Imperator, page 1part #5 of Galaxy's Edge Series
Part One: Jungles of Madness
The Lesson of Other Ways
The Lesson of Focus
The Lesson of Listening
Part Two: The Desert in Which You Must Come to the End of Yourself
The Lesson of Names
The Lesson of Fear
The Sad Tale of the Moirai
The Lesson of Becoming the Thing you Fear Starts with Trying to Change the Things You Never Could
Part Three: The Last Casualty of Knowledge… Is Everything You Once Were
The Last Lesson Is the Lesson of Becoming the Thing You Fear
The Last Lesson Is the Lesson of Becoming the Thing You Fear
The Last Lesson Is the Lesson of Becoming the Thing You Fear
FREE PREVIEW: LEGIONNAIRE
Join the Legion
By Nick Cole
& Jason Anspach
Copyright © 2018
by Galaxy’s Edge, LLC
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher and copyright owner.
All rights reserved. Version 1.0
Edited by David Gatewood
Published by Galaxy’s Edge, LLC
Cover Art: Kurt Miller
Cover Design: Beaulistic Book Services
Interior Formatting: Kevin G. Summers
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A long, long time from now,
at the edge of the galaxy…
Whenever one reads a history of the Galactic Republic, one always starts well before the Republic was formed. Long before the rise of that thing that would become known as the Empire. Before the once-proud Republic crumbled and rotted from within. Before the Savages. Before the discovery of the hyperdrive. Before all those things…
… was the Big Uplift.
It began when Earth started to finally die for what looked like the last time. Poisoned, war-torn, and ruined. It was then that the massive generational ships, the lighthuggers, filled with humanity’s best and brightest, began their decades-long, sometimes centuries-long, sublight treks toward new worlds they could shape as their own. This was the Exodus, and it came at the very beginning.
Then came the Great Leap. Just fifteen years after the last generational ships had cleared orbit, and while they were still hauling themselves up to just this side of the speed of light, the people who’d been left behind on that dying Earth—which some now believe is just a myth told and retold a thousand times—discovered a fantastic new device called the hyperdrive. True faster-than-light travel. Beyond anything the generational ships could achieve. And suddenly these abandoned souls, left behind by their so-called betters, were set free from the ruined skies and poisoned lands of Earth. Fleeing en masse, they raced ahead of those crawling lighthuggers, reaching new and alien worlds decades ahead of those who had left them behind. And soon a loose confederation of hyperdrive-connected worlds was formed. And in time, a new galactic civilization was cobbled together, connected by strands of gossamer light speed. This was the Great Leap, and it was the second, and final, part of the Big Uplift. It was the end of Earth, and the start of something new.
The Savages defined the next great period in history. Trapped in their slow lighthuggers, creeping along, isolated and alone for hundreds of years, they went mad out there in the voids between the stars, trying to form their perfect technology-driven utopias. And when they emerged, they brought with them a war that would last close to fifteen hundred years. This was the era known as the Savage Wars. It was this era, this conflict, that birthed the Legion, which would fight the wars, and the Galactic Republic, which would rule the galaxy, for better or worse. And often worse it was.
Then came the Empire, and with it, the Emperor. A man known only through whispers. A man barely seen in the darkest of shadows.
A man some named Goth Sullus.
This is his story. And it is a history of the past and where it all began, and the present, and how it all ended.
Even now his forces were in motion. Gathering like hungry ravens around a corpse-laden battlefield, while other battles were breaking out all across his New Imperial Frontier. That was what his admirals now called it on all their constantly updating maps. The Imperial Frontier. The Frontier of an Empire. The growing circle of influence on the stellar map that centered on Tarrago.
Only a few scant weeks prior, what had been a rogue fleet of three state-of-the-art battleships, built in total secrecy out beyond galaxy’s edge, had jumped in to take a major sector capital. The mighty and well-defended Tarrago.
And now he ruled a planet. And that rogue fleet was now an imperial fleet. Belonging to… an empire. The fleet would watch over that empire. Would expand that empire.
Goth Sullus acknowledged that it was, for now, an empire with only one world—but it was a beginning. And he was its emperor, by unanimous assent. His army had knelt on the hangar deck in obeisance, led by Fleet Admiral Rommal, and declared such in the aftermath of the Battle of Tarrago.
“All hail the emperor!” they sounded as one. They shouted the words again and again, as if each repetition made it just a little more true.
