Chapter 15: To the Frontlines

Adrien left Colonel Tarkin's office to where he'd left Siros and Viggo to wait for him to finish. The latter pushed off from the stack of crates he'd been leaning against as Adrien drew near.

"So, how'd it go with the Colonel, boss?" Viggo asked. "Was he as much a steel-hide as the rumors say?"

Amongst the Turian military slang, the term "steel-hide" was reserved to describe the truly hardcore fighters, the kind who could lose a limb and regard it as just a way to make things more interesting. Recalling the horrific scars Tarkin bore, Adrien was inclined to agree with the label.

"He certainly looked the part," Adrien remarked. "Of course, I'd rather not get on his bad side to find out. And apparently, he's not a big fan of our military rulebook."

Both lieutenants gave him surprised looks. "He's not, sir?" Siros asked.

"No, he's not. In fact, Colonel Tarkin even told me that I could, and I quote, 'print out hardcopies and wipe my ass with them' so long as I do my duty."

Viggo's surprised expression morphed into one of disbelief. "You gotta be tangling our spurs, boss."

"I swear to the Spirits, he told me that word for word in pure Unification Speech. Believe me, I was just as shocked as you two are now."

"Well, then it looks like you—and by extension, us—got lucky with our superior officer," Siros remarked with no small amount of amusement. "On that note, have we gotten our orders?"

"Yes. We've been paired up with Captain Julek Kees," Adrien informed him. "He's apparently one of the most experienced soldiers here on Digeris and he'll be showing us how things get done around here." He glanced at each of the officers with an air of command. "Let's get the troops settled in first, and then the three of us will go see him."

Siros and Viggo both nodded in affirmation. Then, their eyes suddenly narrowed into dangerous slits.

"Heads up, boss," warned Viggo, his voice laced with simmering hostility. "You've got an old friend coming to say hello."

Adrien turned and saw that none other than Ferox Kleitos was headed his way, flanked by his own lieutenants. As he drew near, Adrien stood at ease, adopting a calm, aloof demeanor while subtly readying himself for trouble. He doubted Ferox would be foolish enough to try anything so close to the resident commanding officer's headquarters, but it always paid to be on guard.

Soon Ferox was standing directly in front of him. He looked even bigger in armor and loomed over Adrien like a building with a head fringe. His eyes were hard points of ice, blue and piercingly cold, staring at Adrien with a glacial intensity. He matched Ferox's gaze, unimpressed by the unimaginative attempt at intimidation; it hadn't worked during their match, and it wasn't going to work now. His two lieutenants mirrored their captain by fixing glares of their own at Siros and Viggo, who glared right back.

"Victus," Ferox rumbled like a cantankerous rockslide. "I heard you took a blow to the head during reentry; seems like you survived." He sounded disappointed.

"Why Ferox, I didn't know you cared," Adrien replied with an insolent smirk. "Yeah, my head got a little rattled, but, as you can see, no harm done." He gave an exaggerated shrug. "I guess we can't all be gifted with skulls thicker than ship hulls like you."

Ferox narrowed his eyes coldly and balled his hands into fists as if he wanted nothing more than to slam them into Adrien's grinning features.

"You think you're clever, don't you Victus?"

"Compared to you, definitely; of course, that's not exactly a lofty standard." Adrien took a moment to enjoy the flicker of anger that crossed his rival's face.

"Quips and jokes; the weapons of an inferior soldier," Ferox sneered. "But what can I expect from an undisciplined embarrassment like you?"

This time, it was Adrien who bristled with anger. Amongst the Turian military, few insults were more vicious than calling another soldier "undisciplined." For a Turian, being called undisciplined was tantamount to being called a lesser being, for if a Turian is not disciplined, then he's not a real Turian.

"I suggest you really think about the words coming out of your mandibles," Adrien warned, anger bubbling in his voice like a pool of magma, "otherwise, I might feel the need to defend my honor with more than just a bout in a sparring ring, if you get my meaning."

Ferox did indeed get his meaning. Unlike with most other races, dueling was not only accepted within the Hierarchy, it was greatly esteemed. They could be fought unarmed or with weapons with victory conditions ranging from first blood to death. Such challenges were not made lightly, and Ferox could tell that Adrien was not bluffing. Taking the hint, he didn't escalate the situation and, upon seeing him back down, Adrien did likewise.

"Now that we've finished trying to out-posture each other, are you here for a reason, or did you just want to come over to glower at me?"

