Ascension: Book One of The Alliance Chronicles

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Chapter 3

“One might argue that Migichina tested him, put him through all his pain. But I would remind that one that Zendista had to write his own book. The path was his to choose.”

From “The Book of McKenna” - Destiny

McKenna awoke to the sight of the lovely Lord Admiral patiently waiting above him. She beamed with joy as he regained consciousness. He looked around to see if anyone else was present. He sat up as Winter handed him a glass of water, and placed some much need anti-pain medications in his free hand.

The doctors had done a good job of patching him up following the blast, but he could still feel pain where he had been wounded, not to mention the muscles he’d pulled trying to duck for cover. It was morning and he looked out the window to see the sun rise. Winter sat on the bed and placed her hand on his right knee, looking out the window with him.

“I’m getting too old for this...” He growled. He immediately recognized the face of the woman he loved, but did not display any emotion. It had become a custom between the two of them. Winter and Zendista had to be certain that there were no other ears listening before they could speak on a personal level. Winter activated her cybernetic sensor suite to scan for listening devices.

“Lord Admiral, what a pleasant surprise. What the hell happened? McKenna asked with a wince of pain as he tried to sit up.

“There was an explosive in your apartment, in your holo-secretary, to be more specific.” She finally said. Not sure of who could be listening, she tried to keep to the point. The couple did develop a code over the past few years, certain words with subtle underlying meanings, and glances that meant much more. McKenna was just happy that he was still alive to see her soft and beautiful face. She continued her report. “The Marshals and Naval INTELLIGENCE is investigating, but they have yet to come up with anything. I do know of one potential suspect, care to guess who?”

“I figured that much, but what I want to know is why. Slann’s a bastard, but he’s an honorable one. He would rather attack first than to use terrorist tactics. Bombs ain’t his style, even though it was his face on the monitor.” McKenna set the glass of water down after taking the medicine. He ran his fingers slowly down Winter’s arm and took her hand into his. She leaned over and kissed him delicately. The scent of her exotic perfume almost overwhelmed him.

Winter eyes perked a little. “What do you mean, ‘his face on the monitor?’” She asked.

“Slann left a message for me. I... don’t remember what it was, but his face is the last thing I can remember.”

“Bomb Disposal Units went though your apartment. They discovered remnants of the explosives. Their investigation concluded that it was a Humanis weapon, but there are no Humanis operatives operating inside the Archology. Slann’s the only person who has the motive to kill you.” Winter said.

McKenna sat up with Winter’s assistance. “That would mean he used the bomb to throw us off his trail. That’s definitely too sneaky for him.”

“I’m glad you’re alright.” she said softly. Her sensor sweep revealed no listening devices, and there was no one outside the doors. She gently stroked his long dark hair, and ran her fingers through the white stripes that started at his temples and ran down the length. He took her hand again and kissed it. If she didn’t pull away soon, she would be tempted to make love to him right there in the infirmary. She could lock the door and draw the curtains, she thought but that would certainly draw attention.

Their intimate actions were few and far between, thanks only to strict Migichinan traditions. The relationship was strong, and that could possibly be attributed to the same strict traditions.

Winter stood and recounted yesterday’s activity. She detailed the Humanis incursion, and praised her brother and the crew of the Draesoneth for saving the day, again. McKenna recalled his friendship with Winter’s brother, Dunan Ventrosia, and the fact that he was one of the best starship captains in Migichinan history. His starship, the Draesoneth, though able to make a name for herself through action and deed, was a worthy vessel with a prestigious name.

McKenna stood and was now aware that he was naked. He did not bother to cover himself; as there was nothing that Winter had not seen before. He could count on one hand the number of times he had seen her nude, however. She was a little more modest. He began to dress as she continued her story.

“Slann was there as well. He made dealing with the incident a lot harder.” She wrapped her arms around herself and bowed her head. “He publicly humiliated me by accusing me of not taking decisive enough action. He was going to order a counter offensive, but I stopped him.”

McKenna put his arms around her. “You saved the Alliance from enduring another war, my love. If Slann had ordered the assault, we would not be in each other’s company right now.” It was a selfish thing for him to say, but in truth he did long to be with her for longer than a mere handful of hours at a time.

