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Door by khronosabre
Door
Can you tell I'm feeling real creative about titles?

I kind of love the Carthian space station as a setting. Too bad -REDACTED FOR SPOILERS-

I also love the way Leta and Fiear stare at each other as if no one's going to notice that they're totally in love with each other still. Dorks.

Caelum Lex: A Sci-Fi Web Serial
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“B squadron repor--bzzt--injuries and–enemy sightings on--bzzt–”

“–multiple explosions at–east and northeast positions of–”

“–the hell is happening out there? Someone get me a–bzzt–”

As he sprinted down the hallway, Fiearius growled and hit the COMM in his ear, which had erupted with panicked voices and broken questions since the moment the explosions began. The COMM was still refusing to fully function, but he heard enough to know what was going on: chaos.

The explosions in the city, Dez’s plan, whatever it was, was no longer his concern. Carthis could handle it. And if they couldn’t — well, he’d handle it later. Leta was safe, Quin and his fleet were still in the air, taking down Society warbirds and Harper had reported that the Dionysian was far from any of the attack points. Of course. She was parked next to Dez’s ship. Even he wouldn’t risk his only way out of here.

For now, Fiearius had a task to focus on. He couldn’t spare the brainpower worrying about what was happening outside this building when what was happening within it was so important. He needed to get to the Councillor and off the damned woman before she was able to make another escape attempt. With her out of the way, what little defenses Ellegy had would crumble into disarray, giving the fleets above just enough leeway to score their victory.

Whatever rebellion Desophyles had planned would have to wait. One thing at a time.

Fiearius sprinted up the next stairwell, leaping groups of steps in single bounds, and charged through the next hallway. Up another set of stairs. How many of these were there? Another hallway to the next stairs, his pace never slowing, his feet pounding against the marble flooring. He had to be getting close now. This tower couldn’t go on forever. Out of the windows in each hall, he could see the city below grow smaller and smaller. Briefly, he thought about how much Leta would hate this, the heights and all. Maybe it was a good thing she wasn’t here with him.

The thought was just leaving his mind when he crested another step into a hallway and felt a sharp, white-hot pain sear through his upper arm. Fiearius staggered back down a few steps, clutching the spot that burned and stung and poured blood between his fingers. Another bullet flew dangerously close to his head and he backed up again, making sure to conceal his whole body from the apparently occupied hallway above him.

Gingerly, he moved his hand to survey the damage. It looked nasty, but the bullet had left what was essentially just a very deep scrape. He’d live. Gritting his teeth, he kneeled on the step and unholstered his gun. If this lady thought a few Society guards were going to keep her safe, she had another thing coming…

Carefully, he crept up the stairs one by one to peer over the surface of the landing at what he was dealing with. The moment his head lifted above the floor, another bullet flew above it.

Okay, so they were good Society guards. Still…

Fiearius backed up against the wall and lifted his head again, only enough to get a look at the hallway. Five agents, each armed with a familiar looking pistol with a librera branded onto the side of it. Society-issued, Fiearius realized with interest. He’d recognize that gun anywhere, he’d carried it around for nearly a decade. And he knew its ammunition carried the CID data of its owner. Data that, upon Fiearius’ death, would transfer his Verdant database directly to the wrist of whichever of these fuckers managed to off him.

Interesting. They seemed to be getting a little less picky about his successor these days.

Unfortunately for these particular agents, none of them were destined to be the next Verdant, Fiearius thought with some grim amusement as he cocked his own pistol, raised himself just enough to get a clear aim and shot the first woman right through the forehead. Kinda sad they thought they had a chance.

When he glanced up again, the remaining agents had taken cover behind the pillars, though he managed to hit an elbow or a knee, he couldn’t quite tell since he had to duck immediately to avoid the retaliation. Dez had brought a few flash grenades with him from the Dionysian. Too bad that piece of shit ran off with them, Fiearius grumbled internally.

He was readying his gun to take another shot (surely he could get them out of cover long enough to take them out) when a loud ringing went off in his ear, sharp and piercing and painful. The goddamn COMM. He hurriedly smacked the thing and Quin’s voice evened out.

“–ship comin’ in on your location,” she was saying.

“Well take it down, I’m busy here,” Fiearius snapped back as someone got brave and nearly landed another bullet in his shoulder. He shuffled further down the steps.

“Damn well tryin’, it ain’t goin’ down!” Quin shouted. “It’s headed lower than the others, I don’t think it–”

Her voice was cut off by a mighty crash up above and whatever she said next, if it even made it to the COMM in his ear, Fiearius ignored entirely. A tremendous wave of dust swept out from the landing and shattered glass flew and tumbled and scattered down the steps. Fiearius braced himself as tiny pieces slid across his skin and then charged up the steps to see the scene for himself.

The window in the hallway was gone and in its place, part of a ship jutted out into the space. A shiny jet black ship that the building folded out of the way to make room for, although not for long. The crash almost looked intentional. Almost. Except that as Fiearius stood on the precipice of the stairwell, he could see it starting to slip, ever so slowly, downward.

Through the cloud of debris, there was a cough and a hurried scrabbling as someone tried to right themselves. Fiearius aimed his gun in the direction of the noise, fully intending to stop them before they had the chance, but as he saw the figure of the agent start to rise, it wasn’t his finger that pulled the trigger, nor his gun that went bang.

The man sunk back to the ground as another bullet flew across the room and was met with the sounds of sliced flesh and a mortal groan. The ship in the wall lurched. One more gunshot from the ship’s hull echoed through the hallway. Fiearius watched a deep crack weave its way through the marble floor. The whole building moaned its distress as the vessel began to slip out of its hold.

It seemed to happen in slow motion. The black shape that had only just appeared in the wall began to disappear from it. At first, very gradually and then, quite suddenly, it was just gone, leaving in its place a gaping hole through which he could see the sky. The sky and the small agile form of a woman, leaping from her lost ship across the impossible gap of air, reaching out, desperately grasping for the edge of the floor that was left exposed to the elements. And Fiearius watched in amazement as her hands connected. She clambered up into what remained of the hallway and darted across it, throwing her back against the wall and breathing heavily.

Wind whipped through the floor now, viciously tearing at Fiearius’ skin and hair, the high altitude and newly made hole into the great big sky ripping the air from his lungs. But his focus was locked on the woman who was breathing heavily and clinging to the interior wall like her life depended on it. It took a moment of the dust settling, of the shock wearing off, for her to realize she was not alone here. And when their eyes met, recognition hit them both.

“Varisian,” Fiearius breathed as Ophelia’s eyes widened in horror. Finally forcing herself from the wall, she began stalking towards him and Fiearius immediately raised his gun. But she didn’t approach with anger or malice rather–concern?

“If you’re here to fucking set me on fire again–” Fiearius began to threaten, stepping backwards as she continued towards him, unphased by his weapon entirely.

“You can’t be here,” came her cold voice. “You have to go.”

Fiearius was lost. “What–”

“You have to–” she began again, but suddenly, behind her, the door at the end of the hallway swung open. A burst of wind blasted past the angular middle-aged woman standing in its frame. Her face was mostly in shadow, save for the cold stare that cut straight through the hallway towards Fiearius. He didn’t need to see the rest to know who was standing there. And he didn’t need another chance to waste. He shifted his gun away from Ophelia straight to the Councillor and fired.

It probably would have hit too, had Varisian not reached out and shoved his arm off mark half a second before the gunpowder lit.

