“All this wine,” Savaron Loka sighed as he stood in one of the large storage rooms that served as part of the wine cellars of his palace. Pausing, he extended a hand and gently lifted a nearby bottle from the dusty rack where it rested. Gossamer clumps of thickly matted cobwebs encrusting the green tinted bottle pulled away from the rack, stirring up a small cloud of dust. Carefully cradling the bottle in one hand, the archduke looked lovingly at the label, checking the year of its vintage. A wistful smile came to his face when he saw that it had been bottled two years before the late Emperor Enrick the Thirty-first had been born.
“I wonder, what will become of all this? A hundred years is a long time,” he mused.
“Excuse me… Your Excellency, they’re ready for you at the exit gate on Argon.”
The short, thin man who’d been standing near the archduke tried to rouse Loka from his thoughts. A slight pause and tone of hesitation could be heard as he spoke to his master and he shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. With no reply forthcoming, the man resumed his silence as he slid the communication com he’d earlier been talking into back into his pocket.
Lost in thought, the archduke continued to examine the bottle in his hands until the aide who’d been standing a few feet behind him, moved to face Loka. Clearing his throat in the hopes of catching his master’s attention, the shorter man paused once more as he nervously eyed the archduke.
“The imperial team on Argon will meet you and prep you for cold sleep,’ he diffidently offered, finally getting up the courage to speak. “They’ve been informed of the situation regarding the former emperor and that you’ll be using the former emperor’s…”
Upon hearing the word emperor, Loka looked up from the wine label he’d been examining and leveled an unblinking stare at the man. The archduke’s eyes were bright and almost seemed to sparkle even in the low light of the cellar, and when one of Loka’s eyebrows cocked up into his forehead, the aid under Loka’s gaze suddenly felt like an unwelcome intruder carelessly blundering into a lover’s boudoir at the very moment of climax.
“I suppose you’re right,” Loka’s eyes danced one final time over the ancient label before he reverently returned the bottle to its cradle. Turning back to his aide he delicately pulled a kerchief from his breast pocket and brushed the dust from his hands. “Still, it’s a pity to leave all this behind.” He discarded the square of turquoise silk to the dusty floor, not noticing when his boot soiled it with his next step.
Preparing to leave for Argon, Loka had just finished a quick inspection tour of the palace. It was unfortunate that he had to leave behind all he’d worked so hard to amass over the years, but placed in the balance against his life, the choice was clear. There would be time for wine in the future, but for now he knew where his priorities lay.
Loka’s final journey through his magnificent chateau had culminated deep underground in the endless maze of tunnels and vaults that made up the grand wine cellar he’d personally designed when the palace had been built. Stretching on as far as the eye could see were racks, bins, cases and barrels of wine, the archduke’s private passion.
“No use getting sentimental over it,” Loka commented as he looked across to his aide. “Wine is much harder to enjoy when one is dead. I’m ready, Thierry.”
Leading the way, Loka’s aide moved so rapidly he almost ran down the long narrow tunnel, knowing the long strides of the tall man who was his master could easily overtake him if he moved too slowly for the archduke. Moments later, after ducking into a small side tunnel, they were standing before a large door. Tugging it open, Thierry stepped aside and allowed his master to enter the room first. Peering around the archduke as Loka entered the room, Thierry could see a lone technician bent over a small informatics station. The moment Loka entered the room, the technician looked up from where he was checking something on the screen, and immediately stood and rushed to the archduke’s side.
“Everything is in place, Your Excellency.”
The archduke looked down at the man, but remained silent. A lot had occurred in the past few hours, and even Loka himself hadn’t completely assimilated it. With Enrick dead, he’d acted as he thought best… in ways he would never have dreamed of had the emperor been alive. Yet opportunity must be seized when it shows itself, and only fools played nicely or by the rules when victory was so easily within one’s grasp.
