"High General, sir! Troops are ready for deployment. The starship is ready to depart the station to the target."
The High General that was being spoken to was sitting behind her desk, checking the targeting sight on her disruptor.
"Thank you Virana," she said without looking up from the disruptor.
Virana, the messenger, was a member of the Syvar race and had two supercranial antennae on her forehead. The antenna pointed slightly towards the High General as she listened to the response.
"Alert your squadron. I shall confirm with the Commander," was the High General's orders.
Virana bowed, and left.
Once she was gone, the High General set her disruptor on the desk and tapped on the communicator.
An image appeared on the desk's surface and the High General bowed as well as she could while sitting, "Commander Arjax, all is ready sir. I await your command to begin the flight."
"Very well," Commander Arjax sounded pleased. "Are you sure you wish to be the commander of this mission?"
The High General bristled slightly. "I might be native to the Nine Realms but that does not mean I have loyalty to them." She finally sat straight and looked insulted by the assumption.
"I do not mean that," Arjax promised. "I have no doubt of your loyalty to us."
"I have led the invasion of other worlds," the High General argued. "I have not been defeated yet. Every time the world falls and the Empire grows."
"This is however," Arjax noted, "the first time that you will be fighting a race that has magic as you do. Only those of the Realms have magic. There will be worthy opponents."
"I am counting on it," the High General promised, tapping her desk sharply with her left hand.
"Fighting a magic duel is very different from using your lightswords,"Arjax vowed. "I led the last party that engaged Asgard."
The High General activated the holographic projector's to bring up a three-dimensional view of their target. It was no bigger than her palm. The palace at the heart of the target seemed to glow – Asgard's palace.
"If you are so worried then perhaps we should change the target to Midgard. There are no mages there." The High General responded tartly.
"And there is no reason as you know," Arjax countered. "The humans there recently fought off an invasion by the Chitauri. They are one o the only races to my knowledge that has managed to do that."
"The Chitauri are no match for us," the High General's voice turned haughty, "we of the Celestial Empire are the true gods."
"Known," Arjax agreed readily. "Your mission?"
The High General seemed amused by her commander's nitpicking, but was well used to it. "It will be a two-pronged attack on Asgard. Virana and her team of aliens will free the prisoners and commence the search for our staff. I will lead a squad of Celestials and engage Asgard's army directly. If Virana's team cannot locate the staff then I am to apprehend the target."
She reached over and swiped her hand across the image of Asgard. It changed to a person with long black hair and jewel-like green eyes. "Loki Laufeyson, the one who hid our Staff in the first place. Once he is in our custody then the answer shall be extracted for him by whatever means needed."
"And if you fail to capture him?"
"He is to be killed so he cannot tell Asgard where the staff is," the High General patiently answered. "He has been imprisoned by Asgard for so long he will be easy to kill if it comes to that."
"Do not underestimate the son of Laufey," Arjax warned her. "He was a General of the Chitauri and Thanos does not like his general's mortal. Keep that in mind."
"I understand sir," The general shut down the projector and set it to one side. "The possibility also remains that he will willingly tell us where the staff is. Unlike in our last war with him, his loyalty to Asgard is… somewhat fractured."
"If he does that then escort him back to the fleet, disarmed and striped of his magic," Arjax sighed. "He would make a fine ally, but I do not believe he will."
"Am I clear to leave to Asgard?" The High General asked repeated.
"You are clear," Arjax ordered. The communication between the two shut off.
The High General allowed herself a smile. Then she stood and took her black jacket off the chair she was sitting in and put it on, zipping it up. After a moment, the jacket adjusted its size so it fit her perfectly just as the rest of her black uniform did. She ran her fingers through her short hair, charming it so there was not a hair out of place.
She checked the battery pack of her white Celestial disruptor pistol on her side, and made sure that her dagger was in place as well. There were two bands of silver metal on each wrist that would serve to enhance her magic. That left just one weapon.
Sitting on the desk were two black hilts wrapped with silver. These she handled carefully and stepped back from the desk as she held one in each hand. Her fingers found the controls and she activated them. Two blades of crimson light materialized from the hilts with a snap hiss. Ah, her lightswords. She deactivated them and put them on the front of her belt on either side of the belt buckle.
Once she was sure her appearance was at her peak she marched from the ready room she had been given onto the bridge of ship. The crew saluted her but did not stop from their preparations. That didn't bother her as much as it did some generals.
Only the Captain, a member of the lizard-like Badoon race greeted her correctly with a "High General." He stood from his chair, altered so he could sit comfortably despite his tail.
The High General gave a curt nod, and the Captain sat back down. She looked at the view screen showing stars, ignoring the sneaked looks the crew was giving her. The three white rank rings on either forearm of her jacket marked her as a High General, someone who worked directly with the Celestial Council. That and her record – never once had a planet that she had been ordered to invade or a prisoner placed in her care for interrogation ever failed to surrender – made her something of a legend.
