Simeon Grey stood in darkness. Sunlight was choked from the Tribune chamber with the trio of thrones the oligarchy sat upon blocking the windows. Grey held his arms behind his back in as formal a stance he could muster, though he felt himself grow uncharacteristically restless with worry.
The elderly man in the center chair leaned forward, resting his chin on his knuckles. “We’ve given you seventy-two hours, Captain Grey. Have you located your tool?”
He let out a soft exhale. “No.”
Silence permeated the room until finally, the elderly woman on the far right coughed. “Is it dead or simply lost?” she said, after gulping down a glass of water that materialized on her throne’s armrest.
Grey didn’t blink. “We are currently unsure. The explosion caused the cavern to collapse and we haven’t received any communication from the devil since then.”
“You call it ‘devil’ as if it has the awareness to function on a level where it could discern between right and wrong,” the old man in the center said. He pointed a crooked and shaking finger at the Captain. “It is an it. Anything further is…is…” the old man wheezed.
A glass of water appeared on his armrest as well. As he drank, the third member of the Tribune, a younger man, raised a hand. “The bottom line is, we want you to locate the subject as quickly as possible, Captain Grey. If you have any further updates, please notify us immediately,” he said. He looked at Grey and gestured with a raised eyebrow. The Captain frowned and nodded.
The old man in the center coughed. “Yes, yes,” he said through wheezing breaths. “What the boy said.”
“You are dismissed, Captain.” The old woman shooed Grey away with a loose wrist. The Captain dipped his head and turned. The Tribune chamber doors opened and the light blinded him until he crossed the door’s threshold. The chamber guards, men in AI-equipped suits nearly as advanced as Grey’s Tarsus, closed the door behind him and stood at attention.
He licked the inside of his mouth and rounded a corner into a dark hallway. Alone with his thoughts, Grey festered with anger. What is happening?
It was less anger at the Tribune than it was at himself and the situation he found himself in. His tool, the greatest bit of FLOCK research was missing. The Kebulani were an interesting and terrifying race of aliens that had frightened everyone in Blaucus since they had arrived. Invaders from another world with foreign technology, languages and abilities. Though they cracked the sky and seemed to descend from the heavens like celestial beings in their ships, Grey had determined early on that they were no angels but devils instead, destined to conquer and destroy the world he knew. It was that fear that engineered the birth of FLOCK and…
“Cap.” Grey opened his eyes and raised his head. The young Tribune member, Judas Gottschalk stood at the lighted end of the hallway and walked forward towards him. The FLOCK Captain squared himself. Judas shook his head. “Quite the mess in there. Those old fools are losing it.”
Narrowing his eyes, Simeon Grey said, “They’ve been serving on the Tribune since they were younger than you.”
Judas nodded. “And the country has suffered because of it. The same political games and lies again and again.” Judas paused and shook his head. “Hell, your organization has made a scientific breakthrough with your little lost dog and they just look at him like a tool. He’s more than that, he’s…”
“A devil,” Grey said, folding his arms. “Why did you want to talk to me? Hopefully, not just to talk badly about your fellow Tribune members?”
Judas laughed. “No, no, of course not.” He leaned against the wall next to the Captain. “I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Being a member of the Tribune grants me access to every classified operation in our country.” Grey shifted when Judas got closer to him. “I took a particularly keen interest in Operation: Void Moon.”
Judas smiled as Simeon Grey’s eyebrows furrowed and he stepped back.
“Why?” he asked.
“When I was younger, I used to look across the lake at Kasira and admire it for its beauty. I thought that the Kebulani had done so well to build themselves a home in a world that feared and ostracized them. Then, ten years ago, the alarms go off in the city and everything is shut down. People are encouraged to stay in their homes, but I decided to watch from the roof of my home. I saw when a FLOCK fighter blazed through the sky and carpet bombed their entire city with miniature nuclear bombs,” Judas said.
Simeon took in a sharp breath. Images of the destruction were imprinted in his mind. He remembered how the entire city of Kasira had been covered in fire and ash. Through the cloud of smoke, Simeon could still hear the wailing that stopped when and his team grew close to it. The source of it, a tiny figure walked on shaky legs towards him, befitting the toddler that it was. Though covered in ash and smoke, Simeon made out the characteristics of the child. Dark caramel skin covered in blood. Light platinum blonde hair, layered with soot and debris. Golden-amber eyes, clouded by shock.
“Osin,” he whispered.
“So, ‘it’ has a name.” Judas smiled. “The public doesn’t know that your little operation resulted in the genocide of an entire race that had been granted asylum sans one. If they did…”
Grey felt a small pang of the guilt he had tried to bury within his heart, instead replacing it with his normal abrasive and arrogant demeanor. “Are you threatening me with the opinions of people? You’re sounding dangerously close to ORION philosophy,” Simeon replied.
Judas shrugged. “They were right about one thing. These people are sheep and babes. I can dictate what they perceive as truth and with this, I can expose an actuality. The Tribune will be exposed and ousted. FLOCK will be shut down. You…well, under my regime and the pressures of the people, you will be arrested, tried and imprisoned.”
Grey closed his fist. He wanted to grab Judas by his throat and squeeze the smirk off of his face. But, he held back. Judas had a play and years of military training had taught him to listen before he acted.
“What do you want, Judas?”
“I know where to find your boy,” Judas said. He squared his shoulders and looked Grey in the eye, though he was a few inches shorter than the Captain. “Bring him to me and I will ensure that all records of your operation are permanently erased.” Grey narrowed his eyes. Before he could speak, Judas said, “You honestly don’t have an option in the matter, Captain.”
The Captain drew his AC-8R and placed it under Judas’ chin. His nerve impulses created a rifle and the barrel dug into Judas’ throat.
“I have several options, Judas. If you attempt to corner me again, I will –”
“You’ll shoot me? Figured as much.” Judas’ smiled never faded. “The information is already been transferred to my personal files, locked by my heart rate. If my heart stops beating, Operation: Void Moon becomes tonight’s headline.”
“Why do you want the devil?” Grey whispered.
“Do you care?”
Grey was quiet. And he lowered his weapon and stared back at Judas.
“Where is he?”
Terms to Remember
FLOCK – a private and highly advanced paramilitary organization founded shortly after the Kebulani Arrival, FLOCK is run by Captain Simeon Grey and funded directly by the Tribune of Blaucus. Though their existence and operations are essentially secret from the public at large, one of their notable operations, Void Moon, was witnessed by many.
Operation Void Moon – officially stricken from the public and private records of Blaucus, Operation Void Moon was carpet bomb strike against the Kebulani city of Kasira across the lake from Asticus. The mission was considered a success, irradiating Kasira and turning its citizens to dust…except one.