The room Loka entered was quite familiar to him. Dark gray stone walls, a rough slate floor and a barrel vaulted ceiling gave the room an almost sacred aura, as if it were part of a church or chapel. Deep underground and without windows, like the rest of the wine cellar, the space should normally have been cool and damp, but the palace’s sophisticated climate system had been routed to it. The only illumination in the room came from a small array of lights recessed into the ceiling. Their warm yellow glow did little to make the room appear inviting, but that had been intentional, since it hadn’t been designed as a room for one to comfortably inhabit, but as a portal of escape.
“As per your orders, everyone else has been evacuated, Your Excellency,” the technician, not sure if he should speak, decided that since time was of the essence it might be prudent to break the silence. “Your aides, your general staff, the human household servants along with the members of your family that you’ve designated for evacuation are all on Argon now. I have verbal confirmation of that. If you wish, I can let you talk to…”
“That’s not necessary,” Loka raised a hand. “Apparently you’re ready for us, no?” As he spoke he motioned toward the man who’d accompanied him on his journey through the wine cellar.
“Yes, Your Excellency”
“Thierry will go first.” Loka nodded toward his aid, “I’ll follow. Then you can follow me, but make sure the gate is secure before you do so. I don’t want to leave an active gate open after we’re gone.”
“I’ve anticipated your order and have already programmed the gate, Your Excellency. Only three more: you, Thierry and I, can pass through. After that the gate will become inoperable. No one save a highly talented programmer will be able to reactivate it, and they’re all already on Argon.”
“Good.” Loka strode up to the gate and stared at it. As he did he was reminded of the report he’d received regarding the Kalorian’s exodus at Angel’s Fall. Short of resources, and with the Altinestran government and soon the society it governed in shambles, he’d given the order not to attack Taldor Valoren. It was a wasteful use of precious resources at a moment when time was of the essence. The children and their guardians who’d made the journey would be just as dead from the virus as all the other worthless slaves on the planet. He had no more time to waste on the Kalorians and their troublesome rebellions. The future of Altinestra was now in his hands, and that would be his first priority. After a few seconds passed, he turned away. “Thierry, you first.”
“Yes, Your Excellency,” the man’s reply to the archduke was soft and respectful as he approached the gate.
A moment later the technician had the gate powered up. “It’s ready,” he gestured to the archduke’s aide.
Without pause the man stepped forward and prepared to enter, but before he did he turned back to face his master.
“I’ll tell them your coming, Your Excellency.”
“I think they’ll get the idea when they see you.” Loka snorted as a frown began to cloud his face.
An instant later, Loka’s aide vanished through the gate.
“There’s no need to pause,” the technician’s voice stirred Loka from the sudden fugue of introspection he’d fallen into. “You may enter immediately, Your Excellency.”
Taking a step forward, Loka stopped when an unexpected noise behind him caught his attention. Turning toward the door, he saw his ward, Hippolito Corcorian, slip into the room. Breathless and with beads of sweat raised on his forehead, it was clear the boy had dashed back to the palace, scrambling to make the late deadline for evacuation.
“I almost didn’t make it,” he panted deeply.
“Why are you here?” Loka’s frown quickly reappeared.
“I knew you’d be evacuating from the palace and I wanted to join…”
An abrupt slashing gesture from Loka, accompanied by the deep scowl on the archduke’s face stopped the Prince of Hypernia from saying another word. Frozen in place, Hippolito watched as his master approached him.
"You didn’t handle everything exactly the way I ordered you to, Hippolito.”
Once more Loka’s stern gaze stopped the boy.
"You’re still not without some potential value to me, but you’re going to need to prove yourself."
“Your Excellency,” the technician interrupted, “forgive my impertinence, but they’re waiting for you. The gate…”
“The gate can wait,” Loka barked.
Taking two more deliberate and measured steps towards his ward Loka paused and studied the boy. There was no doubt the young man he’d chosen as his ward was the most handsome, one might even say beautiful, Icarian ever created aside from the de Valèn boy, a fact that had always irritated him. It was also something that he was sure had the same effect on his young ward.