“Mac, I love you.” She finally said. Winter felt she could never say those words enough. She knew the marshal felt the same for her, even though there were times he had trouble showing it. McKenna was a dedicated career man, and loved what he did. He was unarguably the best in the field, next to one Dakkoth Starkiller, the Chief Marshal’s right-hand man. For the moment, Winter was content to just be in his arms, basking in the sense of security he gave her.

McKenna and Winter parted company. As she headed back to her Archology office, the Chief Marshal made his way to a chapel on the ground level. He would often go there just to relax in the peaceful settings. This time, he needed a place to think and to get his priorities straight.

He entered to see a gray haired woman in priestly vestments going about her tasks. She turned and smiled at the welcomed new presence.

“A pleasure again to see you, my son.” The lilt in her voice was calm and pleasant. If McKenna could ever find a memory of his mysterious mother, he had hoped her voice was just like that of the priestess Kyra.

He kneeled at the feet of the life-size statue of the Goddess Migichina, the forge of the Alliance and religious core of beliefs. Kyra brought tea, as was the custom when one came to talk to a clergy member one-on-one.

“Are you finally here to reaffirm your faith, Zendista?” She asked, hoping for an affirmative answer.

“Not exactly, but some ecclesiastical guidance would certainly be appreciated.”

“Ah, you must be concerned about the Right of Ascension Awrann wants you to perform.” She smiled as she poured a cup.

McKenna’s eyebrow shot up. “Is there anybody in the Archology who doesn’t know about this?” He asked sarcastically.

“Probably not. Word does get around, you know. People are especially fond of confiding in priests their deepest secrets.” She replied.

“Only because of your vow of confidence.” He countered.

“True, but we are an objective ear when needed. Now, what are we to talk about?”

McKenna sipped his tea. He thought back to the conversation with Chancellor Awrann, and is own self-doubt

“I’m not sure where to begin. Awrann and Xiang Ti both want me as their next Lord Chancellor. Awrann no longer has the passion for the duties, and Xiang Ti is losing his interest in his own position as well. Awrann told me that I was destined for the role of Lord Chancellor, and that is according to a conversation Xiang Ti had with Migichina herself.”

“Well, I can tell you that Xiang Ti’s conversation with Migichina did in fact happen.” Kyra, knowing that McKenna was a cop, tried to present her information factually, as McKenna would probably have trouble in believing anything otherwise.

“Shortly before your promotion to Chief Marshal, Xiang Ti requested my assistance in contacting the Goddess. I was there as they conversed and heard every word spoken. She even blessed the both of us directly that night. Xiang Ti knew that the Alliance was on the verge of collapse. It still is, for that matter. Our noble houses are constantly feuding, and the clans are slowly seceding from our sovereignty.”

McKenna nodded. What the priestess said was true, about the Alliance’s slow demise. With men like Slann in power, men who were greedy and power hungry, collapse was the only possible outcome for any nation.

“Xiang Ti needed guidance.” Kyra continued. “Our occupation of the Cestas cluster was producing bad publicity, and Slann was constantly urging the council to allow for a full military occupation of the region. Awrann and Esteban Ventrosia were both against that. Slann was doing everything he could to get his way and disrupt the council at the same time. Xiang Ti asked Migichina for a person who could unify the council. He asked for a person who could strengthen the Alliance and once more make it a force to be reckoned with in the galaxy. Migichina suggested that you might be perfect for that task.”

McKenna looked up at the statue of Migichina. Her stately presence was only a small part of the divine beauty he saw. But how could any of that be true? Were not the gods and Goddesses of any culture normally withdrawn from the affairs of state? He just did not understand why Migichina would name him directly as the messiah of the Migichinan Alliance.

Kyra could see the doubt on McKenna’s face as clear as she could see the badge of office on his shoulder. She had seen it before, when a certain Lord Admiral came to talk to her not long ago, wondering if she could ever fill the shoes of her father. Kyra stood and made her way behind McKenna and once again kneeled. She began to massage the Marshal’s shoulders, trying to help him to relax. It would allow him to think more clearly and then perhaps see and feel the answer.

“I don’t get it, Kyra. I... just don’t get it. I’m only a cop. My whole life is to serve and protect.”

“Precisely.” Kyra confirmed. McKenna’s statement of the obvious was getting closer to the truth he needed to see.

“What do you mean?” He asked. The clergy were known to answer questions in the form of a riddle or a parable. This, however, seemed like neither to McKenna as he waited patiently for Kyra to explain.

