Off-Worlding Excerpt 2 – Part of Ch 9 and 10
This is when we first meet Reynaul, the “crazed” Vex warlord.
Reynaul lounged on his opulent throne in the war room of his flagship. With all four of his eyes, he stared at a three-dimensional, real-time map of the galaxy that displayed all around him. Marveling in his conquests usually gave the leader of the Vex great joy. Today, however, seeing all the planets and systems he ruled over did little to raise his spirits. It had been months since his last major battle. His mighty armada destroyed the pathetic Zapt military fleet in mere days, taking control of the little planet and its meager resources. It was a stupid and disappointing endeavor, he thought. Their main industry is garment manufacturing. And we don’t even wear clothes.
He pondered for a moment, trying to recall how many systems he now held. The number didn’t immediately come to him, so he demanded the answer from his computer.
Seeing the list of the twenty-three planets who now bowed down to him caused a flash of a smile to form. It quickly faded. Boredom encased him like a shroud. A warrior without a battle is not a warrior.
Though he knew he needed several more months to fully replenish his fleet before taking on a significant new adversary, he still had plenty of armaments available. Now he just needed a target. Something small but challenging.
When he noticed a tiny, cigar-shaped, lime green ship on his map, flying through a section of his space, his mouth cracked into a huge, toothy grin.
Reynaul activated the ship-wide intercom. “DaQuay, here. Now.”
His first officer quickly reported to the war room, all four of his eyes wide open with trepidation. “Yes, Everything?”
Though Reynaul knew better than to project any joy to his underling, he loved the fact that all his people called him Everything. After all, he thought, I am their every thought, their every deed. I am everything to them. As it should be.
Using his lower right arm, he pointed at the small, lime-colored vessel hovering over a miniscule, science-based planet that he deemed too unimportant to conquer. “I want that ship.”
While DaQuay felt the urge to question why his leader wanted a tiny, insignificant space craft like that, he knew better. “Yes, Everything. We will lay in a course.”
“Good,” Reynaul replied. “Now go.”
Once his first officer vacated, he gestured toward the tiny ship. “You better be entertaining.”
Watching as planet Bill shrank into the blackness of space, Alex asked, “So where are we going now?”
Hathiant checked his schedule. “Next on the itinerary is the Paperclip system, to pick up a team of botanists from the planet Table Leg.”
Alex smirked. “Really? The Paperclip system? A planet called Table Leg? Seriously?”
Hathiant inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. “How many times are we going to have to go over this? I don’t know what you’re hearing.”
“Right, right.” Alex stifled a chuckle. “Is Table Leg a nice place?”
“Not particularly,” replied Grumm. “Bit of a slag heap, honestly.”
“The majority of the planet has been at war for generations,” said Hathiant. “There are pockets of decency, where science and education still matter.”
“But mostly it’s just killing.” Grumm turned back to the controls. “I voted not to go there but I was overruled.”
Hathiant flashed yellowish green, but quickly stamped his anger down and resumed his lime green tone. “I know you have your reservations, but it’s important to assist scientists wherever we can. They can’t leave Table Leg without our assistance. And any ship without a powerful shield would be vaporized before landing.”
“Fine.” Grumm flashed chartreuse for a split second.
Alex tried to break the tension. “Ya know, fellas, I’ve been thinking about my name.”
This piqued Grumm’s interest. “Whatdya mean?”
“What about your name, Alex?” asked Hathiant.
“Well, I don’t feel like it’s … alien enough.”
“Excuse me?” Hathiant furrowed his brow.
“Alex Dandridge is just so … Earthly. It’s humdrum, boring. I need a cool space name. And I came up with one.”
Grumm turned away from the controls. “Oh? Do tell.”
As Alex opened his mouth, Hathiant pointed out the window at the series of specks at the edge of their vision. “Grumm, what is that?”
“Hmmm …” Grumm brought up the long-range sensors. The screen displayed eleven small dots and one giant one. He magnified the images. “Oh. Interesting.”
“What?” asked Alex.
Moving closer to the screen, Hathiant said calmly, “Looks like a Vex death fleet. And they appear to be heading right for us.”