Chapter One,

Looming Shadows

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Sir Myshi Hwaginau III, King of Ghretto and Father of the Royal Family, sat quietly on his throne anxiously awaiting for Frederick Ytrinuga, his messenger, to return with word on the rumours that had been repetitively floating around the thirteen Royal Planets about the Vortec Forces' plans to invade planet Ghretto.

"If these rumours are true," he told himself, "I'll personally destroy each and every one of those villainous scoundrels with my bare hands for what they did to my fair wife all of those troublesome years ago."

"Your Highness, if I may," Daheem Ipol, the Father's personal advisor, requested.

"Proceed, Daheem."

"There've been rumours of the sort going around for the past five years; why would it only start mattering to you now?" the emerald green Rhazilu wondered.

"I have that feeling again."

Knowingly, Daheem nodded and sat back down in his royal chair beside Hwaginau's, and the two sat silently awaiting Frederick's return.

***

After another hour of waiting on Hwaginau and Daheem's behalf, the throne room's doors opened wide, and surely enough, Frederick Ytrinuga walked through, took a few steps, dropped to one knee, and bowed his head to the Father.

"Rise," the Father ordered. "What news do you bring me from Thruijol of the Vortecs?"

"The guards orbiting the planet detected a small XHT11-type Hrupian freighter ship bearing an insignia similar to that of the Vortec Forces of old," the messenger replied, reading the information from his data-pad.

Hwaginau turned to Daheem, who said, "It could've been the symbol of any trade corporation."

"It was of Dark Region origins," Frederick continued. "If the Dark Region and Vortecs have become allies, there's no telling what they could do, sir."

"I'm well aware of that Frederick, but the Dark Region hasn't done anything to greatly contradict the Family since the Colonial War when they attempted to overtake the Independent Colonies by force," Hwaginau stated. "They don't seem to have any plans of war at the moment, so we must leave them be for the time - there's no sense in starting something pointless that will only do us bad."

"I agree sir, but when the Thruijolns scanned the ship's interior, they found something that was most likely a small group of heavily armed soldiers, undoubtedly bearing the same ensign that the ship's wings were wearing," Frederick informed the Father. "What do you make of that?"

"Most freighters carry small groups of soldiers with them to protect their cargo. Nothing you've revealed so far point directly at the Vortecs," Daheem pointed out. "Surely you have learned more of the situation; you spent nearly a month travelling the Royal Planets and parts of the Dark Region in search of information."

"You seem to doubt my usefulness at times, Daheem Ipol, and right now seems like one of them," the twenty-two year old man accused.

"Nonsense, Frederick!" Hwaginau said, defending Daheem, who was not only his personal advisor, but also his close friend of many years. Then, with a lighter tone, he said, "Please, continue."

"Well, as I was saying" Frederick started, eyeing Daheem with a look that could kill, "The Thruijoln guards found traces of soldiers in the freighter when scanning, and they believe that it was a small expeditionary crew."

"If it is the Vortecs, why would they do such a thing?" Sir Myshi asked Daheem. "They surely didn't lose all their star maps when we raided Vorthic, and even if they did, all star ships have fully detailed maps programmed into their computers."

Daheem thought for a minute and answered, "I highly disbelieve they would be trying to configure new star maps. If anything, it would be a disguised scout ship."

"A freighter being used to scout the Royal Planets? Why would anyone think to do something of the sort?" the Father asked.

"I have an idea why," Frederick announced. "There are rumours of a Vortec invasion, correct?"

"Yes."

"They could be sending out all sorts of scouting teams to spy on us so they can precisely plan their attacks to do the most damage possible. And what better place to be most cautious spying on than the Royal Planets' military home planet?"

"You've always been a wise one," Hwaginau complimented Frederick.

"But Your Highness, there still isn't any solid evidence to confirm that it was indeed a Vortec or Dark Region ship. Like I said before, it could've been any trade corporations' freighter," Daheem reminded the two.

"I've not forgotten," Sir Myshi stated, "But no matter what it was, the rumours are becoming more frequent and realistic, so we must prepare, even if it is falsely so."

"In which way do you plan to prepare?" Daheem questioned.

"I've not an idea yet, but I'll surely come up with one by day's end."

"Your Highness?" Frederick asked.

"Yes, Frederick?"

"You could always expand the Xyber Legion," he suggested. "They do a fair job in keeping the Family safe and keeping order throughout the Royal Planets."

"It's an idea," the Father said. "If things come to it, we shall think heavily about it, but we must think things through first before making any serious decisions."

"Just don't forget one thing - the Xyber Legion has already drained a lot of the Family's funds from the planetary taxes this year," Daheem reminded the Father. "We must only expand the Legion if the worst happens, which I doubt will, as we almost destroyed the entire Vortec Forces after Queen and Mother Andraia's untimely death."

"I'm well aware of the finances demanded by the Legion, Daheem. And please, do not count the Vortecs out just yet; they always were full of tricks and surprises," Hwaginau scolded the advisor.

"Also, we only have knowledge of the Vortecs' past activities within the Royal Planets, whereas all else is unknown to us," Frederick added.

"What do you mean by that?" Hwaginau questioned his messenger.

"He means that there could be parts of the Vortec Forces elsewhere outside of the Royal Planets, father."

"Dryx! I didn't see you enter. And Shijou, you're here too! It's quite a pleasant surprise to see the two of you today," Hwaginau greeted his sons.

"As you've most likely already heard us talking, we are discussing the news Frederick has retrieved from Thruijol and elsewhere this past month."

"Father, why is it such a threat that the Vortecs may be returning to the Royal Planets?" Shijou asked.

"Haven't you read the files we have in the Palace about the Vortecs' actions in the past, Shijou?" Daheem questioned the teenage boy.

"I have, Daheem, but the latter ones say that the Xyber Legion helped the Royal Guards ultimately defeat them and that they then fled from the Royal Planets and that the Royal Guards searched for and destroyed all Vortec establishments."

"Yes, but 'One who is defeated returns with greater strength'," Dryx informed his younger brother, quoting a long since forgotten philosopher.

Chuckling, Daheem complemented Dryx. "You've studied your histories well, Dryx. Maybe some day you'll be as great a leader as your father is."

"Only time can tell, uncle, only time can tell," Dryx said while slightly blushing.

"Requesting permission of relief," Frederick butted into the conversation.

"Granted. We shall pick up where we left off later, Frederick, so be prepared," the Father permitted.

"It shall be done." The young man then bowed, turned, and left the throne room, heading to his chambers.

"Boys, I must speak to Daheem in private for a while," Hwaginau stated.

"Alright father," Dryx said while bowing. "It was good to see you again, Daheem."

"It has," Daheem agreed.

"A pleasure as always, uncle," Shijou stated.

After the two teenagers had left, Daheem turned to Hwaginau and noted, "Those are some good boys you've raised there, Myshi."

"They are, but I can't take all the credit - their mother took excellent care of them in their youth, and you've also been there for them, my good friend, and for that I am thankful, as you've always been such a wonderful influence on them."

The two men then fell into deep conversation discussing the Vortec Forces and Dark Region. They talked about what the two may have in common, what motives they would have to make them return to the Royal Planets, how to deal with them if they invaded, and other similar things regarding the two organizations.

TO BE CONTINUED