The Councillor smiled and then laughed. “Varisian?” she called across to them, her voice nearly garbled by the wind and the outside sounds of battle it carried. “Kill him.”

Fiearius met Ophelia’s eyes just briefly and he could have sworn he saw a hint of apology there before she brandished a blade and attacked.

——————–

Leta didn’t argue when the Ellegian rebels escorted her and her team towards the neighborhood they had holed up in. She didn’t argue either when they were herded into the back room of a house that could have belonged to any normal Ellegian family. Nor did she argue when the woman who’d brought them all in told her she’d have to wait to speak with their leader.

No, Leta saved her arguing power for the exact moment when she was brought out of holding and into the house’s dining room to face Ezra Norran, the man she had been in contact with for over a month, the man Fiearius had been in contact with for many months and the man who had apparently decided to take his rebellion and flush it all away.

“What the hell are you doing?” she demanded the minute he looked across the room and locked eyes with her.

Ezra was an older man, lines marring his tired face, his greying hair pulled back into a ponytail. Still, despite his age, he looked like the kind of person you didn’t challenge to a fight, specifically because you’d lose.

He regarded Leta curiously, but said nothing so she went on, “Kidnapping Carthian forces? What exactly is that going to accomplish? We’re on your side. We’re here to help you. But you’re blowing up your own city and rounding us up.”

Still, Ezra remained silent, as did the other rebels standing around the table watching in some sort of wonder as Leta, finally exploring her rage and frustration, let out a bitter one-note laugh. “I hope to the gods you have some sort of plan here, at least an explanation for why you’re capturing your allies.”

The man blinked his grey eyes curiously. “Allies. That’s an interesting notion, isn’t it? From what I understood, Carthis had decided they wanted nothing to do with us.”

Leta opened her mouth to retort, but the words caught in her throat. It was true, after all. Carthis had denounced the Ellegian rebels and cut them out of the attack plans. But Fiearius hadn’t. Leta hadn’t. And from the messages they’d shared just before they’d abandoned the CORS, Ezra had known that. He’d agreed to continue supporting them. And yet…

“Look, Ms. Adler, don’t get me wrong,” he went on, moving around the table toward her and leaning against it. “I have a lot of respect for you and for Admiral Soliveré and what you’re trying to achieve. And I know, truly,” he held his hand over his heart, “that what you’re here for is the freedom of the Ellegian people. But forgive me if I feel the need to call a spade a spade. This?” He gestured vaguely towards the window, the outside, the burning city under attack. “This is not a rescue mission. This is an invasion.”

Leta wanted desperately to argue. To prove him wrong, to defend their purpose here, but she found she couldn’t. Not without lying. Or at least dramatically stretching the truth.

“Of course, we’ve no real ill intent towards Carthis and certainly not you,” Ezra continued. “The enemy of our enemy is our friend after all. We want the Society dismantled as much as you do and even as we speak, our forces are aiding yours in that fight. We’ll help win this battle. It’s just…what comes afterwards that I worry for.”

“And that’s why you’re kidnapping soldiers,” Leta finished for him, her tone still bitter. “As an insurance policy?”

“More like a bargaining chip,” Ezra corrected and though what he was saying made her angry, she couldn’t quite hate him for it. He spoke so earnestly, as genuine as he always had been in their messages, she couldn’t entirely fault him. “When the smoke clears and our victory is secured, it’s going to be us against a massive military force ready to sweep us out in one fell swoop. I need to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“But–Ezra, like this?” Leta rubbed her palms against her temples. “You know as well as I they’re going to just see this as an act of aggression. They’ll use it as a reason to attack you. They’ll just spin the entire planet as Society sympathizers.”

Ezra shrugged and said something that left Leta speechless. “Maybe we are.”

“What?”

“It’s different on Vescent, I know,” he tried to explain, pushing himself from the table. “The Society’s presence was new and imposing, something swooping in to take over an existing system. But on Ellegy? The Society isn’t some outside force taking over our government. It isour government. It’s a fundamental structure of the Ellegian way of life. There’s no one on this planet that doesn’t know someone within it. My own sister is the head of the Ellegian Department of Science and Technology. My father worked for fifty years in the Department of Transportation. My mother, the Department of Health. It’s not us versus them. It’s just us.”

Leta was shaking her head before he’d even finished. “But you’re arebellion, you’re fighting against the Society.”

“We’re fighting the current Society regime,” he corrected. “The one that’s lost sight of what Ellegy should and can be. Now I’ll admit that without the actions of you and even of Carthis in the rest of the Span, what we’ve started here wouldn’t have been possible. But nonetheless, this remains, at its heart, a civil war. And these supposed allies of yours offering ‘help’?” Now it was his turn to shake his head. “Opportunists.”

Leta could not point to any particular sentiment she disagreed with, but the entirety of it still left a foul taste in her mouth. Opportunists or no, Carthis was still the driving force behind this effort and this tiny rebellion hadn’t stood a chance against the Society fleets or even the ground forces without their intervention. And now acting like their help was an inconvenience? Attacking Carthian forces? On top of it all, lying about their allegiance until they had already arrived?

Leta grit her teeth. “We had an agreement, you and I. We were on the same page. We’d fight the Society together with Carthis and negotiate where things landed politically afterwards.”

“I know,” Ezra sighed. “And I’m sorry we neglected to tell you when that changed, I really am. But we couldn’t risk the overall plans falling through.”

There were few things Leta liked less than feeling used, but the uncomfortable feeling edging in on her from all sides was coming in a close second. “And dare I ask what made you change your mind?”

Ezra’s eyes flickered past her and Leta drew a deep breath as she turned around to find Dez standing in the corner of the room, arms crossed over her chest, watching in interest. “Of fucking course.”

“Careful with this one,” Dez advised Ezra, stepping out of the shadows. “Any harm comes to her, we can wave goodbye to our Plan A.”

Leta balled her fists at her side and lifted a brow at him. “Plan A?”

“You’ll see,” Dez assured her and then smiled emptily. “Welcome to Plan B though. I can tell you’re not a fan.”

Hardly in the mood to talk to Dez of all people, Leta spun back around on Ezra. “This is who you’re listening to now? Do you have any idea who he is?” She let out a groan and dragged her blood-stained hands down her face, not even wanting the answer. “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter who it came from. How could you even entertaina plan that involves blowing up your own city? How many people were hurt in those explosions? And for what? A distraction? How many had to die so you could get the edge on the Carthian troops?”

Beside her, she heard Dez open his mouth to speak, but she held up a finger to him and snapped, “If you even think of saying it was ‘necessary’ I swear I will take you down with my bare hands.” The man regarded her curiously for a moment and then obediently shut his mouth.

“But Ms. Adler, it was,” Ezra argued and she rounded on him with fury in her eyes. “If we hadn’t set off the explosions, we never could have made the extractions we needed and without the extractions, if Plan A fails, even if it succeeds, we’d have nothing to negotiate Carthis’ exit with.”

“So the people out there, your people, as you pointed out, that are dying and suffering, mean nothing? Instead of helping them, you’re blowing them up and hiding away with your political negotiation assets?”

“They don’t mean nothing,” Ezra argued. “But we have a bigger goal–”

“That will mean nothing if your planet is destroyed and dead,” Leta snapped.

“She’s not wrong,” put in Dez, to Leta’s deep shock, though she didn’t say it. “Both contingencies will be more successful with the support of the Ellegian populace.”

