On Etrion, the battle for the scarred planet begins, and Brock Raith makes a desperate move. (FB)
About this creation
#3; The Art of War
Deep underground, Brock Raith fumed. Around him, council soldiers and advisors busied themselves, hurrying about like a hive of ants eager to please the queen. He glared at the holomap before him, as if his anger and rage would change the tide of the battle.
The War For Etrion had begun, and The Marauder Council was losing.
They had the people against them – Jay Arathon had seen to that, and The Claws of Etrion were displaying vastly superior planning and tactics. That would’ve been bad enough, but The Collective were hammering everything he had at every opportunity.
His attention was wrenched from the map when a subordinate ran up to him, bearing yet more bad news.
Messenger: “Another one,” the man panted, “we’ve lost another one.”
Jay marched forward, a torrent of words flowing from his mouth in the language of the Singers. The power flowed forth from the words, manipulating and twisting the world around him, bending to his will. Bullets exploded before they could reach him, or else vanished into another dimension, or disintegrated into dust.
Behind him, a platoon of Collective soldiers marched, plasma erupting from the ends of their spears, making short work of any target they struck. The Council soldiers fell back from them – they were poorly paid mercenaries, with no loyalties, and they hadn’t been hired to fight the most feared force in the galaxy.
Within minutes, the room was theirs, as was the entire outpost. The Council soldiers hadn’t put up much of a fight, which wasn’t surprising – ever since the campaign began, The Marauder Council had been losing ground fast. Nothing they could throw at the onslaught of Collective forces was effective.
Jay: “Round up the survivors,” he ordered, waving a hand at the few mercenaries that had survived, “and clear the bodies. We’ll want this outpost operational as soon as possible.”
The Collective soldiers sprang to attention and began to carry out the commands obediently. Jay plucked a holo-communicator from his pocket and switched it on. A shimmering blue image of Eris sprang to life, standing in the Council Chamber on The Spire.
Eris: “Jay! Are you alright?”
Jay: “I’m okay. We’ve just captured yet another outpost from the Marauders, and Father Ajwain is harassing their camps, keeping them on the backfoot.”
Eris seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. She knew that Jay could handle himself – he always did – but still, he was at war, millions of miles away, of course she was worried.
Eris: “Look after yourself, okay? I love you.”
Jay: “Of course I will. I love you too.”
Collective Forward Operating Base
Jay watched, standing in the sand, as the Phoenix blasted through the humid air, engines roaring in the distance. It closed the distance in seconds, and the heat from the immense power of the ship washed over Jay as it began to land.
Once the ship had touched down, Basher, Caesar and Jace disembarked, marching down the landing ramp and striding towards Jay. Jay embraced Basher, hugging the bigger man tight.
Jay: “How did it go?” He asked.
Basher: “Fine. Another bombing run, another burned out husk of a base. It’s-“
But before the cyborg could finish his sentence, Jay held up a hand and stopped him. Jay closed his eyes, as if his attention had suddenly been wrenched away and diverted elsewhere. Tuning his enhanced ears to block out certain noises, Basher attempted to figure out what had distracted his friend – was it simply something no one else could hear, or some form of Collective magic?
Jay’s eyes snapped open as quickly as they had shut, and he continued with a sense of urgency.
Jay: “A distress signal. A few miles north of here. I couldn’t quite decipher it, but it seemed…scared…terrified.”
Jace: “You want me to alert the troops? We could have a squad there in-“
Jay: “No. It won’t be quick enough. Caesar, with me, we’ll go and check it out. Basher, Jace, gather a squad and meet us there as soon as you can. I’ll send the coordinates when I’m sure of the location.”
Within minutes, Jay and Caesar found themselves trudging through the desert, looking for…well, they didn’t have any idea. Caesar had been apprehensive about the mission – they were there for war, they didn’t have time for random errands – but he hadn’t voiced his dissidence.
To Jay, following the distress signal seemed to be a matter of principle. As if it was more than just an endangered civilian, caught in the crossfire.
Caesar: “So what’s so important about this signal, anyway?” He asked.
Jay: “I’m not sure…but I felt something. Something powerful. I have to be here, it’s crucial to the war.”
Finally, they were able to make out a figure in the distance. He seemed to be walking towards them, his face obscured by ragged robes, as if he’d cobbled together anything possible to protect him from the elements.
Caesar: “He must be sweltering in there…”
Jay: “Yeah,” Jay replied, throwing his hands in the air and waving them, “Hey! Hey! Over here!”
The man – at least, they assumed it was a man – seemed to notice them at last, and altered his shambling course slightly. Staggering and lurching, like he was drunk, the man got closer.
Abruptly, he stopped about twenty yards away from Jay and Caesar. Although they couldn’t see his face under the robes, Jay felt as though the man were studying them, eyes piercing him.
At the last second, Jay felt a pang of fear, and realised he’d been wrong.
Jay: “It’s a trap!” He yelled, but it was too late.
The man in the robes yanked the tatty fabric hood from his face, letting the robes fall to the ground. Brock Raith stood before them, wearing a smirk not unlike that which Jay had seen on his face years ago, when Raith had tried to kill him.
From the surrounding desert, Marauder Council soldiers seemed to emerge, as if peeling themselves up from the sand itself. The force was numerous, and heavily armed. Suddenly, they had more rifles levelled at them than they could count.
Brock Raith took several steps towards them, his previous loping gait replaced with a confident swagger.
Raith: “Scrim indeed, Mr Destino. Tell me, how is your daughter?”
Caesar: “You bastard!” The former mercenary bellowed, disregarding his weapons and charging towards Raith, a great war cry erupting from his throat.
Raith waved a hand. Jay saw the first bullet take Caesar in the knee, the second enter somewhere in his thigh, and the third burst from his shoulder. He lost track of the others.
Jay wanted to scream, to try and save his friend, but somehow, he couldn’t. As if he was frozen.
What was it that kept him rooted in place? Fear, was it?
Raith: “Surrender, Jay Arathon.”
No…not fear, something else. Was he subconsciously stalling for time?
Raith: “You are surrounded. Your friend will bleed out in minutes, and your reinforcements aren’t close enough. Surrender, Jay Arathon.”
No. No it wasn’t that…with a sense of certainty, Jay realised the emotion that was keeping him going, keeping him from cracking. It was rage. Rage, red hot, burning inside him like the molten core of a volcano ready to burst.
Jay smiled slightly, a twisted, dark grimace.
The air around him began to shimmer, glowing with twisting and convulsing swirls of energy.
Jay: “All I am surrounded by is corpses.”
And then, like a dragon finally unchained, Jay attacked.
Very nice work mate! Always great to see Eris and co back in action, and that ending has left me filled with anticipation :D. Awesome!However, I do have one question: what month does this episode take place in? Cheers!