Ferox's features adopted a look of cool superiority and he straightened himself up to his full and considerable height. He radiated the self-important air of one who has been given a great honor and wants everyone to know it.

"I'm here to report to Colonel Thanasis Tarkin." He sounded so proud of himself, one would think he'd just been elected Primarch. "My company has been assigned to his command and I look forward to serving under him; he's been described to me as nothing short of an exemplary soldier by the local forces, a hero even."

While Adrien kept his expression neutral, inwardly he was fighting down a torrent of laughter. If his own encounter was anything to judge, Adrien very much doubted that Ferox's high opinion of the Colonel was going to last the meeting with him.

"Well, don't let me keep you," Adrien said in a pleasant tone. "I'm sure the Colonel is as eager to see you as you are to see him."

Ferox looked as if he wasn't sure if Adrien was mocking him or not, but eventually, he decided it didn't matter. Puffing himself up pompously, he strode off in perfect parade form with his lieutenants following in his wake like tame varren. Once they were out of sight, Adrien began snickering to himself.

Ferox is going to have an aneurism after he meets Tarkin, he thought cheerfully. Adrien wished he could stay to see the look on his face when the Colonel told him what he thought of traditional military doctrine, but unfortunately, he had his orders.

Motioning to Siros and Viggo, the three officers went off back to their company.

#

Colonel Tarkin had informed Adrien that he could find Julek in the base's mess hall, which was apparently his preferred place for relaxation. Once he had his troops squared away, Adrien set off with Siros and Viggo in tow. As he made his way towards his destination, Adrien was finally able to get a good look at his surroundings.

In an age where an enemy could rain down high-intensity ordnance from orbit, it was generally a good idea not to have important areas out in the open, and the basecamp Adrien found himself in was no exception. Other races might have found the place excessive in its fortification, but for Turians, "excessive" was synonymous with "mandatory."

Dubbed Titan's Peak, it was a massive subterranean structure situated under a mountain range. Its domed ceiling was composed of reinforced alloys forty meters thick and reached high enough that a six-story building could fit inside without touching the smooth surface. Giant blast doors, big enough that a small spaceship could pass through, marked points of entry into the camp. Everything a self-respecting military force could want was there; the interior was like a miniature city designed exclusively for military purposes. There were vendors dealing out ration packs, munition shops to make guns and ammunition, engineering facilities for vehicles and medical tents for wounded soldiers.

As he walked, Adrien was taken aback by how despondent the atmosphere was. There was no cheerful banter between soldiers, no laughter, not even so much as a smile. Most had an air of dejected lethargy, usually doing menial tasks that served no purpose other than to kill time. Others were skittish and fearful, their eyes darting back and forth as though they expected an attack at any moment.

Tarkin wasn't kidding when he said things were going badly for us, Adrien thought. If anything, the colonel had understated how bad everything was. From what he'd discerned, Titan's Peak was a good distance away from the frontlines; if the effects of the war could reach here in such a pronounced way, then he could only imagine what it was like on the actual battlefields. It was a chilling thought, and Adrien quickly banished it from his mind.

A short while later, they arrived at the officer's mess and entered. The inside was mostly deserted, with only a handful of Turian officers occupying the seats and either poking at trays of food or just lounging about. With the place so empty, it was easy for Adrien to find who he was looking for.

Adrien found himself feeling very surprised as he looked at Julek Kees. He had been expecting a robust, hard-eyed veteran with more scar tissue than regular flesh. Julek looked more like someone who would be at home in front of a computer terminal. He wasn't particularly tall, probably less than six feet, and had a build more fitting of a Salarian than a Turian. In all honesty, he looked like he'd have trouble taking on a Hanar, never mind the things the Federation could send out.

The Turians he was sitting with, however, were another story; the stark contrast between them and Julek was glaring. One was a male of more advanced years who most definitely wouldn't be winning any beauty contests. His head looked as if it had been sliced into a dozen pieces and then reassembled by a drunken Vorcha. His colony tattoo was all but obliterated by the mass of scars that passed for a face. Where his left forearm had once been, a prosthetic of metal and hydraulic fibers had taken its place. Adrien noticed that the fingers had been filed into fearsome talons that put his natural ones to shame. They tapped against the table in what looked to be an impulsive tick, filling the air with a staccato of metallic clacks.

