Avalon:Volume 0 Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 - The Knight in Blood-Stained Armor

It hurts.

The alarms were shrieking yet again; except this time, instead of having woken up in a heated room and frantically realizing that the ship was being abandoned, Kannon found herself helplessly laying on a cot inside a cold, dark cell with her left wrist chained to the floor.

She felt like her entire body was burning. The searing pain combined with a lingering sore numbness to block out just about every other sensation. Her back stung in dozens of places as if hot daggers have recently been pulled out. Angry red inflammations also marked the same spots, where powerful electrical discharges left tissues burnt and damaged. Even her muscles continued the occassional jerk or spasm for no apparent reason at all, nor with any control on her part.

Her clothes were virtually shredded, ripped in numerous places and leaving few pieces of tattered fabric that did little to cover her body. Yet she could still hardly feel the thin sheets of the cold cot she laid on.

Perhaps worst of all was the damage to her mind. It hadn't shut down, mostly because Kannon's instinct didn't even understand of concept of how to stop thinking while she was conscious. But her current mental state was like a shattered landscape clouded by impenetrable fog. Her recognition couldn't focus on even a single coherent thought, and her recent memories floated about in bleeding, broken wrecks. Images of past and present blurred together in her mind with barely any recognition. The question 'what's happening' hardly passed through her brain before it was discarded without care. The only emotions that even managed to latch onto a corner were feelings of dread and self-pity, residues of frustration and annoyance.

For several days the so-called 'Justiciars' interrogated Kannon, yet failed to listen to a single word. They simply refused to believe her explanation of being a mere college student caught up in a bizarre situation. Instead, they opted to continue laying on everything from electric shocks to hallucinogens to mind-probing incursions in an attempt to find more about nonexistent 'Empyrean invasion plans'.

To them, the girl who came through the wormhole wasn't merely an enemy. She wasn't even human, at least not by the local standards.

To Kannon, her last coherent thought that managed to form a full sentence was I don't even care anymore.

Two thumps from further up the brig corridor disrupted the alarm's rhythm. They drew the attention of Kannon's instinct, which had been elevated to full control for the first time in years as her mind sought to protect its other cognitive functions. Her eyes turned towards the steel bars just in time to see a person's silhouette rush by. Seconds later, two more blurry outlines moved into the sight, illuminated by the hallway's dim emergency lighting as they examined her cell.

All three of them were wearing pitch-black form-fitting uniforms that seemed to meld into the shadows, except for the white lines marking the collars or running down the sides. They each carried a variety of equipment, including pistol pouches, ammo clips, grenades, and electronic tools. On their backs were non-reflective metallic backpacks with four rods extending from it in an X-shaped pattern. The two in the front and center also had detachable armored plating protecting their shoulders and upper arms, their gloved hands firmly grasping pole-mounted shortswords -- Scandinavian swordstaves. Meanwhile, the third covering their back with twin daggers was obviously a woman, highlighted by her smaller build and elegant curves, as well as the sleeveless and skirted uniform with long arm-gloves and leggings.

The man in the front moved past Kannon's cell without stopping before the second person gestured for him to return. All three of them soon took a step back away from the bars. The first man then held out his palm towards the cell, fingers extended and spread.

"Opto Scidi Sedicim," he said in a monotonic voice. Three glowing rings of burgundy-red light, each with intricately patterned bands, appeared from thin air and began to revolve. Two spun around his forearm and the largest third in front of his palm, where an orb of light expanded like an inflating balloon in the center of the ring.

"Evellete Confringo."

The orb burst, releasing sixteen rays of red light which struck different sections of the cell's steel bars. Portions of it vanished instantly as the light made contact. A second later, eight steel bars clanged as they fell to the ground, leaving a gap wide enough for almost two people to fit through.

No, no! Not again!

Uncertainty and fear seized Kannon's instincts at once. Her head shook involuntarily; her pupils dilated with obvious fright; her body trembling as it automatically backed away from entrance.

The second man moved swiftly through the gap and towards Kannon until he slowly knelt down besides the cot. Meanwhile, the other two watched the hallway.

Even with only one side of his face illuminated by dim lighting, it was obvious that he was young, no older than twenty, just over one-eight-three (6'0") tall but of average build. His features were a perfect mix between Caucasian and Orient ancestries, forming a photogenic image handsome enough to be considered beautiful. With a thin chin, nose with a slight feminine curve, and a dashing ponytail sported behind pitch black hair, Kannon almost thought he was a tall and handsome woman. Yet his most striking attribute that effortlessly pulled in her attention were his deep-violet eyes, which seemed to radiate friendly concern despite his cold, stern expression.