If she is in command of this mission, the crew thought, then it must truly be important to the Empire.
Only the captain has been informed that she was to recover the staff of the Empire. Once the staff was back in Celestial hands it could easily be used to strip all nine realms of life and the Celestials will be able to use that life-force to grow much stronger.
"Engage course," she ordered the Captain.
A buzz went up around the bridge in excitement as the bridge crew laid in the last few things. When the helmsman, a Skrull, nodded at the Captain, the Captain gave the order: "Engage the FTL Drive."
He braced himself against the chair and everyone gripped the counsels in front of themselves. The High General took a step forward and set her hands on the metal railing. An alarm went off, warning the crew to brace for lightspeed jump.
Then the stars elongated from dots to stripes of glittering white. The ship gave a jolt and surged forward. Everyone jerked backward from the G-Force and then relaxed their grip as the ship settled into the new speed. It almost looked like the ship was flying through a swarm of glittering white arrows.
"Tune sensors and activate cloak," the Captain ordered.
There were a few yes sirs.
The High General stood back and let the Captain run his ship. The image of the stars rippled in the viewscreen as space was folded around the Fury. Hidden within their very own pocket of space, they were invisible to eyes, scanners, or magical detection.
"Cloak stable," one of the crew called.
"Increase speed to Warp 4," the Captain ordered.
The Helmsman made the corrections.
"Sir," the communication officer, a Shi'ar, straightened.
"Yes?" The Captain and the High General asked at the same time.
The Captain hesitated, knowing he was outranked, but the High General motioned for him to answer. This was his ship after all, not hers.
At least there was one General that didn't always try and take over the ship just because they had the rank to do so, the Captain thought.
"Yes?" He asked the comm officer again.
"I am picking up a communication on Asgard," the officer frowned. "I believe you should see this."
"Put it on screen," the Captain ordered.
The arrows shooting past the ship vanished as the screen turned black. Then an image appeared.
The High General tensed as she recognized her target standing behind an Asgardian soldier. Across from the son of Laufey and the Æsir was a cloaked figure. She recognized him as Chthon. Are the Chitauri trying to take Loki back? They can't have him he's my target!
"Is that live?" She asked.
"No sir," the Shi'ar answered. "It's recorded. The event we're seeing happened last night by Realm time."
"Allow me to retrieve him mortal," Chthon told the Asgardian, "before I take him."
"Do you want to go back to the Citauri Loki?" The Æsir asked him.
Loki shook his head no.
"Then you're not going," the Æsir promised him.
The High General gave a small whistle. That was one bold Asgardian. She noticed the Shi'ar making a move to shut down the transmission.
"Do not," the High General ordered, "we have time to kill until we reach our target."
The Shi'ar obediently lowered her hand and let the recording play.
The High General leaned against the rail she had previously gripped and watched as a battle between the Asgardian and Chthon ensued. No surprise, the Asgardian was defeated. Amazingly, it was Loki who chased off the Elder God off.
So, the High General thought to herself, Arjax was not exaggerating about Loki's capabilities. She hoped that this Loki would not defect to the Celestials. He looked like he'd be fun to fight.
"Tell me," she addressed the Shi'ar "did all of Asgard see that?"
"Yes sir," the Shi'ar responded. "I have a copy of it recorded, do you want it?" The High General had seemed very interested. Did she just say Asgard?
"Hold onto it until after the battle," the High General decided. "Time to target?"
"18 minutes," a Medean crew member with black compound eyes and butterfly like antennae answered.
"Excellent," the High General nodded. The message had taken a large bite out of the waiting time. "The bridge is yours Captain, inform your crew of the mission," she told the Badoon as she headed to her position.
She was silent as she rode a turbolift down to the dropbay. Overhead, the speakers played a message she had previously recorded detailing that their mission was to retrieve the Staff of the Empire, an object long lost by Loki's hands. The crew's curiosity would be satisfied at last.
She waved a hand and magically opened a door in front of her. Beyond the doorway was the dropbay, and her boots echoed slightly as she walked across the catwalk suspended over it. Below her was the attacking force of Celestial soldiers. Each one was armed with blasters or lightswords, and their abnormal gold armor glittered dully in the light. The air distorted magically around the armor.
For a moment she let herself relax, and her lips pulled back in a smile. Asgard had been so caught up in dealing with the Chitauri and recovering from having their Bifrost destroyed that they wouldn't be expecting the Celestials to reappear out of nowhere. Most Asgardians likely thought that they would never see the Celestials again. How wrong they were.
Asgard wasn't going to know what hit it.
This is why I've been mentioning the Celestials in the previous chapters. They're back! This High General is quite right, Asgard is not going to suspect a Celestial reappearance.
Yes, lightswords is my way of saying lightsaber. Lightsabers belong to George Lucas. I will say however that these may look like lightsabers, but there are differences in the battlefield which you will see.