“Gods, even he agrees with me,” Leta growled, rolling her eyes and then seeking out the woman who had brought her in. “Where’s my pack?”

The woman looked startled and then searched around the room for someone to assist her, but no one did so she pointed down the hallway. “Eh–it’s in the storage room on the left, but–”

“Great,” Leta cut her off and headed back to the hall just as Ezra stuttered, “W–what are you doing?”

“Taking my stuff, freeing my med team and getting back out there,” Leta called back as she walked straight past the stunned guards into the storage room and sought out her medical bag. Slinging it over her shoulder, she made a pointed glance at the man guarding the holding room where her team was waiting. He nervously cast a glance at Ezra who didn’t seem to know what to do, and then Dez, who nodded. The door swung open and Leta smiled, heading back into the main room.

“And if anyone tries to stop me? Like this guy said,” she jutted her thumb at Dez, “You can wave goodbye to your Plan A.” Whatever that meant. It didn’t matter. There was work to be done and damned if she was just going to sit here as someone’s captive. She made for the door, her team, confused but ready to go, filling in behind her.

“Wait — is she — is she really?” Ezra sputtered in desperation and Leta could have sworn she heard Dez laugh appreciatively before he said, “I did warn you not to pick her up.”

—————–

Fiearius ducked beneath the arc of Ophelia’s blade, but left himself completely open for the mean right hook she delivered to his ribs straight after. He recoiled and lashed out for a counterattack that she easily side-stepped to slash at him again.

Fiearius had fought Ophelia before, a few times actually, but this time something was different. The woman’s style could be categorized only as ‘relentless.’ Even back in his days in Internal, she was known for her ability to just keep going and going and going without a pause for breath. ‘Inhuman’ was a word often assigned to her, although only behind her back. Fiearius had often gotten the impression she didn’t like the description.

Relentless and inhuman, however, were not applicable now. Though she was currently swinging a blade furiously in the direction of his abdomen, Fiearius sensed something surprising as he stumbled backwards away from her: hesitation.

There was a subtle hint of distraction in her eyes as she continued towards him, this time slashing at his leg which he slid out of the way and used the momentum of to pummel forward with his fist. And though she was paying attention enough to dodge him, her elbowing counterattack was clearly delayed and not even aimed at a vital organ. She had made a few contacts in this scuffle, but Fiearius was still mostly intact and not out of any skill of his own. He was a scrappy fighter and could hold his own against normal brunt force, but Varisian? She was a creature of grace. And distracted or not, she should have been kicking his ass.

So why was she holding back? Why had she wanted him to leave? What was with that look she’d given him? were all questions he might have wondered had he not been too busy trying not to fall down the stairs she’d managed to back him up against.

He tried in vain to raise his arm enough to get even a decent shot with his gun, but Ophelia’s blade came down on his wrist, forcing his hand back. Fleetingly, as he used her momentary preoccupation to slide away from the stairwell’s edge, he caught glimpse of the Councillor at the other end of the hall. She leaned against the doorframe, her dress whipping around her ankles from the wind, watching with her chin propped in her hand and a smile curling her lips.

She was fucking enjoying this, he realized, narrowly avoiding having his shoulder sliced open.

That fucking asshole.

Fueled by a sudden spurt of rage, Fiearius looked back at Ophelia, coming at him again with her weapon and felt that familiar thought rise into his head: fuck it. She may have been faster, but he was still bigger. He tensed himself and ran straight at her.

The collision hurt even more than he had anticipated as her blade cut through his shirt and into the flesh of his side, but it had worked. He planted his feet firmly in the ground as Ophelia staggered backwards, no match for his full force. He gripped his gun and raised it again, but not at her. Fuck her, she wasn’t what he was here for. He spun around and aimed at the woman in the doorway whose expression flickered from amusement to, infuriatingly, curiosity. It wouldn’t last long, he thought to himself. Time to end this.

His finger pulled the trigger just as another force plowed into him from the side. The bullet shattered the top of a pillar in a cloud of plaster.

Smaller she may have been, but unprepared as he was for Ophelia leaping on him, Fiearius lost his footing in an instant and the two of them tumbled to the marble floor. She seized his wrist and twisted until the pistol fell from his grip then kneed him in the ribs. She wanted to wrestle? Fine.

Fiearius ripped his arm from her grasp and pushed, flipping her off of him and onto her back where he pinned her down and returned the favor, forcing her blade from her hand to clatter onto the ground. She struggled with her hands for a moment, desperate to release herself, but without the advantage of weight or gravity, she was stuck. That is, until she realized he’d accidentally left a key opening available for her to kick.

As Fiearius recoiled, resisting the urge to howl in pain, he thought he heard something that only made this worse. Laughter? Seriously? It was bad enough that he was rolling around on the floor with this goddamn woman trying to kill him, but this Councillor had the audacity to think it was funny? He’d felt some sympathy for the Ascendian official. A little respect even for the Synechdan, managing to stay hidden in plain sight for so long. But this one? This was the first Councillor since Vescent he’d wanted to murder so fucking badly.

Which was probably why, after fending off Ophelia for another few seconds, when he was finally granted just a split second of reprieve after getting in a punch to her collarbone, instead of going for another attack as he should have, he stretched his arm out in a desperate reach for his gun. Just shoot her, that’s all he wanted to do. Shoot that damn Councillor and finish this.

But his fingertips never touched the gun. It was the wrong move. It put him off balance, it gave Ophelia  the edge, and when she put her palms on his chest and shoved, he didn’t have the chance to resist. Within instants, he was on his back again, pinned to the floor by her knee with her gun pressed against his forehead.

Neither of them moved. Fiearius stared up at her, breathing heavily. She stared back, unreadable as ever, her face stone. The laughing, thank the gods, had stopped, but now the sound of clicking heels on the floor met his ears. They stopped a few feet away and a barking voice snapped, “I gave you an order, Varisian. Kill him.”

Ophelia still didn’t move. Her shoulders were rising and falling hard, her nostrils flaring with each breath. She continued to meet his gaze, unwavering.

“Kill him!” shouted the Councillor again and this time, he saw Varisian ever so slightly flinch. Then, she took a deep breath and moved her gun from his head to his heart. She mouthed, “I’m sorry.” And fired.

Before he could move, before he could think, fire blasted cleanly through him, more painful than anything he’d felt before. And then — numbness spread through his limbs. Warm, wet blood started to seep over his skin and, dimly, he registered that he was probably in shock — he made a choking sound, he had to press his hand against the wound — his lungs were starting to feel heavy, full –

But then his thoughts became nothing. A curtain fell over his mind; he only saw noise. Ophelia, the Councillor, Ellegy, melted away, his head slumped back onto the ground. He exhaled one shaky last breath and then breathed no more.
Caelum Lex Pt. 3 Chapter 33: The Tower
Caelum Lex, the sci-fi, adventure, action, romance, space pirate serial! Chapter 33 of Part 3! In which Fiearius climbs a tower and Leta deals with being captured.

First: Caelum Lex Chapter 1: Medical Attention
Previous: Caelum Lex Pt. 3 Chapter 32: Ellegy
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Fiearius ducked his head below the rim of the Dionysian’s hull and squinted through the smoke that filled the landscape of Ellegy. The skyline was hazy, with dulled orange glows of fire atop its towers and spires where the Carthian bombs had landed. The sounds of the firefight above were drowned out where they were on the ground, but Fiearius had seen enough of it firsthand on the turbulent flight to the planet’s surface to know it was still going strong.

