Primus

Primus

Status: In Progress

Genre: Science Fiction

Houses:

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Science Fiction

Houses:

Summary

Theodard Aldedramnus VI Tassilo Warraich of House Sun Crane, the Emperor of Man and Sovereign of the 200764 Known Stars, has been executed by revolutionary fanatics. His severed head has been placed on a spike for display in Prion's capital city, alongside those of his wife, his brother, his two sons, and his nephews.

Zaida Warraich, an incredibly sheltered, naive young woman and Theodard's only surviving child, is being pursued across multiple galaxies by bounty hunters, warlords, pirates, gloryhounds, and every other piece of interstellar scum with the 1.3 brain cells necessary to realize that the Heir Primus to an empire covering more than a dozen galaxies is a VERY valuable person to have in one's possession -- regardless of whether or not she's alive.

Fortunately, Zaida has an ace in the hole: half a platoon of the 49th Imperial Marines, the last remnant of the palace guard dedicated to preserving her life and getting the new Heir Primus to safety... no matter the cost. They're led by Lt. Yuri Rudnikov, a man just as fanatical as the revolutionaries who cut off Zaida's father's head -- but Rudnikov is an imperialist, not a regicide, and come Hell or high water he will put Zaida on the throne that is now rightfully hers... so long as Zaida's complete ineptitude doesn't get him and all the Marines killed first.
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Summary

Theodard Aldedramnus VI Tassilo Warraich of House Sun Crane, the Emperor of Man and Sovereign of the 200764 Known Stars, has been executed by revolutionary fanatics. His severed head has been placed on a spike for display in Prion's capital city, alongside those of his wife, his brother, his two sons, and his nephews.

Zaida Warraich, an incredibly sheltered, naive young woman and Theodard's only surviving child, is being pursued across multiple galaxies by bounty hunters, warlords, pirates, gloryhounds, and every other piece of interstellar scum with the 1.3 brain cells necessary to realize that the Heir Primus to an empire covering more than a dozen galaxies is a VERY valuable person to have in one's possession -- regardless of whether or not she's alive.

Fortunately, Zaida has an ace in the hole: half a platoon of the 49th Imperial Marines, the last remnant of the palace guard dedicated to preserving her life and getting the new Heir Primus to safety... no matter the cost. They're led by Lt. Yuri Rudnikov, a man just as fanatical as the revolutionaries who cut off Zaida's father's head -- but Rudnikov is an imperialist, not a regicide, and come Hell or high water he will put Zaida on the throne that is now rightfully hers... so long as Zaida's complete ineptitude doesn't get him and all the Marines killed first.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Omnibus Locis Fit Caedes

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 11, 2017

Reads: 48

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 11, 2017

A A A

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"There is Slaughter Everywhere" -- from Julius Caesar's Commentary on the War in Gaul, book VII, part LXVII

dedicated to Maria, the steadfast

-------------------

Zaida Warraich III of House Sun Crane, Heir Tertiary to the Throne of Man, stared up at the pearlescent shimmer of the enormous holo-vid screen as the severed heads of her mother, father, uncle, and elder brothers were mounted on spikes in front of the palace. There were bloody holes in her mother’s ears from where her killers had ripped out her earrings—though whether the jewels were now trophies or merely loot, Zaida didn’t know.

Does it matter now? They’re dead.

Dead. All of them. Dead.

Her bodyguard, an Imperial Marine officer in matte-black body armor, tightened his grip on her forearm and tugged her closer against his side, continuing to walk and forcing her to move with him as they left the screen behind. Zaida wasn’t spared the sight of her dead family, though; every placard in the city was playing the scene on a loop, along with a pre-recorded speech from the “great liberator”, Suenao Ishino, who’d commanded the army of thugs which had stormed the palace grounds. Intermingled with the endlessly-repeated words and the reek of smoke from the burning chateaus of the noble Houses were the screams of middle-class women being dragged out of their homes by those who’d once been their servants. They, too, were having their jewels ripped from their ears, but they weren’t important enough to have their heads mounted on spikes.

