1. The Evil That Sleeps
General Demetri stood proudly aboard his flagship, The Prometheus, letting the pride of his promotion glow as brightly as his Solari armor. He was wearing a new uniform- the old one, consisting of the blue domed helmet and white armor, was now replaced by similar body armor, but with white satin and blue gems decorating the exterior. The material flowed and floated around him, giving him a heavenly appearance. He was crowned with an advanced mechanical headband, allowing him to interact with the ship directly as well as gather information on the readouts of its status. He could also communicate directly to the other commanders of his fleet; the Promethean Dreadnoughts he had rescued those months ago were now all fully functional and under the use of the Uniti Solari. It had been the shining moment in Demetri's career.
He remembered how proud his father had looked as he bestowed the title of General on his son's shoulders. Regent Takashi had given Demetri command of the Promethean Dreadnoughts, the most powerful weapons in the Solari's arsenal at the present, plus one of the most competent lieutenants to serve him. He stood to Demetri's side, as he always did- Rikuto was a tall and silent man, believing actions spoke louder than words. He had dark spiky hair and a close-cropped beard, and stood high over the prince, who only reached up to about his shoulders. Still, as the general of perhaps the most powerful fleet in the galaxy, Demetri stood out more than anyone else onboard, and the crew knew it wasn't just his ceremonial armor. He commanded them all with the utmost respect, and they prided their station under his orders.
And now they had their first mission as the Promethean Fleet. Not too long ago, the Regent Takashi himself had appeared onscreen before them, and gave orders to head towards the space mine Yismanna, where a rebellion had suddenly begun. Demetri took no pause in accepting a battle against their own citizens; the space mine was a dire source of goods for the Solari Empire, and they didn't want to lose control of it. Yismanna, the rocky planet itself, was a new addition to the Uniti Solari's expanding power, so it was rich with untouched ores and wells.
Regent Takashi had explained to Demetri what he must accomplish. "By all means necessary, avoid civilian casualties," he said carefully to begin. "We want this to be a peaceful solution, without any unnecessary damage to either the people or the planet. However… " he gave Demetri a reminding glance, "if they try to destroy the mines or any of our barracks, we must protect ourselves. They have, in that action, proven themselves the enemy. If it comes down to the rioters or the precious resources we invested in creating that colony, we must side against those who seek to destroy what we've begun. Then, you can use whatever force necessary to quell the rebellion."
Everyone onboard the dreadnoughts looked at each other in reluctance. Fighting against pirates or even the Da-Ku was one thing, but to open fire on their own people? Still, Demetri nodded without any sign of guilt and accepted the mission.
Regent Takashi casually held his palm up in his blessing, as if he expected no other answer. "May the stars shine on you, my son."
When he left the screen, General Demetri turned his attention towards the crew around him. He looked them each directly in the eye, making sure everyone was listening intently. "I know what you're all thinking. I don't want to have to send our ships against a group of rowdy miners and civilians any more than you do, and I certainly don't want to use force. I assure you, we will do our best to solve this problem without incident; reason will be our weapon today. These ships may be the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, but we must have the most powerful minds to wield them properly. The rioters are most likely following a similar cause; if we can negotiate with that cause, we could sway their opinion and send them homes safe and satisfied, without any need to use force."
"And what if they don't want to go home safe and satisfied?" someone asked through the intercom. Demetri could see through his headband that the communication came from Captain Isamu, on one of the other dreadnoughts. He could tell even without the device, easily identifying the veteran's gruff mannerisms.
"I'd rather not sway our emotions with thinking about the worse answer," Demetri responded politely. "We should go in with our hearts and minds focused on the best way to accomplish this mission."
Without giving time for other responses, he ordered the fleet to move into the outer regions, where Yismanna lay. He returned to his command chair, nodding to Rikuto as he passed. His lieutenant nodded back, looking as faithful and certain as Demetri- the General wondered if he was also just putting up an act. Demetri was perturbed by how easily Takashi had gave him permission to kill civilians, and felt his strength crack a little. Does the colony really mean that much to you, father, that you would kill your own people? Do we even know the cause of the rebellion at all? You gave no information on that part. I'll find out for myself soon enough, but still… why do I feel like my faith is slipping?
And why have you and mother grown so distant?
