gun as the man’s forehead and firing. Phoenix jumped at the gunshot and took several steps back. His wide green gaze fell on Kyros’ face and he felt a pressure in his stomach.
Kyros turned around, concern replacing the cold indifference from before. He tilted his head in a curious manner and he took a step towards Phoenix. The pilot flinched, but didn’t move away.
“Are you alright?” Kyros asked. Phoenix shook his head and relaxed his body.
“I’m sorry. I just didn’t expect you to -”
“I did not intend to startle you,” Kyros said. “We should go.”
As Kyros walked past him, Phoenix noticed the large bloody wound on Kyros’ right shoulder.
“Hey wait!” Phoenix yelled as he ran after him. “You’re hurt.”
Kyros glanced at his reddened shoulder. The blood trickled down his arm, reaching his elbow.
“It’s nothing,” Kyros replied dismissively.
“But it’s bleeding a lot!” Phoenix blurted. Kyros smiled.
“I’ve been through worse. Come, General Alverdine is waiting for us.”
Kyros stopped walking and looked back at Phoenix.
“I haven’t said it yet. So, thank you for saving my life.”
Kyros only smiled and beckoned him to follow.
Vinci I – Central Plaza
Alverdine finished putting her gun into her holster as Fiammetta and the twins approached her. The Central Plaza was now vacated of its panicking occupants, who now resided in several safe houses throughout the colony. Alverdine stared at her soldiers with expectant eyes.
“Well?” she asked, her brisk tone betraying her mood.
“We got all of them, ma’am,” Fiammetta answered.
“Good.” Alverdine moved to face Senator Hillstrom with narrowed mahogany eyes. He tried to step back, out of her reach, however her arm shot forward and grabbed him forcefully by the shoulder. “So, about this assassination attempt…”
“Perhaps when we are alone, there are secrets-” Hillstrom winced when the grip on his shoulder increased.
“I want an answer now,” Alverdine growled. Hillstrom opened his mouth to speak, but stopped and shifted his eyes behind her.
“Hey Phoenix, General Kyros, we were wondering about you,” Fiammetta perked up. Alverdine turned her head slightly to see Kyros and Phoenix return to the group.
“Good, now everyone can hear,” Alverdine stated in a sour tone. “Please, enlighten us.”
The senator sighed. “Even I don’t know all the details, but from what General Heisler told me this whole…event was a trap for the assassins.”
“What, so we were being played this entire time?!” Uri blurted out. He was silenced by his brother with a small whap to the head.
“The escorting Imperial Victoria, your stay here, the speech, they were all calculated into General Heisler’s plan,” Hillstrom continued. “I was the bait, you see. We had intelligence that there was a threat on my life and the projects here on Vinci I. We even made it easy for them. A speech in a wide open area with little protection, an amateur could have succeeded. But that’s when you two came into play and eliminated the enemy. This was quite a success.”
“General Heisler and I are going to have a long heart to heart talk,” Alverdine seethed through clenched teeth. She released the senator and pushed him away, turning around to face her subordinates.
“Alright team, check out the rest of the colony to make sure there are no stragglers, and report back in an hour.” Alverdine’s eyes fell on Kyros for a moment before she turned to Phoenix. “Phoenix, take Kyros to the infirmary.”
Kyros gave her a surprised look, causing the woman to raise an eyebrow.
“I haven’t forgotten your limits. Go to the infirmary with Phoenix before you bleed out,” Alverdine commanded, eyeing the large amount of blood trailing down Kyros’ arm. Kyros frowned but nodded and left with Phoenix.
Purgatory – Hanger
“Ice!” Elteo called upon seeing his commander leap out of his shuttle. However, the lieutenant’s relief quickly faded away when he noticed a hint of anguish in the blind man’s features. “Are you alright?”
“I released the SpyFlies into Vinci I,” Ice reported, walking towards Elteo. “They should be sending data within the hour, be sure to forward the information to the Elders.”
“Hey, wait!” Elteo yelled as the silver haired man walked passed Elteo. “Did something happen on Vinci I?”
“Please excuse me. I’ll be in my room. Unless it’s an emergency, don’t disturb me.” Ice swiftly left the hanger, leaving a puzzled Elteo behind.
Hero’s Legend – Briefing Room
The debriefing ended quickly with Alverdine still upset over the senator and General Heisler’s transgressions. As the other pilots left the room, pleased to have more free time, Phoenix approached his generals with a question on mind. He looked up to Kyros, who tilted his head in question.
