The Illumina Factor

A poetic lyric floated through the air of his imagination. Who was the girl he fought? A relaxing Rokotaz gathered himself, lifting his massive body off the earth. He took a couple of steps out onto his deck into the cool night breeze.

The girl was strong, of that he was sure. He wasn't entirely sure how she got that strong. This light gravity was murder on his power, so there was no way she could've gotten as strong as she had without some serious training. Her level didn't feel like the child her visible biology led him to believe she was.

Her analysis, however, was right on the money. He was no bloodthirsty murderer, just a man who knew his place in the universe. He breathed, thought, felt, and dreamed just like everyone else, and until he had met her, he had kept his personal desires suppressed. Now, however, he was beginning to question his role as a warrior for the Illumina Empire – the first time he was questioning his role in years.

He waved over one of his three personal butlers. Each of them was of the highly-subservient, sentient race known as the Quoxians: a race of tall, gangly, thin green Cyclops-like individuals. He told the butler to bring him a drink, then began to pace as he often did while thinking.

"Despite being so weak compared to myself, she had eyes like I've never seen before," he mumbled to himself. "There was a determination – no, a desperation within her being that seemed to want to explode from within; a violence that could shake the universe."

He made up his mind. He knew he hadn't killed her. Whatever she had that she swallowed had cured her. That was plain as day from how the old man had talked to her. He wasn't interested in that. No, he was interested in how strong she would get. That's why he had faked most of the length of the call he received from Illumina.

That said, why would Illumina call one of her generals directly? He still puzzled over this. It was highly unlikely of Her Majesty to call anyone but one of her four Arms Chiefs. To call an ordinary general… something had her unsettled about the four she had hand-picked at the start of her reign.

"I think I had better let my commanders know that I will leave this planet soon," he said, calculating what the call might mean for the future. "Empress Illumina doesn't call an ordinary general unless she doesn't trust one of her Arms Chiefs."

He reflected on the call. All that the Empress had said, besides the customary greeting, was "Be prepared to return in one year." That meant that the girl named Gochu had less than seven months to train to fight him before he had to leave the planet. He had to let them know without letting them know he knew about Gochu's survival. Her friends, Phoenix and Peatree, the ones his own generals were charged with chasing, would be the perfect way to make sure this occurred.

He walked over to his monstrous desk – an astonishing, very highly detailed red cedar, single-piece carve with drawers carved whole from a second tree and stained deep red to match. He tapped the surface of the desk, on a screen with a small red button. A holographic projection burst forth into the air, with cubes and windows and spheres all over the place. He checked his generals' schedule. He quickly "grabbed" one of the spheres, moved it near his face and spoke, his voice firm and succinct.

"Rokotaz calling Crystal and Aguas… Rokotaz calling Crystal and Aguas… report to my office immediately for a special assignment. Thank you."

The centaur then returned to his vigil over the fields surrounding his ship. He waited patiently, his impeccable sense of time counting the seconds until…

"Crystal reporting for duty."

A sultry voice reverberated throughout the room. The girl that belonged to the voice stepped out of the shadows. Deep purple in colour, she had a flawless figure and stunning, deep blue eyes. Her skin-colour hair was short, framing her face like a perfect portrait. She stepped with the lightness of a model, but with the firmness of deep confidence in her abilities.

"Good entrance, my assassin queen," Rokotaz smiled. "I barely heard the door open and close."

Crystal huffed. "It's not good enough if you can hear it," she complained.

"Remember to leave the door open a bit instead of closing it all the way next time," Rokotaz warned. "Only close it after your work is done."

Crystal nodded. "I will."

"Now, where's your brother?"

Crystal sighed. "He's out gallivanting with girls again…"

Rokotaz grunted in frustration. "It will take too much time to get him, so I guess you get this mission."

Crystal nodded. "Yes, sir."

Rokotaz brought up three images of children.

"You know Gochu, Phoenix and Peatree," he stated.

Crystal nodded her response.

The centaur continued, "We are leaving in one year's time to head back to Rominolli IX, the headquarters of the Illumina Empire. I want to fight Gochu before then. Do not tell her directly, don't get hostile with them, and for goodness' sake don't let them know that I know. Tell her friends she has seven months to train if she wants to battle me."

Crystal repeated, "I am to tell Gochu's friends Phoenix and Peatree that if she wants to fight you, she has to be ready in six months."

Rokotaz nodded. "Get going. Our time here dies with the wind."

Crystal disappeared the same way she arrived – into the blackness of the shadows. Rokotaz took a deep breath and released it slowly, pondering the time he had. He may have to make Crystal train Gochu to get her to his level.

"Then again," he thought, stroking his chin with his thumb, "she knows this planet better than any three of my goons. She ought to have some special methods."

He took his drink from his recently-arrived butler and sipped the shiraz, rolling the drink around in his mouth to taste the full flavour. He gently sloshed the ruby drink around in the crystal drinking glass he held as he continued thinking about the little girl.

"This desire in my heart…" he mumbled as he felt the gleam in his gut grow, "This… thrill...! I haven't felt this much anticipation in almost fifty years."

He chuckled. "Oh, Gochu, you will become as strong as I, and we will fight together again!"

He burst into full-bellied, gleeful laughter. He knew she was waiting, just like he was. He knew her desires were just as strong as his. He knew the eyes of a warrior when he saw one.

He knew his first perfect opponent in decades.

…And he wasn't going to let this opportunity slip by.

Rokotaz decided he had some minions he wanted to battle, and slipped out of his room to train himself. He wasn't just going to wait and get soft.

"Where's the fun in that?" he mumbled and laughed.