The other was female, and though she was smaller than the two males, she looked no less dangerous. As he regarded her, Adrien's mind conjured up the image of a honed razor: wickedly sharp and ready to cut some hapless soul without warning or mercy. Her face was surprisingly delicate in appearance, with ivory colored bone and cartilage marked up with vibrant gold colony tattoos. She would have been considered attractive if not for the fact that almost her entire right mandible had been torn away, exposing her teeth and giving her a perpetual snarl. An aura of cold hostility that hung about her, a silent warning to all around to keep their distance if they valued their continued good health.

Julek was currently occupied with a tray of food in front of him. It didn't look like anything special, just a couple of fried louza tenders slathered in sauce and a side of some unidentifiable mush. As Adrien watched, he speared a piece of meat on his fork, swirled it around in the sauce, and popped it into his mouth. He chewed with such relish that one would have thought he was eating a gourmet meal, not some pre-frozen cafeteria food. The Turians beside him each had their own tray of tenders, and while they weren't nearly so enthusiastic, they still ate with evident appreciation.

Julek swallowed the meat, wiped the side of his mandible with a thumb and, without looking up from his meal, said, "You must be the captain I'm getting paired up with. The Colonel said you might be stopping by."

Unsure as to how he should react to the offhand statement, Adrien opted to go for the disciplined officer route. Straightening himself up into a properly dignified posture, he replied, "That's me, Captain. Adrien Victus, 83rd Legion."

"I know," Julek said, still not looking up from his food, "I already got your reports from Tarkin. Hope you don't mind, I'm just taking the opportunity to eat some real food. Nothing but ration packs out on the frontlines, you know?" Even his voice didn't fit the image of a seasoned veteran. It was soft and high-pitched, as if he hadn't quite matured past his teenage years.

Julek speared another slice of meat and placed it with delicate grace into his mouth. After a few chews, he gulped noisily and let out a contented sigh. "Spirits, I don't think I've ever truly appreciated louza meat until now," he remarked to himself. He let out an almost inaudible belch and finally glanced up at Adrien.

Looking into his eyes, Adrien suddenly felt a chill race up his spine and he fought the urge to take several steps back. Julek's gaze was a terrifying cross between the vacant, forlorn stare of a shell-shocked veteran and the clinical, coldly detached stare of a professional killer. It was at once lethargic and unfocused, yet intense and calculating, creating a truly haunting visage. The scars and menacing demeanors of the two Turians beside him suddenly looked inconsequential when put up against Julek's stare. There was something broken behind those eyes, but it hadn't stayed broken; instead it had been converted into something else, something very dangerous.

A large smile spread across Julek's face, giving him a cheerfully demented appearance. "So, you're part of the most recent batch of unfortunates chosen to come and fight the good fight here on Digeris, eh? Well, let's have a look at you."

Julek stood up in a single fluid motion and made his way over to stand in front Adrien. His eyes roamed over Adrien with an almost penetrating focus, scrutinizing him like he was a new piece of equipment that needed to be inspected for faults. He did the same for Siros and Viggo, then looked over his shoulder at the two Turians he'd been sitting with.

"Lux, what do you think? I say three weeks."

The scarred Turian glanced up from his tray and flicked a few cursory glances, first over Adrien, then at Siros and Viggo. He let out a grunt and said, "I'd go for two weeks."

"Two weeks, hmm?" Julek remarked. He seemed to consider this for a moment, and then gave a small shrug. "Not too bad, I guess. What about you, Sidra?"

"One week," the female Turian answered in a flat tone. Unlike Lux, she didn't even bother to look over Adrien and his lieutenants.

"A full week?" Julek asked in evident surprise. "That's rather optimistic for you."

Adrien was beginning to feel like he was missing something in this conversation. With a small cough, he asked, "Captain, can I ask what you're all talking about?"

Julek's head snapped back as if it were spring-loaded, his eyes glinting madly. "Oh, nothing much; my lieutenants and I are just guessing how long you'll last out there before you get killed. Or crack and go howling mad, whichever comes first."

Nothing like getting an expiration date slapped onto you to get your nerves rattled, thought Adrien sardonically as a fresh chill made its way up his spine.

"Well, here's hoping that you can give me the know-how to help me avoid that," he remarked with a lightheartedness he most certainly didn't feel.

Julek's smirk could be best described as darkly amused. "We'll just have to find out, now won't we?" He shrugged absently and gestured towards the table. "Please, take a seat and I'll tell you all about the war here on Digeris."

