Rough Draft: “Dawn Chorus”

Dawn Chorus

Appendix 1: Planets

  1. Ohm
  2. Ogni III
  3. Sah II
  4. Faustian
  5. Anxaati
  6. Solar System
  7. Krylos
  8. Tyr
  9. Nyssa II
  10. Pararamelmel II
  11. Nordland
  12. Cylthii-Rae
  13. Ateen
  14. Zizreen
  15. Cladzo II
  16. Erri
  17. Bornia
  18. Pristine IV
  19. Bondiana
  20. Ebthanowi
  21. Abyss
  22. Carinae
  23. Corinnan
  24. Klemm
  25. Dentu
  26. Dorna
  27. Des Wotan
  28. Esansk
  29. Erentt
  30. Kway
  31. Fander
  32. Frezianski
  33. Geohelios
  34. Honoghast
  35. Colth
  36. Massif
  37. Gorgo
  38. Jabiir
  39. Jawmink
  40. Lacarna
  41. Spinne
  42. Kreal
  43. Kraid
  44. Morea
  45. Majesty
  46. Whala
  47. Fleat
  48. Moneyland
  49. Kyrie
  50. Theen
  51. Tehggo
  52. Pyngo
  53. Rhyiin
  54. Ima
  55. Kisame
  56. Brinfaal
  57. Hellus
  58. Serene
  59. Torta
  60. Taroo
  61. Victrix
  62. Gemina
  63. Martia
  64. Fulminata
  65. Massiri
  66. Sissile
  67. Halychanka
  68. Toi
  69. Chowheim
  70. New Zakspire
  71. Skoade

In our bones, we knew that the war was almost over, 30 years of bloodshed and trillions dead across the galaxy would soon end; it was only a matter of time before one side made the final, daring move. As our luck would have it, the Coalition moved first. When Chancellor Von Raun informed the Sori Wizard Council that Lord Yagamis Serpentis, the last Disciple of the Blood Countess, was hiding on Ogni III, Councilor Isolde Edlosi gathered an army large enough to capture three star systems. When the news reached the ears of the Cumulonimbus Legion, our morale soared. For better or for worse, this would be the beginning of the end. The war had been turned in our favor overwhelmingly after the destruction of the Countess herself on Tyr, where the Cumulonimbus Legion, along with 50 other Legions of the Coalition military massed to destroy the Cult stronghold. Even then, it was unprecedented, as the Grand Fleet was placed under the direct command of Sori Master Sheen Binood, the Grand Wizard of the entire Order. Never before had so many come from all corners of the galaxy, but never before had we faced an enemy such as this. Countess Erzevet had to die, and this was it. We wouldn’t get another shot at this, and the rumors that the Countess was developing a superhumanly powerful weapon to use on the Federation made it absolutely vital that Tyr fall ASAP. When the fleet arrived out of the Quantum Space relay, we were immediately met with the largest enemy fleet we had ever seen, the full might of the Cult Home Armada, with their 5-km long, bizarre, squid-shaped capital ships; their “tentacles” opened up to fire a massive, blood-red energy laser capable of cracking the hull of a Federation dreadnaught in half, even at full shields. In the orbit around Tyr’s moon, Hunyadi, however, was this gigantic THING, it looked like a massive array of satellite cannons ready to fire, and we assumed this was the superweapon mentioned in intelligence reports. The battle began as planned, with the space around Tyr becoming so thick with blaster fire, missiles and space junk that it was impossible for radars or infra-scopes to get a read on anything, but then, the enormous array of satellites in space suddenly hummed to life. The weapon began to draw energy from the surrounding cosmos, covering the satellite panels in a blue, static plasma, until a massive “bang” followed by a flash ripped the stars apart, and then…half of our fleet, more than 150 ships that were at the battle, was instantly vaporized to slag in a huge, static cloud of blue atomic plasma. More than 300,000 men lost with one shot…except for one of the ships that was not completely hit by the blast: Master Binood’s ship, the Lordly Iron Hand. Its weapons had been disabled by the blast, but its engines were unscathed; and, unlike a normal soldier or admiral, as Sori, Binood knew the true meaning of “sacrifice.” Using his ka-ba magic, he sensed that there was a massive static shield around the super-weapon, and ordered his ship to run full speed ahead directly into the main power generator at the center of the super-weapon array. Sure enough, the 7-km. flagship passed directly through the energy barrier unscathed, and, as both sides looked on, Binood kamikaze piloted the Lordly Iron Hand directly into the power generator, causing a chain reaction that annihilated the weapon and most of the Cult fleet. Now, with Binood’s sacrifice, the Cult fleet was quickly dispersed, and the ground battle, which was even more brutal, began. During the course of the 4-day battle, out of the 1,900,000 Coalition of Ordered Federation soldiers brought to take the planet, only 13,000 remained, but, sure enough, Countess Erzevet was killed in the fighting by Binood’s apprentice, Shaak Lang, and the superweapon, called “The Bane of All Fools,” was eliminated. Now, all that was left was Yagamis Serpentis, who was hiding and making his last stand on Ogni III…

