“He knew that his culture was defined by its traditions. That his enemies sought to twist those traditions to their own gain only served to strengthen McKenna’s position.”
From “The Book of McKenna” - Destiny
McKenna stood on the stage of briefing room that in a previous life was an auditorium. The screen behind him had been replaced with the banner of the Migichinan Alliance. The spotlight illuminated the podium where he stood, looking over the notes of issues he wanted to address to his marshals before he went into the council chamber.
Down in the front row, he saw Dakkoth and Rhaine take seats next to each other. He almost expected them to be holding hands, but apparently the relationship between the two had not progressed that far. Perhaps it was for the better, as it would only serve to raise unwarranted questions and suspicions. Other marshals and members of the support staff, administrators, clerks and the like, all filed in and took seats.
He also noticed General Viktor Franclyn walk down an aisle, taking a seat next to Dakkoth, who shook his hand. The general turned and faced front, lifting his hat in greeting to the Chief Marshal. After twenty minutes, the ushers closed and sealed the doors, and the auditorium lights dimmed.
“Thank you all for being here. This morning, the Humanis Federation began to build up forces on our borders, in response to the turbulent state of current Migichinan politics. They are expecting the governmental structure of the Alliance to break down when Awrann is removed from office. I believe that is when they will strike. We have other problems to deal with though. I am confident of the ability of the Migichinan military’s ability to deal with this situation.”
The banner behind him raised on cue as he finished his opening speech.
“This is the most recent picture of two of the Alliance’s most dangerous enemies, Maxaa Branwyn and Janus D’Saad. Branwyn is wanted for two counts of terrorism, two counts of attempted assassination, and numerous counts of political and military espionage directed against the Alliance. Maxaa Branwyn is a Meridian national, and is a combat mage adept. She’s going to be a tough bugger to take down, so I advise extreme caution when encountering her.
“Her accomplice is D’Saad, Humanis Federation national and renowned assassin with over three hundred confirmed kills. She has a record on file with just about every major space faring race in the quadrant and is probably more dangerous than the woman who hired her, Maxaa Branwyn.
“D’Saad is wanted on five counts of homicide, one of which was our own Brigit Perrin, who was killed when trying to arrest her. D’Saad is also wanted on two counts of attempted assassination, and we’re still tallying the counts of terrorism. D’Saad is mentally unstable, but her efficiency up to when she started working on this world was deadly. Men, women, children. This woman knows no boundary; she has no morals, no conscience. She is a cold-blooded killer, and deserves whatever justice can be brought to her. The old adage goes ‘dead or alive.’ I’d prefer this one dead if at all possible. Any questions?”
No one spoke up.
“Good. Now on to other business. As you all know, I’m going to be challenging the boss for his job. Awrann’s groomed me for the position, and now is the time for me to take over. Many of you already now this, and have been wondering who’s going to be the new chief. Dakkoth Starkiller, would you please come up here.”
Dakkoth, rather surprised, stood up and walked to the stage.
“For as long as I can remember, Dakkoth has been a faithful servant of the Alliance. His arrest record is the best there’s ever been, and of all of us, he’s seen the most time in the field. Recently, this man’s been beaten up, blown up, stabbed, jabbed and impaled. But amazingly enough, he’s still puttering around. I can’t think of a better man to fill my shoes, and if any of you think otherwise, get a sword and come up here.”
There was no response.
“Well then. Dakkoth Starkiller, on behalf of the Department of the Lord Chancellor, and in recognition of your service to the Alliance, you are hereby promoted to the position of Chief Marshal, with all duties and privileges of the position. Do you accept this promotion?”
“I do.” Dakkoth responded. McKenna saluted his successor. The marshals and staff in the auditorium stood and applauded the new chief marshal. McKenna un-pinned the chief marshal’s badge from his uniform and pinned it onto Dakkoth’s
“Chief Marshal Starkiller, as your first duty of office, I’d like you to recognize and accept my resignation from office.” He handed Dakkoth the parchment he’d prepared. Dakkoth untied and quickly read the parchment. It contained only a scribbled self-portrait of McKenna sticking his tongue out. Dakkoth tried not to laugh, and saluted instead.
