Written by Matt Ochs | Layout by John Kimmel
Time - 2100
Oathki sat on the command throne in quiet contemplation, elbows resting on the chair’s bare metal arms and his fingers steepled before his face. He sat at leisure, and devoid of helmet or wargear, his high cheek bones and icy blue eyes were clearly visible. He wore only a light linen tunic, leather breeches, and mid-calf boots. A tail of shining blond hair spilled down his neck and across his shoulders, completing the look of a young man in his prime.
The glow orbs had been turned low and he sat alone, his gaze fixed intently on the opposite wall, as if his cold stare could see through its layers of hastily erected polyfiber to what lay beyond. They might, for the Hawk saw much.
Outside the confines of his forward operating base was the wide expanse of the Western Wastes and the massive fissure known by all simply as “The Fracture,” which cut a swathe across the land to the north. Oathki’s thoughts shuffled effortlessly through the deluge of data he had collected in his mind; a multitude of briefings and data maps, schematics and tactical analysis. He saw the picture of the Fracture hovering before him, each known enemy redoubt dotting the edge of the rift in sickly red, like a landing strip to Hel. A grotesque scarlet heart pulsed where it lay at the center of the great chasm, marking his goal.
He examined the image in his mind as he might a data slate with the morning’s briefing – there the enigmatic development base glowing red, where his scouts had discovered strange new Synthien technology in the south and west, and then his diversionary forces outlined in cool blue, launching lightning raids across the far north. Each element was a piece of the larger warmachine, and they worked in splendid harmony. Weakening supply lines, diverting enemy defenses; all to lay bear the throat of the traitorous machine mongrels.
His calm features didn’t betray a hint of it, but Oathki felt only contempt for the erstwhile Synthien and their self-proclaimed empire. Their sordid un-lives were an embarrassing blight on the pages of Jotune history, but of no real consequence to his battle plans. Instead, what preoccupied his thoughts were the movements of enemy forces and the strength of their defenses. His maneuvers had been months in the making, each sortie weakening the foe or leading them astray, all in order to pave his path to the heart of the traitors and their capitol city Centropolis.
The campaign was a masterstroke, and even Ashgar the famed tactician, would have to applaud its genius. It was perfect, but for one – unfortunate complication.
“Fenris.” He couldn’t help but sneer at the thought of his cousin. It had the unfortunate effect of ruining his boyish good looks, and for that moment, Oathki appeared every bit the centurion he was; eyes narrowed into cruel and terrible specks.
Fenris, his cousin of house Hrothgar, had ever been his rival. The two of them were like oil and water, always at odds and never to mix. When Emperor Krionos had chosen him, Oathki knew it must have driven Fenris mad with jealousy that he would be the one to subdue their stray servants and bring them to heel. Oathki knew had been the best and most logical choice amongst all their kin, and Fenris, quite frankly, the worst. His master plan would be to go off on an ill-fated rampage for the heart of the Synthien territory, too eager to claim glory and blinded by bloodlust.
Like he had.
Fenris’s position sat in Oathki’s mind, where he had driven due west from Bergheim, bright, glaring – a nuisance to be sure. For all his bluster, his cousin was nothing but predictable, and as Oathki envisioned his movements, he saw Fenris embroiled with the warhulks that had scrambled to deal with his northern strike forces. It was laughable really. He would still be battling with his machine enemies until they fell dead, like a child’s puppets with their strings cut, and Oathki emerged from the Fracture with either the severed head of the traitor Animus - or his unconditional surrender. Even this eventuality he had planned for.
An orange klaxon lit on his throne’s arm pad, and he let his steepled fingers fall. As soon as he pushed the light, his chamber’s door hissed open.
“Eindre,” Oathki said to the soldier who entered, still wearing his travel stained silver armor. He held his helmet under one arm in a black gloved hand and sketched a quick bow.
Oathki nodded, “report.”
“Lord, the Wolf is on the move.”
Normally Oathki wouldn’t brook such disrespect to a high Jotune lord, even by a trusted thain such as Eindre, but his disdain for his cousin had filtered to his troops, and for that he did not mind.
He stared at the Gray Harrier, his blue eyes intent.
“He has penetrated to sector I19.”
A man of lesser quality would have shown his outrage or else shock at such an unexpected development, instead Oathki continued to regard his thain with the same quiet intensity.
“You are dismissed, thain.”
A veteran of hundreds of campaigns and countless sorties behind enemy lines, Thain Eindre was a stalwart soldier, but even now Oathki could visibly see his relief.
“Yes, Lord.” He sketched another bow and strode from the room.
When the door had closed behind him, Oathki gritted his teeth in a furious snarl and clenched his fist.
“Fenris, you dog.”.
His mind began to whirl with the possibilities. His cousin’s recklessness would be the undoing all the meticulous planning he had set in motion and slam shut the door that had been opened. He had to act quickly. Already Fenris had plunged deeper into enemy territory than Oathki had ever thought possible, and regardless of the risk, if he didn’t strike for Centropolis now, all would be lost.
He pressed another klaxon on the throne’s arm before rising.
“Heimdr, my armor.”
A voice spoke into the room, from everywhere and nowhere all at once, “Yes, Lord.”
Even before it had faded, a portion of the opposite wall slid ajar, revealing the gold filigreed regalia of his wargear. The suit rested in suspension as if were adorning a ghostly body, its glittering surface polished to a brilliant sheen, beckoning.
Oathki approached the cubicle, gathering the blond strands of his hair and tying them in a neat warrior knot, before cinching it and turning his back to the open armory. Wordless, he raised his arms, making a human cross, and his armor sprang from the vault with ethereal grace. It opened by unseen hands and closed with practiced precision around his body in a rapid succession of smart clicks and snaps. The last piece to fall into place was the beaked helmet, which hovered gently over his head. He reached up and grabbed it in two gauntleted fists and brought it down over his head, giving himself the true visage of a hawk.
A trap slid open in the floor and his runeblade emerged from its hiding place beneath his feet to rest before him like the fabled sword in the stone. Oathki gripped its hilt and pulled it from its resting place with a smart metallic schink.
“Mobilize the troops. We strike at our enemy’s heart.”
“Yes, Lord. Your will be done.”
A gust swirled into the room as the roof receded and showed untold thousands of shining diamonds in the night sky. Their light lent a spectral glow to the gold armored warrior as he stood in the center of his chambers. He looked skyward and extended the foils of his vaeleron jump pack. In a blinding yellow flash they lit into blazing wings and he was rocketing into the night sky, accompanied by hundreds of fiery stars that rose and streaked into the north – towards Centropolis.