Swords of the Exile (dreamshell & Fefe)
Ezakar Arrai woke before dawn and stared at the words chiseled into the stone above him;
NERO KRIZAKEK NERE BEZI
My life for my nestmates.
NERO TURAZARO NERE BEZI
My life for my empire.
GURO ASAGA NERE BEZI
My life for our Asaga.
He looked away and saw that ice-blue Zekel still ruled the sky outside the narrow slot of his apartment window. Though the sprawling megacity of Skaloi never slept, Zak could already hear it rousing from a languid growl to the roar of morning activity through his reinforced tritanium walls. By sunchange, he knew commute would be hell as a wave of bodies and vehicles choked the twisting narrow streets. Slaves would have it the worst as they crawled out of cramped ghettoes ill-fit to shelter their disparate shapes and sizes to once again serve the will of their Turaskel overlords. It was dangerous work avoiding the careless frenzy of hovercars and maglevs or the explosive scorn of their betters; traffic-related deaths alone numbered in the hundreds daily.
Zak remembered well the panicky self-preservation of that life, but those days were behind him now. While his room was little more than a cell or vault, it was his own (or partially), located within the labyrinthine inner ring of the palatial district. And even if he possessed the flimsy status of freeman in name only, he was Urreza Patak, an 'Honored Sword,' one of the few elite soldiers of the Empire handpicked to personally protect the life of the Asaga. Moreso, Zak was the first of all the human race who could claim such a privilege. It sure beat jumping around like a fool or fighting tooth-and-nail for his life to entertain the masses, that was for damn sure.
Rolling out of the small niche his bed was set in, Zak pushed open a small closet panel in the wall and changed into a new set of clothes before heading for the door. Flashing an ID at the room monitor, the magnetic lock of the door discharged and it opened slowly and mechanically. He stepped out to join the queue of other Patakek leaving their quarters and together they marched down the bronzy, sharp-cornered halls of their apartments to the training grounds outside.
The morning exercises and combat practice seemed to pass Zak by in a blur. Though he would readily admit that he was not the fastest or even the strongest of the guards, he knew he was better than them all the same. The other xenos were always trying to prove themselves by taking out the puny human; urduza, as they called one of his kind. They never succeeded. Zak had spilled blood in the arena; he was not about to be bested by some minor Turaskel noble's third son or a barbarian from the fringes of space who had been lucky enough not to get killed in battle. More than once, Zak had to be pulled off his opponent before he could do real damage. The number of fellow guards willing to practice with him grew less and less. Eventually, he would either be commended for his prowess and awarded command... or killed in his sleep by some envious peer or superior.
Afterwards, they cleaned themselves under sonic showers and broke fast in the mess with a small portion of doughy fabo and cups of vaguely sweet laka. Zak spoke to no one and finished his meal quickly, leaving the crockery behind to be collected and washed by slaves, then made his way with the others to the armory.
Inside, Zak passed his ID over another maglock and his locker opened, revealing armor made of a sleek, black para-aramid colloquially called "plasteel" that was light and flexible enough to move around in with ease, but durable enough to take most laserfire. As he did with so many other things, he equipped it with a casual efficiency honed by mindless (and relentless) training during the last Expansion. Though he couldn't remember the long and awkward name of the species the Empire had been conquering, it didn't much matter considering that they were all dead. His former master, a Djerbodan lanista named Deelo, had volunteered him for the war in an attempt to relieve Imperial debts and drum up some political clout, but the little pig-rat braggart had died a year later in a back-alley robbery. Zak heard it had been a bad death; he had been glad. When he returned to Turaskel, some insipid desk jockey had told him he was free. Zak's one and only act of freedom had been to sign right back up for the xenoid Marine corps and fight another war. That frankly thoughtless act had in turn led to his recruitment as a Royal Guard after some coldblood commander named Marazi had seen him in battle and apparently been impressed. The universe was a strange place sometimes.
Next, he took out his ion rifle, making sure that it was properly assembled and charged for the day. Finally, he attached the belt that held his prize sword, the urreza patak for which the Royal Guard were named. In ancient days they had been made from the refined bones of the Empire's enemies, or so the stories went. Now it was fashioned from a special alloy of tough but flexible design and capable of creating a field of energy that made the blade extremely sharp and extremely deadly, even to the user, who required a unique gel-insulated sheath to carry it in that would dull its charge.
Fully suited and armed, Zak and the rest of the Guard emptied the armory like automatons and headed towards the opulent splendor that was the Asaga's palace. Outside, fiery Tarak was rising to change places with Zekel, just as Zak's group was on their way to change shifts with their comrades. The twin suns passed one another by, creating an eerie magenta light, while pale and solitary Urazi fled to hide behind the horizon on the other end of the world. The Patakek marched up the steep, seemingly endless steps of the palace, immensely large banners hanging down and bearing the Crown of Stars surrounding the silhouette of a planet skewered by a sword; the Turaskel Empire’s mighty sigil.
As they entered His Excellency’s main audience chamber and moved into standing formation, their commander took lead, reciting the oath each of them knew by heart, the one carved into the ceilings of their beds. Without hesitation, every officer joined in, raising their swords to the heavens.
“Nero krizakek nere bezi!”
My life for my nestmates!
“Nero turazaro nere bezi!”
My life for my empire!
“Guro Asaga nere bezi!”
My life for our Asaga!
“Guro Asaga!" they chanted. "Guro Asaga! Guro Asaga!"