The boom of another direct hit met his ears and a wave of air and smoke blasted across his face. The ground shuddered. A black Society fighter ship appeared from the fog and zoomed over the Dionysian, followed shortly by a Carthian warbird, firing shot after shot at its prey.

One-man fighters, Fiearius thought with amusement. Most all of what the Society had left. As Arsen had predicted, the Society had taken their knowledge of the CORS’ whereabouts and set about striking it as hard as they could. Ellegy hadn’t been left truly undefended, the Carthian dreadnaughts had had a rough go of it taking out the surface defense systems, but without Society destroyers swarming the skies, the task had been at least possible. Quin, who was commanding Fiearius’ air forces above the planet, had been thrilled to find that instead of elaborate defensive maneuvers, she was free to just shoot down anything with a Society librera that moved.

Fiearius himself hadn’t heard what had become of the CORS itself. He vaguely wondered if he would miss his lavish admiral’s quarters if the thing was blown to bits. But the chance to take Ellegy instead? Worth it.

“Captain!”

Fiearius glanced back as Javier hurried down the ramp toward him. The young man took a brief moment to squint at what little of Ellegy he could see, then turned, unphased, to deliver his message.

“Leta’s on the COMM, trying to get a hold of you, says you’re not answering.”

Fiearius frowned and tapped the COMM in his ear. It made a disconcerting ‘bzzt’ and then proceeded with its typical digital ‘whirr’ to inform him it was functioning. “Damn thing keeps cutting out,” he muttered under his breath.

“Want me to track you down a better one?” Javier asked, but Fiearius just shook him off and hit the switch.

“Leta? You rang?”

The woman’s voice on the other end of the line was drowned in noise. She shouted to rise above it. “Finally, there you are. After that run-in with the fighter we thought the Dionysian might have gone down.”

“I can outmaneuver a damn Society fighter,” Fiearius argued, ignoring Javier who was still hovering nearby, obviously wanting to be a part of this conversation. “Made it through just fine. Landed and ready to go. Just waiting on the rendezvous. How are things on your end?”

“We’re just finishing our final descent,” Leta shouted back. “How’s it look out there?”

The smoky landscape drew his eye and he grimaced. “Might not be the Ellegy you remember.”

Leta sighed. “Looking forward to it.”

As Fiearius watched a Carthian transport lower through the clouds in the distance, he wondered if that was the ship Leta was on. As soon as the Ellegian attack plan went through, his instinct had been to ask her to board the Dionysian with him. She was part of the team. He could think of no one else he trusted more to undertake this mission with. No one else he had as much faith in. And the whole operation had been her idea.

But she’d asked for distance. Quite explicitly. So he’d ignored the urge and given her what she wanted. Now she was leading a Carthian medical team on the other side of the city to assist the ground troops and he was settling for a distant second best collaborator in his upcoming attempt to assassinate the Ellegian Councillor.

There was another blast of wind and smoke rolled up the ramp into the cargo bay as just outside, a narrow black ship planted itself on the smooth Ellegian street they’d chosen as a docking location. Within instants, the ramp of the ship opened and a cluster of armed men and women flooded out in a hurry, their eyes and weapons scanning the area. Behind them, emerging from the haze like a steadfast pillar of calm, was the man Fiearius was waiting for. Desophyles Cordova.

Fiearius took a deep breath, gripped his gun in his hand and hit the COMM one more time as he headed down the ramp. “It’s go time. Good luck out there, kiddo.”

“You too,” was Leta’s distracted response amongst a flurry of other voices around her. Her ship had probably landed, they were likely preparing to head out themselves. Distance, Fiearius reminded himself and forced the tiny seed of disappointment from his mind.

But only seconds later, the COMM lit up again. “Oh, Fiear?” He paused halfway down the ramp as Leta said, “Take care of yourself, okay?”

Fiearius chuckled and replied, “Always.” The line went dead and he glanced back over his shoulder to Javier, “Report to Harper in the armory, Pigeon. Defend the ship. If she’s got so much as a scratch when I get back, it’s your head.”

Javier just sighed and agreed, “Aye aye cap’n,” before running off into the Dionysian. Which left Fiearius to turn back to Dez who was standing at the base of the ramp, his arms crossed behind his back, patiently waiting. The group that had accompanied him were still hanging behind him, a couple of them casting curious or even distrustful looks his way. Though most seemed to have their Society libreras covered beneath clothing, those that were visible had clearly been altered to a different symbol, a symbol that Dez now wore on his own arm.

“I still can’t believe you’ve amassed followers,” Fiearius remarked, regarding a familiar-looking man who was watching him relentlessly. He’d unofficially worked in conjunction with Dez’s ‘people’ before, but he’d never actually seen any of them in person. It was hard enough keeping his relations with the one secret, let alone the entire ‘terrorist’ group.

“They’re not followers, they’re brethren,” Dez said at once. “Defectors just as you and I are.”

“Did you modify those yourself?” Fiearius prodded Dez’s tattoo. He’d connected the top lines of the symbol to the diamond on the bottom and altered the cross to make each side symmetrical. The lines that had been added clearly weren’t quite as smooth. “You were never very good at that. Need me to clean it up for you? Still got my inking rig upstairs if–”

“I believe we have a task to complete?” Dez interrupted and Fiearius flashed him a humorless grin.

“Yeah yeah, I’m ready. This lot coming with us?” He gestured over Dez’s shoulder.

“No,” was Dez’s short answer as he lead the way out from under the Dionysian and towards the main road. As he’d said, the ex-Society agents he’d brought with him hung back and then scattered off in every direction. The sight made Fiearius’ stomach churn.

He turned back and jogged forward a few steps to catch up to Dez. “Might I ask what they’re up to then?”

“You might ask.” Fiearius rolled his eyes. “I’ll say nothing other than they work for the same cause as us.”

“You said that last time,” Fiearius growled. “And we all saw that pile of bodies.”

“Fiearius, as someone who started a war that has lead to countless lives lost and homes decimated, I wouldn’t really want to argue the nuances of necessity if I were you,” Dez countered. Before Fiearius could even open his mouth to retort, Dez looked back at him and stated, “I promise, their end goal is in line with yours.”

It wasn’t the end goal that worried him. It was the whatever means came beforehand. Still, he obviously had little choice in the matter now. Their destination was just ahead, a great, beautiful structure that housed the Ellegian senate. Its ground floor was wide and vast, stretching many city blocks and its white stone spires punctured the sky. It would have been a nice sight, on any other occasion. But on this occasion? Yet another instance of the death Dez accused him of?

He picked up his pace and hurried past Dez, eyes locked on the great wooden doors. “C’mon, the ground troops won’t be able to hold the Society off our location forever. Let’s get this over with.”

——————-

“Adler! Look out!”

Leta looked up just in time to see the tiny silhouette of the burst grenade soar over her head and moved just in time to narrowly avoid the blast of shrapnel and bullet shells it shot out in every direction. Something scraped across her arm, something else brushed her hair, but when she put her hand to her head, it was still dry and clear of injury.

Not everyone else was so lucky.

Leta had expected to be put to work when she stepped off the Carthian transport into the active front lines of the newest warzone. And she was prepared for most of it. The screaming of the wounded, the chaos of the med team scrambling to help, all things she had become numb to in the first few months of working in the ER back on Vescent.

