Commander Cyan exhaled slowly, her breath fogging into a dense cloud of condensation.
In the frigid pocket of safe-zone atmosphere perpetuated around Blue Base Forward One, it slowly dispersed with the rest of the mist from her subordinates gathered around her. Beyond the safe-zone, protected by fast-pulse shielding, a winter hurricane howled so fiercely that there was little to be seen of the landscape beyond.
She couldn't help grinning to herself, glancing around at the heavy-set armor and winter wear her subordinates wore in extra measure. For them, Crystal had long since been a realm of cold snow and ice. This storm raging beyond their base only made it that much more intolerable. But for Cyan, it wasn't even a nuisance. Wearing no armor, dressed only in a light but overly-ceremonious ARR uniform, she must have been one hell of a sight in this weather.
One of the perks of being immortal.
Truth be told, Cyan liked the cold. She had spent most of her pre-war days living in the mountains during the summer months of her home realm, where the air was cooler and crisp. During the winter, well, she had been the envy of the local girls for dressing in their regular summer drab, earning the gaze of all the boys.
But that was another time, in another life.
Right now, her mental energies were engaged elsewhere. Chiefly, she was keeping tabs on the storm she had set in motion this past week, egging it on with greater energies. She felt outward with her inner sight, touching and shifting currents of warm air that she had captured from volcanic vents across Crystal's vast wasteland. Left to its own devices, the climate would have billowed and snowed plenty enough. But she knew some tricks manipulating a few extra ounces of spare energy to turn an ice age into the coldest hell possible.
Pulling back her inner eye slowly, Cyan glanced over with her natural sight to the large feline standing by her side. Her jaguar-seed, Midori, stood poised on all four paws, her golden eyes staring out beyond the fast-pulse shield into the maw of the storm. She hadn't sensed any movement either, but after the recent skirmishes, there was reason to believe there were enemy forces on the move, no matter how thick Cyan made the snow rage.
Cyan let her inner senses align with Midori's, tapping into whatever her jaguar-seed currently sensed. Compared to Cyan's inner eye, the experience was a lot more visceral; almost primitive. Midori always seemed to be jumping from one sight to another with a sort of hungry ferocity native to her natural species. Had the two not trained together over the millennia, Cyan was certain she could have lost herself in the experience.
As it was, she let herself glide along the fringes of Midori's inner senses, seeing nothing new that she hadn't already seen. Which brought home the point that they may as well be standing unnecessarily at guard for an enemy that wasn't coming. But she didn't want to be caught unaware.
Breaking away from Midori's focus, Cyan gliding casually across the frozen concrete floor of their exterior staging area at the front of Blue Base Forward One. She soon found her Captain, who stood with his combat rifle at ready. Captain Karda was a fellow native of Crystal, long after the ice ages of war had befallen the planet. He was no stranger to the cold, and showed it in the way he held himself erect and unmoving, as if the enemy were about to burst through the fast-pulse shield. But being mortal, he couldn't hide from Cyan's inner sight that he was bitterly cold, using most of his energy to keep himself composed.
Oh the games we play to one up each other in military command.
"Captain," she called out to him, stepping gingerly in front of the bulky soldier. It was funny; he should have been all the more intimidating, standing over six feet tall and easily two hundred and fifty pounds of hardened soldier physique, not to mention another hundred pounds of layered armor and winter gear. Compared to Cyan, who stood barely five foot five and was clad only in her light uniform, he was a towering giant.
He nodded respectively to her approach, almost bowing to kneel. Most of the soldiers in Forward One regiment had treated her this way, an unfortunate cultural allotment she had to get used to. The last few months of battle had seen her slowly work that habit out of their ranks, because quite frankly it was a little awkward and overly pompous. She wasn't royalty…just a god.
"Commander," he replied. "Do you sense enemy troop movement?"
She shook her head. "No; exactly the opposite. There's nothing out there. And I'd rather the soldiers move inside where they can save their strength for when the enemy is really on approach."
The Captain nodded in agreement. "I'll leave a watch-detachment on cycled duty to keep eye."
Cyan bit her lip, fighting back the urge to assure him that it was unnecessary. Truth be told, she could sit out here in the cold and keep much better watch than anyone else. But the soldier part of Crystal wanted to take every opportunity to serve their home realm, even if it served no practical purpose. So she decided to just honor the Captain's decision and keep her own tabs. She could certainly raise the alarm quickly enough.
"Make it so," she responded.