Wipe those bastards off the deck!!” One of the Cumulonimbus Legion’s armored infantrymen yelled in his thick Ohm accent. The invasion had caught Serpentis’ forces completely flat-footed. After 330 trillion dead, thousands of systems ravaged by war and economies pushed to the brink, Serpentis was the last Grand General left of the Nordliggen Cult, a separatist movement that had declared independence from the Coalition of Ordered Federations more than 30 years before, led by the malicious “vampire witch” Erzevet Czevch. She was a countess and voivode from the planet Tyr, which was settled by Austro-Hungarian descendants, and by her early to late teens, she seemed to possess an extraordinary power of persuasion. Perhaps it was her inherent physical beauty, with her long, black hair, haunting blue eyes, alabaster skin and 6’3” figure, or her elaborate, regal outfits, or her soft-spoken yet extremely sadistic personality, but the majority of the Coalition of Ordered Federation forces, as well as the Sori, were in agreement that there was something far more sinister afoot even before the war began. She never seemed to get any older, by age 22, she had already amassed a considerable following to a bizarre religion she founded, called “Nordliege” which focused more on pagan blood rituals for the purpose of opposing an authoritarian government, as well as using an ancient Slavonic symbol, the Self-Consuming Dragon, as a flag, the flag was a stylized image of the old symbol with a lunar helix background and the Hungarian cross in the upper right-hand corner, she also wore a set of earrings shaped like this dragon symbol. Nordliege believed that the dragon symbolized the eternal process of life, death and the cycle of regeneration and Resurrection, but Erzevet and her 5 Disciples, who were also local voivodes from the same planet, believed that certain people could rise above this cycle and achieve a sort of perpetual youth and nirvana in this world. This, along with strong anti-Federation rhetoric, drew many dissidents to her side; those that followed her believed that had nothing to lose by dying and everything to gain by living. They were already saved, in the religious sense of the word. Part politician, part cult leader, and somewhat of a demagogue, Countess Czevch returned to Tyr after her years at Yale on Earth to lead her planet and represent the planet in the Parliament of Mankind; even though the Tyr had become increasingly distrustful of the United Coalition Government on Earth, the human race’s ruling body. Even though Czevch became a very brilliant leader who turned on good eye to the Chancellor and the Parliament, she was secretly conducting her bizarre, frightening, and downright sickening rituals with 5 Disciples, and was slowly gaining support from hundreds of systems, by publishing manifestos against the UCG and the Coalition of Ordered Federations under the name “Blood Countess.” Eventually, the Sori, the guardian wizards of peace in the human race, investigated, but by the time they realized that “Blood Countess” and Erzevet Czevch were the same person, it was far too late. What resulted from the ensuing secession and separatist movement was the bloodiest war the galaxy, and the human race, for that matter, had ever seen. The conflict pitted brother against brother, boyfriend against girlfriend, and family against family. Stories of entire planets wiped out, corpses piled so high that the native rhuuk birds that were introduced to many worlds to scavenge couldn’t even manage to clean up the dead and valiant space warriors, as well as countless acts of heroism were widespread. This was it. There could be no failure. The future of every man, woman and child depended on it, a future free from the threat of war. The Coalition’s Pyropteryx-class gunships let fly with huge volleys of rockets and laser fire, obliterating the Cult defenses on the ground, as the Coalition Aauropod-class all-terrain armored vehicles lumbered along the beach towards the center of Schill, the beachside paradise city that had been occupied by Cult troopers for more than 30 years. Ogni III was just a stone’s throw away from icy Tyr, the home planet for the Nordliggen Cult, but the formerly beautiful, elite, pampered, spoiled inhabitants of Ogni III had known nothing but oppression and war for the past 30 years. An entire generation of people had grown up under Cult colonial rule, and Grand General Serpentis had used the planet as his own personal resort for Cult troops and officers, using the young women as slaves and bizarre human sacrifices, the young men as target practice and placing everyone else in concentration camps for “three generations of punishment.” Schill, comprised of elaborated neoclassical and Spanish villa architecture, like the kind of places you’d find in South Florida on the Old Earth, was a towering inferno, with anti-aircraft fire ripping the sky apart and smoke obscuring the planet’s binary suns, and the shadows of Coalition assault carriers flying high overhead in the sky. It was hot, it was sandy, and it was chaotic, but the soldiers of the Cumulonimbus Legion had seen so much pain, suffering and chaos by now that it no longer fazed them. This Legion had built a legendary reputation as the best of the best; they were placed under the direct command of the Sori Order of Wizards, the guardians of peace and justice in the Coalition of Ordered Federations, which had stood united for 30,000 years. Their worn, battle-scarred armor, marked with yellow lightning stripes, hid even more hardened faces and somber eyes. “You know the drill, boys!” one of the soldiers yelled as the VTOL gunships landed on the LZ, as, for what seemed like the millionth time, the Cumulonimbus Legion hit the ground running to their objectives, but this time, there was a little more spring in the Legion’s step. This was the decisive hour, the final strike: victory at Ogni III would elicit surrender from the Cult, and the Cult’s leaders could finally be brought to justice. The orders were simple: infiltrate the city center and take out Lord Serpentis…at any cost. Moving like a tide of death ahead of the massive Aauropod vehicles, which were currently massacring the remaining Cult forces with their heavy laser cannons and rocket turrets. The Aauropod vehicles, named after a large, swamp-dwelling reptilian creature on the planet Krylos, the headquarters for the Rainfall Armor Yards factories in which the vehicles were developed during the waning months of the Great Civil War, were practically invincible. Only orbital bombardments could break through their amorphous-titanium, enriched-leukophytanium armor, the latter alloy actually became stronger as more pressure and heat was applied to it, making virtually indestructible. These vehicles were very new; this final assault was actually their first combat deployment, and they were not disappointing. The dreaded Clan “Reaper” tanks, so long the bane of the Coalition’s existence with their ARC static cannons and heavy lasers, were cannon fodder for the Coalition vehicles. The Cumulonimbus Legion’s blood ran hot with dreams of victory; the end of the Cult was in the Legion’s gun sights. It was still a battle, however, and the Cult was going to fight tooth and nail to defend its last stronghold. As the infantry advanced, the Pyropteryx gunships destroyed the Reaper tanks and the smaller Moaner fighters, as the Cumulonimbus Legion soldiers shot enemy after enemy; the burgundy-uniformed Cult soldiers fell like dominoes. As the battle raged in the city, the final great battle of the war was about to occur.

