Kingdoms of War: A Trial by Fire

Lieutenant Jim Harkness has found himself face-to-face with demons.... And now he must confront his own.


2. Who are You?

Space aboard Freedom's Light was at a premium. For Captain Maria Fierro, this meant her quarters doubled up as her office. The small desk with a small computer terminal and dull grey lamp was strewn with data sticks and schematics, and further sheets of computer printouts coated the fold-away bed, that was only extended now to offer up further work space.

She sighed, trying to see if any of the battle plans to come her way were in any way worthwhile. Command was expecting her to have something up her sleeve by the time she arrived, and she wasn't at all sure she was going to have anything with even a remote chance of success. One on one fights were her thing, not fleet actions. Unfortunately, there was no one else to plan this attack, so she had to come up with something

Worse, she had a headache that was only growing worse thanks to the mysterious stranger that had almost literally dropped in on her crew down one of the corridors. 

Fierro felt the bridge of her nose and sighed. The reflection of herself in the computer's screen didn't help her mood (why did it always enhance the grey hairs?!), and nor did either the man's appearance nor the manner of it. It wasn't good for crew morale to have someone burst into being, on fire and screaming about demons.

Thinking for a moment, Fierro tapped a couple of buttons on her computer, and replayed (for what felt like the hundredth time) the footage from the corridor. There was the man, in an odd uniform, flailing about, as much in fury as pain, bleeding from several wounds and screaming about monsters. 

What worried Fierro more than anything else was the apparent monster in question.

The... thing, did not appear to have a face, nor form, yet it had been a physical entity of some kind, for it had been on fire itself, and it was oozing a black liquid upon the deck. It looked covered in smoke, obscuring its true appearance, and it had certainly fought like a demon.

Fierro hadn't been too sure how many bullets the guardsmen had emptied into the creature before it had died, but she knew it had been more than she'd expected. The body was under quarantine, being examined, but so far Doctor Hanson had not been down to the lab herself - she was more concerned with her living patient.

A knock at the door shook her from her thoughts.

"Come in." She said, sitting back in her chair.

The unfeasibly tall, almost gaunt man that entered never looked especially trustworthy to anyone at first glance. Commander Rodger Morgan had the sort of pale face and tight cheekbones that cast him in an almost eerie light every time he entered a room. Captain Fierro had long wanted to take him to the mess hall and cram a meal or two down his throat, just to flesh him out a little.

"Good evening Captain." His voice was deep, and always seemed to carry a slight rumble. Grey eyes scanned the chaotic work space. "No joy with the fleet plan?"

"None whatsoever. If you have any offerings to make, I'll gladly hear them." She sat back in her seat. "I don't think you came here to discuss battle though."

Morgan chuckled. "No Ma'am. Our 'guest' is awake, and this time, he's lucid. Doctor Hanson also reports that he is very, very confused."

"He's not the only one. I would love to know how he got aboard this ship, traveling at faster-than-light speeds, and what that thing was he brought with him." With a sigh, she stood. "Plus, I need a distraction from all this... planning. " She spoke the word as though it were dirty.

"Do you want me to come with?" Asked Morgan.

"Hmm, no, check in on the team studying that creature's body. I'm going to have to submit a report about this, and Command will want to squeeze every last bit of info out of me. Make sure they have something to give me."

"Yes Ma'am. And Captain?" Morgan began as he backed out of the doorway and let her out into the corridor.

"Yes Commander?" She turned to look at him.

"You should get some sleep. No point in worrying yourself all the time."

Fierro smiled slightly. "I'll follow your advice when you do." 

Morgan couldn't help but laugh at that.


Harkness wanted to snarl with irritation. Despite no longer possessing his left eye, he could feel it itch - and this was a sensation repeated where his left leg and right arm were supposed to be. 

Doctor Hanson had assured him this was quite common - the mind remembered the limb - how could it not? - and the best way for the mind to process the missing eye or limb? With a ferocious itching sensation.

He had been testing his remaining arm and leg, and despite some discomfort (the good doctor had informed him he was still recovering from burns and small wounds) he was able to move them around quite easily. Unfortunately, since he was down a leg, he couldn't exactly get up and stretch the other one.

Right now though, his physical problems were the least of his worries.

The good doctor had told him that the ship's captain, one Captain Fierro, would be along to see him shortly, and that she would try to answer any questions he might have. The trouble for Harkness was, he had no idea where to begin. So many disparate thoughts were clouding his mind and the storm of butterflies in his stomach threatened to burst out of him at any moment. 

There was the sound of something mechanical clunking, and a door slid open at the top of the room. In stepped Doctor Hanson to begin with, and behind her, a shorter woman, in a navy blue uniform with four golden embroidered rings on her cuffs. Her jacket was buttoned to the top and the golden collar looked a little tatty and faded, as though the jacket hadn't been taken off for a while - that or it was often removed and put on again. Harkness wasn't too sure.

The woman was talking to Doctor Hanson, but talking quietly, so Harkness couldn't hear. They both glanced over at him a couple of times, then, after a few minutes, Hanson nodded at her captain, and stepped into her office. Fierro fixed her gaze upon him and walked over to his bed.

For Fierro, the young man that was now sitting up was kind of handsome, even despite his injuries. High, smooth cheekbones were now marred with cuts and bruises but they were healing under Doctor Hanson's care. His remaining eye was a deep blue, and held both intelligence and curiosity in it. His physical frame, despite being covered by green medical robes, was clearly quite muscular. Even the bandages wrapped around his wounds were covering reasonably toned muscle.

It might the sight of those injuries all the harder. Fierro felt sorry for the guy, and what he had been through. At least his future (well, immediate future) was going to be brighter than his immediate past.

She hoped he was going to cope pretty well with what she told him.

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