A/N: I've rewritten Prime's Number to be it's own story! I took out all the Transformers stuff, but kept the essence of the story and renamed it Crescendo Oronis.
Go to www. authonomy .com, register (for free) and start reading! It's a great site for new work and you might find a new favorite author before they even get published. Of course, I'd love it if you came and "backed" my book. It costs nothing but time, so what are you waiting for? ;)
Crescendo Oronis: Chapter 1
"With that in mind, we respectfully request clearance to drill for reserve fuel in the Xenchi District."
It was a common request, one he'd heard from Machinists for many years now. What was different about this one? "Show me where on the map." Oronis waved towards the center court with a metallic hand, scales rippling in a minor show of anticipation.
Machinist Killom signaled to his assistant to light the holographic projection in the middle of the circle. He tapped a quadrant in the southeastern section and zoomed in. With a gesture, he recentered the image, making it topographically dimensional. "Here." He circled a depression between two mountains with sparse vegetation and layered the map to reveal heat indications. "Our research has shown that there is a mass of high-grade, refinable fuel beneath this valley…here and…here. Seismology indicates there is little chance of activity if we stay above three thousand clicks. As you can see…"
He let the delegate drone on while he examined the implications. This time it might actually result in benefiting his people instead of causing a public outcry. Their very lives depended on refinable fuel, but so little of it was left in the common drilling fields. Unless he wanted to indebt himself to his brother's rebel faction for their access to Cerhain --the richest fuel depository they'd found to date--they needed a viable solution and fast. Linst was popping up at every corner around the Government Complex, asking for access to someone else's reserves. The problem was, every time the Retrofit Vendor asked him, he had a harder time saying 'no'. Especially since there was the possibility on the distant and growing ever closer horizon that the everyday needs for fuel would need allotment. So much of their culture relied on it for energy. Unfortunately, no one was willing to share reserves without compromising political favor. Drilling for more in a new location was their only hope at this point, especially since Ergaleio's last siege had pushed their economy into a rationing mindset.
This drilling site was right on the cusp of Holy Ground, but far enough away that even minor seismic activity wouldn't affect it. It might even bring more trade to the area. Sentience above, they could use the influx of credits in that region anyway. Finally, some leeway.
He glanced over to his Second Councilor in time to see him nod almost imperceptibly to himself. That was enough to fix his decision. "Done. Kaedox, have the papers drawn up." Oronis watched him leave, then turned in his seat to pierce Killom with a grave expression. "Keep in mind, Machinist, should you venture even a digit into the Holy Ground, I shall revoke not only your permit, but all your drilling licenses. There are plenty more vendors willing to vie for your particular wedge in the market."
He hated the alarm that leapt to Killom's eyes, but it was a necessary measure. The smaller Densatos' plating shivered a bit in front of his audios. "Y-yes, Commander. We are fully aware of the implications of such a disgraceful action."
"Good, have your—"
A door slammed against the metal wall before he could finish his sentence, sparking against the sound-cancelling energy field with a loud ping that stunned his hearing for a moment. What he heard from a muffled voice was, "Commander! Quickly!"
Oronis turned, irritation slicking his dermaplating back against his head. The Information Officer knew better than to barge in on him like this. "Platreus? I'm almost done—"
He looked like he'd been running…"It's Ergaleio."
The leader felt fuel leach away from this face, tiny scales rippling down his back. "Machinist you may leave us." Oronis felt like rushing out of the court, but instead stepped sedately down from the dais and walked towards Platreus. Commanders never showed such a weakness as to run, but his brother… His eye shields fluttered a small amount. "What is it?"
Platreus waited until the delegate closed the door, nodded at something over Oronis' shoulder, then met him eye to eye. "He's…he's gone."
Their gaze interlocked, flickered, then locked again. There was a shuddering sound as his scales racked nervously across his shoulders. Platreus watched the unusual reaction with surprise and promptly clarified. "He can't be found anywhere, Sir. We've searched the region, used his homing signature, we can't even find him on the planet."
