Fiction From CM Report #5 - 02/11/2017
Shadows hung heavily within the Combat Master’s quarters. At a cursory glance one might have assumed it to be empty. However, that was far from the truth. A pale, blue glow carved into the shadows from the corner, originating from the holoprojector built into the sturdy, durasteel desk located there. A quiet creak echoed through the sparsely furnished room as the large Umbaran leaned back from the image, his arms folded across his chest as he did so. Atra let out an exasperated sigh while his right hand rose to pinch the bridge of his nose between his index finger and thumb.
How long had he been staring at image after image? Certainly long enough that his eyes were rebelling. A dull ache seemed to pulse from just behind them, pounding through his head mercilessly. The Umbaran’s fingers pushed up and ran along his dark eyebrows before rubbing his temples in small circles. Still, there was more to be done. So much more, and yet, no time.
Atra let his left hand fall upon the controls once more, glaring at the image with his grey-gold eyes. The wireframe blueprint continued to spin with a series of aurabesh characters scrolling along the side—all of which he suddenly found entirely offensive to his gaze. The phrase ‘combat center’ and the name ‘Arx’ stood out prominently but he no longer cared. He just needed it to function, after all. The how of it was for others better suited to such labours. Atra pressed his finger to the terminal and pulled up the next file.
The Umbaran’s pupils dilated in the temporary darkness as the projector switched off momentarily. It was a welcome solace, even if it only lasted half a second before a new image was heralded by the pale light once more. There had been a notable increase in activity of late. It was a fact made all the more obvious due to the sheer number of reports making their way to his desk. Perhaps it was due to the increase in surveillance that had come in answer to the resistance’s emboldened efforts. The Lotus—as they had been dubbed though Atra avoided the term himself—had scored a string of small victories against the forces of the Iron Throne and the Inquisitorius alike.
Did they truly believe they were doing the right thing? That the self-righteous forces fighting on the side of good were justified in their actions? Atra scoffed at the thought. In fact, he rejected it. How often had travesties been hidden behind that blinding brilliance? That so-called Light? It hid the ugly truth from the masses far too often. Their resistance against the decrees of the Brotherhood was a blight. An affront to order and a rejection of peace.
The Combat Master worked his jaw back and forth as his eyes flit across the data. The designated Consul of Taldryan had been active of late, though the particulars of Rhylance’s encounters were vague at best. That drawback was coupled by the recent radio silence of Alaris Jinn, whose insight into the matter could have been useful. Some information is better than none, I suppose, Atra thought to himself as he eyed a far-shot image of the Chiss. The picture had its share of distortions due to the amount of zoom, but the Consul’s glasses and slicked back hair were still recognizable. He was about to click through to the next report when a red, blinking light and an aggravating tone signalled an incoming communication.
“Ventus,” the even toned Voice of the Brotherhood used the name in lieu of greeting.
“What do you need, Tyris?” Atra inquired, managing to keep his fatigue from showing but not entirely as his lilting accent was thicker than usual.
“I’m sending a new briefing your way. There’s been a meeting of the champions, if you will.” Marick paused as the data transferred to the terminal. Once fully received, Atra pulled it up without hesitation.
“Blade Ta’var,” the Combat Master stated, acknowledging the headshot and dossier that had been compiled.
“Yes. The most recent victor of our Journeyman tournament has reportedly met with Sorenn alongside several other high priority targets.”
The Umbaran’s gaze shifted to a side table near the center of the room where a stack of datapads lay in a state of semi-disarray. Each contained known threats that he was personally handling in both his role as Combat Master and as Grand Inquisitor. The chiefest among them was Turel Sorenn, though Alethia Archenksova had become more prevalent. That newfound notoriety came from the recently circulated footage from a Lotus attack on one of the Iron Fleet factories. It wasn’t one of the Brotherhood’s finer moments.
The remaining information pertained to Korroth and Qyreia Arronen, another member of Odan-Urr and a mercenary mostly employed by Naga Sadow until recently venturing into Arcona. The merc was a far more known entity to Atra, having to deal with her regularly. While her threat level wasn’t exactly on par with the other names, she posed a significant risk for the Umbaran due to her proximity to his daughter. So it was that she earned a spot on his personal watch list.
