The Three Constables
What horrid war was so far away from the wayward Skyreign crew, was far closer to the three pilots, as they led their starfighters into an ever-growing field of fresh carcasses—those of ships in every size and make.
It was strange, how so few of the husks were Behraanese. Were they doing that well against the Bentorii onslaught?
Much of the debris remained in high orbit around the golden, ice-ringed world. Some shards of broken ships made their way indefinitely either to the local moon, or the world itself.
So silent. Yet space always was.
The silence Saferon was referring to in her own mind was not that of actual sound, but that there remained no battle on this side of the planet.
She knew it raged on, and that perhaps it was on the other side of the planet, or had been taken further away than that.
But she couldn’t worry about that. She had a mission of her own. One of higher importance.
<Good thing Benny drew the Dominion away,> said one Elsie across a closed circuit. Elsie was a seasoned and experienced woman who sounded as tough as she acted.
As Saferon, a woman of similar stature, listened to her cohort, she took care to gently thrust her fighter around the larger chunks of debris that the shields couldn’t deflect.
<Old Dae had better have a damn good reason to send us out here,> said Savath, a brawny, dark-skinned Noregaan, <I don’t like being put so close to a world of hurt.>
“You can turn around anytime,” Saferon stated sarcastically, peeking out the thick canopy window to scrunch her nose at him, as if he could see it.
<You redheads are all alike,> he retorted, <all fire and no substance.>
“Surely you may find yourself having a change of opinion on a redhead’s substance--from the working end of my sword,” Saferon retorted, if playfully. She grinned to herself as she ran her fingers along the console and re-calibrated her shields to make more of a pushing sensation than that of a wall, so as to disturb the debris field far less and make herself less noticeable to some unseen predator.
<I’ll just take that comment right back then,> Savath replied lowly, <switching partial aux power to the front shields. What a damn mess.>
<Quiet,> Elsie said suddenly.
All chatter stopped.
<I’ve picked something up from the surface in a peripheral scan,> Elsie continued.
“We’re still too far out to get any signals at all,” Saferon disagreed, “that planet’s atmosphere scrambles everything.”
<Yeah, I know,> Elsie sighed, <and if I didn’t know it, I’d think that was a distress signal.>
<Could be some beacon off a blown up ship somewhere,> Savath said, <all that junk out there used to be working ships with living people. If it smelled in space, it might smell like death out there.>
<Maybe we should work our way out of the debris field,> Elsie suggested.
Saferon nodded to herself, “myeah, I’m with you on that one. I don’t like this graveyard one bit. Let’s climb out.”
Moments later, the three pilots lifted their fighters just up and above the field, and gained a much clearer view of the shining world of Suragaa Three.
Unbeknownst to many offworlders, the planet was plagued with a mysterious field that slowly eradicated water, leaving its surface barren.
That same field scrambled most sensors, creating the environment sought after by any who wished to hide themselves, or others.
However, the three pilots knew of these things, and they knew of the two established nations that eked out a living there, utilizing whatever technology was left behind by the progenitor race there. And while they did manage to cut through some of the scrambling, they could only do so at a relatively short range in comparison to other worlds. The typical sensors suite would, if tuned right, only give a few hundred kilometres of effective detection radius. Very little could be done to boost it higher than that, save using lower frequencies that naturally carried farther.
Yet despite this, not one, but two beacons broke through the scramble. It was clear to Saferon. It had to be clear to the others.
<There it is,> Elsie stated, <wait. There’s two.>
<I see ’em too,> Savath hummed sourly, <well, shit.>
“One’s far west of Nywanese territory,” Saferon added, “the other one--somewhere off to the east, in the desert sea.”
<Confirmed,> Elsie said, <both of which bear a Behraanese signal.>
<Either of ’em the Skyreign?> Savath could be heard audibly cracking his fingers.
“My bet’s on the eastern one,” Saferon cringed slightly at the sound.
<What makes you so sure?> said Elsie.
“It’s moving,” she transferred a video clip of her sensor readings over to the other two, “and my guess is they’re in a hurry as well.”
