The combined fleet had assembled. Because of the nature of the mission, all Realmfleet members were required to wear their duty uniforms instead of their usual clothes. The duty uniform consisted of a grey shirt with long sleeves and a pair of black pants with a black, loose, knee-high skirt. The trim on the uniforms signified where the person worked at. Red was for ensigns, orange was for engineering, yellow was for security, green was for the sciences, blue was for the medical profession, and purple was for command. If the person wearing the uniform was not bipedal or naturally had a way to obscure the lower half, the shirt was the only thing required. Arsha adjusted her purple-trimmed shirt and tied off her bun, forgoing her rose hairpiece. She then adopted an authoritative stance. Time to project confidence. She strode onto the bridge to see all bridge crewmembers in their uniforms. Oak, Nazay, Shalvey, and Laverda had purple trim, Dalengor and Malak had yellow, Thangred and Melandra had orange, Elmar and Orthena had green, and Marshii and Thengo had blue. “All decks report ready,” reported Dalengor.
“All ships are standing by,” called Shalvey. “They await your command.”
“Ship to ship communications, Commander Shalvey,” ordered Arsha as she sat down.
“Channel open, Captain,” replied Shalvey.
“All ships, we’re ready,” said Arsha over the channel. “Move out!” The channel closed. “Nazay, set course for the Trelfan Trench, all available speed.”
“Trelfan Trench, all available speed,” confirmed Nazay. The Endeavor then moved to lead the combined fleet to battle. Like a great silver and pink wall, the fleet of the Kurontar Sea and Realmfleet ships ploughed through the water inexorably.
King Jargoon, the leader of all Mega-sharks across the Realms, patrolled the perimeter of the trench. He had to deal with his family’s personal slave, the former Queen Roomeela, sister to Forneth, not performing as fast as she usually did in her 50,000 years of enslavement. After giving her 20 lashes, he got healers to fix her up and cure any illnesses that may have snuck into her body. A sick or injured slave is valueless in his mind. He was about to swim back down when a scout swam to him. “Your Majesty!” she yelped. “A Realmfleet force is coming with those fish-people as well! They’ve crossed the border in an attack formation heading directly here!”
“WHAT?!” bellowed Jargoon. “HOW DARE THEY?! CALL OUT THE SOLDIERS! WE’RE DEFENDING OUR HOME!” The horn blew and the Mega-shark soldiers swarmed out of the trench. The fleet arrived, laying down suppressing fire while the smaller fighter crafts attacked the soldiers. The fight was brutal, both sides sustaining casualties.
“Keep on them,” urged Arsha as the Endeavor chased a Mega-shark light cruiser.
“I’ll give them this,” muttered Nazay as his fingers danced across the console, “the Mega-sharks know how to pilot their crafts.
“So do you, Commander,” encouraged Arsha.
“Stay on them,” urged Oak.
“I’m trying, Sir,” replied Nazay. “And they say we Nagas are slippery.”
“Unable to lock target,” growled Malak. The ship then rocked as something hit it. “We have two Mega-shark heavy cruisers aft of us!” called Malak. “Bearing 2-7-0-mark 1-0-4!”
“Evasive action Arsha Sigma,” Arsha ordered Nazay.
“Hang on!” called Nazay. The Endeavor then loop-de-looped over the Mega-shark ships and ended up behind them. Malak took the opportunity and fired on them, destroying them.
“Nice work,” praised Arsha.
“Couldn’t have made those shots without Nazay’s help,” called Malak.
“Yeah,” hissed Nazay, “but I lost the light cruiser we were chasing.”
“I’m not too choked up,” replied Malak. “Plenty more for us to choose from.” I wish I could say that was a good omen, but it wasn’t. The Mega-sharks decided to go on a few kamikaze runs on the Merfolk’s Shellcrafts. Both crafts exploded on impact. It wasn’t looking too good for the combined fleet.
“Captain,” reported Shalvey, “King Vorko for you.”
“On screen,” commanded Arsha. King Vorko, one of Marianes’ dads, appeared, his brown beard disheveled by the battle.
“The Realmcutter’s been destroyed,” he reported. “That entire line is collapsing.”
“We’ll try to help,” assured Arsha.
“With what?!” asked Vorko. “Arsha, we’re losing too many ships! We’ve got to find a way to turn the Mega-shark’s left flank!”
“It’s too well protected,” replied Arsha, “but their lines are spread pretty thin in the middle.”
“You help the Realmfleet ships,” directed Vorko. “Forneth and I will hit the center.”
“On my way,” answered Arsha. The call ended. “Shalvey, have attack wings 23 and 24 follow us.
“Aye, Ma’am,” confirmed Shalvey.
“What is going on up there?!” growled Jargoon’s wife, Veloom.