“I want to tell you a quick story,” Loka’s voice dropped to a soft whisper and a thin smile came to his face, though the prince correctly noted it never touched the man’s eyes. “I’ve already told you how hard a man my own father could be, how ambitious he was and how he pushed me to be the same, but there’s one story I never related to you. I think now’s a good time to tell it.”
Hippolito carefully studied the towering presence of his guardian. If nothing else, he knew when he could get away with speaking and when he needed to be silent. Given the perilous circumstances now facing Altinestra, he wasn’t about to muck up his chances of escape.
“When I was five years old,” Loka continued, “my father took me on a small boat ride with him onto the Arbol Sea. We had a lovely retreat five miles from the shore, and we often journeyed there from Küronas during the humid days of high summer. At the age of five, I hadn’t yet learned how to swim. It was something that annoyed my father, and during that particular visit, he thought it was high time I learned. Once we’d traveled some distance from the shore, he told me to stand up and look out over the boat into the water. The moment I did, he pushed me in. Then he quickly moved the boat away and began to head back toward the shore. As you can well imagine, unable to swim, I immediately began to flounder.”
Loka paused to let his words register with the prince. An inner satisfaction bloomed in him when he noticed that Hippolito was still sweating; he was convinced that the cause of his ward’s discomfort had transitioned from exertion to fear.
“While I was struggling to remain afloat, my father called out to me, telling me that I’d be more than welcome back home, and that he’d ordered a delicious lunch with lots of my favorite treats and sweets for when I returned. The catch was that I’d have to swim to shore, and then walk the five miles back to our summer home. At that point there would be a celebration over the fact that I’d learned how to swim. He also told me that if I didn’t make it back and drowned in the sea, seeing that he’d been the one responsible for my creation, with the help of my mother he could easy fashion a replacement.”
“Master, why are you telling me this?” By now Loka’s tale had caused Hippolito to turn pale.
“You’re a smart boy, and I think you know exactly what I’m saying. Gussen and I are going through that gate,” Loka turned toward the technician and then pointed at the still glowing gate. “Once we go though, it shuts down and becomes inoperable. The program has already been set and there’s no changing it. You, on the other hand, are going to walk back out through that door and find a way to save yourself. Let's just say I’m teaching you how to swim. If in one hundred years after I wake up you find me, then just as my father did when I returned home that day, frightened, crying, and exhausted after having been abandoned and almost drowned by him, we’ll celebrate. If you don’t? Well, I think we can fashion another Prince of Hypernia, don’t you?’
Hippolito remained as still as a statue as Loka’s words finally began to sink in.
“Let me give you a little incentive,” Loka continued cutting off the boy. “With Enrick now dead, someone had to take charge. That someone is me. All opposition has been eliminated.”
“There’s still Crown Prince Victor,” Hippolito finally found his voice, “and the rest of the royal family.”
“Victor, along with all the other key members of House Blackwell, have joined the former emperor in eternal sleep. The rest of that viperous clan not eliminated will be left behind to deal with the mess they’ve created. I’m sure the remaining populace won’t be so kind to them. House Blackwell was once a formidable power, but centuries of intrigue, plots, counter plots and an endless cycle of clandestine internecine warfare between them have weakened a once noble house. The only things they’ve came to value over the last two centuries are what ever might add to their lives of luxury and privilege. A hundred years from now when we awake to what we all know will be a ravaged world, there’ll be an urgent need for a real leader, a great leader, an emperor who will reconquer the planet, and then the stars beyond."
“You’re claiming the title of Emperor?”
“What a smart boy you are; that’s why I invested so much in you. If you, like me, survive your trial you just might acquire what you’ve always wanted. You, not I, now hold the key to your success. Be gone with you, and in a hundred years I’ll either see you or not. That’s something for you to decide. Gussen, please show the prince out.”
