Chapter Nine

Hyrum hadn't been wrong, but ugly was not the word. Edwin had launched attacks on several cities, abducting people, and searching homes. Whole neighborhoods rose up in arms to push back against the Commonwealth forces. Militia units abandoned their posts and join in the fight as others stood by.

It hadn't come to open warfare yet, they were defending their rights, they claimed. The Commonwealth claimed they were hunting those responsible for the massacres, and attacks. Even Bagdall had pushed back the invaders.

No matter how many times they were driven back, they came again from the skies. Planetary defenses were in the hands of Edwin, and his fleet relied on manpower unlike most other Dralan commanders. His father had learned the hard way what the Furse could so to those who relied on their chained Bots.

His father had been a minor noble who lost everything at the hands of the Furse until he fell into favour with the King. Edgar had claimed a place of honour as the King's Captain, a position his son was granted on his death.

Reports came in from cities all over Isca of combat Bots deployed for battle, only to malfunction in the heat of combat or before. Harald had told them it was Echo. Hyrum had only grunted, while Nena politely conceded it could be.

Harald had studied all he could of the man that hunted him. The tablet he used for his studies was rarely used for such things these days.

Even still, Hyrum had been right about the food. Each day a new person brought them food to welcome them. Most used the tunnel doors. Faster to go through the mountain then around it, Hyrum had said. It also concealed your movements from above, Iris had told him.

They played their part, and their guests would join them for dinner and leave. Each day was no easier then the last. Always on guard. They welcomed their guests with open arms, but restricted their moments.

Hyrum was also right that they were good people. Kind people. Even when the attacks came to Badgall, they continued to come to check on the children, and Quincey couldn't get them to stop bring food no matter what he cooked. Each guest sought to out to the other.

The days were hard, everyone was sacred, and Harald didn't know how he would keep spirits up if it were not for Quincey and his Honour Guard. Gwen kept them sharp. They trained the skills they had learned daily. Some days even Hyrum would train with them, and teach them more.

Harald sat at what Gwen called his war council as they were updated on the events of the day. There had been fourteen deaths from two different raids. Bots had malfunctioned during the attack, but only three Commonwealth forces had been killed. They also escaped with prisoners.

Other cities and towns were hit harder, with much worse losses. Day after day Edwin continued his onslaught, but somehow none of his guests lost hope, or spoke ill.

The alarms rang out. Another attack was under way. They hadn't attack so often after the last one. They all stood at the table as the holo project came up and displayed the city. Area's were red for attacked, others blue for armed units, or black when no information was clear.

Harald had seen the map a thousand times. He thought he could see it in his mind. A section of the city was blinking red, the red growing smaller and smaller until a single neighborhood glowed. The target was on the other side of the city, not near them. Even so Harald knew the others would be following the plan and getting to the vault.

Another section of Badgall blinked red, and then i separated into two, and another two attacks were under way. A fourth attack appeared, and then a fifth. A sixth, seventh. A ninth attack appeared over them, and Harald felt the breath in the room go out.

The blinking narrowed. Broken Spring Hall remained in the zone. It shrunk a dozen houses away before the blinking stopped.

"Fuck," the old soldier muttered before loud expulsions ripped through the air.

Harald felt the blow in his body. He felt his body jerk, but he fought the urge and remained upright. His eyes didn't leave the holo as quick flashs of red were met by dots. He didn't understand.

"Those were planetary defenses," Nena said, her eyes fixated to the table as well. "How?"

Three more red blimps went dark.

"Iris," Hyrum shouted into his comm.

"I'm here, Quincey is already in lockdown," came Iris' voice over the Comm.

"Best get them to the vault," Hyrum said. "They are too close, I need to get to the main door."

Hyrum was already at the door to the hall before Harald could speak. "Wait," he called out.

The old soldier stopped, and turned.

"Give them me," he said hastily.

"Harald," he heard Nena whisper.

"No, I'm tired of it all. Give me up. Everyone else will be safe. Edwin will stop this. It's me he wants." Harald said to Nena.

"It doesn't work that way," she told him. "He has all of our names. And many more. Anyone he couldn't find enough material to make a body of. Others that are more useful then dead." She walked around the table to Harald, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "If you are revealed, he will hunt down all of us, he will know there are others."

"Lord," Hyrum said. "Waiting is the hardest thing a person can do. But it is a duty we must do if we wish to honour those who have already died. There will be a time to fight, there will be a time to stand tall, and there will be a time to die. You honour none by rushing to death."

A series of small arm weapons ripped through the stone walls, and Harald could tell they were close.

"This is about more then you lord, the people have decided what they will die for." Hyrum looked down the hall as more sounds of battle flared up. "Go, to the vault, now. We have planned for this, someone must be with the others. Nena I need updates now."

Hyrum was gone in an instant.

"Go," Nena said coldly as she peered at the ever changing holo map. "Gwen, get him in the vault, at gun point if you have to," she told Gwen, but refused to look up. "Gwen, to the Vault now,"

"Yes Sir," Gwen said quickly from Harald's side. He didn't even have tell to react before he felt her hand on his arm, pushing him forward. "Come on."

Harald realized it was to use to fight, and followed his honour guard. Nena wouldn't be convinced otherwise, they had planned for this, had so many different plans, and fall backs. If it was one thing he had learned from Nena, she didn't leave things to chance.

He waited until they were out the door, and it closed behind them behind them. "We should go see Hyrum," Harald said surely as they walked.

"No," Winni replied from his right.

"He is right," Jae disagreed. "Hyrum will need help if they get in here."

"Ha," Gwen snorted from the front. Her hand on the pistol on her hip. "Hyrum won't need anyone's help. Maybe my help, but you lot would just get in the way. Besides, I gave Nena and Hyrum my word I would stick to the plan," she told them firmly.

Harald realized it would be of no use. Winni wouldn't break the rules if Gwen didn't, Harald knew he wouldn't be able to stop her from her duty. It was a useless cause. As much as he knew she wanted to be side by side with Hyrum in the thick of things.

He hated that feeling also. He didn't want to sit and wait for his fate while others risked their lives. He wanted to fill useful.

"Alfred," Gwen called out curtly. "What are you doing out here?" she asked the young lad as he came down the hall.

"I'm coming with you," he said bravely.

"You should be in the Vault," Gwen said.

"No, I'll die protecting the lord," Alfred said defiantly.

"No," Harald said quickly, and took hold of Alfred's shoulders, and dropped to his knees. "We are not going to die, not if we do as Nena and Hyrum tell as to do." Harald pulled the youth into his arms, and hugged him. "You protect yourself. It is my job to protect you. These are things I do not know how to do, and so we must listen to those who do."

"Even you lord?" Alfred asked.

"Yes Alfred, even me." Harald said with a smile. He tapped the small butt still deadly pistol on the youngsters hip. "Hyrum has been teaching us to use these has he not?" Harald asked.

"And Gwen and Iris," Alfred replied quickly.

Harald smiled again and nodded. "And until they say we are ready, or until we can beat them, we must listen to them. You must protect yourself, because when you protect yourself you are strong, and when you are strong, I know I am safe," he told young Alfred before rubbing the top of his head, and standing to his feet.

"Come on, we have to get to the Vault. Quincey is going to be out of his mind when he realizes Alfred isn't there," Gwin told them, and they all nodded in agreement, and made their way through the fortified halls.