The Stars of Eden

Five. The Exposed Side

He was in same the position he had been in for the past twelve hours. Cross-legged, palms in his lap and eyes shut. Cryos got the feeling the prisoner would rather starve to death than engage in conversation. His insect eyes slowly blinked and he crossed his arms. He had never seen such discipline. They were fanatics with a unified goal, and on top of that, they were far more technologically advanced. Cryos raised a small square device and studied it. It had engravings that matched those on the Mist transport ships.

"Care to tell me what this is?" Cryos asked, not expecting a reply. There wasn't. "I found it in the engine room wreckage where we found you. A controlling device of some sort?" He looked back at the prisoner. "Hm."

Cryos walked up to the prison control panel and turned off the energy field around the prisoner's cell. With another button, the cell doors opened. Cryos waited for a reaction, but none came. He slowly walked up to the cell and stood before him.

"I see no point in barricading you if you're able to break through anyway." He paused. "So why haven't you?" Though he was not sensing hostility from the alien, he was ready to grab the weapon on his back if he had to.

The prisoner's eyes opened and he tilted his head up to meet Cryos' gaze. The Ice king remained still.

"It is a system's disruptor that was used to disable your nanonite system." The Mist spoke in a monotone yet powerful voice. Mature and precise.

Cryos opened his mouth to ask what his intentions were but stopped. He decided it was better to use a non accusative strategy. "You may call me Cryos." He held out a palm. "And you are?"

There was a long silence. He slowly got to his feet and turned his back to Cryos. "Avhar Silix. Well," he lowered his head. "It is just Silix now. My title is lost."

Cryos eyed him curiously. "Your... title. Given to you by your religious leaders."

He swung around, eyes narrowed. "What other details has the ambassador fed you?"

Cryos was taken off guard by the bitterness. He brought his fingertips together. "Ambassador Phi tells us that you attack government installations and sabotage your own people's technological progress."

The drop in Silix's gaze was barely noticeable. He turned his back again and paced forward.

His blue head tilted. "So... that part is true then. Forgive my observation, but isn't it a little hypocritical to be using these," he held up the square device, "advanced instruments yourselves?"

His voice came softly. "We do what we must to stop them. Unlike the sovereign and his followers, we are aware of our own limitations."

Cryos blinked. "Limitations?"

Silix faced him, the wrinkles of his features showing his age. "Your people have some concept of a great being? An explanation for the unknown?"

Cryos stared for a moment then slowly nodded.

"Our people believe some things should remain sacred – untouched by our curiosities and greedy exploitations. To learn of our Maker's methods is to defy and diminish his name. Your alliance provides an opportunity for our government to fulfill that terrible end."

Cryos raised his chin in understanding. He could have spoken his mind on the matter, but he did not want to engage in a pointless debate. "Could you be more specific. How does our alliance threaten your people?"

"Your planetary world engines. It is believed that inside each engine room, there is a record that keeps track of the planet's entire history, including its creation."

"We've discovered no such records," Cryos said in intrigue. "But then again, much of the planet's internal systems remain a mystery to us."

"The data tracks are encoded in an ancient language. Long ago, our ancestors did as much damage to the engine room on our planet as they could in order to destroy control of the world engines. In their attack, they had unknowingly corrupted a huge database of memory that has since been incomprehensible. It was a bittersweet victory since they were obviously unsuccessful in accomplishing their main goal." His eyes lowered to the device in Cryos' hand. "If I had completed my mission, planet Mist would be travelling alone once more, its knowledge kept at bay."

"You were going to leave Mist technology on the flagship to frame your government. Most likely this piece of technology. But you were caught in the explosion."

The Mist was silent. His expression torn between sadness and anger.

Cryos slowly stepped forward. "If we are your enemy, then why are you telling me all of this?"

Silix's eyes seemed to glimmer as he stared at Cryos. His strained expression slowly faded away until it was calm. The Ice king wondered what the Mist saw in him.

Silix finally spoke. "You misunderstand. Our concern is only with our people."

Cryos frowned. "I'm afraid endangering the life of my people and that of my friends' does concern us."

The Mist's expression was unchanged. He opened his mouth to speak, but he was interrupted by a grey cloud that appeared beside him. A hooded figure came through the cloud, wearing a robe similar Silix's. He grabbed Silix's arm. Cryos reached back for his weapon and took aim but their bodies had already dissolved away.

. . .

The ground was a flat crystal blue, while a clear sky hung above. It was a perfect location to practice in solitude. Away from the palace and its distractions, with the exception of her sparring partner, who was predictably quiet and obedient.

Princess Zera raised her staff horizontally in the air to block his downward swing. She planted her feet firmly and stiffened her arms to absorb the incoming blow. The strike landed on her staff like a feather.

Zera looked up at the guard and frowned. "What was that?"

The guard blinked with an expression of subtle surprise.

"You call that an attack?" She groaned and knocked his weapon away. "How do you expect me to fight like a warrior if you're going to keep treating me like a child?"

"My apologies princess. I will...swing harder."

"Just pretend I'm a Beast drone attacking you or something. Don't be afraid to use all of your strength."

He nodded and they returned to their ready positions. The guard stepped forward and lunged for a poke attack. Zera parried it to her right and swung the far end of her staff at his ribs. Her eyes flashed as her staff hit nothing but air as the guard ducked. His staff spun around and flew at her legs. He stopped his attack in mid air, giving her time to parry and strike him on the arm.

