Daylight's Dirge: Part Seven
Everything had fallen into place, of course. Pariel-Sloth had never doubted Parlax. The split Grundo knew his duty well and performed exceptionally. The cells of his army were placed around the space station, some taking the place of officers that Valka had no reason not to trust implicitly. With a smile, Pariel-Sloth entered the planning room.
As soon as he entered, the people seated around the table sat up, turning to face him. Even Parlax, used to him – no. The Grundo was used to how he had been, not what he had become – straightened, eyes widening slightly, and stood. “My lord,” Parlax said, bowing. “May I introduce you to the leaders of your army?”
Pariel-Sloth took one look at the disheveled group, eyes narrowing. “You may not. If, knowing that their lord and master is coming to meet them, they cannot dress properly, they are not worthy of the presence of their lord and master.”
Without another word, Pariel-Sloth turned and left the room. Behind him, he heard protests once the imbeciles thought him too far away to overhear. The Ruki kept careful track of which voices he heard raised in protest, knowing that once Parlax had organized them enough to be presentable, he would recognize each and every one of the voices.
A soft knock on the door was enough signal for Pariel-Sloth to enter once more, slowly looking at the so-called leaders arranged before him.
Few of them were dressed at all alike, unless you counted civilian clothing. Parlax wore his old uniform, deep purple with gray accents, all the lines neat and orderly. Two of the ‘leaders’ wore Resistance uniforms. Pariel-Sloth glanced at Parlax, antennae twitching. There would be a good explanation for this, he was sure. Parlax would do no less. Three other ‘leaders’ wore swords, and five had blasters. Of those armed, only one actually had a uniform on, and that one wore the badge of a lieutenant on his military uniform. Pariel-Sloth nodded approval to that one, barely sparing the other, still disheveled, leaders a glance.
Parlax coughed softly. “My lord. Now that they are fully aware of who you are and what their position is, may I introduce you to the leaders of your army?”
Pariel-Sloth nodded almost imperceptibly.
“Lieutenant Korbian Tephal.” The silver Eyrie saluted, bowing slightly. Pariel-Sloth returned the salute as Parlax introduced the next person.
“Maven Harrison.” A scarred red Ogrin bowed, one hand still on his sword.
“Laurel of Brightvale, formerly a member of Valka’s Resistance.” Arms crossed, the star-spangled Aisha nodded slightly, a frown on her face.
“Kent and Dixon Harford.” The two Ixi, one pink and the other blue, raised their hands in a civilian’s salute. Each of them had a pair of blasters on their belt.
“Tai Silver, formerly a member of Valka’s Resistance.” The yellow Bori bowed slightly, a smile on his face.
“Hope and Haven Gold.” Identical speckled Krawks nodded their heads.
“And the rest of the sorry lot just happened to get voted to be in charge of their cells.” Parlax glared at all of them, his displeasure obvious. “I would have chosen leaders myself, Lord, but I was more concerned with making sure everything went as it was supposed to.”
Pariel-Sloth narrowed his eyes. “Tell me,” he said softly, “can any of you imbeciles tell me who it was protesting that I could not be Sloth, your Lord and Master?”
The eight Parlax had introduced kept silent. A wise move, in Pariel-Sloth’s opinion. Of the disheveled lot, not one of them had the courage to even stand their ground against his glare. They crowded back, clustering together for... company? Strength? A higher intelligence? Pariel-Sloth shook his head. “Parlax. Get rid of those fools. I cannot abide having that sort of person as a leader.” Turning to those introduced to him, Pariel-Sloth smiled. “Please, tell me of the current state of affairs in your commands.”
“Order, relative to the chaos running through the minds of Valka’s men.” Lieutenant Tephal spoke clearly, and his voice was the sort that lent itself to command. “We have nothing to fear from them. Especially now that you are back, M’lord.”
“We have plants within Valka’s forces.” Tai shrugged, civilian clothing loose on his muscular frame. “Laurel and I arranged that. Valka doesn’t know we’re with you. No one still in the Resistance does.”
That explained something of why Parlax had allowed them in. Pariel-Sloth nodded. “How well can the Resistance forces fight if we turn off the gravity?”
Tai hesitated, and Laurel filled the gap. “Depends on the person. Same with us, M’lord. Not all of us can actually fight in null-G.”
