Go read Box: Detach instead!
I did not enjoy the cowering looks given to me by my subordinates every time I passed them by.
The glare in my eyes must look like hell incarnate to them, and I could not blame them.
However, this was a special situation, and perhaps for the first time in a few years, I felt the need to rein in my team and take absolute control over everything that will happen in the following three days.
Three days before Larius send down his thralls to do a proper inspection of the equipment I had ordered just last night.
My assistant, Lyla, emerged from beneath a dungeon-like stairwell, toting a medium-range stun rifle. Alongside her was Leki, a stream of golden crystals between his fingers.
Both gave me resolute nods and joined my side. As a synchronised unit, we burst through the heavy metal gate standing far above the warehouse abreast.
I scoffed not a moment later at how theatrical our entrance was.
Was that really necessary?
I stalked forward and peered down at the heaps upon heaps of wooden pallets, and immediately noticed where one such pallet seemed to be misplaced.
"Has the thief been caught yet?" I asked through gritted teeth, fully realizing just how much trouble would come with this security blunder. "Leki, give me status updates."
"Sure." The older man snapped his fingers to retract the crystals back into his pocket where they were stored in abundance. A tablet flipped up out of nowhere, and that became the only prominent source of light under the night sky of beautiful Chicago. "The thief's gone."
"Be serious, Leki." I pressed a hand to my face as a wave of nausea rolled over me.
"He's gone. Vanished into thin air. Wiped off the face of the Earth. How many more Earth proverbs would you like me to say?" Leki quipped back at me, and this stirred Lyla to butt in as usual.
"I don't think that's what a proverb is. Aren't those idioms?" Lyla giggled. "It seems as if I have bested you in the language of English."
"Enough! This is important!" My two assistants-slash-bodyguards stopped their light-hearted banter at my snap. Their bodies froze unnaturally, and at the sight of everyone last Aerilosac below us stiffening, I cracked my neck to glance over at Lyla.
Her eyes blinked at me worriedly, which finally reminded me take a deep breath to calm myself down.
Then, both of my assistants slumped in their standing position, free from my control over their bodies. The Aerilosacs beneath looked up at me cautiously before returning to their duties.
Leki rubbed his waist sorely before he gave me his signature glare of disappointment.
"I am sorry about that. This is not effective at all." I breathed into my hands out of frustration. Lyla moved closer to me and draped a hand over my shoulder, leaning forward to grin at me.
"Don't worry, Commanding Officer! Three days is definitely enough for us to find the thief and recover our tech! We got this!" She pumped her fist enthusiastically, and I managed to hide my smirk within the dark.
Her optimism could come off as overbearing on many others, so she had bounced around from Hong Kong to Peru for an entire year before finally ending up under my command. It was her preference, too, to stay with me.
I needed to stop pushing on them unintentionally. I doubt I would like it if I was suddenly frozen in place by an unseen force.
Leki placed both hands on the fence that overlooked the rest of the warehouse, and began shouting orders at running Aerilosac soldiers to search the perimeter once more.
I watched his dominating presence from behind, and wondered for the fifth time today why I was given the position of Commanding Officer when such an Aerilosac like Leki existed on the warship.
By all accounts, it should have been him who took my spot.
Perhaps it should have been.
But now that I had the opportunity, I should be utilizing it well in order to fulfil my wish.
This blunder would not make its way up to Larius' ears.
Think. Where would the thief go?
As I pushed Lyla aside gently, I joined Leki and stared down at the three entrances that were now under heavy guard after the events that transpired just an hour ago. Each gate had two Aerilosacs with their respective troupes of Losac soldiers as security, and yet, if the thief was able to sneak past one guard, two guards may not make much a difference either.
Though, I did not think the thief would risk his life to come into the warehouse a second time. It would be foolish now that everyone was on guard.
So, what was the purpose for coming into an Aerilosac base to steal the highest tier of new technology? If the thief had managed to make it into the warehouse and snuck past all of the security cameras-
No, not all.
The first thing that Leki had given me when the alarm was sounded was a footage of the thief rolling the crate of tech past one of the tighter corridors underneath us, bypassing the Aerilosac taking stock of the inventory at the time.
In hindsight, perhaps I should have assigned one or two more patrolling guards for the new wares.