And it was, undoubtedly, true. Even as they knelt, the Republic’s defeated Seventh Fleet burned and broke up in the wake of their passing battleships. His battle-scarred shock troopers raised the Imperial flag over the ruined sector capital of Tarrago. The last of the formidable Legion’s defenses were swept aside out on Tarrago Moon. Tarrago Prime was taken, and the orbital defense gun captured.
He had been victorious in his first battle against the legendary Legion.
And now there was very little the dithering Republic could do against his fleet. Goth Sullus knew this, because he knew their darkest and best-kept secret.
The vaunted “fifteen fleets of the Republic” were a mere myth. A clever bit of propaganda designed to assure the sleeping citizens of the crumbling Republic. There had only ever been one fully capable combat fleet—the Seventh Fleet—and even that fleet had trained for little beyond the occasional planetary assault against some local demagogue, minor warlord, or Pirate King of Clans. Pretenders seeking to become major players in the galactic scheme of things.
The Seventh had been no match for Goth Sullus’s Black Fleet. He was no pretender; he was a conqueror. Revenge, Terror, and Imperator had taken the battle straight to the heart of their enemy, launching full fighter wing strikes against the Seventh’s carrier and engaging in furious ship-to-ship turret broadsides against the Seventh’s super-destroyer and her escorts. Both sides had taken significant damage; only one side emerged victorious.
And since then, he’d sent Revenge to lash out at Bantaar Reef, in what had proved to be a devastating raid. Bantaar was a major commercial shipping nexus between the core and mid-core worlds, where a third of the Republic’s market traffic did trade and exchange—and that meant it was also a huge revenue base for the Republic, who watched over it from their naval operations center located in the planet-surrounding asteroid belt. Heavy customs taxes were an essential component of the cash-strapped government’s constant demands from its citizens, and thus it was the most important military base to the Republic.
No doubt the elites of the Senate and House of Reason were feeling the economic sting already, Sullus thought. Their flow of graft and corruption would now be thinning from a raging river to a trickling stream.
Yes, Goth Sullus intended to hurt his enemy financially as well as militarily. This was Total War, after all. And Total War converted everything into a battlefield. There would be no rules. No compromises. No boundaries. Nothing off-limits. There were precisely two conditions that would cause him to end his war against the House of Reason: total annihilation of the Republic… or its unconditional surrender and acceptance of his rule. All other outcomes were unacceptable.
He would save the galaxy from itself even if that required destroying most of it to do so. Knowing what he knew, there was no other way forward. Seeing what he’d seen…
Soon he would send the Terror, commanded by the clever Captain Vampa and accompanied by six squadrons of tri-fighters, against the Legion outpost at Daetroon. Daetroon was only a Legion division training center specializing in jungle warfare, but it was the central Legion presence in its sector. Knocking it out now, along with Bantaar Reef, would secure control of the Tarrago sector, and give the…
Even he, the new emperor, Goth Sullus, was unused to the title. He found himself momentarily unable to think it. Dwelled on the implications that came with it. All the meaning such an incredible rank conveyed. The word carried a weight beyond measure—a weight few had ever known, or would ever know. It was something he’d never anticipated in all the years that had passed since the moment he’d chosen this path.
He remembered an old phrase from long ago—from back when real books could still be found in the ruined playgrounds of his youth.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
Though his admirals and generals gave him no laurel wreath or archaic crown, the meaning of the phrase was clear. Now more than ever.
And something else bothered him, too. Something coming into focus within the palace of his mind. He could sense it coming more than see it.
He had been badly wounded in the assault on Tarrago Moon. His injuries had caused an extreme amount of pain, and they affected his ability to focus. He was far more hurt than his admirals suspected. And of course, they could not be allowed to know. They were just as greedy for power as those within the House of Reason. Different motivations, same end.
Sullus could not go into stasis and request skinpacks and other healing remedies. They would then know. Nor could he consume the powerful tranquilizers or sedatives that would assist his healing. They would affect him. Affect his powers.
He closed his eyes, freeing his mind from the anchors of pain, life, the galaxy, and all its problems. All about him, even now, he could feel their thirst for his power. Even if they themselves did not know it yet. He saw dark forces gathering against him, gathering in the shadows of his own fleet. Gathering against him to take what he had built. What he had conceived. What was his.
This was where the next battle would be fought. Not at Daetroon. Not at the Republic’s capital at Utopion, or wherever he decided to fight the Republic’s ad hoc reserve fleet they were no doubt scrambling to assemble.
