The world looked better after a full night’s sleep. Midday naps just didn’t cut it.
Orlin stepped onto the balcony of his room into the warm summer air of the Capital lowlands and looked out at the Imperial City. Ancient Harex towers intermixed with man-made wood, stone, and steel ones rose just outside the gray stone wall encircling the palace campus at two-hundred paces. A grand walkway of kring-cord and wood connected all the buildings at ten stories up, in many places supported by flower-carved wood arches and scaffolding and widening into boardwalk plazas that floated thirty meters above the stone-topped intersections below.
As it was noon, pedestrians filled the streets on both levels, eating lunch at open-air kiosks and cafes. The smoke from cooking spiraled up from hundreds of open grills and Orlin could smell the cuisine of the grandest city in Okend wafting in on the light breeze. His stomach growled in response, but he had business to attend to before he took time for more than a snack. He let himself enjoy the view for several minutes, however, and also meditated on each of the flower filled palace gardens he could see just below, shining in every color of the rainbow.
His. His to lose.
Or to keep and to prosper for decades to come.
He went in to check on the developments that had occurred overnight. A quick scan of new message headings while standing in front of his computer told him most of what he needed to know.
4th fleet had arrived around Kellfro Freeport, something that was probably no longer necessary now that Rixken was locked up in Emprin where 3rd fleet was already holding a blockade.
The first battalion of Black Wolf forces and an additional Imperial battalion had arrived outside Emprin and begun taking over patrol duties there in a more guarded stance, alongside the one Imperial battalion that had survived.
HarBergan had caught wind of Orlin turning him over to his neighbors and mobilized his militia. His province would be harder to take, but he also wouldn’t be coming to Rixken’s aid.
Also, a message from PirChallin indicated the first round of calls with the Warlords were going well, and a message from HarMakeg said ArPeleg had surrendered Ambril.
He opened PirChallin’s message and read through the list of warlords who had committed forces to the Emprin invasion. It seemed he was already several more divisions toward his goal.
Hmm. An interesting solution on the last item. He read through it twice, but it was very brief. He called PirChallin directly to get more information.
“Yes, your Majesty?” PirChallin answered.
“Yes, your Majesty. I knew he had been trying to hire out the Balhin Factory Complex for some time, so I called him with your offer of a hundred-year lease before any of the surrounding warlords. In exchange for the lease at two-thirds rent he agreed to negotiate for the rest of the Red Knives and pay their hire for the Emprin invasion. He also agreed to provide maintenance for our whole force, and provide the new Danag threes and the Danag Mark Two-C rebuilds at cost for the next ten years if we guarantee the same lease agreement on the Emprin anchor and vehicle complexes after the invasion.”
Galsto LarZalek was a powerful arms merchant from a family that had been supplying the Empire for five centuries. Where other companies had fallen to pieces in the wake of the Night of Storms and the plagues that followed, the LarZaleks had managed to triple their holdings and secure the market on maintaining the old fleets of Danags that the Imperial Army and half the provinces relied on for keeping peace. If he did deliver the deal he was offering, and Orlin saw no reason to doubt him, it would allow Orlin to accelerate the buildup of his own forces and assemble whole battalions of the functionally superior Danag Mk3s.
“Tell him I agree. I can’t think of anyone better to run the Emprin factories.”
“As you wish, your Majesty. He also mentioned that the takeover will be quicker and easier if he doesn’t have to deal with any confused loyalties among the workers.”
“I’ll have HarMakeg see that the population is suitably disciplined.”
Orlin closed the line. LarZalek’s contributions would bring him almost a thousand anchors closer to his goal, and all of them would be piloted by seasoned professionals. His offered repairs would also keep the whole invasion force in top form, critical with the low maintenance standards of some of the provincial armies. For thinking of LarZalek, Orlin would have to ask PirChallin if he or one of his relatives would like to be put in place over a province. Men who could command armies and make smart business deals were rare.
He turned to the message about Ambril. Nothing unexpected. ArPeleg had surrendered unconditionally and HarMakeg had put him and his family under house arrest in the province capital. The long-range artillery sites were just coming under Imperial control.
Orlin sat down in a chair and pulled up his map of Okend again, then called HarMakeg.
“Your Majesty,” Niril HarMakeg’s hungry voice intoned.
“Does all the artillery check out?”
“We lost one piece to a stray rail shot, but it wasn’t one of the larger ones. All the rest is under control and in good condition. I have the Northern pieces moving to the Southern coast as we speak. The Southern artillery is ready to fire.”
Orlin leaned back and eyed the Emprin Isthmus, with its wide Western capital and central region of rocky, resource rich hills covered in forest. Somewhere in there, Rixken was hiding. But not for long.
“Start the tests. And get in touch with my agents in Akati. We’ll need to set up some traps for when Rixken bolts.”
“Your will, your Majesty.”
Orlin closed the line.
Now to wait for the results of the tests.
Get breakfast and then take a walk in the gardens.
Yes. The day was just getting started for him, and Orlin determined right then to make it better than the previous one.
This chapter is part of the in-progress serial web novel The Unbroken Blade, intended to be book one in The Shattered Empire trilogy, and features a mix of sci-fi and thematic elements reminiscent of near-future military fiction such as Gasaraki or Isaac Hooke’s Atlas series and sci-fi combat classics such as Mechwarrior/Battletech and Gundam. The story is rich with battle and conflicts of honor and conscience arising around a civil war on the forested world of Dankar, far from our own, but is primarily focused on how the main characters deal with the challenges they face, not their machines or their world. Follow this blog to receive each chapter as soon as it is released. Like and share to give me a shot of encouragement. Full chapter updates on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.