THE BLACK ROSE
AN ORIGINAL AND UN-OFFICIAL KILLZONE FAN-FICTION

CHAPTER IV - PLANNING AND DISCUSSION

PLANET HELGHAN, EASTERN REGION, CONSTANTINE CITY - MAY 26TH, 2360
UNDERGROUND AMAZON FORTRESS - INTELLIGENCE AND STRATEGIC ROOM 4-A

Like several rooms in the underground fortress the Amazons spent twenty years building and operating, the Intelligence and Strategic rooms were well illuminated for the task of planning the moves based on intelligence gathered at the time from the vast network of informants on Constantine City's surface. These rooms weren't just fit for planning before the 'action' moments, they were also capable of instant command with groups operating. The room in particular contained workstations for communication officers, radar terminals for visual intelligence reading, and the huge table with generally a map covering the whole urban area of Constantine City, with gray and red geometric primitive figures over it. The lengthy, gray slim blocks placed on vertical positions represented infantry groups, while those same on horizontal meant mechanized and tank divisions the military still used. Normally, there would be triangles representing known approximate area for air units, but their use had been canceled by the Helghast Central Military Command weeks ago, in spite that there'd be no clear, present or immediate airborne threats. Of course, that was the problem with military decisions: Sometimes, they were bureaucratic, sometimes they were simply too pig headed. The map itself had man made figures made with thick red pens, denoting arrows, circles and a separate white paper with a rectangle too.

The room was quite filled with people that day, given the general steps of strategy were about to be announced to the Joint members. There stood some Amazons, dressed like all the others but with tiny golden Helghast ornament denoting higher ranks of the Amazon military hierarchy. Amongst these Amazon superior officers stood Thirsha, Karen, Livia and Raltha watching the map, as well as Sulja with an apparent officer's staff with which to point areas of interest on the map. In fact, all needed to be summoned to that meeting were there, but one: the sixth member of the Joint.

She, the most important of all people to hear what had to be said, didn't appear.

"Where's she, Raltha?", asked Karen. "Why isn't she here?"

"Don't ask me, I don't know.", Raltha simply answered.

"Isn't it some lack of respect?", Thirsha said. "As a member of the Joint, she'd had the minimum of decency to come!"

"Perhaps we may need to do the planning without her, then.", commented Sulja.

"Go on.", spoke Raltha. "I'll talk with her later."

"Very well.", spoke Sulja. "First news: the plans have somewhat been slightly altered, considering there were changes on military routines, but nothing that will disturb the main stages of the first assault."

"Slight alterations?", asked Livia. "Like what?"

"Our street informants reported that troops from the 1st Military Reserve have been deployed to protect the City Hall, most likely due to the food riot two days ago.", answered Sulja. "I've been checking what they are capable of, as well as their Commander, called Auran Stracht. Only basic weaponry and vehicles, except for the AA batteries on their APCs, which may cause some trouble. Aside from this, they will not harm our advance. Also, it seems the 5th Hound Division has been mobilized to the other side of where it was, so they'll take longer then we imagined to give any support."

"Very well.", spoke Raltha. "What of the major plan?"

"The first stage's task will be the assault on the communications station on Proteus District, we need to cut communications between the army, without that, we can easily pick off isolated groups during the assault.", spoke Sulja. "As you know, our thinkers managed to develop a large, but still functional version of the Vocal Altering Devices, VOCADs for short, which will be hidden beneath the clothing layers the soldiers utilize. With those, we will cloak our operatives inside the station. They'll have to be pairs in different time schedules for the checkpoint, so there won't be any suspicion. Six of them, this will be the number, will enter the station's and, at the codename's saying, will secure the station's garage for the delivery truck who'll unload additional twelve Amazons in full battle gear amid the cargo crates, plus weaponry and ammunition. Then, it'll be seizing the station by shutting the energy and clearing the primary areas, which are the transmission room, the radar array and the entrance by itself. The six are to destroy their VOCADs during the assault to avoid post-battle investigations by the military, should they gain the upper hand."

