Marking of the Days

by Sincline Koutaishi

The Last Moments of Galrea

At last the communications experts contact me with the news that views and sounds of our territory can be closed to the humans completely. Meanwhile we will be able to see anything of them that we wish to. The only thing they will be able to see from this time forward will be the singular edited news feed that we will continue to allow them access to. The Comm Techs provide me the ability to shut it all off whenever I like and I smirk. Ah, the power to make my enemies nervous through the use of superior technology. I do love it.

I settle back into my remaining chair at my remaining table and sigh, smiling with the knowledge that everything is going so well. Relaxed that it is almost done. I undo my topcoat and have a sip of my nightly tea, brought to me by Laila as usual. She is taking good care of me even though I have said to her that she will have no special treatment if she wishes to come to work in the palace on Forth.

"I will not need special treatment. I'll get along with everyone unless they really don't want to... But I'll still be nice to them." She said and I believe her for I have seen her ways as these busy days have passed us by.

"You will go to school." I told her for she is still very young.

"Yes father." She rolled her eyes at me and I smirked in response.

I make a rather odd substitute for her family, but then I did not do so poorly with Shilne... I am now completely settled with her presence and do not worry that I will cause her harm.

She has left me to my own business along with everyone else tonight. I bring up several views of the news traffic coming from the humans, and several of their surveillance views of my new empire, of Galrea, and an argument. Interesting... I bring it to the forefront and laugh.

The Altean Minister and Princess are having harsh words with the Alliance's Central Command. They are being told that it is now their job to keep watch over the movements to and from Galrea and they will be expected to report everything, every movement back to Central Command. They are the closest of the Alliance's friendly worlds and so they have been elected against their wills to monitor our comings and goings. The Minister is furious and the Princess is looking frustrated but beautiful.

"I will be doing you a kind favor." I say to her though she cannot hear and I continue listen in.

The highest ranking general is speaking to the Minister, "You will do as we ask of you. You are the closest to their borders, need I remind you. I would think you would be rather interested in keeping watch as they'll be coming for you first."

"You needn't remind us." He blusters in response, "We have lived with these neighbors for a long while! And their hostility!"

"This conversation is concluded. You will send your reports to the link info that follows our transmission." And with that the monitor ended its communication and in came the information for forwarding the reports.

I watch and acquire the signature they send to think of sending them some false reports just to make them more nervous then think better of it. I can still see the view of the control room on Altea. They think their transmissions have ended but they have only been cut from the Alliance Command side so I can continue to watch them.

"Unbelievable." The Minister shakes his head.

"They're still treating us like we're just a colony." She sighs, "Thank you for talking to them..."

"You are welcome." He sighs as well.

"I wish my father were here." She hugs herself, "I know he wouldn't let them do this."

"We are doing the best that we can. You should know that."

"I am trying to keep that in mind." She walks out of view and the audio is cut off by the Minister. She must have left the room but he still leans there on the console now with his back to me. I decide to have some last bit of fun with the Minister before leaving them behind for good.

I sync up with their receiver and am pleased to see it has worked flawlessly as the Minister jumps and turns about with a look of surprise on his face. I smirk more... I will miss this fun.

"I see your friends are making your lives difficult, Minister." I chuckle.

"Stop monitoring our transmissions!" The Minister barks at me. He is obviously frustrated beyond knowing for he has never been quite so openly hostile in his dealings with me over the years. The talk with the Alliance must have really tested him.

"Ah please... You monitor ours. You are staring at us right now!" I say and sit forward, "Minister... I am about to do you a great favor. You may thank me for it one day." I shake a finger at him.

"What have you got planned for us now, you monster??"

"Saich... Settle yourself. I am not filled with ill intention toward you... For a change. I am going to take care of your little problem with the Alliance for you." I stop short.

The Princess has wandered back into view. She has not left the room after all. She stops walking toward the Minister, looking back at me and I smile slowly, glad that I will have an opportunity to say a parting to her.

"Ah, Princess. What a pleasure to see you." I try to keep my voice even and not aggressive. I would like for her to remember me in a way she has not yet known me—calm and polite.

"Why are you bothering with us? I thought you said that the war is over." She flusters out of herself.

"It is indeed over. Yet I see that your Alliance is still worried over us. And so I will be giving you a gift this day. Do not say I have never give you anything..." I nod a brief bow to her, "Princess... It has been a great thing to know you. Please do keep to your flying, milady... You are learning well and you look beautiful in uniform." I feel a rather warm smile take my lips and am gratified to see the heat of a blush upon her cheeks at my comment. I will certainly miss this.

"What are you talking-"

"Goodbye, Princess." I interrupt her, then I nod once more to her and reach to the Comm Center panel, striking the final blow to close their views of us. Everything on their end goes dark and for a while I watch to be sure it is really gone.