“We’re unable to get an accurate reading at the moment,” replied a guard, “but, I assure you, we will hear the victory horn momentarily.”
“You’ve been saying that for the past hour!” roared Veloom as she swam closer, her teeth bared. “Meanwhile, there’s no way of contacting my husband! No way of knowing how the battle is going!” Roomeela, her brown hair showing the abuse she suffered for 50,000 years and her tail in constant pain, noticed her captors’ distress. She decided to bide her time until a signal could reach her and her people.
“Mega-shark ship off the port bow!” reported Malak. “Shields are down to 50%!” The ship rocked again. “Another Mega-shark ship to port!”
“Thangred, auxiliary power to port shields!” ordered Arsha. “Shalvey, we need some support from our attack fighters!”
“Aye, Captain!” called Shalvey. The ship rocked again.
“Another Mega-shark off the starboard aft!” relayed Malak.
“Arsha,” reported Shalvey, “most of our fighters are either destroyed or under attack themselves!”
“Commander, give us some breathing room!” ordered Arsha.
“I’m trying!” called Nazay. The Endeavor still had the three Mega-shark ships on her, at least, until Forneth managed to dive into them and destroy them.
The main command center was filled with every single pleasure slave the Mega-sharks have kept for 50,000 years. A look of horror crossed Veloom’s face as the long range sensors displayed Forneth destroying ships. A murmur could be heard throughout the slave population. “Quiet,” ordered Veloom. She then noticed that she didn’t get immediate obedience. “I said, quiet. You are bred to serve us and obey us. Quiet.”
“No!” snarled Roomeela. Veloom gave the former Queen her full attention.
“What did you say?” she hissed.
“I SAID NO!” roared Roomeela as she leaned back and decked Veloom in the snout. That was all the motivation the enslaved merfolk needed. They started breaking their chains and grasping at the shells on their backs. Veloom recovered.
“Neuro-shells,” she ordered. The Mega-shark at the console pressed a button and pain filled the merfolk, but still, they managed to grab the shells. “NEURO-SHELLS!” bellowed Veloom.
“They’ve thrown up mental blocks!” called the Mega-shark. “I can’t get them to fall in line!” The merfolk then tore the shells off and threw them onto their oppressors. This time, the Mega-sharks felt how bad their own devices were. As the Mega-sharks tried to terminate the treatment, the merfolk swam out of the command center and joined the battle.
“How goes the battle?” asked Jargoon.
“We’re still in a standstill with the enemy,” reported a Mega-shark. “We shall soon break through their…do you hear that?”
“MY LORD!” called another Mega-shark. “BENEATH US!” The formerly enslaved merfolk then attacked Jargoon’s forces from below.
“HOW DID THEY GET OUT?!” bellowed Jargoon. “DISCIPLINE THEM!”
“They’ve removed their neuro-shells!” called a Mega-shark. “They CAN’T be disciplined!”
“Your Highness! Look!” yelled Nazay.
“I see it!” cheered Arsha. “We have the Mega-sharks surrounded! Lock onto Jargoon and warp him to the bridge!”
“Got him!” replied someone from the Port Deck. Jargoon appeared on the Endeavor’s bridge and started gasping before he attached rebreathers on his gills. He then got up.
“You have forced me to accept a handicap,” he growled, “and walk on two legs like a foul land-dweller! HOW DARE YOU!” He then started swinging wildly, a poor decision. He wasn’t as adept at fighting in air as he was in water. Arsha dodged his swings, then decked him in the eye, the rough equivalent to hitting a human below the belt. Dalengor then fired a stun blast and knocked Jargoon out.
“Good shot,” complimented Arsha. “Is the cell ready for him?”
“Ready and waiting,” cheered Dalengor.
“Throw him in the brig,” directed Arsha. Dalengor strode over to Jargoon and cast a teleport spell on the pair of them, taking them to the brig.
“Captain,” reported Malak, “the enemy lines have collapsed!”
“Thank goodness for the slave uprising,” cheered Oak.
“King Vorko wants to talk to you,” called Shalvey.
“Put him through,” replied Arsha. Vorko appeared on the screen.
“Roomeela, Forneth’s sister,” he relayed, “has told us about how the uprising happened. Forneth’s presence encouraged them to rebel. We’ve got Jargoon’s forces in our brigs and the former slaves are receiving medical treatment.”
“That’s great news,” cheered Arsha. “What about the rest of the Trench’s denizens?”
“My Queen,” urged a Mega-shark after the shells were removed, “we must avenge your husband! We must avenge our forces! I’ll summon an army to destroy the enemy and…!”
