Excerpt from Arcan: The Missing Nexus, Chapter 1: Turbulent Calm
The assembly room was cold by the stroke of the hour. The air was dry. The silence was stale. Every marine of the Omega Corps stood in perfect ranks like a grid, dressed in perfect alignment with each person next to him. They were devoid of their individual teams and stood as a single unit. Each body was clad in an identical matte black battlesuit, equally prepared for battle.
The aperture gate behind the formation spun open and the sharp metallic heel of a hefty man’s boot echoed with each footfall. Not a single soldier budged. They were petrified. The footsteps came to a rhythmic stop with a climatic thud. The First Sergeant took his position at the back of the formation and strictly made his announcement.
Heftier footsteps resounded then. Their pace was slower, more unnerving. General Morrigin Lavanche made his way through the ranks, observing the perfection of the formation with an austere frown. He was a tall, stalwart figure, his face riddled with angular lines of wisdom. His demeanor was severe beyond prestige, commanding the honor of a mountain that had braved the scars of time. He was the commander of the Omega Corps, a king of kings among his colleagues. Few had ever seen him in person, the rest were left to imagine his prodigious silhouette in front of a great light. No one ever fathomed they would see him in such a manner, clad in an identical battlesuit, wearing a countenance steadied for war.
Lavanche moved heavily through the ranks, his shoulders eliciting a nervous chill in the spines of those on either side of him. In his hand was a long plank of a parcel wrapped in tattered cloth. As he neared the edge of the stage, a rectangular floor panel illuminated and levitated to catch his footfall. One step after another, the general made his way to the top of the stage and turned to cast his gaze down upon his subordinates. He wasted no time with introductions, presuming everyone knew who he was already. There was a reluctant glint in his eyes, as if he regretted the speech soon to spear from his lips.
“Soldiers, we have been called to arms by Her Royal Majesty. Our response goes without saying. This time around, you are not fighting as individual groups, but as a single unstoppable unit. Our destination: the Megiddo continent. Araunian forces have been reduced to critical numbers, so much that our military presence down range is laughable. It seems we have greatly underestimated our enemy. Her Majesty, the queen, and the rest of the Royal Board have activated the emergency contingency protocol: us. Our mission, as the Omega Corps of the Araunian Guard, is to augment our regular troops on the ground.
“However, that is only our secondary mission. Our primary mission is to locate a power source somewhere inland, codename: ‘Godfall’. The source is believed to be the very core suspending the continent at sea level.” Lavanche paused for a moment and scanned the crowd for any glint of disbelief—like his own. “I know this is not our typical cup o’ tea, soldiers. But now, if never before, or ever again, we must remember that we are not only the Omega Corps of the A.G., but we are the elite. When we are summoned we are expected without doubt or disbelief to get the job done. I see several hundred elite warriors standing here tonight, unscathed, unmoved by fear. That being said, our enemy is not an ordinary one. It has no demographic profile you can isolate or target. Your enemy is whatever unlucky individual takes it upon himself to engage you in combat. The airborne miasma out there is exponentially greater than anywhere else. It will rapidly invade your system. Your equipment may not work properly, or may malfunction altogether. Once the miasma has entered your system, there is no medical vaccination that can remedy you. Your sanity and your mind will be erased almost immediately. Fortunately, for us, the X-grade Battlesuit provides a one hundred and ten percent seal against daikotic infiltration. Keep your helmets on and sealed. There is enough air in your suits for you to breathe for months.
“Lastly,” another pause. He spoke less abrasively next, “And I say this out of concern for your well-being… Whatever goodbyes you need to say, say them now, if you have not done so already. Once we reach our destination, there may be no turning back. Your hang-ups will only get you killed downrange. Steel your hearts, your minds. Take nothing with you, but wrath. Any more and you’re dead in the water.”
“Soldiers… We have not been called to do battle. That’s not our mission. We have been called to shut this charade down. And we will do so.”
Lavanche’s confidence was reassuring. It was a well-known fact that his position was earned through experience and his judgment was based on generations of wisdom. Countless tours into various warzones made him a decorated soldier of the highest caliber. None would ever know the extent of his ghost records. Even Kyran could respect his reputation, and that meant wonders. Yet, the formation remained stiff with nervousness.
The General sighed and raised the parcel up before the crowd. Everyone observed the package.
“Corporal Unikade, front and center,” he barked. The summoning was so surreal it had not occurred to Kyran to respond until a moment of awkward silence had gone by. His brow rose with curiosity. Despite the numerous regulation violations on his face alone, he casually stepped out of formation and made his way through the ranks toward the haughty general. He sprang from the floor, past the hovering steps, onto the stage just beside the general, leering at the parcel with a suspicious glower upon his face.
Lavanche examined Kyran and, with a mien of approval, lowered the parcel to the floor with a dense, solid thud.