The Captain saluted, then turned to bark orders over the comms to the vast array of soldiers that stood gathered on the staging area. Cyan made one more quick glance with her own inner eye, doubled-back to tap into Midori, and then decided that for the moment they were safe enough. Perhaps her storm defenses were working up enough trouble for the entrenched forces scattered somewhere out there that there really wasn't anything more they could do than dig themselves in.
Score one for the good guys.
"Midori," she whispered through a telepathic link, "take watch from the second story observation platform."
Midori turned on her paws, prancing off quickly in the shadows to the lit outline of Forward One. In the cold darkness that surrounded the base, a few bright spotlights placed at intervals along the building's exterior provided what little shape and form was visible to natural eyes. Most of the massive structure resided underground, where heat could more easily be contained and utilized.
Cyan began a slow-paced march around the exterior grounds, watching as the first watch detachment, a small group of five to ten soldiers, took up position at various intervals across the staging area. Most of them were outfitted with the advanced battleview head-gear on loan from Colonnade. Hell, most of the gear, including their sky-fighters and troop transports tucked safely away in the sub-hangers, was on loan from ARR Command in Colonnade. They were about as much of a supplier and contractor as ever for this war front. It wasn't much, but hopefully that would change very soon.
These thoughts led Cyan to think on her friend and superior officer, Avon, wondering how his own personal battles were going. She decided this brief respite would be as good a time as any to touch base with him.
She conjured a small summoning, waiting patiently as it conveyed itself beyond the realm confines of Crystal and out into the Deep. She supposed Avon would no doubt be on Colonnade right now, preparing for a host of negotiations, but was unsurprised when her summoning found him alone in the Deep.
He readily accepted the summoning, and his voice flooded warmly into her inner senses.
"Cyan? Is everything all right?"
She laughed. "Don't panic, Avon. We're not even under attack. I don't always call you when things are shot to hell."
He exhaled, breathing an undo sigh of relief. "Can you blame me? Your last few summonings have come in the heart of battle."
True enough, but Cyan wasn't losing. Well, not technically. But she hated the thought that Avon and the others waited on shaking knees to find out if she had actually won each skirmish. That was a little annoying. Don't you have any faith in me?
"Never mind," she mumbled. "I just wanted to know how negotiations were going."
This earned another, long exhale. "About as good as ever," he groaned. "We'll see if they're any more gracious in our next council hearing. But honestly, if this keeps dragging out, there won't be an ARR left for them to join by the time they finally sign the paperwork."
Cyan didn't like the sound of that. Especially with all that was on the line for the ARR. And for a moment she found appreciation for how anxious Avon was about her posting here on Crystal. It wasn't the best of circumstances, and if she failed, then that put the enemy one step closer to what small ground they currently claimed uncontested.
Of course, the enemy could just as easily walk right around Crystal altogether and march on Colonnade HQ at this exact moment. Then all Cyan would be left commanding was this empty, barren ice wasteland with no other strategic value than the fact that their enemy wanted to see it thoroughly brought to destruction.
One crisis at a time.
That's when she felt Midori tense, her inner sense reaching out to Cyan with sudden interest.
"Avon, I've gotta go," she added quickly. "Something just came up."
After a couple of hasty goodbyes, Cyan broke the summoning and tapped fully into Midori's inner sense. Her jaguar-seed wasn't so great at communicating specific words or thoughts as was natural to her common senses. But she could express certain feelings and emotions that Cyan recognized without fail. And this one was of alert.
Within Midori's jittery inner sight, Cyan now sensed it properly; undo heat signatures that lit up in the middle of the storm like miniature suns. They were using some kind of cloak to otherwise hide their approach, but against the backdrop of this frozen storm, their reactors were unmistakable.
Cyan broke free of her connection with Midori, slapping the alert command on her electronic bracelet. A warning klaxon immediately sounded loudly through Forward One, and armed soldiers began pouring out of open blast doors. The Captain wasn't long in coming.
"We still haven't detected them on our advanced scopes."
Cyan shook her head. "You won't. They've got some kind of cloak that's blinding us. Midori saw them, and only because of faint background heat from their reactors. But they're on the move, trying to make some kind of surprise attack in the middle of this nightmare."
The Captain nodded, taking this all in stride. "Should we warm sky-fighter reactors?"
Cyan shook her head, a devious smile taking shape. "They think they've got us by surprise. But they're going to pay for every inch of ground to get here. By the time I'm through with them, they'll have to resort to crawling in the snow to get to us."