"My God..." The Minister breathes, leaning on the console, staring up at the screens in disbelief. He starts to check everything on their end, "He's jammed all the transmissions coming to us. Every view of the Empire... Gone."

She comes over closer to where he is worrying over the console, "Minister?"

"Yes?" He stops his activity.

"I think this is his gift to us. We cannot report on what we cannot see." She shrugs.

He nods, "I am not sure if I am happy or nervous. At least before we had some idea of what was going on... But at least it wasn't news of an attack."

I close the connection, pleased that it has worked exactly as the Communication Techs have said it would. I will have to reward them handsomely later. I give the Alteans their peace from my prying eyes and contact the Communications office at the Ministry of Information, telling them to inform me of any aggressive movements or messages from the Alliance at this turn of events. I place the border troops on high alert and then... Then I go have a bath.

In the morning I rise from my bed for the last time here. It will be packed up today along with the remainder of the furnishings to go into storage. Laila arrives to tell me that morning meal is waiting for me in the dining room and then departs again. Before going to find my meal I pack the remainder of my things up and bring them out to my cruiser for safe transport. I will be sleeping here for the next few days. Not the most luxurious of accommodations but I do enjoy it. It is by far the best craft I have ever owned. Custom built to my specifications and then taken to the Avasjan scientists for some special tuning.

As I walk down the metal ramp to the floor of the landing pod I decide to have a run and see if my guard can keep up. They do a fair job and come to a panting rest outside the doors to the dining room.

"Good morning good morning!" Hanta cheers as she comes in behind me.

"It is."

"I hear you are keeping Banrek busy!"

"If by that you mean giving the Alliance more reason to contact his lucky self at the Ministry of Information, then yes, I have been keeping him busy. I will owe him a drink or two after this is all done."

"You will owe him many many drinks."

We take our seats and shortly Sholan and Shilne arrive along with a few representatives from the Engineers, Builders and Architects. Today there is also a demolitions expert joining our table. Her Diya is a building Diya and she a master of the explosive arts. She is very much looking forward to seeing her masterwork unleashed upon this place as am I. There will be video capture pods mounted in many of the internal halls and rooms and many more outside on all angles of the castle to capture its fall to nothing and transmit it to off site recorders. I am certain I will watch these videos over and over again for many seasons to come.

Mallune sits beside me for meal, showing me more of her fine work on her katsuna (Comm). Never had I thought that there would be such call for things to be blown to pieces, but apparently there is more than enough such work to keep her well employed. This one truly loves her job.

She is a tiny thing compared to most women, and of northern descent with short white hair. I had met her back when the Diyas were competing for contracts and she had burst forth from the crowd, begging my attention if only for a moment so she could show me her skills. Her family had looked rather upset with her and begged my forgiveness for her outburst, trying to drag her away from me. Curiosity got the better of me at that time and I am glad of it. She showed me 3 of her finest works, as she put it. As she showed me the video images she rattled off every ounce of explosive that was used and where it was placed and why she had chosen the type of incendiary and location for it. I have always been pleased to see things explode by my own hand and could understand her enthusiasm. When the structures went down there on those screens I could see her art.

"Beautiful..." She sighs, watching a bridge go down where she sits with me at the table.

"That it is." I agree.

"You will love what I have planned for Galrea. I have not slept in three nights for planning!"

"Saich, woman. You should have your rest!"

"Today I will sleep. My masterwork is complete." She nods and gulps at her tea, "Tomorrow my crew arrives. Tomorrow we will begin to place the musicians in the orchestra!" She means that her explosives will be arriving as well as her people. "It will be a thing of great beauty. I can barely wait."

I almost think she is more eager than I to see this place fall! The look on her face is incredible.

"There is one thing that worries me." She taps nervously at the side of her teacup and purses her lips.

"What is that?"

"You had said your father planted the explosives that created the holes I see in the side of the castle... I am worried that he will ruin the looks of my creation if he has hidden more explosives that I have not yet seen. Presentation is everything." She nods.

I laugh at her concern. She is not so much worried that my father's tricks may hamper her work, just make it look not quite as pretty.

After morning meal I take my tea out onto the throne room balcony, watching the hundreds of craft that have been docking here as they begin to lift off. While the majority of the fleet is already gone and defending the borders, it is still an impressive sight that is laid out before me. Quite awe inspiring to watch them rise so effortlessly and dart off towards the stars. Most of these remaining craft will be gone before the explosives arrive tomorrow. I feel a thrill at the knowledge that these are now mine... Mine to command. A mighty fleet it is. And now that one with some military skill commands it, there is no end to the conquest that could be had. No end to the worlds that I could take. Only a year to get to Earth. Only a year until that world and all of the human race would be bowing to me as their King. I smirk and laugh and sip my tea.