“Sir, I have read your letter of resignation and accept it. As of this moment, you are relieved of all duties. The Migichinan Alliance thanks you for your years of duty and congratulate you on a job well done.”
The two men shook hands.
“They’re all yours, buddy.” McKenna said, patting him on the shoulder. He hopped off the stage and sat down in Dakkoth’s seat. He leaned over and kissed Rhaine Quatralis on the cheek. She giggled in response. Seeing this, Dakkoth would have blushed, if that were possible. Instead, he looked over the crowd.
“All right,” he growled into the microphone, “what are you slackers still doing here? We’ve got two fugitives, and I want to frame and hang their asses on the wall of my new office!” The marshals and staff all got the idea and began to file out of the auditorium, leaving Franclyn, McKenna, and Rhaine Quatralis sitting in front.
They stood as Dakkoth descended from the stage.
“The council doesn’t know you resigned, do they?” He asked McKenna.
“No.” He replied. “Winter doesn’t even know.” When I walk into the council chamber, I’m either walking out as the new Lord Chancellor, or I’m not going to be walking out.
“Hey pal. Don’t be talkin’ like that! There’s a woman out there that needs you, whether you’re the flaming’ Lord Chancellor or not.” Franclyn scolded. McKenna gave him a half smile.
“Never said I intended to loose, did I Vic?” McKenna said, with a glint of light in his eyes.
Winter took her seat in the council chamber. She checked the notes she called up on the computer screen, having transferred them from her office on the space dock. She glanced over to the vacant seat of the warlord, wondering if Slann had died along with the Invictus. She prayed he had. She would have to watch any melee that would occur in the chamber, and if Slann was there to fight McKenna, the Lord Admiral did not know if she would be able to sit idle while the warlord decimated her man.
Earlier, she’d briefed her own staff, the Admirals and captains who commanded the fleet, along with the liaison officers Admiral Tereskiad left behind. If McKenna fell, she would have to back up Dakkoth in his bid to become Lord Chancellor, while at the same time keep the navy out of Slann’s control. She rethought the possibility of Slann dying in the naval battle, and then dismissed it. Slann was far too strong and cunning to allow his end to come like that. He would show up, she was certain of it, and all hell would break loose when he did.
The other lords and ministers began to arrive. Lord Chancellor Awrann stooped by her chair and placed his hand on her shoulder. She looked up and smiled, even though she was far from happy.
“Don’t worry, my dear. Everything is going to be all right.” He said as he pointed her attention to Zendista McKenna, who had just walked in. He was along side General Calyban Ferrin, who was the warlord’s executive officer and replacement in the council chamber if for any reason the warlord could not be present. Ferrin was known for his loathing of the warlord, but as a skilled warrior, not even Slann was willing to challenge that.
Ferrin and McKenna parted company with a handshake. It made Winter feel better that someone on Slann’s staff was actually on their side. Ferrin took the seat normally occupied by Slann and called up his own notes. He glanced over to Winter and smiled briefly, then started typing. In moments, a message window opened up on her screen with Ferrin’s name at the top.
“Good to see you safe and sound, My Lady.” It read. “I know who’s supporting Branwyn now, and I’ll need to meet with you and McKenna to discuss it after the session.” Winter confirmed the message and agreed to the meeting. She hoped to convince General Ferrin to eventually challenge Slann for his spot as Warlord.
Xiang Ti scanned the faces of those in the chamber. All the Lords and Ministers were flanked by a maximum of one aide, save Lord Admiral Winter Ventrosia, who sat alone. He noted Zendista McKenna standing in the shadows behind his old friend, Awrann. All seemed to be in place, and so far, Warlord Slann had yet to show up. The group was quiet, as always, but the atmosphere had a certain lingering gloom to it this time. The Migichinan Lord Prime knew what was going to happen, and he prayed that it would end in the favor of the Alliance and not against it. He stood to address the council.
“Ladies and gentleman. As it has been in the past, it will be today. Rise with me in prayer to our beloved Goddess.”
The council rose in response to the Lord Prime’s traditional opening statement. Xiang Ti extended his arms out.
