The Core Adversary

by Cody Clark

We were once part of the most powerful corporation the universe had ever known. But the Great War changed it all. The alliance was scattered abroad like chaff caught by a strong wind. Now, our primary focus is to rally what factions we can in an attempt to resurrect a new alliance, one that will stand up and overthrow our adversary.

The task will not be easily accomplished. Many lives will be lost. But we will overcome and rise up with bravery, faith, and an unsurpassed loyalty to our brothers-in-arms.

We are the Core Remnant.

- Diplomatic Uncertainty -

The thick odor of coal filled the entire room. It felt as if my lungs were coated with the overpowering smell as well. I tried to keep my posture straight and my complexion normal as the diplomatic talks continued on. For the past hour the discussion had gone nowhere, with our potential allies staying stubborn and caught in their ways of old. Tradition and routine seemed to hold an important place within their organization.

Ambassador Golan suddenly took an aggressive approach,

Right now the assurance of your peoples safety is heading down a steep slope. You are putting them in danger by refusing to join us.

How dare you accuse me of not caring for the safety of my people!? the Coalitions leader fired back.

We have prospered for over a century. Our cities and factories have never been rebuilt, for war has never plagued nor confronted us. The leaders voice was stalwart,

I will not abandon our ideals of affluent peace in order to pursue war and its unimaginable effects.

Your coalition has developed a false sense of security. The Dakkran Empire will most assuredly come here and take what they want from you. Golan leaned forward in his chair, trying to grab the leaders full attention,

Doyle, we can help protect you. Our numbers have steadily increased ever since the Core was thrown into ruin and its survivors were forced to come together and rebuild. We have the capability to match the Dakkrans might as long as factions continue to join us. Please consider it, Golan pleaded. Doyle looked away,

Joining you will put my people in an inconceivable danger, ambassador. For the Dakkran Empire will only see this proud coalition as an ally of yours. Doyle stood up from his chair and walked to the large, open window which overlooked the mountainous terrain. His stubbornness could almost be felt. It seemed to exude from his demeanor as he finished his statement of denial,

I refuse to put my loyal citizens into a path of butchery.

I desperately wanted to speak up and force some common sense into Doyle, but I knew I had to control my instinctive response. It was not my place to say anything. I had not been trained to debate. Doyle unexpectedly continued,

I admire your vision of forming a sort of consortium that has the capability to resist the Dakkrans, Golan, I really do. But the fact remains, their empire has had a chokehold on the universe for over a decade now. I do not foresee that hold being broken.

Golan took in the hopeless words and folded his hands together, placing them across his chest. He looked lost. Silence followed as the ambassador was speechless. It looked as if the exhaustion of the failed diplomatic talks had run its course on him. I looked to my commanding officer and gave him a nod. He returned the gesture, then spoke up,

Thank you for your time, sir, Parker said, thanking Doyle. He then turned, approached Golan, and helped him out of the chair.

I know I am old, but do not make me look like a cripple, Golan whispered as he got out of the chair with Parkers help.

I turned around and headed for the exit. The Coalition guard at the door gave me a sour look as I passed him and left the room. I shrugged it off and waited outside for Golan and Parker. An eerie silence filled the hallway. The hallways large viewing windows revealed the vast landscape that Bekunum had to offer. Giant pieces of machinery were on the mountainous horizon, busy hacking away at the rich soils of the planet.

Both Golan and Parker left the room and joined me after a few seconds.

Doyles powerful greed for riches and ignorance of war has clouded his judgment, Parker whispered with bitterness. Golan spoke up,

Now I know it is easy to become frustrated. But patience must be had. It will take time, he reassured. We entered the elevator and began our descent to the main factories.

Times not on our side, Parker brutally admitted as he took off his military cap and ran his hand through his flattened hair.

Agreed, I said, its only a matter of time before this planet is turned into a battleground.

- On the Hunt -

You really had no choice when it came to your profession, did you? Dythan sarcastically asked. I took the device from the Klatians claw, pocketed it, and faked a grin,

No choice, I said as I handed Dythan a handful of currency.

I wish my vocation was as clearly defined as yours was, the Klatian confessed with a laugh as he finished the transaction.

Little did Dythan realize how much danger my vocation put me in on a constant basis. My job was not for the faint of heart. Heartless beings, whether human or alien, were needed to fulfill the requirements of my profession. Yet I knew deep in my heart that there was no way I could ever turn my back on the calling that had given my life an actual purpose.

Each of us have a unique role, Dythan, I said as I made my way to the shops exit with my next victim in the focal point of my mind. My body surged with anticipation as the evening came with no regard to my readiness in executing yet another mission. I looked back at my trustworthy contact for possibly the last time,

And it sure is comforting to know that there are others who stand beside me such as yourself, I said as a farewell. Dythan threw his scaly arms into the air,

Do not mention anything of it! Besides, being on your side is good business. Youre my number one customer! I left Dythans shop with a deep appreciation of the many ways the Klatian had aided me in the past. I glanced up at the shops sign that read Dythans Cache. The store had served me well so many times before, equipping me with the best tools and weapons the underground resistance had to offer.

