The Prodigal Bunansa Son

The judge walks down the hallway, cursing each sound his infernal armor makes. How is one to move in secrecy and defend one's charge if every breath makes a sound that could echo into the depths of hell? He steps carefully, his joints soft and flexible, minimizing each sound the armor could make.

The hallway is empty, but he knows they listen.

The empire always listens.

He comes to the door and removes his passkey from inside his gauntlet and presses it to the reader. It takes a moment, but his code is verified and the doors slide open.

The hangar is vast and full of some of the best airships money and military power can buy. He pauses to admire the sight – the windshields gleaming in the artificial light, the smell of the fuel that has been spilled on the pavement below.

Science, how he loves and hates it.

"Judge," comes a voice from behind him. He turns to see a low- level guard approaching him – young, for a position of such importance. "What is your business here?"

You are younger than he, the judge must remind himself. The power and respect he has been given often leads him to forget his age.

Barely seventeen.

"I've been ordered to Landis. I was told to take an aircraft."

"Your flight papers?"

The judge sighs in mock exasperation. He removes his helmet and gives the guard a smirk.

"Really?"

"No, Judge Bunansa. Have a nice evening."

Being the prodigal Bunansa son has its perks, he thinks. Being his son has to have some redeeming factor.

As Ffamran walks away, eyeing the aircrafts he has to choose from, he cringes. The guard will likely be fired, possibly punished for his actions – all so he could escape the chains his father has built for him.

No going back now.

He spots her at the end of the line – the newest ship in the Archadian fleet. She is the only one of her kind – a prototype fighter that the Solidors felt was an "ineffective use of military funds." Ffamran smiles, admiring the clean lines of her design, imagining the ship after he's had her painted and refitted… yes, she'll do quite nicely.

He glances over his shoulder, keeping his helm tight under his arm. The guard isn't even watching.

What a fool – doesn't he know Bunansas can't be trusted?

Ffamran runs his hand over the hull as he approaches, his hand instantly chilled by the cold metal. He looks up at her, at the wings folded so elegantly at the back. The design is beautiful – it is a shame Archadia didn't order more of them.

Perhaps they can't safely carry nethicite, he muses as he board the ship, breathing in the smell that one only finds aboard a new, untarnished airship and takes a moment to look around. The leather of the seats is uncracked. The sink is spotless. The sheets on the two beds in the bedroom have never been slept on. The six seats in the cockpit are all at identical angles – they have never been sat in nor adjusted.

And the pilot's seat? Oh, it looks so comfortable, as if it was waiting for him.

This ship was flown into the hangar – nothing more, and Ffamran would have it no other way. For once in his life, he will have something he acquired himself – something no one else has touched or corrupted. Something that will be his.

He will give himself a new name – a new identity as a sky pirate – as soon as he can get out of this damned city and find some room to think.

He swore this to himself before he left home – before he sent his things ahead of himself to Bhujerba.

Ffamran slides into the seat and remotely opens the hangar ceiling. He turns on the engines and watches as the ship comes to life – its lights designed with such sophistication that for a moment, he is in awe, his youth and inexperience getting the better of him.

Stunning.

The engines are quiet compared to other ships he's been on – the ships he's learned to fly in. Such a shame I didn't have the time to get my certification.

This simply could not wait.

The guard has seen him – seen that he is not taking the appropriate ship, and Ffamran has not the time to waste. He finds the proper controls and raises the Strahl from her place in the hangar and into the night sky.

Such a beautiful ship belongs among the stars anyway.