He casually stepped back to his seat and deposited himself down with languid ease. Adrien and his lieutenants followed suite and settled down in the metal chairs. Once they were seated, Julek cleared his throat with a phlegmy growl and began his discourse.

"All right Captain, before we get started, I'd like to take a moment to say that what I'm going to be telling you could save your life, so I suggest you keep your ears open and listen carefully. Now, you are free to ignore my advice if you like; it's no scales off my fringe if you have a death wish. Just know that, if your actions endanger me or my troops, I will personally put a bullet into your head and leave your corpse for the humans' pets to chew on."

It wasn't a threat; it was a simple statement of fact, no different than saying water was wet and delivered just as nonchalantly. Adrien didn't doubt for a moment that not only would Julek blow his brains out if given a reason, it wouldn't trouble him any more than if he smashed a bug under his foot. Adrien would be quickly disposed and just as quickly forgotten, another unfortunate casualty of war among countless millions, not even worth a footnote in history.

Viggo shot a glare at Julek. "With all due respect, sir," he said in a tone that conveyed a distinct lack of respect, "I suggest that you don't threaten my commanding officer."

"Watch your tone, new meat," growled Lux, his voice low and thick with menace. The metal talons of his bionic forearm scraped across the table's surface with a tinny scream of protest.

The big Turian turned his gaze to Lux, who wasn't much smaller, and gave him a flat and icy stare, one that Adrien had come to recognize as a sign that he was ready to get physical. "Unless I'm seeing things," he drawled lazily, a favored tone he used when he wanted to get under someone's skin, "that insignia on your shoulder says that you're a lieutenant. I've got the same one, so that means we're the same rank. While I admit it's been awhile since I've read the rulebook, I'm pretty sure that also means you can't give me orders unless they come from someone with a higher rank. Since that's not the case here, you can go screw a varren."

Lux's scarred face twisted up into a mocking sneer. "I knew I had you pegged the moment I saw you: a fresh-faced sprog who thinks he's the toughest steel-hide who ever lived. You think you're hard, kid? You think you've seen some bad shit? Don't make me laugh; I'd be surprised if you went up against anything bigger than a slaver ring or some Terminus merc bands before you came here. You're as soft as a newborn and mark my words, you'll soon be crying for your mommy like one."

Viggo began to slowly rise up from his seat, hands balled up into fists. "How 'bout I make you cry for yours?"

Lux rose up from his own seat at the challenge, his eyes dead and cold. "You'd better really think about what you do next, boy, because if you start something with me, you'd better be able to finish it. Otherwise, I'll eat you alive."

Adrien decided it was high time to intervene before things escalated out of control. He placed a hand on Viggo's arm and said, "That's enough, Lieutenant. Stand down."

Viggo hesitated for a few heartbeats, and then allowed himself to be pulled back down to his seat with a subdued, "Yes, boss." Julek, who had been watching the exchange with no small amount of amusement, reached up and casually rapped the knuckles of one hand against Lux's chest.

"Lux, what have I told you about picking fights with the new kids?" he asked in a genial tone. "Let's play nice with each other; we're all on the same side here."

"Yes, Captain." Lux too sat back down, though he and Viggo continued to stare venomously at each other.

"That goes for you too, Sidra," Julek said lazily, glancing over at his other lieutenant. "Put the knife away; the humans are spilling enough Turian blood without us adding to it."

Adrien's head moved sharply to look at the female Turian. Sure enough, there was a finely-honed combat knife in her right hand. She held it with the practiced ease of one who had made extensive use of the weapon, and by the look of it, she was ready to use it again. How she had managed to draw it without him noticing, Adrien had no idea.

Sidra looked over at Julek, uttered a soft "Sir," in response and, in a blur of motion, the knife vanished. Even Viggo stopped glaring at Lux to gaze with impressed surprise at the feat. He also took the opportunity to edge away from her, since his seat happened to be within arm's reach of her.

Once the danger of unsanctioned violence had passed, Julek smiled broadly and said, "Well, now that we've gotten the obligatory posturing out of the way, how's about we get down to business, Captain?"

"That's why I came here," said Adrien.

"Good. Now, for the sake of expediency, let's go with the assumption that you have a general idea of the situation here, and just focus on what you'll be facing and what you can do to survive." He folded his hands primly and sat up straight, looking like a university professor about to give a lecture.