"'Should they gain the upper hand', Sulja?", asked Thirsha. "You speak as if they would actually prevail."

"They can, if we let them.", explained Raltha. "And she's right, it'll take only one VOCAD for them to think there are hundreds more."

"Thank you, Raltha.", replied Sulja, gladly.

"You're welcome.", obliged Raltha as well. "Go on."

"Distraction forces.", Sulja spoke, pointing at red rectangles set vertically denoting Amazon infantry on some parts of the map. "Three units of our estimate infantry, codenamed Peony, Azalea and Hawthorn will deploy from underground exits in the subways and move in towards the old Macarin hotel here, close to the Central Military Command, waiting for the signal. Upon the codename's saying, Peony, Azalea and Hawthorn should start attacking targets to pick off parts of the military defending objectives from the other stages. Targets should be the Helghast CMC, City Hall, Krestnik Barracks and Fort Charon. Since the purpose is provoking noise, the units have been assigned heavy weaponry, both deployable machine guns as well as anti-armor equipment, as well as our Assault Bike unit, which should be under assembly in isolated and abandoned garages as we speak. Perimeters and ambushes should also be formed in several points near the distraction area, both to stop reinforcements and provide additional distraction against stragglers."

The Joint members only looked at Sulja as she explained on the map with attention.

"Now, I have agreed that, until completion of stage two, the objective is to only distract, not take and hold. Should one of the units be too successful in it's mission and eliminate all defending hostiles, they are to spread and roam the city or help other units suffering serious stall.", she concluded.

"Stage two, which should begin thirty minutes after stage one, will involve capturing our prime targets of interest, which are the Aerial Port and the Victorian District housing the heavy-duty factories from which we'll use the machinery to assemble the heaviest of our ordinance.", continued Sulja. "The parts are all separate and delivered randomly among the containers on the loading area, therefore it might take some time to assemble the first vehicles. The Aerial Port has stored several jet-bikes the military abandoned after the failure of the Vektan campaign. That'll be our air support until the first of our own air units are assembled, armed and ready to deploy. Contrary to stage one, these two targets are to be held at all costs, we'll work from these points on the next stages. Units Rose and Goldenrod should be responsible for each of the targets, respectively, with Sagebrush unit, with our engineers and machine operators, appearing after the Victorian is secured, as well as Orchid, containing our best ensigns in flighting simulation heading to the Aerial Port. After these two stages are completed, all units will return to our new staging point and re-arm, and set plans for construction of our own radar and communications post."

"The third stage will focus on the capture of two specific buildings, the Subway Tram Control Station at Orlan Drive and the south-eastern power plant near Dussala, from which we'll reactivate the train system and transport infantry groups for deep strikes, supplies and vehicle hijacking and quick mobilization. One of these missions should include the destruction of the Stahl Arms weapons depot, named Iron Cross, which hoards the ammunitions for most of the Helghan military."

"By the end of this stage, the fourth and final should mean our return to our targets in stage one, this time to take and hold. By then, we should estimate only small groups attempting to cluster once more, and the final sweep should take some time.", she concluded.

Raltha simply looked at it, as well as the others, before breaking the silence.

"Not bad.", she said. "Not bad at all. But is there a backup plan for... unforeseen contingencies?"

Sulja waited a moment before answering: "We're still thinking on it.".

"I'm quite sure you are...", commented Raltha.

"I do not decide what happens on the battlefield or whatnot.", spoke Sulja.

"I know.", Raltha quickly spoke. "But... what of the civilians?"

Sulja gathered some courage to answer that question. Civilian casualties in combat was no simple thing to bear.

"During stages one and two, we'll be in return fire, our soldiers will make sure their target is hostile. After those, we will assume all civilians have entered their homes to hide due to the intense firefight, that is when we will allow them to fire at will.", she answered.

"How long should it take for the enemy to react?", inquired Karen.

"Given the confusions, I can calculate one hour, give or take a few minutes.", answered Sulja.

"Enemy resistance?", asked Thirsha.