But some of the looters might decapitate them anyway, just for the fun of it.

“Hey, hey!” a man wearing a footman’s livery said, staggering towards Zaida and her escort. “How much for ten minutes with the pretty? I’m fucking loaded. I’ve got so many credits—”

Zaida closed her eyes and turned her head aside as her bodyguard drew his pistol and fired across her body. She flinched at the sharp crack of the gunshot, and only opened her eyes again after stumbling and nearly falling over a piece of debris in the street.

“Almost there, ma’am,” her escort muttered into her ear.

Almost where? Zaida wondered. There had been no plan for any of this. One minute she had been reading in the palace library, and the next a fully armed and armored officer of the Imperial Marines had been dragging her through the corridors and shooting anyone who made eye contact with her. She’d been curtly ordered to change into a maid’s uniform of a shapeless blouse and slacks, smuggled out through the kitchen entrance, and was now… somewhere in the capital city.

There, at the end of the street: a black, squatly cylindrical amored aircar, its side doors wide open and waiting, under the guard of a dozen or so Imperial Marines carrying submachine guns and assault rifles. There was a ragged ring of corpses around the vehicle which marked the limit of how close the Marines were willing to let rioters come. 

Zaida’s bodyguard towed her towards the vehicle, almost running now. He shot a woman wielding a piece of high-pressure tubing who stepped in front of them, moving so quickly that Zaida didn’t have time to look away; the 9mm osmium pellet cracked through the air at twice the speed of sound, creating a fist-sized divot in the center of the woman’s chest and shattering her sternum and ribs as the impact blew her backwards. Zaida was too out of breath to scream, and her bodyguard kicked the corpse aside before grabbing Zaida around the waist and tossing her the last few feet like a sack of grain. One of the Marines standing guard inside the vehicle’s door snatched her out of the air and handed her off to another person, and this one dropped her down into a seat and strapped her into place.

Her escort leaped into the vehicle and slammed the button for the door to close, shot two people who tried to climb in after him, and yelled for the driver to take off. There was a squeal of tortured metal as the enormous fans on the car’s underside started to spin, the entire vehicle shaking with their motion so hard that Zaida felt her teeth might rattle out of her skull. There was an enormous lurch to one side—and then they were airborne, the metal-scream subsiding into a steady mechanical roar and the aircar’s motion easing into something that, though not comfortable, didn’t threaten them shuddering to pieces in the sky.

The doors slid fully closed, dousing the aircar’s cabin in darkness before the bright amber strips on the grey walls came to life. Though there were four seats, only one other Marine was sitting—and she was stripped of her helmet and chestplate, her abdomen swathed in red, wetly-gleaming bandages and her head lolling senselessly back against the headrest. The rest of the Marines stood crowded against the walls of the transport, giving Zaida what little extra space there was and hanging onto support straps to keep their balance. Though several had the inky black faceplates of their helmets turned towards her, none of them spoke.

They gained altitude quickly enough that Zaida’s ears popped, and the aircar’s speed increased once they were clear of the rooftops. This made its flight stabilize further, though the roar of the fans jumped several octaves and became an earsplitting wail of anguish. 

Zaida’s escort, identifiable from the red edging on his pauldrons that marked him as an officer, took a standard-issue commo helmet and put it over her head, fastening the straps and bringing the controls live. The helmet’s noise-canceling technology kicked in, reducing the noise of the aircar’s fans to a faint background hum. The loudest thing Zaida could hear was her own ragged breathing.

“Gold One, do you copy? Over,” someone said.

Zaida flinched in surprise and swiveled her head from side to side, trying to see who had spoken.

“Gold One, do you copy? Over.”

“W-what?”

A sigh. “Can you hear me, Lady Warraich?” The voice was coming from the helmet’s internal speakers.

Zaida took a deep breath and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, her voice was reasonably steady: “Yes. Yes, I can hear you.”