In the ER, however, she hadn’t been under constant attack from enemy forces and scrambling to find any cover she could manage while applying wound sealant to a soldier’s legs. She supposed she’d have to attribute her preparedness for that to the Dionysian.

“Hang on!” she shouted to a woman who had taken a direct hit from the blast grenade. Her eyes were wide and she was looking down at herself, her whole body speckled with red from where the debris had buried itself in her flesh, as though she wasn’t sure if it was hers. Leta inched towards her, careful to duck as bullets zipped over her head.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Leta’s team had been headed out to provide support to the survivors of a crashed dreadnought when they had been ambushed by Society forces. They had struck more quickly and more viciously than anyone, medical team or military escort, had been ready for. But they were going to get out of this. All of them. Alive. Leta was determined.

“You’re gonna be okay, just stay still!” she told the woman as she finally reached her. It wasn’t the ideal place to stage a rescue, but there was no way she could drag her to cover in her current condition. It would just have to do.

“Am I–am I gonna die?” the woman asked, her eyes starting to glaze over.

“Not if I can help it,” Leta answered, scanning around her immediate area. She needed someone to cover her while she did this, but everyone in sight was too busy covering themselves. They were overwhelmed.

She gritted her teeth. It would just have to do.

“This is going to get a lot worse before it gets a little better, but you’re gonna be okay.” The woman didn’t seem to hear her, not that it mattered. She had to get the dirty shrapnel out and cleaned and sealed before infection started to spread. Bracing a hand on the woman’s chest to try and keep her still, Leta dug out the first piece of glass.

A horrific shriek filled the air and Leta winced. Please don’t draw attention, please don’t look over here, she begged internally as she went for another wound. And another. Just make this quick, everything will be okay, she promised, meaning it for her patient but reciting it only for herself.

She was still screaming and the noise was not going unnoticed. Leta could see in her peripheral vision Society agents turning her way, but her fellow teammates were managing to pick them off before they became a threat. Just a few more pieces to dig out, then hit her with antibacterial sealant and we’re done. Her screams were starting to subside. Too exhausted to continue, probably. Almost done. Almost–

Leta looked up just as she heard the gun cock. An agent was staring straight at her, decked out in full Society-issued body armor save the helmet and pointing the barrel of a high-powered rifle directly at her skull. Their eyes met for just a moment and time seemed to slow down. His muscles tensed, his finger on the trigger and Leta’s instincts sprung into action.

Her hand reached for the gun she knew was hanging out of her patient’s limp hand, she lifted it and fired, sending a bullet directly through the man’s head. A splash of blood landed on her skin as he fell backwards, crumpling to the ground with a thump.

The gun still in her hand, she aimed again at another agent further back and fired. She went down. And another. And another. And one more until the trigger clicked uselessly in her hand and she tossed the emptied weapon aside where it clattered across the ground pathetically.

Her immediate surroundings clear, she reached into her pack and pulled out the sealant gun to start applying it to the still bleeding woman in front of her. “Let’s get you back on your feet.”

——————–

Fiearius cracked his fist over the man’s face and kneed him in the stomach as he fell. He let out a groan of pain as Fiearius spun around and shot the next assailant in the arm. He recoiled, grasping his bleeding limb as Fiearius strode forward and slapped him across the cheek with his still warm pistol. There was one more that came stumbling towards him, but a well-aimed bullet from Dez put her straight on the ground instead.

Fiearius heaved a deep breath and shook the fight from his head to his shoulders, down his arms and out his fingers. He then glanced at that final agent who’d fallen.

“Ya didn’t have to kill her y’know,” he pointed out.

“Either kill them now or kill them when they come after you later,” Dez replied simply, aiming his gun at the other agent Fiearius had just knocked out and firing.

Fiearius winced. “I thought they were our ‘brethren’.”

“Not yet they’re not.” Dez aimed at another, but Fiearius grabbed his arm and yanked it out of position.

“Cut it out,” he snapped.

Dez regarded him curiously. “Don’t you remember what happened on the Ascendian Delta base? After you insisted I not clean up your mess?”

Fiearius rolled his eyes and spread his hands, backing away from Desophyles as he said carelessly, “If I’m meant to get shot, I’ll get shot, can we move along please?” Dez seemed to relent so Fiearius turned back around into the hallway and continued forward. They weren’t far. All of Ren’s research and all of his own digging through the Verdant CID had been pretty clear where to find the Ellegian Councillor.

Once a woman by the name of Tearan Norosa, an Information officer of the highest level, she was skilled at hiding in plain sight. Impressively skilled. Masquerading as a reclusive and eccentric billionaire, she had lived in the Ellegian Central Complex’s most luxurious loft in its tallest spire for going on two decades without anyone catching onto her. She wasn’t the only rich weirdo on Ellegy after all and as long as she continued to pay off whoever she had to pay off to reside on what was definitively ‘public’ property, no one would question her.

So far, they had made good ground. The ECC was by no means deserted, but Fiearius and Dez had managed to slip past the vast majority of Society agents and loyalists by simply taking alternate routes through the complex. The Society’s real heavy-hitters were out on the battlefront. These people were mostly bureaucrats.

It was only when they reached the spire itself that they met any real resistance. Fiearius had taken a few hits. His ribs were feeling a little bruised. Dez had a close call with a bullet past his shoulder, but nothing a little sealant hadn’t been able to fix. The first stairwell had been a thrilling experience.

Now, however, as Fiearius sprinted up the second stairwell, there wasn’t a soul in sight. Maybe for a reason.

The COMM in his ear fizzled a little. “–ar–we–por–bzzzzt.”

Fiearius tapped it, hard. “Sorry, say again?”

“Looks like your host isn’t looking to take on guests.” It was Quin. “Just saw a transport try and land on the top of your lil spire there. Seemed like they was there to pick somebody up.”

Fiearius’ fist clenched and he looked back at Dez. “Shit.”

“Oh not to worry, sweetheart,” Quin cooed. “I sent that piece o’ shit to hell ‘fore it could even touch down. Got a couple of my boys on watch to make sure no one else outta there is lookin’ to leave anytime soon.”

Just as quickly as it had arrived, his panic dispersed and turned into relief. “You’re a saint, Q.”

“Tell that to my priest, she’ll have a laugh,” Quin chuckled and the line fizzled out.

“Still, we should hurry,” Fiearius said to Dez off-handedly, picking up pace just as Dez slowed down.

“Fiearius,” he said suddenly and Fiearius looked back to realize he was no longer behind him. Instead, he stood in the center of the hallway, looking out of its ceiling-heigh windows onto the smoky haze of Ellegy below. From here they could see all of it. The city, the ground battles, the ships engaged in distant firefights far above the planet. From the ground, everything had been a blur, but from this window, everything was laid out clearly.

But now wasn’t the time for sight-seeing. “We need to get–” Fiearius began, but Dez interrupted.

“Do you trust Carthis?”

Fiearius gaped at him. “What?”

“Do you trust Carthis?” he said again. “To do this right. Win Ellegy’s freedom and return it to her people.”

No, was Fiearius’ instant internal answer, but he didn’t speak it aloud. No, he didn’t think Carthis was going to back off once this battle was won. The way they’d backed off their agreement with the Ellegian rebels was enough to prove that. Carthis wasn’t interested in lofty goals like freedom. They were after territory.

But what he said to Dez was, “We’ll deal with that when we come to it.” He gestured towards the next stairwell. “C’mon.”