“You have been training your entire life for this, McKenna. As a man of the law, you have learned what holds the Alliance together: honor, tradition, duty. As a man, you’ve come to know what each one means, and its place in our society. And as a leader, you’ve learned to use each in the wisest fashion.” She sipped her tea and set it back down.

“Migichina would not have selected you if it where not part of the greater plan. Trust in her wisdom and let her guide your path.”

McKenna was now certain he should not have skipped theology in college. Migichinan religion was just about as complex as its politics, and neither had really made much sense to him. He was unable to devote himself to what he could not see. He could see Kyra, though. He could see her peace and calmness in an aura-like radiance. Even Winter had tried to explain the religion to him, but she had little luck as well. McKenna just did not believe.

Kyra handed a book to McKenna, and then stood to leave. It was simply titled “M’kara”. An ancient Migichinan word that translated into “We believe.” McKenna recognized it as the Migichinan bible. He opened the tome and flipped through the pages of ancient prayers and prophecies.

For some time, he read and studied. Yet, he could find nothing that would give him the answer he needed. Some of the prophecies sounded like they could be pertinent to his current situation, but most of the prayers reeked of whining. Until he came upon one verse.

“If there is to be an answer to any question, let that answer come from the heart. Let its truth sound in your voice, and its actions in your own.”

He mulled over the passage, said it silently, and then read it again. “If it were only that easy,” he thought to himself. He knew what the right thing to do was. If Xiang Ti and Awrann agreed that he was the man for the job, then who was he to question them?

The answers did not come easily. McKenna kneeled in front of the statue of the Goddess He reflected on what was to happen in only twelve hours time. With his sword drawn and head bowed, he began a series of prayers for honor and glory.

“Mother of our people, Mistress of our destiny, I beseech thee to guide me, as thou guided lord Draesoneth many millennia ago.

Show unto me the proper path, that I may serve thee,

Show me the proper path, that I may see thy beauty and light,

Give to me your love, Show me that what I am to do is just and right.”

A bright light appeared in the chapel and took the form of a beautiful woman in a flowing silver kimono. As she materialized, her hair took the color of an expansive nebula, and her skin glowed the purest of white. Her eyes shone with the light of a thousand stars.

Migichina took McKenna’s face in her soft hands, and gently kissed him fully on the lips. She floated back then and broke into a smile that could melt even the coldest of hearts. With a lilting voice that could not even be matched by the most gifted of singers, the Goddess of the Migichinan Alliance addressed McKenna.

“That was a very beautiful prayer, Zendista, but it really was not necessary. I have been watching for some time.” The Goddess smiled. It was said that some of the Lord Prime and Chancellors of the past directly communicated with the Goddess Migichina on a regular basis to carry out her will. Kyra had just confirmed that, but McKenna had never believed any of the stories. That belief was now changing very quickly.

The Chief Marshal knew who he was looking at, though, being a man’s man; he thought it would still be proper to flex his muscles. Besides, it was only a Goddess he was speaking to, and not a devil to offend.

“And you are?” He asked in a growl.

“You really need to ask, my son?” Migichina replied.

“I really wish everyone would cut it out with this “my son” crap. I’m well over 400 now!”

Migichina laughed. “You are young still, and your life still awaits you, Zendista.”

“Get to the point, please.”

“You asked for my guidance, and that is what I am here to offer. What is to soon take place will shake the very foundation of the universe. I created the Migichinan to make way for your coming. You are my son and I love you very much.”

McKenna shifted his position slightly. The fact that he was talking to a being of supposed Divine nature was one thing. He could handle that. It was the fact that she had maternal feelings towards him that became unnerving.

"Slann will not be able to defeat you as long as you remember my love for you. And also be aware of the love that a certain Lord Admiral has for you. She is yours, Zendista; do not make her wait for you.”

“This is all very nice, Migichina, but what do I do? Slann has an army backing him. He is also ten times older than I and probably just as powerful.”

“The tradition I gave to Draesoneth was that the Rite of Ascension shall not be fought in the battle frame. If Slann violates that law, I shall personally strike him and his house down. All Migichinan who violate the laws shall be dealt with accordingly.

I am not a vengeful Goddess, nor am I hateful. I have bestowed upon your people a great responsibility, and my laws are designed to keep my people honest and true.”