He slowly rose and stepped back. "Well done princess."

She sighed and crossed her arms. "I won't be half the warrior Jade is at this rate."

"Not when you're a quarter her size."

Zera raised a brow and spun around at the familiar voice. Pyrus stepped down from his hover board and kicked it up to his hand. "So this is where you've been."

She sighed again. She could tell from his stupid grin that he was ready for their usual exchange of insults. "Yes, you found me. Now if you don't mind, I'm a little busy." She flicked a hand. "Shoo."

"I have to admit I'm a little surprised to see you taking the initiative to practice on your own without me or Jade. You're serious about this, aren't you?"

A little surprised by his reply, she placed a fist on her hip. "Of course I'm serious. I'm not doing this for fun lava brain." She paused, suddenly realizing he was looking for her. A friendly visit perhaps. Her voice came gentler. "Why are you on Ice anyway?"

"To help install the phase shields around the engine portals of course."

"Oh." Her eyes lowered. "Right."

"Yeah." He crossed his arms. "I thought you'd be interested in participating in current events involving your planet since you are going to be queen someday, right? Seems like you're more interested in beating people of the head with that stick."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she snapped. "You don't think I care about my planet or my people do you? Think I'm just some naive child enthralled by the excitement of battle." She turned her back on him and looked at the guard who was steadily watching them. "Don't you see Pyrus? I could do so much more for my people if I learned how to fight and stand my ground." She slowly faced Pyrus. "More than I ever could by just sitting on a throne."

His grin faded, empathy showing in his eyes.

"I was so helpless when that alien shipped attacked us." She thought back to that moment. The terror on Tekla's face – on her father's. It mirrored her own. "Pyrus. I was too scared to help that poor pilot. Too frozen to do anything."

"It wasn't...there was nothing you could have done Zera."

Her eyelids lowered, and she looked sideways. "I know," she admitted. She realized she was training – fighting not to improve herself but to feel pain. Pain that she hoped would redeem her weakness.

The guard knelt down to her level. "You have a strong will princess. But you are still young. The knowledge and skill you seek must come to you in pieces. It will come gradually."

She looked at the guard and smiled, allowing her youth to shine through. She looked back and Pyrus, then back at the guard. She smirked. "Gradually huh? Well, I think we can speed that up just a little bit. What do you say Pyrus? Does your royalty have time for a little foot work?"

He smiled. "You're on."

She laid a hand on the guard's shoulder. "Take a break. Time for me to beat on someone else for a while."

. . .

"This is a huge gamble Levy."

She brushed back her black feathery hair. Her green eyes gazed at Captain Ghost. "Gambles are how you change the balance of war captain."

He stared at her through his helmet. She slowly smiled in response to his silence. He could not refute her words. They both looked out the cockpit window of their vessel. A large ship hung in the distance in space. Purple, blue and silver coloured its hull extravagantly. It was shaped like a one winged egg. The wing being mostly silver and composed of long strips of arcing metal that ran from the front to the back of the ship. Despite the black blast marks and venting gasses, it was an impressive sight.

"Cloaking status?" Captain Ghost asked.

A soldier of Shadow raised his head from the control panel. His body was wrapped in white wrappings like the captain's, but in place of a full helmet, he wore a silver visor. "Functioning," he responded.

Captain Ghost stood beside Levy who sat at the piloting controls. He crossed his arms. "When you were talking about your tribal greeting traditions, I didn't realize plucking your own feathers in the name of peace equated to getting blown outa the sky."

"Are you still whining?" She said, eyes still focused on the controls. "If you're having second thoughts, there's always that warm and cozy escape pod."

He was silent.

"You're scowling behind there aren't you?"

"Shut up and fly Levy," he said in a cool voice.

She grinned. "One thousand meters and closing. Doesn't seem like either side has detected us yet. That will change in a moment."

They were close enough now to see red lasers fired from the Eden ships. They were striking the alien ship's hull without much effect. The three small fighters closely resembled bees annoying a large animal. It seemed Eden had given up on the alien ship for now, or maybe they were waiting for one of their fortress ships to arrive. Once the latter happened, the aliens wouldn't stand a chance.

"I think that's close enough," Ghost said.

Levy shook her head. "I want to be sitting right on their nose so there's no mistake who's side we're on."

Their cloaked ship was now sitting in front of the purple alien ship. Missiles and lasers were missing them by meters.

"Anytime now Levy," he said letting his anxiousness through.

"Lock onto the nearest Eden ship and get ready to fire," Levy ordered.

"Missiles locked lieutenant," the soldier said.

"! Fire!"

Three green glowing missiles flew towards one of the red Eden ships that had just banked in front of them. All three struck home and the Eden ship exploded in a streaking display of combustion.

"The other two are converging!" boomed the soldier.

"Good. Reroute shields to the cockpit. Let them target our engines."

Ghost saw the other two ships approach from their right. They came fast as red particle beams struck their hull. Circuitry and panels exploded. Ghost was thrown off his feet, his body smashing against the wall. His head spun as he looked up seeing Levy in a wild panic, the cockpit window flashed red and purple light. The metal rattled and tore around him.

"Cloak! The cloak Levy!"

She ignored his cries, her intense eyes focused – waiting. Waiting for the alien ship to save them. Something hit them hard and the internal power shutdown. Levy's head flew into the control panel, and she bounced from her chair. The noise was deafening as Ghost tried desperately to take hold of reality. Something struck his temple, and he felt the world slip away.