Then next battle would be fought here. The next fight would be within his own fleet.
He concentrated on revealing the hidden faces of those who plotted his demise. Surrounding him like predators in a pack, because they sensed his weakness. They felt the victory of the kill, and they wanted it all for their own.
Oh, what good I could do with that unlimited power, each man told himself. And so they decided to come for him. At this moment. When he was wounded. When he was at his weakest.
As he had so many times before, he swept away the darkness and gazed into the hearts of the conspirators. In the past he’d found the ones with fractures inside. Those who would eventually turn against him someday, even if they didn’t think they were capable of it. He’d found them before they’d even known what they truly were.
And he would find them now. While there was still time.
Sullus’s wounds tore him away from that quiet ominous place of power deep within him. Nerve endings screamed with searing pain as his body tried to heal itself but instead opened some fresh hell of suffering. His eyes remained closed in the guise of meditation, but his mind had been pulled back to rejoin his physical body on the battleship Imperator.
He felt the reality of the throne on which he sat. He heard the distant, low thrum of the Imperator’s massive engines. He sensed only what was physical. As though he were blind. Because once he had tasted the power that coursed within him—once he had used it, wielded it—anything else was much less. Blindness. Deafness. A half-life, stillborn.
Poverty, where there had once been luxury.
There it was—the word he’d hesitated to take up in the moments before he’d reached out to find his soon-to-be betrayers. It came back to him now, like a comfort that whispered promises.
He would have an empire now.
Today, Tarrago sector. Tomorrow, the span of the galaxy.
There was a battle coming. A major battle. A battle to end all battles. A battle to end all the foolishness of the Galactic Republic and the House of Reason and its Senate Council lap dogs. The Seventh had gone down in flames, escaping with only her one lone carrier, but the Republic would cobble together a new fleet. This wasn’t over yet.
And the Legion. They, too, were gathering. And unlike the Republic’s navy, the Legion represented a significant foe. A true test.
Goth Sullus stood. He would walk. Because it was beginning. The inner battle before what was to come. Even now, in the corridors beyond his private sanctum, he could feel them coming for him. He could feel the wolves gathering for the kill.
His left side was in agony. He let go of the pain and walked through the darkness of his inner refuge within the Imperator’s private decks. In time, if he survived, he would heal. His body had been doing that for almost two thousand years. Since his time as a slave on the Obsidia.
His mind tried to un-focus as he gathered himself for what was coming. An image of a long-lost friend appeared. Tyrus Rex. He, too, had been a slave. And a friend. And a savior.
The last friend of all friends.
There can be no more friends now.
Even though they are loyal? he asked himself. All of them?
He thought about the crews of the ships surrounding him. He thought of their captains, their grunts, their fighter pilots. Like the woman they’d awarded the medal to that morning. Lieutenant Haladis, a deadly interceptor pilot. She was still recovering from wounds she’d acquired in the last moments of the battle for Tarrago, when victory was already so clearly won, but she’d looked at him with a fierce pride as he stood over her in the medical bay.
Sullus had sensed the drive for revenge within her—a revenge she thought would now be sated. He knew it wouldn’t be. He sensed it growing again. She had believed that her revenge could be sated by the dreams of another. She had confused her revenge with his dreams.
The dreams of an emperor.
Yes, those dreams.
They’d also given a medal to a shock trooper, a black giant who’d captured one of the Republic’s corvettes, single-handedly, during the height of the battle. Sullus confessed to himself that he liked that giant man. Bombassa was his name. Sergeant Okindo Bombassa.
Why do you like him? he asked himself. He waited for the darkness to provide the answer—the distraction he needed to escape the pain of his wounds. He flexed and opened his badly scarred left hand over and over. It was a miracle he still had it.
You like him because he reminds you of Rex, the darkness whispered.
It had been Rex’s armor he’d worn when he was wounded. The old Mark I armor he’d had refitted after… after he’d last seen his friend. Armor forged by the mad aboard a ghost ship called the Moirai. Lost in a place the galactic survey charts called the Dead Zone.
The Mark I armor.
The dreams of empire.
All things were colliding now.
Goth Sullus stood for a long time in that same spot, thinking of his old friend Tyrus Rex. A friend he’d killed on a forgotten planet, all because of a promise that needed to be broken in order to save the galaxy from itself. All those old memories came and stood about him, pushing their way past his meditation, seeking a way into his mind just as they had so long ago.
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