Migichina kneeled in the same spot Kyra had earlier. She poured some more tea and offered it to McKenna before taking a cup for herself. Without hesitation he accepted the drink from the Goddess. It tasted different from before, leaving McKenna to wonder if she had altered it in some divine way. It brought to him a feeling of youth, much the same way a cup of chicken noodle soup would be served by the most loving of mothers. He relaxed even more.

“I have a purpose for you, Zendista. You found your way to the Alliance because I guided you. No one knows about your past because it is my secret to keep. If you did not exist, the galaxy would be much darker and far more dangerous.”

“It is not often that I need to intervene like this, but Slann has an advantage and a curse that could destroy the Alliance. You are the key to survival, and the means to break the curse that lies on him.

“I don’t think I quite follow...” McKenna replied

“You will understand... eventually.”

“Goddess, you said Winter is mine, but tradition...”

“The tradition is as ancient and I am, but it is obsolete, unlike me. I ensured the coming of Winter Ventrosia so that you would have a mate.”

McKenna’s face contorted into a scowl. “You mean to say that... that my relationship with Winter was planned?” McKenna was now getting very angry, forcing Migichina to choose her words carefully.

“I did not plan this, my son, you must not think that. It was foreseen by Destiny, and my duty to make it happen, but only with the help of my brother, Draconus.”

McKenna’s anger turned to confusion. Now there were two divinely powerful dragons involved with in his life.

“Look, all I want to do is what is right! I don’t want to know how Destiny or Draconus is involved with all this, so just tell me what you want me to do!” He said, conceding to her counsel.

“Win. Now draw your sword and raise it to me.” Migichina’s mood turned serious as she touched the tip of McKenna’s blade and drew blood from her finger. The blood of the Goddess shimmered and sparkled as it trickled down the blade of the warrior’s sword.

Migichina smiled as she drifted backwards and faded away.

“You are my son, and I love you.” With that, she vanished from sight. McKenna smiled. It was probably the first time he had smiled in a long time. His smile, however, shifted back to a stern and grim expression as the whine of energy weapons fire alerted the Chancellor-to-be to trouble outside the chapel. Without thinking about it, he dropped his sword and rushed out the door. There was no time to make the shift into his battle-frame, from which he fought most of his battles. Instead, he drew his own sidearm.

The deed was done, and now the assassin Janus D’Saad was sprinting down the corridor. Her orders had been clear: See that Lt. Klaive did not talk to McKenna.

She began tracking him soon after she had received those orders. She entered the scaled the Archology’s massive exterior until she located the window of his apartment. For some time she waited. She watched his wife go about her daily routine of cleaning and looking after their two children. It was so disgustingly domestic, she thought, but such was Migichinan life. She continued to watch, but could not bear it.

Because of the warm day, Lt. Klaive’s wife had left the window open, allowing the fresh air in, and unknowingly, an invisible assassin. The wife was unaware of the presence as D’Saad silently entered the daughter’s bedroom. The child silently napped as D’Saad suffocated her with a pillow. Then, she made her way to the kitchen and slipped a poison into the wife’s drink.

D’Saad followed her into the room, watching with satisfaction as the mother drank deeply of the poison, and watched the woman’s horror unfold as she discovered the lifeless body of the child in the bed. In vain, she tried to contact her husband, but the poison was eating away at her insides, quickly bring the grip of death upon her. She tried desperately to reach a computer to call her husband, but to no avail. She came to rest only a few paces away from the communications console and died, not even able to scream.

D’Saad de-cloaked and examined her handy work. Though killing the family was not part of the deal, it had to be done. Their utter domestic bliss was terribly annoying and could not be allowed to continue. She went through the apartment. In the master bedroom she found a gift-wrapped package that the wife had carefully wrapped and a card reading “happy anniversary”. D’Saad opened the package to find an exotic selection of red lingerie. She tucked the garments into her satchel and re-cloaked... and waited.

Hours later, Lt. Klaive entered the apartment calling for his wife, but there was no answer. He went to the kitchen to find the dishes only partially washed. Food had been left out, apparently in the process of being prepared.

The living room was spotlessly cleaned, and it looked like his wife was plotting something rather romantic, judging by the candles and the holographic fireplace. He set his own gift on the coffee table. This was the anniversary of their marriage, only a year prior. He looked in his daughter’s bedroom and saw his wife, lying on the floor.