"Let's start with the regular Huey soldier. At first glance, he doesn't look like much; no natural weapons, soft skin, only a single set of organs. Basically, they're like multi-colored Asari without the biotics. Not much of a threat, right? Wrong, and if you make the mistake of thinking that, you'll literally be dead wrong.

"Your average Huey comes equipped with a suit of armor and a wide variety of weapons. They don't have shields like we do, so their armor is much better at resisting kinetic impacts than ours. They are also reinforced with special plates to turn aside blades, so I wouldn't advise challenging one to a knife fight. As for the weapons, the most common one is some sort of electrokinetic assault rifle, but they've got shotguns and submachine guns aplenty. These don't have the near-limitless ammunition like we do, but they make up for that by hitting hard. When it comes to a firefight, you'll want to take cover whenever you can and don't rely too much on your shields. I've seen too many Turians get shredded for making that mistake."

Julek paused to take a sip from his mug. "Of course, they don't need to get a solid hit to kill you. The Hueys like to poison their rounds with a neurotoxin that's been keyed specifically to us. Works so fast that you won't even realize you got hit; on the plus side, it's a quick and painless death."

"Don't they have direct energy weapons too?" Adrien asked.

"Oh, indeed they do," Julek said with a laugh. "You can expect to see lasers, plasma and charged particles being flung around like a rave party. At the risk of stating the obvious, your shields won't help worth a damn against those things and let me tell you, they can deal some real ugly damage. I once saw a Turian get hit right in the stomach by a plasma bolt; it melted clean through his armor and flesh. A few seconds later, his guts slopped right out onto the ground in a steaming pile. Worst part was he stayed alive after that for a good ten minutes, poor bastard."

Adrien suddenly felt queasy at Julek's graphic description of the incident. The fact that he sounded as if he were describing nothing worse than a stubbed toe didn't help.

"Now, remember what I said about them not having biotics? Well, they've got something better. The Hueys refers to them as para-psychics, but we just call them casters. These guys are far less common out on the field than the standard soldier. Good thing too, because they are a lot more dangerous than biotics. With a biotic, you pretty much know what to expect. Casters, though, are a package of lethal surprises; I've seen them incinerate whole squads with blasts of fire, hurl bolts of lightning like a thunderstorm, crush armored vehicles with a mean look and freeze weapons and armor so cold they shattered like glass."

Julek suddenly leaned forward, as if he were about it impart some incredible secret. "But you know what?" he asked, his voice a conspiratorial whisper. "Those aren't even the worst; some casters can get inside your head, and I mean that literally. In some ways, they're even more dangerous than the ones throwing fireballs. You won't see them out in the open if they can help it, but you'll know if one's out there. Maybe you'll suddenly feel like fingers made of ice and metal shards are poking around in your brain, looking to see if you've got anything worth knowing. Maybe you'll start hearing voices telling you how sad you are and how friendly your gun is looking. Maybe you'll suddenly become insanely angry for no reason at all and kill your squad mate in a fit of rage." He grinned maniacally at Adrien. "Bet that makes you feel a bit paranoid, eh?"

"Just a little," Adrien said, suppressing a nervous swallow. He had heard about the human para-psychics beforehand, but if Julek's descriptions were even half true, then he had only gotten a heavily sanitized version.

"So anyway, that's your standard Huey soldier. Now let's talk about their pets," Julek said with the enthusiasm of a Salarian about to give a discourse on his favorite subject. Unfortunately, whatever he was about to impart to Adrien was suddenly waylaid by the loud blare of alert sirens. They were soon accompanied by a synthesized voice instructing all troops to report to their commanding officers in preparation for imminent departure, its emotionless monotone looping every few seconds.

Julek let out a dramatic sigh. "It seems duty calls once again," he said, affecting a tone of abject disappointment. "Looks like we'll have to continue this later."

He rose from his seat with an air of total nonchalance, as though he was only moving to get a second helping of louza tenders and not about to head off into a battlefield. His lieutenants followed suite and took up position on either side of him. Julek smiled down at Adrien, who had yet to stand up from his own seat. It was not a pleasant expression.

"Well, come along, Captain; we wouldn't want to miss out on all the fun, now would we?"