“Migichina, Goddess of our ancestors, Creator of our race, Guardian of our destiny. Give us the wisdom to deal with the issues that face us today, and guide our hands to solve the problems that hinder us.
“Give us your blessing, so that we may conduct the business in accordance to your plan. Victory to us, Glory to you, our Goddess Migichina.”
“Glory to you.” The council and aides responded, ending the prayer. They all waited until Xiang Ti took his seat, then all sat.
“I will now hear the business of the Alliance. As I understand, the Humanis Federation is currently preparing an incursion across our borders. Lord Admiral, will you take the floor and brief the council on this matter.” The Lord Prime said.
Winter stood and bowed to the Lord Prime. She descended the stairs to the round council floor. Above the main doors, a large video panel lowered and lit up with strategic data and maps, showing the positions of Humanis, Migichinan, and Saurian forces.
“Lord Prime, colleagues of the council. At two A.M. this morning, patrol craft on our border with the Humanis Federation detected military ship movements that were not consistent with normal Federation naval operations. By looking at the recorded movements and current positioning, we have determined that the Federation is preparing to strike a number of targets just inside Alliance boundaries.”
The strategic map zoomed in on the border, lined by a red grid. Seven red dots showed the position of Alliance colony worlds, each only a few light years from the border. Migichinan ships appeared as green triangles, Federation ships as orange diamonds, and approaching saurian ships as tan squares. All had information displayed next to them, showing designations and types. Information on Federation ships was sporadic at best, and that showed up in the form of question marks next to the diamonds.
“Federation ships outnumber our forces on sight by a two to one ratio. I’ve asked Saurian Vice Admiral Z’oord Tereskiad if he would back us up, and to our fortune he granted my request.”
“Does the Federation plan to attack, Lord Admiral?” The Lord Minister of the Interior Gayle Harsyn asked.
“We’re unsure at this time, Lord Minister.” Winter said in response to her question. “The Federation has only done this once before, which did result in a limited conflict lasting six months. I believe they may be strengthening their forces on the border in response to our own political climate, as fragile as that is.”
A few of the Lords and Ministers glanced over at McKenna, who still hung in the shadows.
“There are a number of possible reasons for this build up.” Winter continued. “Whatever the outcome is, our forces, combined with those of our allies will be able to counter any threat the Federation poses at this time. Questions?”
“Yes, Lord Admiral.” Xiang Ti spoke up. “It was very prudent of you to ask the Saurians for help. Considering the fragile nature of our relations with them, what made you think that they would agree to help defend our borders?”
“I’ve known Admiral Tereskiad all my life, sir. My father, Esteban Ventrosia, was a close friend of his. My father had aided the Admiral on a number of occasions, and I decided to call in a favor or two in order to keep the Alliance safe.” She said. Xiang Ti nodded in approval.
He knew when it came to military matters, the Lord Admiral was worth her weight in gold, but he never really considered the young woman a political force until now. “Your actions were indeed in the best interest of the Alliance, Lord Admiral. Thank you for your report.” Xiang Ti finished.
“Lord Prime, I must object to the Lord Admiral’s actions.” Awrann stood up, making sure to have his sword at his side. “This young upstart of an Admiral has no faith in her own forces. We are a strong and capable race, and Lord Prime Callivare built the navy to reflect that.” Awrann walked down to the council floor as Winter returned to her seat.
“And so it begins,” Xiang Ti thought to himself. “Defend your objection, Lord Chancellor.”
“I shall, my lord. When Callivare founded the navy, she not only wanted to explore the stars above, but she wanted to ensure our place in the galaxy by our strength and presence. Our military presence was without doubt in the quadrant until Esteban Ventrosia came to power, who believed that peace and exploration should be our goal, not war and conquest.
“I do agree that Esteban Ventrosia was correct in believing this, but his actions made our navy weak. The only way we have survived was by the quick thinking and re-engineering of our starships by Aldebryn Hullworx to make them stronger and more resilient. But what it comes down to is the fact that every time we are faced with war, we have to appeal to the Saurian Galactic Commonwealth to protect us. That legacy given to us by Esteban Ventrosia is what makes us weak, and because his daughter carries on his legacy, we again have to call upon the Saurians to protect us!”
