11 – Taretes

Accompanied by two of his most loyal bodyguards, he walked swiftly down the corridor; his boots clanking against the floor with every step. His black cloak covered most of his armor, and his face was hidden beneath a shadowy hood. The three of them passed by two soldiers guarding a wide door, and both were covered in black Alliance battle armor. The corridor was poorly lit, and the bridge was no brighter.

     “Captain,” he ordered with a booming voice.

     “Yes, your excellency?” said the captain of the Voulgenathi after turning around.

     “How long until we reach the border?”

     “Twenty days. As you can see, we are…”

     “Too slow,” interrupted the cloaked figure.

     “B—but sir! This is our maximum speed! We’ll damage the drive!”

     “It would be in your best interest, Captain, to stop looking for excuses and start finding solutions.”

     “Y—y—yes, your majesty!” uttered the captain.

     “You have two weeks. Do not fail me.” The captain was silent, and the cloaked figure turned to leave.

     “My lord, you are receiving a transmission,” said one of the bridge crew.

     “In my quarters.”

     “Yes, lord.”

     The hooded figure quickly left the bridge. His two bodyguards followed him down the dark hallways to his quarters. They stood at the door as the cloaked figure entered his room where an imposing lumigraph was waiting for him.

     “Lord Thrassus!” said the cloaked male, rapidly removing his hood. He had long auricles, a hairless, chiseled chin, short blond hair, and a red, glowing circle on the back of his neck. He bent his knee and knelt before the monolithic lume: a large black rectangle taller than he with Avenathi words that read “NO VISUAL.”

     “Taretes,” said the lumigraph. Thrassus’ voice was audibly distorted. “On your feet and listen closely. The Federation has unleashed its fastest ship against you. If you do not increase your speed, they will overtake you. You will not have my pity should this happen. Do not fear them, for whatever pain they can inflict upon you, I can inflict a hundred times over. Do you understand me?”

     “Yes, your greatness!” said Taretes.

     “Remember: one way or another, I always get what I want.” The lumigraph vanished, and the room went black.

     Sometime later, Emperor Valin Taretes returned to his quarters. Though no longer pitch black, the room was still dimly lit. His quarters had been arranged and decorated similarly to his palace on Avenath and were in every way as ostentatious. White curtains draped across the ceiling, and in the center of the room was a large, circular bed.

     The elshe rolled over onto his side to stare into the face of one of his five naked elshi mistresses – all of them wrapped loosely in velvet bedsheets. One of the other elshi rose from the bed, likely looking for that stray bottle of sweet ale that had been near them only moments ago. Taretes was indulging in the privileged lifestyle; the one that he had painted a vivid, yet fictitious, picture of and attached to the sovereign and noble houses of the old Commonwealth of Avenath; the one that he cursed so maliciously and used to inspire his popular rebellion against the ruling highborn.

     “Excuse me for a moment,” said Taretes. He sat up and moved toward the edge of the bed, brushing away the supple female hands that tried to pull him back down. The elshe walked into the next room. After a minute, he reentered the bedroom carrying a container in his hand which he handed to one of the elshi while he crawled back to the center.

     “It’s beautiful,” said the first. Another elshi took it from her hands and said “It’s the most sought-after piece of omnium in the galaxy.” Taretes took back the container as the third elshi collapsed back onto the bed carrying the bottle of ale and her empty glass. “The black omnium?” she asked, pouring herself a drink.

     “The black omnium,” said Taretes, methodically opening the secure container harboring the sample. The mistresses moved in close and touched their flesh against his as he slowly removed the crystal with his hand. The black omnium radiated a dark glow like anti-light, and the crystal itself glimmered in the dimly-lit room.

     “Are you sure it’s safe to touch?” an elshi behind him asked.

     “Of course,” he said with confidence. As he spoke, one of the elshi reached out and pressed her fingers to it. The crystal was as cool as the room, and Taretes let the elshi pass it between them, acting as if it were some kind of aphrodisiac. His mistresses were eager to get their hands on the crystal, and he was eager to take it back. When it finally did make it back, he leaned backward, held it above him, and stared at it; lusted after it. The elshi did not see it exactly as he did. To him, there was a truly seductive quality about it. Nevermind the elshi. This was what he wanted. It was power. If what he knew was correct, this black omnium crystal would assure his dominance over the entirety of Civilized Space.

     Taretes blinked his eyes. Before him erupted the face of Thrassus. He had not yet before seen the face of his master, but as with dreams where known names are assigned to unknown faces, he knew without a doubt in his mind than the demonic countenance appearing to him now was indeed Thrassus. Terror shot through his veins; his nerves; his skin. His entire body jerked. He blinked again, and the image was gone. With his eyes widened, he rotated the crystal frantically, searching for Thrassus’ face. His heart pounded, and he could feel sweat breaking out on his forehead.

     “Leave me,” Taretes growled. The elshi sat up, confused by his order. “Leave me!” he screamed. Groaning at him, the elshi rose from the bed and exited into one of the side rooms. Taretes hastily concealed the crystal in its container once again and deposited it in the other room.

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