Loka glanced at the technician, who reached into his pocket and withdrew a small but deadly ghoster.
For a few seconds Hippolito stood unblinking, not quite sure what to say or how to react, but he soon realized a decision was unnecessary as Loka backed away and the technician began to escort him out of the room, at the point of the ghoster. Once he’d been practically shoved through the doorway, Hippolito turned back to look into the room only to have the door slammed in his face.
“Heed my words: show me that you’re really as resourceful as you'd like me to think you are, and good luck.” The muffled voice of Loka came through the door, followed by the archduke’s deep, sonorous laugh.
Quickly realizing that standing there blankly staring at a now bolted door like a fool or a chastened child was both stupid and a waste of valuable time, Hippolito turned and dashed away through the wine cellar, back the way he’d come. His head was spinning as he tried desperately to come up with a plan.
As Hippolito made his exit from the palace that had been his home, his guardian was just emerging from the opposite gate on Argon. Bowing low to their new leader, those assigned to guard the gate ushered the emperor from the transfer room.
“Everything has been prepared as ordered, my Emperor,” the lead technician spoke reverently to Loka. “The imperial vault is in order and your cryo-unit is functioning perfectly. We are all at your command.”
“You already know my orders. Carry on.” Loka barely glanced at the man as he left the transfer room. “I hope you all enjoy your sleep,” he added in a slightly sarcastic tone.
Charles Roegier stared wearily down at the now silent communicator in his hand; it had beeped and blinked incessantly from the moment he’d been evacuated from the Palace of Liberation. Frowning as he felt its smooth, highly polished surface in his hand, he had no illusions that it would remain silent for long. Having gone without sleep for the past twenty or thirty hours and now inundated by a tsunami of requests, pleas, questions and demands, he'd begun to look older than the sixteen-year old appearance he continued to maintain.
Lost in thought, the ühn•ki failed to notice the approach of an Icarian boy until the young man was standing directly before him. When he was face to face with the leader of the Legion of Red and Black, he gave the ühn•ki a small bow. “We’re now running fully on internal power,” the boy reported. The large, snowy white wings arching from the young man’s back were in sharp contrast to the blood red and ebony black markings that designated him as of the red and black, and one of the ühn•ki’s legionnaires. “All life-support, climate control, cryo unit support, auxiliary power and security precautions are under internal control and are on-line and functioning properly.”
Standing in one of the secret chambers of Eagle’s Rock, the leader of the Legion of Red and Black was finally surveying the result of years of gargantuan amounts of time, effort, resources, subterfuge and, sadly, lives… far too many to count. The vast caverns carved out below the Academy of Eagle’s Rock into the bedrock of Mount Savat were an engineering wonder almost beyond belief. It had been his good fortune that over time the inhabitants of Altinestra had tired of manual labor and turned the task of terraforming over to their Kalorian slaves. Armed with that knowledge and skill, the men and women who’d fashioned this place had done so with a singular commitment and selfless courage, knowing they themselves would never benefit from the safety and security it promised.
“Very well.” Charles began to slip the communicator back into his pocket, but then stopped when once again it began to vibrate as it gave off an urgent sounding buzz. “Please take this and see what they want,” his voice had a ragged and exasperated tone as he handed the com to another of his former aides standing nearby. Then, for a brief moment, he studied the young man he’d handed it to.
No sooner had his private hov taken off from the Palace of Liberation than all across the planet one command center after another had begun reporting in to him and his inner circle of assistants, the ten legionnaires whom he had personally chosen over time to be his aides. Carefully selected, one every few years, they had come to work and train under him. It had been a risk trusting them, but the task before him had been far too great and it had been suggested he might need help. So, with reluctance he’d acted, and had slowly drawn them to himself. Yet even after all they’d been through together, he wasn’t completely sure he could trust them. His own personal history from the moment he’d been born had been far too tumultuous for him to be very trusting of anything or anyone. Of the two only people he ever really did trust, one was now dead, and the second… well, such thoughts were not constructive now.