Earlier that day, the Yismanna mining colony was functioning as it always had. The miners were reporting to their respective groups, preparing to enter the deep mine shafts and go far into the rocky planet. The women and children worked at their tasks, some keeping their small, family run shops open, or simply watching out for the younger ones while they kept care of the house. The few doctors and tradesmen that inhabited the planet opened their shops as well, hoping to get some business today. Usually only the doctors received any pay; the injuries that happened deep in the mine shafts were the major reason they stayed in business, and gave them the highest social status. Smiths and technicians worked together to build equipment for the mining process, but it was taxing work and the Solari put them under a lot of pressure to get quick results. Quick results often led to faulty machinery, and caused more problems than solved them. And, of course, the Solari soldiers could be seen everywhere, keeping the order of things flowing.
Those who didn't have talents or trades to take advantage of, they were the ones sent to the mines. On the surface of the colony, massive solar panels created enough artificial heat and light to keep the upper parts in good condition, but under the rocky ground the temperatures quickly dropped to unbearable levels. Many a times had faulty design caused one of the heat suits to malfunction, killing the miner who wore it, or caused one of the beam drill heads to crack dangerously. The power one of those crystallized lasers carried in it could collapse an entire shaft, and horrible disasters had occurred in the past.
It was dangerous to do such mining, but it was the only way for most of the civilians to make any sort of living. They were almost all refugees, whose homes and planets had been wiped away by the wars that raged throughout space. The Solari sought to bring peace and order to the galaxy under its rule; many factions refused to acknowledge such a rule, regardless of what they stood for. When met with resistance, the Uniti Solari were quick to show the enemy the might of righteousness, and it left many a planet destroyed. Those who had no say in the matters that controlled their lives were left with nothing- only a chance to join the Solari in a new home, where they could start again and rebuild their lost lives. In this case, the home was called Yismanna.
The solar panels lit up the colony as bright as day; sadly, it only shed light on the true poverty that ran in the streets. Dust from the rocky surface kicked up wherever you went, and almost everyone were required to wear breathing masks. Some kids ran by kicking a ball; they didn't like the way the masks itched, and had taken them off to better laugh and play. They ran by a group of soldiers; one of them raised his hand and shouted, reminding them to wear their masks or else they'd get sick. One turned back to stick out his tongue before running off with his teammates. The soldier shook his head, commenting to his friend on the nerve of these commoners before returning to their patrol.
The children's fathers were in the depths of the planet, right beneath their feet. They were trying to get past an especially thick wall; the planet had gotten to a point where the density was unbelievably thick, and even the beam drill was having trouble boring through it quickly. It was the third day that they spent on it; suited up in their shiny heat suits, they dragged down the massive beam drill- it took six men just to carry it- and went on with their tedious work, grumbling behind their goggled masks.
On the surface, a group of soldiers strolled by one of the doctors, waving to him as he was unlocking his door to begin business. A homeless man sat on the corner, begging those that passed him for spare change. A merchant on another street was setting up food for sale; dried fish and vegetables lined up in the wooden crates. He returned inside his house for a moment, wondering where he had left the price menu; a little child who had watched him from the cover of an alleyway finally peeked his head out a little further. He eyed the food on display hungrily; his mother and father weren't doctors or soldiers, and didn't earn enough for him to eat every day. His frail figure and feverish eyes showed it.
It had gotten to the point where the child no longer thought about right or wrong, sinner or saint; he just needed food. It was all he could think of. His eyes were wild as he edged towards the carts, his mouth dripping with anxiety. He licked his lips, taking a furtive glance around to make sure no one was watching him, then reached forward and snatched one of the green fruits. He quickly pocketed it within his ragged shirt and sprinted the other way, before the owner could come back.
He got no further than two feet when a white glove gripped his arm firmly. The child jerked to a stop, and looked up in fear at his apprehender. The Solari soldier towered above him, glancing down through his helmet's beak-like visor, looking like a great and powerful eagle… or maybe a bird of prey. Regardless, the child's eyes were wide with fear, visibly shaking in his head while he stared up at the radiant white-armored figure. The soldier reached into his shirt and pulled out the little green fruit; the child stared at it in distress, trying to squirm away from the hand that held him. The soldier glanced back down at the young boy, and gave him a righteous leer.