#

Minutes later, Adrien found himself competing for elbow space in Colonel Tarkin's office with the other officers under his command. It was easy to tell the new arrivals from the veterans; the former were the quintessential picture of a Turian soldier, polished armor and all. They stood tall and proud, ready to take on whatever was sent their way. The latter looked as if they had just woken up in a morgue and crawled out of their body bags. Their armor and bodies were scarred from battle and their expressions ranged from dully forlorn to stone-cold enmity. Unlike the fresh troopers, they didn't bother standing at attention and just stood however they chose. A few of the new arrivals cast disdainful glances at them, no doubt thinking that these shoddy-looking soldiers were a disgrace to the Hierarchy. For their part, the veterans hardly even acknowledged their new brothers and sisters in arms.

Julek seemed to be the only exception. He stood with his arms entwined loosely behind his back and had an expression of pleasant calmness, as if he were attending a social gathering at an officer's club and not about to receive orders to go into battle. Adrien wasn't sure if he should take comfort in that, or be scared out of his wits.

As he looked over the mass of Turian soldiery, Adrien spied Ferox standing on the other side of the room. He looked to be in a fouler mood than usual, standing with his arms crossed and staring around the room as if everyone there had personally offended him. If Adrien had to guess, he would have said that his meeting with Tarkin hadn't been as fulfilling as he'd hoped it would be. He caught Adrien's gaze and his mandibles formed an ugly sneer. For his part, Adrien just gave him a small smirk.

Julek noticed the exchange of facial communications and glanced up at Adrien. "Friend of yours, Captain?" he asked, nodding his head in the direction of Ferox.

"How'd you guess?" Adrien asked in mock astonishment. "Was it his glare of complete loathing that gave it away?"

Julek let out a titter of laughter. "You've got a well-developed sense of humor, I see. That's good; it makes things easier if you can see the funny side of everything." He paused to scrutinize Ferox as he had before with Adrien. Apparently, he didn't much like what he saw, for he tutted softly and shook his head as if in profound disappointment.

"Oh, I don't think he's going to last long at all. I've seen his type more times than I can count: strutting, puffed up shits with an unhealthy fixation on rules and regulations and not a single original thought in their head. I wouldn't be surprised if he took a copy of the military rulebook to the washroom to blow off steam."

Adrien's mind treated him to the image of Ferox going off to have a private moment with a printout of Hierarchy military guidelines. He wasn't sure whether to laugh or cringe at the picture. He never came to a decision, because at that moment, his thoughts were interrupted by Colonel Tarkin entering the room. All eyes were immediately focused on him and a sense of apprehension suddenly filled the air. Tarkin took a moment to glance around at the gathered soldiers, his scarred face grim, and then he spoke.

"Soldiers, I'm afraid things have just taken another turn for the worst. We've just received word that the Federation has launched a massive attack against our forces at the Kassar Pass."

He activated the holographic display in the middle of the room and a three-dimensional display of a hill-dotted landmass flickered into existence. Blue lines marked the positions of Turian forces scattered throughout the area, which were in sharp retreat from a swarm of red lines that advanced on them with a relentless fury.

"The humans have broken through our forward defenses and are advancing rapidly," Tarkin continued. "At least four whole legions have been completely wiped out and the rest have sustained heavy casualties. By the look of it, the humans are moving to our army group's rear and take out the command center. If they succeed, the whole southern front will be thrown into disarray, and they can pick it apart at their leisure." His half-blind gaze moved across the room with an almost threatening air, as if daring anyone to challenge what he was saying. Nobody did.

"It goes without saying that we intend to see that doesn't happen," he went on, tapping a few more keys. A new holographic image of what looked to be a small city appeared. "This is Coryza, one of three cities in their way. The first one, as it happens, and that's where we'll be deployed. Our orders are to dig in and bleed the Federation for as long as we can. If it comes to the point that the city can't be held, we are to fall back and regroup at the second city. Any questions?"

One of the veteran officers spoke up. "How big is this force, Colonel?"

"Very big," answered Tarkin. "Millions of ground troops comprised mostly of their bioengineered monsters, thousands of mecha and other military vehicles. This is perhaps the second or third largest assault the Federation has launched since they arrived."

Lucky me, thought Adrien dryly. One of the biggest enemy offensives of the war has just kicked off and I get to be among the first in line to experience it. His hand dipped into the pocket where his medallion rested, feeling the cool metal against rub against his skin.

You've seen me through one close call already, little guy. I'll need a lot more where that came from now.

"Any other questions?" Tarkin asked. No one else spoke up and he gave a slight nod. "Then let's move out."