What... who...?

Curiosity sought to pull Kannon's logic back to the surface. Her cracked lips shifted open, yet could not find any thoughts coherent enough to voice. Before her mind could piece together multiple words, the man pressed his long index finger to his lips and gestured for silence. He slowly reached out with both hands and gently took her right hand before her reluctant self could pull away. With a sleight of the fingers, he pulled out a palm-hidden chrome ring and slipped it over her ring finger.

"Can you hear me?" a soft yet firm voice resounded inside Kannon's head, "I'm Captain Arkadi Kernow of the Avalonian Republic 1st Military District. We've come to rescue you, milady."

How...?

Kannon's eyes widened in surprise, and it wasn't just because of the voice. The original words were spoken in a mixture of English, some unusual form of German, plus another language she didn't even recognize. Yet somehow she could clearly understand its English meaning.

"That's a Communication Ring. It's attuned to those worn by myself and the team. Just focus your thoughts and you can communicate telepathically with us through it. Ours will automatically translate what you say."

"Captain, grenadier units incoming," an anxious voice remarked over the channel, "we really should get going asap."

"Copy," Arkadi responded before his eyes focused on Kannon once more, his left hand still supporting her right hand while his right invited with an open palm. "Come with us. We don't have time right now, but I promise I'll explain everything later."

Kannon nodded sluggishly as her re-emerging mind struggled to grasp his words. She still didn't have a clue of what was going on, only the vague impression that maybe, just maybe, she could trust this man.

Her left hand, still chained to the floor, sought out his open palm -- the last lifeline from this hellish nightmare.

Grasping both of her hands, Arkadi pulled Kannon upright into a sitting position. Then he pulled out a white jacket and wrapped it around her barren shoulders.

She felt like a lifetime had passed since such gentle warmth touched her...

Next, he retrieved out a vial of clear blue liquid and brought it to her mouth.

"Drink this, it will help you recover."

Kannon hesitated for a brief second before pulling her cracked lips open, allowing him to slowly poured with care. Although she couldn't taste anything in particular, it left a soothing sensation in her throat as the cool liquid flowed down.

"Is your eye alright?"

She nodded absentmindedly. Her vision was blurry and her left eye was shut, but neither conditions were the result of physical damage or pain.

As he put the vial away, Arkadi looked at the thick, deep-purple shackle and chain connected to her left wrist and frowned.

"Haidar," his deep, commanding voice called over the channel, "come inside, we have a problem."

The man outside then walked in through the gap. He was a broad-shouldered and well-built Caucasian at the same height as Arkadi. He had a rather round head, two sienna-brown eyes filled with energy, and a prominent nose that accentuated his Slavic ancestry. His hair was already prematurely balding despite soft features still putting him in the twenties, including a set of youthful freckles.

"Wooooah, they're being super serious," he commented with exaggerated surprise. "That's starsteel alright. My disintegration ain't gonna work on that! Would take some time to cut through that thickness the old-fashioned way."

"We don't have time," responded Arkadi as his eyes trailed the chain until it disappeared into the steel floor. "Disintegrate the floor until we find the other end. This metal is too rare to be used in huge quantities."

"I'm surprised it's even this long; given how costly this stuff is nowadays."

"This fortress does date back to before the wars..." another unfamiliar voice injected.

Haidar then stepped back and pointed his right palm towards the floor where the chain disappeared into. "Burst Hemisphere Down," he began as three rings and an orb of burgundy-red light appeared once again. But this time, a rotating circular light array filled with geometric patterns and runes also conjured itself on the floor beneath his feet. Meanwhile, steam erupted from the rear of the swordstaff shaft he held, releasing several small metallic cylinders that clanged as they bounced on the floor.

"Void Disintegration!"

The orb burst to release a thick beam of light. It struck the ground where a four-foot radius hemisphere of the metal floor vanished instantly. This opened a hole to the machinery compartment underneath and left behind only the chain attached to a long, spiked starsteel cylinder still partially buried in the ground. One side of the cot fell into the depression along with both Kannon and Arkadi, but he quickly put his right hand around her shoulders to steady her.

"Select Split Four," Haidar spoke the magical words yet again and shot out four more rays, focusing them around the cylinder. More of the floor vanished, dropping the chain's weight down into the compartment below. Arkadi pulled it up with a single yank and caught it before passing it to Kannon. The weight was hollow, less than fifteen centimeters long, and probably weighed around two kilos; but in Kannon's weakened arms, it felt like a ton.