"You Earth people are very lucky that I have changed my mind about you. You will never have to experience that which I had planned for you all. It would have been a glorious battle... And a glorious victory. That is why you are so nervous now. I think you knew I was coming for you."

I raise my cup to the humans that we are leaving behind and then turn to go to the command cruiser below where Hanta and a pile of work awaits me.

"Have you taken care of her yet?" Hanta breaks the silence that has fallen in my borrowed office.

"Mmh?" I look up from a mountain of paper.


"Her who?"

"The old witch. You had said you would move her to Avandon."

"Ah... Well... No then. I have not taken care of her."

"Coward." She accuses.

"Rrrhhh... I do not see you running down to the dungeons to see her yourself, Hanta."

"Are you not curious?"

"Not that much." I frown. I know I have to do something about her. "I will go and see her shortly."


I take my time about finishing the paperwork, enjoying it more than going down to the dungeons, but at long last there is nothing left to do of any consequence and I know I must see to this obligation. I steel myself to the task and head down through the many levels of security. I linger at one empty cell for a moment and sigh, leaving a little prayer behind there before going on my way. She is in the depths of the place, locked tightly away. No one else is left here but she and the guards that watch over her.

I find the master of the guard and ask the burning question. "What is it that is keeping her from working her mind magic to escape?"

"Your father discovered that music puts her off her concentration. As long as we keep music playing in her cell, she cannot escape us. It seems to be making her quite a bit more... Off than she was before." He tries to be delicate in saying she was insane even before this time.

"Amazing... Something so simple." It is no wonder she was always scurrying away when Sachay came about.

I round the next corner slowly and see the old woman there, rocking back and forth where she stands in the back of the cell. I still have no idea what species she is or where my father found her yet she has always been around him, at least for as long as I can remember. She does have some sort of ability to sense what people are thinking, and to project her will upon those who are weak of mind or spirit. It was her voice that called me back here. I am sure of it. I hate to think of what might have happened if my father had passed and I was still nowhere to be found. One thing is for certain about this old creature... She has the unique ability to scare the life out of me at times.

"Old witch..." I say and abruptly her gaze snaps to me. Before I can even think she rushes at the glass that separates us. I take a step back in surprise as she scrapes her claw-like nails against it.

"Let me out." She croaks, "Torture... Make it stop... Help me. I helped you."

I gather my wits from the shock of her sudden closeness, "I know that. It seems my father has repaid your alerting me to his illness with this cell as your reward... You will be moved from this place to Avandon where you will be taken care of. You will not be allowed to use your gifts any longer."

She interrupts me before I can continue to lay out her future for her, "Pretty blue Prince... Let me out." She hisses, "Will help you... To defeat your enemies. To win your pretty little Princess... Let me out. Let me oooouttt."

Her voice is like spikes in my soul but I continue, "You will be well cared for. I promise you this. But you cannot be free again. You have no loyalty, no sense of anything but destruction and deception. That is not what is needed in this future that comes." I steel myself and look her in the horrible face.

"Vidons... You were with the Vidons." Her eyes grow wide and I wonder with some shock at how she knows this. Apparently she can either still read thought patterns through the music or it was something that she knew before when she reached out to me to call me home. "What did you let them do to you little Prince? Let them make you soft? Ehhh?? I should have left you there!!" She begins to strike at me, hitting the enclosure instead of my person.

"They did nothing to me that I did not wish to have done." I scowl.

She stills suddenly, "Pulled your soul apart..." She says, craning her neck in a horrible manner. Even the way she moves and holds herself is unnerving but I keep steady.

"I am whole, old woman. Much more so than when I left." I scowl at her futher as though it will be my shield from her.

"Let me out." She renews her request.

I laugh now, "You may ask it a million times and the answer will be the same. No."

"I will tell you where your mother is." She offers suddenly.

"My mother is dead. I know where she is."

"No... No you do not! She is not dead."

"I have seen her dead with my own eyes! You have lost what little mind you had."

"Ah... You think you saw her dead. Your father thought he killed her and tasted her blood. It was not her."

I shake my head, "Be silent old woman. Keep your fantasy. I have no time for this."

"No, you do not... Pirates are coming my little Prince. Hurry." And she growls then scurries off to the corner of her cell.

My katsuna chimes and I acknowledge its call to me.

"Highness, pirates have skipped here. We are returning fire." The senior officer on watch is calling to me.

"I will be there in a moment. No mercy." I growl, casting an angry gaze upon the witch whose eyes are burning through me.

"I know... I do not lie to you." She hisses as I leave her behind. I will see to her travel arrangements later. Now it is time to fight.