“What army?!” bellowed Veloom. “All we have left are civilians! Pregnant women! Children! Guards! Not soldiers! Admit it, we’ve lost. Begin evacuation procedures. Pregnant women and children are top priority. The guards will cover the retreat.”
“NO!” roared the Mega-shark. “We can’t leave the Trench to those fish-people!”
“I have had enough of disobedience for one day!” shrieked Veloom as she slashed his face with her claws. As he cradled his face, Veloom turned to the rest of her people. “Anyone else?!” she challenged. No one dared speak up. “Evacuate the Trench,” she ordered. “Use all available speed to our Realmgate. We’re returning to our ancestral Under-realm.”
“The civilians are evacuating the Trench,” reported Malak. “A Realmgate has been opened, leading to the Under-realm.”
“They’re returning to their ancestral seas,” guessed Marshii.
“My friends,” cheered Vorko, “songs will be sung of this day. Once this affair is over, I’ll have a guard posted in the Trench to watch the Realmgate.”
“It will lead to a community living there again,” cheered Erga. “A merfolk community.”
“With respect,” sighed Roomeela as she swam onto Vorko’s bridge, “I don’t think any of us will live there a second longer. We need to return to our home, even if it IS in ruins.”
“We will help you rebuild,” assured Vorko. “Your kingdom will live again!”
“Not MY kingdom,” countered Roomeela. “I have given up my crown. To wear it again would only have me dwell on what was instead of learning the lessons from that time. That’s not what the Order was founded on. The city I once ruled will become a shrine.
“A shrine city,” realized Arsha. “The amount of pilgrimages would be staggering.”
“That shrine city will still have people living there,” replied Roomeela.
“What was your city called?” asked Vorko.
“Oh, you’ve read about it in some measure,” answered Roomeela. “It was the original capital of the Kurontar Sea, Domoroto.”
“Domoroto?!” gasped Vorko. “I don’t believe it! It’s the historical find of the age! The scholars of Rampenar will be all over that like minnows to plankton!”
“Will Realmfleet be prevailed upon to help rebuild Domoroto into a shrine city?” quizzed Roomeela.
“I’ll have to clear it with the Realmfleet Council,” replied Arsha, “but I doubt they’ll say no.”
“Thank you!” cheered Roomeela. “We will see you at the base!” The call ended.
“Speaking of the base,” mused Arsha. “Shalvey, contact Marianes. I have news to give to her in my ready room.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” replied Shalvey.
It took a few minutes to get the call through. By that time, Arsha had just put her dress on and was retying her bun when Marianes appeared on her screen. “I heard the news from Daddy!” she cheered. “Domoroto, the ancient capital of the Kurontar Sea before Rampenar claimed that title, now being rebuilt as a shrine city for the Order of Ancestry! I have to thank Roomeela in person. My spouses and I have a new prayer spot and honeymoon location!”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying the news,” chuckled Arsha as she opened a small drawer and took her hairpiece out. She repined it and adjusted it, prompting a look of confusion from Marianes.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without your hairpiece,” she observed.
“I never have it on during conflict,” replied Arsha. “It taints the luck it brings.”
“It’s a good-luck charm?” asked Marianes.
“Something Foresna’s mother gifted to me on her death-bed,” explained Arsha. “It’s usually passed to the daughter of the family, but Foresna’s sister didn’t want it. She’s been a bit of a rough and tumble girl, not exactly a fan of ‘girly’ stuff. Any woman who wears this is blessed with luck and happiness, but it must never be worn if you are in any kind of conflict from the smallest argument to the largest battle. If so, the luck will drain from the rose and it will wither. She was the kindest woman I ever met.”
“I see,” mused Marianes. “How did it become lucky in the first place?”
“There’s a legend behind that,” replied Arsha. “Before the First Age of Unity, a witch had a garden. She didn’t have the gardener’s touch as everything wilted within a few days. A woman passed by and saw the witch railing against her fate as a poor gardener. She offered to help the witch, but this witch was a suspicious one. She initially refused, but the woman persisted. Finally, the witch caved and allowed the woman to fix her garden. After a few weeks, the garden was in full bloom. The witch soon realized that the woman did it out of the goodness of her heart, so she took a rose from the garden and used her magic to make a hairpiece out of it. She then gifted it to the woman saying to never wear the rose in conflict or the luck that has been infused within will kill the rose. Over time, the rose was passed down the line, bringing luck wherever it went.”
“And now, you wear it,” observed Marianes.
“Foresna’s mother was instrumental in my learning,” recalled Arsha. “I want to honor her in the best way possible.”
“Well, you’re doing a good job,” replied Marianes. “In the meantime, I’m off to help rebuild Domoroto. See you around!”
“See you around,” bid Arsha. The call ended, leaving Arsha to think on one thing, the brave soldiers that lost their lives in the Trench.