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Chapter 26: A Rhann Will Never Quit

Toreus and Colin stood by the side of the corridor amazed by what they were seeing.

A long convoy of plate dweller vehicles—carts pulled by Trongoroth beasts of burden—moved by them. Messages had been sent far and wide through the underground telling the dweller communities of the invasion of outworlders.

“Amazing,” said Colin. “Who would have guessed that there were so many plate dwellers, let alone that they had a militia?”

Arenjun stepped from the darkness behind them. “Yes, they are well organized. And these troops are not just from beneath Arcadia plate. They come from all across the Sphere and travel via the sub-shuttle system that you surface folk never use. Jump connections and high speed maglev rail from plate to plate.”

The Prince and the Warrior looked at the Time Sorcerer. Both wondered how long he had been there with them.

“How many of these people are there?” asked Toreus.

“Yeah,” said Colin. “I always thought they were just a few hundred malcontents living down here. But there must be thousands of them.”

“Billions actually,” said Arenjun. “Spread out all over the Sphere. Not all humans of course. But all in command of tamed Trongoroths or Metrons or both. All helping to maintain the Sphere machinery.”

“And armed,” said Toreus.

Arenjun nodded his head. “Yes, but not armed to invade the upper world. They have little or no concern for the surface of the plates. They are concerned with the underworld and that is why they have martialed their forces to fight beside us now. They consider this incursion of Kai’Vhan to be an invasion of their realm. And they will not stand for it.”

The three men turned away and walked down the connecting corridor headed back toward where Joss Carpenter had set up a camp for the Arcadian Resistance Forces—a rag tag group of veterans of the Taylor House Guard who had come running at the Master of Assassin’s signal.

They were now in the village and looking at the soldiers, both Arcadian and Plate Dweller who were gathered there.

The Resistance soldiers were cleaning and sharpening weapons that were familiar to Toreus. Weapons like those he carried in his harness. Shield generators as well. But the weapons were old and so were the generators. House Taylor’s guards had either not been very well armed to begin with or they had not managed to flee with their most modern weapons.

The Plate Dweller warriors were another story altogether. They seemed to be donning armor that looked archaic. Like the kind of armor worn by knights and soldiers in ancient times on the Earths. But made of some vaguely familiar looking but strange material.

“What is that stuff? Asked Colin. “It looks organic.”

“Trongoroth hide armor,” said Arenjun. “Highly bullet proof. It will stop a 12mm slug at point blank range.”

“I’ll be damned,” said the Ranger leader. “Well the pinheads are in for a surprise.”

“You can say that again,” laughed Toreus. “The Kai’Vhan Army is about the only army I can think of whom still carry rifles as their number one weapon.”

“The pinheads aren’t the only force we have to reckon with,” said Colin as they entered the command enclosure. “The Arcadian Army is well trained and well equipped. The only fault I can find with them is that they are loyal to the Wallaces. But other than that they kick ass.”

“They’re nothing compared to the Thuvian Rangers,” smiled Toreus.

Colin nodded. “I’ve got only a handful of Rangers—unless your pop is planning on sending a whole division here.”

Toreus shook his head. “No, that’s not likely to happen. The Plate Dwellers and the Resistance Fighters are it—for now.”

“But are they enough,” asked Colin.

In the center of the Command Post a sand table had been set up. Next to it stood Joss Carpenter and two other men. One was an ebon skinned giant in a military field uniform and the other was a plate dweller with an elaborate headdress.

“I assure you that they will be more than enough, Colonel O’Brien,” said Joss Carpenter. He nodded his head in the direction of the others. “Introductions are in order.”

He pointed toward the black man. “This is Colonel Luke George of the House Taylor Guard, formerly of the Royal Arcadian Marine Corps.”

The big marine nodded at them. “I am pleased to meet you two. The name of Toreus Rhann is well known all across the Sphere. And the name of Colin “O’Brien of the O’Brien Brothers is well known in military circles.”

“Good to meet you, Colonel,” said Colin. “The Arcadian Marines are well known too,”

The big man smiled. “As well known as the Thuvian Rangers?”

“Close enough,” smiled Colin in return.

And then Carpenter gestured at the man in the headdress, which seemed to be made of the skin of some giant insectoid, either a Trongoroth or a Metron. “And this is War Chief Simm of the United Militia of Sub-Arcadia.

“Chief this is Colonel Colon O’Brien, formerly of the Thuvian Rangers, Arenjun Sarkhon of the Temporus Magi Atlanticum and His Royal Highness Toreus II Rhann, Prince of Thuvia.”

“We’ve heard much about you, Son of Toreus,” said Simm. “But among my people it is said that often the legend is not the truth. Will you stand beside us and fight or will you head back to the safety and security of the upper world when the war is upon us. We have long avoided the struggles of the upper world and now those struggles have brought the pin soldiers to us.”

Toreus looked the dweller chief right in the eye. He knew that the man’s question was a test of his meddle and not merely a reproach. These were a basic people who not only lived close to the land—they lived in it and repaired it. That meant that they valued honesty and courage above everything else. Here there was no place for two faced politics. Things either worked or they did not.

“Chief, I cannot promise you that more evil will not come from the upper world. I cannot promise you that there will not be more suffering for the people of the underground as there will be suffering for the people of the upper world. All I can promise you is that I will fight today by your side and do all that I can to drive the pin people back to from where they came.

“If you know about me then you know I am a Rhann and that a Rhann will never quit. It is a word that has no meaning in my family.”

The War Chief smiled. He stepped forward and embraced the warrior prince even though he had to stand on his tip toes to do so.

He released Toreus and looked up into his eyes. “This is the legend that I have heard. This is the legend that I believe is true.”

“Well, now that the Old School Rites are over,” said Colin. “Let’s go over some sort of battle plan.”

Arenjun stepped over to the sand table and pointed at a huge cube at its center. “Our objective must be here.”

Toreus leaned over the table and stared at the big cube. “The Arcadian Genesis Bunker. The point from which the Kai’Vhan emerge unto our world.”

“If we had a nuke or two we could blow it up,” said Colin.

“If you had all the nukes in all the universes you could not even dent its surface,” said the Time Sorcerer. “It will absorb all the energy that you can throw at it channeling that energy into the center of the structure—its energy batteries that power the Well of Worlds.”

Colin frowned. “Nothing can ever be simple with you folks.”

Arenjun smiled. “The GBs were created to preserve the content of the plates, the culture, genome, technology and history of the worlds created by the Sidairian world builders on the plates. They had to be made tough and so they were. They can survive even a supernova.”

“So why is this the main target again?” asked Colonel George.

“We need to stop the Kai’Vhan invaders coming through the special wormhole device inside the bunker,” said Toreus.

“We also need to get the Taylor family off Arcadia and to a safe place,” said Joss Carpenter. “The Well of Worlds is just what we need to do that.”

“We could get them out with my ship,” said Colin.

“We’d have to fight our way across town to the Fountain and then up it,” said Joss.

“We could use my jump connection,” Colin patted the device on his belt. “It has enough juice to get the Duchess and the kids out. And maybe you, sir.”

“But the Well will take them away to a safe world where they can hide,” said Arenjun. “Until their father has been freed and leads a revolution to overthrow the Wallaces. Besides, any way you look at it we need to stop the Kai’Vhan incursion --stop it now.”

Toreus leaned closer over the holographic sand table. “Then let us roll up our sleeves and derive a plan.”

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