But Dez still didn’t move. He continued to stare out that window until Fiearius marched back down the hallway to retrieve him, but just before he seized his arm, Dez turned. He fixed his stare on him and froze Fiearius in his place. “Do you trust me?”

Fiearius regarded him skeptically. It wasn’t the kind of question he expected from Dez. Since when did he care about what anyone thought of him? Especially what Fiearius thought of him. He didn’t like the implication.

“Sometimes,” he answered, meaning it to be flippant and still gesturing that they should move on, but Dez’s stare hadn’t wavered. The intensity of it made him unsettled. So finally, he relented, “Sometimes I don’t agree with your methods, alright? But if I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t have brought you into this. Now can we go?”

Dez was nodding slowly, but he still wasn’t moving. Something was wrong, Fiearius realized too late. “I’m sorry,” Dez muttered under his breath.

Fiearius’ mouth dropped open. “What did you–”

He didn’t need to finish the question. The city answered for him. The first explosion he couldn’t see, but he felt it shake the ground beneath his feet. His eyes searched out the window in horror just in time to see the second tower of fire and smoke erupt from the horizon. And the third. And the fourth. The entire city laid out before him became blanketed in black smoke like someone had painted over it.

The explosions were still sending shudders up the spire when Fiearius spun around to Dez, an accusation already on his tongue, only to find the hallway behind him empty. Dez had disappeared.

Fiearius’ heart pounded in his chest. “Shit.”

————————–

The explosion had caught them all by surprise, Carthian and Society alike. Leta only barely managed to drag her current patient, one of her own med team who had taken a bullet to the shoulder, under the cover of a downed shuttle in time to avoid the main brunt of the blast. A chunk of concrete larger than the shuttle itself had landed directly where they had been just a second before. Her hands were still shaking when she climbed out of the crevice between the two and into the chaos.

Black smoke filled her lungs and she choked it out, pressing her wrist against her mouth as her watery eyes blinked hopelessly through the unnavigable scene. She could see nothing and her ears were still ringing from the blast, turning the shouting voices around her into little more than the distant whispers of ghosts. She stumbled forward, her feet tripping over the scattered debris so she clutched onto whatever she could find for support.

Another explosion, somewhere in the distance, shook the ground and she grasped onto the concrete block more firmly. She needed to see. She needed to take stock of who was still standing. Who needed help. Who was no longer with them.

Her foot hit something soft and she looked down at the lifeless body of a Society agent. Head trauma, she listed off diligently, noting the blood spattered across the ground. Another agent lay a few feet away. That one had been dead before the bomb even went off, the bullet hole straight through her chest still leaking.

Finally, her hearing started to return to her. The ringing began to subside and out of the din she heard a call for help. Quickly, she scanned the space around her and staggered towards the voice. Her sealant gun was still clutched in her hand from stabilizing her teammate and she hit the switch to charge it up preemptively.

“Please! Someone!” the voice cried from the thick of the smoke. She was getting closer now, she could start to make out movement near her. “Help!”

Finally, she saw him. A young man on the ground with a bent metal bar, a building support of some kind, lodged straight through his abdomen and into the debris below. Leta felt her blood turn cold at the sight. His face was pale, his eyes bloodshot. There was a Society librera, thick and black, tattooed into his arm. Without hesitation, she hurried to his side.

“I’m here, I’m going to help you,” she told him as he choked up a lungful of blood onto the ground beside him. How, she wasn’t so sure. Maybe in a clean hospital she could save him. Maybe under controlled conditions. Maybe not in the middle of a warzone with new explosions going off every few seconds.

But she had to try.

“Hang on, I’m going to get this thing out of you.” She stood up and looked up and down the metal bar. It had to come out, there was no doubting that. She’d just have to deal with the damage it caused after the fact. The man was dying, there was no time to try anything else. So she gripped the bar with both hands, trying to line it up with the wound as much as possible, pleading it would be a clean extraction. But when she took a deep breath and tugged, it didn’t move.

“Shit,” she groaned, tugging again. It was lodged too deep into the ground. It wouldn’t budge. She tried one more time as in her ear, her COMM started to buzz.

“–eta!–re you–kay?” came the garbled voice.

“Fiearius?!” she shouted back into it. “Fiear, is that you? We were in an explosion. I don’t know what happened, I’m okay, but–”

“–ack to–ip–nee–get ba–to–sh–” his distorted voice tried to tell her, but Leta didn’t understand.

“Fiear, say again, I can’t read you, I–”

A loud bang cut her off and froze her in place. A gunshot, she realized a second too late, only as she looked down at the man at her feet. The metal bar was the least of his problems now, overtaken by the bullet that had gone straight through his head.

Leta looked up at the murderer, expecting to find a Carthian soldier and ready to berate them. It was unnecessary. He was innocent, wounded. She could have tried to save him. But when she met the eyes of the woman with the gun and the handful of people with her, she realized right away she wasn’t looking at a Carthian. No, the Carthians that had accompanied her out here were clustered between them, hands up, weapons stripped and being held at gunpoint by these new arrivals.

“Hands up, doc,” ordered the woman and Leta hesitantly obeyed, fixing her with a furious glare nonetheless. “Get in line with the rest.” She gestured with the end of her pistol towards the Carthian captives.

Leta ignored the second command, instead looking between her captors and working them out in her head. They were neither Carthian nor Society. No libreras marked their skins. They were the ones responsible for the bombing. And she knew who they were.

“You’re Ellegian,” she said at last, meeting their leader’s eyes. “You’re the Ellegian rebellion.”

“Genius,” remarked the woman carelessly. “Now get in line.”

“No,” Leta said at once, earning her a few more guns trained on her. “No, I know you. Not–not you. Your leader. Ezra Norran?” The woman’s brow creased. “I’ve been talking to him for the past month. My name is Leta Adler, I work with Fie–Admiral Soliveré. We have an allegiance with you.”

The woman was still eyeing her curiously. She seemed like she wanted to shoot her, but at least had one or two reasons not to. She must have recognized at least one of those names, Leta thought. Leta hoped…

“Perhaps I’ve heard of such a thing,” the woman admitted slowly. “Perhaps I haven’t. You’ll meet Ezra soon enough regardless and you can ask him yourself. But I should warn you, Ms. Adler.” The woman took a step closer and propped the end of her gun under Leta’s chin to lift it higher. “Our allegiance? Has changed.”
Corra looked down at the rusty cylinder she held in her palm and swallowed the lump in her throat. The Transmission. So much potential in so small a thing. How many legends had she read over the past weeks about this tiny little metal device? Yet it felt light in her hand. Insignificant. Then again, she’d thought the same of the Caelum Lex. Leta had called it a paperweight. And she’d never forget what that had managed…

What the hell was she doing?

A hand gripped her shoulder and she looked up to find Finn standing beside her, his brow creased in concern. “You don’t have to do this.” He nodded towards the door they stood in front of. They’d been standing in this empty hallway, waiting to enter the Gatekeeper’s chapel for what seemed like hours but was probably minutes. Corra just couldn’t muster the strength to move forward.

“We can just go,” Finn assured her. “We can just get the hell out of here and never look back.”

There was a part of her that wanted to say yes. Let’s leave. Let’s forget this whole thing ever happened before it all goes to hell. But the other part, the part that pulled with more force, knew she’d made an obligation to herself to see this through. She shook her head.