"Only infantry and light vehicles at the beginning, but I don't doubt they will head for the tanks once they are 'awake'. And, as I mentioned, no air support as they abandoned it. But also, once they discover the Jet-Bikes, they will not forget to bring Anti-Air along. No artillery as well, at least, not during the massive confusion that the city will be.", answered Sulja.

Then, silence went on for a while, as Sulja virtually answered all questions.

"When will it start?", asked one of the high-ranking Amazons in armor.

"We are yet to decide the best time. But our best calculations mention two to three days, somewhere between 17:00 and 19:00.", answered Sulja.

"Very well.", spoke Livia.

"So be it.", seconded Raltha.

"I second it.", replied Thirsha.

"As do I.", spoke Karen.

"Decided, then.", spoke Sulja. "In the following days... we march."


PLANET HELGHAN, EASTERN REGION, CONSTANTINE CITY, SQUARE C-11 - MAY 26TH, 2360
HELGHAST CENTRAL MILITARY COMMAND - GENERAL DEFENSE SUMMIT

The meeting room where the General Defense Summit usually gathered in the CMC was somewhat tight, with a considerable space of a dining room and a table of the same sort, with only six chairs, each belonging to the representatives of the remaining Helghast divisions, as well as the frontal seventh chair where Colonel Nolt presided: Someone ought to control the radical morons from doing any stupidity during the meeting. Aside from that, simple windows with no curtain were the only thing decorating the dull room. In the past, there was no need for such actions, as the Helghast military was united under firm leadership, be it under Scolar Visari himself or his trusted subordinate, Admiral Orlock. But then, in this time of almost seven months, everything went on to hell, and the military had to do something concerning their next actions. That was when Nolt was appointed the settler for final decisions amongst several of the things the Military had been debating.

But it was hard to do such a thing with the five Commanders and Captains trying to get over each other, vying to even surpass Nolt. Those five were far worse than his trusted one, Auran Stracht, the only one who seemed to have some humility compared to the rest. Yet, Stracht had a smaller voice in the Summit, because many thought he still had to achieve a 'level of pride' fit for a Helghast. Nolt knew better: Stracht was the Commander of a Reserve force, something no Helghast officer wishes to command, and that was the reason of it all.

These three Commanders and two Captains somewhat wore different attire, though a few of them looked the same. Two of them wore their standard social military officer clothing, two utilized field operations uniforms, but the final one, besides Nolt, caught the attention, as he wore full battle gear with blocky, white plating denoting some newly made armor, with black markings in Helghast language and the triangle symbol on his right side. The marking of Stahl Arms, from whom the military had most of it's weaponry. His young bald head's face seemed like a snobby one, with an arrogant look from his black eyes, his convincing smirk and an air who demonstrated superiority. For Nolt, it was no surprise: It was typical of people who worked with the second worst person in Helghan, only after traitors, like Gregor Hakha.

And the young man was the first to break the silence.

"Heh, I see the softling hasn't appeared. Now he earned himself one point... for indiscipline."

"Leimar Vadish... We have not even started the Summit, and yet you begin with running that spewing machine you call a mouth, Captain.", commented Nolt.

"Perhaps that spewing machine may be in his mouth, Colonel, do you not agree?", replied Leimar. "Coming from one who serves with a group of weaklings I would not trust a stone with..."

"Stracht's behavior is not the matter here, Vadish.", spoke one of the Commanders in military officer attire, Commander Morai Narekh of the Urban Enforcement Force. "Not that I don't complain that he isn't here, his voice is meaningless, but we have other issues to talk with."

"Agreed.", spoke Captain Rahab Pravo, the man in field uniform responsible for the heavy armor. "Like the matter if should I enforce the tank presence on the streets after what happened two days ago."

"Cobar's sake, Pravo, will you start this same motion again?", asked the other officer dressed Commander, Drax Kamarish. "This time you utilize a simple food riot to prove your point!"

"Which might become far worse!", protested Rahab.