I had taken the tablet from Leki's back pocket, ignored his complaints, and reviewed the footage again with a couple of swipes.
It had seemed far too improbable.
The thief had on a black outfit that covered him from the neck down. His face was hidden behind a black bandanna, leaving only his eyes and black hair, plus a small backpack slung over one shoulder like a hoodlum. This was the only angle where he was caught on camera, and every other security measure we had showed no signs of disruption. Meaning, this thief had expertly maneuvered his way through the warehouse undetected and uncaught on all the sensors... except for this one camera.
And how? The thief could never have seen the Aerilosac turning the corner and hid himself behind a pallet so early. Perhaps it was by sound? That could have been possible, but the way he simply strode to the left as if he had already planned to do so from the beginning seemed off to me. It was almost like he knew that the Aerilosac would be walking in front of him.
After the Aerilosac past the thief obliviously, he simply left and turned the corner where the Aerilosac came from while still rolling his mini pallet of stolen technology. Before he had disappeared from view, the thief turned around and stared straight into the camera, where I got a decently clear view at his eyes.
The cameras that I had installed in the warehouse were of the utmost quality, and so even in the dark, his eyes and hair was captured quite clearly. They reflected a sheen of dull purple light, and it almost seemed like the thief wanted to do something about the camera, but then just walked off while ruffling his hair.
It seemed like he panicked there for a second, but he dealt with it perfectly fine in the end.
Whatever happened next was anyone's guess. Which exit did he leave from? How did he get into the warehouse? Why did he steal that crate of technology specifically? If he was no Aerilosac, he would not even be able to use it.
Unless the thief was an Aerilosac. But then, who would it be? From the other Divisions? Maybe it was the Hong Kong Division that orchestrated this break-in, but that begged another slew of questions that I did not want to think about. Perhaps it was the Peru Division?
I slapped my hand to my face, and Lyla squeaked.
Right now, there were two things I needed to prioritize above all else.
One, to retrieve the technology. Two, to find the thief either dead or alive. There was a chance that the thief was trying to sell the technology to... someone. It just did not seem probable that he would steal it for his own use. The other Divisions had no need to steal from me. They could simply order it from above like I had. The only reason would be to antagonize me and my Division, but why would they do that in the first place?
Could someone here be planning an insurgency to overthrow my command?
"Yes?" he said curtly as he turned around to face me.
"I need you to get me hotdogs. Now."
"Which kinds?" My faithful assistant was already halfway back into the hallway where we emerged from, and I did not look back at him as I yelled out my reply.
"Any kind will do! I want four of the same kind!"
Lyla chuckled. "Four? You're getting a little bit serious for this, aren't you?"
"Not just normal serious. If we want to keep our positions as the Fifth Commanding Officer and Fifth First Officer of Earth, then finding the technology is absolutely paramount to fulfilling our wish." I scowled to myself, a signal for Lyla to follow me downstairs. "And I was planning on commencing phase one of our plan tomorrow. What a waste of time."
My assistant stiffened up, and gripped her rifle closer to her slender body. "Do you suspect foul play here, Commanding Officer?"
"After Leki returns with the food supplements, I will need the two of you to run a few missions for me discretely."
"What is it?" she said as a platoon of crystalline Losac soldiers marched by us, and the Aerilosac donning full armour at the end nodded his greetings to me. "You need me to interrogate and kill someone here?"
"No. That will be Leki's duty. For you, tracker..." We reached the ground level of the warehouse, and the automatic doors slid open smoothly, and the two of us walked side by side through the maze of boxes and pallets. "You will be responsible for priority two: Find the thief and bring him to me. Alive, if possible."
"What's priority one?"
"Retrieving the stolen apparel."
"Isn't that the same, then? If we find the thief, then we'll find the tech with it."
"Hopefully, it would be that simple."
"What will you do, then? I don't think you'll be sitting in the office for this one."
I smiled at Lyla just as we exited through the Northeast entrance to the warehouse, and the misty and cold air of Chicago brushed past our faces.
It was just early November, but I did not remember it being this cold last year during this time.
As usual, we were met with a single dirt path that led inconspicuously away from the warehouse and into the suburbs of Chicago, where Leki must be in right now.
We were in Chicago, alright. Just not in the central area, like how some other Division Commanding Officers chose to locate their Compounds in.