“Haven’t seen spark like yours since last I seen that nametape,” he said quietly. His chin tilted up just slightly and a sneer spouted from his nostrils that was questionably endearing. “So you’re Malakai’s kid?” He lifted the item and thrust it into Kyran’s chest. Bewildered, the Arcan clutched it so the General’s trunk of an arm would alleviate him. “I was instructed to hold onto that until today. How Malakai came by this specific date, I haven’t the slightest clue. But this now belongs to you. I trust you’ll maintain your ol’ man’s rep out there, son.” A meaty fingertip then ascended just inches from Kyran’s nose. He pointed to the Scar. “Nothing else matters.”
The quiet gesture resonated loudly through Kyran’s mind, so gravely it petrified him inside. Still, the general’s unwavering gaze evoked a layer of fortitude. He respected Lavanche in that instance more than anyone else. The parcel now in Kyran’s hand was a testimony of expectation. He was captivated. Just before he turned to dismount the stage, Lavanche stopped him, clearing an obstruction in his throat. Kyran winced and promptly turned to salute his superior.
“The door is behind you, troops. Leave your hang-ups there or let them escort you out. We fly at zero-five hundred hours. Dis-missed!”
The formation dispersed and, in the disarray, Kyran skulked into a dark corner of the room. He sat upon a bench, his unexpected gift lying flat upon his lap. It was more than twice the length of his arm with significant weight, even denser than stone. He took the switchblade from the slot in his calf armor and flipped the blade free to twirl about his thumb, one of his usual quirks. Then it occurred to him that the contents of his parcel could be a bit delicate for the fine edge of his dagger. He twirled the blade once more, folding it again before holstering it in his leg. His hand hovered over the wrapping like a vulture, searching for a vulnerable spot to strike. Finally, he took the filed point of his fingernail to the narrow end of the parcel and sliced the wrapping along its length. He peeled back the cloth edges, revealing a brilliant specimen of craftsmanship.
Kyran undressed a fine crystalline sword. It was nothing like the dark metal of conventional weaponry, but instead a marvel of amber glass. The blade was steeply curvaceous while the most elegant lines contoured its clever bevel. The hilt was as long as Kyran’s forearm and sturdy, wrapped in strips of molded leather. The grand centerpiece sat in a recess within the ricasso, a bulbous amber gem even more brilliant than the blade. The crystal startled him. His hands hungered to feel its flawless surface.
“What is that?” Llayne asked, breaking Kyran’s concentration.
“Extremely refined Corosymium,” Zel answered, having sat beside Kyran through the entirety of his privacy. He squinted his slender eyes as he gazed deep into the jewel, observing the network of fine black veins as best he could without a magnifying lens. “Look beneath the surface there—the veins.”
Kyran dragged his fingertips along the length of the blade, caressing it, numbed by the tactile sensation. One of his most peculiar quirks was his affinity for the most peculiar items. The mere softness of his touch was a sensual gesture that allowed him to know an object as well as its maker. Visions manifested before his eyes, summoning nostalgia from the depths of his mind, as if the blade knew him much better than he could reciprocate. The veins beneath the surface were writhing with excitement.
“That freaks me out, how you have to touch everything,” Llayne declared as she cringed.
“I thought you were past that,” Kyran replied.
The package was unmarked by anyone, even the individual that instructed Lavanche’s delivery. But, Kyran knew from whom it came. The unspoken voice of the blade only made him certain. He knew of only one that would come into possession of such a relic—the man who had trained him to use it. His father. The question that burdened him was, why now?
Before the military, his father was a trader that sailed the seas upon a merchant ship. The sea was more primitive than air when it came to travel, but places were easily missed from the sky. Often, Malakai returned from his expeditions with the most exotic of souvenirs like that of his mother’s necklace. The rest were gifts to his only son. Each relic was astounding, much too varying in its workmanship to have been crafted by any machine. The same could be said of the sword.
“Who’s it from?” Llayne quietly asked.
The answer clung to the tip of Kyran’s tongue, “…My father.”
“How’d your old man know to give it to you today? He was one of those clairvoyant folks?” Geare wondered.
“A specific set of instructions, I’m sure. He was always a time-conscious person.”
“Seems more like a sentiment than a weapon, given our situation,” Zel chimed in his typical unexcited tone.
“I agree with Zel, Kyran. I mean, your old man was exceptional—not to say that you aren’t—but I’m not sure even your lance will do any good, let alone some thirteenth-era cutlery,” Llayne reasoned.
Kyran lifted the hilt of the sword over his head, measuring the firmness of the hilt with a tight squeeze.
“Can you even use that thing?” Geare chuckled.
Kyran didn’t answer. Instead he stood, loosened his grip and let the dangling sword swing. Its weight was perfect. He effortlessly twirled the sword about, his wrist rolling almost as well as it would handling a mere dagger. He thrust the sword with abrupt precision, his arm stiff and firm—a solid deathblow.
“I’ve never seen a sword like this,” Kyran said, the thought surfacing in a brief utterance.
“Kyran, you know, Vega’s right. That will probably do better as a good luck charm. We’re going to need all the firepower we can get out there.”
Continue the adventure in
Arcan: The Missing Nexus
by Julian C. Brooks