His musing came to an end when another former assistant appeared before him. At the appearance of the young man the look on the ühn•ki’s face grew stern.
“Jonathan?” was the only word that came to Charles lips as he scrutinized the second youthful legionnaire.
“He’s on his way,” the boy replied. “As per your orders he was prepped in your quarters and placed into his unit. It was loaded onto a hov ten minutes ago and at this very moment it’s being flown here."
The frown on Charles face grew deeper. His own evacuation had been rushed and poorly planned. For as long as he lived he would never forget the sight of the Palace of Liberation growing smaller as his hov rose into the night sky. The palace had been his home, and his prison. If he ever saw it again, he hoped he might find it in ruin.
Turning back to his nearest assistant, he ruefully shook his head. For all of his advance preparations, a lot had happened in a short period of time, moving far more quickly than he’d anticipated. Not completely prepared for what lay ahead, he’d been forced to evacuate the palace while leaving his brother behind, a fact that made him far angrier at himself than with anyone else. While no executed plan ever went off without some problems, the errors and omissions he’d had to deal with were far greater then even he’d anticipated. The grand scheme had taken years to craft, and now parts of it were unraveling and there was little he could do about it.
Since his brother was both a small child and blind, Charles had made the decision month’s before to have Jonathan prepped for cryo in the privacy of their own secure living quarters in the Palace of Liberation. The less stress he subjected the little boy to the better, but the last minute rush had caused a change in plans. Fully prepared to be with Jonathan for his cryo-suspension, he’d been forced to evacuate to Eagle’s Rock upon the sudden and unexpected death of Enrick and the subsequent collapse of the government. While Jonathan Roegier was his blood brother, as ühn•ki, far too many other lives also depended on Charles.
No, things had certainly not turned out as expected. An hour before, the emperor’s private bodyguard had surprised everyone by arriving unannounced at Eagles Rock. Piloting a small hov, he’d asked to see Charles moments after he arrived. Although hesitant, one of the ühn•ki’s assistants had taken him to see his leader. Well aware of The Angel of Death and his abilities, Charles took the former imperial bodyguard into a private room and conferred with Renaud for a short period of time. Emerging from their talks, the ühn•ki ordered Renaud to be taken to a cryo unit and prepped, although his voice was colored with a marked tone an irritation and annoyance.
Briefed on what had happened in Enrick’s bedroom, Charles couldn’t believe the emperor’s stupidity, nor his own for not seeing what Renaud might be capable of. The only bright spot had been what had occurred at Rood. In all the promises Croal had made to him, it seemed that the one regarding Jamie de Valèn’s power was more than the idle boast of a hubris driven scientist. Unlike the many worthless pronouncements from those in charge of Gold Glass, Edmond Croal had been true to his word, although Charles knew that even the eminent scientist had held back far too many secrets from him. Now he couldn’t help but wonder what surprises might be in store for him once he tried working with the young Prince de Valèn. Every report he’d read not only spoke of the boy's glowing and incisive intellect that many lauded as true genius, but also of his fiery temper and obstinate ways.
“I can’t think about that now,” he whispered softly.
“What do you desire Ühn•ki?” the red and black winged boy asked.
“I need to know that my brother has arrived here safe and secure,” he barked angrily. “Inform me the second his hov arrives.”
The incident at Rood, along with the scramble to make sure all were safe, had whittled away precious time. A quick visit to his apartment to see Jonathan before his suspension along with solemn assurances by the team that they would prep and immediately transport the little boy was the only reason he’d agreed to leave Küronas for Eagle’s Rock, a decision he was now beginning to regret.
“I’m supposed to be in charge of this mess, yet I’m the one dancing to everyone else’s tune.” His eyebrows dropped and a frown bloomed on his face as an endless array of worries and doubts clouded his mind and fought for his attention.