"Hold on tight milady, you're in no state to walk out of here," said Arkadi. He reassured her once again with his eyes before putting his left hand under her legs and lifting her off the bed.

Kannon's mental fog cleared up by another step as heat worked its way into her cheeks. Years have passed since even her father cradled her in between his arms like now, let alone someone she just met.

"Let's go. Kaplan, detour to hanger bay sixteen on the way back," Arkadi ordered as he squeezed through the gap in the cell bars, taking care not to bump her into them.

Haidar had already hurried back up the corridor and towards two others -- a swordsman with a translucent body and a rifleman guarding the corner.

"Edmund, go with Haidar at the front. Covering fire, but kill anyone who tries to get away after seeing us."

"Affirmed!"

With a tight hold on Kannon, Arkadi hurried down the brig hallway, while the only girl on his team covering their backs from behind. Sounds of metal cutting into armor and several screams could be heard from ahead. But by the time they turned the corner, it was already over. Haidar soon released eight more rays which disintegrated the dead soldiers' bodies before the team rushed on through the station's many corridors.

Each time they approached a gate, its red status light would flip to green and open up right in front of them, before closing and going back to red status after they passed. Even Kannon's still-limited logic recognized that someone was aiding from behind the scenes.

This continued for several minutes before an unfamiliar male voice, younger and softer than the earlier acknowledgements from the men here, passed through the channel:

"Marine squad inbound."

Haidar and the rifleman Edmund immediately slammed themselves against the walls, taking cover behind two nearby bulwarks. Meanwhile the translucent leading swordsman, Kaplan, continued to charge forward.

"Burst Radial," Haidar voiced as he aimed his swordstaff towards the intersection up ahead. Another orb of light expanded at the tip while a circular light array spun around his feet. A cloud of steam erupted from the back of his swordstaff as a tube extended out and ejected three smoking-hot cartridges in quick succession.

Seconds later, eight soldiers wearing bulky powered armor, slate-gray in color and twice the size of normal men, turned around the corner.

"Plasma Blast Union Lightning Flare!" Haidar yelled before firing the orb at the marines. It crashed into one of their armored suits -- more precisely, into an energy shield right before touching the suit -- and burst, sending out a surging wave of electricity while immolating all of them in bluish plasma flames.

Yet as the burning air began to disperse, none of the suits appeared damaged. Instead, the two in the front had crouched down to take aim against Edmund with battle rifles the size of small cannons.

But not a single one of them seemed to notice the other threat...

"I-diots," Haidar cheerfully called out loud as Kaplan charged straight into their formation.

With a single stab, the longsword in Kaplan's hand pierced into the helmet of one powered armor suit and cleaved its way back out. Blood sprayed from the hole as its occupant collapsed dead onto the ground. Kaplan then spun around in a circle and dealt the same fate to the second crouching marine before leaping into the remaining six. Chaos ensued as the marines opened fire with what seemed to be electrolaser rifles, aiming wildly as if none of them could see their foe. Some of the energy beams would have actually struck Kaplan, except that they were deflected at the last moment when a sphere of dark-blue light surrounding him flared into visibility.

It was all over in under a minute. The rest of the group caught up as Haidar chanted his usual words to disintegrate the remains.

A brief wave of nausea worked its way up Kannon's throat as she glanced over the bloody hallway. It dispersed quickly, but not before sweeping aside more mental fog from her clouded thoughts.

"It just doesn't match without a real caster~" commented Haidar with obvious pride and joy.

"Invisibility has its benefits when the other side's sensors are blinded," Kaplan said proudly as he sped down the corridor. "And some believe illusionist spellswords to be obsolete -- fools."

Casters? Spellswords?

Kannon's mind slowly grew more focused as the soothing warmth from Arkadi's arms and chest spread over her. But thinking about what was happening only confused her in a different way. She realized that her rescuers were achieving supernatural results from those words they spoke, conjuring rays and drawing circles in the process as if casting spells. But, for it to actually be magic?

They said... a wormhole, not gateway to a fantasy game! And... if Kaplan is invisible... why is he translucent?

Questions pooled within Kannon's mind, fueled by the gradual return of her awareness and curiosity. But her head still ached, and it was too tiring to think with any form of deductive logic. Furthermore, she was still hanged up over an old comment:

He promised to explain later... there's no need to speculate now... and everything be much better if it really turns out a video game.