Above ground I find that there are some very foolish pirates. They must not have looked before skipping here, and just hoped that things were quiet as usually they were. With an eighth of the armed forces still on and around the planet, they are sadly prepared for the reaction their arrival receives. Two of their carriers have skipped into our space and also several hundred skiffs. Having been a while since our last battle, the troops are glad to respond.

I watch the view screens as they destroy the pirate skip point generator, trapping the unlucky creatures with us and then I look to the skies, which are filled with activity and volleys of weapons fire. There is no reason for me to even take flight to battle as everything is already so well in hand.

It is a sad victory, but at least my troops are enjoying themselves. The fight continues for two hours, not because they are difficult to fight, but because my men are toying with them to the last of them. Shilne comes to my side as they ground the last of the skiffs. We turn our heads in unison, watching as it goes skating along the stony ground and comes crashing to a stop on an outcropping, sending up a hail of rocks and debris.

"It seems that you have not even taken to the air." I comment, shielding my eyes from the explosion of the skiff.

"Why bother? I have had my entertainment in just watching." Shilne shrugs. "That last one was quite spectacular. I hear the men were taking wagers on being able to hit that outcropping with one of the skiffs. Someone has won their wager!"

"Indeed. Turn off the sirens. I am getting a headache." I wander off the landing field as I can see civilian staff beginning to immerge from the barracks to see what has happened.

The sirens finally stop as I make it to the command carrier to resume my work. Here I contact the Commander of the castle guard, instructing him to have the old witch removed tomorrow, accompanied by as much music as he can find.

"My mother... Alive. Indeed!" I laugh to myself and resolve not to think of the insane old witch any further... But her words have done just what she had probably intended—they eat at me. I find myself thinking over what little I can recall of her end, searching for any detail that might have indicated she was not indeed dead. My fingers tap out a rhythm on the table, remembering the blood... All of that bright red blood.

I settle back into my chair, eyes closed and arms folded, remembering the scent of her. I can still just barely taste it. It was her. There is no doubt, even as hazy as it all is in my mind. As much as father tried to break my bonding with her, I still retained some of it. And that scent was very clear to me out of all that happened that day.

"What is wrong with you?" Hanta has come to talk to me again.

"Mmh?" I crack an eye open.

"Such an ugly face." She says and makes on of her own.

"I am just thinking." I sigh and open both of my eyes now, dropping my arms to the sides of the chair.

"Fine victory earlier. Frightened the life out of the civilians." She sits nearby.

"I expected as much... Hanta... You remember my mother..."

"Ahhlll. Did she get you going on that? Stop thinking of it now, Baika. Nothing good ever comes of these remembrances."

"Shhht... Tell me that you remember her, woman."

"Of course I do. And I remember that she suffered long and deserves to be at rest now, not having her memory brought forth time and again. Leave it alone..." She says sternly.


"No growling. Leave it."

"I cannot!"

"What did she say to you? What lie did she weave to set your mind on this again?"

"She told me that my mother lives."

"Nonsense. I wish I could say otherwise."

"How do you know it is a lie?"

"Fine... If we have to do this... Your mother is dead! You were there! You were the one covered in her blood and trying desperately to save her though she had been severed in two by your loving father."

Is that how it was? I do not remember... And then a flash of it takes my mind and I shudder... Those empty eyes. The scent of her replaced by the smell of death. That is what makes me think the witch may be right. My bond with my mother... I no longer could feel it. Or is that how it is when someone you bond with passes before your eyes?

Suddenly I realize that Hanta has taken my face in her hands. I can see her mouth moving but hear no sound. I fix on her wondering why this is. Suddenly I can hear her shouting at me, "Let it go!! Just let it go!"

"Ehm?" I jerk my head back from her, "What are you doing to me?"

"Do not do that again!" She says, a worried look painted across her face, "I hate that look." She resumes her seat, "I love you dearly, you know? Please leave your mother's memory alone. Will you?"

"Yes... I will." I feel hollow and sit for a while, just trying to shake loose of the memories. I finally leave them behind at least for Hanta's sake.

After a while of quiet and working my katsuna chimes for me. I click it open and much to my dismay I find that my private line has been infiltrated.

"There you are!"

I click the katsuna shut. "Oh Gods..."

"What was that??" Hanta asks.


"I heard a female voice..."

"Wrong sig." I wince as my katsuna chimes again. "Rrrrrhhh."

"Answer it." She says.

"I do not want to." I try to ignore it but it does not stop. Finally I pick it up again. "What are you doing reaching me on my private sig??"

"I cannot believe that you cut the con!" She says harshly.

"Ooohh... Sa-chaaaay." Hanta mocks me quietly and I glare at her humor.

"An accident." I assure her, "What are you doing bothering me?"

"Bothering? Ohhh! To think I was trying to be friendly to you. Why do I even try?"

"I am not certain." I smirk, "Now how did you get this sig??"