"That's enough!", shouted Nolt. "You did not had to reply his claims, Kamarish, and you, Pravo, it is not yet your turn! The word goes on to Commander Khaine Lazha, of Survelliance and Security. Commander?"

The last Commander dressed in field uniform stood on his feet.

"Gentlemen. You know I'm amongst one of you who doesn't concern about troop maintenance and deployment. You know that I can do my best with the most minimal possible. We adapt, we improve, we overcome. That's what soldiers do best. Because we have the duty to protect some things, here in Helghan and even here, in Constantine City. The honor of the Empire, the sovereign rule of the Triad, the authority of the government, the safety of it's subjects, the integrity of the Helghast. And I ask you something, only now, because our integrity lies compromised.", spoke Khaine. "In the days passing the literal hell, we have indeed witnessed riots and raids, from both discontent masses of our populace to the Scavenger bandits themselves. It is becoming more and more possible at every turn because of the large gaps in city security and it's enforcement, which may prove that even Martial Law may not become a deterrent. I need resources, technology and manpower to reinforce our surveillance systems through out the City grid."

"Really, Lazha?", spoke Morai, with a sarcastic tone on his mouth. "And of how much may we be talking about?"

"Whatever it takes to go beyond the systems within the station at Proteus District. Perhaps to even build another Communications Station.", replied Khaine.

Rahab immediately went on his feet.

"Our resources are already stretched to the limit, just in maintaining our current personnel.", spoke Rahab. "We simply don't have enough to build and maintain another radar! And we won't sacrifice any units operating right now."

The other commanders, but not Leimar, applauded and spoke agreement words with Rahab.

"You speak like this, Rahab, because, perhaps, you fear losing control of one of your tank divisions, perhaps like what happened to poor Kamarish's Air Force. But I may very well be asking help to Captain Vadish instead of any of you.", replied Khaine.

"Oh, really?", scoffed Leimar. "And why should I comply with that?"

"Because your corporation, Stahl Arms, may have the technology necessary to properly set a backup surveillance grid and still not raise any costs with maintenance.", replied Khaine.

"I didn't spoke of motive, Lazha.", replied Leimar, in all his arrogance. "I'm talking about proof, something that may convince me to go along with your request. After all, our agreement remains on, even after your moronic military leader opened fire on forces loyal to Stahl Arms."

A loud bang was heard on the table, a landed fist at ground zero belonging to an angry Colonel Nolt. "You'll treat the memory of Admiral Orlock with respect from now on, Vadish, or I'll choose another member of your company for representative!"

The tone of Nolt's voice clearly denoted he wouldn't accept the insult. That was because, a few hours before the Petrusite cataclysm, the military of Helghan and Stahl Arms' forces engaged one another in arms at the former space platform. However, as there was no recovery from video footage or transmission records from the battle, it was hard to tell who drew first blood. Nolt somewhat believed it was Stahl Arms itself who started it, as radical and unpredictable as they were, not their reserved strategist and leader.

Leimar, however, went on with his arrogant snort. "Predictable. Easy to provoke and anger... Hubris is indeed the greatest problem with you, military types.", he spoke. "I, however, have other interesting issues to attend to, so, if you excuse me..."

Leimar went on to the exit, leaving the other military officers, but stopped when he approached the main twin door.

"Also, Nolt...", Leimar spoke. "Even IF you chose another representative of Stahl Arms for this table meeting... He isn't the corporate Chief of Security."

After those words, Leimar then really retired. Nolt just didn't accept that attitude of his and went to carry on the Summit.

"I see your motion was denied, mister Lazha.", he spoke. "Next matter: Relocation of troops from the Power Plant at Dussala to Toula Pass..."


PLANET VEKTA, SOUTHERN REGION, RAYHOVEN CITY - MAY 26TH, 2360
RAYHOVEN CITY TRIBUNAL - COURT ROOM

"All rise!"

The shout from the Military Police officer, playing bailiff for that Court Martial, denoted the arrival of the judges, including Ayers, and the ending of the lunch hour. All persons returned to their respective places and Ayers himself started once more the trial without delay.