There was a loud clap, and the boy crashed back into the alleyway. Dust kicked up around him as he collapsed to the ground, curling up and shaking with sobs. The soldier reminded him that only criminals steal, not good and honest people, then turned and walked away, taking the fruit with him. The boy held his stomach, feeling it groan and twist as it slowly shrank, moaning with him. He pushed himself to his hands and knees, reaching forward to try and pull himself up with something. He stumbled a bit, then caught the edge of a brown cloth. He gripped it tightly, pulling himself up and wiping his face of the dirt and tears, burying his head in the folds of the cloak. He cried a little, but his tears faded as he raised his head, following the trail of brown cloth.
He looked up into the darkness that the hooded cloak covered; his eyes went wide, but not with fear. He was simply shocked. The man hovered over him, his cloak gently blowing with the dust, not moving or saying a word. Then, the silent figure leaned forward, lowering his hidden face until it was next to the boy's. Then, he began to whisper in his ear. The child continued to stare in wonder, listening intently to what the stranger had to say.
The Solari soldier stood back at the carts; he had informed the merchant of what had happened, and allowed him to give thanks with the very fruit the boy stole. The soldier had just finished eating around the core of the juicy green ball when the child reappeared from the alleyway, the dust and tears still streaking his face. He looked over at the Solari, who munched casually on his snack. The child's eyes were still wide, but not shaking anymore; they were steady, alert. They were burning with some intense emotion. The soldier frowned at the child's stare, wondering what had changed him so quickly; he assumed the child was just angry with him. Without a word, the child quickly ran off down the street, back to his home.
When he got there, he went straight to his mother, who was washing the dishes. He tugged her gown, wanting to be lifted into her arms. She scooped her child up, giving him loving words, but he cut her off as he whispered into her ear. The mother's face slowly faded from her caring expression, and turned as cold as the stone below them.
Meanwhile, the merchant was chopping up his dried fish into servable pieces, glancing every now and then at the soldier who continued to stand around his shop. The Solari kept picking up food and inspecting it, sometimes eating it, waving off the merchant and telling him in annoyance to put it on his tab. A few friends walked by and laughed at him, telling him to get back to work. He only laughed back and waved them off. The merchant had finally given up trying to dissuade the soldier and tried to focus on his work, though he still shot him disgruntled looks. With a sigh, he forced himself back once again to the cutting board. He didn't even notice the cloaked man who had appeared at his side
The merchant cut down on the fish, slicing off his head, and the stranger leaned in and whispered into his ear. The knife froze where it had cut, and the merchant stared ahead intently. He didn't move the entire time the stranger spoke to him, and when the cloaked man finally disappeared, the merchant only turned slowly towards the loitering soldier.
The group of kids kicking their ball ran by them, still shouting and being rowdy; their laughter was too loud, and the soldier didn't hear the knife rise again.
A woman was hanging up her clothes to dry; her young daughter sat next to her, picking at the breathing mask. The woman had none; she didn't have enough to afford them for the entire family. She coughed a little in the dusty air, and remorsed at knowing her clothes would only collect the dust from outside and bring it in. She scolded her daughter again for picking at her mask, and continued with her meaningless chore.
The stranger appeared from the flowing clothes, and whispered into her ear. He left as quickly as he came, and the mother immediately scooped up her child and went inside, casting one wild, animalistic glance around before shutting the door tightly.
The miners deep in the shafts continued to bore into the dense wall before them. The team leader stood by, giving directions on what power to set the drill at; he didn't want to crack another crystal head by pushing it too hard, especially at their depth. He raised his hand to give an order, and the stranger leaned close to his side. He whispered, and the man dropped his arm, turning a little towards the voice in puzzlement. The stranger slid behind him unnoticed, moving to the man in front, who was operating the drill. He whispered to him, and his head jerked up; his goggles reflected the burning energy that shot from the crystal head.
A doctor heard the whisper, and he went white as a sheet and ran inside his house. A group of lazy men, sitting on the side of the street drinking, all went sober instantly and rose up as a group, looking at each other in secret excitement. More and more people heard the whispers, and spread them to their friends and family; all across the colony, people went inside, shutting windows or doors. Even more people gathered outside, all sharing the same intent glare, as if they were anticipating something they desired very much. The group of children, who had frantically kicked their ball around with no direction or care for one, all stood still as the stranger whispered to them. When they resumed their kicking, they only nudged the ball a little, keeping their eyes on those who passed them. Both adult and child had that spark in their eyes.