<I don’t like guesswork,> Elsie said grimly, <might be a good idea to check it out.>
“Right,” Saferon hummed, taking a good look around. Her flight computer estimated that the planet was perhaps only a hundred thousand kilometres away, and it was quickly growing in her field of view.
“You two follow the eastern beacon,” Saferon ordered, “The other one is likely from the Daunting. Before checking it out, I’ll go to Nywan. Only one of us needs to be there. Besides, I have business with the Queen.”
<And if we encounter the Skyreign?> Elsie inquired.
“You have your orders for that circumstance,” she said sternly, “if they do not cooperate, you will apprehend them, but not harm them. Got that, Sav?”
<Yeah, yeah, I got it,> Savath grumbled, <but if they as much as dent my fighter-->
“Good,” she cut in, “and anyway, the last readout of the ship from Behraan’s spaceport logs in Graldica shows that the ship was equipped with five previous-generation plasmar turrets and a pair of antiquated torpedo banks. She’s also plated in wood. Used to be a civilian-grade yacht. Probably not even spaceworthy. Nothing you can’t handle.”
<A ship plated with wood,> Elsie hummed, <I doubt that’s the actual hull. Just for show, I’ll bet.>
“One more thing,” Saferon veered from the loose formation, setting up to make planetfall near Nywan, “shunt more power to depth scanners. The planet’s a known home to Giith. See them before they see you. Don’t die.”
<Damn,> Savath cracked his fingers again, <I hate spiders.>
Descending into this world seemed far easier than many other, heavier and thinner-aired worlds Saferon had been to, for it was comfortably light and the atmosphere was far denser. However, the underbelly of the Jaegrynn felt such air density working against it as she descended from space into the desert world.
Nywan was known to be relatively safe from Giith strikes, one of the reasons such a location was chosen for a civilization. Of course, there were the giant arcologies, the walls, the domes, the solar power and the holds of supplies in all forms. Above all, there was a haunting beauty of its monolithic, ancient-in-design structures that carried on in hundreds of kilometres each way, and reached several kilometres into the sky as well.
These were just the same reasons for the presence of assailants Saferon’s fighter had detected in the tens of thousands. The land and the air were choked with a fierce war. Several buildings sported fresh gouges out of their sides. Smoke billowed from numerous points.
One building had collapsed, after thousands of years of surviving the tests of time.
Craters dotted the city.
Immediately she tuned into Nywanese battle frequency, for she knew she would be fired upon if she was not recognized.
<Halt!> she heard immediately in Nywanese, the voice being young, male and crackly, <all civilians must proceed to the city co-->
“Does this fighter look civilian to you?” Saferon stated loudly, also in Nywanese, “This is Constable Saferon Sarethael of the Galactic Council. I’m on business with the Queen.”
<You will have to await the conclusion of this battle before such business can be conducted!> the male stated rudely, then added, <the Queen is in hiding!>
“That’s not the Queen I know!” Saferon shook her head, “Put Winnibahn on the line!”
Moments later, the familiar voice of the General prevailed, <Saferon. What in Kabaiila are you doing here!?>
“Council orders,” Saferon sighed, “the Queen’s not really in hiding, is she.”
<Course not,> Winnibahn shared the sigh, <we’ve issued an escort from Scarab to get her to Pillars, to warn the-->
“That’s not the whole story, is it,” Saferon could detect fractions of the truth being omitted. Indeed, she could detect a great many things.
<No, it’s not, but can’t you see we’re a bit busy!?>
“Clearly,” Saferon nodded, “is she in good hands?”
Winnibahn sighed before replying, <Probably?>
“Good enough,” Saferon said, “seems I should lend a hand, then, hmm?”
<You mean you and your one fighter?> Winnibahn scoffed, but then sighed, <Fine. The Ma’guul have heavy anti-fighter firepower from the ground, Behraanese import. We only have our capital ships holding the air. The smaller strike craft have retreated further in to protect the city, or docked and landed until we can take care of the anti-air.>
“So you’re saying I should land,” Saferon nodded, “okay.”