“The usual suspects, I take it?” Atra asked.
A quiet sigh could be heard from Marick’s end of the commarray. “It seems that way, which is why it’s coming to you. Given the circumstances I would recommend trolling the Godless Matron for information but after last time—”
“Definitely giving the captain her space,” the Combat Master interjected quickly. “Though, I still have contacts of my own there.”
Atra knew that, on the other end of the connection, the Voice was quietly nodding. Neither were much for words or lengthy speeches and that had become the cornerstone of their working relationship. “Events are moving quickly. We can’t afford to be left reacting to others. I presume you understand. We have to make the first move,” Marick stated, his tone somehow dictating that a response wasn’t required.
“Acknowledged,” Atra replied regardless, though his eyes shifted to the chronometer on his desk. “Speaking of contacts, I have to meet with mine.”
“That’s all I needed from you, you’re free to take your leave.”
“Will do,” the Combat Master answered before switching off the comm. He sighed once more, his fatigue hitting him suddenly. There weren’t enough hours in the day. Still, he knew she had already arrived. Atra could feel her ethereal tendrils probing at his thoughts from the moment she had landed. It wouldn’t do to keep her waiting.
Atra moved to the door and shielded his eyes preemptively before opening it. The sudden light from the hallway was blinding, especially given the darkness of his quarters. It added another pang to the dull pulsing headache he was already contending with. The Umbaran continued to rub his temples as he made his way down the corridor towards the main receiving room. He heard the click-clack of boots before rounding the last corner, quickly moving his hand from his forehead to hang at his side casually. “Hello, Sildrin,” he announced before spotting the long, flowing platinum hair that almost reached the floor panels.
“Atra,” the ashen skinned half-Sephi’s voice slipped between his thoughts while her lips remained still. “I have brought a gift.”
The Combat Master stopped for a moment, his gaze making eye contact with her colorless pupils despite knowing she was blind. His eyes quickly narrowed with a hint of distrust. “What kind of gift?” he asked.
She said nothing of course, merely turning to walk back towards the room she had come from, expecting to be followed though she did not enter quite yet. Atra tilted his head a let out a quick breath, scratching at his chin. He hated making guesses. He jut his jaw out to the side and blew hard, sending strands of his hair dancing along the sudden blast of air before making his way into the receiving room.
The first thing Atra spotted upon entering was the Mirialan male kneeling in the center, appearing as a focal point among the various lounge chairs. His arms were behind his back and contained by a set of stuncuffs. His eyes moved up slowly, a pale blue set strikingly against his green skin and black facial tattoos. It was a cautious look, but one without a hint of fear. That changed as Sildrin slipped through the opening behind Atra. The captive’s eyes widened and his body language betrayed how he was mentally shrinking within himself, curling inward and appearing small.
“What did you do to him?” the Combat Master asked almost casually.
“I merely asked him questions,” the woman replied matter-of-factly. “And made sure he answered them.”
“Care to elaborate or are you enjoying stringing me along with half-answers entirely too much?”
“Yes,” Sildrin answered, a hint of a smile pulling at the corner of her lip as she reached up to run two fingertips down the edge of the Umbaran’s cheek. “He was preparing to launch some sort of operation from the Sinning Den on the Matron. I presumed you would have more use for him than Morgan would.”
The Sephi walked over to the Mirialan and ran her fingers through his messy, red hair, which caused him to recoil noticeably. “Did I presume incorrectly?”
“No.” Atra shook his head before folding his arms across his chest. “This is good, actually. I can make use of him… Also, I’m going to need you to be my eyes—well, ears—on the Matron for the time being.”
Sildrin tilted her head and twisted her victim’s hair, still toying with the Mirialan like a predatory feline and its prey. “You think you can trust whatever information I bring you?” she asked, this time her lips unable to keep from forming a mocking smile.
Again Atra scratched at his chin, casting her a sidelong stare. “I can’t sit idly anymore. This conflict is going to get worse before it gets better. It’s time to take control of the situation,” he declared. “So… let’s get started, I suppose.”
The Combat Master pushed the nearby control panel next to the door and toggled the room’s security features. Panels lowered over the viewports lining the receiving room and locked into place with a thud of finality, followed by the door hissing closed as well.