Finally, the first strike was made. The group of drunkards bumped into a soldier as they walked past him; the Solari turned to them in indignation, shouting at them to watch where they were walking. As the planet was so rocky, there were many loose stones lying on the ground. The soldier had no time to defend himself as one crashed down through his cone-shaped helmet, sending glass and blood spilling out. The men descended upon him, raising fists and rocks and viciously pummeling their victim.
The soldiers closest to the incident tried to move in to help; they shouted for the crowd to move, but no one listened. They threatened to open fire, and one man stepped in front of the leader. The soldier paused, his gun raised slightly. The citizen reached forward, trying to rip the gun from his hands. The soldier shouted and struggled with him, yelling for him to stop; he pulled the trigger accidentally, and shot the man through the stomach. He fell back, screaming in pain, and the soldier gaped at him in surprise. Suddenly, another shot rang out, and the soldier gasped as a laser shot through his neck. The other soldiers panicked, and opened fire on the crowd.
Both soldiers and citizens heard the first shots, and more disruptions began to occur. Soldiers bunched together in small groups, using their guns to keep the rowdy people back. Then the rocks or braver men would bear down on them, and blood would be spilt. Unarmed civilians began to pile up in the streets; a soldier's body was hoisted with a rope, someone raising a torch to it. A doctor's door broke open, and the savage people rushed in to his house, smashing and destroying anything they saw. They grabbed the doctor out of his room, and his wife screamed in terror. The men dragged the protesting doctor outside while his wife was cornered inside. Her screams rose to inhuman shrieks; the doctor could only listen as he was beaten remorselessly.
The soldiers realized how greatly they were outnumbered, and tried to fall back to the barracks. The fenced-off garrisons were the safest spots for them, but most were already closed off. Those inside stood around in confusion, trying to block out the screams of those who were stuck outside with the rioting mob.
Three of the soldiers ran down an empty street, keeping their guns ready for anyone who jumped out at them. They heard the riots coming from far away, and they prayed it didn't get near them. Suddenly one of the men shouted; a cloaked man had just stepped from an alleyway. He turned towards them, his face hidden by the hood. The Solari soldier panicked, and fired on him. The other two fired as well, though they realized they were aiming at nothing. They blinked, confused, and blood fountained out of their necks and torso. They screamed as they fell lifelessly to the ground; the stranger stood behind them, his cloak blowing in the gust of wind that followed him. He continued on his way without a word.
The body of another soldier lay over the merchant's food carts, the ones the young child had stolen from. His torso partly fell behind the cart, his head and neck out of sight. Only the blood splattered around the collar of his armor could be seen. Just then, the group of children ran by, enthusiastically continuing their game; they had replaced their ball with a heavier, cone-shaped object, and it blurred white and red as it clanked by.
The mines were soon empty; the miners were pouring out of the ground like ants to feed the fire of the rebellion. They rushed forward, waving their tools and weapons about madly, beating down the guards at the mines in a violent rage. They drove the mine transports over the corpses towards the barracks, hoping to knock the walls down. Some of the men had grabbed the powerful beam drills. As the last of the miners left on one of the transport jeeps, the cloaked stranger appeared before the entrance to the mines. He watched them drive off, then turned and silently entered the caves, satisfied with his work.
Regent Takashi listened to the commander of the Yismanna colony shout frantically to him over the intercom. "It's total chaos, sir! They're trying to enter the barracks with machinery brought up from the mines! We already have countless casualties, on both sides! Are reinforcements coming?"
The Regent kept composed, his skin and hair as pale as his flowing robe. His eyes were shut as he reaffirmed the assistance he had sent. "Yes, commander, you only need to hold out a little while longer. Use force if you have to, whatever you must to keep them from taking over the garrisons. Demetri will arrive soon with the Promethean Fleet, and they will give you assistance."
"Oh, thank the stars," the man replied in relief. "How long will it take them?"
"Not long, commander. Have patience." The Regent looked up at a quiet knock on his door, and he cut the transmission with the commander. Yumiko, his wife, opened the door, standing anxiously in her whispy white robe.
"Hello, my love," the Regent said placidly. "Is there something wrong?"
