“A leader is one who knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
There are so many questions and so few answers. One could argue that our attack on the pyramid was a striking success. But by now I am not so sure any more. Our enemies simply abandoned their base without a fuss. It felt more like attacking some unimportant outpost. I browse through the reports about the battle and everything that happened afterwards.
It’s been four days since we interrogated Moonray and welcomed Marcus into the family. I’ve been busy ever since, trying to get all my assets under control. On one hand I really had to take care of my coffee shop. On the other I had to reconnect with everyone. There is my own side of the family, but I also had to deepen the relationship with Adea, Clarity and Charles.
To be honest, I don’t care about the latter two all that much. But they are my parents-in-law, so treating them as strangers won’t cut it.
“Are there any news about the spirits?” Marcus asks from the sofa. We are currently relaxing in the living area of his palace, which isn’t all that strange. One could say that we are lodging in three places; my apartment, his rooms in his palace, and my rooms in my parent’s palace. I’ve a feeling that we really should try to get our own place at some point or the other.
I summarize the situation. “Not really. The self destruct didn’t activate, but we already knew that from the citadel's second mission.” Frowning, I take a look at the next page. The area around the pyramid is still full of spirits, so our people only jumped there and returned immediately after a short peek at the situation. To our surprise, the pyramid was still there, lying dead in space.
“The pyramid was largely left intact when we teleported from inside it. But we must have damaged something vital when we left. Or the self destruction wasn’t meant to destroy the pyramid as a whole. We are left with a dead wreck which is floating in an otherwise empty dimension. The spirits have dispersed since the pyramid was taken offline, so the citadel will do some more investigation once the area is safe.”
“I wondered about that. Everything seemed too easy. Did the pyramid’s crew never have any training? I admit that they put up a fight, but in the end we waltzed over them. If it wasn’t for Moonray, there wouldn’t have been a real fight at all.” Marcus shifts on his seat and scratches his chin in thought. “The whole situation feels off.”
Or you are simply underestimating the training of our troops. The spirits are a mad bunch of barbarians, while our people have the memories of several lifetimes of battles.
I nod. “I’ve given it some thought and I came to the conclusion that it was inevitable. We aren’t fighting an enemy who is using an army in the real sense of the word. At some point we compared the spirits to drones and maybe we were closer to the truth than we thought.”
Marcus looks at me, tilting his head. “But they definitely aren’t drones.”
Spreading my hands, I admit that he is right. “That’s true, but does it matter? The one who is using them, is deploying them as if they were drones. They must have been doing so for quite a while and I think that they’ve gotten set in their ways. They are always using the spirits to soften-up their enemies. Once a realm’s military power is broken, they come with their army and mop up the rest. Afterwards they install their own regime. I really would like to visit a realm which is already defeated. I bet that they don’t prove much of a threat.”
Marcus purses his lips. “So you believe that Moonray’s description of his defeated realm can be applied to all the other realms which lost to the spirits. Their modus operandi is to wipe out every authority and to leave only a small part of the population alive. If that’s true, then that says something about their actual military power.”
So he caught on. “Yes. I am just trying to understand how one would go about conquering a whole multiverse. The amount of needed troops would be enormous, but our enemies aren’t acting as if they have that many troops. They rely on spies, trickery and hiding in the shadows. Why would they have to keep their bases a secret? They actually go through a lot of trouble to hide all hints at their existence. I think that they don’t have that much military power, aside from controlling the spirits.”
Marcus winces. “Which is more than enough.”
I raise a finger at him. “Yes and no. If my deductions are correct, then they have a major weakness. Actually we’ve already proven my suspicions in a way, since our opponents simply gave up the pyramid. Hell, they are even forcing people from conquered realms to fight for them. It only shows that they are grabbing more land than they can control. It’s pretty clear to me that they haven’t many troops aside from the spirits. Oh, I am sure that they have a few seats of power with a lot of troops here and there, but we’ve to see that in relation to the whole multiverse. They surely have to fight uprisings everywhere.”
He leans back and broods over my opinion. After a few moments he nods. “So you are saying that we need a way to locate the control bases for the spirits. Then we launch strategic strikes until their whole empire tears itself apart, assuming that there must be a limit to their control. It sounds too good to be true. The biggest problem will be to locate their bases. We’ve struck at them once and that was because the secret of their existence leaked out. I am not so sure that they will allow us to repeat such a feat. Even if we get our hands on a plan with all their bases, all they need to do is to move them.”
I cross my arms in front of my chest. “Good!”
He furrows his forehead in honest befuddlement. “Good?”
“Think about it. If the pyramid is a standard example of their bases, then they won’t be able to move all those spirits. They chose secret locations so that they can build up a reserve of spirits. I admit that the swarm was frightening, but without the base it seems to be uncontrolled. Even the hibernating spirits woke up and are now drifting away from each other, some are even killing off each other. If we force them to relocate in a hurry, then they will have to leave most of their assets behind.”
He smiles and heads over to my side at the sofa. “That sounds reasonable. We should share the theory with your parents. Your father said that he can’t use the pathway network as a weapon of mass destruction, but maybe all we need is information. The spirits are somehow tracking every large portal, so there must be a way for us to locate their portals in turn. And the pathway network must be the largest sensor array in existence.
“Your father explained that it eats energy to grow. Your parents must have limited the energy sources which are recognized as viable. That implicates a detection system. Maybe all they need to do is to lift the restrictions on certain frequencies?”
A devious smile spreads on my face. “That’s why I love you. You are thinking out of the box. It might just work, though we’ve to ask Dad about it.”
Suddenly Marcus places his hands on my hips and flips me around, lifting my skirt.
“Hey! We’ve no freebies left!” I complain and slap his chest, but something must’ve flipped his switch!
A wave of desire surges through our marriage bond, leaving me no choice but to gasp. He hugs me from behind and starts nibbling on my earlobe, searching the sweet spot between my legs. “You really want me to hold back when you look at me like that. That smile of yours was too sexy!”
I whimper in silent acceptance of my body’s reaction to him. Then I reach behind myself and pluck the amulet from his neck. “Only if I get to use it first!”