8. Change of Plans

Lieutenant Freego was already on the helipad feeding a belt through his trusty M60 as Commander Boren Prax arrived. Freego’s machine gun, far too heavy for most soldiers to lug around as their primary, looked relatively small in the massive Plotarian’s hands. The gun was nicknamed “Downer” since it had been responsible for shooting dozens of enemy ships out of the sky during the previous war. Hand-scratched tick marks on the barrel kept a running tally.

“An explosion was just reported near the refinery,” Commander Prax said as he hurriedly walked passed Freego and jumped behind the stick of the Arrowhead, a sleek Yolarian Industries transport ship, once belonging to the previous ruler of Horus Prime, that Prax personally outfitted with a railgun and light rockets for offensive maneuvers.

“Orn’s making this interesting, eh, Prax,” Freego half-joked as he heaved his gun over his shoulder and squeezed into the small cargo bay. “I felt the explosion beneath my feet blocks away. Wonder what Morinth is thinking about right now?”

Before Prax could reply, a shrill voice called out behind them.

“You can ask him yourself,” Perius Yurlay said. “His Excellency wishes to have a word.”

Commander Prax shook his head and continued to fire up the Arrowhead.

“Tell Morinth we’re kinda busy,” Prax replied sarcastically. “Let ’em know we can talk when I get back.”

Yurlay stepped aside to reveal Oligarch Morinth on the helipad. Both Prax and Freego shared an awkward glance as Yurlay failed to suppress a devious smile.

“Tell me, Commander,” Oligarch Morinth said as he walked forward. “How did six common soldiers outsmart the one man I selected among everyone else on this planet to protect it? Dozens of people are dead. A squad of dedicated soldiers killed. And most importantly, untold fortunes of ore are lost.”

Prax paused a moment, took a deep breath and stepped out of the cockpit.

“That man, that maniac,” Prax replied as he pointed up to The Juggernaut hovering overhead. “He’s not here for your ore. He’s not even here for your precious kingdom.”

“Careful, Prax,” Oligarch Morinth warned. “Your tone may be misconstrued as treasonous.”

“Orn’s here for what happened on Iago during the war,” Prax continued as if he didn’t hear the Oligarch’s message. “I assume he just found me.”

“This person is willing to destroy my planet over, what,” Oligarch Morinth jested. “Some petty incident long ago on some insignificant world beneath my notice?”

“We ambushed his entire squad,” Prax replied. “Wiped ’em out, but stranded Orn planetside, wounded and without provision, to serve as an example of what happens when you go up against Coyote Pack.”

“Makes sense,” the Oligarch retorted with a hint of understanding.

“Now, if you don’t let me do what you pay me to do,” Prax insisted. “Orn will just keep sending infiltrator groups. And not to steal ore, but to destroy it and everything else.”

“Impossible,” Oligarch Morinth scoffed. “The Prime Army is preparing to blast that foolish man out of the sky as we speak.”

Prax shot a glance over at Preego for support, but the large alien pretended not to notice and quickly looked away.

“As for you” the Oligarch continued. “General Ostergard is awaiting your presence in the War Room to plan the routing of Orn’s renegades once the Prime Army has him in custody, either dead or alive.”

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