“No.” Her fingers curled around the device and she held it firmly at her side. “We’re here. It’s all ready. It’s happening.” She nodded, exuding confidence she didn’t feel and cast a furtive glance up at Finn. He was watching her in a way that instantly sent a spike through her fake bravado. “You don’t think I should activate the Transmitter,” she accused. “You think it’s a bad idea. You can tell me, y’know?”

“I don’t care what happens with the Transmitter,” Finn admitted, lifting his shoulder in a casual shrug. “I care about what happens to you.” He prodded her in the shoulder with his index finger. “You worry about your thing, I’ll worry about mine. So, you wanna do the thing?” He waved vaguely at the heavy wooden door before them. “Let’s do the thing.”

Corra nodded slowly and tried to even out her nervous breathing. Without thinking, she reached over and grasped Finn’s hand, entangling her fingers with his and gripping hard. “Let’s do the thing,” she agreed and then forced her feet to carry her forward and elbow open the door into the room beyond.

She’d spent a lot of time in the Gatekeeper’s chapel over the past few days, yet when she walked into it now, it didn’t look familiar. The overhead lights had all been shut off, leaving the room mostly in shadow save for the glow of electronic orbs held in the palms of the congregation. They stood in rows, watching her intently as she froze in the doorway. Seeing them all there, bathed in blue light, lining a path she knew she was supposed to take made this whole thing seem more like the cult-ish ritual it was. And it made her wonder whether she should have taken Finn’s offer to leave more seriously.

But as the spindly woman, the for-all-intents-and-purposes leader of the group, stood up on the dais, cracked open their holy book and started to read from it, Corra heaved another deep breath and got herself together. It was just another act, another part to play, like all the allies she’d impersonated over the years. Just be a mirror, she told herself. Reflect what they want to see.

She squeezed Finn’s hand once in reassurance before unlatching her fingers from his, holding her head high and striding forward into the aisle towards the dais.

“–we assemble in faith and respect of your prowess,” the woman was reading, her voice full of importance. “We humbly beg the gift of your salvation and swear to uphold your judgment, even if it suit us not. We, the Gatekeepers, entrust our lives and souls with you, vessels of the Holy Origin and deliverers of our retribution.”

The nonsense she was spouting, and surely that’s what it was, went in one of Corra’s ears and straight out of the other. There were many things she’d considered might come of her actions here today and at this point, she was willing to believe anything was possible. Anything except some grand religious deliverance, that is.

“–be not afraid of our destinies, but rejoicing of our redemption. We call your vessels unto us to ignite our existence with your holy purpose.”

Ignite your existence? Corra thought and suppressed a snicker. More likely some Origin ships come bursting out of the sky to ignite this building.

The green light of a terraformer flashed briefly in her mind, making her gasp for breath. Calm down, she ordered herself, ignoring the looks of confusion from the crowd around her. That’s not gonna happen. Calm down, deep breaths. Her heart was still pounding as she continued her walk. The Transmission felt heavy like a weight in her hand.

“–as the prophecy has foretold, the Catalyst has come to us and made herself known. She who belongs not to herself steps forward to utter our call. She speaks for us all and bears messenger to our deliverance.”

Finally, she reached the dais and the makeshift altar that stood there. Upon it sat a small red cube with an intricate gold pattern. There were specks of rust on the corners and edges and a dent on one side. In the center was a cylindrical hole with grooves that matched the object still clutched in her sweating palm. The whole thing was about the size of her head.

That was it? That was the great Transmitter?

Well, stealing it suddenly seemed like an easy enough option again. She’d expected it to be something big, something impressive. She expected to be in awe of this great ancient device that legends said was the last link between the modern Span and its ancestors.

Standing in front of the box, though, she started to wonder if those legends were just made up by the same idiot who wrote the stupid book the woman was reading from. Maybe he’d even constructed these two objects himself and just decided to make up some fantastical story about them to fool generations into believing their importance. He’d developed a story so mysterious and enticing that he’d not only given his shoddy craftmanship a huge bump in market value, but created a whole religion and inspired a special task force within the Society to hunt down his work. Now that would be impressive.

“Hail to the Holy Origin,” the woman was saying and the crowd chanted along. “Hail to the Catalyst. Hail to the vessels. We beseech you, in your knowledge and wisdom, save us!”

Corra opened her fist to look at the Transmission again. All at once it felt both powerful and utterly meaningless. But she’d never find out which was true without taking the leap. She took a deep breath, lifted the cylinder above the cube, clamped her eyes shut and dropped it in.

The entire room let out a gasp of breath and Corra cracked one eye open to watch as the Transmission expertly shifted into place. The room fell into a deathly quiet, every person in it hanging onto a breath of anticipation. Even Corra, who was now having significant doubts anything would happen at all, took a careful step backwards, her one open eye fixed upon the box and her whole body braced for disaster. Just in case.

But as the minute kept on ticking by and nothing changed, disaster became a possibility further and further away. She was about to turn to the silent woman with the book to ask, “Am I supposed to do something else?” when something on the surface of the box caught her eye. A thin light coming from the center circle of the Transmission. And it was…growing? Slowly filling the cylindrical gap.

Her mouth fell open, but before she could muster the courage to point it out to anyone, there was a sudden whoosh and all at once, she was enveloped in fog.

Corra covered her mouth, coughing into the haze and trying to wave it from her eyes, but no matter how she flailed, she couldn’t see two feet in front of her. The entire congregation had effectively disappeared and only the vague glow from the Transmission was visible to her. She scrambled towards it and seized the heavy little box.

The circle in the center was still slowly filling with light. A progress bar? A very ancient progress bar? Was that what that thing was? Regardless, if this was what happened when it was only a quarter of the way through, she was no longer sure she wanted to find out what happened when it was finished.

Around her, voices were starting to rise from the rest of the chapel. “Praise the Catalyst for she has brought unto us the vessel!” Corra heard and the echo of agreements made her cringe as she struggled to dig her nails into the Transmission enough to yank it out. “Save us, vessel of the Holy Origin! Share your wisdom!” The damn thing wouldn’t budge.

The fog was practically alive now with all the shouting and praising, but Corra blocked it out. She she clawed at the box, shook it, nothing was working. The circle was nearly halfway full. Her heart pounded in her chest and regret flooded her senses. God, she should have waited. She should have been patient.

She felt a hand grip her arm and she spun around to find, to her immense relief, Finn. She stared at him, she looked down at the Transmitter and she shook it pathetically. Thankfully understanding, he reached out and took the box from her. She watched in part frustration and part anticipation as he attempted each method she herself had tried. Finally, he scrunched up his face, held the thing in front of him with one hand and banged on the side of it with the other. The Transmission tumbled out onto the floor.

“We should get out of here,” Corra was about to suggest as she seized the cylinder off the ground, but just as she did, the fog that had taken over the entire chapel was somehow sucked away in a flash. Once again, her vision was clear and she could see out into the crowd of Gatekeepers, looking around in awe. She noticed it at the same time they did. They dropped to their knees and started shouting in joy. But when Corra saw the tall shadowy figure standing backlit in the doorway, she took a step backwards and Finn, without a word, slipped a gun into her free hand.

“I am the vessel of the Origin,” stated the figure in a voice that was garbled and distorted. It was a deep, low tone that sent a shiver down her spine. He was cloaked in black, his face partially covered by a hood and his form indistinguishable. The rest of the room went quiet. “You have called upon me?”

Corra could scarcely believe it. The thing worked? It really worked? The Gatekeepers’ prophecy had been true after all?