Oronis clenched his fists at his sides, then slid them behind his back to entwine in a more dignified manner as he watched his Information Officer carefully. They'd known Ergaleio had been building up some kind of trouble—more than he normally caused—due to the fact that it had lately been too quiet. Even as leaders in warring factions, there had always been at least a cursory contact between them. They may have been of different opinions on how their small planet should be run, but even then…neither of them had fled the planet for it.
He felt like slapping his forehead. "How many did he take with him?" Oh, it would be bad. Half their population migrating outwards… They'd nearly destroyed K-97 in a migration attempt four hundred years ago. It was forbidden by their law…his own law. He'd have to execute…someone. He flinched. Four thousand? Five? There would be no hiding this.
Oronis blinked. Surprise left him mouthing "None" twice before verbally repeating it as a relieved question. Platreus nodded, visibly relaxing. Were they that wary of his reactions to his brother? His eyes narrowed slightly. "How long?" They started moving towards Oronis' private chambers where there was a direct communications platform to Ergaleio within a certain range. He could be close by, still. Please let him still be on the planet. That law covered unlawful Gating as well…
Platreus' answer was no comfort. "We estimate from the increased activity in his faction that he's been gone about forty-five degrees gnomonic." Dammit, long enough to be out of range. Platreus' expression was hestitant.
Dammit. "What else?" He wouldn't look at him. "What else, Platreus?" Oronis twisted his neck to catch full view of his face. What was the problem? He wasn't that touchy about Ergaleio…was he?
Platreus finally met his eyes again, reluctance etched into every seam of his features. "Our agent found his quarters ransacked. Everything was dismantled but no sign of your brother."
Oronis started running. Propriety be damned, just what in the abysmal depths of nothingness did his brother get himself into?
The information officer ran with him. "Sir! Sir, I know it sounds bad, but we don't know whether or not it was his own doings that caused the mess our agent found."
"Oronis, don't jump to conclusions, perhaps there's a good explanation."
Wait, that came from behind them…"Kaedox?" They stopped just outside his chamber doors and looked back at the councilor . "How long have you been listening?"
He gazed at Oronis with the clarity and calm he'd come to expect. "Long enough to know you're probably jumping to conclusions. Why would the leader of the largest opposing militaristic faction just up and leave his men in such a manner? Ask yourself how out of character this is, then think about the possibility that he just doesn't want to be found." Kaedox finished his line of questioning with a hard and accusing look at Platreus.
He bristled under the scrutiny. "I'm merely stating the obvious. If you look at all possible answers, this is the most likely. In order to 'hide' from our scanners he'd have to either retreat ten thousand clicks beneath the surface or leave the planet. Being leader of said largest militaristic faction, it's much more likely he'd have access to the Gate than the caverns beneath the Holy Ground we control."
They stared at each other, both unwilling to bend. Oronis knew they both had points, but which was right? Ergaleio was certainly arrogant enough to traverse the Holy Ground. It just didn't make sense for him to disappear. Kaedox must be right, but Platreus never came to him making claims without evidence…"Platreus, can you tell me if there was enough fuel draw to activate the Gate?"
"There was a significant pull earlier today, I'll look into how much and exactly when." He nodded and turned to enter his chambers, entering the key sequence and extracting the key from his finger. The doors slid open with an odd clutter and something rolled out onto his foot, tapping once and bouncing off. It looked like part of his communications platform, but that was all the way across the room…
He looked up. His room…
"Bright Sentience! Oronis?" Kaedox' exclamation bumped Oronis out of the shock caused by the sight of his dismantled room.
He turned to see both his councilors with matching dumbfounded expressions, then entered the warzone of his first chamber. He scanned the space, then closed his mouth. Control was of utmost importance. "Platreus, get Janach up here. We need to find out how whoever did this got in and why we didn't know about it."
Oronis' answer was rapidly retreating footsteps down the corridor. He gingerly peeked around a corner of wall, taking in the wreck before him. All of his datapads, his personal affects, his berth… destroyed. "Dox?"
"Tell me there's still a chance that Ergaleio's still on this planet." He picked up a tangled ribbon of wire and stared at it.
He dropped the wire back onto the floor, closed the door on his rooms and awaited his chief of security to arrive. There was no question he'd go after his brother. The only questions now were where and why…