"Takashi…" she began quietly, "I heard Demetri is heading towards that rebellion, on the Yismanna colony. Were you… going to tell me this?"
Takashi stared at her for a moment, then smiled softly. "My dear, of course I was. I needed to take care of the situation first, and it escalated so fast I simply had no time to inform you. This riot has turned into a dangerous one, too… I didn't want you hearing the details."
Yumiko stared at him, her eyes drawn tight. "I've witnessed the casualties of war before. I am your queen; if you are sending our son off to battle, don't you think I should know? You didn't even ask my opinion on the matter, either."
Takashi raised his white brows at her. "Did you wish to find a different way of solving this? Do you think I, perhaps, made a mistake?"
Yumiko nodded after thinking a moment, responding confidently. "There is no need to send the dreadnoughts to such a battle. Their firepower and defensive strength is enough to match any fleet in the galaxy; they should not be used for this purpose. Any one of our fleets would do just as well; was the Promethean fleet the only ship in that area?"
Regent Takashi shook his head. "I cannot help but wonder if it is your maternal side that influences to withdraw our son from this battle." Yumiko drew a sharp breath, stunned at hearing his accusation. "We cannot allow our emotions to affect our decisions, Yumiko. This is a very important addition to our empire; if we let one colony slip, then more will start, and soon we will have a much bigger problem on our hands. Demetri was nearby, and he has the strength to crush any opponent. What better opponent for our son than the enemy named betrayal?"
Yumiko shook her head. "That enemy has more than one name. Each civilian down there has a name, a life; you want our son to use his talents to kill our own kind? A Solari General has bigger responsibilities than that!"
"If they fight against us, they are not our own kind. They are traitors."
"Takashi, most of them weren't even Solari to begin with. They had no other choice but… "
Takashi raised his hand, signaling her to stop. "I don't want to hear any more of it. My decision is final, and although you are my queen, I am Regent. My word is law. This is how I believe it must be. Now," he looked back to the panels before him, seeing the transmissions and status updates of the colony. "You are dismissed. I cannot have your personal issues influencing this battle; it must be won by the strength of justice, not the fear of loss."
Yumiko stood open-mouthed, staring at the Regent. Her eyes grew wet; she bowed quickly and rushed from the room. Takashi stared after her for a moment, then turned back to the panels before him.
"It's about time that bitch left," came a voice from the shadows. Takashi felt the cold presence enter the room, though he kept his eyes straight ahead.
"It's about time you arrived, Datsueba," Takashi returned. Behind him, the exiled Da-Ku widow materialized from the darkness, forming into her gaunt figure clothed in black and blood red garments. Her gray hair was done up in two conical buns, lying flat to either side. She glided over to the Regent's side and gripped his shoulder with her bony hand.
"There's no time for bickering. Is your son at the site yet?" She stared anxiously at the screens, though she couldn't decipher the Solari's code.
"No, he is not. He's on his way, and he will arrive soon enough to… "
"No! He will not be soon enough!" Datsueba sat down in a chair beside him, clutching her hands together. "He will be enough to stop the rebellion, but not the cause of it."
Takashi turned to her, his eyes narrowing. "What do you mean? Why were you so anxious to get me to send Haruko there?"
Datsueba glowered at him. "Do you not remember that your planet 'Yismanna' was under Da-Ku jurisdiction, before you took command over it?"
Takashi nodded. "Yes, I know. Is that a problem?"
Datsueba shot up from her chair, standing over him menacingly. "Of course it is! You should have informed me about it immediately! If I hadn't been around when I was, I wouldn't have found that out, and we would have no chance of stopping them."
"What are you talking about, you madwoman? Who? The rioters?"
Datsueba stared at him coldly, shaking her head. "The Da-Ku. They are the cause of this rebellion. They want what's theirs."
The stranger traveled deep into the mines, as far as any of the miners had ever been. He had no heat suit on, only his cloak. He whisked through the corridors and down through the freezing shafts, until he finally reached the denser walls that the miners were having trouble boring through. Here, the stranger stopped, inspecting the wall for a moment. At last, he dropped the cloak from his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor.
The Da-Ku Lord Toshiou flexed his fingers, still staring at the dense wall before him. His face was covered by his ninja-like mask, and his arms and legs were wrapped in dark bandages. Trails of loose cloth flittered from his elbows, knees, and headband; he looked nothing more than a wavy shadow in the darkness of the mines.