Hakha took the opportunity to behold his opponent, Colonel Davies. He didn't seem to have his arrogant look, but instead was somewhat somber and serious. Maybe, for Hakha, Sev's acting hit him harder than Hakha would've thought.

"Sit down, please.", spoke Ayers, everyone taking their seats. "Now that the lunch recess is finished, we can return to case 853-B-Vekta, the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance against the Helghan expedition. The prosecution office can now call for their next witness."

Davies leaned in to the microphone on his table. "The office would like to call defendant Shawn Natko for testimony.", he spoke, getting on his feet.

Natko also went on his feet, going to the witness table. The same officer which made his procedure with Sevchenko repeated with Natko: "Raise your right hand.", he said, Natko following. "Do you swear, in this court, regardless of the evidence shown or contrary argument, to speak the truth, only the truth, nothing but the truth, so help you, God?"

"I swear.", spoke Natko, sitting on the chair. Davies then retraced his steps back to the witness table.

"Full name and rank for record, please?", asked Davies.

"Natko, Shawn Lance, Corporal.", spoke Natko.

"Mister Natko...", started Davies. "Is it correct you served on the same squadron as mister Sevchenko and mister Velasquez?"

"Yes, sir, I did.", spoke Natko.

"Have you ever seen any demonstrations of either mister Velasquez's recklessness or malicious intent towards Helghast people?", asked Davies.

"None whatsoever, sir.", spoke Natko.

"In the report previously presented in this court, it also mentioned your witnessing of mister Sevchenko's reaction towards mister Velasquez due to the death of Corporal Garza, is it correct?", asked Davies.

"Yes, sir.", spoke Natko.

"You believe it was due to the death of Corporal Garza itself, or mister Velasquez's actions which resulted on it?", asked Davies.

"Objection, your honour, the office is confusing the witness.", intervened Hakha.

"The answer to this question is relevant to the case, your honour.", spoke Davies.

"Objection overruled.", spoke Ayers.

"Well, mister Natko?", asked Davies.

Natko took some time before answering: "I believe the latter, sir."

"So you do admit in believing that Velasquez's actions on the hostage situation were an act of negligence?", asked Davies.

"Objection, speculation.", spoke Hakha.

"Sustained.", spoke Ayers. "Colonel Davies, please rephrase."

"Mister Natko, are you absolutely certain that mister Velasquez's actions were the factor of mister Sevchenko's anger, not the death of one of his fellow soldiers itself?", asked Davies in a firm tone.

"Yes, sir.", spoke Natko.

"The office is finished with mister Natko.", finalized Davies, calm this time, returning to his table.

Hakha went on his feet, heading towards the witness table.

"Mister Natko...", started Hakha. "Now... I know I do not know you closely nor served with you in the same squadron, but perhaps you can tell we both know mister Velasquez is not one so prone to subtle manner, am I right?"

"Well, sir, you could say that.", answered Natko.

"Then, how many times did your superior officers complained of or reprehended mister Velasquez for off-combat behavior?", inquired Hakha.

"Objection, not relevant with the case.", spoke Davies.

"Sustained.", spoke Ayers. "Mister Hakha?"

"Mister Natko, could you please read...", Hakha spoke, returning to his desk to pick up another file. "...the actions of Sergeant Velasquez in the Vektan Southern Region, during the Helghast invasion? Most specifically, the assault on a Helghast artillery line blockade at a street in Rayhoven?"

Hakha opened the file and gave it to Natko to read.

"Confirmed hostile encounter between ISA and Helghast Empire forces on March 11th, 2357, Rayhoven City.", started Natko. "Assault and successful elimination of enemy artillery batteries impeding vehicle and infantry advance, as well as an entire platoon of Helghast armed personnel. Credit due to Sergeant Ricardo Velasquez for effectively flanking and charging enemy group, albeit he received a direct order to wait until orders to assault were delivered. Witnessing of light breach of authority confirmed by Lieutenant Barreto Ybarra."

