The Darkest Heart, Part 18

“Give me a status update, Commander,” Kryla Zomulin said as she strode onto Decimator‘s bridge.

“All ships are reporting in, Admiral,” Hosken Venrel replied. “All captains are ready to go on your mark.”

“Excellent,” Zomulin said, settling into the command chair. “As soon as we get the final word from the Emperor, we’ll be ready to depart.”

“Admiral!” called the communications officer, Lt. Halamai Otur. “We’re receiving a transmission from Trisitania!”

“That’s our ticket,” Zomulin replied, a wolfish grin spreading across her face. “Put it onscreen.” Immediately the Emperor’s face appeared on the huge viewscreen at the front of the bridge. “Your Majesty!” Zomulin said. “Is the mission ready to go?”

“Not quite, Admiral,” Valador replied. “I have a last minute change of plans.”

“Oh?” Zomulin said, carefully keeping her face still. “What sort of change?”

“I don’t want to tell you over a long-distance channel. I’m coming to the Rock to brief you in person.”

There was a slight pause, and the Zomulin said, “Understood, Your Majesty. We will await your arrival.”

“Very good, Admiral,” Valador said with a slight nod and a sardonic smile. “I will arrive in about three hours.”

Zomulin leaned back in her chair as the viewscreen went blank, a small frown on her face. “What do you suppose that was all about?” asked Commander Venrel.

“I don’t know, and I don’t like it,” Zomulin replied thoughtfully. “The Emperor gave me command of this mission. If he’s changing things up now, that can’t be a good sign.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Venrel said. “When has messing up a perfectly good battle plan at the last second for no reason ever backfired?”

Zomulin looked at him with a smirk, and just shook her head. “It’s a good thing I like you, Commander,” she said. “Not too many XOs could say something like that about the Emperor and keep their commissions.”

“Ah, Valador’s alright,” Venrel said, grinning. “He was a military man. He knows how this game is played.”

“You’re right, he does,” Zomulin said, her grin fading. “So why is he doing this?” She was silent for a moment, thinking, and then she shook her head. “Well, we’ll find out soon enough. Inform the fleet that our departure will be delayed. Have everybody run down their pre-drop checklists again. That’ll keep everyone busy until the Emperor arrives.”

“Aye-aye, sir,” Venrel said, as Zomulin stood up.

“I’ll be in my office,” she said. “Inform me immediately as soon as the Emperor arrives.”

The next three hours passed both quickly and slowly. A few times Zomulin looked at the clock, sure that an hour had passed, only to find that it had been just five minutes. And then she got lost in her work, glanced at the clock after what seemed like only a few minutes, and was shocked to discover that it had been over an hour. Indeed, she was convinced there was still an hour left to go when her communicator beeped.

“Admiral!” said Commander Venrel’s voice. “The Emperor’s transport has just dropped out of subspace and is headed for docking bay 3!”

“I’m on my way,” Zomulin replied, standing up. “Meet me there, and tell Commander Sahrinae that she has the bridge.”

“Aye-aye, sir,” Venrel said. A few minutes later, he fell in next to her as she was striding down the corridor leading to the docking bays.

“Here we go,” Zomulin muttered under her breath as the door to docking bay 3 slid open. The Emperor was just disembarking from his shuttle, surrounded by his usual retinue of advisors. “Your Majesty!” Zomulin exclaimed. “Welcome to Decimator! It is such an honor to have you on board.”

“I’m sure it is,” Valador replied with a smirk. “I won’t take up much of your time, Admiral. I’m sure you and your fleet are anxious to get started with your mission. Do you have somewhere we can talk in private?”

“Of course, Your Majesty,” Zomulin said with a bow. “Right this way.” Zomulin and Venrel escorted the Emperor, minus his retinue, up to the top deck, where there was a large conference room that was secured against all known forms of eavesdropping. Once they were there, Valador sat at the head of the large conference table, and gestured for Zomulin to sit next to him. Venrel sat on Zomulin’s other side. No one else was in the room.

“I’ll be brief, Admiral,” Valador said. “I know you’re worried that I’m going to do something stupid and screw up your whole battle plan, so rest assured that’s not going to happen. The only change I’m making, is that I’m coming along.”

There was a brief pause, while Zomulin just stared at Valador, and then she shook her head. “No,” she said.