Toshiou brought his hands together, and began to focus his dark energy. The shadows around him gathered, and the Da-Ku turned into darkness itself. The thick wall appeared to turn into shadows as well; Toshiou took a step forward, and walked through the wall like it was water. He left a ripple as he passed, heading further into the mines. He was grateful the Solari hadn't breached the furthest portions of the planet, and found what lay hidden beneath.
He continued to sink into the planet, traveling further and further, until he came out the other end, into a small oval room. He let the darkness dissipate from him, and opened his eyes. He jerked a little in shock upon seeing his goal; though he knew it would be here, he still wasn't prepared for the sight.
Before him lay a massive tomb. He knew who lay inside of it. Emperor… Toshiou thought to himself, remember the orders his brother had given him. Gotoutenrin, my brother… must it really be like this?
Takashi furrowed his brow at Datsueba. "But that makes no sense. Why wouldn't the Da-Ku use their own forces, if Yismanna is so important to them? Why go through the trouble of staging this rebellion?"
Datsueba smirked. "You want the planet for its resources, for material goods. The Da-Ku want the real treasure, that which sleeps beneath the colony and the mines. It took me a while to realize what planet it actually was… not whatever Solari name you had given it. When it was under Da-Ku jurisdiction, we called it something else… Sepulchiera Akuma."
"What does that mean?" Takashi asked in annoyance, wanting her to get to the point.
"The Grave of Akuma. It is where the Emperor's father is buried… where my brother lays."
The Regent finally went slack-mouthed in understanding. "Akuma… the former Da-Ku emperor. What… what in the stars do they want with that?"
Datsueba shuddered. "I honestly don't know. I can't see what Gotoutenrin has planned; but I'm sure it is dangerous. Akuma… Akuma was the last Emperor to be properly bathed in the Source, before it was lost to us. He was the last to touch the true power of the Da-Ku."
Takashi spun to the panels before him. "And you would have me send my only son into this danger without telling me? I must inform him immediately, before… "
"No," Datsueba ordered him.
"What?" The Regent spun back to her, a hint of fury in his squinted eyes. "What reason is there not to tell him? The Da-Ku must be stopped, right?"
"They might begin to suspect me, if we do that." Datsueba stared at the ground, her eyes shrouded in thought. "Only the Da-Ku knew of the tomb's location. If we try to protect it they will wonder how the Solari gained knowledge of its existence. I am only alive still because I remain in the shadows; The Emperor has most likely all but forgotten me, certain that I've been defeated. He is not stupid, though; he will grow suspicious, know there is an insider, and that I cannot have."
Takashi glared at her in exasperation. "Then what was the point of telling me all that, if we won't even do anything about it?"
Datsueba looked up sharply at him, her eyes deadly. "Because, Regent, I am giving you fair warning. The Da-Ku are up to something, and it will not be favorable for you or the rest of the galaxy for that matter." The Regent Takashi turned away from her stare; he felt uncomfortable, something he wasn't used to. "For now, tell Demetri to protect the mines; that will give us a chance to repel any Da-Ku who might try for Akuma's tomb while not giving too much away. It is the most we can do for now." Takashi nodded, and leaned forward to open a signal to the Prometheus.
Toshiou approached the massive tomb, twice as long as himself and nearly as tall. Its lid was enormous, and it seemed like nothing could lift the giant slab of stone. Toshiou stepped up onto the top of the intricate crypt; the designs formed into a picture of a demon, his wings spread and fangs dripping, holding a ball of writhing energy. Ancient runes surrounded the artwork as well. Toshiou reached down to the carving of the orb of energy, releasing his own power into the stone. His eyes flinched as he forced his energy into the carving, finally sending enough to cause it to open.
From the hole, a large cylinder began to rise, the top part hollowed out; inside was a handle. Toshiou took the handle with both fists, using his entire body to turn the heavy lock. He strained with the effort, breathing heavily, and finally there was a snap and a hiss. Blocks of stone protracted from the side of the tomb, and the top began to groan. Toshiou disappeared in a haze, moving faster than sight could follow, and reappeared to the side of the smoking crypt.