<When was the last time you swung a sword? Or fired a gun for that matter?>
“A bit of both on the way out from Noregaa,” she grinned, “and that was while climbing up the ladder to get into the Jaegrynn to come here.”
<Same old Saf,> Win replied, <Land here aboard the Neversail. Ritana’s about to do another sortie with her hawks, and she expressed interest in having you on board. You don’t need me to tell you the kind of praise that is.>
“No,” Saferon carefully banked her fighter over to the lumbering battleship, “I really don’t.”
Moments later—not before a few near encounters with sheer destruction, she touched down her fighter’s three extended landing struts upon the circular landing pad that was extended out of the belly of the Neversail. Shortly after she cut off power to the engines and the landing lifters, the pad was reeled in, like the tongue of a hungry beast. She then extended small wheels under the struts and taxied towards a vacant parking spot on the left, took a zero-point turn and then shut down the rest of the systems.
She quickly lifted the canopy and stood up, turned about and reached under the back seat for her numerous belongings. As she did so, she took a note of her new surroundings. She removed her helmet and let down her blood-red, wavy, shoulder-length hair, scanning the scrambling crewmates in the dock with her ice-blue eyes.
“Ladder,” Saferon commanded as she resumed fetching her things. The fighter responded and the ladder extended out the port side of the fuselage. Noting that it had fully locked, she nodded to herself, pulling out her long, illustrious silver sword and round golden shield from what seemed to be nowhere, and yanking her Thesium rifle out of that nowhere with a stray thought. The gun landed gently in her extended, gloved hand, which she proceeded to holster on her hip.
Everything about her attire was a strange cross of both medieval and futuristic worlds. Her belts carried small pouches, some filled with various components for the array of spells she dedicated to memory, and some for more mundane purposes, such as extra crystals for her rifle, bandages and medicines for the most common inflictions, and so on. Her long cerulean-coloured, open coat betrayed a sophisticated, shining silvery breastplate, embroidered in words crafted so elegantly that they could have been mistaken for deep green vines both engraved and protruding from the platework. Platework that could have been discerned as cumbersome, if it wasn’t flexible enough to breathe as she breathed, stretch as she stretched, and sigh as she sighed.
She studied a number of weapons she knew were within that same fold of space, including a long-hafted, overhauled mining pick, which she simply knew as the Longpick. She knew there was nothing special about it, but it was dear to her. The head had seen many hafts, many dents, and many freshly-made corpses.
But it would only slow her down today. Placing a single silver circlet upon her head with a near-opaque emerald in the center of it, she concluded to herself that she had everything she would need on land and in the air. She closed the strange fold of space, descended from the Jaegrynn and stated solidly, “Lock up and shut down.”
The fighter quietly complied. Yet as he did so, he vigilantly watched her leave to greet the Nywanese mechanic. He observed the thundering of the cannons both on and off ship, and the subtle shuddering of impacts from those of others. Determining he was safe where he was, if for the moment, he slipped into a deep slumber.
“Target the cutter on two o’clock high and fire on their lifters,” Winnibahn said evenly to several gunners on the top deck and through the intercom, as Saferon stepped in.
The Neversail was in itself highly unorthodox. It resembled, in many ways, the Skyreign. It had the feel of an ancient-era ship from the ages of sail, with the open-concept command deck and all the deck guns, differing in that in the place of sails, well-encased Thesium crystals were mounted upon nacelles, indeed the colossal versions of the same power source of Saferon’s gun.
This ship was certainly not Nywanese.
Noting both from her mannerisms and that her surface thoughts made no indication that the General detected her, she simply stood and watched.
“Malgam, reduce altitude to one thousand metres at a rate of two hundred metres a minute, and I don’t want to hear about the structural strain on the nacelles ever again.”
“One thousand at two hundred a minute. Aye.”
<Enemy sub-capital ship is disabled!> cried a deck gunner.
“Wound, do not kill. Let them feather down. Wounding an opponent slows them down more than outright killing them. Forces compassion in the enemy, which taxes their medics and stalls the siege.”
