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In the Valley of the Shadow, Chapter X:

Dawn of 28 Nizaku, Restoration Alliance Joint Forces Command Center: 

The High General Vizornii Hezhatin was to visit was of a strange species. Bipedal and tetrapod, but of an odd hue like the Tamiran Gulganinir, a pale pink with hair the color of straw. His ears were pointed with sharp tips, his eyes a blue of oceanic depths. He was of a race to whom time was simultaneous, past, present, and future merging together in one seamless whole. He was clad in field dress, a garment of a new type of armor designed to shield against plasma, marked with the blue star with grey arrows sheathed in obsidian heads that was the sigil of the House of Underlan, and the three jagged stripes at a reverse diagonal angle that were the symbol of Supreme Commander Xaderavcal's Restoration Alliance.

He looked at her and spoke in a voice that was odd, half-musical, half flinty, speaking the uneasily keen adaptation of the languages of other species that marked the type of life from worlds where True Sorcery existed: 

"You are an Orphan Soldier, the last of your city's cadres for service. You can go on leave, Lady Hezhatin, if you desire it."

Her eyes blazed with an eerie light and her voice spoke with a strange resonance that made objects in the JFCC jostle and rattle.

"Where is there to go to? All my friends are dead. If leave I am entitled to claim, I will take it only when this foul place has been cleansed of the enemy, not one step further. I owe it to them, and to the simpering little thug in their service to do no less." 

High General Felakazundu smiled and steepled his gauntleted hands, leaning forward.

"Then you know who this other one with power akin to yours is?"

"I do indeed. Suvacel. Experiment Twelve, as I am Experiment Thirteen. All brawn and no brains worth speaking of. She is not akin to my kind of power, she is almost entirely focused on raw physical might. The power to fracture Star Bands and send stars shrieking into supernovas that spill over into each other while sterilizing all life with gamma bursts could be hers, and she loves instead the physical might to make mountains crumble by hurling a single strike into them, laughing all the while. A power in itself, that, but no subtlety, simply naked, merciless force."

Objects in the command post were now not merely rattling, some glass fractured and several not sufficiently secured had fallen from their perches. Then, noticing this, she calmed herself for a time and the rattling halted.

"I knew her in the Vats, with others like myself. Most of us did not understand why we existed, only that something had been done to our Source, the Supreme Commander of the Imperial Armed Forces as she is now. We knew in infancy and in youth only faces akin to our own, and the degrees of savagery and horror inherent to one kind of mind refractured through the power of the Vats, and through encouragement to indulge in enormous power designed to work wholesale slaughter. But she is not the purest form of that darkness. A mere schoolyard bully, an entitled jackass given the power of a God and enjoying that power so much that she doesn't need the subtlety such as myself apply to it.

It is for this reason that she is as dangerous to the Monarchists as she is to you."

She then formed a glowing energetic net around her right gauntlet, the energy shaping itself into a fine armor that consolidated into a glowing energetic mass. Those species within the Command Center reliant on certain frameworks of visible light covered their eyes, as the glowing energy was literally painful to look upon. Flexing her hand and then clenching it into a fist, crackling energy shifting and dancing as she did so, she continued in an almost-detached fashion.

"She cannot use the Omega Program to do things like this, I think. She could try, I suppose, were her vanity thus dented by being thumped by a Psi-wielder. I don't know her sufficiently in terms of how that arrogance and vile attitude of superiority on her part would cope with such a thing. But her point of view is that our mere existence, our meaning the experiments such as ourselves, is an atrocity that was wrong when done to our Source and that now instead of one God of War unleashed by scientists calling up that which cannot be put down, there are Fourteen of us." 

Vizornii Hezhatin briefly paused as the energy began to form about her other hand, crackling like lightning and flame together, spreading over each finger, into each joint between each part of the gauntlet, all six fingers illuminated before the energy surged in to conceal any individual parts of the gauntlets. Flexing that hand, too, she then steepled her gauntlets covered by a secondary energetic-armor together. The effect led to her forming a small shield to conceal where the armor touched, releasing arcs of light that might otherwise have cleaved the armored flesh near her clean in two, cauterized halves falling in unintentional anatomy lessons.

She resumed speaking:

"Insofar as her statements are concerned that it was foolish indeed to make one such being, let alone more of them, I must agree with her. But we are here now, and we would not fare well in her vision of Gods ruling mortals according to our whim simply because they would not be able to crush us. As I said, all brawn, no brain. But she sees herself as your superior and theirs, and is enjoying what to her is an oversized live-fire exercise." 

In a wistful, sad tone she finished: 

"Even if I chose to take a few days' leave, without me she'd have no constraints on what she'd do and how she'd do it. Your armies would be pulverized, the Monarchists would seize the Pass, and then she'd ascend into the skies and simply use a brutish but effective combination of invulnerability and high velocity to break the orbital defenses and permit them to land more troops at leisure. Alone, she is more than the entirety of their army, and with her they would be an unstoppable force. So, unfortunately, much as I appreciate the offer of leave, I must decline it."