The cover split down the middle, folding open to either side; when they went past being completely vertical, they suddenly fell with their weight, crashing down to rest on the blocks of stone that jutted from the sides. Dust rose from the tomb, masking the contents of the inside. Toshiou steadied himself, then returned to stand over the tomb.
He waited until the smoke cleared before he stepped in. He glanced down at the body inside; the gigantic skeleton he saw was that of his father, Emperor Asura. The humanoid bones were morphed and twisted, the arms too long and the head too pointed. Fangs stretched from his open jaws, and random spikes lined his frame. His burial robe was rotten and falling apart, exposing the glistening white below it. Some pieces of leathery skin still covered him, though most had fallen away over the hundreds of centuries. Toshiou stepped lightly to either side of his body, crouching down over the broad chest. He glanced up into the empty eye sockets; he wondered if Asura was watching him right now.
He produced something from behind him; it looked like an intricately carved golden key. The body was made up of the metal swirling around a tube of hollow glass. The gold ran up either side in patterns, finally forming into angelic wings at the top. The bottom ended in a metal spike, with spiked teeth and blocks extending from the sides. Toshiou held it before him, inspecting it- Part of your plan, my Emperor?
He remembered what Gotoutenrin had told him. "Toshiou, I would not entrust any other to such a task. You are the most skilled at subtlety, and my most trusted. I know you will be able to accomplish what I have already explained… but there is more than just starting a distraction. We will not recover Asura's body entirely; the Solari would expect too much. However, this will allow us to bring part of him back, at least… "
With that, The Emperor brought forth the golden key. Toshiou stared at it in question. "This is the Genesis Key," The Emperor told him. "This is one of the fruits of our endeavors; our brother's research and hard work has led us to extraordinary places. This is only a part of my plan. With it, we will be able to retrieve Asura's being without physically moving him. It is the key to our salvation."
Toshiou eyed the key, feeling uneasy about it. "How can it do such a thing?"
The Emperor's eyes crinkled slightly in amusement as he explained...
Toshiou returned from his thoughts; he knew how the key worked now. He raised it like a knife, looking down in reluctance at the corpse of Asura. "Father," he whispered. "Forgive me..."
He plunged the key into Asura's chest. He felt the teeth and blocks begin to vibrate; the key had activated, and was collecting what it needed. Particles and pieces of DNA floated past the teeth as they vibrated, sending out frequencies to collect data on Asura. Then, it began the next step; it collected actual pieces of Asura, recreating the DNA into pure energy. The glass tube inside began to fill with dark energy; it was cloning his power.
The glass couldn't have filled soon enough. Toshiou, who moved quicker than light or sound, traveled as fast as he could to get away from the sight of the his father's corpse. He barely remembered to place an energy mine, insuring that no one else would find the tomb and discover the secret once the bomb detonated. He escaped back to his ship, which lay on the other side of the barren planet, and made his escape. He disappeared into the stars just as the Promethean Fleet arrived.
Once the fleet had moved through the hole, Demetri ordered his ships to descend into the atmosphere. They rocketed past the giant solar panels, as large as the ships themselves, and lit up as they burned into the first layer of the stratosphere. Once they reached a safe level above the Yismanna colony, the general slowed the fleet down and ordered reports on the status of the colony. Cameras and life scans observed the area, appearing onscreen for them to view.
Demetri gasped, horrified at what he saw.
The rioters were flooded around the main barrack. The other smaller two had fallen quickly; the civilians had armed themselves with Solari weaponry and were shooting at the last armored building. Transports rammed the tall barbed fence surrounding it, and men threw the bodies of dead Solari soldiers on top to help weigh it down. A few of the jeeps got inside the perimeter, though rockets and guns took them out quick. One of the jeeps raised a beam drill; they opened fire on the barrack, slicing a deep gash in the wall. Another jeep rolled forward, taking advantage of the distraction. People poured in behind it; the gunners on the roof sniped some out, but the beam drill literally cut through their ranks, leaving a mess of burnt body parts behind.
It was complete chaos. Demetri stood frozen, while the mob began to break open the doors to the barracks; they were inside. He had hoped to negotiate; but how could that possibly work? How could he reason with such insanity?
"Sir, incoming signal from Regent Takashi!" came a call from a young officer.
"Put him through," Demetri spoke, his voice hushed. His father appeared before him, blotting out the other screens.