“Ummm…General Kyros, I wondering if you were going to ever…speak again?” Phoenix asked. Alverdine turned to her long time companion.
“You spoke? When?”
“When we-” Phoenix began to answer but Alverdine cut him off.
“I want him to answer,” she said as her gaze pierced into Kyros’. After a moment, he looked away. He opened his mouth to say something but closed it just as quickly. Suddenly, he felt callused fingers caress his cheek and he looked up to see Alverdine’s eyes had softened.
“I have let you keep your silence for a long time. Please, let me hear your voice again,” Alverdine spoke softly. Kyros placed a hand over hers.
“I had to speak, in order to save Phoenix’s life,” Kyros finally answered. A large smile came to Alverdine’s lips as she pulled her hand away.
“Now that’s much better!” Alverdine beamed as she tapped his injured shoulder, causing Kyros to wince. “Whoops, sorry.”
Phoenix couldn’t suppress the giggle that left his lips.
Purgatory – Ice’s Quarters
Ice walked into a dark room and locked the door behind him. His hand tensed around his white cane until it visibly shook. He let out a frustrated sigh and threw his cane onto floor where it made a loud thud and rolled away from him.
“What am I doing?” Ice asked himself, his tone quiet and solemn. He took a deep breath and went to his bed, falling face first into the soft comforters. His hands gripped his pillow as he shifted his head to the side and pulled his legs closer to his chest.
Am I betraying your memory? Ice thought to himself. One hand traveled from the pillow and gripped the clothing over his chest. Ice squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head.
“No,” he said aloud, almost trying to convince himself. “But he makes me…”
He shook the thoughts away and turned his body around on the bed so that he laid flat on his back. The encounter with Phoenix awoke a decade old memory within Ice’s mind, a time before his sight left him. He could still picture him so clearly. He could still remember the soft young body pinned beneath his, large beautiful eyes staring back at his with a child-like innocence. The boy from Ice’s memory smiled sweetly, his body still, undeterred by his vulnerable position. In silence, the boy waited for Ice’s next move with complete trust.
“No, I can’t be with you yet.” Ice imagined the boy looking sad, but nodding slowly with understanding. “Just a little longer.”
His eyes drooped and he fell asleep, his dreams filled not with the memory of his fallen love, but of a faceless young pilot.
Kozar – Farui’s Quarters
“You wanted to see me, sir?” Kiri asked as he stepped into his commander’s room. The room was similar to his, only slightly bigger in size. The young Taetren’s eyes found his commander sitting on the couch that was centered in the middle of the main area.
“Yes and lock the door,” Farui commanded. Kiri did what he was told and went to Farui’s side, sitting down next to him. Kiri’s large blue eyes watched his commander curiously until Farui turned to face him.
“Nothing is official yet, but I have received word of our first mission,” Farui began, speaking lowly so that Kiri had to lean in closer to hear him.
“Really? What is it?” Kiri asked, unable to conceal the excitement in his voice.
“You must tell no one, promise me this,” Farui stated sternly, eyes narrowing. Kiri nodded.
“Of course, you have my word.”
“Good.” Farui continued. “My father has informed me that the Purgatory has begun sending valuable data on the Vinci I colony. It’s exactly what we need to get an upper hand on this war. A plan is already beginning to form. We will launch with the Beilond I and destroy Vinci I.”
“Is the new data really enough to give us the edge we need to destroy Vinci I?” Kiri questioned, not believing his ears.
“Yes, it has already found several flaws in the colony’s design. It will be a grand victory for us.”
“Yes,” Kiri breathed, thinking how much closer they will be to winning the war.
“And you,” Farui said, resting a hand on the younger prince’s shoulder. “You will be my second in command.”
Kiri’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open. “I…Farui…”
Without warning, the young prince threw his arms around his commander’s shoulders and buried his head into Farui’s chest. The older Taetren stiffened at first, but then relaxed and placed a hand on Kiri’s back. Kiri jumped at the small touch, suddenly realizing what he had just done. He squirmed out of Farui’s arms and turned around, not wanting his commander to see the embarrassed look on his face.
“I-I’m sorry. I…um…got carried away,” Kiri stuttered. Farui watched his young companion for a moment, contemplating on how different Kiri was from his brother. His heart burned thinking of what he was left with, a timid shadow of the man he had loved. Farui pushed the thoughts away as he moved closer to Kiri, running a hand through Kiri’s dark tresses.
“Do not hesitate to obtain the things you want,” Farui told him, placing both hands on his shoulders. Kiri finally lifted his head to face Farui.