“No?” Valador repeated in a soft, dangerous voice. “I’m sorry, I must have misheard you. Did you just say ‘no’ to the Emperor?”

“Yes I did,” Zomulin replied, “and you can execute me or imprison me or whatever you want, but I’m not going to take it back. It’s ridiculous. What possible purpose can be served by you coming with us? Do you want to die? Do you realize how much chaos would result at this point if you died right now? The Senate has yet to meet for the first time since the Breaking. Do you really want their first session to be picking your successor? Especially when two men who despise each other are poised to go head-to-head in that fight?”

“I’m well aware of the political situation, Admiral,” Valador said wryly. “Probably even more so than you. Rest assured, this is not a decision I make lightly.”

“Then prove it,” Zomulin shot back, folding her arms across her chest and fixing the Emperor with her most determined stare. “Convince me that I should let you come on this mission.”

“I’m not accustomed to being the one who does the convincing, Admiral,” Valador said, the dangerous tone back in his voice.

“Then toss me in the brig,” Zomulin replied coolly. “Or throw me out an airlock. Because I will not give the order to commence this operation with you on board, unless you give me a good reason why you should be.”

To be continued…

The Darkest Heart, Part 17

“I’m glad you feel that way, sir,” Peltoren replied. “I’ve done my best to live up to the expectations that go along with my new position.”

“Indeed,” Lavatiel agreed. “That said, I do have some concerns about the command that the President has entrusted you with.”

“Oh?” Peltoren said, raising one eyebrow. “What sort of concerns? Sir?”

“I’m familiar with your file, obviously, and I know how intimately involved you were with the Starfortress project under Fangalin. Understandably, you have a very close attachment to Heart of the Galaxy. I’m concerned that using Galaxy as bait to lure the Imperial Fleet into our trap will be…difficult for you.”

“I don’t…quite understand what you mean, sir,” Peltoren replied, her brow furrowed. Lavatiel paused for a moment, thinking.

“It’s difficult to explain,” she said finally. “Let me tell you a story, and we’ll see if that sheds any light on what I’m trying to say. My first command was a destroyer called The Messenger. That was a good ship. I was still serving with the Imperial Fleet back then. This was before the war started. My fleet commander was a good friend of Eregon Fadlamis, and he was also my mentor, so when the Republic was formed, my crew and I joined up. I was in command of that vessel for five years. Those were five good years. But then, during a battle with the Empire, we were forced to abandon ship, and The Messenger was destroyed. I was devastated by that loss. I was offered a new command after the battle, but I turned it down. It took me a year to get over losing my ship.”

“I’m…sorry to hear that, sir,” Peltoren said, “but I don’t quite understand what this has to do with me and Heart of the Galaxy.” Lavatiel stared flatly at Peltoren for a moment, and then she sighed heavily.

“I guess I just want to make sure that you will put the wellbeing of the Republic ahead of the wellbeing of your vessel,” she said. “I know how easy it is to get attached to a ship, Chieria. I can imagine how much you love Heart of the Galaxy. So I need to know, if you are faced with a choice between sacrificing your ship, or sacrificing the Republic, which will you choose?”

Peltoren stared at her for a moment, her face blank. Then she spoke, in a quiet but fierce voice. “I love that ship. I love it more than any human I have ever met. But I know my role, and I know who I serve. If I am ever faced with a choice between Galaxy and the Republic, there is no doubt in my heart that I will chose the Republic.” Both women stared at each other for a long time, no expression on either face, and then finally Lavatiel leaned back, and grinned broadly.

“I couldn’t have come up with a better answer myself,” she said, relieved. “You will do well, Chieria. It won’t be long, I bet, before you’re sitting in this chair.”

“Thank you, sir,” Peltoren replied, her face still expressionless. Truth be told, she was seething inside. For someone to even think such a thing of her! Yes, she loved Heart of the Galaxy. That ship was her baby. But it was still just a ship. Obviously, people were more important than ships. If Galaxy was destroyed, she would be sad, but infinitely less so than if she managed to save the ship at the cost of any members of its crew. How much more so would the fate of the Republic mean to her, as opposed to her ship! True, she’d only been a citizen of the Republic for a brief time, but she wasn’t a mercenary. She already loved and believed in the Republic far more than she’d ever loved Fangalin. Maybe it was because she had been born into Fangalin, but she had chosen the Republic. Whatever the reason, she served the Republic now, and that wasn’t going to change for any reason, especially not for the sake of a hunk of metal!

