“No!” Zoost panicked. “Delay the transmission!” he ordered, turning toward the secretary. As he flailed his hands to lock down any rebel debrief windows, he hastily ordered, “Everyone quickly evacuate the room. Your faces mustn’t be seen.”
“Mynethra. Fifth Ruler Ambassador on the call. And really Zetuvye? Please forgive me, Zoost,” the hologram smiled. The fully colored figure clad in a maroon robe stood about half a meter tall in the middle of the table. The transmission glitched a little due to the weak signal, and nobody moved to strengthen it.
“Do you think we are unaware about who attends your silly little meetings? This isn’t the first time you broke your promise to communicate with the Fifth Ruler. No matter, I suppose we would be seeing most of those Tayans later anyway,” Mynethra commented, tapping the side of her head.
Everyone but General Zoost, Princess Paeosfu, and General Ginyin had left the room. Ginyin’s brows furrowed in concern shared by the other two. Moving to sit at the now vacant table, she piped up, “What do you mean by that?” She stole a glance towards Paeosfu and wondered briefly why she was still here before looking back at the curly haired Tayan.
“Fifth Ruler is furious about the collapse of the mining transportation facility. You do understand the amount of damage you had caused, correct?” Mynethra asked, pressing her fingers together. “Fifth Ruler demands the heads of every Tayan present at the battle to pay for the destruction of the property.” She looked at Zoost. “Work to restore it must commence immediately.”
“Fifth Ruler wants the heads of everyone present?” Zoost questioned, stepping toward the table and taking a seat himself. That was less than fifty Tayans and a hundred cores, but they were all good soldiers. Losing them would weaken the rebel army even more.
“Demands,” the ambassador corrected.
“That is impossible,” Zoost responded. He leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms slowly. “The rebellion's numbers fluctuate as Tayans continue to join or leave. We are unable to track whoever decided to join the assault,” he argued.
Mynethra raised an eyebrow. “Then how are you to track how many wounded or cores you have? What makes you so sure everyone has been accounted for before leaving the site?” she challenged.
Zoost stiffened slightly but quickly relaxed. He had hoped that Mynethra’s constant connection with the droids would have weakened her mind to be nothing but a mouthpiece for the Fifth Ruler. Her mind certainly seemed to have degraded the last they spoke. Now she appeared to have recovered to full strength.
Unwilling to allow the lie to fall apart so quickly, Ginyin contributed, “Captains handle their squads differently. Many of them just know who is on their team. We only track the numbers that leave and come back.”
“Per our last conversation, I could recall you turned red in the face to convince me you see your Tayans as Tayans and not numbers on the wall,” Mynethra countered, pointing her fingers toward the large Tayan. “Are you meaning to tell me numbers are more convenient than names?” she asked smugly.
“Why does the Fifth Ruler need our Tayans anyway? The Third Ruler was the one who engaged first.” Zoost glanced at Princess Paeosfu for confirmation. The small one gave a hesitant nod. Zoost frowned slightly and looked at the hologram. “We were simply attempting to prevent a disaster. Third Ruler was going to kill every Tayan there.”
The ambassador sneered. “You have proof of this?” Zoost and Ginyin stared at Princess Paeosfu. Mynethra finally turned to acknowledge the princess. Surprise flickered across the ambassador's face.
As the room grew quiet aside from the soft hum of the projections, Paeosfu wondered if the truth would be enough to change anyone’s mind. “I-I had overheard Third Ruler speak of it in the Fourth’s throne room,” she started, her voice soft and shaky. “You may have—" she breathed, "you may have Fifth Ruler to ask the Third! I’m sure the droids have video feed you may access given they are not wiped already.”
Surprise turned into disgust, and as her hands fell behind her back, Mynethra rotated to face Zoost. The ambassador asked him incredulously, “May I assume you have a few of these droids?”
“The rebels have only recently returned,” Ginyin reminded her while looking with angled brows towards Paeosfu. “We won’t receive full reports until the captains send them in. Meanwhile, have the Fifth Ruler speak to the Third as suggested by the princess.” Paeosfu’s eyes slightly lit up. “Have them discuss the matters on paying for the mining transportation facility!”
“Do not engage with us!” Paeosfu said, feeling hopeful that the two were on her side. “We have already lost too many in a senseless battle!”
Mynethra was quiet and seemed to be conversing with someone off screen by the time Paeosfu gave her input. The hologram turned to face them again. “I have sent word to Fifth Ruler. While the two speak, I’ll have the droids sent to your location to recover the cores, pick up Third Ruler’s droids, and apprehend all the rebels who participated in the fight at the mining transportation facility,” she concluded, looking between Ginyin and Zoost. “If anyone,” she paused, “is deemed missing, every Tayan will be killed and expected to help rebuild the facility in the next life.”