“You must take this, Ühn•ki.” The boy Charles had handed the communicator to was now handing it back to his leader.
“Can’t you deal with it? There are so many other matters I must attend to.”
“No Ühn•ki, this is a personal matter. I’m sure you’ll want to…”
Before the young man could finish, the ühn•ki snatched the com from the boy’s hand. “Yes?” He almost shouted into the device, his tone marking his sudden annoyance.
A few seconds passed and the frown Charles wore quickly dissolved into a look of concern. “We’ve been through this before,” his tone suddenly turning more fearful then sharp. “I have a place reserved for you, I don’t understand your reluctance.” In the pause that followed the sound of the voice on the other end grew louder. Out of respect for his leader’s privacy, the young legionnaire at his side moved away.
“Yes, I have it,” Charles voice grew softer as he placed his other hand into one of his pockets and withdrew a thin golden chain. “Although it’s a poor consolation to me in place of not having you here.” Looking down he moved the chain back and forth in his palm. “It’s not fair to lose you both. Isn’t there any way…?” he stopped when the voice on the other end cut him off. As it continued, the ühn•ki’s face fell and had anyone been studying him carefully, they might have seen tears forming in Charles’ eyes. Finally the voice grew silent, as did the ühn•ki.
“As you wish,” Charles finally replied rather woodenly.
An instant later the voice spoke, but only a few words.
“I love you, too,” Charles voice was by now a whisper. Quickly switching off the communicator, he handed it to his nearest assistant. “No more…” his voice choked. As he spoke his other hand returned the silver chain to his pocket.
A sudden flurry of activity caught his attention and while he wasn’t surprised to see Uri, the first assistant he’d ever chosen, enter the room, he was shocked to see that Prince Hippolito accompanied him.
“What’s this?” Charles demanded. “How did he get in here?”
“I think you should listen to him, Ühn•ki,” Uri began, but was cut off when Hippolito quickly stepped passed Uri and rapidly walked over to Charles.
“I was able to convince these legionnaires, and now I hope I can convince you,” the boy began, his voice colored by a tone of singular desperation. “I’m here to throw myself on your mercy. I know it looks like I’ve been against you, but… well, I guess I have, but Loka threw me aside just like he did everyone else. I never saw it coming. Please help me.”
“Why?” Charles eyes drew to slits. He was well aware of the young Prince of Hypernia’s reputation as Savaron Loka’s private spy and lap dog.
“I realize what I did was wrong. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Please, you have to believe me. I’m one of you, a fellow Icarian,” as he spoke Hippolito switched from the standard Commonwealth speech to Icarian. Charles, already aware of the young man’s abilities, was unsurprised.
“And what do we get from you?” Charles demanded, also switching to the Icarian tongue.
“My help, my obedience, my gratitude and whatever else you ask. I was privy to many things. I’ll tell you anything you want to know. That has to be worth something. I’ll do anything to prove my loyalty.”
“Including staying behind? Sacrificing yourself if I ask you?”
For a few seconds Hippolito paused, then gathering himself up to stand straight and tall, his jaw jutted out as he looked the ühn•ki in the eye. “If that’s what you order, I’ll do it, but I hope you’ll give me a chance.”
“I will personally vouch for him,” Uri unexpectedly spoke up.
Charles blinked at the words of his first assistant, even as it became clear to Hippolito that his conversation with Uri had had some positive effects.
“I’ve heard him speak and I, too, will vouch for him Ühn•ki,” Cartus, the second boy Charles had tapped as one of his assistants was quick to add.
“As do I,” Urbon, the boy who had the distinction of being Charles longest serving assistant piped up.
“As do all of us,” Arlat looking around at the remaining legionnaires who’d assembled nodded. “After all, he is an Icarian. He’s made some mistakes, but it seems he regrets them. Doesn’t everyone deserve forgiveness?”
