Decimator was one of the newest and most powerful cruisers in the Imperial Fleet. Its captain was a young woman named Kryla Zomulin, one of many officers who had advanced quickly due to the death of so many senior officers in the destruction of the Senate and the subsequent defection of many units to Fangalin and Hadramoris. Four years ago she had been a brand new second lieutenant, fresh out of the Imperial Military Academy. It still didn’t seem quite real to her. She often worried that her new responsibilities would prove to be too much for her, but she did her best to hide those concerns and project an air of professionalism and confidence. She felt like she owed it to her crew to keep her worries to herself.
She was short and cute, with short, blonde hair cut in the latest fashion and big blue eyes. In civilian clothes, one would never guess that she was a military officer, much less the captain of a warship. But, despite her appearance and her inner doubts, she was calm and authoritative, and was well-respected by those above and below her in the Fleet.
Decimator was part of the fleet of Emperor Extrator IV, previously known as Jimalin Redlamin. Captain Zomulin didn’t particularly care who occupied the throne, but her patron, Admiral Abaden Lors, supported Extrator, so Zomulin supported Extrator.
“Captain, fifteen minutes until we arrive at Trisitania,” said her navigation officer, a lieutenant only a few years younger than her.
“Acknowledged, lieutenant,” she said with a small nod. She was sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge of Decimator, feeling rather proud of herself and rather foolish at the same time. These feelings were amplified by the fact that Admiral Lors was on board, plus the Emperor himself had made Decimator his flagship. This mission was a tremendous opportunity for her to show what she was capable of but, conversely, if she screwed up there would be no hiding it.
The Admiral and the Emperor were standing side-by-side on a small rise off to her right. Both of them were silently staring at the psychedelic swirl of colors displayed on the main screen as Decimator hurtled through subspace. The Emperor was famous for his fierce piety and, looking at him, Captain Zomulin could see why. His face had the unnatural smoothness of someone who never smiled, and his eyes burned with righteous fervor. Zomulin, who was not particularly religious, found him rather intimidating.
The Admiral was the complete opposite. Zomulin knew that he was about 50 years old, but he looked much older. He had long, flowing white hair and a bushy white beard. He had the face of someone who smiled often and laughed more, and even now, his eyes twinkled as if he were on the verge of telling a particularly delightful joke. Ever since Zomulin entered the Academy, Abaden Lors had been like the indulgent grandfather she’d never had.
“One minute, Captain,” said the navigation officer. Lors noticed Zomulin studying him, and gave her a wink. She smiled shyly back, but quickly directed her attention back to her duty when she noticed the Emperor regarding her with a disapproving frown.
“Dropping out of subspace in 5…4…3…2…1,” said the navigation officer. There was a deep thrum and the ship shuddered slightly. “Returning to normal space. All systems are green.” The blue and green jewel that was Trisitania loomed large in the main screen.
“XO, report,” Zomulin ordered.
“Initial scans indicate that there are currently 572 civilian ships and three military ships in orbit around Trisitania,” her XO said.
“Identify them,” she ordered, meaning the military ships.
“They read as Infinity-class destroyers, registered as Task Force G7,” he replied.
“Open a channel,” she said. After a few seconds, the communications officer gave her a nod, and she continued speaking. “Task Force G7, this is Captain Kryla Zomulin of the cruiser Decimator, flagship of His Majesty Emperor Extrator IV. We are moving into orbit around Trisitania in order to transport the Emperor down to the Palace. You are hereby commanded to pledge allegiance to the Emperor or face destruction. How do you respond?” There was a moment of silence while everyone on the bridge waited for a response.
“Decimator, this is Commander Sirin Lonsim of the destroyer Limitless Wind,” came the response. “As commander of Task Force G7, I hereby state that we have received your message and pledge our allegiance to Extrator IV.” Captain Zomulin couldn’t help but let out a little sigh of relief at this response, which drew a scowl from the Emperor and an encouraging nod from Lors.
“Acknowledged, Limitless Wind,” Zomulin said. “Stand by for further orders.” She waited a moment, and then spoke again to her crew. “Helm, move into orbit around the planet. Comm, signal the rest of the fleet to follow our lead.” She pressed a button on the control panel in front of her. “Dropship control, prepare for troop deployment to the surface.” At this, the Emperor gave her one last glare, and left the bridge with his retinue to go join his troops. Zomulin let out a much larger sigh of relief once he was gone.
“Well, Admiral,” she said to Lors, “you were right. That was much easier than I expected.” Lors smiled and came down to stand next to her.
“You really should listen to me, Kryla,” he said fondly. “I usually know what I’m talking about.” Then his smile faded and his demeanor grew grimmer. “I’m afraid the easy part is over, though. The people of Trisitania are in turmoil, and will not look fondly on what they see as a military invasion by yet another pretender to the throne. There will be blood in the streets before this is over.” He sighed, and in Kryla’s eyes, he seemed to grow twenty years older in an instant. She shivered, imagining the fire and death that was still coming for the Empire.
To be continued…