Awrann looked around to the faces of the council. Some were in agreement, but more were only sitting there, saying or doing nothing.
“We must strengthen our navy, and we must beat back this threat on our own. If we do not, the Saurians may not respect us any longer for the race of warriors we are. Goddess help us as well if the Meridians decide to grow some balls and attack as well!”
“On the contrary, Lord Chancellor.” This time the Minister of Trade and Commerce spoke. “Meridian balls are no bigger than the anti-ship space fighters they have managed to steal. Hardly a threat. I think your objection is ill founded. If we work with the Saurians in peace, and stand with them in war, it will serve to strengthen our ties and peace with them. I have no difficulties with the Lord Admirals actions.”
Awrann looked back to the Lord Prime, who logged the trade minister’s vote of approval to Winter’s actions. She showed no emotion, though. If the rest of the council did not approve, then Xiang Ti would force her to tell the Saurians to withdraw. The Minister of the Interior was the next to stand.
“Though the Lord Chancellor’s speech was eloquent, I will join with the Minister of Trade and Commerce in saying that the objection was unfounded. Times are changing, and the Migichinan Alliance must change with them. As Minister of the Interior I am charged with seeing to the welfare of the civilian populace. We have civilians out there that are in harms way because of the Federation’s military actions. If we need the Saurians to help defend our lands and territories, then we should take advantage of whatever help they can offer us.” She took her seat.
Awrann remained standing.
“General Ferrin?” He asked.
“I will side with the Lord Admiral. No offense, Lord Chancellor, but it was strategically sound that she called in the Saurians. For the record, Warlord Slann would most likely to have agreed to her actions as well.”
It began to dawn on Awrann that there would be no one to agree with him, and that his vision of the Alliance was now obsolete. He went back to his chair with a feeling of disgrace.
“With nothing more to be said, the actions of the Lord Admiral will stand, and the council shall issue a formal letter of thanks to the Saurian government upon the conclusion of this council session. I will designate the Lord Chancellor to pen the letter. If there is nothing further, we will move onto other business.”
McKenna stepped forward.
“I have some business to address, Lord Prime.” He said with a slight edge in his voice.
Awrann turned and looked at him. He nodded, understanding what McKenna was about to do.
“Very well, chief marshal. You may take the floor.”
McKenna walked down the steps from the Lord Chancellor’s perch. He paced the perimeter of the circular floor, looking each Migichinan lord in the eye, stopping in front of Awrann.
“This man would have the Alliance fall because he is unwilling to cooperate with those who can help us. I stood back and listened to the Lord Admiral’s report, and then I had to bear the insane ranting of the Lord Chancellor. If we were to stand alone, seven colonies would have fallen before most of you got out of bed this morning. At three in the morning, Lord Admiral Winter Ventrosia was in a shuttle on her way to wake up a very intimidating lizard to ask him to go kick some ass. If that were me being woken up, you could be certain that some asses would have my boot firmly inserted into them!”
McKenna walked back out to the middle of the chamber. “For the past week, I’ve been shot and blown up at least a couple of times because people think that I am a threat to them. I went to the Lord Chancellor because what was happening was quickly turning into a matter of state security. By law, he would have had to call this council into emergency session to deal with the matter. Instead, he told me to deal with it. I lost a good marshal dealing with ‘it’, and damn near lost another about twelve hours ago. I’m tired of ‘dealing’ with it, and it’s now time we had someone in that chair who’s willing to take action!”
Xiang Ti rose. “And just what do you have in mind, Mr. McKenna?” He asked sternly.
McKenna reached inside his trench coat and drew the sword of Draesoneth. “This is what I’ve got in mind.”
Xiang Ti looked at McKenna’s sword, which resembled his own. “McKenna, why do you have a replica of the sword of Draesoneth?” He asked.
McKenna smiled. “It was given to me by my mother, and I can assure you it’s the genuine article. Scan it, if you must. Take it from me if you can. I will not relinquish it easily.”
McKenna stood ready, in case Xiang Ti did just that.