Like many others her age, Kannon had her escapist pastimes. One of these was an interest in reading plot synopsis or game guides. Without the time to properly invest in fantasy novels and games, she took the short route and filled in the details with imagination and dreams. It wouldn't be the first time she pictured herself in alternate realm. But this time... was just too long, too realistic, too painful. If it was truly a nightmare, she should have woken up long ago.

"Kaplan! Stop! Turn--right here," the guiding voice from earlier requested. "There's a marine platoon assembling ahead of you. I'll open up a detour."

"Affirmed," Kaplan replied as the entire team followed his turn. "Although we'd probably be fine lest they have auxilia support, or actual knights."

"Pride comes before--"

"Korey," Arkadi cut in, "what's the status of our diversions?"

"Ohhh--notsogood. They've already controlled the damage dealt by those explosions and defeated two of the five spellhacks we assaulted their system with. Communications are mostly restored, and I doubt you have more than ten minutes before surveillance comes back up."

"In which case we're hosed even if we can get out," responded Kaplan's bitter voice.

"It won't take that long," Arkadi declared in a confident tone. "There's the doors to bay sixteen right there. Enemy status inside?"

"One sec..." Korey replied. "Twenty marines, eight auxilia, and... oh boy, three judges."

"Hold the gate," Arkadi ordered. "Kaplan, Veil!"

"They'll notice the illusions as soon as we get close!" Kaplan countered as his figure solidified from his translucent form. But he stopped anyways and brought his right arm to chest height, palm facing upwards. "Select Weave," he stated as the same orb and rings of light formed in his palm and around his arms, except these were dark-blue in color. "Mirage Veil!

The orb burst and the air shimmered for a brief second. Then a faint purple glow surrounded everyone on the team as the translucent illusions of soldiers wearing slate-grey uniforms covered over their normal appearances.

Kannon had the feeling that she shouldn't be seeing those illusions as merely translucent...

"We only need a second, and to keep them from recognizing our actual faces," Arkadi explained. He then turned his gaze towards Kannon, his eyes softening as he spoke: "can you stand, milady?"

Her cheeks blushed to his choice of words. She nodded twice in response, still slow but without hesitation.

Kannon's entire body was still aching, numb, and didn't want to move a single muscle. She was recovering much faster than expected, most likely thanks to Arkadi's medicine; although the burning pain was only replaced with a feverish feeling that made every limb feel disconnected and distant. But with most of her senses back, Kannon realized she was being far too helpless right now. In any other circumstance, she would probably be getting irritated at herself for being so entirely dependent on another.

He might be the knight in shining armor, but even being the damsel in distress had its limits.

Arkadi gently put Kannon back down onto her feet, leaning her against the nearby wall for balance. Her legs felt like jelly as her weight pressed down against them. She immediately dropped the weighted chain onto the floor with a clang and braced her arms against the wall, doing her best to remain steady.

"I'll be back in just a minute, I promise. We just need to go grab your ship." Arkadi said as he slowly pulled away the strong arms that supported her. He then drew a pointed rod from his belt before expanding it to a swordstaff. "Edmund, take care of her and watch our backs from here. Lysette, with me!"

"Yes sir!"

"Got it~!" Lysette's enthusiastic response had the soprano of a high school cheerleader that felt sorely out of place.

"Team, this is a smash and grab. Sling-bundle your plasma grenades together and wire all your smoke grenades; we'll hurl and pull on my mark. Kaplan and Lysette, hold the Judges at bay, use your flight packs and scatter them if you can. Edmund, snipe the targets as I mark them; use your starsteel rounds -- I know there's only five left, but nothing less than antimagic ammunition will pierce a knight's vector shield at range. Haidar, head straight for the ship; shrink and seize. I'll cover you. We retreat as soon as you take it."

Shrink my ship? Something that size!? Okay, that's definitely a physical impossibility now.

"Affirmed," everyone acknowledged and began preparing their equipment. Each of them lined up one set of grenades behind the belt and tied a single cord to all of their pins. Another set of grenades were tied into a bundle, attached loosely to under their metallic 'flight packs', with a long cord pulled to the front and kept in their hands.

"Select Arms..."

"Buff up! Nothing visually obvious!" Captain Arkadi ordered again.

Kaplan already began casting yet another spell. Within seconds the rest of them joined him as they each channeled multiple spells into either their weapons or themselves. The strange mechanisms on the back of their swordstaves and sword hilts ejected another dozen cartridges alongside the castings, and the metallic ammo shells now lay discarded on the floor.