"Thank you, mister Natko.", spoke Hakha, as he picked the file once more. "Now, are you familiar with Lieutenant Ybarra?"

"Yes sir, he was my drill instructor.", spoke Natko.

"You can see, from this report, Lieutenant Ybarra denoting Sergeant Velasquez failure to obey an order to stand by while his infantry suffered major artillery and machine gun fire. And yet, Lieutenant Ybarra credited him as, according to the report, his actions also saved thirty-seven ISA soldiers.", explained Hakha. "Do you believe that, were mister Velasquez to have obeyed those orders, those thirty-seven lives would be yet saved?"

"Objection, speculation.", spoke Davies.

"Question is relevant with Colonel Davies inquire on the matter.", quickly responded Hakha.

Ayers paused to reflect.

"Overruled.", spoke Ayers.

"But sir-", spoke Davies before Ayers interrupted.

"Protest signed and officially logged.", spoke Ayers. "Mister Natko, could you please answer the question?"

Natko waited some time before answering: "No, sir, I don't believe."

"Therefore concluding, mister Natko, that mister Velasquez actions, while impulsive, can effectively save lives more than a coordinated plan?", asked Hakha.

Natko waited before answering: "Yes, sir, I believe that."

Hakha stepped back to his table, along with the defendants. "The defense is done with mister Natko."

Ayers then consulted his 20th Century watch before saying: "Very well, then. If there are no more presentations to show, I declared official ending of this case's first day. We resume it tomorrow at thirteen-hundred hours. Court is adjourned."

"All rise!", spoke the bailiff M.P. officer. Silver then beat the hammer twice before all stood on their feet and headed towards the exit door. The first day of the case was done with and Ayers, Silver, Davenport and the others went to another court room to handle another court case.

The straight, wide corridor, filled with classic wooden doors and seating benches, Hakha simply looked at Ayers and the people surrounding him, people he could identify with ease: One was a member of the ISA Council he participated before his retire, another a diplomat, the third a secretary for the United Colonial Nations and the last person a human sympathizer of the Helghast and it's Rights Association, HE.R.A, for short. Those people with Davies barely meant good news, they had the power to give Davies the length he needed to win the case, even contrary to the regulations imposed by General Ayers.

Hakha waited for Davies' 'friends' to walk away before approaching him.

"Davies.", called Hakha. His target turned around to face him.

"Oh, yes... The 'Half'-Helghast.", provoked Davies. "I only hoped I could saw you in 'half', indeed, so your human self would allow Velasquez and his cohorts to suffer proper punishment."

"As I feared you would side with people with influence bigger than yours...", spoke Hakha. "I know what you're up to, and how you love so much to win."

"Of course I do.", spoke Davies. "War is no place fit for weakling fair play, you should know better, you fought it."

"Arrogant Earthly behavior.", provoked Hakha. "Typical."

"You may have won this round, Helghast, but your men are going down, one way or another. There's no more help to them.", spoke Davies.

"Of course there is.", spoke Hakha. "Let them be, it was only collateral damage."

"Collateral damage?", scoffed Davies. "The only collateral damage I see is the failure true diplomacy and demonstration of humanity should they be innocent as you claim. It's what you really want, isn't it, Helghast and Human fighting to the bitter end, out of pure, raw hate?"

"IF they're still alive, Davies, something you can't prove!", claimed Hakha.

"Oh, but I can prove your men did that genocide.", spoke Davies. "And I WILL. I never lost a case in my career, and this won't be my first time."

Davies turned around to leave.

"It will be, Davies, do you know why?", asked Hakha and Davies stopped his walk. "No, it's not about your arrogance. It's because of your 'going by any length' policy. No cheater is winner... Colonel."

Davies simply scoffed at it and resumed his leaving.


PLANET HELGHAN, EASTERN REGION, CONSTANTINE CITY, CITY LIBRARY - MAY 26TH, 2360
NIGHT SHIFT

Raltha Olan had been looking corner after corner of the known places in Constantine City for the member who missed the Strategic Reunion. It was something rude to her as well, given she gave the orders to start the military campaign that'd reclaim female rights and authority, replace the current administration with a more competent one and start devising a means to preserve the energy emission of the shield bubble. In the end, she was nowhere to be found, but one place, and one Raltha knew it'd happen only at night: Her workplace, the Library-Archive of Constantine City.