“Good. I’m Lt. Yuri Rudnikov of the 49th Imperial Marines. You, I, and Sgt. Bassima Samie are the only ones who have access to this channel. We’ll arrive at your family’s estate in Kolfar’s Reach in nine hours and from there acquire supplies and ground transport to the lunar shuttle at Helgaskr. Your aunt, the Duchess Isadora, will have contacts there that can take us out of orbit and grant us sanctuary in the Golgotha Cluster. I promise you, Lady Warraich, we’ll see you to safety, even if it’s with our last breaths.”

“…May I ask a question?”

“Of course, ma’am.”

“Did anyone else survive? Any other members of my family?”

Rudnikov’s voice was carefully neutral when he replied: “…The Marines I sent to retrieve your brother’s children didn’t return, ma’am, and they stopped responding to their radios shortly after I found you.”

A woman’s voice broke in over the line: “Sir, the heads of the Prince’s children have been added to those of the rest of the royal family. I have film footage if you’d like a visual confirmation—it’s available to you as well, of course, ma’am. I can put it on your heads-up display.”

Zaida sucked in a breath. She suddenly felt dizzy. “No, no thank you, that’s quite unnecessary.”

“Very well. Samie, out.”

Hector and Nilo riding their ponies on the palace and lawn, shrieking with laugher and jousting with sticks. Hector and Nilo stealing sweets from the kitchen while the cooks pretended not to notice. Hector and Nilo feeding the birds in the menagerie, carefully stroking the brilliant feathers with their chubby childrens’ hands

“…I’m sorry, ma’am,” Rudnikov said.

Why?” Zaida demanded. “They were four and six. They did nothing wrong. They knew nothing about politics or injustice or, or—”

“They were members of the royal family, ma’am. That was enough to justify their deaths to Ishino and his dogs. We’ll avenge them, once we’ve gotten you to safety.” The lieutenant’s gauntleted hand patted her shoulder in an awkward attempt at comfort.

Zaida felt moisture gathering in her eyes. She reached up to wipe it away, bumped her fingers into the glass of the helmet’s faceplate, and then fumbled with the chinstrap. She batted Rudnikov’s hands away and managed to undo it herself after several seconds of struggling, then wrenched the helmet off and dropped it onto the empty seat next to her. She wiped at her eyes, swallowing down the sobs that were threatening to rise in her throat.

They’re dead.

Dead. All of them. Dead.

The knowledge of what that really meant was sinking in.

The Marine lieutenant was staring off to the side as Zaida embarrassed herself. She sniffed hard and wiped at her eyes one last time, then pulled the commo helmet back over her head so that none of the Marines in the aircar could see her face. She managed to fasten the chinstrap herself, though Rudnikov (again) had to start the controls for her.

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” she said.

“Of course, ma’am… Ma’am?”

“Yes?”

“It’ll be a long nine hours to Kolfar’s Reach. Your helmet has planetwide radio access as well as a large selection of music files… most of which are showtunes. This helmet belonged to PFC Arine Bancayan; she enjoyed theater.”

Zaida giggled even as tears continued to prick at her eyes. “Will she mind if I listen to her music during the flight?”

“I doubt it, ma’am. Bancayan died while obtaining the aircar.”

“…Oh.”

Rudnikov’s voice became serious again. “The helmet is yours now. I’ve modified its radio program so you can receive through any source within range, but can only transmit to myself and Sgt. Samie. I’d also prefer that you not transmit to either of us unless absolutely necessary; if an emergency should arise, please remain silent and let us handle it.”

“Yes, Lieutenant.”

“Thank you, ma’am. You can control the HUD through blinking. Rudnikov, out.”

Silence filled the interior of the commo helmet. Zaida spent several minutes just breathing, getting her heart-rate under control and forcing herself to be calm. Then she looked at the HUD and blinked.

A weather report from a port city 800 miles south of here. Unimportant.

Blink.

Suenao Ishino’s speech. Unimportant.