After double checking everything, four of them moved into position in front of the gates and lowered their weapons to a more relaxed carrying posture.

"Korey, open the gate."

"Godspeed!" came Korey's blessings as the small gate into the hanger bay pulled up and disappeared into the ceiling. Arkadi, Kaplan, Haidar, and Lysette then left Kannon's sight as they walked into the bay.

Half a minute passed before the muffled sound of distant speech reached Kannon's ears. Then, another half minute later, Arkadi shouted "Now!" over the channel. Within a second, dozens of explosions going off almost simultaneously resounded from within the bay. The anxious but peaceful atmosphere was instantaneously bloodied by the sounds of gunshots, energy blasts, and screams of the dying.

Edmund shifted from his hidden position and brought the high-caliber projectile sniper rifle to his shoulders. He lined up the scope with his eye and took aim into the hanger.

"Judges coming through!"

"Lure him to your right Lyse and then converge on center!"

"--This bastard..."

"Mark!"

Edmund pulled the trigger a split second after Arkadi's order, then cursed over the channel; but Arkadi's confirmation spoke otherwise:

"Graze-no... crippled. Must have shattered ribs."

"Cut the left armor! I'll rip out their guts--!!!"

Is that Lysette I just heard? Kannon puzzled at female voice filled with murderous glee.

"The smok-GEH!"

"Kaplan!"

Arkadi called out in concern while Lysette clarified the situation:

"The axuilia are wind-blasting our smokescreen."

"I'm... alright."

"Fall back, I'll cover you!"

"Mark!"

Edmund fired again, just before everyone's attention shifted. The call they were all waiting for finally came through.

"Done!" declared Haidar. "Let's get the hell outta here!"

"Lock and disable the gate as soon as we're through Korey!"

"Affirmed!"

Electrolaser beams smashed into the side of the hangar Kannon could see as the marines fired after Arkadi's retreating team.

Edmund then took off his smoke grenades and hurled them into the hanger in rapid succession. Lysette soon rushed through the gate holding the wounded Kaplan by the shoulders, with blood flowing down his right thigh from a cut that went a third of the way through. Haidar followed, holding what appeared to be a tiny, backpack-sized model of the TSV-9 survey craft under his right arm. Edmund then hurled his other bundle of grenades into the hanger just as Arkadi came through.

"SHUT THE GATE!"

The gates closed within a split second, but not before a double-bladed sword came flying out of the hanger, spinning like a boomerang around the center grip. Edmund's chestnut-red defensive shield flared as one blade crashed into it. But instead of stopping the attack cold, the shield only negated its forward momentum and slowed its centrifugal speed. The spinning heavy blade still had enough power to cut cleanly through Edmund from between the thighs and the pelvis.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!"

An ear-splitting scream erupted from Edmund as his torso collapsed to the ground, spraying blood in every direction.

The double-bladed sword actually spun faster as it fell. It sliced through Edmund's severed legs several more times until Arkadi's armored boot stepped flatly onto it and stopped it cold. Captain Arkadi then grasped his swordstaff with both hands before shoving it through Edmund's shield -- which flared again to slow the attack but failed to stop it -- and straight into his heart.

Time slowed to a crawl as Edmund's body thrashed once, twice more before it came to a completely still.

"Haidar, disintegrate him." Arkadi ordered with a frozen yet imperative tone as he pulled his swordstaff back out. His face was cold, blood-stained, and bereft of any emotion. His uniform was covered in the blood of enemies and allies alike. Even his steely gaze revealed not a sliver of hesitation, regret, or sorrow. It was as if what he just did was a perfectly normal and expected course of action. In fact, the speed and precision in which he carried it out made it seem almost... reflexive.

It wasn't that his knightly demeanor to Kannon felt any less than genuine up until now. But at that moment, Kannon felt like she glimpsed a piece of his true character.

"But--" Haidar muttered out loud, his eyes still widened in shock. "--But, but we could've saved him! Just stasis long enough for a regen--"

"No, we couldn't have," Arkadi cut in, his voice cold enough to freeze the air. "I'm sorry Haidar, but we can't allow the 2nd district to get his body for even a minute. Disintegrate him, now. You have your orders," he repeated with a tone of finality as he turned to stare at Haidar.

Haidar slowly pointed his left palm towards Edmund's body, his narrowing eyes focused itself on Arkadi for a split second before looking down to carry out his orders. But during that one moment, there was a profound sense of disgust within his gaze.

