Aiden shuffled his feet uncomfortably, trying to stretch them as much as possible without standing up. They had been on this flight for twelve hours now, and he had already slept as long as he could suffer in this depressing environment.
He glanced out through the window. All he could see were the stars of endless space. He stopped himself from letting out a yawn. His father had told him that boredom was the sign of a weak mind. Nevertheless, he felt bored. His brother sat next to him, reading a report his father had given him before the flight. He had not seen Demetry sleep for a moment during the flight, yet his brother still seemed rested as he flipped to the next page of his thick report.
“Don’t act so bored, Brother; Father is already angry with you after the Pharon dinner incident. There is no reason you need to antagonize him further,” Demetry spoke, his eyes still on his papers.
Aiden chuckled, “The prig was asking for it. He insulted us one too many times and he was a fool. I don’t suffer fools.”
Demetry put on an exasperated look. “It was a sensitive situation. You’re lucky Father was able to smooth things out. Your actions could have lead to a war, a war that would have cost lives.”
“Why should we make peace with people who obviously show us no respect?” Aiden snapped, his voice becoming heated.
Demetry sighed. “It’s diplomacy brother. The Pharon family is powerful, and keeping peace with them has kept our family rule over the Taerren Empire for well over a hundred years.”
“We should have just seized their estates. Then we would have their resources and would not have to deal with their insubordination.”
“They would have seen it coming. They would have fled, taking their resources with them. They would have made peace with one of our enemies, and use their new found loyalty combined with their intricate knowledge of our forces to strike a blow.” Demetry explained, running his hand over his black hair that was intricately woven in an elaborate braid.
“Not if we shut down the jump gates until we had them under control,” Aiden retorted.
Demetry let out a laugh before responding. “And shut down intersolar commerce for days? The costs alone would have been astronomical. In the end, not only would the common businessmen be angry at us for usurping trade and costing them money, but all of the other families would be weary and distrustful, more likely to stab us in the back at the first chance they got.”
“I don’t know about you, Brother,” Demetry continued, “but personally I like being able to sleep without the fear of an assassin’s knife. I do say, however, I enjoy your… simplicity in dealing with matters. It certainly is a refreshing reprieve from all the undermining and political squabble Father has spent the last few years educating me in.”
Aiden’s cheeks blushed as he lowered his head a bit. Demetry looked away from his paper to glance at Aiden, and then sighed again.
“You need not worry yourself. Should Father pass, may he live forever; I am more than capable of continuing the empire’s goals and values. The Boramont family has made us strong for a hundred years and when I am Lord Regent, you will always be a welcomed and honored member of my family. I think you would make a good captain of security to the Lord Regent.”
“Demetry, I would protect you with my life even without a position name.” Aiden protested.
Demetry let out a slight smile at the side of his mouth, “Nevertheless, you deserve a position of notoriety and power. You have already saved my life on two separate occasions. You are skilled and intelligent. Father may not say so, but he does respect you and your abilities. Do not forget that we are family, and that family sticks together. Hmm… now captain of security just doesn’t have that great of a ring to it. How about master of security? Perhaps I could make that your title.”
Aiden blushed once again, this time from embarrassment as opposed to shame. When he didn’t respond with anything else, Demetry gave himself one decisive nod before returning to his paperwork.
Aiden glanced back out the window again into the empty space beyond the first class transport ship. This journey seemed foolish to Aiden. Their father, Lord Regent Sinswa Boramont, had decided that they needed to head to this outpost in the outer colonies immediately without warning.
They had set out for the jump gate from Taerra to the Kru System post haste. There, they had been traveling to Vanderra, the second planet from the Kru Sun, and the Vanderra station orbiting it. The station itself was a rather large station that acted as a relay and supply point for people traveling across the Taerren Empire. The planet below was uninhabitable, but was starting to reach the final stages of terraforming, and there was noticeable green from vegetation showing up in splotches across the surface.
One of the other functions of the Vanderra station was to hold political prisoners. Unlike normal prisoners, these were often people who offered some kind of advantage to the empire. Whether it be the hopes of trade, underhanded deals, or information, these people were kept in relatively accommodating circumstances until releases could be negotiated.
Some of the prisoners were eventually relayed to surface prisons, should no party show interest in acquiring them. However, a surprisingly large amount were eventually released under the right conditions.
The holding cells aside, Vanderra was a place of commerce and trade. It was Taerra’s largest and most open trading post, often earning visitors not only from the Taerren empire, but visitors from other colonies as well. This made Vanderra essential to maintaining commerce, acquiring imported goods, and providing a means of communicating with non-Taerren colonies.