"I have my ways." She frowns at me, "Now be nice to me."

"Nice? Aich, Sachay. I am very busy. I have no time for your flirtation."

"Flirtation... I am not flirting... When are you coming home?" She smiles sweetly now.

"Sometime soon, I hope."

"Oh good. I can hardly wait to see you again. It has been so long! How could you run off without even saying goodbye to me? Your are shameful, Piatich.

I wince again at her affection, "Sachay... Do not be calling me that."

"Oh, I am sorry. You are embarrassed because there is someone else in the room. Do not worry. We will not let them know how in love with me you are."

"I am not!"

"Yes you are. You just do not know it yet."

I laugh at her statement, "The Gods know that I have no idea of such a thing."

She makes a little kiss toward me and smiles, "So shy!"

"Woman, you do test my last bit of patience. Do not call to me on this sig again. I am very busy."

"Promise you will come and see me when you come home." She presses.

"If it will get you to let me be, then I promise it."

"Wonderful! Gods keep you, Piatich." She closes the connection.

"Pi-a-tich." Hanta mocks, "So sweet!"

"Do not start to support her." I warn.

"It is amazing how much she is fixated on you!"

"She is fixated on adding another name to her list. That is all. I have provided her a challenge for I have not thrown myself at her feet, as have so many other males."

"How ironic." She says, "Sachay is very pretty though."

"Granted. She is not to my liking however. Now leave me be to think!"

She giggles—very unlike her—and I throw her a harsh look. She claps her hands over her mouth to try and stop laughing.

"You... Are coming close to trouble."

"It is just cute." She says and composes herself, returning to her own work.

The next day I watch at a good distance as the old witch is moved onto a small enforcement vessel from Avandon under high security, to be removed from this place and from the rest of the universe's contact for as long as I am able to see to her containment. I gladly sign the papers that order her perpetual incarceration and the manner in which she will be kept.

"She's so creepy." Laila shudders.

"Creepy?" I raise an eyebrow and look down upon her where she stands beside me on the landing pod floor, hugging herself with quite a look of distaste on her face.

"Yes. Creepy."

She hurries off and leaves me there to watch as the craft lifts off slowly then darts off quickly into the skies. Whatever she means with that word seems to be fitting to describe the old thing.

Moments after the enforcement vessel is gone, the carriers with the equipment and explosives arrive for the joy and entertainment of Mallune. These two things are enough to make me smile through the stiff neck I have gotten from sleeping in a carrier bunk. Tonight I will certainly sleep in my own cruiser. Today I will entertain myself alongside Mallune, placing the explosives that will bring down the castle. Shilne is angry with me for being anywhere near such things considering my new position.

"I will do this." I insist through his protests. He knows me well enough to only argue so far.

"Gods keep you from having yourself torn to shreds in some accidental explosion!" He says and frowns.

"I hope they will."

And with his arguments ended I continue to put on my body armor. At least I will be a little cautious. The last thing I equip is my prox-shield... The last line of defense against any accidents. Well equipped I march out of the carrier and across the barren empty field that separates me from my closest goal. The castle looks to me to be defiant, disbelieving that I will destroy it. It has a surprise coming then...

As I approach the main gates of the ugly thing I find the Senior Commander of the castle guard, capturing a few images of the outside of the castle before it is only in his memory. He is the only person who seems to be sad to see it go. If ever there was a heart to this place it was his. Standing beside him I can see that he is running through his memories of Galrea fondly, sighing and looking rather tired. He has had a large job to ensure that everyone has left and that all of the fixtures and other items from the stores and rooms have gone off to safe keeping. It is a job he never wanted to have. I place a hand on his shoulder.

"There will soon be another castle, Senior Commander. Another place for you to learn the lay of. This time you will be able to help to build it. Is that not a good thought?"

"It is somewhat comforting, yes Baika. I did not think I would have seen this day come. Galrea has been my home for so long." He shakes his head.

"It will be your home again." I assure, remembering walking the halls beside this man for he had been entrusted with my safety during my childhood. "I look forward to better days, Laiet. It is time for this place to be a memory and start again. Mmh?"

"Yes, Baika." He turns to me and smiles, "You have come a long way. I will be interested to see where you go as always. Seume." (excuse me) He bows away to make a last inspection.

A loud crack takes me from my watching his departure. The crates of explosives that have been deposited at the main gates are being opened by Mallune's crews. Hundreds of men and women are converging on them, taking smaller packages and filing into the castle. It is time to stop reminiscing and start to work.

The day is a great deal of fun for me. Out of all of this, it is the best day I have had in a long while. I take great pleasure in knocking out walls to find support structures and then surrounding them with all types of incendiary. It is fantastic exercise as well as entertainment.