YAGAMIS!!!” Councilor Isolde Edlosi yelled, his wizard wand drawn, pointing it at the dark figure, his back turned. Lord Yagamis Serpentis turned around and faced Councilor Isolde. “Yagamis Serpentis” was not his real name, just a moniker than he had taken upon joining the Cult; his original name was Lucian Moonraiser, a very wealthy young man who lived in Ogni III’s capital city Silpheed’s Majesty District, where the wealthiest of the planet’s citizens, some of them belonging to legendary families such as the Ermell, the Morgensonne and the Stormweaver families, lived their lavish lifestyles. Why Lucian joined the Cult and embraced the Shade magic was not clear, but what was clear was that the dark magic had corrupted him to the point where he looked like an inhuman monster. His formerly handsome, pale face was gray, wrinkled and rotting, his brown hair gray and matted, and his brown eyes yellow, sallow and reptilian. In many ways, “monster” was the right word. “Master Edlosi…it’s about time you showed up…” “You’re lucky I don’t kill you now, for what you have to answer for.” “Then why don’t you? I am unarmed. You can end this war, right here, right now…oh, that’s right. Your Code prevents you from killing an unarmed opponent.” Edlosi stood down. “Hahahahaha…you Sori are so predictable. I believe we are in the wrong setting…” Serpentis’ eyes contracted to tiny dots, and soon, the wrecked, bombed-out lobby in the center of the former Moonlight Heaven Resort Spa was enveloped in a ghostly white aura…then, something amazing happened. The aura cleared, and the lobby was restored to its prewar grandeur, with the skylights, potted reen trees, bioluminescent lamp flowers and spiky thorn ferns, and the huge fountain in the center of the room, but there were no people, just paintings of men, women and children of all ages with hauntingly placid faces. The place was eerily deserted. “Do you know where we are?” Serpentis hissed. “This is the building we’re in, just 48 hours before Zero Hour, the start of the war. “It isn’t. It appears that way to you, because we are in your mind. This is what you see in your mind’s eye, because this is what you desire. A world of peace, free from war, where a place like this is free to exist; however, no such world will ever exist. All minds come from darkness. All the pain, suffering and bloodshed in this galaxy come from two simple roots: greed and hate. The desire to obtain more than what is necessary to survive resides in the hearts and minds of all men, as does the desire to destroy those who impede their wants and needs. Try as you might to avoid it, you are in this situation right now. You want to end the war, and make this dream a reality; I am the only thing standing in your way. I feel your hate and anger building. The Shade magic feeds off of such dark emotions. Look at the walls of this building, do you notice the paintings? They are those that have been killed in this war. Notice their tears… If you kill me…it will accomplish nothing. Only YOU will be defeated, and suffer as much as I and all the lives I have ended.” Isolde drew his wand, as Yagamis Serpentis conjured a shining, silver sword. Isolde fired a huge blue energy blast at Serpentis, but it was quickly deflected by Serpentis’ sword. Serpentis then began an attack of his own, casting a huge lightning strike down, wrecking a potted plant. Just then, Isolde felt an agonizing wave of pain grip him. “What the?! AHHHH!!” he screamed.” “This is your mind…any damage I inflict harms your body as well. You cannot fight what you cannot control.” Isolde was faced with a seemingly hopeless situation. He could only hope that the Cumulonimbus Legion was having better luck outside.