I threw my jackets hood over my head and stuck my hands deep into my pockets as I headed for the surface. I walked up a long, worn flight of stairs. The air began to turn warmer. I could tell many passing figures gave me odd glances as I kept my eyes focused ahead of me. No doubt they could tell that I was an outcast, that I was a human.

The Core Remnant had given me a bad name ever since the formal war had ended. I was often associated with being a traitor and an outcast because of what the Remnant had yet to do. The loosely structured alliance had yet to come out of the shadows to face the Dakkran Empire in a large conflict, to show that they were unafraid. They resorted to raids and ambushes, like weaklings. Because of them, humans were now considered cowards, unable to stand up and fight for themselves.

I honestly didnt know what to think of the Remnant. Despising them was always a possibility. But a part of me wanted to give them and their motives a chance.

There was an intriguing rumor spreading through the resistance that I had heard multiple times. It spoke of the Remnant seeking to recruit potential allies. I wondered if that rumor was actually true. I guess only time would tell. But whether the rumor was true or not, the Remnant would hear of my next feat and learn to either fear me or respect me enough to hire me.

I exited the dome structure and was struck by daylight. I disliked a brightly lit sky, for it exposed many things that were better off staying concealed. I turned right and began walking parallel to the space lanes that ran high above me. Ships of every size and shape cast shadows all around me. I subtlety glanced at my communicator and saw its timer wind down ever steadily. My target would be speaking in front of a crowd of thousands at nineteen hundred sharp. The highest degree of security would be with the target at that time. I felt my pulse quicken and my forehead dampen for I still had much to do. I had less then two hours left to kidnap my target and infiltrate the Dakkran broadcasting center. And after that was accomplished, I would show the Dakkran how dangerous it would be for them to not hunt me down.

- The Next Move -

We should look for more battle hardened factions in my opinion, Parker suggested,

cause I know for a fact that these miners will be worthless in a serious and lengthy war. They have no desire to fight, nor to stand up and fight for what is noble, he said with distaste. Golan took a sip of water and corrected his commander with the calm voice that had stilled many bitter arguments in years past.

Commander, we do not need frenzied soldiers who will lose focus at the first sign of accomplishing some glorious deed. We need people who are dedicated, who will put aside their selfish ambitions in order to fulfill a goal that is bigger than them. I know these miners are dedicated, even if they are pacifists. Golan shrugged,

Although, I will admit, I am frustrated with their outlook at times, but I have faith that they will agree with our efforts in the long run.

I spoke up, hoping to get the ambassadors mind onto the sequence of our next moves,

Speaking of the long run, how much longer do you believe we will stay on Bekunum? Golan stared at me with his aged eyes and smiled,

No longer than need be. I think we will leave Bekunum to consider our offer. Then we shall return when they need us. Parker took his gaze from the window of our hotel suite and looked at Golan with confusion,

How will we know when they need us? he asked with curiosity.

When the Dakkran place Bekunum under a planet wide siege. That is when we will return. I slightly laughed at the ambassadors reply. He had spoken of an unwelcome, but factual event. Parker liked the reply as well.

Dont you think we should help them prepare for a siege? I asked.

They will not listen to my suggestions, Golan reminded me.

I refuse to pester them any longer. I will let the arrogance of their leaders be the cause of their citizens cries for deliverance. Golans words at first seemed careless to me, but the more I thought about them the more the truth behind his statement became evident. After a few seconds I nodded my head in agreement.

I wish we did not have to take such extreme measures. But sometimes an extreme means of diplomacy is needed to budge the stubborn clients out of their all too familiar comfort zones, Golan said with regret. It seemed to me that perhaps he had been forced to employ questionable tactics of diplomacy in the past.

Parker came over and sat down with Golan and I. He set a map projector on the small coffee table and scooted forward in his seat, now taking the helm.

Please direct your attention to the hologram, Parker asked of Golan and I. A brilliant beam of light came out of the devices center creating a display of planets and systems above us. Detailed tactical information lowered to our level. Suddenly I was surrounded by a wall of projected paragraphs that overwhelmed me with information regarding the numbers of our ships, ground troops, and mechanized units.

Just as a warning, this could be a long night, Parker informed.

Great, I remarked.

We will leave Bekunum before noon tomorrow, so let us not take too long, Golan said.

Perfect, replied Parker, you already answered one of my questions. So our stay here will soon be over, he told himself. He then held up a small device and pointed it at the center of the projected display. Parts of the display disappeared while new images appeared and enlarged. A large planet lowered to our eye level and began to slowly spin on its axis.

Nethal, I said, noticing the over populated planet.

Correct. Parker used the device in his hand to shape the planet and its features to his liking.