He rushed to her side and touched her skin, finding his wife’s lifeless body to be ice cold. His terror grew. He checked his daughter and gasped in horror. He stumbled backwards.

“C... Computer. Locate Zendista McKenna!”

“Zendista McKenna is on Level 3, section 1, compartment 1213. Main Chapel.”

Lt. Klaive ran out of the apartment, ordering the computer to seal the door. D’Saad followed, entering the same elevator with the frantic lieutenant. She watched him fidget as they descended. If only her own husband had been as caring as this man was appearing to be. At the designated level, Lt. Klaive burst out of the elevator car with D’Saad close behind. He began to look around for the Chapel. He was not familiar with this level, but thanks to directions from a few shop keepers, he would eventually find it.

It was late, and few people were around. This was the market level, where many Archology residents came to purchase food and other goods. At this time of night the section was fairly deserted, save the occasional guard. Klaive rounded a corner and finally found the chapel.

He would never make it inside, though. D’Saad appeared in front of him and fired. Klaive fell backwards, dead before he hit the ground. D’Saad holstered her weapon and made her escape. Weapons fire rarely escaped the Archology’s sensor net, or the ear of nearby residents.

Outside the chapel doors McKenna discovered the charred corpse of a man, and a woman clad in body armor sprinting down the passageway. He leveled his weapon and opened fire on the fleeing murderess. His volley of energy beams lanced down the corridor, but the woman dodged them and diverted herself into an adjoining passageway. McKenna shouted a few choice oaths as he slapped his communicator badge. “Chief Marshal McKenna to Central Security!”

“Go ahead, sir.” Replied the disembodied voice.

“There’s been a murder on level one five seven. Seal off sections 34 thru 45 on this level. Initiate maximum-security protocols on levels one five thru one six one. Beam in security teams!”

“Right away, sir!” No sooner had the order been given than alarms went off through the Archology and the light panels in the corridors started to flash red. McKenna followed the trail of the fleeing felon, hoping she had not already escaped the security measures he’d set in place. Having lost the trail, he stopped to cautiously look around. He already knew he was on a residential level of the Archology: nothing but secured shops and sparse litter.

About a hundred feet away, he saw the shimmering lights of the transporters placing a security team in the hall. McKenna made his way back to the scene of the crime with extreme caution. A minute later, he was standing over the body he had discovered outside the chapel. Upon closer inspection, he recognized the victim as an officer who’d served as an aid to the Warlord Slann.

“Curiouser and Curiouser.” McKenna said to himself as he pulled out the officer’s identity. He looked up to see a rather large man in a marshal’s uniform jogging towards him. The man, who was not obviously Migichinan, stopped and rendered a salute.

“Marshal Ren McNar, reporting sir.” Marshal McNar waited until McKenna returned the salute. “Report.” McKenna ordered.

“Sir, we are conducting a search of the Archology for this woman. McNar handed McKenna a data pad that displayed the picture of the woman whom McKenna had seen earlier.

“That’s the bitch. Have we nailed her, yet?”

“No sir, but it’s only a matter of time.” McNar looked at the body. “The woman will pay for this atrocity!”

McKenna raised an eyebrow. “Did you know him?”

McNar nodded yes. “We were friends. He had a wife and a kid. He had a pretty promising career, but he was a ‘talkative’ sort. I would surmise that Warlord Slann may have had him killed as a precaution.”

“How so?” McKenna asked.

“He was an advisor to Slann, and he was watching you. He was also sympathetic to your situation, and probably learned of a plot to remove you from the ‘position’ of Lord Chancellor before you took it.”

A junior security officer interrupted the two marshals. He approached Marshal McNar and saluted. “Sir, preliminary sweeps are inconclusive. Permission to expand our search Archology-wide.” McNar returned the salute. “Very well.” He said, giving his permission.

“McNar, I want you to head up the preliminary investigation. The body armor was Humanis Federation standard issue stealth armor. Fed corps uses them mostly for covert espionage, but Fed intelligence services use them as well. Be ready for anything.”

“Aye, sir.” McNar responded and set off to his work.

McKenna looked down at the body and shook his head. A good man with a wife and a kid. A good man’s life cut short by a political power play. He had seen it too many times before, but would never be able to get used to it. He could not allow himself to.

“And so it begins...” he muttered, holstering his sidearm. He walked back down the corridor as a tear formed in his eye.

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