A Song of Sorrow, Part 13

Two hours and three packs of cigarettes after she entered the main landing bay of the Palace, Shana Vodic didn’t know whether to scream in frustration or laugh maniacally at the absurdity of life. The demolition team had made no progress in breaking through the landing bay doors, and Colonel Chrevis was increasingly of the opinion that no amount of firepower the Legion possessed would even make a dent in the door.

“I don’t know if it’s a flaw in the design of the door, or what,” Chrevis growled to her, “but it’s actually stronger from the inside than from the outside. Even if we could blow through the door, it would take so much power, we’d take half this building with it.” Vodic swore and took another drag from her cigarette.

“So what do we do, Colonel?” she said irritably, “We need to find some way to let the Emperor in here!”

“I know, General,” Chrevis said in a flat voice, “but this isn’t the way to do it. If we could contact the Emperor, we could work together with his troops and get this door open. But with all outbound communications shut down…”

Vodic closed her eyes and inhaled deeply on her cigarette while she thought. There had to be some sort of solution!

“Keep working on the door, Colonel,” she said, turning to leave. “I’m going to talk to IT and see if there is some way to get a message out to the Emperor without access to the network.” Chrevis saluted and turned back to his team, and Vodic walked briskly down the hall to where her IT team had set up shop.

Normally, the Palace’s IT staff worked in the Palace’s central command center, but nobody could get in the command center right now, because the remote defense system that guarded it was programmed to attack anybody who approached. According to her people, if they could get in the command center, they could reroute control of the Palace away from Halais’s tablet, but defeating the remote defenses would be difficult, to say the least.

“Well, Captain,” Vodic said as she entered the makeshift IT center, “what’s the status of that tablet?”

Captain Hashai Selbsi was the leader of the Legion’s IT team. She was, like most members of the Legion, a long time veteran of the Imperial Armed Forces. She was normally cool and unflappable, but this crisis was wearing on her as much as anybody. Her usually impeccable hair was stuck out at random angles, and her generally perfect makeup was smudged. She had dark circles under eyes, as if she hadn’t slept in days.

“This is a mess, General,” she said in an exasperated tone. “Maybe if I had a month and a team twice this size, I could crack the encryption on this tablet. Maybe. But in a few hours? Impossible. Completely impossible.” Vodic sighed and flicked the butt of her cigarette onto the floor.

“I was afraid of that,” she said. “Let’s try another tack then. Is there anyway we can bypass the Palace’s communication network and contact the Emperor? If he understood our situation, it wouldn’t be nearly so urgent.”

“I don’t know,” Selbsi said, shaking her head. “All communications in and out of the Palace are routed through the central command center so that the ISS can keep an eye on everything. You know how paranoid they are…,” she trailed off and a thoughtful look appeared in her eyes. “That’s it!” she exclaimed suddenly. “That’s the answer!”

“What is?” asked Vodic.

“The ISS!” she yelled. “They have a separate communications network! If we can access their network, we should be able to contact the Emperor!” Vodic’s eyes widened, and she swore softly to herself.

“Of course!” she said, quietly but intensely. “Why didn’t I think of that sooner!” Immediately she turned on her heel to make her way to the ISS office.

The problem was, the Legion and the ISS did not get along. The Legion of the Heart was responsible for the security of the Imperial Palace, but the ISS was responsible for the security of the Empire as a whole, and they considered the Palace to be the most important portion of the Empire. As a result, each organization defended its turf quite viciously and did as little as possible to cooperate with the other.

She approached the door leading to the ISS office, and was surprised to discover that it failed to open. Despite the hostility between the two groups, as Commander of the Legion she should have had access to every area of the Palace. The door should have detected her biometric data and allowed her access. The fact that it didn’t was…troubling.

“This is General Shana Vodic,” she announced to the stubborn door. “I need to access the ISS communication network.” There was no response. Vodic stood there for a few minutes, getting angrier and angrier, until finally she swore and slammed her fist against the door. “I am General Vodic!” she yelled. “I order you to open this door and let me use your communication network!”

A few more moments passed without a response, and then a voice spoke. “I’m sorry, General Vodic,” it said, “but we cannot allow you to enter.” Vodic’s eyes widened with rage at this statement.

“How dare you!” she screamed. “I am the Commander of the Legion of the Heart! There is no area of this complex that is off limits to me!” The voice chuckled nastily, and Vodic felt herself getting even more incensed.

“I’m afraid your position is no longer needed, General Vodic,” the voice said, “The Emperor has no need of traitors.” A sharp stab of fear cut through Vodic’s rage.

“Traitor?” she yelled. “What are you talking about! I am no traitor!”

“You might think that,” the voice said, “but when we tell the Emperor that the Legion locked down the Palace in order to hold it against him, well… I don’t think he will have much use for the Legion of the Heart after this.” The voice chuckled nastily once more, and then went silent, leaving a shocked General Vodic to contemplate her fate.

To be continued…

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