The library was vast, both in lower and higher levels and with a very well clean appearance, with the most well-organized tall bookcase lines, each containing specific topics for reading. The floor itself was white marble colored, decorated only by the huge Helghast Triad painted at the entrance. Other sections of the floor were decorated by classic, fine made lines crossing each other. Two sparse steps connected the lower and higher levels, illuminated by the great glass dome above, with a symbol similar to the Helghast Triad, but, instead, there were three hands forming the Triad, hoarding swords to beyond. The old symbol of the Empire's predecessor, the Helghan Corporation.

However, it was night time, already, and only the dim light of the shield bubble was what provided light for the dome and, thus, the library, meaning Raltha had to use lights to either walk on the book lines or work at the circular reception desk with it's own triad on the front, verifying military records sent by the CMC and organizing books for return to their cases, either by class or alphabetically. Curiously, she liked that hour, one which meant hard work, because it included cleaning the library floor and the bookcases, sometimes. She felt a sound of serenity every night so hard to explain.

Then, she saw a dim, yellow light of an incandescent light bulb in one of the far areas, which had tables for reading.

'She's here.', Raltha thought. Then she picked up her lantern to walk towards the light, leaving the reception and giving the entrance of the library the feeling of a ghost building.

The corridor Raltha walked into was somewhat reserved for male Helghast only, containing books about economics, philosophy, politics, law procedures and military methodology. These were the reading material that made Helghast commanders the most dangerous of the kind. As that had made the Amazons a serious menace as well. And that was the reason it was reserved for men, because female competence with intelligence gathered from that book meant somewhat of a great, terrifying power. And in a society as chauvinist as the Helghast, the males needed to remain in a superior position, even after the endangering number of females ceased to make them a 'survival' priority. Raltha quickly noticed a small void in that case, fit for a book, meaning it was her indeed: Only she had the courage and patience of reading such material.

By reaching the end of the corridor, she slowed her pace to come closely to the uninvited guest reading that book, her back faced to Raltha. Her shoulders were somewhat bare, the remainder of the body being covered only by a lavish black dress. On another chair of the same table was some sort of cloth piece Raltha knew it was her cape and hood disguise for city visit. Her hair remained a well styled one, with a silver comb keeping it upward. Raltha simply shut off her lantern and approached the figure.

"Do you not ever sleep?", asked Raltha to her friend, Ilinia Visari, perhaps the most rich and influent of her friends.

"It is too hard many times, Raltha.", answered Ilinia, still focusing her attention on the book. "Too much happening on my mind."

"Yes, I know, but you also caused quite a rust today.", commented Raltha. "The whole Joint was wondering where in Helghan you were."

"You mean the strategic summit?", asked Ilinia. "That is the least of my concerns, especially when you already know all the details."

"'Know all the details'? How do you know?", asked Raltha, in a curious manner.

"Because I delivered to Sulja personally.", answered Ilinia. "Not only delivered. I made them as well."

Raltha was aghast at that answer. Then she scoffed at it.

"Heh, I knew that was obvious, Sulja is capable of only acting in the field.", commented Raltha. "You are the only one who reads too much of the military books in here."

"Change of times call for preparations, Raltha, you know it better than anyone.", answered Ilinia, pausing her reading to look at her friend. "Besides... We both know we should forgive Sulja for her faulty lines. She simply cannot think at a long term strategy, besides all her capability. That at least should be a thing to understand."

Raltha liked that answer and the manner Ilinia spoke.

"You prepared that speech, haven't you?", asked Raltha, with curiosity.

"Do you think I was too fast?", asked Ilinia.

"Of course not, good pace.", answered Raltha. "But I think the 'long term' part would offend Sulja a little bit."

"I will remember that.", Ilinia agreed.

