"Captain Samalli Lyu." The speaker announced.

General Idan Starlem leaned back in his reclining chair and contemplated the name. His question had been simple, and the answer was just as.

"Who controlled the forces that attacked the West Bank and destroyed half my ships?" Idan had demanded into the computer. And, in response to his question, the speaker had spoken aloud the name. Captain Samalli Lyu. The creature who had murdered half his troops.

Idan took a quick intake of breath before getting up and walking over to the metal cabinet on the opposite side of his cell. A quick scan of his key and the steel door opened with a sucking sound. He chose the strongest liquid sedative he had, a curious blend of primitive alcohol and new-age drugs.

Sitting back down, he flicked it open and took a quick swallow. The taste of burning strawberries seemed to melt his throat, and he struggled to ask another question.

"Where is Captain Lyu now?"

"Sources indicate that there's a ninety percent chance Captain Lyu has returned to the Tokako base in Alanae territory."

Idan sipped the fluid, savoring the way his stomach seemed to perform a strange dance when the liquid entered it.

"Who does Captain Lyu answer to?" He asked curiously before draining the contents of the bottle into his mouth.

"Captain Lyu's master is unknown at this time."

"But we know Lyu has a master?"

"Yes. Sources show that the amount of video transmissions from Lyu's ship to the base situated in-"

"Alright, shut up." Idan snapped, standing up once more. The Takian brew hadn't given him the results he wanted. He grabbed a syringe of pure vodka, imported all the way from Hiati, and returned to his chair. Impatient, he stuck the needle into a vein and slowly released its contents into his bloodstream.

"General Starlem?" A familiar voice asked.

Idan hadn't even heard the doors slide open. "Sir." He said respectfully, struggling to stand up. He bowed his head slightly, but continued to pump the alcohol into his arm.

"Drowning you sorrows, General?" Officer Morres asked, smiling slightly as he watched the level in the syringe dissipate.

"Drowning… swimming. It's one in the same, sir." Idan replied, sitting back down as Morres indicated he should. "Can I offer you anything?"

"Takian Brew." He observed, looking at the empty bottle on Idan's desk. "Got any more?"

"I do, sir." Idan pressed the last bit into his skin, removed the needle and walked over to the cabinet.

"General," Morres said, after taking a long draught from the bottle Idan had given him and sighing. "I hope you don't feel you're responsible for what happened to your troops."

"I'm afraid I feel as though the blame is resting on my drunken shoulders, sir."

"You really oughtn't." Morres told him firmly. "Captain Lyu is a formidable opponent. Had we known Lyu was approaching, we would have gotten your men out of there."

"Taking the blame won't help me hunt Lyu down, sir. Despite the fact that I feel accountable for over 500 thousand deaths, I won't let it distract me in my search for Captain Lyu."

Morres frowned at his words, the beginnings of wrinkles showing clearly on his face. "General, I had hoped this incident would make you realize the importance of remaining loyal to the Izeian Military Council. It was presumed by some you would seek a way of gallivanting off after Lyu, but I argued, saying you weren't the type of man to abandon what needs to be done."

"Sir, with Lyu out of the war our chances of taking Zebes will be higher than it has ever been. Zebes is Lyu's home planet, Lyu protects it with a passion that keeps all Izeian attacks from succeeding." Idan told Morres, still lounging in his chair. "If I can take Lyu down, Zebes and all its resources will be ours."

Morres growled low in his throat, though it might have been a response to the Takian brew and not Idan's words.

"You know I speak the truth, sir." Idan drawled, sitting up a bit straighter and turning his speaker off with a quick press of a button. "Check with your computers if you must. But Zebes would be a powerful planet to occupy."

"How exactly do you plan to take Lyu down?" Morres rumbled finally, a weariness Idan had not heard before enveloping his words.

"I'm not entirely sure yet, sir." Idan said slowly, the mist that came with sedatives beginning to cloud his thoughts. "In my current state, I doubt I can think of anything that would satisfy you for tonight. But take comfort. If you'll arrange a meeting with me sometime tomorrow afternoon, I'm sure we can discuss it without the influence of Takian drinks." He smiled a bit, but Morres didn't return his lighthearted behavior.