In the city of Schill, the Cumulonimbus Legion’s battle-hardened troopers had a fix on Isolde and Yagamis Serpentis’ positions, and it was only a matter of time before Midnight Heaven Resort Spa was surrounded. The Cumulonimbus Legion’s Coalition Infantry Troopers, Scout Snipers, Guided-Rocket Troopers, Rail Troopers, Engineers, Field Commanders and various Special Forces units had already made quick work of the remaining Cult forces and were approaching Spring Bell Square, the huge plaza surrounding Midnight Heaven Resort Spa, the huge Aauropod vehicles were already in the square, making short work of the defense turrets. As the first of Cumulonimbus Legion troops blasted through the barricaded doors with the Coalition Engineers’ detpacks, they encountered fierce resistance from the holed-up Cult forces, as the Aauropod vehicles were unable to enter the building. Still, the superior training and experience for the Cumulonimbus Legion allowed them to prevail through the chaos of the indoor combat, the falling statues, broken glass and chandeliers. The Legion advanced through the building, until they stormed into the Main Lobby, where they saw Yagamis and Isolde standing motionless in the center of the room. One of the Rail Troopers fired his shoulder-mounted rail gun at Yagamis, and rather bizarrely, a white flash of light blinded the troopers’ visor displays temporarily, and both Isolde and Yagamis fell backwards…the Shade Magic spell was broken by the arrival of the Cumulonimbus Legion. “Are you all right sir!?” the lead Coalition trooper said, in his thick Ohm accent. “Hahaha…army or not, you will not stop me!” A platoon of Cult Honor Guards, armed with Hurricane Rifles and wearing their stylized crimson robes, capes and armor, stormed into the room to protect their Master, but Isolde could see it in his eyes; Yagamis was starting to crumble from the pressure, he knew his end was near. Still, the climax of the battle was near, as the two sorcerers fought in the center of the hotel lobby with their soldiers fighting all around them, it epitomized exactly what Yagamis had explained in the beginning of the battle, and the essence of the entire war, that both sides had an agenda, and that agenda came before everything else. Fortunately, the war’s final moments were nigh. One of the Cumulonimbus Legion soldiers saw an opening, and fired a few potshots at Yagamis’ hideously distorted face, distracting him just long enough for Isolde to fire a death-shot clean into Yagamis’ gut. As Yagamis Serpentis lay dying, his final words were simple, yet worrisome: “It is just the beginning…your days are numbered…” The tyrant closed his eyes, and died, as the Cumulonimbus Legion let out a cheer that rocked the stars. The war was over, everyone could go home, and the long rebuilding process could begin.

  1. Reunion

“Miss Nami Arnsi, you have a visitor!” an attendant said, jubilantly. Standing up from her comfortable position, watching the galaxy-wide victory celebrations on the Omnivision, Nami stood up and walked towards the door to her Varaklyi Lake estate on the planet Nyssa II, a peaceful, mountainous planet covered in majestic peaks, green forests and beautiful lakes and rivers, She opened the door and looked down the marble staircase to the dock where the ferry boat was docked, and saw a person she thought she’d never see again. He was wearing his Coalition military uniform, covered in medals, including the Ethereal Cross, First Class, and was missing his left hand, but replaced by prosthesis. It was her boyfriend, Sergeant Artemis Rayne. Rayne had been the soldier that fired the shot allowing Isolde to kill Serpentis. Nami was speechless; she couldn’t believe he was actually home. Nami ran down the staircase, almost tripping over her long, black dress, long fur coat and high-heeled shoes and hugged Artemis tightly, never wanting to let go, despite the fact that her hat’s pointed crest was poking him in the nose. “I never thought I’d see you again…please, don’t let go…” Nami wept, so happy that she was crying. “I’m here for you…and these will be the best years of our lives, I guarantee it.” Rayne said, reassuringly.