"Speaking of which, what are you reading this time?", asked Raltha.

Ilinia simply put a place mark on the book and closed it, revealing a grey, solid steel cover with black words in Helghast language, which meant.

MALUS VEDEK

STATE MANAGEMENT THEORIES

Raltha simply looked at the book's title, then her surroundings, the small public reading area that helped guide librarians through the bookcase corridors.

"You know, Ilinia...", spoke Raltha, pausing for a moment. "I have spent both best and worst years of my life here. I will miss this place, at least for the next two to three days."

"You think so?", asked Ilinia, re-opening the book in the part she marked. "Because, I do not know about you, but... I will miss the library from tomorrow to onward."

"Tomorrow, what do you mean?", asked Raltha, curiously. Ilinia simply looked in her eyes with serious attitude. Raltha didn't had to ask anything else as her eyes told her some sort of terrible truth, which made Raltha's face be one of concern and nervousness.

"You... you mean the combat starts tomorrow?", asked Raltha, alarmed. "But- but Sulja assured it would be in two days!"

"She and myself lied.", answered Ilinia. "We had to. As I told her to tell the truth to the other members in covert."

"Why that scene then?", Raltha inquired, clearly mentioning the strategic meeting.

"To confuse our enemy.", answered Ilinia.

"What do you mean?", asked Raltha, not understanding.

"I fear Skyler has an informant.", answered Ilinia.


PLANET HELGHAN, EASTERN REGION, CONSTANTINE CITY - MAY 26TH, 2360
NIGHT - CITY OUTSKIRTS

The night on Helghan, outside the shield, was too dark for moonlight or any star to penetrate, allowing the dark, sickening green color of irradiated Petrusite full dominion of the atmosphere and environment, it's virulent air, far worse than that of old Helghan before the cataclysm, whirling in a chaotic manner, saying it was unpredictable on when an Ion storm could emerge or a dusty one: A picking up of the strongest winds possible, shaking the dust in the ground and driving it at unmeasurable speeds, like a desert's sandstorm.

Indeed, ever since the cataclysm came and covered Helghan, it became nigh impossible for any living soul to arrange for proper surface shelter, the only ones being in caves or the huge debris of former spaceships, war machines and buildings of the once great Helghast Empire. But, of course, the very few Helghast survivors have been passing hellish hours, and those, of course, outside the shield bubble that protected Constantine City.

People like the bald, ragged-dressed man, wearing no mask of the sort, beholding the city beneath the shield. Despite the fact the air was irradiated and posed a threat to his health, it was something he didn't give a damn. In the first days after that new atmosphere came, he passed through brief asphyxiation before he learned to adapt and breathe as minimum as possible.

'Tomorrow... Now that'll be a lot of fun.', thought the man beholding the shield. Obviously he was talking about the big heist he and his group would pull. It'd be picking up the guns, fooling the military all over town and then selling them to the black market and buy some supplies.

Of course that bald man had attracted the attention of an enemy in particular, a Commander of the Helghast Military 1st Reserve. It was because of him that Auran Stracht became an expert at hunting his group as well as the others, making that man the most hated among the others, as he was a literal 'military magnet'.

But then, for this man, life was an adventure, his father taught.

And, for Sven Vandis, an assault to Constantine City weapons' depots was no exception.

Yes... Tomorrow, for him... It would be a lot of fun.


NOTES:
- The original notes denoting clear statement for this story, like the AU warning and such, can be found in the prologue (Or chapter 1, whichever you like). But I'll repeat those in the next chapter, and thus, every six chapters from there on.
- It's almost the time for some gun action, something inspired on films like Black Hawk Down, Saving Pvt. Ryan and such, but we won't let the judicial process against our ISA friends left out. But expect to see battle scenes to be short, on multiple POVs, but with more content than a poem.
- I've took too long because of the house reforming I'm doing around. It's been difficult to make Chapter 5 without problems going on. The problem wasn't content, it was the time to do it.


And once again, another chapter finished. Read and comment. See you around.