Sometimes, I wondered if choosing this warehouse as a base was the best and most logical choice.
At the time, it made perfect sense. No one was ever going to break-in and intentionally steal from the Golden Legion. The Wandering Conquest of the universe.
Of course, that was if the thief knew exactly who we were. Great Eradicators of many a races in the known universe, the unstoppable Aerilosacs. I doubt anyone would intentionally steal from us.
Would it be an accident, then? If the thief was working alone, then he might not know who we are, and he would eventually be tracked down without much hassle.
If he was working for someone else - a possible insurgent or another Aerilosac group - then he might not know who we were as well.
Regardless, the thief would be found eventually if he was not fully prepared for the wrath of the Aerilosacs.
Which was why I found this situation extremely dire.
Because one hour was an awfully long time for us, and none in my Division had located the thief yet. That would mean he was actively avoiding us, and successful in that department. The only way he could evade us was if he had taken extra precautions and had not assumed we were just normal humans.
We would be monitoring cell phone activities in a fifteen kilometre radius, locking down all major exits to the area with Aerilosacs disguised as police officers to scan for the stolen tech - which all had a recognition software inbuilt when scanned - and scouring every last nook and cranny in this neighbourhood to find him. We had the blueprints to all the buildings here.
Yet they have failed. One hour should be more than enough to find him, with all of our technology and abilities.
How could one person evade us like this?
That meant he did knew what we were capable of.
Now, could an ordinary human do that? The thief had to be an Aerilosac... or someone from a third party.
Lyla and I were pacing our way along the dirt path aimlessly when I stopped to think, a memory from when I had been in the archives of the Lyosa surfacing to the forefront of my mind.
Human eyes do not shine purple, fool.
Nor did they reflect the colour purple, and coupled with the knowledge that there was not a single purple light in the warehouse, that thief might have just gave himself away.
And it could not have been the camera going fuzzy. Aerilosac technology could not be so easily scrambled or distorted, unless of course, the thief had unconventional means.
The purple was clear. Nothing went haywire in the recording.
"What are you going to do?" Lyla asked again when I took too long to reply, getting drowned out by my own thoughts. She bounced up and down and waved her goodbyes to the many plain-clothed Aerilosac running past us to scour the neighbourhood, their leaping figures tearing through the trees like monsters in the dark.
A fitting metaphor.
I finally spoke.
"In fact, I will be sitting in my office. Now more so than ever."
Lyla looked at me quizzically with her head tilted. "Why? I thought you would come help me out."
"I have an idea of who the thief might be."
She shot up and pointed her rifle in the air to shake me violently, which caused a few soldiers to look at us terrifyingly. "What? You know? Tell me!"
"Stop shaking me, and perhaps I will let you in on the brilliance of my own mind." Lyla immediately let go of me, and I tugged at my shirt collar to readjust it back to normal.
For a sixteen year-old Aerilosac soldier, she sure did not act like one. Even a ten year-old graduate acted more professionally than she did.
"You fool. Now that I have escaped your grasp, you will never capture me again. Search for the thief, and contact me when you find his trail," I said, pushing the crystals she stored in her pockets to keep her away from me as I turned around and headed back into the warehouse.
Lyla blinked, and in that short little span of time, I had already ran past the two security guards and through the entrance. She waved her hands frantically far above her head as she tried to chase me, but I whirled around and clapped once, causing the crystal-infused metal gates to slam in her face.
She banged on the gates while shouting derogatory words that made no sense when strung together, and so, I simply laughed and went up into my office with hope starting to grow in my heart.
I tossed the tablet over to my leather armchair, and felt a little twinge of joy when it landed perfectly onto the soft material rather than the mahogany flooring which would surely damage the device. I had done it without using my crystals, and it was perhaps the most satisfying thing I have done in weeks.
It was now five in the morning, and after nearly two hours of scrolling through countless irrelevant data in the archives, I had finally found the catalogue in which information of the many alien races were stored.
Every last race stored in the archives has already been eradicated by the Aerilosacs, and I never would have imagined that there could be other races here on Earth other than humanity and us.
Still, I could not confirm it. All I had seen were the faint purple eyes and the unorthodox way the thief moved, and nothing more.
It could be that I was just jumping onto conclusions early, but it would be just as foolish to not expect something like this and to get surprised later on.