“Y-yes!” stuttered the spindly woman, her voice muffled from the floor she bowed upon. “Oh great vessel, we ask your forgiveness for drawing you from slumber and–”

“You are not forgiven!” boomed the vessel. “You have summoned me here preemptively and I shall not have it.”

The woman seemed taken aback. “Preemptively? B-but the prophecy said–”

“Yes, well, the prophecy was incomplete.” There was an awkward silence before he continued, “But since I am here–”

Something was off about this, Corra realized. Perhaps the Gatekeepers were wrong to revere their ancestors so much, but even so, the idea that this was their messenger seemed like a lack of foresight on their part. “What would you have me do?” he was asking in response to someone’s call of “Save us, please!” It was like he hadn’t bothered to read the job description and–

Once more, a hand touched her arm and Corra jumped, spinning around on her heel, gun raised at the ready to point it straight at Alyx’s head. The woman grimaced and held up her hands in surrender. “You?” Corra demanded in a whisper, dropping her weapon back to her side as Finn turned to them. “You did this? You scared the shit out of me!”

Alyx’s face was still distorted in apology. “Sorry, we couldn’t get word to you before it was too late,” she whispered, their conversation fortunately masked by the great dramatic voice of their visitor.

“So you just thought it’d be a good idea to blind me with fog and–” Corra started, but it was Finn who pointed out, “I assume there’s a second half to the plan?”

“There is,” Alyx assured. “C’mon, stay low and hurry.”

The three crouched down and slipped off the dais, moving carefully toward the wall. Alyx held up her hand to pause them then held it up high in the air. The man who’d walked in the door, the ‘vessel’, seemed to get the hint. He was still speaking loudly to his captive audience (something unintelligible about the meaning of life, Corra noted) as he moved to the opposite wall and began to walk along it, pulling the attention of the entire congregation with him. And away from them.

Satisfied, Alyx gestured them forward and they crept silently, unnoticed along the back wall.

“–need to fend for yourselves,” the distraction was saying conversationally. “You cannot rely on us to save you from your own problems. Band together, unite in solidarity and–”

Their timing was precise as they followed Alyx’s lead. They reached the back corner just as the ‘vessel’ reached the front and the door was mere feet away. They were so close. So very close, when someone near them shouted out, “But the prophecies say you’re meant to save us!”

The man at the front of the congregation halted and glared back at the naysayer. “Well like I said, the prophecies aren’t quite right, are they?”

In the back of the chapel, they reached the door, but Corra couldn’t help but pause to observe the scene unfolding.

“Then why did you come if not to deliver us?” demanded the same rebel.

Now, the vessel crossed his arms over his chest. “Because I was being polite. But if you’re going to keep interrupting me, that might change.”

Corra felt Alyx tug on her arm, but she didn’t budge. “Who is that?” she had to know as the vessel continued to berate his audience for bad manners.

Alyx just sighed and answered, “Daelen.” Corra’ eyes widened in alarm. Daelen? She’d let Daelen, the Span’s most moralistic, do-good, bad liar play the leading role in her rescue? Alyx must have seen her disbelief because she hurriedly explained, “He was the only one of us they hadn’t seen. We didn’t have a choice.”

Corra could have groaned, but something else caught her attention. The person who’d been shouting slander to Daelen (God, she couldn’t believe how bad that choice had been), suddenly snapped, “This is bullshit!” and turned away from the spectacle happening up front. Turned, to Corra’s horror, right towards them. His mouth dropped open.

“Time to go,” Finn urged, nudging Corra who nudged Alyx toward the door just as the man regained his senses and shouted to the room at whole, “She’s stealing the Transmitter!”

They were already sprinting out the door as the uproar inside began. “Now, now, now!” Alyx was shouting to apparently no one in particular until Cyrus and Addy poked their heads around the corner of the building across the street. They shared a quick glance and each pressed a button on a device they held in their hands. Corra glanced back just in time to see another burst of smoke fill the chapel.

The uproar only grew louder and Gatekeepers started tumbling out of the chapel, blinking into the daylight and waving around blindly. Some of them, Corra noticed, were armed. She felt Alyx’s hand around her arm again, pulling her down the street, back towards the ship, but she locked eyes with Finn. “What about Daelen?” they both asked at the same time.

Just then, a voice rang out from the commotion. “Fear not, faithful followers! I shall retrieve your device from the heathen and return it to you!” Only seconds later, the black-cloaked figure that had shed his hood and looked far more familiar to her came barrelling out of the building at top speed.

“Sorry! I was lying!” he called back as he ran straight past Corra, Finn and Alyx, joining Cyrus and Addy who were already sprinting back down the street. Someone back by the church let out a groan of rage.

“Really?” Corra snapped to Alyx. “You sent Daelen?!”

“I didn’t have a choice!” Alyx defended again as Finn grabbed an arm of each of them and pulled. Corra didn’t resist, save for ducking at the sound of a gunshot flying over her head. She clutched the Transmission in her hand and ran as fast as she could all the way back to the Beacon.

Caelum Lex          Tumblr          Facebook          Contact Me


VOTE FOR US PLEEEASE

Hey friends! Do me a favor and click that voting link right there? That would mean a lot to me thanks :)

So hey, I'll do a little kiriban thing for the heck of it, if anyone catches a screenshot of the 50k marker. Don't promise anything fancy, but I'll do you a quick doodle at the least. Cuz why not. Tradition. All that.

How are you all doing? Tell me about your lives, I always like that. Me, I'm pretty good. Kinda just...working and stuff. I'm starting a new cosplay! My second. That'll be fun. Is anyone watching Star Wars Rebels? I frickin love it. I'm gonna dress up as Hera for Celebration since it's in Anaheim this year and I'm kind of forcing my boyfriend to be Kanan, but he gets a lightsaber out of it, so he's alright with it. We'll take em to Wondercon and SDCC too so hey, threefer, huzzah.

I actually don't have anything else! But tell me about you!

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khronosabre
Khronos
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:iconriotpilot:
RiotPilot Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2015
riotpilot.deviantart.com/art/T…
Featured a easter egg! 
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:iconmimmime:
mimmime Featured By Owner May 31, 2015  Hobbyist
Hey... I like the new banner on Caleum-Lex.com...:XD:
It really brings out the mood...:la:
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:iconkhronosabre:
khronosabre Featured By Owner May 31, 2015  Professional General Artist
Aw thanks :D I started it nearly a year ago, but it just kind of fell to the wayside. Glad I finally managed to get it up there.
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:iconmimmime:
mimmime Featured By Owner May 31, 2015  Hobbyist
I'm sorry I've been so slow in reading!! Something has always come in the way and I curse myself every time I remember it after forgetting...^^;
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:iconkhronosabre:
khronosabre Featured By Owner May 31, 2015  Professional General Artist
Hey, whatever :D You read at your own pace, we'll still be around when you've got time
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(1 Reply)
:iconk-zlovetch:
K-Zlovetch Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Héhéhé, thanks for the watchback :love:
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:iconkhronosabre:
khronosabre Featured By Owner May 17, 2015  Professional General Artist
But of course!
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:iconduvell:
Duvell Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015
^^ I deff need to say that I love your gallery. that are some damn nice arts <3 such nice story inside it.
And thats why I got intrested in your story..What I will read in the future :)
(usual I need to take my time for that because English is not my native language.)
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:iconkhronosabre:
khronosabre Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Professional General Artist
Aww man that is so nice thank you ; ; I'm so glad you like it! If you do check out Caelum Lex, let me know what you think :D
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