“Names are an important part of your soul. Especially those which were given freely.”
I guide Zane out of my office, carrying the kitten in my hands. Tristen and Brian are already outside. I sent them an invitation when I invited Zane. “Ah, good. I hoped that you two would already be waiting for us. I placed the hangar's entrance in the guards' quarters at the front of Illum. They can guard it.”
I start walking and Zane hurries to catch up. He nods to greet the two men who fall in line behind us. “What do you mean by 'hangar'!? How did you create something without anybody knowing about it?”
“Give the man a coin for his questions. I know better than to question your wizardry, but a hangar implies more than an empty room.” Tristen joins the conversation. I didn't inform him of the reason for his presence, but the implied meaning of my choice of words is enough to allow some conclusions.
We leave the palace and I head directly for the small tower which was raised at the front area of the island. It's nothing more than the entrance to the barracks. “Illum's force fields make it very easy to shape materials, of which I have more than enough since we visited Sawood and the Dead Mine. I invested a lot of time in automating several processes which lead to the creation of various enchanted items.”
“I don't understand.” Brian's voice sounds a little dumbfounded.
Zane makes some kind of gesture, touching his nose and then his belly. Something religious? “She said that she managed to instruct Illum to create magical artefacts for her. An artefact which creates artefacts. Only the Consortium and maybe the Mirai have such things. Joyce, if another nation learns about that, there will be no questions about their stance towards you.”
“Just wait for a while. You will get to see it soon enough,” I soothe them and keep walking.
We reach the guards' quarters and are allowed to enter the tower without questions. The 'tower' is a plain structure of just ten metres in height and a diameter of five metres. It's really nothing more than an entrance to the underground facility which I created for our military staff. We walk down the ramp which leads to the guards' quarters. The quarters aren't just accommodations but also have office areas for jurisdictional work and matters of administration.
Halfway down the tunnel, I stop and place a hand on the empty wall. It splits open and reveals the secret, shorter tunnel. “I'll transfer the control over this area to you three, once I am done with the instructions. There will be a second, more detailed tour, once you have a proper crew of people who are fit for this new task.”
I lead them into a large hall which is filled with equipment. Flattened, tear-shaped forms fill the hangar. They are ten metres in length and shine like polished steel, which they are. As we watch, a large piece of metal floats into the hangar. It was transported from a storage area through a hole in the ceiling. The metal shrieks as force fields press it into a new shape, while simultaneously heating it up and enchanting the entire thing. A metal casing is transported from a second storage area and embedded in the new attack ship. It's a power core, but I am not ready to let them in on the secret.
The hall is three hundred metres in length with a large exit at its end. The large blast door can open, allowing a large section on Illum's front to spew out several fighters at once.
“Once the hangar is at full capacity, we will have about five hundred small attack craft and fifty large transporters. Before you complain, I know that we don't have enough crew, but I went into mass production right away. The small fighters are equipped with one, large force cannon for ships, and a small one for nimble targets. So, Zane, find me some pilots and talk to Willow. She turned out to be a very proficient pilot.”
“Do we intend to take over the Sociocrathy?” Tristen whispers.
“We made a good start with destroying one of their cities,” Brian replies.
I huff. “We won't do anything of the sort. Illum is neutral... but it never hurts to have a large stick to make that point clear.”
A few additional tunnels lead to crew quarters, offices and manufacturing areas. I point at the first door. “Let's visit the armoury. That's important for Brian and Tristen.” Taking no heed of their pale faces, I open the first door to my left.
We enter a significantly smaller hall. Here, Illum is busily creating armour and smaller versions of force cannons, stationary and hand-held. I point at a stack of greyish armour which is made out of carbon fibre and ceramics. “You can supply our guards with their new equipment. The armour should be lighter than their current equipment, without having the downside of less protection.”
“Why is everything just dropped in large piles?” Brian complains.
“Seriously!?” I throw up my hands. “You just witnessed Illum creating magical artefacts on demand, and you ask me why I don't store everything correctly? That stuff can be thrown away and recycled without a second thought. It's worthless!”
“Actually, that bothers me too. What are those long staff-barrel-things which are so carelessly dropped to the ground?” Zane points at a pile which is close to us.
I place my kitten in my pocket, allowing it to look outside. Then I walk over and take one of the items. It's a large staff which is slightly thicker at the end. A wicked blade allows it to double as a halberd. “The new standard weapon for our guards.”
I take it at the grip and the weapon hums to life. Blue runes of energy spread over its surface. “It shoots energy bolts which are intended to stun and wound the target, depending on the setting. One charge is enough for about fifty bolts. Afterwards, the weapon has to recharge by being close to Illum or to its wielder. The second method isn't recommendable, since it takes a lot of time.”