“I didn’t mean to question your loyalty,” Lavatiel said with a slight frown. Peltoren blinked in reply. Well, she thought she’d kept her face expressionless. “I know you’ve transferred your loyalty to the Republic wholeheartedly. I’ve read your file. I know what happened in Fangalin. Truth be told, I’m surprised more people didn’t defect with you. I mean, I know you brought an entire fleet and an army with you, but frankly, I don’t see how anyone could have stayed after what happened. Who would be foolish enough to write a constitution for a country that basically encouraged murdering its ruler?”

“It is quite baffling,” Peltoren said quietly. “I certainly have no interest in returning to such a regime.”

“And I believe that,” Lavatiel said, nodding. “I know what you’ve been through, and what you turned your back on, and that’s why I trust you. I don’t want you to think that I don’t trust you. I just want to make sure that your head is in the right place for this mission.”

“I do appreciate that, sir,” Peltoren replied, feeling slightly mollified. “I would do the same thing for anyone under my command.”

“I know you would, Admiral,” Lavatiel said with a satisfied look. “You are a good commander.” She paused for a moment, and looked at Peltoren thoughtfully. “I’m going to talk to the President about me being on Iron Dragonfly. There’s no reason you need me looking over your shoulder. If you’re going to be in command of this mission, you should be in command of this mission. You don’t need me scrutinizing your every move.”

“That’s really not necessary, sir,” Peltoren said with a slight frown. “I don’t mind.”

“Don’t worry about it, Chieria,” Lavatiel said, shaking her head. “I’ll take care of it. You go and get to work on that operational writeup now. Just let me take care of the rest.”

To be continued…

The Darkest Heart, Part 16

“Wait a minute,” Lavatiel interjected, her eyes smoldering. “What are you saying?”

“Exactly what it sounds like,” Mandaila replied, growing ever more smug. “Iron Dragonfly is fully operational.”

“And how is it that I was unaware of this?” Lavatiel snarled through clenched teeth. Peltoren admired the woman’s restraint. She was about ready to throttle Mandaila herself. How could she do her job as Admiral of the Fleet if she didn’t even know the operational status of the vessels under her command!

“Before you murder one of my most trusted advisors,” the President interjected in a dry voice, “I would like you both to know that the decision to keep Iron Dragonfly‘s status a secret from you was my decision.”

“With all due respect, sir,” Lavatiel said, whipping her head back toward the President and turning her fiery gaze on him, causing him to recoil slightly, “that was one of the most boneheaded decisions you’ve ever made.” Peltoren stared at her, half shocked that she would say something like that to the President of the Republic, and half pleased and wishing she had said the same thing.

“You’re out of line, Admiral,” Mandaila said softly, coming over behind the President’s desk to stand behind his left shoulder.

“That won’t be necessary, Delvisa,” the President said, waving a hand vaguely in Mandaila’s direction, but fixing his gaze on Lavatiel. “It’s not your job to tell me how you feel about my decisions,” he said in a quiet, dangerous voice. “You give me the information I need to make good decisions, and let me handle actually making the decisions. Do I make myself clear, Admiral?”

There was a long pause, and then finally Lavatiel nodded her head and said, “Perfectly, sir.”

“Excellent,” the President replied, his smile reappearing. “Now, I probably should have told you before, but Delvisa and I decided that it would be best if as few people knew the truth as possible. With the number of people working on Iron Dragonfly, there’s already more people who know the ship’s operational status than I’m really comfortable with. In any case, now you know.”

“So basically, we’re going to lure the Empire into thinking that Heart of the Galaxy is defenseless, and then once they’ve committed their forces, we drop in reinforcements with Iron Dragonfly at the head?” Peltoren asked.

“Precisely,” the President said, his grin growing wider. “The Imperial Fleet won’t have any idea what hit them.”

“I must admit, sir, it’s a pretty brilliant plan,” Peltoren said. Lavatiel gave her a quick scowl, and then turned to the President.

“It is a good plan,” she said begrudgingly. “It just would have been nice to be part of formulating it.”

“I am sorry, Admiral,” the President replied, his grin fading, “but you understand how important security is on a matter like this. The more people know about a secret like this, the more likely it is the secret will get out.”