Mallune is well organized in her excitement to see this come off well. She conducts her people with great precision and respect. They reward her fine leadership with attention and great care for the dangerous materials they are hefting about.

By day end the entire place is filled with video capture equipment and explosives. Everyone is out of the castle now and out of all the surrounding barracks and other close buildings. The last people on the planet are being evacuated by the remaining carriers and I watch them leave the ground. My own cruiser is one of the last to leave the landing pods after the construction crews have put up blast shields, hoping to keep them free of debris for use after the demolition.

Before I depart from Galrea for the last time I leave a parting token. I take half of the ashes of my father and create ink out of them by mixing in water. Using a brush I had found in the carrier kitchens I write out a prayer on the steps to the main entrance to the castle. A promise to myself and to my people to do better than he who was my father and their ruler. An oath to bring back the prosperity of the empire, to undo all of his vile works. I write many things there on those steps until there is no more ash ink. Then for the first time in many seasons I go to my knees in prayer meditation upon these things to solidify my written words into intention, and then into the will to carry it all out with my actions. I look over these words for one last time and then toss the brush to the ground, turning my back on this place.

In my cruiser and in orbit at last, I wait for the final moment to come. On the nearby command carrier some last sweeps are being conducted to ensure that there are no longer any living beings remaining on the ground. Mallune is conducting last minute tests of the video capture equipment and wiring harnesses. Her face flashes on the screen before me after what seems like days of waiting. Her eyes are wide.

"Baika..." She says.


A grin spreads slowly across her face and I can feel her thrill deep inside of me, "It is yours now. Make it a good shot, highness and our work will make it beautiful." She switches the link so that I can see several views of the castle, inside and out. Everything is still there and waiting.

"I will make you proud, Mallune." My heart is pounding with joy so much that I can hardly breathe properly, "Shilne!" I bark.

"Baika. All is clear below. All of the carriers are at safe distance. Get out of there fast. Do not stay about to watch." He warns.

"No need to worry."

"This is something I have heard before and-"

I cut the link to him before he can chastise me further for mistakes of the past.

I power up all shields and head back into the atmosphere, making a wide circle about the castle, seeing for myself that all lights are out, all ships are gone, no movement is occurring. It is all empty and dead. Dead... I have waited a lifetime for this moment and place my helmet onto my head, trying to still the emotion that is doing so much as to make my hands shake.

"The best view of all who watch, father." I toss the half-lighter container of his ash onto the control console so he can 'see' out the window.

Mallune has done a great thing for me by creating this opportunity to initiate the destruction, yet it is also a great deal of pressure. As with so many of my actions, this is being watched closely by my supporters and detractors both. I must not fail.

"Settle yourself. All eyes are upon you. Do not lose your focus and miss this moment. Show yourself for what you are and what you are going to be... 30 seasons it took for you to build this monstrosity. It has taken me 30 suns to tear it down. Vao athne, father. Vao athne."

Deep breath, hands become still and take hold of the controls, eyes locking upon the target for the chained explosives. This must go first. Higher up is the second target and two more on either side. These must be struck in quick succession for it all to come down correctly and auto-targeting cannot be used. Years of military discipline are required to focus on the task at hand, pushing aside the emotions involved... Finally that stillness comes, the singularity of purpose yields action. Sweet release comes as I train the cruiser weaponry on the targets and one after another center perfect blasts. Time seems to slow itself as fire blooms from the targets. The chained explosives work exactly as Mallune had desired and go ripping through the massive structure. I sit transfixed by the beauty of the destruction.

"Baika!! Get out of there!!"


I realize I have overstayed my welcome. My cruiser is shaking from the explosions, the heat of fire is rolling toward me rapidly.


I snap back to myself and throw my cruiser upward as fast as it will go. The shaking does not stop for a good while. When I am finally out of range I have a look in the rear monitors. They are scorched from the heat that has been chasing me but I can see that the explosions are continuing and billowing outward.

"Get out of the atmosphere!" Shilne's voice is crackling as the transmission breaks up.

"I am coming!"

Off I go jetting into open space, toward the command carrier. They are reading off statistics on the destruction. It is causing tremors in the planet surface. Impressive. I remain in orbit around the planet alongside the command carrier, watching and listening. It appears that the planet itself will hold. Father must not have planted too many additional traps for me. The remaining structure is aflame for a very long while before it finally all collapses in upon itself, falling straight down to the ground in a massive billowing cloud of debris.

"Beautiful." I hear Mallune over the link from my ship to the main deck of the carrier.

I couldn't agree more. I watch it all until exhaustion claims me and I fall to sleeping in my seat. In a few hours I am woken by chiming on my katsuna.

"Mmmmh... What?"

"It is still burning." Shilne yawns.

"So? Let it."