Blink.

Showtunes.

Blinkblinkblinkblink.

A different speech about how Ishino would distribute food equally among all classes and how he planned to solve the planet’s terraforming malfunction. Zaida listened for two minutes.

Blink.

“—are the missing royals: Anastas Warraich, Zaida Warraich, these of House Sun Crane, and Inira Horar and Justinian Adamu, these of House Red Lotus, as well as—” Some of her cousins had survived! Zaida smiled at the display, “—a reward of 500,000 Imperial credits is offered for the body of each of these persons, living or no, with a reward of 300,000 for any young children of the House, living or no—”

Zaida’s gut twisted in on itself. 300,000 Imperial credits was a lot of money, enough that any of the capital’s urban poor would gladly slaughter their own offspring, let alone the young sons of a Prince they hated.

And 500,000 credits was an even greater sum.

Zaida looked around the aircar’s cramped cabin. All thirteen Marines were wearing commo-helmets with tinted faceplates that didn’t allow an outside viewer to see the face of the wearer, as well as bulky, matte-black plasteel body-armor over heavy gray jumpsuits. Zaida couldn’t tell the men from the women, let alone read the nuances of their body language. Rudnikov had seemed loyal enough, but she couldn’t guess about the others. The only things holding them to her now were their oaths of fealty—and what were oaths except a string of noises, a bunch of hot air expelled from the lungs? An honored oath and a path into dubious exile was much less appealing than a broken one and 500,000 credits.

A red dot appeared in the corner of the HUD. Zaida blinked at it, and opened a channel that all of the Marines in the aircar were listening to.

“—ir, I’m serious, why don’t we just turn in the bitch and split the mon—”

Rudnikov walked over to the speaker, drew a six-inch knife from a sheath at his belt, and jammed it into the narrow gap between the Marine’s gorget and commo helmet. He dragged the blade in an arc around the front of the man’s throat, the man’s scream fading into a gurgle and then silence as he went. He wiped the knife clean on the corpse’s pants-leg before sheathing it and looking up at the Marines he commanded.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the lieutenant said in a voice harder than granite and colder than the void of space, “The penalty for treason is death. Remember your vows.”

The general channel closed out before Zaida could hear the responses of the Marines. Over the private channel, Rudnikov continued: “Samie and I knew there would be at least one, ma’am.”

Zaida stared at the red-throated corpse lying on the aircar’s floor. “Was there any other way?”

“No, ma’am. If Porter remained alive, armed, and part of our force then I couldn’t trust him to not sabotage us, and if we had let him go he would have told our plan to the rebellion authorities. We also couldn’t transport a prisoner, ma’am.”

“Did… did Porter have any family, Lieutenant?”

“A wife and daughter, ma’am. They’ll be informed of his death when the situation stabilizes.”

Zaida took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Her father, decapitated and his head mounted on an iron spike as the symbol of a revolution; Porter, his throat open from ear to ear as the symbol of a traitor’s reward; two fatherless girls; a helmet full of the favorite showtunes of a dead Marine.

So much blood.

“How many Marines died extracting me from the city, lieutenant?”

“Fourteen, ma’am. There were twenty-six of us still loyal when Ishino breached the inner wall, and now we’re twelve, myself and Sgt. Samie included.”

Enough to drown in.

“I’m only Heir Tertiary, Lieutenant.”

“Ma’am, with your father and brothers dead you’re Heir Primus, the most valuable person in all of the Empire.”

“No, I—I was never supposed to become Empress. Never. I don’t have the training, the skills—my brothers were groomed from birth to rule, but I… I wasn’t. I’m not fit to be an Empress. This—this can’t be—”

“I’m sure you’ll grow into the position, ma’am.”

I am not worth dying for, Lieutenant.”

“…Nevertheless, ma’am, I and my Marines will continue to die for you for the sake of our vows. But if you can, please make yourself worthy at your earliest possible convenience, because nobody likes to die for nothing.”


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