“Yes, sir, I understand that,” Lavatiel responded. Her eyes were still molten lava, but her tone made it seem as if she was at least slightly mollified.

“Good,” the President said, satisfied. “Admiral Peltoren, since you are the most familiar with Heart of the Galaxy and its capabilities, you will be in command of this mission.”

“Thank you, sir,” Peltoren replied, nodding her head in acknowledgment. The President nodded back, his familiar grin back in place.

“Admiral Lavatiel,” he said, “I want you on the bridge of Iron Dragonfly.”

“Oh?” Lavatiel said, raising one eyebrow. “Does that mean I will be under the command of Admiral Peltoren?”

“Of course not,” the President replied, sounding slightly exasperated. “Admiral Peltoren will be in command of the Heart of the Galaxy battlegroup, and the overall mission. You will be there as an observer, with authority to step in as you see fit, being that you will be the ranking officer on station.”

“I see,” Lavatiel said flatly. The President returned her look with one that was just as flat, and then he turned back to Peltoren.

“Admiral,” he said, “I want you to send me a full operational writeup of this mission in three days.”

“Of course, sir,” Peltoren replied crisply.

“Very well,” the President said. “You two are dismissed.” Both women stood up, saluted, and then headed out the door. As they made their way through the corridors of the Presidential Palace, they were silent, but once they were down on the first floor, Lavatiel suddenly spoke up.

“Are you headed back to the Nerestium?” she asked.

“Yes, sir,” Peltoren replied. “I want to get started on this operational writeup as soon as possible.”

“Of course you do,” Lavatiel said. “Come see me in my office first. I have something I need to talk to you about.”

“I…yes, sir,” Peltoren said, slightly hesitant. “Of course.”

So, about half an hour later, Peltoren found herself sitting across from Lavatiel at her desk. Lavatiel’s office was significantly larger than Peltoren’s, and had an even better view. It was sparsely decorated, with just a few trophies from various military victories that Lavatiel had won over the course of her career.

“Chieria,” Lavatiel began, “we haven’t known each other very long, but I feel like we have a pretty good rapport already.”

“I’m glad to hear that, sir,” Peltoren replied, after a short pause. Lavatiel smiled briefly, and then her normal intense look came back.

“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t thrilled when the President promoted you to Admiral of the Fleet,” she said. “It seemed to me that he was just doing it as a favor for you bringing Heart of the Galaxy over to us. There were a lot of candidates for that position that have been part of the Republic from the beginning, who I felt deserved it more.”

“To be fair, sir,” Peltoren interjected, “I never asked for this position. I would have just as soon stayed on Heart of the Galaxy.”

“I understand that,” Lavatiel replied, “and that’s why I changed my mind about you. You’re a good commander, and well-deserving of the promotion you received.”

To be continued…

The Darkest Heart, Part 15

Chieria Peltoren’s transition from captain of Heart of the Galaxy to Admiral of the Fleet commanding the entire Republican Navy went more smoothly than she had expected. Instead of quarters on a massive starship, she now had a posh apartment near the center of Argenyle, the capital city of the Republic, and an office in the Nerestium, the headquarters of the Republic’s military. Oddly, her office in the Nerestium was actually smaller than her office on Heart of the Galaxy had been, but at least it had a spectacular view. And she didn’t intend on spending much time there either. She wasn’t going to be one of those leaders who commanded from behind a desk. She had a plan, and she intended to be on the bridge of Heart of the Galaxy when it was carried out.

Indeed, she wasn’t in her office today. Instead, she was in the President’s office, which was much larger and more luxurious than hers. She was there briefing him on the latest intelligence that the Navy had gathered about the Empire’s plans.

“The most credible threat that we can see is a plan to infiltrate our territory and attempt to steal Heart of the Galaxy,” Peltoren said, glancing at the tablet in her hand. “Admiral Kryla Zomulin was directed by the Emperor himself to lead a raid into our territory. Unfortunately, those are all of the details we have right now.”

“Seems like a pretty bold plan,” said a woman sitting on the opposite side of the President’s desk from Peltoren. “Even a desperate one.” The woman was tall, with short, black hair, brown eyes, and dark brown skin. Her gaze was intense, so intense it almost seemed hostile, but Peltoren knew her well enough to know that was her normal look, and it didn’t imply anything about her feelings. Her name was Voderik Lavatiel, and she was the highest ranking member of the Republican military, which made her Peltoren’s immediate superior.