Shouldering the weapon, I head for the shooting range which I created for instructional purposes. It's located at the left side of the armoury and heavily shielded with barriers. Pointing the staff at one of the stone blocks at the end of the shooting range, I pull the trigger.
A blue orb of energy shoots out of the end and blows a hole into one of the targets. Because it was so satisfying, I unleash several more bolts in rapid succession and explain the weapon to my helpers.
“The bolts look like pure energy, but are actually small needles of compressed ice crystals. The staff creates them from the water in the air. An enchantment is attached to the ice, which heats the crystals upon impact. The enchantment is unstable, which is the reason for the light show. But it doesn't need to last longer than one or two seconds. When the crystal shatters, the enchantment activates, which results in a small explosion.”
I end the demonstration and plant the staff on the ground. “Any questions?”
Tristen turns away to look at the large piles of weapons. He flinches when a new staff drops onto the stack, which already reached a height of ten metres. “I'll get some people down here to clean up. This place doesn't deserve being called an armoury! It's a safety risk!”
I whistle upon entering Nova's office. Ever since I found out that she is also a reincarnated person, I've been in a really good mood. My granddaughter is alive and in a better state than I hoped for. Additionally, her personality seems to be okay, given the circumstances. We have to work out her trust-issues, but it seems like I can turn her into a reliable ally. That's something I haven't had in ages. Another bonus point is that if I can get her to play nice with her mother, my daughter may even recover from her mental trauma.
“Hello, Nova!” I greet her. She is sitting at her usual place in her chair. “Ready for another round of fierce arguments?”
She pulls down the corners of her mouth. “I told you-”
“Yes, please?” I raise a hand and close the door behind me, shutting the guards out. “When you visit Mirai, you will have to get used to the name. Didn't you promise that you would do your best for your biological mother?”
Her eyes narrow. “It feels more like you are trying to push me into a certain role. I am not sure about your idea. If your daughter didn’t come out of her shell for over fifty years, wouldn’t my appearance be an even greater shock for her? I have to warn you, my acting skills are abysmal.”
The doubt is strong with this one. I sigh. “I am fully aware that your appearance could worsen her mental state. Though, if we do nothing, it won’t get better either. She hides herself on our estate and refuses to take part in any social activities. I just want to tear down the walls which she has built around herself.”
I close my eyes and cross my arms in front of my chest. “You managed to distract me from the reason for my presence. Let’s start with lessons in soul magic!”
Nova tries not to show it, but I can see the sparks of interest in her eyes. She even stops petting the kitten and shoves it into one of her pockets in order to get to her feet. The unconcerned act reminds of the many hours of surveillance I had to watch. This person has no clue about pets. At least the kitten isn’t a real animal.
“How do we go about this?” she asks after a few moments of silence.
“Yes. We need a laboratory and a really strong power source,” I explain, which sets us immediately back to square one.
Nova laughs and shakes her head. “You just want to learn my secret.”
So, another round of negotiations. “Yes, because it’s so hard to guess that you know how to make power cores. Guess what, the Consortium and the Mirai know that too. How do you think that two small nations without natural resources, would be able to stand up to the powerful nations of the main continent? The thing that’s unique to you, is your masterful skill with force fields and barriers. Oh, by the way, that hangar of yours was really cool.”
“I knew it!”
“Aren’t we allies? I thought that you knew when you accused the kitten. So, the fact that you brought the kitten means that you wanted to show me the hangar.” I gesture wildly with one hand. “I am about to teach you soul magic, which is a practical application of quantum mechanics. You need to understand what a soul is, and for that, I need to guide you through some experiments which require a lot of energy. Of course, we could start with a few simple spells and jump over the scientific basis.”
Nova tilts her head and takes her time to think about my words while I wait.
I try to appeal to her logic. So far, that worked best. “Think about it. New knowledge. The only thing which doesn’t disappear when we die.”
She clenches her teeth. “Fine! But you also have to tell me how to switch off the surveillance camera inside the kitten.” She makes a gesture with her hand and the floor beneath my feet starts moving.
I quickly step aside and furrow my forehead, studying the secret passage. Looking up, I squint my eyes at her. “Oh, that’s so old school for a secret laboratory.”
She grunts. “I know. The kitten!”
I roll my eyes. “You should have listened to me! Didn’t I tell you that the kitten is only your familiar once you name it, infusing it with your magic? Once it’s yours, the link to Minx is also disconnected. Therefore, no surveillance.”
Joyce purses her lips. “I am bad with names, but I want to find a good one. That’s why I'm taking my time with it.”
I noticed that.