“Chancellor Von Raun, your diplomats have made contact with the Naru Expedition, the planet Pararamelmel II is now officially a Coalition-controlled world, starting the postwar galaxy off on the right foot.” Mas Ferrius, Vice-Chancellor and Director of Coalition Intelligence said in his deep, booming voice. “Excellent. See to it that Professor Seta Amenna continues his search for the Ankaranni Sapphire; the diplomats will bring it back to me when it is found. As for the Sori Wizard Council, I have a request for them. Tell them to extend an invitation to the soldier known as Artemis Rayne. He is to be commended for his assistance to Councilor Isolde Edlosi. Also, the Senate, House and Supreme Court are meeting in the Grand Presidium for my State of the Galaxy Address in 3 hours. Be sure everyone is prepared.” “Yes Mr. Chancellor.” “You are dismissed, Vice-Chancellor Ferrius.” Ferrius walked out of the room as Chancellor Vitus Von Raun sat down back in his office, looking out at the colossal skyline of New York City on the Old Earth, the capital of the Coalition of Ordered Federations. Vehicles sped through the air, and huge Coalition Assault Carriers flew high overhead in formation, still celebrating the end of the war. Chancellor Von Raun had been in office for 13 years, the longest term of any Chancellor in galactic history; there was no term limit, but few chancellors served for longer than two terms, and only in times of crisis. Now that the war was over, it seemed likely that Von Raun, now in his mid-80s, would be voted out of office next election, scheduled to be held later that year. Still, what Von Raun did to win the war was far greater than any previous wartime Chancellor, having amassed the largest military in human history by war’s end, the COF had so many ships that there were few shipyards left to store them, so many of the hulls under construction were being scrapped repurposed for peaceful purposes. One such ship repurposed for peace was the FNS Naru, a former supercarrier converted from a warship to a research vessel, built to explore, not destroy. The ship itself was named after a tragic figure in the novel Crimson Blade, who died trying to save a man she loved. The expedition was sent to search for an ancient artifact, the Ankaranni Sapphire had practical applications as well; the Chancellor wanted the artifact as a power source for his super-weapon, the Crucifix. The expedition, however, didn’t know this. What they had been told was that this mission was strictly in the name of science and history, but with the arrival of COF diplomats, keeping Professor Amenna in the dark much longer wasn’t going to be easy. Seta was one of the most brilliant scientists in the galaxy, and had become increasingly wary of the government’s doings in the later stages of the war, as Chancellor Von Raun had made so many amendments to the COF Constitution that by this point, the Chancellor could effectively take absolute power in the event of an emergency. There were now surveillance systems in Congress’ Grand Presidium, much stricter regulations on broadcasts and even outright censorship of Galaxy Net computer access, as well as the Galactic Civil Protection Act, (GCPA,) which was currently being voted on in the Senate and House. This Act was being called by many galactic citizens as “the most tAsagarous act ever witnessed in the Congress,” and because of the wartime amendments to the Constitution, the Supreme Courts no longer had the power to rule any piece of legislation unconstitutional, only the Chancellor. The bill’s summary was that the Act would effectively keep the wartime procedures in effect indefinitely, allowing the government to arrest, detain, interrogate, and even assassinate civilians without them ever being charged with a crime, all in the name of “keeping you safe.” If this bill was signed into law, the galaxy would be subjected to a total military dictatorship, complete with secret arrests, secret prisons, unlawful interrogations, indefinite detainment without ever being charged with a crime, the torture of innocent civilians and even the outright assassination of citizens in their own homes. Although the language of the bill stated that civilians were not included in the detention mandate, it was purposely worded in this manner to confuse civilians, as two parts of the bill seemed to contradict each other. Even though Chancellor Von Raun’s term was up this year, if this bill was signed into law…who knows what the next elected leader would do with this power? The three candidates for succeeding Von Raun were Bartholomew Bering of the planet Brinfaal, Asaga Ise Kanagashima III of the planet Kisame, and a young woman named Fata Morgana, a very beautiful, very intelligent individual from the planet Faustian, like the planet’s namesake, most of the people living on the planet were very rich, aloof and didn’t care much for long-term consequences in their decisions except for immediate gain…definitely typical of a politician needing to please his or her constituents. Morgana was the one of the richest people in the galaxy, and probably one of the prettiest, too. She had long, black hair, beautiful green eyes and pale, alabaster skin, and a very interesting collection of outfits, often dressing in huge fur coats, elegant dresses, diamond earrings, a unique gold necklace called “Venus’ Girdle” and a Caucasus fur hat with a metal spike on top of it, a very popular fashion amongst the galaxy’s wealthy. She usually had black dress boots and gloves as well…and she was only 26. Asaga was 33, and Bering was in his 50s. At this point it appeared that Asaga was the favorite, although the third-party ticket on which Morgana ran, the Dawn Chorus Party, actually stood a chance at winning a considerable amount of the popular vote, simply because she would be the first woman in nearly 5,000 years to hold the highest office in the galaxy. The two major parties, the leftist New Democracy and the right-wing Iron Eagle Party, because of the electoral vote, were really the only parties that mattered. The Dawn Chorus Party, however, was very different. It was a very centralized, almost authoritarian party that had grown so popular amongst the disgruntled wealthy living on the planets of Faustian, the recently-rebuilt summer paradise of Ogni III and the Crown Jewel of the galaxy, the mighty world of Anxaati, that those three planets alone were enough to get Morgana onto the ballot. Her philosophy was ultra-conservative, corporatist, centralized and even described as proto-Fascist. Morgana believed firmly that “thinking is not productive, unless a rich person does it, so people just need to shut up and do their jobs;” to quote her directly. She despised Chancellor Von Raun’s policies of welfare, government aid, and only justified spending on such a massive scale because of the war, but now that it was over, the “War Budget” needed to be scrapped. Morgana fully supported the extreme security measures put in place by the wartime administration, and, aside from those three wealthiest planets in the galaxy, was not likely to gain many votes along liberal and libertarian lines, to say the least. Still, conservatives, the wealthy, self-defense survivalists and military hawks were likely to give her campaign a good, hard look, given the fact that Bering and his Iron Eagle party ticket’s stance on the current issues of helping veterans find jobs and rebuilding the infrastructure of devastated planets was woefully inadequate, and the New Democracy Party, of which Von Raun was a part of, wasn’t exactly on board with what needed to be done, either, hence the ability to gain more votes than usual for a third party. One thing was certain; from the snowy steppes of the planet Nordland, populated by descendants of Norwegian settlers who carried on the ancient traditions, just with modern technology, such as huge sleds that were pulled by domesticated, rhino-sized Wotan Slashers, gigantic white canines native to Nordland, except the hunters carried modern laser rifles, to the desert oases of Sah II, bountiful with water and lush vegetation on a planet characterized by its exceedingly dry climate, massive change was coming.

