Children of Heaven, Chapter 26

Chapter 26:

Jekrin Mooncurve, 19663
Stronghold-778
Shell Worlds
Holy Curatorium of Brei

HCVS Servant of Thunder

Commandant Asav’ehem tugged at his collar, resisting the urge to cough. It was not easy; his chest and throat burned incessantly “Status changes?” he ordered over the pain. The lights aboard the sentinus deck were dimmed; photosensitivity was but the first symptom of the Cull.

One of his minor officers adjusted a dial. “The Enemy have broken through the final line of defence. They will fall upon Stronghold-778-III within four hours.”

“No sign of our reinforcements? Of the Ovea’brei?”

“Nothing, commandant,” the minor officer declared, pausing a moment to cough. He dug a kerchief out of his tunic and dabbed at the blood that had sprayed over his lips and uniform. Since deployment, seven of the great ship’s skeleton crew had died from the Cull and Servant of Thunder himself had not yet even engaged the Enemy.

The Commandant regarded the status board with a fatalistic eye. The Fleet had driven the Enemy back, their aggression catching the creatures unprepared and off-balance. The Curate had been wise, speaking truths that the Enemy had grown complacent in their centuries of aggression and expansion. They had been creeping upon the Brei’orai like assassins in the murk for years, building their forces up, thinking that they had been unseen and unheard. What was left of Onslaught Fleet had fallen upon their staging area with the fury of a rogue belliq, thrashing and roaring.

The Enemy had been scattered unto dust, their survivors fleeing like sick hounds. But they knew no fear, only practicality. Those that had fled had done so back to their Home Worlds, summoning an even greater force. Mustering it had taken the Enemy generations, but they paid no heed to the demands of time. They were not being Culled from within and without, were they? The Enemy might have been slow, but they were also implacable. Every attempt a faltering Fleet had made to stop them had been cast aside.

It had been over two centuries since Mory’ottai’s Gambit had succeeded. Many, including Asav himself and his forbears in the line of Ehem, had doubted that it would ever prove to be of vitality. Squalling, ugly little things. But molded into something of use, yes.

Where are you now? he asked of empty space.

As in answer to his unspoken question, the status array shimmered as a great constellation of friendly purple icons rose to life in a shell around the Enemy vanguard. Assassins in the murk, Asav’ehem thought in wonderment as he watched a bloody harvest begin, the Enemy attempting to react to this new threat. It was almost enough to make him believe in spirits when Servant of Thunder registered an incoming signal, three words uttered in a manner no Brei’orai could ever speak. “We are here.”

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