Despite this fact, Aiden saw the place as a trash heap. Stations of any kind never held appeal to Aiden. Compared to the majestic architecture of the palaces and capital city back home, the functionality of a station seemed painfully inadequate. Aiden finally could see the station through his window.
To him, the outside of the station was as ugly as the inside. Corridors ran many different ways in seemingly random patterns, giving Aiden the impression of a 3D puzzle. The engineers behind this station clearly built it to be functional, to utilize space to its fullest, but Aiden had none of the expertise to understand how this hodgepodge mess of corridors and chamber modules equaled the station inside.
At the very least, the station had artificial gravity. It was about the same as the artificial gravity abroad the craft they were on. With the exception for centrifugal gravity, which was achieved by a spinning chamber built within a craft, artificial gravity was a relatively new invention. Besides being fairly large, it also was incredibly expensive and impractical for most ships.
The first class transport they were on had to be gutted and refitted to accommodate the artificial gravity. The gravity engine was about equal to the size of the entire combustion engine that navigated the ship.
Aiden watched as the ship approached a larger module that he reasoned was some kind of hanger. The doors of the hanger opened, creating a hole large enough for their ship to enter. Aiden’s father would never have it another way. He would never dock with a station through a transfer terminal like a lowly civilian would.
Aiden could hear a grinding sound and a slight rumbling at his feet as the landing gears opened. The ship steadily moved towards the opened hanger door. Supporting thrusters stabilized the craft as it steadily landed. The pilot on this ship was particularly skilled at this job. Aiden’s father would not have accepted anyone of any less than exemplary piloting skills.
Aiden wasn’t much of a pilot. He had taken some of the basic flight courses, but had no knack for it. Being able to move a body of mass much larger than himself in a virtually gravity free environment seemed foreign and abnormal to him. Although, he knew his brother enjoyed mock dog fighting with rig fighters, which was the only kind of space fighting that occurred after the Treaty of Nacel.
There was a slight bump, indicating that they had finally landed safely. A shadow casted over the window as the hanger doors closed, silent in the vacuum of space. When the doors finally closed, the shadow was replaced by ceiling lighting. The hanger itself was nothing to look at, mostly a whole lot of grey. The walls consisted of sealed lockers made safe from the vacuumed environment. Aiden yawned intentionally to overcome his ears desire to pop. Boredom be damned. Air was steadily filling up the chamber and pressure was equalizing, creating a light hiss noise.
The air returned and pressurization took about five minutes. During that time, Aiden merely put his head down and listened to the noises and periodical pops as the medals adjusted to external changes. The pilot turned on the intercom and began announcing their arrival. Aiden mostly ignored the announcement.
Upon the announcement’s completion, people across the cabin began standing up, collecting their belongings. There were about twenty to thirty people with Aiden and Demetry in the main cabin. Many of them were families of the traveling dignitaries, ambassadors, and the Lord Regent’s council.
Most government officials traveled with their families regularly. Some of the dignitaries followed the Lord Regent wherever he traveled in case their services were needed at his disposal. Others traveled at the behest of the Lord Regent’s most recent orders. Many of the men and their families would not be returning with the Lord Regent, assigned to travel to decent systems as a representative of peace.
The Lord Regent himself did not sit in the cabin with them; instead, he had his own cabin which he shared with his most trusted advisors. The Lord Regent often had his two sons sit with the rest of the main cabin to present a familiarity with the common man. On rare occasions, Demetry was allowed to sit in the Lord Regent’s cabin when important business was being discussed that the Lord Regent thought might help his son’s development. However, the Lord Regent had not offered an invite on this trip. As a matter of fact, he had not offered Demetry an invite in many months.
The primary door opened and the families and dignitaries began leaving down the ramp. It was customary for the highest ranking officials to be the last to leave any given vehicle. After the last person was moving down the aisle, Aiden’s brother stood.
“Well, it seems it is our turn to leave,” Demetry gave his brother a nod before turning.
Demetry had already put his report away, stood, and started moving down the slim hallway. Aiden considered waiting a bit, but impatience won out and he finally stood and followed his brother.
The hallway between the aisles of chairs was fairly comfortable in width. Aiden had heard that other ships existed that often had little space between the aisles, made even more difficult to navigate with the lack of gravity. These ships were often reserved for commercial flights for commoners.