Unsure of what to think, Kannon looked upon the other two. Kaplan's expression was inscrutable other than his pain from the wound, while Lysette... looked as if her eyes were almost gleaming with worship and awe.

"Lysette, take front and let Haidar help Kaplan. We only have a few more minutes left!" Arkadi continued as he bent over to pick up the three high-caliber starsteel rounds -- the only traces that remained of Edmund -- and pocketed it.

After shrinking his swordstaff and placing it back onto his belt, he turned towards Kannon with a pair of warm reassuring eyes. He then placed the chain's weight that he easily pulled off the floor back into her hands.

"I'm deeply sorry for the shock brought by our unsightly actions, milady," he bowed as an apologetic and surprisingly sincere smile spread across his face. "But we must be going."

The complete switch in attitude made Kannon flinch back, only to realize she was pinned against the wall. Before she could even tell him otherwise, his hands slid behind her back and under her thighs. Then he easily tilted her back into the embrace of his arms and lifted her back up.

Blood from his uniform stained the white jacket that he gave her mere minutes ago...

This man...

There was no doubt that Arkadi just took the life of a comrade without a moment's hesitation. He then switched his mood twice more within the span of seconds and now looked as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened. Kannon could only wonder if he was so good at acting that even her proud intuition couldn't tell, or if he simply lacked a human's sense of conscience and flow of emotion.

A chill went through her spine as she thought about a fact that he didn't know yet -- that she was just a student.

If he can kill a comrade who became a hindrance so easily, then what will he do with me?


----- * * * -----


Several minutes later, after encountering only one enemy group -- four sword-bearing grenadiers that Lysette cut through like a bladed tornado -- the team arrived safely in hanger bay nineteen.

As they passed through the gate, Kannon's eyes were immediately drawn to the sleek starship parked within the hanger. It was nearly two hundred meters long -- the length of nearly two association football fields -- with a beam and width span of around thirty meters. Its body was entirely black and non-reflective, as though a hollow tear in space where light could not escape.

The team ran straight towards the ship's boarding ramps, which finished lowering just in time. According to Korey, any hostiles within this hanger were already 'cleared out' by the ship's point-defense lasers. Sure enough, dozens of armored bodies littered the approaches to the ship, filling the air with the smell of burnt human flesh.

"Close the ramp! Activate ion thrusters! Torch the hanger!" Arkadi shouted over the channel the instant all of them stepped onto the ship. "Maximum acceleration away from Hadrian! Open the range before they regain control of their gravity beam!"

"Affirmed!"

They rushed through the empty hallways until arriving at the bridge. Only two people sat below the massive holographic display that showed the gigantic star fortress as the ship left it. Lysette and Haidar helped Kaplan -- his thigh no longer bleeding after being wrapped in merely a single layer of bandages -- into an operator's chair before sitting down themselves. Meanwhile Arkadi brought Kannon over to one of the two extra seats at the back wall of the bridge and put her down onto it.

"Pardon my lateness for the formal greeting," Arkadi said out loud as he took two steps back, put his gloved right hand over his chest, and bowed deeply.

His posture was perfect. So would be the rest of his image -- were it not for the blood-stained uniform.

"But please, allow me to--" Arkadi continued as he stood back up with a charming smile, "--welcome you aboard the Strike Destroyer Somerset of the Avalonian Republic 1st Military District Black Hand Special Ops, Lady Kannon Reginbrandt."

He snapped his fingers, and a faint but audible click followed from further up the bridge.

Several seconds passed in silence when nothing happened, then...

An explosion erupted outwards from the armored surface of Praesidium Hadrian on the display, followed by another a second later, then another. The star fortress was blowing up from the inside. It took little more than half a minute before the entire station blew apart in an expanding nova of incandescent fury as the main power core went critical.

Kannon's hands were covering her gaping mouth before she knew it.

There must have been thousands inside a station that size. Even if they were from a different faction, they were still from the same nation, the same stellar navy. To destroy an entire base just to cover his escape...

"I look forward to working together with the prodigious Empyrean agent who managed to successfully destroy our first line of defense against the Empire."

Arkadi's announcement left Kannon reeling in shock.

Empyrean agent? By that, does he seriously mean -- me?

The implications behind his statement were stunning. It blew away what remained of her mind fog and grogginess in an instant.

"You've got to be kidding me..."

Out of the pot and into the fire. Rather than being saved, I just got recruited by the mission team from hell.



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