  1. Commendation

Upon his arrival on Earth from Nyssa II, Artemis believed as if he was stepping into a dream; veterans of the war were cheering him on as he marched up the gleaming white staircase to the Grand Presidium of the Congress, to receive his medal from Chancellor Von Raun and the 7-member Sori Council, consisting of the 7 most powerful Sori wizards in the galaxy, out of 13,000 fully-trained members. Isolde Edlosi and one of his fellow Councilmen, a young man named Kira Ondeosus from the planet Halychanka, shook Artemis’ hand as he received his award. The Medal of Iron Merit, in addition to his Ethereal Cross, was awarded for bravery and devotion, making Artemis the youngest man ever to earn both of these awards. Kira, however, was not impressed. Artemis had accomplished nothing, at least by Kira’s standards. Kira was the best star pilot in the galaxy and was incredibly strong in the ways of ka-ba magic, the magic form used by the Sori. He had been though his fair share of jams during the war, and being only 28 years old, he had known nothing but war until recently, and to be on the Council at his age was unprecedented. He had almost supernaturally defied death on 10 separate occasions, getting out of situations that even most other Sori couldn’t, and had become the poster boy for the COF war effort later on. Kira was always known as a scoundrel and relied on his incredible luck to pull him through disaster after disaster every time, between crashing his fighter on the misty planet of Lacarna just before the Battle of Ogni III or single-handedly destroying a Nordliggen Cult dreadnaught by firing two missiles into its main weapon, causing a self-destructive chain reaction, he instinctively knew when things were about to get bad. He spoke with a thick Slavic accent, as Halychanka was colonized by Slavonic peoples. He was also skeptical of the Naru Expedition, suspecting that the government had ulterior motives in sending a huge carrier to search for something as pointless as a simple gemstone. As the old Chancellor presented Artemis with his award, the crowd roared as a 21-gun salute rang out through Manhattan Megalopolis. Thousands of light-years away, however, another drama was taking place, one that would make a much, much greater impact on the galaxy than any award or election could make…”