"Demetri? What is it?" he asked, speaking of the boy's shocked expression.
"Father… it's bad. They're killing our soldiers… "
"Demetri!" Takashi shouted firmly. "You must defend out bases! Don't let them destroy our military and mining operations; you must stop them!"
Demetri flinched. "They are already inside. They're taking over the base… "
"Then destroy the base! We must preserve the mines at least; we can rebuild the rest, but don't let the mines get ruined!"
Demetri felt his stomach drop. We can rebuild the rest? He gritted his teeth, turning to his officers. "Open up the speaker channels. I want to address the rioters." The communications officer quickly put him through, and the general's voice boomed through the Yismanna colony.
"Citizens of Yismanna! This is Prince Demetri of the Uniti Solari! For the love of light, stop what you are doing! This is madness!" The mob turned towards the giant ships that had appeared overhead; they practically blocked out the solar panels' light. Some of the rioters screamed up at them, shaking their fists or firing a useless bullet at them; others began to look worried, not expecting cruisers to appear.
"Whatever it is that has driven you to do this, we can figure it out peacefully! Please, cease your rioting and return to your homes; we will negotiate this like civilized people and reach an understanding. There has been enough bloodshed for one day!"
"Lies!" One of the women in the crowd shouted. "You'll do nothing to help us! You only want to use us for your own purpose!"
"Yeah, fuck off!" A man yelled. "It's called order when it's our blood being spilled down in those mines, but when it's your soldiers' blood you say it's savage! You're a bunch of hypocrites! You're the savages!"
"You destroyed our homes and our lives! We were already peaceful until you came in with your new order! You took everything away and offered us nothing!"
Demetri couldn't believe what he was hearing. How… how could they be so angry? The Solari Empire isn't like that… they're blind! We only seek to better the galaxy… don't we?
"I am sorry for your suffering!" he continued over them. "A new world takes innocent lives to shape. But we work towards the same cause; please, I beg you! Whatever we have failed to offer you, I will listen and change it! I will personally meet with… "
"General!" an officer shouted. "They're opening fire!"
"What?" Demetri spun to a screen; the rioters had taken over a section of the barrack, one containing an anti-aircraft cannon. They aimed it up at the Prometheus, and began to shoot. The spray of lasers reflected harmlessly off the ship's powerful shields. In the back of his mind, Demetri wondered if any weapon these civilians wielded could even damage the shield, much less the dreadnought itself.
"Demetri," Regent Takashi addressed his son flatly. "This is an order. Open fire on them now!"
"General!" Captain Isamu shouted angrily, joining in with his father. "They won't listen! This has gone beyond negotiations; do your duty as General!"
The prince was torn; his eyes darted from screen to screen, and his fists clenched tightly. His lieutenant Rikuto stood behind him, watching his General in silent concern. Demetri shut his eyes tightly, taking a deep breath. "All ships… open fire!"
The Promethean fleet had not been an exaggeration; the ships' firepower decimated the tightly packed mob. Demetri turned away as the pillars of light descended upon them, incinerating pockets of people, leaving nothing but black. They tore through the barracks, eliminating the cannons. It was no longer a rebellion; it was a slaughter.
Just then, red signals began to go off. "Large energy source detected!" one of the officers shouted. "It's coming from the mine!"
No one except Datsueba and Takashi could guess the true source of the explosion. The rest of the Promethean fleet watched in confusion as a dark light tore through the ground, punching through it with a powerful roar. It grew quickly, expanding to encompass the nearby mining quarters and storage. It rocked the Solari ships, though it too could not damage them behind their shields. The fleet held fast, but the entire colony was destroyed, both mines and barracks, as well as civilians. Everything was lost.
It was a daze after that. When he returned home, Demetri's father reassured him he did the right thing; Captain Isamu came up to him as well, giving him a hard pat on the back and some gruff praise. The old veteran wasn't upset by the lives lost that day, on either side. Demetri's mother, however, had hugged him a little too tightly, whispering "I'm sorry". She left shortly after. The young general couldn't shake the horrible feeling that plagued him; none of it made sense to him anymore. He didn't know why he did what he did; he had begun to question his duty and his morals. He questioned his family, his comrades, and most of all himself. He knew his faith was lost.
For the rest of the evening, Demetri wept to himself.