Of course, this was a ship that spared no expense. The floors were carpeted red leading down the entire length of the hall. At the end of the hall was a ramp two people wide leading to the ground of the hanger. The red carpet followed down the entire length of the ramp as well.
Aiden continue to follow his brother down the ramp. At the bottom, Demetry went to the right side of the ramp and stood at attention. Aiden followed, taking the left side. In the time since the pressure had equalized in the hanger, it had become full with soldiers and guards. Full was a understatement.
As far as Aiden could see, soldiers stood at attention. The soldiers left a pathway large enough for three people abreast to stride; leading straight out of the hanger through what was most likely an adjacent corridor, the path the Lord Regent would most likely take leaving the hanger. A few of the higher ranking officers stood at attention a few meters from the edge of the ramp, waiting to greet the Lord Regent.
The family members and lower level bureaucrats were rushed out of the room to make accommodations for the Lord Reagent. The last of them disappeared around the corner by the time Aiden had settled in his place. Upon noticing Demetry with an eyebrow raised in agitation, Aiden schooled his face and looked up expectantly for the exit for the Lord Regent, as the rest of the honor guard was currently doing.
A grizzled old man strolled from the entrance of the ship, a slight limp to his left foot that might have gone unnoticed to anyone who wasn’t looking for it. He had short, neatly trimmed white hair and a small white scar on his lower right cheek. The best way to describe his face was sharp, consisting of mostly angles. He was heavy footed, and each step made a prominent clank as he walked down the ramp. When he reached the bottom, he stopped, looking left and right at both Aiden and his brother.
After giving them each a curt, silent nod of respect, he continued walking. Upon approaching the three ranking officers he glanced around the hanger, taking in the environment before placing his eyes on the three men. It was said that General Mahr had piercing eyes that could strip a man of everything but the truth. Aiden could attest to this fact, having had those eyes on him many times during his lessons.
The two Lieutenants to either side of the Station Commander shrunk back slightly at the intense glaze. The Commander stood his ground, showing that he had a bit more backbone than his underlings. This didn’t necessarily mean the Commander was a smart man. Aiden had met many soldiers who made it to where they were based purely on bravery. Eventually, one day, they would need to display intelligence too, and would find themselves ground to dust. It was perhaps one of the first lessons Mahr ever taught Aiden. “Bravery wins battles, intelligence wins wars”.
The Station Commander wore a one-piece blue uniform adorned with gold. He wore a red line with three stars over it to signify his rank as Commander on his shoulder. The lieutenants to either side had only one star. The one-piece uniform was a standard uniform for those assigned to duty in space. Colors were often used to quickly identify personnel aboard ships. Blues for officers, dark blue for soldiers, light blues for kitchen staff, browns for maintenance, and so on.
It made sense given the environment they lived in, but it was just one more thing Aiden disliked about space. On planets, the working staff often wore ornate embroidery. Servants of the empire were allowed to wear similar, albeit less decorated versions of these robes as well. Other imperial families wore robes much like these, but could not use the combination of gold and red, the emporal colors of Boramont. As a result, each family typically picked two colors of its own, and followed in their families traditions.
During a normal celebration on Taerra Prime, each house brought several hundred honor guards swathed in their family colors, creating a beautiful kaleidoscope of celebration. The dances were also an incredible sight to see, particularly during the dances that required a swapping of partners. The cacophony of blues, reds, greens, yellows, and browns often reminded Aiden of dancing flowers. The line after line of dark blue one suited soldiers in front of him was drab by comparison.
Here, Aiden and Demetry wore the traditional royal robes of the imperial family. Decorated in reds and gold, the ornate robes they wore were only matched by the Lord Regent himself. General Mahr wore simple clothing; he always said that if you needed a sash with medals to gain respect from your fellows that you didn’t deserve that respect. It was for that reason that most new recruits memorized General Mahr’s face. The few recruits who didn’t know who he was on sight or didn’t grasp his authority quickly enough often paid for it harshly.
“The Lord Regent’s honor requires this kind of…” the Station Commander was saying.
Aiden realized he had been dazing and tried to catch up on the conversation.
“The Lord Regent’s honor?” General Mahr responded with noticeable anger in his voice, “It is not your job to guard the Lord Regent, it is your job to keep the station secure, your desire to…. honor the Lord Regent has put this station at risk.”
“But the Ops guards you sent here yesterday provide more than adequate-”
“They were here for a given purpose, one you may have just compromised, you fool. You may have just stepped on plans the Lord Regent has had laid out for years. You honor the Lord Regent? You may have well just spit on him.”