“Wouldn’t you be desperate, if you were leading the Empire?” Peltoren asked. “It wasn’t that long ago that the Empire ruled the entire known galaxy. Now they’re reduced to a fraction of their former strength, and they see that one of their upstart rivals has a weapon that is more powerful than anything that’s ever been seen before in history. Wouldn’t you want to steal it too?”

“Of course I would,” Lavatiel replied, “but only if I thought I had a near-perfect chance of success.”

“Why is that?” Peltoren said, a slight edge to her voice. She wanted to snap at the woman, but she knew Lavatiel well enough to know that she wasn’t being difficult for the sake of it. Instead, this was just her method of making sure her subordinates had thought through their theories from every angle. She could agree with you 100%, and she would still act like your idea was the dumbest thing she’d ever heard until she was convinced that you believed it wholeheartedly. “If you were desperate, wouldn’t you do desperate things, even if there was a high probability of failure?”

“Perhaps,” Lavatiel replied calmly, “or perhaps I would be extra cautious, so that I didn’t throw away what little advantage I still had in a foolish scheme that would almost certainly fail.”

“And knowing what we know about Valador Mifalis’ personality, which do you think he would do, Admiral? Something bold and desperate, or something cautious and patient?” Peltoren asked.

“Considering the way Valador outlasted all of his rivals for the Imperial Throne, I would generally say he would prefer the cautious and patient route,” Lavatiel said with a slight smirk. “But on the other hand, considering his advanced age, and his lack of an heir, I think it does seem more likely that he would be willing to try a rather…reckless plan, in order to assure the Empire of a somewhat strengthened position on the event of his death.”

“So we’re agreed that this is a credible threat, then?” the President interjected. He respected Lavatiel a great deal, and he appreciated her methods of dealing with her subordinates, but he also got impatient with her constant contrariness from time to time, and so he had a tendency to jump in as soon as Lavatiel gave even the faintest hint that she agreed with something a subordinate had said.

“We are,” Lavatiel said, glancing at him with a hint of irritation that he had interfered, which Peltoren found amusing, considering that they were ostensibly there to brief the President on military threats.

“Excellent,” the President replied, a grin unexpectedly lighting up his face. “Delvisa and I have been thinking about what to do if someone came for Heart of the Galaxy, and I think we’ve got a pretty good plan worked up.” Peltoren and Lavatiel looked at each other, somewhat startled, and they both turned to look at the fourth person in the room, Delvisa Mandaila. A tall, thin man with a narrow face, longish gray hair, and small, circular glasses perched on the end of his nose, he was the President’s chief strategy advisor. His bland facial expression didn’t change as they looked at him, but Peltoren detected an air of smugness radiating from him regardless.

“Exactly why are we here, Mr. Mandaila, if you and the President already know what you’re going to do before you even hear our assessments?” Lavatiel said in a tight voice. There was no love lost between Lavatiel and Mandaila. Both of them felt as if the other encroached on their area of responsibility.

“The President expects me to plan for any number of contingencies,” Mandaila said in a calm, yet arrogant voice. “It just so happens that this particular contingency was one of them. You must admit that someone stealing Heart of the Galaxy is a fairly obvious plan.”

“Fine,” Lavatiel said, her voice still tight with anger. “So what is this plan you cooked up?”

“Simple,” Mandaila said, spreading his hands out wide. “The Empire believes that we only possess one operational Starfortress. They are mistaken.”

To be continued…

The Darkest Heart, Part 14

“I hear you recently had an unpleasant encounter with my former OCIA,” Emperor Valador began, settling himself down behind his desk and peering at the person sitting across from over his steepled fingertips.

“You could call it that,” Kryla Zomulin replied dryly. “He admitted that he wants to succeed you as Emperor so that he can destroy General Fanas, and he practically raped my niece with his eyes, but aside from that, it was a delightful visit.”

“Oh yes, it sounds just magnificent,” the Emperor replied, a sardonic smile appearing on his face. “Sure am disappointed that I missed out on that little get-together.” The smile faded from his face and he sighed deeply. “When Belfamor Hemetal first approached me about shifting his support from Neminatrix to me, I never suspected how much of a headache he would be. I could almost wish that I had turned him down and let him go to Hadramoris or Midigal.”