I leaned back and set my head gently on the armrest of my couch, staring up at the new ceiling fan while revising everything I had just researched up on. I repositioned my head until it was right beneath the fan, the devious creation of Sony Electronics.
Humans do create interesting things from time to time.
"Fifty years ago, the Aerilosacs - specifically, Larius - conducted another conquest on the planet Raxar, in which the Raixien race was thought to be fully eradicated. Like many other conquests in the archives, the confirmation of their extermination could not be carried out, and it had always been deemed unimportant to chase after any escapees that might have escaped the eradication," I said out loud, making sure I was getting my memory straight.
I never asked why Larius became the living embodiment of eradication.
We Commanding Officers do not need to understand why we do everything that we do.
Simply follow the orders of the Commander, who follows the orders of the High Council.
It never really occurred to me that perhaps a few Raixiens could have made it to Earth fifty years ago.
With their centuries-old lifespan and their alikeness to humans, they could easily fit into society here.
Just like us Aerilosac, with a little bit of hair dye, coloured eye contacts and practice.
Though, if they had black hair naturally, they would not need to hide it like we do.
How many of them were here, then? Could it be just that one thief? Or was there an entire colony of them? That could explain why the thief came to steal our technology. They could be planning their retaliation against the Aerilosac for destroying their home fifty years ago.
I had heard stories like these before from the other warships. Old refugees were discovered hiding in other planets, and they were then swiftly taken care of to avoid them causing hassle in the future. It never ended well for the escapees, and if I reported this incident to Larius, he could report it back to the High Council, and they would send their own investigators to smoke out the Raixiens.
It would be quick and simple for everyone, and this would likely blow over in my favour. Hopefully.
... But should I do that?
The Raixiens. I remembered reading about them about six years ago, when I was still in the academy on the Lyosa. Eradication logs had always been an interest of mines, though not for the reason of death and destruction. I had simply enjoyed reading about the many different races and abilities that this strange universe contains. The Raixiens were just another race that had failed to stop us.
"Black eyes, black hair. Nomadic race, type four civilization," I recited out loud as I tapped my fingers on the soft couch rhythmically. "Biological structure near identical to Aerilosac and Humanity. Conflicting existing records of ability. Ability details unknown."
That had confused me the most when I re-read the archives. The Raixiens were one of the few races eradicated where they had not made much of a resistance, and yet their ability remained unknown to even the brightest of scholars in the Empire. Most scholars, however, agreed on the name of their ability, the information donated by an anonymous Aerilosac back before the conquest began.
That was the only concrete information on their ability that I had found. To split the hypothesis of the archives into three general concepts, some records said it allowed them to see the future. Some said it was a mobile weapon that lets them fire rays of death from their eyes, and some said it was a recessive ability that did nothing at all since the last couple of centuries.
I had laughed at the second proposition back when I first read about it. Whoever made that theory was probably dead now.
I personally found all three to be fairly unlikely. If their eyes were weapons, then they would have put up a fantastic resistance. If it did nothing... then it would not have been so highly spoken of even before the conquest began. And finally, if it could see the future, then how could they have been eradicated so easily? Why would they not have tried to prepare or escape from their planet? It could be that their ability is limited, but-
That did sound like the thief. He did manage to hide pre-emptively before that Aerilosac turned the corner. And he avoided all other security measures except for the last camera, and he had seemed a bit taken aback when he noticed it at the end of the recording.
It could have been a mistake on his part, not using his ability to the fullest.
So, if the thief was truly a Raixien, then I could not treat this situation like I would normally.
I could not use the standard methods of hunting on someone who might know exactly how we operate. I would have to go out of my way to figure out what this Raixien - or Raixiens - want.
It really could be simple retaliation.
In that case, what would their next move be?
I got up from the couch and walked over to the window, where the night sky still took the centre stage. It would be daybreak soon, and I wondered whether Lyla had found tracks to the thief, and is now chasing after him.
She is the best tracker out of all five Divisions on Earth, after all.
I chomped down on my fourth and final hotdog of the day, and as I glared down at the neon lights of the nearby motel and restaurants on the streets, a new plan began to form in my mind.
"Raixiens, huh?" I muttered, and stayed by the window side until the crack of first dawn crept into my eyes.