"See to it you think carefully about your plan, General." Morres said, standing up from the russet seat he had been resting on. "I'll send a request to see you tomorrow. For now, good night."

Idan nodded as Morres left, the shiny door sliding shut with a slithering sound. He coughed once, to clear his throat from the residue the Takian brew had left behind and stumbled out of his cell.

Perhaps he could vent his frustration and rage on some innocent girl, foolish enough to walk about this late at night, he mused, walking along on the dark streets. The lights were low, but the nearby planet of Gerin glowed an electric green, bathing the streets in emerald light.

The base was clearly the most crudely made of the buildings, Idan thought to himself, observing the boring metal walls in contrast to the flowing stone buildings that flanked it. Since they had overthrown Orent, one of Alanae's chief planets, the Izeian military had been quick to set up multiple bases, ensuring the domestic tranquility of the planet, as well as Izeian safety.

Walking through the streets of Orent's capital, Idan knew he could force any Alanaen to do as he pleased. Besides being a high-ranking military general, something that demanded the highest respect in Alanaen culture, Idan was pureblood Izeian. Bred from only the most attractive Izeians, like most of his kind, Idan had the trademark signal on his left bicep, a swash of black curves that formed the mark of a true Izeian. He displayed it proudly when he could, but not otherwise. Izeian culture demanded modesty of all its citizens.

Still, one only had to look at him to know he had Izeian blood in his veins (currently flowing along with a large amount of alcohol). His black hair was presently mussed because he continued to repeatedly run his hand through it, but the fact that he had black hair and the traditional pale skin paired with blue eyes should be enough for anyone who had half their sight.

He tried to keep an eye out for any woman that might be running late, but could see only shadowy blurs. The sedatives. Growling in anger, Idan whipped out a small vial that he drained in a thrice. Within minutes, the fog that had settled among his limbs and brain drifted away, to be flushed out of his system in his next trip to the lavatory. Speaking of which…

Idan exited the public lavatory soon after he entered. Without the influence of all that he had ingested in his cell, Idan felt quite a bit more clearheaded and was able to respond when he spotted a young girl trying to slip away from him.

"Stop." He said lazily. She wouldn't disobey a direct order from an Izeian and he knew it.

She stopped.

"Turn around, love." He commanded softly.

She did so and walked over to him.

Studying her, Idan realized she was not as young as he had originally believed. Her Yaurrian gold skin was smooth and flawless like a child's, but looking at the rest of her body, Idan saw she couldn't be younger than eighteen.

"What's your name, young one?" He asked gently.

"Ra-Ra- Ralia, my lord." She stuttered, her dark eyes clearly afraid of him.

"Ralia." He repeated. "Do you fear me?"

She swallowed, then shook her head in answer; no.

He chuckled at her. "Why is that, little one? There are many men like me that would be willing to hurt you."

"They couldn't possibly be as beautiful as you, my lord." Ralia managed, a rose tinge appearing in her golden cheeks.

He smiled. "Little one, I will not hurt you." He fingered her smooth hair. "There are some that might, however. It's not wise for you to be out so late."

"I know, my lord." She swallowed again, but didn't flinch as his hand cupped the side of her face.

"Tell me your age."

"Nine urents."

"That's eighteen years by Izeian reckoning, yes?" He was not completely familiar with the Alanaen number system, but he had had to get his bearings when they moved in on Orent.

Ralia nodded, still staring at him as though entranced.

"Have you never seen a true Izeian so close Ralia?"

"No, my lord. My parents always feared them."

"But you don't fear me?" He asked, knowing the answer.

"No, my lord." She said firmly.

"Do you want me?"

The question didn't startle her as much as Idan had expected it to. She continued to look boldly into his eyes, her mouth in a slight frown.

"Yes, my lord."

"Then come." Taking her hand, Idan led the Alanaen girl back to his cell in the military base.