“Dr. Amenna, the COF diplomats are here.” “What?” Seta said, adjusting his glasses. Three men wearing crimson uniforms and burgundy capes approached him in the compound, deep in the jungles of the most distant planet known, Pararamelmel II. “Greetings, Dr. Amenna. We would like to know if you have acquired the Ankaranni Sapphire yet.” “If we found it, we would have contacted you. Apparently, logic is not your strong point. Stick to interplanetary relations, and leave the academics and archaeology to the experts.” The diplomats sneered and walked away. “We will remain here, and when you find the Sapphire, you will give it to us, not the Museum of Humanity.” “What reason?” “Do I have to repeat myself, or do I need to break your neck?!” the lead diplomat screamed. Just then, Seta realized that these diplomats were slightly out of uniform… “Interesting badge, you’ve worked with the Ermell Syndicate?” The diplomat tensed up. “Keep in mind, Corporate Security Force that impersonating a diplomat is a federal offense that could get you and the corporate crones you serve in a lot of trouble. I recommend you leave this site now, before the Chancellor hears of this.” The guards, their cover blown, quickly left the site and went back to their ship, which had a phony COF decal on its tail fin. “What would that damn company possibly want with our expedition?” “Well, the Syndicate is one of the top 50 corporations in the galaxy and the Viceroy of the corporation, Stina, is a widely-renowned jewel collector, and these top 50 corporations are very, very close to the Chancellor and the Congress, perhaps the Chancellor knows something that we don’t?” Seta’s assistant asked. “Well, it’s safe to assume that Chancellor Von Raun knows many things that we do not, but the Ermell Syndicate should know better than to meddle in government affairs, as per the COF Corporate Sphere Act…unless, the Chancellor and the Syndicate are up to something illegal.” “That’s a very bold claim to make, and unless you have considerable evidence to support that, no one’s going to take you seriously.” “I’m certain others know it to, the masked hacker armies of “Legion” “(?)” and “.Evil/Nice” who never show their faces or reveal their voices when speaking on encrypted channels have attacked police forces, corporations, sporting events, celebrations and even private e-mail addresses of celebrities, politicians and ultra-religious figures, and they probably know far more than anyone in this galaxy. They’re all libertarians and they believe that if any freedoms are infringed upon, they will act swiftly and savagely. They were active throughout the war and are still fighting against the GCPA and other Wartime Laws.” “What are you talking about, Dr. Amenna?” “I’m saying what I’ve said many times in the past. This government is a farce, and the corporations are the ones really pulling the strings here. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Sitting in his office in Asagi City on the planet Kisame, Asaga Ise Kanagashima III was working at his computer, eating an orange, his favorite fruit. Oranges were very common on Kisame, as they were farmed by the bucketload in the largely tropical climate. It was warm, wet and rainy most of the time, with occasional hypercanes pounding its coastline; these superstorms were 50% more powerful than any hurricanes on Old Earth. During the summer, however, Kisame became a paradise for young people trying to escape the daily rigors of college, work or anything else that they might be dealing with…Asaga hated them. As the Senator and Governor-General of the planet, he wished he could ban those “rakes and malignant tumors” from appearing on his planet every summer, in his own words. He worked hard for Kisame to become a model for order, peace and honor in the Coalition of Ordered Federations, and always voted “yes” on legislation tasked with controlling youth activities, if it were solely up to him and not the rest of the Congress, anyone under the age of 18 would not be allowed out of their house after dark, only be allowed to go to certain places with an escort, and anyone trying to vacation on Kisame would be subject to arrest on the mere suspicion of committing a crime. He had already banned certain genres of music planet-wide, and did not allow anyone make noise after 3:00 A.M. Nightclubs were regularly raided by police under Asaga’s direct orders. He believed in torture, even though it was illegal, and voted to uphold Chancellor Von Raun and his fellow New Democracy Party members’ efforts to restrict freedoms during the war and now after it. Asaga himself was the Senator that had originally proposed the GCPA, and it was now in the final stages of processing, all it needed now was a plurality of votes and no filibusters, which had been attacking the bill relentlessly, to garner the Chancellor’s signature into law. Needless to say, he was perhaps the most controversial figure in the Congress and in the entire Coalition, for that matter. The fact that Asaga was now a serious candidate for Chancellor worried many people, to say the least, and his ability to speak to the masses was absolutely mesmerizing. Kisame’s crime rate and popularity amongst the galaxy’s college students had dropped precipitously with these new laws, which is exactly what Asaga wanted: order and peace, and he had a plan to achieve just that. As the drenching rain pattered the windows and skylights, Asaga was putting the finishing touches on a bill proposal that would allow the prison yards at Chowheim to be greatly expanded and repurposed for executions, not just prison terms, and that would repeal the ban on executions of minors under the age of 18. It was to be submitted to Congress the following day. Asaga had just returned from Manhattan on Old Earth from the Chancellor’s State of the Union Address; it was just like any other, in the colossal Grand Presidium, where the old United Nations building once stood, but it was the first one since the end of the war. What Asaga was truly focused on, however, was the secret discovery of an ancient legend…the truth was so incomprehensible that it was far beyond the scope of anything most galactic citizens could comprehend. Asaga had been researching evidence of lost societies for quite some time now, and he had found inarguable evidence that humanity was not the first society to completely occupy the galaxy. There were three others that Asaga knew of, called the Old Sinh, the Arch and the Ones. Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire of Darius and its successive dynasties, Alexander the Great, the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans all wrote about visits from these Empires, namely the Ones. It was all totally secret, even though the “hacktivist” groups “Legion,” “(?)” and “.Evil/Nice” were trying to figure out every secret, personal or government, imaginable. “(?)” had even hacked supermodel Anak-su-Ininia’s private e-mail account and displayed her e-mails, secret diaries and address on the Galaxy Net to allow the commoners some face-to-face time with one of the most beautiful women in the galaxy, just to make a political statement that all human beings were equal in the eyes of “(?),” and refusing to accept wealth as superior to hard work and intellect. They also hacked her boyfriend and every other woman at the modeling agency. Needless to say, this did not go over well, but no arrests were ever made. “Legion” was primarily a vigilante crime-fighting organization, they hacked everything from murder cases to the case where 5 young men from MIT on Earth attempted to steal β30 million from the university through their own hacking protocols, to the case where 4 sizzling-hot young women decided that it would be “fun” to rob a bank and steal β50 million for a new life…where they went into a permanent hiding place to live hedonistic, spoiled lives, while faking their own deaths. They fell into an organized crime ring, where they lived exquisite, lavish lifestyles, with yachts, fine wine, skimpy swimsuits, exorbitant parties and extraordinarily expensive clothes, and every luxury you could think of…but when they killed their boss and took control of a multi-billion β criminal empire, which got “Legion’s” attention. Even forming what they called the “Blood Orchid Consortium” was not enough, the four women tried to take control of a Coalition superweapon during the war, and use it to hold the Earth hostage until the Chancellor surrendered power to them…they wanted total control of the galaxy, they wanted to be spoiled queens, and they came this close. Just seconds before the superweapon would have fallen under Consortium control, “Legion” blocked the Consortium protocol, and that was the end of them. “Legion” assassins traced the protocol to a compound on Anxaati, where all 4 girls were put out of their misery. After a brief and pointless battle between the assassins and the Consortium guards, the assassins, wearing Greek tragedy masks, red capes and red and white uniforms, as well as wide-brimmed hats, brutally murdered the four girls, and on a note in the massive, luxurious hotel room were the words: “THIS IS OUR SWAN SONG. LONG LIVE THE CONSORTIUM!” as well as a speech; if the “Legion” assassins had arrived just a few seconds later, the girls’ faces would have appeared on every Omnivision screen in the galaxy to declare themselves as the new rulers. The galaxy dodged a nuclear missile, let alone a bullet. Once “Legion” discovered a crime, it would send an assassin, wearing a mask, wide-brimmed hat and red and white uniform and cape to kill the criminal or criminals, no matter where they were in the galaxy. That assassin was usually a psychotic killer named Lord Charon von Thule, under his alias, “Jeffrey.” He was a former criminal, imprisoned for killing and torturing his girlfriend with a coathanger, fishhooks and a blowtorch, simply because she “annoyed him” one night that had escaped and became a bounty hunter, and worked for whoever paid him the most money. Killing the four criminal masterminds was all in a day’s work for him, as was collecting the β500 million bounties. His disintegrator pistol was the most feared gun in the galaxy by far. “.Evil/Nice” was a political and libertarian organization, coming to the defense of people it believed were being wrongly attacked by government censorship and hacking police, the Chancellery and even the HIGHCOM headquarters in Arlington, Virginia on Earth. If these hackers ever discovered what Asaga was doing, however, that would change everything so radically that his plan would be ruined, as would his political career. For now, he had to prepare for the election, and he would address the citizens of the three richest planets in the galaxy, Ogni III, Anxaati and Faustian in a few hours, on the campaign trail. His ship was already warming up; the first stop was Anxaati, and Kranchvool Spaceport, in the planetary capital city of Anaxa. “Senator Asaga, your ship is ready.” “Good. I’ll be right there.”

