Belfamor Hemetal frowned as he gazed out on the rapidly approaching skyline of Selorin. It had been a long time since he’d last been here. Oddly, he was doing the same thing this time as he’d done last time; rescuing his wife from her father. Although, she hadn’t been his wife at the time, but that didn’t really matter. All that mattered was that this time, Belfamor was going to end this.
In reality, he probably shouldn’t have even been on this landing craft. As the overall commander of the operation, he wasn’t even supposed to be with the fleet, much less with the ground forces. But he needed to be certain. Certain that his wife was okay, and certain that Neminatrix was dealt with, once and for all. He didn’t trust anyone to complete this task aside from himself. Somewhere deep inside, he knew that was an insane thing to think, but he didn’t care. Neminatrix needed to die, and his wife needed to be back in his arms. That was all that mattered, and once those two things happened, everything would be alright again. He just kept telling himself that.
“General, are you sure this is a good idea?” asked a voice suddenly. Belfamor glanced over at a young Captain sitting nearby. She was the commander of the unit occupying this landing craft, and her name was Melizca Felane. The fierce expression on her face as she looked at Belfamor belied the mildness with which she’d spoke. She was one who would treat a commanding officer with utmost respect, but wouldn’t hesitate to speak her mind if she thought said commanding officer was doing something stupid.
“No, Captain, I’m not sure,” Belfamor replied drily, “but I’m doing it anyway. One of the prerogatives of being a general. If you want to do something stupid, there aren’t many people who can stop you.”
“Must be nice, sir,” Felane said with a smirk.
“It’s alright,” Belfamor replied, returning her smirk. Then he went back to looking out of the viewscreen of the landing craft. Probably, he should have been sitting down and strapped in like the rest of the soldiers on the craft, but he felt like if a person was going to do something stupid, they might as well take it all the way. Besides, Neminatrix’s ground defenses were no match for these new landing craft.
No, as stupid as his actions were, he was committed to this, and he needed to see it through. He would make sure that his wife was safe. Nobody else could do this.
Since the dawn of time, humans had lived on Trisitania. And as long as humans had lived on Trisitania, there had been a settlement on the site of Selorin. Over two millennia of constant habitation meant, among other things, that there was an extensive series of tunnels underneath the city. As long as you knew where you were going, it was possible to get from any point in the city to any other point, without ever poking your head above ground. Including the Imperial Palace.
And Hana Lodimeur knew exactly where she was going. For three hundred years, Fangalin had hidden within the structures and organizations of the Empire, biding its time and gathering information until they could come out into the open and begin their war to claim their rightful place as rulers of the galaxy. One of the things they did during that time was create a complete and exhaustive map of the tunnels under Selorin. It was believed by some that Fangalin had more extensive knowledge of the Selorin tunnel system than anyone in the Empire.
Intelligence reports from Fangalin operatives on Trisitania had indicated that there was a relatively short stretch of tunnel that was unguarded and led straight into the Palace itself. How Neminatrix could be so lax about security that he wouldn’t even post guards on such a direct route into the heart of his power, Hana had no idea, but she wasn’t going to complain about it. Maybe he was just so secure in his egotism that he figured nobody would dare to attack him directly. Whatever the reason was, Hana thanked the Dark Presence that it existed.
Quickly and quietly, she poked her head around a corner and scanned for guards. “Clear,” she whispered as she moved out into the tunnel. The intelligence reports indicated that this tunnel was unguarded, but intelligence reports weren’t always correct. Hana was too close to her goal for it to be thwarted now by carelessness.
She and the rest of her team crept silently down the tunnel, moving much faster than any outside observer would have imagined, considering how little sound they were making. Hana and her team members kept their eyes and ears open, doing their best to make sure that if there were guards in this tunnel, they wouldn’t be caught by surprise.
Bringing up the rear at this point was the young lieutenant with the rocket launcher. Tall and muscular, with short black hair and bright hazel eyes, he was one of the newest members of Starfengt. An expert in demolition and explosives (hence the rocket launcher), he was also well versed in computer technology and information warfare. His name was Valdamich Lotarien, and he was bringing up the rear so that he could keep an eye on the motion/heat tracker that was strapped to his left wrist.
“Captain, I’m getting some anomalous readings here,” he said, suddenly and quietly. Hana signaled for the group to stop, and she turned to him.
“What do you mean, Lieutenant?” she asked with a frown.
“I mean I’m detecting some motion up ahead, around the next turn, along with some heat sources, but…I don’t think they’re human,” he replied, looking puzzled. Hana’s frown deepened as she looked at Lotarien, and then she pulled up the display on her own motion tracker. For a moment, she studied the anomalous readings that Lotarien had noticed, and then suddenly it dawned on her.
“Drones,” she breathed. “Neminatrix, you clever bastard.”
To be continued…