"The heat of it is beginning to effect the blast shields and surrounding buildings. The engineers are recommending that we use the extinguishers. To at least turn down the heat a bit."

"Fine... Let me sleep."

I click it off again and close my eyes. There is a great satisfaction to this sleep. I have passed a major milestone in my life. Perhaps it is relief that I feel. At any rate, it is a good quality sleep and I am not yet ready to be parted from it. The katsuna wakes me again.

"Gods! Leave me be, Shilne!"

"Food." He says simply and closes the connection.

My stomach responds. Shilne wins. Off I go to dock on the carrier and seek out a first meal for the day that is not a day.

Simulation day on the carrier is a strange thing. The lights are up, things are noisy except for those working the shift that is in simulation night who wander past like tired ghosts to find their bunks. A young sergeant passes by me as I leave my cruiser heading for the main exit from the flight bay, yawning loudly with tightly closed eyes. It catches me and I yawn as well, surprising him into a jump. He falls to his knees.

"Forgive me Baika. I did not see you." He bows his head to the floor.

"No worry. Get up and go find your bunk."

"Yes, Baika." He gets up and regards me with somewhat of a look of awe.

"Is there a problem?" I smirk at his expression.

"No, sire. I have just not met you before. I am sorry to make such a poor showing."

I laugh, "You are tired. I have worked your shift before and so I know how you feel." I take his shoulder and examine his insignia, "48th..."

"Yes, sire."

"Commander Taimagon."

"Yes, sire."

"Does he do well as your Commander? Do you have respect for him?"

"Yes yes."

"Good. I would not like for someone so young to be brought up in ranks by a poor Commander. You must do well to have come to sergeant so soon."

"I do what I can, sire."

A small group is gathering, watching me talk to this junior. I look about me at this shift change and see that his fellows in this bay are all of his age yet not his rank. He is obviously their commander on this shift.

"May I speak freely, sire?" He asks.

"You may."

"I have never seen anything more amazing." He grins, "So many explosions! Fire balls rolling out everywhere! Even the Gods admired it, sire."

"I am glad you enjoyed the moment. I know that I did."

"They are showing the views of it all over the carrier. Every new angle is a new wonder. I am proud to be a citizen of the Empire, sire. Proud to be serving you."

My ego swells and I can feel myself standing up straighter, forgetting my empty stomach for the moment. I pull my senses back in a bit.

"I am pleased... Yet you should know that you are not serving me. You are serving our people. We all do. Keep mindful of that fact and go on your ways to your rest so you may better serve them on your next shift. Yes?"

"Yes sire. Thank you."

They all bow to me as I carry on my way. So it continues as I wander the corridors. Soldiers of all ranks, going into the foot soldier's bow of respect, head down, one knee on the ground beside a hand. Some down to both knees. I have made an impression indeed. There is no doubt that I now have the faith and respect of the troops. Ah, such satisfaction. It is not the bowing and subservience I am pleased with. I am pleased that I have won respect across all of the divisions and branches where my father earned only their fear. I had always been pleased that my own men did not exist to serve out of fear. They served out of respect and honor.

"Where are you, Shilne?" I wonder after coming through the second mess hall.

Of course he is in the third along with Hanta and Mallune... Mallune who shrieks when she sees me enter, jumping up and launching herself over the table, shoving a few soldiers as she climbs over yet another table and half tackles me. She might have laid me out if not for the fact that she is so much smaller than I.

"Aich!!" I take a step back to remain standing and she kisses my cheek.

"That was BEAUTIFUL!!! Thank you!! Oh I have a present for you!!" She lets go of my neck and drops to her feet, rummaging in her many pockets for something.

"Too much energy." I straighten my flight jacket.

"Here! I worked on this all night." She takes my hand and places a videochip into my hand, "Wonderful!" She jumps up and down a bit, grinning.

"Mmh... Thank you?" I smile at her energy, "You did not sleep??"


"She has been drinking sweet water all night and day." Shilne rolls his eyes.

"So I can see."

"Now I can sleep." She sighs happily.

"I doubt you will close your eyes after so much sugar, Mallune."

"Oh I will... After a little something." She casts her gaze back over her shoulder, a wicked little grin playing on her face. The object of her stare changes shade.

"Now there is a lucky man." I state.

"Yes..." She beckons to him and he looks about as his friends and some soldiers eating there laugh. "Come with me, mmh?"

He is a good-sized southern male, one of those who came with a building Diya. Mallune has chosen him out of all of those males that have pursued her attentions while she has been here. The number was substantial and she had thanked me for letting her do this work for not only was it her passion it also gave her the ability to meet many many eligible males in her family profession. It has not made her father happy for he felt he had to split his time between work and clearing the cloud of males away from his lively daughter.