The High General, still leaning forward, asked quietly:

"And how do we defeat such a force of nature in the form of a Xhemkhik?" 

Vizornii then placed the glowing gauntlets on her still-unshielded poleyns.

"We do so over time, wearing her down and forcing her to exhaust herself in sustained battles with a being like her, until she is taken unconscious and then shielded for a time in a prison-world like the Vault designed to sap Metanormal strength. Though she might overcome the Vault, it would tax her sufficiently that she would be useless to future would-be adventurers for a time." 

Felakazundu frowned. "A tremendous amount of bodies will grow from such a thing."

Vizornii looked at him wistfully.

"High General, there is no war on this scale that will not see victory paved by any means other than over a bridge of corpses."

Nodding, he then called up holograms that displayed the geography of the Pass. Gesturing to call in close some of his most efficient subordinates, he began to point to particular areas, unknown to him the ones that his counterpart on the other side had also opted for her own attack.

"Here we shall mass strong forces to draw both the enemy and her little dragon of darkness. Here, we shall aim in a conventional sense to defeat what may be either a spoiling attack or their own attack and force the Monarchists into the kind of fighting that shall favor our advantage in a firepower battle. Your objective will be to keep her from focusing on us, while your cousin and your father shall be adding to chaos and seeking to counterbalance any Phi, Chi, and Psi-level Metanormals they have at their disposal. I shall have the attack readied in five Standard Days."

She smiled and said, "If they will intend an attack, it would not be for two weeks' time. In all probability, they would also conduct some large-scale feints to try to draw your attention. It will be interesting to see how they react to surprise."

Her green face marked with dark tigerish stripes, so unusually dissonant on a species with dark red, near-brown in shade, skin, broke out in an enormous grin from ear to ear with sharp, serrated teeth clearly visible. It would have been a source of great disconcertion and then anger to Suvacel to have seen how closely that grin resembled her own, or how Vizornii's parting statement that: "Then we shall also see how the self-proclaimed God will handle a being that is to it what it thinks it is to lesser beings striking it" reflected so closely to her own.

The next days were a feverish wave of activities, troops mustered to jumping off points, massed bombardment, and then Vizornii Hezhatin learned that the intended offensive would be postponed for a full standard week. Evidently one of the broader columns in the wider war in Hyperborea had reached as far as the outskirts of Muatarl in a lighting assault and then it had been annihilated by a Metanormal of surprising power on par with the Omegas, though not insofar as anyone knew an Omega or Omega candidate. It was thus that this Battle of Muatarl brought to Vizornii Hezhatin's attention for the first time Xaderavcar of Chalae, the younger sister of the Supreme Commander.

The more she learned about the incident, the more she also understood why events were postponed. In a classic example of maneuver warfare, the Restorationist commander had prepared to defeat an attack on his left flank and had overloaded his army there, but the Monarchists had struck his right and used a few captured Restorationist armored vehicles spearheading their column to accomplish the initial breakthrough. Overly rigid planning and hesitation led to a spiraling disaster that threatened to end badly, until a relief column headed by a colonel of Royal Descent had appeared and the Colonel had levitated into the air and unleashed a rolling storm of an unrecognizable entity that had reduced the entire column of monarchist forces without a trace.

After this, the High General had made the decision to call in the Colonel's brigade and the Royal herself, and had introduced this decision to Vizornii Hezhatin two days before the new offensive would go in with an abrupt:

"I know you're an Artificial, but you should be able to get along with the blood kin of your Source pretty well." 

High General Felakazundu would never understand just how fortunate he was that Vizornii Hezhatin was not like Suvacel, as the latter would have both snapped his neck and then disintegrated the corpse heedless of such an impact. As it was, Vizornii Hezhatin's eyes flared into full-scale glowing light and she grasped Felakazundu by the throat in an overpoweringly strong grip, voice echoing in an unhallowed resonance:

"Never. Use. That. Term. To. My. Face. Again."

He was dropped on the floor with an ungainly smack, and the incident passed quietly.

But when Colonel Xaderavcar arrived, Vizornii Hezhatin was amazed. From Xaderavcal, she had derived an opinion of all Royals as vicious, thuggish, fanatical brutes. Instead, she encountered an erudite theologian who spoke the classical Hata tongue as a birth-speech, and seemed in metanormal terms to be not simply a column of light as the Azar was, but a whirlwind in the form of something far smaller.

Very like that monster I encountered on the Jehexaderavcal Moon.


A brief memory flashed of a figure in odd red armor that had appeared out of shadows and taken her strongest blows and those of an unhinged and still-greater in power, cruelty, and madness Suvacel without harm. The memory passed but in a day of reorganization where a few brigades were castled to the right she could not but suppress a shudder. Then she noticed that Xaderavcar had detected her detection and cocked her head in interrogative fashion. Smiling a sickly grin, Vizornii Hezhatin attempted to move away and the Royal simply made a derisory rumble somewhere between a laugh and a snort and went on about her business.

Comments

Oh, is Artificial considered a slur in this story?
-Fuka