“Thank you, for such an honor,” Kiri said, wanting to express his thanks in a more adult manner.
“Is that all you wanted, to tell me your thanks?” With a small smile, Kiri nodded. Farui scoffed inwardly. His innocence is sickening, he thought to himself. A shaky hand rested on Farui’s cheek, the soft fingers making small strokes.
“Is there anything you want, Farui?” The older prince didn’t have to look into those naive blue eyes to know there was nothing sexual implied in that question. He pulled the easily flustered boy into an embrace and whispered into his ear.
“I want the humans to pay for what they did to Maeyin,” Farui answered. Kiri looked up at the mention of his older brother. “And…” Farui paused and pulled back a little to observe Kiri’s flushed face. Despite his misgivings of Kiri’s bashfulness, he was perfect for his plans. Loyal, competent and expendable. “And I have you already, don’t I?”
Farui didn’t wait for an answer. He leaned in and captured Kiri’s lips with his own. It was a simple, chaste kiss that ended quickly, leaving Kiri completely dazed.
“Yes,” Kiri finally answered as he rested his head against Farui’s shoulder. “You already have me.”
Purgatory – Elteo’s Quarters
Elteo waited patiently at his desk for his call to go through. After several minutes, a Taetren female with midnight blue hair and dark eyes appeared on the communicator’s visual display.
“What is it, Elteo?” Chosa asked her voice a little terse.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, Chosa,” Elteo began. “It’s about Ice.”
“Again? I have nothing new to say on that matter,” Chosa replied sternly.
“It’s different this time. He’s been acting strange all of a sudden.”
“In our failed battle with the Hero’s Legend, he fought against a pilot in a custom machine, but he held back. He even let the pilot escape.” Chosa urged Elteo to continue. “I confronted him about it, but he refused to give me a straight answer. And earlier today, he infiltrated Vinci I and returned with a bizarre mood. He went immediately to his room and hasn’t come out yet. He told me not to disturb him unless it was an emergency.”
“It will pass,” Chosa answered knowingly. “Ice knows better than to let his personal problems interfere with his work.”
“Has he done something like this before?” Elteo inquired, curious to know how she arrived at that conclusion so quickly.
“Do you not remember when he came to us as a child and he often had periods when he fell into depression?”
“Yes, but he was only 16 then. Within a few years he grew out of it.”
“It is hard for the human heart to forget pain.” Chosa sighed. “I will speak to him about the pilot he fancies. For now, just leave him be.”
“Alright, Chosa.” They said their goodbyes and the connection ended.
Hero’s Legend – Alverdine’s Office
“Heisler, you son of a bitch!” Alverdine yelled at the holographic image of a middle aged man wearing a blue decorated uniform.
“Is that how you greet old allies these days, screaming expletives?” General Heisler replied calmly. He was a handsome man, somewhat faded with age and possessed pale blonde hair that was slicked back from his face and steel blue eyes. He shifted in his seat to face Kyros, who stood behind Alverdine. “General Kyros, you look well. Oh, do prefer Kyros or Adonis now?”
“Kyros is fine,” the younger man replied.
“Oh, you’re speaking again. Good, perhaps you could help alleviate the situation.”
“Senator Hillstrom spilled his guts, but I know you didn’t tell him the whole story. So tell me great general of the First War about this assassination plot,” Alverdine demanded.
“Certainly,” Heisler replied with a kind tone. “I’m sure Hillstrom told you that your arrival at Vinci I was trap set to thwart those assassins, correct?”
“Yes,” Alverdine replied impatiently.
“That was only half of it. My true goal was to test you two,” Heisler continued.
“Test us?” Kyros questioned softly.
“Yes. You see, I needed to know for sure that your abilities hadn’t diminished over the peaceful years,” Heisler explained.
“Did we pass?” Alverdine asked sarcasm in her words.
“Of course,” the general replied, ignoring the woman’s sarcasm. “You saved Senator Hillstrom, killed the assassins and brought the Imperial Victoria safely to Vinci I.”
Alverdine took a deep breath and began to speak in a calmer manner. “Heisler, we are not children any more, nor are we your pawns to manipulate.”
Kyros watched his partner’s frustration before turning to the hologram. “Perhaps, alerting us beforehand could prevent another situation like this from happening.”
“I apologize for the inconvenience I have brought upon you,” Heisler sympathized. “The training wheels are off. I now have for you your next mission.”
“Which is?” Alverdine asked with a raised eyebrow.
“To destroy Purgatory.”