Silence spread across the room.
“What made you so cruel, Mynethra?” Zoost said quietly. From dumb to heartless. He couldn’t imagine what caused such a change.
“Those are Fifth Ruler’s orders, Zetuvye. If it was my choice, we wouldn’t need the facility,” the ambassador responded somberly. “Besides, Fifth Ruler had warned you of the consequences of damaging any of the mining facilities. Your recklessness will cost you. Lay down your weapons. Return to us, Zetuvye. This is the new world order.”
“We won’t accept it!” Ginyin barked. "Not the ‘new’ world order. Not the Fifth Ruler having their soldiers pick off ours. After the Third Ruler, it would be the Fifth’s head rolling back into Tayavon’s core. All of the workers survived. We’ll send them back to the site.”
Paeosfu’s breath hitched. “No!” she cried.
“Leave us alone,” Ginyin continued, slamming her fist into the table. “If they could build it once, they could build it again.”
“The Third Ruler will simply attack them again!” Paeosfu insisted, running up to her.
“All speculation,” the larger Tayan spat.
“We’ll take both groups,” Mynethra decided. “Reconstruction will be faster with an extra set of hands. If your Tayans engage with the Third Ruler’s army again, they would be more than capable to handle it. Fifth Ruler will send a supportive force as well. The rebels have a history of attacking first and asking questions later. Until we see the recordings from Third Ruler's droids, I will assume this attack was no different.
“That is all,” the ambassador smiled, cutting off any other word of objection. “See you soon.”
The room went silent for a moment until the previous slides returned to the screen. The soft hum buzzed on their minds.
Relaxing her hand so that it was flat on the table, Ginyin was the first to speak. “We should prepare for an attack. Raise the shields and charge the guns. We’ll set up a grid every few meters and arm our fighters,” she said dejectedly.
“We can’t hand them over!” Paeosfu insisted. She was willing to gather all the citizens and lead them to a safe haven herself if necessary. Once they were no longer protected by the rebels, who would guarantee their safety? Fifth Ruler wanted to put them to work. Third Ruler wanted them killed.
Standing, Ginyin growled at the interruption, “That wasn’t the plan, princess. Fifth Ruler is not having any of our Tayans. The base may not be prepared for a relentless attack, but we’ll have fighters stationed around the base. We will guard the Incubator with all we have.”
“If they arrive we should not engage,” the princess suggested. She looked toward Zoost for support. “We should talk to them first and see if they can be reasoned with!”
“That’s not going to work!” Ginyin guffawed. “They’re after every Tayan they can capture. Do you think they would care to identify who was at the mining fiasco? We deal with the fight here, fend off the Fifth Ruler, and go straight to the Third Ruler to reclaim our own and any other Tayans seized in the past.” With renewed energy, she roared, “We will show the Third Ruler the same ultimatum: bring the cores and any captured Tayan to us or we’ll destroy the castle!”
“That is foolish! We need no more viaete spilled on this land!” Paeosfu retorted, backing up slightly as Ginyin stomped toward her. History was about to repeat itself way too soon. “We can train spies and infiltrate the Third and Fifth Rulers’ networks,” she suggested, using General Ginyin’s and Zoost’s original plan. If Ginyin was so sure that their way would’ve worked then, surely it would work now? “We will rescue prisoners and all cores civilly! No more violence!”
“If you do not agree with our plans, you don’t have to be here,” Ginyin sneered.
“Ginyin,” Zoost said quietly. Princess Paeosfu was hopeful General Zoost recognized the old strategy.
“In fact, you shouldn’t be here anymore! Ever since you joined we’ve been taking too many steps back. You form your own team to find this mysterious Otekai. We’re not waiting for the Shiu Moon to rise. Everything. Happens. Now.” Ginyin had Paeosfu backed against the wall. The general's very frame trembled in annoyance.
“Are you kicking me out?” Paeosfu gasped. “You can’t just kick me out!”
“Why?” Ginyin scowled, her voice slightly softer now. “Because you’re Fourth Princess?”
The general chuckled and turned away from her. “Your power has no worth here. Being a princess lost all weight as soon as Zahgonmatiste disappeared.”
“Keep that name from your mouth. That’s the Second Ruler to you!” the princess said to the ground.
“Gods just don’t go missing, Paeosfu. If they die like the rest of us, they’re treated like the rest of us.”
Thanks for reading! Chapter 3: Otekai is currently in progress!
For now, feel free to read the comic!
© 2019: Operation: UGAWTS || Princess Paeosfu: Journeys of the Abstract Princess || Conflicting Views