<Waltz Five to Neversail. Reports of long range ballistic missiles from the shelf ridge. The city’s shields are powerful, but ancient. The sun will set soon and our primary power source will go with it. Permission to engage?>
“Negative. We will put a stop to the missiles. Waltz Five, you will provide suppression fire for the strike group I’m sending down.”
<But you’ll be out of the protection of the fleet!>
“Protection isn’t relevant against an enemy you can’t see. Stay put and provide that covering fire.”
<Waltz Five. Aye.>
Winnibahn simply pointed to the ridge, which was order enough for Malgam the pilot, who had paid attention to that entire dialogue.
Ritana, in her black everything, stood next to Saferon, hands and wings behind her back. She took a good long stare at the red-haired woman and smiled.
Win then turned slowly, her eyes narrowing on Ritana, as if having a difficult time focusing on her, “General.” She then flinched upon spotting Saferon just next to her, “Saf. When did you get here?”
“You are in luck that she is your friend,” Ritana hissed, stretching a wing in front of her, plucking an old feather, “that you detected me, a woman prized in stealth of all facets, and that a blatantly--forward--woman may slip past your every sense with half my effort, is either a testament to her skill, or perhaps to that I am growing out of touch.”
“Hardly the latter,” Saferon smirked her way, “she just knows you too well.”
Ritana simply smiled again, flicking the feather behind her, “I needn’t ask as to whether you were prepared. You were prepared well before you came to Nywan.”
“Think it’ll be just like old times then, Rita?” Saferon readjusted the shield she slung over her back.
“I do not,” she hummed, “I would, however, concur with superseding such old times.”
“Well if you know what you’re doing, you can go and do it,” Win smirked, turning back to the forward end of the bridge. Turning back for just a moment, she looked more sternly at them, “still here? You’re taking up my bridge--Fuck off.”
Not a minute later, the two of them found themselves back in the dock, at the stern end where the largest opening was. The two stood there, at the ledge, overlooking the field of war.
“Where are your hawks?” Saferon asked loudly, compensating for the whipping winds.
“Busy,” said the winged General.
“I believe that part got left out, hmm?”
“It did,” Ritana turned slightly to Saferon, “does this present a problem?”
“I’ve never been much for large crowds,” she tightened her shoelaces on her long brown leather boots.
“Perhaps, then, it is best we...reduce the crowd? Our way?” Ritana said with a wide grin.
“Do we not have a specific mission to carry out down there?”
The General then turned completely to Saferon, with a genuine smile of glee, “not really. No.”
Saferon’s heart sang to the implication of it all. “Superseding old times. Very nice, Rita. Very nice.”
“I propose a--game,” Ritana stretched her wings, and Saferon spotted several concealed darts shaped and coloured like her own feathers in the span, “and I do believe you already know of which one.”
“I know it and I’ll win it,” Saferon retorted, scrunching her face.
“You can still fly, right?”
“I ca—“ Saferon’s words were cut off, much like how her legs were swept out from under her, landing her squarely on her backside and bouncing her off the edge.
Ritana cackled and dove just after her.
The ground rushed up to Saferon as she tumbled about. But she only tumbled as long as she allowed it.
Just a few moments before the sand would have consumed her indefinitely, she let out a cry and threw out her hands out sides, open like knives. While this had very little aerodynamic effect, if any at all, it did trigger a specific thought, which in turn triggered a specific spell. She effortlessly broke the fall and eased down onto the ground, gently upon her feet.
Immediately upon landing, she summoned her sword and shield to her hands. Immediately, she found herself charging into a nearby Ma’guul soldier, his panicked shots being absorbed into her shield, her shield being absorbed into his numerous cracking ribs. The sword cleaving off his head was simply a formality by then.
Ritana didn’t bother to break her fall. She had another unsuspecting soldier to help her out. She quickly thanked the man with a quick kiss on the lips before her fingernail sliced his throat wide open.
“You’re too kind,” Saferon wasted no time to get out of the wide open and along the nearest skyscraper.
“You’re too materialistic,” Ritana retorted, using her wings to assist her movement and catch up, immediately blending into the fog and shadow.