“No, McKenna. Keep the sword. I’ve known that the one I carry is the replica. I’ve known it for a long time. I am fortunate that no one has challenged me, otherwise that truth would have been discovered much sooner.
“Are you going to challenge me, McKenna, or shall I just die in my chair of boredom?” Awrann said testily.
“Yes, Awrann, I’ll challenge you. I charge you with the inability to further carry out your duties, and challenge you to your position in the Rite of Ascension!”
Awrann drew his sword in response to the challenge. “I didn’t last this long only to be cut down by some snot nose punk who thinks he can run the Alliance better than I can! You are insubordinate, reckless, and irresponsible! If you would have let your people do the dirty work, half of this would never have happened!” He stood toe to toe with McKenna.
“I was in the middle of all of this, Awrann. I was the target. A lot of people knew this day was going to come, and they did not want to see it happen!” The chamber doors burst open.
“Quite true, McKenna, quite true.” Said the newcomer.
Warlord Slann stood at the door of the council chamber in battle frame, fully polished and adorned with his medals and a new cloak.
“No one knows better then I that the esteemed Lord Chancellor is inept and incapable of carrying out his duties. Why, for the past year, I’ve been planning to take his head, and his seat. However, It would appear that I have been beaten to that by the honorable Chief Marshal.”
Xiang Ti rose again. “The challenge has been made, Slann. You are too late. Now, stand down.” He ordered.
“I will not, my dear Lord Prime. It is within the rights of any council member here to issue a counter challenge. As tradition has established, the challenger can be fought for the right to take his or her place in the Rite of Ascension, and upon victory, assume the role they have fought twice for. Is that not true, Lord Prime?”
Xiang Ti sat again. “True it is, Slann, but if you are going to claim that right, then shift out of your frame. You are currently in violation of our law by being in the chamber in that state, and all challenges must be resolved without the use of a battle frame.”
“Of course, Lord Prime. I must have forgotten my manners.” Slann conceded, shifting out of his battle frame. “You will, or course, forgive me. As it stands, I not only charge Awrann with idiocy, but it is my firm belief that McKenna is not suited for the job, ether. I will fight the Chief Marshal for the right to take Awrann’s head.”
One of Slann’s entourage walked up behind him and placed the hilt end of his sword’s scabbard on the warlord’s shoulder. He took the sword by the hilt and drew the blade. Slann’s sword was larger than the average Migichinan blade, matching the huge size of the man who wielded it. He twirled in the guard axis once to again get the feel of the blade in his hand.
“Slann, what you’re doing is preposterous!” Argued General Ferrin. “You have no right to make such claims after you yourself have sabotaged half the preparations these two men have made for the turnover! Stand down, now!” Ferrin growled.
“That’s ‘Warlord’ Slann to you, General, or at least ‘sir’. I will not stand down as this is my right by law. And for the record, I think the Lord Admiral waited too long to strike back at the Humanis. She should have done so when they first crossed our borders earlier this week.”
The comment was a direct attack against Winter, but its purpose failed as none of the council looked at her with questioning glances. Slann was right however. Winter knew she should have retaliated for the incursion, but deemed that move unnecessary, as Capt. Dunan was able to resolve the matter without excessive loss of life.
“I also charge the Lord Admiral with her inability to carry out her duties, and I have every intention of finding a replacement for her once I am Lord Chancellor.”
Xiang Ti rose again, slamming his steel gavel into the granite podium. “Enough, damn you Slann! I will not sit here and listen to you curse everyone in this chamber! You have a sword in your hand, so use it! On yourself, preferably!”
Mockingly, Slann grasped his chest, faking a wound. “I’m hurt, my Lord Prime! I thought you loved me!”
“Feh! How anything could love a pathetic wretch like you is beyond me! McKenna, would you please do me a favor and kill this poor bastard?” Xiang Ti asked as he sat.
“It would be my pleasure.” McKenna replied; bring his sword to the ready.
“My my, McKenna. I never would have expected such a blatant display of ass kissing from you. Are we all not full of surprises, eh?”
McKenna decided that Slann’s last comment would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.