They didn’t know what the Arzat actually called their ranks, but they’d had enough skirmishes to know that this particular one was outranked only by the highest officers.
The hope was that he would be high enough in rank to have the security clearance necessary to find Tirus and the Atlas.
Ven and Felix would sneak into their central military installation where Felix would then go to work hacking their systems.
It would be the first time anyone had attempted to hack an Arzat mainframe computer system, there was a huge potential for gaining strategic intelligence in addition to Tirus’ whereabouts.
After killing the Arzat tVen’s first priority had been rescuing the tortured humans.
She tried her best, but the woman with the missing limbs was too far gone, and the child had passed before she got back.
The man hanging from the hooks was badly beaten and in pain, but alive and stable.
After that Ven and Felix went to retrieve the bodies they’d left outside, bringing them in to the house so that no suspicion would be aroused.
They finished just as the sun was starting to rise. Felix’ camouflage would be too easy to see through, so they opted to bunker down in the house for the day.
The day passed uneventfully. The injured man was named Stevr and he was eager to return to his family, but he also had questions upon questions about Felix and their weapons.
He had never seen such things aside from Arzat technology, and he certainly had never seen humans using them.
They agreed to answer his questions in exchange for him agreeing to stay hidden with them until he wouldn’t compromise their mission.
“So there’s a city, but it’s under the sea?”
“Yes.” Venuvia responded, “Atlea, I spent much of my youth there.”
“And something fell from the sky and you were on board?” The man looked at Felix.
“Yes. Me, and two other units like me were onboard the colony ship, our purpose was to protect humanity from hostile forces, should they be encountered.
“But they only sent three?”
Felix was happy to be able to talk about himself. “My power core has a virtually limitless supply. However, the elements required to produce it are exceptionally rare and can’t be synthesized.
They were only able to procure enough for three. But I assure you, I am quite capable.”
“I’d say,” Ven interjected.
“And now there’s a city on land too?”
“One large one,” Ven answered, “and some small villages.
The “masters” call themselves the Arzat, they still control most of the planet, but we humans have taken control of a small portion for ourselves.
We’re constantly battling them to keep it, but my job is to rescue humans from them, as many as I can.”
“Can you take my family there?” The man’s voice held an optimism that hadn’t been there before.
A sad expression crossed Ven’s face. She desperately wanted to help this man and his family, but her mission to save Tirus had to come first.
“I have a mission that I’m on, but we will try and come back for you. You can spread this information, but be careful who you share it with.
There are people loyal to the Arzat who would turn you in for such things.”
“Aye,” the man responded, tears starting to well. “My best friend turned me in.” The tears began to flow. “I found a book. I didn’t know how to read it, but I showed him...
” the man had to pause to gain his composure, “the next day they came for me.”
Ven desperately wanted to help this man but the truth was there was little she could do. They were deep in Arzat territory and it would take everything just to get Tirus out.
Assuming he was alive, but Ven’s mind wouldn’t entertain any other possibilities.
“What do you call this village?” The question was genuine.
“Kenth.” Ven repeated it back.
“As soon as I finish this mission I’ll try and come back, but I need you to promise that you will stay hidden, and tell no one about this until at least two days from now.”
“You saved my life,” he responded, “it’s the least I can do.”
Once night had fallen it was time to move again. Ven donned the holographic disguise of the high ranking Arzat and Felix equipped his optical camouflage.
They found an Arzat buggy parked outside, it was a green vehicle with round bubbly wheel wells and thick tires, very capable of going off road.
After some searching they figured out how to start it. It was different than any vehicle Ven had used, with two sticks instead of a steering wheel, and no foot pedals.
Everything was controlled by hand, but she got the hang of it quickly enough.
Soon she was driving toward Arzat central command, Felix laying across the back seat with his cloak engaged.
They estimated that the Arzat capital was home to millions of Arzat and similarly millions of enslaved humans.
Had they not been there the alliance would likely have bombed the city from a sky eye long ago, but the human losses would be unacceptable.
Ven wondered after seeing the torture room in the Arzat house if that might be a better fate.
The city itself was as modern as it could be. Something she would have never dreamt of as a child. Massive skyscrapers reached upward, all interconnected by multiple elevated walkways.
The ground was covered with roads and traffic. It was not unlike the human capital city back on Aecor, though it was significantly larger.
Ven’s neck was sore from having to crane it upward to see over the dash of the vehicle that was clearly made for the larger Arzat. She would happy when they were done driving.
Sky Eye 2 had been watching the city, and had a guess that the central command was actually underneath it. Ven circled and circled looking for a tunnel entrance.
She spent nearly two hours driving through the city, praying she didn’t get in to an accident with another vehicle. But also watching the Arzat in their home.
They were not all that different than the humans. Though she did notice something odd. She saw no Arzat who looked young, no children.
Granted it was night, but the Arzat only slept about two hours in a day. She figured she’d see young ones somewhere. There was also not a single one that looked elderly.
She was curious to know why.
Ultimately it didn’t matter though. She had a mission to attend to, and at long last she spotted a tunnel entrance with a checkpoint.
As long as she sat still in the car the disguise would work, she had taken what she was sure was an access badge from the Arzat’s home.
She couldn’t speak their language, but that was where Felix came in.
Felix had heard enough of it that his robotic brain was able to decipher it.
His vocal processor was linked to Ven’s holographic emitter so that the mouth would move in unison with what he said. A speaker on the helmet would make the actual sound.
He also had the ability to send words directly into Ven’s earbud without actually speaking out loud. So he would do the talking for her.
“You ready back there Felix?” Ven asked. He was in the back seat hunkered down and holding perfectly still to ensure that his optical camouflage didn’t show any distortions.
“Yes boss.” The mirth in his voice lightened the otherwise tense moment.
“Okay then,” Ven responded, “Here we go.”
With that she pulled the buggy up to the checkpoint. A large tan and brown patterned Arzat in battle armor, with weapon slung on shoulder approached the car.
He grunted and hissed in his language as Ven wondered what he was actually saying. Then the speaker on her helmet responded with another series of grunts and hisses.
Followed by Felix in her ear bud “Hand him the badge.”
She grabbed the badge and held it out to the guard, who grabbed it and then swiped it against a machine.
There was a beeping noise and then he walked back to them holding the badge out for Ven to take back. Moving slowly she took it back.
The guard grunted and hissed again, and again her speaker responded.
After the guard stepped away the gate started to open and Felix told Ven they were clear. She reached to the controls and down in to the tunnel they went.