  1. Campaign

The planet of Anxaati loomed large and mighty in front of Asaga’s solar sail-powered ship, it used Quantum Space drives but sailed on solar wind at sub-light speeds. The planet’s climate was warm and mild, with luxurious cities and resorts on the planet’s 3 continents; the planet was called the “Jewel in the Crown” for a reason. The rural suburbs of the great cities were full of houses that were so large and magnificent that anyone who saw them could only gawk in amazement. Many celebrities, politicians, and CEOs lived here; the top 100 corporations in the galaxy all had their headquarters here, the great museums, opera houses and universities on Anxaati played host to the galaxy’s wealthiest citizens, the planet was known as the “Sacred Fatherland” to its inhabitants, for it was originally settled by German colonists. “Mein Heimatland, Mein Herz, Mein Liebe” was the planetary motto, and the coat of arms was a huge Iron Cross with an inverted triad in the center of it, surrounded by laurel leaves. “This is Kranchvool Docking Control Tower 8; we have you on our scope, you are clear to land on Pad 9, Sector 4.” “Copy that.” Asaga’s pilot said. “Senator Kanagashima, we’ll be landing in 5 minutes.” Asaga nodded as the ship entered the planet’s atmosphere. “Need I present the docking codes, Senator?” “No, that is not necessary. The Kanagashima family has good ties with Anxaati. My 4 younger sisters all attend Morgensonne Law School here. Asaga’s sisters, Emi, Sei, Sara and Naomi, all scored in the top 1% of the galaxy on their Law School Proficiency Exams, and all attended the top university in the galaxy’s most prestigious program, its law school. Their older brother was about to pay the planet a visit on Grimmvost Night, of all nights, Grimmvost was the local equivalent of Halloween, a planetwide Oktoberfest where people dressed in elaborate costumes and drank themselves silly. The size of the people’s houses was only matched by the size of the parties they threw. Knowing how much Asaga despised parties and frivolousness, this was not going to go over well. Asaga had never seen Grimmvost up close, but he was about to get an eyeful. As his ship approached the docking bay, he noticed an unusual amount of festivities taking place in Talia Square, the center of Anaxa. “What is going on down there?” “It’s Grimmvost Night, sir.” “What?” “The holiday, sir? You know?” the pilot explained. The ship touched down in Talia Square, and the moment Asaga stepped out, he was greeted by the dockworker, who was wearing a very silly hat and fake, goofy glasses. “Welcome, Senator Kanagashima, to our lovely Grimmvost Night Extravaganza!” “Take that silly hat off your head; you should be ashamed of yourself.” Kanagashima left the stupefied dockworker behind as he stepped into the limousine. “Look at this utter and complete pointlessness…if this was Kisame, they would be all arrested for disorderly conduct.” The limousine driver knew better than to say anything. As the limo proceeded down the avenue and passed the costumed partygoers, Asaga shook his head and avoided looking out the window. The Anaxa Bundestag was dead ahead, its spires and traditional German architecture standing high above the rest of the opulent buildings, with astronomical land values, surrounded by Victory Square, where the Anxaati Dragoon Guards, the ceremonial, planet-specific Wachtbatallions from the Coalition of Ordered Federations military often marched in neat, perfectly synchronized fashion. As the Kanagashima limousine hovered over to the gated entrance to Victory Square, the elaborately-adorned Dragoon Guards checked the vehicle ID via electronic scan bot and waved him through. As the limo hovered over to the building’s entrance, the Planetary Baron Administrator Roan Va greeted him. “Joyous Grimmvost, Senator. We are pleased to have you here, and cannot wait to hear your speech…I wish the same was true for a group of people that went missing, though.” “What do you mean?” Asaga grumbled, as he, the Dragoons and Baron Va walked down the massive, cathedral-like corridor, bordered by statues of famous Germans throughout human history, such as previous Baron Administrators and all the way back to the days of Old Earth, when humanity lived only on Earth. “A group of young people went hiking in the Aranbergen Mountains last night and never returned. The Anxaati Dragoons and the local police forces are working to find them, but, at this point, no luck.” “Well, maybe you can use that bionic eye of yours, Baron, to find them.” Baron Va was a veteran of the Nordliggen Cult War and had hunted Cult operatives as a pilot on behalf of the Coalition and the Sori Wizards, and had lost his eye in a battle on the planet Kyrie. “This eye can see infrared imagery, but not at a large distance. Strangely, this is not the first group of people to go missing in these mountains. They are all young women, and they appear to be disappearing at an alarming rate; oddly, this resembles Cult activities during the war, there may be some holdouts on this planet, as much as I can figure.” “Impossible, Cult? Here? On Anxaati? That’s about as logical as having a spaghetti-eating contest without Italy.” “You always have very odd analogies…” “Thanks…” Asaga responded, awkwardly. “Either way, I have a very bad feeling about this…I fought their soldiers during the war, and their black uniforms, trench coats, sallet helmets, steel face masks and huge plasma assault rifles still haunt me to this day.” Anxaati was one of the few worlds considered “safe” from Cult influence, even though a large Cult fleet did attack during the 15th year of the war. The attack was thwarted by the unfathomable heroism of the Praetor and its crew, a large refit station in orbit during the battle with intercepted a full-on salvo from the Cult fleet, allowing the massive Anxaati Defense Fleet and the Coalition of Ordered Federations military to retaliate. The Cult never came near Anxaati again. Anxaati was forever known as the “Defender of the Crown” and “The Planet that Fought Back” The crew of the refit station had since passed into legend, celebrated in song and literature. Still, the very thought of Cult holdouts here was unnerving.

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