“Enough of us can.” Tephal crossed his arms, a slight smile on his face. “And we’ll know it’s coming. My lord, only turn off the gravity after Valka comes back. We will accomplish more that way.”
“Valka came back three hours ago,” Pariel-Sloth said sharply. “Pay attention to the networks. The computer nets in particular. Don’t you have hackers?”
“Well.” Tephal looked away. So did most of the others.
The pink Ixi – either Kent or Dixon; he didn’t know which – stared him straight in the eyes. “They got fried. All of them. Dee and I led them. We’re the only ones who aren’t messed right now, and we can’t do anything about it. Dee won’t go on the nets at all now, and I’d rather stick to the safe nets, not the hacker’s web.”
“I’ll look into that,” Pariel-Sloth said absently. “For now... Whichever of you leads warriors, give them a crash course in how to deal with null-G. Tai, Laurel, pass the message to your plants, tell them what to expect. They need to get rid of Resistance backup systems if they can. I’d like it if we could take out all power except life-support. Add fighting in the dark to what to give the warriors a crash course on. I will turn the power off at 0100 hours tomorrow. Be ready.” Pariel-Sloth spun, leaving the room before any of them had a chance to bow.
His blood burned. Someone had dared to contaminate his computer systems. His own hacker net had been cut, and by someone who knew enough to keep the alarms from going off. He had a nagging suspicion about who it was, but until he got hold of a computer and a place where he could be alone—
Stopping in the middle of the lab hallway, the green Ruki turned around. Behind him, as he had suspected, was Fideus. “What in all the worlds are you doing here?”
“Watching,” the spotted Lupe said mildly, blue-gray eyes shining. “I’m hurt that you’d think anything else of me.”
Pariel-Sloth sighed. “What do you want?”
Fideus shook his head, smoothing his red and gold robes. “How long have you been here, Sloth?” he asked softly. “Forty-two years?”
“Forty-three, with the orb.” Pariel-Sloth crossed his arms. “Fifty-one since I was born. Why does it matter?”
“Because the world has been a land of order ever since you came here. Perhaps ever since you were born.” The Lupe held out a hand. It resonated with power, and Pariel-Sloth heard the song in a soft ball of light that appeared over Fideus’s palm. “You’ve listened to it, then.” Fideus smiled, and the smile held all the love of a father. “I’d wondered.”
“You don’t wonder, Chronicler. You know.”
“True.” Fideus closed his hand, the light instead forming an aura around him. “She is coming. I suggest you ready yourself. Kreludor will do nicely for the one, an orb for the other.”
“And you, Fideus?” Pariel-Sloth stepped forward, resting a hand on the Lupe’s arm. “What will I do with you?”
Fideus closed his eyes, voice growing hoarse. “One hundred years, child of order. One hundred years before chaos brings balance back to this world. Try not to get too full of yourself before that happens.” The light around him intensified, almost burning Pariel-Sloth’s hand.
Pariel-Sloth released the Lupe, backing up so that he wouldn’t get caught in the backlash. “Next time, don’t mess with the system,” he said to the Lupe. “It hurts the hackers.”
Laughter echoed out from the light, pure as a waterfall or a wild bird’s song. Pariel-Sloth turned away, unable to look at the light anymore. A breath later, the light and laughter disappeared. Pariel-Sloth began walking once more, the light and music still running along his body like electricity. Muttering curses at Fideus, Pariel-Sloth found an abandoned lab, ensconcing himself in the room and disappearing into the hacker net. His net.
The lines of code hadn’t changed at all. He saw that with a glance. The power, however, had. Spreading his slender fingers over the keyboard, Pariel-Sloth closed his eyes. He could see all the lines of power and code that wove the net. With barely a thought, he found the first error. The next breath, and he fixed three more. Minutes passed, perhaps even hours, without any notice. When Pariel-Sloth finally did open his eyes, it was nearly 0100 hours. Pariel-Sloth smiled.
His left hand rested on the keyboard, fingers over the few buttons he needed to press. He’d worked a full shutdown into the code when he’d first created it, but never had a chance to test it. Now, it seemed, he would. As the clock flipped to read 0100, Pariel-Sloth entered the code.
The lights shut off in a moment, plunging the space station into night. The gravity bled away in less than a minute, leaving everyone floating in the dark. The emergency lights flickered, then faded away. In the darkness, Pariel-Sloth heard the chaos begin.
To be continued...