Kyeukai rises from the table looking a little embarrassed from all the attention and more so looking interested in what Mallune intends to do with him. He is a quiet young man for one so large. He is not full of himself even though he has proven his skills in architecture and building. He comes and stands with her, bowing to me.

"Good day, sire."

"It seems it will be... At least for you." I smirk and raise an eyebrow at him while Mallune takes his hand. "I owe you a great debt, Mallune."

"No... I was glad to do all of this. Very glad. And at any rate I believe that I am more than repaid for having met Kyeu." He smiles from the way she speaks of him, "If you see my father... Tell him that I am sleeping... Alone."

"I will lie to your father." I agree and watch the two depart.

Shilne is smiling as I come to sit beside him, "She is filled with energy."

"And you have evaluated her already too, mmh?"

"I have. She is beautiful and intelligent. But too energetic for me."

"You allowed Kyeukai to win her affection then?"

"That I did. Otherwise she would have not been able to resist my charms." He says most confidently.

"What exactly is so charming about you?" One of Shilne's sub-commanders is sitting across from us.

"You are saying you cannot tell?"

"I am perhaps missing it." He nods.

"Laila! Come and tell Baumal how charming I am."

She comes along carrying my meal, "Charming?"

"Yes. He is doubting my charms. You are a woman. You find me attractive and charming, yes?"

"Well..." She sets down my plates. "You are a very happy person."

"And handsome..." He presses.

She shrugs, "You're not bad."

"Aich!!" He is surprised and everyone at the table laughs. "Hanta!"

"Keep me out of this, ugly thing." She raises her hand to him, not turning to look his way.


"You are not winning today, Shilne." I say and start to fill myself while he argues with the two remaining females over his looks.

The group quiets when I snap the chip that Mallune had given me into my katsuna and see the dramatic imagery, switching over the link to the view screens in the room. Mallune has created a documentation of the events leading up to the end of Galrea, much like those she had shown me to gain the responsibility for this job. She is energetic and passionate about everything, standing before images of the castle and pointing out whateverything was, how everything would happen... And the end of it all she set to music. I grin at the idea of it being her symphony. At the end of the video stream she thanks everyone for watching and takes a bow. The entire room applauds.

"This news is being well met at home too." Hanta notes.

"Good. Has the fire died down enough?"

"It has been contained sufficiently." Shilne reports. "It will still be a while until we are able to go down to ground and begin work. The builders are getting anxious. It seems that given the opportunity to create, they do not want to wait for it long."

"They should rest while they have the time to!"

For two days the fire rages. For two days suppression systems are brought in to fight it. For two days I do not see Mallune. When she and Kyeukai finally immerge she is well rested and very relaxed. She surveys the situation and shrugs.

"That is easy enough to fix."

"Is it?"

"Yes. Had you told me you wanted the fire to go out quickly I would have set it to end."

"Well, it is a good sight yet the builders want to begin to ply their craft."

"I will turn it off then." She shrugs again, pulling out her katsuna and leaning on Kyeu.

"You can do that?" He asks.

"Of course. I will let you have your turn now to have fun." She smiles and begins to coordinate her team.

They put the fire out with a combination of explosives to bury the fire in stone debris and strange incendiaries that remove the air from a location for a while, giving the fire nothing to feed on. In a half a day the fire is dead and the smoke is beginning to clear. In another day the temperature drops enough that the teams can go down and do some investigation of what is left. I want to go along but Shilne prevents it by turning Hanta on me.

"You have too much work to do." She scolds. "You should be heading back home and getting to things there."

"I know... I am not ready to leave yet." I want to see the smoke clear and stand amongst the rubble. Then I will be ready to leave. I will be glad to be home again.

A full 6 more suns pass before I am able to go down to the surface again and even after so long a time I have to wear a breather for the air is still thick with debris. The castle is down. More than down. There are only a few large pieces remaining. The rest of it seems to have gone to dust. I am satisfied now and gather some of the dust and stray little pieces to take away with me. The pieces I carry in my coat pocket and the dust I unceremoniously dump into the tin with my father.

"There. I have returned your precious castle to you. Now we are going home." I smile and shake the tin a bit to merge the ashes with the dust then gather my things and go to find my cruiser to go home at last, leaving this all behind me, in the capable hands of the builders and the engineers.

Mallune will stay behind with Kyeukai and watch his talent unfold. They seem to be quite settled with one another. Laila has already departed along with Hanta in one of my traveling contingents. Hanta will see to her safety and teach her a few things about our culture on the way. Hopefully it will help her to keep clear of trouble in the new world she has chosen to call her home for I will not always be able to protect her. They will arrive a few suns before I will.

Shilne and I depart in unison, rising to become part of the contingent we are traveling with and I do not look back. Everything lies ahead of me now. The way is clearing just as the dust is settling below.

On to 11