Our diplomatic agents there have told me that they are concerned of planet wide uprisings which would endanger them and minimize the effectiveness of their campaign.

From where will the uprisings occur? I asked.

The all too common industrial workers. I guess theyve have had enough of their leaders, so an uprising would effect a large portion of the populace and cause much devastation, Parker said.

That planet is steeped in too much corruption to send our agents an adequately sized security force. If the civilians get one sign of an overwhelming military presence of ours there theyll immediately notify the Dakkrans, I said, sitting forward, my mind was now working rapidly. Ideas and strategies began to form. I preferred to prepare and plan ahead when it came to military maneuvers, it was one of the reasons I was promoted to be one of Golans senior advisers.

Help us Lord to make wise choices regarding the Remnant, I whispered under my breath. I knew God was ultimately in control, that He was the one who let our shattered alliance continue on. He allowed it. To leave Him out of the Remnants agenda was to be an ignorant fool.

What do you think, ambassador? Parker asked. Golan grasped his bearded chin and thought for a moment.

Our agents must stay there. We cannot afford to pull our presence out of that systems most inhabited planet. The potential of gaining allies there is immeasurable.

I just worry that our agents wont be that effective with the prospect of those uprisings happening, Parker said with concernment.

I understand that, but if they leave, the Remnant loses a major advantage. Do you remember how difficult it was for us to put them on Nethal in the first place? Golan casually inquired. Parker smiled,

Yeah, took us months to plan that insertion out.

Let us hope and pray that those uprisings are kept under control, Golan said with an attitude of optimism.

Parker dismissed the projected image of Nethal with a wave of the device. Golan pointed at Parker as a plan came to him,

Hold on, Parker. Tell our agents to focus more on influencing the leaders of Kidrop. I believe their allegiance is key to gaining the trust of the whole planet. Parker returned the image and noted the order onto his nearby data pad,

Will do.

The financial capital. My memory ran wild at the mention of the bustling city. I had worked as a trader there over two years before I joined the Human Alliance Core. Life for me was much different then. If I was honest with myself, I would admit that I regretted the decisions I had made back then.

Many of the common workers on Nethal look to Kidrop as a beacon of hope. Hope of a life free from cruel leadership, I noted.

Indeed they do, Golan said. He then slowly stood up on his own strength and walked over to the main window. Parker set the projection to the next subject at hand. I rubbed my eyes and yawned. The night was already having an effect on me.

Stay awake there, buddy, Parker reached over and hit my leg, weve got six issues that weve got to decide on tonight.

Why cant there be more? I asked with a tired smile. Golans composed voice suddenly spoke up,

How goes the battle in the Naarlark system? Parker winced at the mention of that system. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair,

Not too well, he said with caution. His voice slowed,

Our points of attack have spread far, like we predicted. But the intel we received on the locations, where we believed the Dakkran were ill-trained and low in numbers, was false. I hate to admit it, but the enemys resistance is admirable. Theyve held their ground, refusing to give up anything without inflicting heavy causalities on our skirmishers.

I stared ahead, past the projection of planets and systems. A labyrinth of thoughts and emotions raced through my head. I spat out a question without even considering it,

How many causalities? Parker looked down at his data pad. He shook his head in distress,

Over sixty-two percent approximately. But that was yesterday. No doubt the statistic has climbed since then.

I saw Golan grasp his face as he bowed his head. He most likely felt personally responsible for the lives of each of those soldiers, for he had planned and executed the directive to send them to the Naarlark system.

We must give them aid! I said with authority, standing up from my chair. Parker sat in silence. He never showed much emotion, or as he called it, weakness.

Golan kept his gaze out the window and into the star filled sky. His voice was now firm,

The Naalark system must be the Remnants top priority. I will not let our loyal soldiers be slaughtered. Especially when we have reinforcements who are more then capable of providing them with the help they so desperately need.

Parker almost jumped out of his chair with his next words,

We have two full strength companies in the Starfire system! Both Reaper and Phantom posses many veteran officers and soldiers alike, and they are well equipped to carry out prolonged raids.

You are right, Parker, Golan stated.

Both companies are more then capable of providing those fighting forces with numerous soldiers. But I believe they require something else, something unique. Parker looked at me in confusion as I returned the look.

What do you suggest, ambassador? I asked with hesitance.

I suggest that a pair of tactically sound minds be sent to them to turn the tide of battle to their favor. He gave both Parker and I a look that secured our future plans.

The guidance you two can provide will far exceed what they need in order to bring multiple victories to the Remnant.

I kept a straight face on the outside as best I could, but on the inside I leapt for joy. I had never traveled to the Naalark system. Yet my thirst for adventure had always wanted to take me there. I caught a subtle smile creep onto Parkers face as he absorbed the indirect compliment. He nodded confidently and then looked at me,

Well Quinn, looks like were heading to the Naalark system.

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