Culmination, Part 30

Belfamor Hemetal crouched behind a fallen pillar in the Grand Hall of the Imperial Palace on Trisitania, assault rifle clutched tightly to his chest, his squadmates huddled next to him. They had almost reached Neminatrix, but his bodyguards were putting up a determined resistance, trying to take out as many of Valador’s soldiers as they could before they went down. Belfamor popped up, squeezed off a few shots in the direction of the Throne, and then ducked back down behind the pillar before Neminatrix’s soldiers could return fire. Sweating profusely, he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his forehead, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. He also had to urinate badly, but there wasn’t much he could do about that at the moment, so he ignored it.

Suddenly a female voice called out across the battlefield. “Stop this nonsense at once!” it said. Belfamor’s eyes grew wide at the sound of that voice, and he risked a peek over the top of the pillar. Sure enough, his wife was standing in the middle of the Grand Hall, her appearance immaculate, wearing a beautiful green and gold dress, oblivious to the death and destruction surrounding her.

“Shala?” Belfamor whispered, shocked. Somehow, despite the noise of guns firing and men and women yelling and screaming, Shala heard him. She looked right at him, and then starting marching toward him, heedless of the chaos around her. When she got close to him, she planted her fists on her hips, with a firm look on her face.

“Go home, Belfamor,” she said harshly.

“What?” Belfamor replied in shock.

“I said, ‘go home!'” she replied, her voice stern. “I don’t want you to rescue me. I’m going to stay here with Neminatrix. I’m in love with him now, not you.”

“How…how can this be?” Belfamor whispered, his voice barely audible over the sounds of battle still going on around them.

“General, it’s 0600 hours,” Shala replied. “Time to wake up.” Belfamor stared at her in complete bafflement for a moment, and then his eyes snapped open, and he was laying on his bed, in his quarters onboard Decimator.

“General?” said the female voice again.

“I’m here, Ensign,” Belfamor replied groggily. “Thank you for the wake-up call.” He sat up slowly, shaking his head and rubbing his temples. What in Nerzaga was that dream all about? he thought irritably. He’d been having strange dreams like that for a week now, ever since the Emperor had given him the tacit go-ahead for his offensive against Trisitania. He wondered if maybe his subconscious was having second thoughts about this whole plan, but it was too late to back out now. Instead, he got out of bed, relieved himself, and got in the shower.

Today was the day. Today, the fleet was going to drop into subspace, fly to Trisitania, and reclaim the capital in the name of the true Emperor. Once Neminatrix was dead, the Empire would be whole again, at least as whole as it had been ever since the war started. And, perhaps more importantly, Belfamor would have his wife back, and he would never have to worry about her father stealing her away ever again.

Finishing up with his shower, he shaved and then got dressed, and left his quarters for the bridge. Although Admiral Zomulin was in command of this operation, he had still planned it, and he wanted to be there as the operation got underway. The ship was bustling with activity as Belfamor made his way through the narrow corridors, returning the salutes of junior officers every few steps. Decimator was scheduled to drop into subspace in less than twenty minutes, and the crew was rushing to make sure everything was prepared for the drop.

On the bridge, things were outwardly calmer, but there was still an air of heightened anticipation among the bridge crew. Admiral Zomulin was sitting in the command chair, looking, at first glance, out of place with her stylish hair, her immaculate makeup, her painted nails, and the fact that she could somehow make even a military uniform look fashionable. Even at almost 40 years old, she looked like she should be strutting down a trendy street on Cortaris or Endragar, instead of commanding a military vessel. But if you looked closely, there were small clues, like the way she sat in the command chair, or the steely glint in her eye, that made you realize she was exactly where she was supposed to be.

“General, good to see you, sir,” Zomulin said respectfully, glancing away from her display for a moment and then going right back to it.

“Likewise, Admiral,” Belfamor replied, nodding slightly. “Everything ready?”

“Would we be ten minutes from drop if it weren’t?” Zomulin asked wryly. She paused, and then glanced up at him, her cheeks reddening slightly. “My apologies, sir.”

“Not at all, Admiral,” Belfamor replied with a small smile. “It was a stupid question.” Kryla gave him a small smile in return, and turned her attention back to the display attached to the command chair.

Belfamor found his seat at the back of the bridge and observed the crew as they prepared for the drop. Unlike everyone else in the fleet, he had absolutely nothing left to do. His job had been to plan for this operation. Now that the planning phase was done and it was about to commence, there wasn’t anything else for him to do. In fact, he probably should have stayed behind on Revellia, but he was too personally invested in this mission to sit around and wait for the outcome. Besides, he did have one more task he intended to accomplish.

“Drop in ten seconds!” announced the navigation officer, interrupting Belfamor’s musings. A few seconds later, there was the familiar shudder and kaleidoscope effect, and Decimator and the rest of the fleet were on their way. Belfamor sighed in satisfaction as he watched the mesmerizing colors on the viewscreen. There was no turning back now.

To be continued…

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