The Station Commander winced at that comment, going white in the face. It was clear he was losing ground. His two lieutenants were shrunk down, their shoulders hunched at the debasement of their commanding officer. As Aiden looked around, he began to realize what General Mahr had noticed immediately upon entering. There were far too many honor guards present. It would seem that the Commander decided to dissemble the station down to a skeleton crew in the name of honoring the Lord Regent. It turned out he was a fool.
“Sir, we only heard of the Lord Regent coming just an hour ago. We had no proper time to prepare. Had I been informed of any of these plans I could have been more accommodating…”
“Enough!” General Mahr barked, “If you find yourself incapable of meeting the needs of the empire a replacement can easily be found for you.”
“That won’t be necessary sir,” the Commander responded bowing, his right hand jerking out slapping the lieutenant next to him on the arm.
The lieutenant immediately turned around and ran back down the aisle, making silent orders with his hand. Without a word, about half of the contingent turned and moved out the hallway. For the amount of people present, the movement was surprisingly quiet as the soldiers turned and exited swiftly. It took about two minutes. The remaining troops reorganized themselves to create a new thinner line down the entire length of the hanger. In the Commander’s defense, the new precession seemed a lot less grand than its predecessor.
The General glowered at the Commander for another minute before turning to his side. He glanced up into the ramp, nodding at someone up in the ship. A man came out in a quick walk down to the edge of the bottom ramp.
“I present to the honored Vanderra station, the master of Taerra, Lord Regent Swasa Boramont,” the man announced in a full voice that carried remarkably well in the hanger.
The announcer moved to the side and a large man behind him began walking down, followed closely by several advisors. To call the Lord Regent an imposing man was an intense understatement. He wore red and gold robes much like Aiden and Demetry, but they were much longer. They trailed behind him several feet, forcing the advisors to his sides for fear they may step on them. He had incredibly dark, almost black eyes, and jet black hair. The hair was grown long, tied into a ceremonial braid. All of the imperial family grew out their hair and tied it into an ornate braid. Aiden himself only had the pleasure of braiding his hair two years prior.
His brother’s hair was much like his father’s. His braid was only about half the length, reaching down to his shoulder blades, but it possessed the same jet black slickness of the Lord Reagent. Aiden’s hair was not black. Instead, it was brown like his mother’s. The same could be said for his eyes as well. Just as the Lord Regent reached the bottom of the ramp, a slight beeping sound started.
The Commander, red with embarrassment, looked down at a communicator he had attached to his wrist. As he looked, his eyes began to widen in alarm. The General glared at him. The Commander glanced up, just about to say something.
Suddenly, Aiden found himself on the ground. A loud roar assaulted his ears as the ground shook. Aiden quickly assumed a relaxed position, allowing his body to move with the tremors, absorbing himself into their movements. Then he began to get to his feet, slowly at first as he adjusted to the movements. By the time he was back his feet, the majority of the tremor had passed. Aiden surveyed the room as a low moaning rumble gave out like a dying aftershock.
The General was already on his feet and next to the Lord Regent. He had one hand held out to help pick the Lord Regent up and balance him, the other on a weapon aimed down the hallway at any potential threat. With the General’s help, the Lord Regent stood glancing around in irritation. Most of the soldiers were still scrambling to their feet, disorder and discord threading through the hanger.
“What happened?” the Lord Regent asked calmly once it seemed the tremors had subsided enough.
“It would seem that a terrorist cell released a bomb aboard the station. By the feel of it, they missed anything vital,” Mahr promptly responded.
“The terrorists that we knew of ahead of time?” The Lord Reagent responded, his black eyes sharp on the General.
Mahr glanced down at the Commander, now completely red with anger and embarrassment, “It would seem.”
“You will handle it?”
“Personally, my lord,” Mahr bowed deep.
Aiden’s father nodded once before turning and moving back up the ramp into the relative safety of the ship. General Mahr walked over to Aiden swiftly, his limp almost nonexistent.
“Where is Demetry?” Aiden’s mentor asked, looking around briefly.
This was the first point and time Aiden realized that Demetry was completely gone. After a quick look around the room he met the General’s eyes.
“Find him,” Mahr commanded, then turned and began walking towards the now cringing Station Commander who was desperately trying to pull his soldiers together.
The General stopped and looked back as if an idea suddenly came to him, “Oh, and if you see any insurgents, kill them.”
Aiden nodded and started moving out. He had a job to do.