“It’s difficult to imagine how you could be sitting here without House Hemetal’s financial support,” Kryla replied. They were sitting in the Emperor’s personal study, situated near the top of the Imperial Palace on Trisitania. Behind Valador were huge, arched windows that gave a spectacular view of the city of Selorin stretching for miles into the distance, twinkling and glimmering in the glow of the setting sun. Most of the damage caused by the Nexus bomb set off by Fangalin 20 years ago had been repaired, although here and there, scars still remained. The biggest physical reminder of what had happened that day was the construction going on at the site of the Senate Hall. After 20 years, the Senate had still not been reconvened, partially because they had no place to meet. The Senate had been completely ignored by the previous occupants of the Imperial Palace, so Valador had made it one of his priorities to rebuild the Senate Hall and reconvene the Senate. Unfortunately, progress had been slow so far.

“I agree, but has holding the capital been worth the cost?” Valador asked. “Despite the fact that there is only one Emperor for the first time since the Breaking, the Empire is in many ways weaker than it has been in the past 20 years. We still haven’t recovered from the raid that Neminatrix launched on Hibellia. How many good men and women would still be alive if I had prevented Belfamor from attacking Trisitania?”

“I bear as much responsibility for that as you do, Your Majesty, and scarcely a day passes that I don’t ask myself the same question,” Kryla responded grimly.

“We are quite a pair, aren’t we, Admiral?” Valador said, his sardonic smile reappearing. He took a sip of the brandy he had poured for himself and Kryla, and sighed contentedly. “In any case, I didn’t summon you here to discuss Lord Hemetal. I have a mission for you.”

“Must be a pretty important one, if you wanted to tell me about it in person,” Kryla said, raising one eyebrow.

“Is there any other kind, these days?” Valador said with a slight frown. “In a thousand years, the Empire has never faced such dark days. We are walking on the edge of a cliff, we haven’t eaten anything in days, and we have a 50 pound backpack on our back. One slip, and we’ll be doomed, and everything is conspiring to make us slip. We have to eliminate some of the threats that face us, or we will never be able to recover and retake our rightful place as the protectors of the galaxy.”

“So what are you proposing, Your Majesty?” asked Kryla. Instead of answering her question, Valador handed her a tablet.

“Are you familiar with this?” Valador asked.

“Of course,” Kryla replied, scanning the report quickly. “Heart of the Galaxy is the biggest thing to happen to naval technology in a hundred years, both figuratively and literally.”

“We are going to capture that ship,” Valador said fiercely.

“A bold move, Your Majesty,” Kryla replied, raising her eyebrow again.

“Some might say a desperate one, but we are, unfortunately, desperate,” Valador said, his tone growing even more fierce. “That ship is a game-changer. Any navy without a Starfortress is going to be hopelessly outmatched in the near future. We need our own, and we don’t have time to figure out how to build one on our own. We need to steal the only existing one, and reverse-engineer it.”

“Only existing one? I thought our intelligence reports indicated that the Hadramorans had just launched a second,” Kryla said.

Iron Dragonfly isn’t finished yet,” Valador said, shaking his head. “We’ll be better off stealing the one that is fully operational.”

“It’s going to be heavily guarded,” Kryla said doubtfully. “This isn’t going to be easy to pull off.”

“Did I say it would be?” Valador snapped, and then he grimaced. “I’m sorry, Admiral. It’s not your fault that the Empire is falling apart. You’ve done more than anybody to hold things together over the past twenty years.”

“I appreciate the praise, Your Majesty, and I don’t blame you for being frustrated,” Kryla said, her voice determined, “but none of that changes the fact that we need to have a solid plan in place before we attempt this, because it could be a disaster if it fails.”

“That’s why you’re here, Admiral,” Valador replied. “I’m putting you in command of this mission, from top to bottom.” Kryla stared at him for a moment, a flat look on her face, and then she leaned back in her chair and exhaled slowly.

“Oh boy,” she said in a nearly emotionless voice. “You do know how to make a girl happy, Your Majesty.”

“I know it’s a tough job, but you’re the best Admiral in the fleet,” Valador said, his voice turning grim. “If you can’t get it done, no one can.”

“Oh, I’ll get it done,” Kryla responded, the note of determination back in her voice. “But at what cost?”

“This is worth any cost, Admiral,” Valador said firmly. “We need that ship, or the Empire will not survive.”

To be continued…