“Pardon my boldness and forgive my impertinence Ühn•ki,” Paulus, the legionnaire Charles had planted in the office of Darren, to be his tat ühn•ki’s assistant, entered the debate, “but we’ve all done things we’re not proud of at the bidding of the empire. That’s true even of you, noble leader, and once more I apologize for my words."
“I guess you’re correct,” Charles eyes dropped and he appeared to be thinking. “Very well,” he raised his head and studied all ten of his former assistants who now stood to the side. “I place him into your care, but I’m warning you,” he turned to face Hippolito as he continued, "that if you try anything before we go into stasis…”
“I won’t,” Hippolito, cutting Charles off, quickly vowed. “I’m powerless to do anything even if I tried. The only things I have are the clothes on my back and the hov I piloted here. I’m completely at your mercy."
Nodding to the boy and his assistants the ühn•ki turned away. “I very much doubt that,” he though to himself just as a young man raced into the room and approached him.
“It’s time, Ühn•ki,” a technician approached the ühn•ki and gave the leader of the dreaded Sh’ônfenn a small bow.
“I’m not going anywhere until I know Jonathan’s arrived here safe and sound.”
“He's almost here.” Arlat, Charles most recent assistant, spoke up after removing the com he’d been holding to his ear. “The hov’s nearly here, but we all have to prepare. You of all people, noble leader, must get ready. Your presence in the future is crucial.”
“So everyone tells me,” Charles droll reply was flat and without emotion.
Quickly making his way down to the lowest level in the mountain via a number of steps, tunnels and passageways, all controlled by cleverly fashioned security gates carved out of the very rock of the mountain itself, he entered a long corridor. At its end he emerged into a small room. In the center of the room stood a tall glass tube; the cryo unit that would hold him for the next hundred years. Like the one similar to the model chosen for the Gillot Twins, he would remain upright.
“A hundred years on my feet,” he'd mused when he’d first been shown the original design.
“We have to take what ever we can get,” the Kalorian spy he’d spoken with had informed him. “It’s an experimental version of the one that the emperor himself will enter, we’ve been told. It’s the safest and most secure one we could find."
“Wonderful,” he’d flatly replied upon hearing the news. Somehow the spy’s pronouncement hadn’t been very reassuring.
No sooner did he enter the room than the team of technicians waiting for him began to swarm about as he was quickly prepped.
“Jonathan?” he anxiously inquired once again.
“Still on his way,” Arlat, putting down the communicator he’d been talking into, assured him. “They're less then twenty miles away. I’ll personally take charge when his unit arrives.” Charles shook his head, still angry with himself that he’d left his brother behind, but there was little else he could do.
“You’ve taken the prescribed amount of Darroot extract?” The lead technician questioned as he approached the leader of the Sh’ônfenn.
“I’ve taken the entire series over the past month, and a daily booster everyday thereafter.”
“Drink this.” A second technician handed him a cup with a bluish liquid. “It’s the sleeping draught.”
After drinking it, he was helped into the cryo-chamber. The small army of technicians in the room worked quickly. As his leads were placed and his wings folded back he resigned himself to his fate. Feeling ever more sleepy he fought the urge to close his eyes, until he had assurances that his brother had arrived.
It was then that Uri entered the room. “Ühn•ki!” the boyish looking Icarian called out. “It’s the hov carrying your brother. It started to experience mechanical difficulties. The hov pilot flying next to it said it was engine failure. It went down in the forest near Mt. Savat. It crashed and burned. It was reported that there were no survivors."
Looking out from his cryo-unit Charles saw the looks in the faces of his legionnaires in the room. Had they planned this? Had Loka been pulling their strings from the beginning? Was he really clever or just a clever fool? Suddenly he was filled with despair and wondering if he’d been betrayed. Tired of fighting against the effects of the sleeping draught, he closed his eyes and the world around him faded to black.