A Day In Command

Somewhere, across the Tree, a star falls.
“Activate,” the order is almost bored.
The fabric of space shifts, a gravity well generating around the star, stabilizing it, keeping it trapped in location. “Star stabilizing… star stable. Another job well done everyone.”
There are mild cheers and some light clapping throughout the ship.
“That's the last one in this sector. We've received word that the combatants have surrendered. Looks like we can call it a day. Regular shifts are here by reinstituted.”
The half of the crew who don't work this shift cheer quite a lot louder.
The ships break from the formation that channeled the gravity ring. They are but five vessels in the fleet, each housing only a few million crew. The flagship above opens a hatchway, and a stream of matter spreads out, swirling around the star. Enough matter to make the planets, in time.
The flagship is a great white vessel that is completely spherical, able to move in any direction with equal ease. It takes light eighty-six days to cross the diameter of the sphere, and the insides are filled with habitats that comprise entire worlds, restructured to minimize space and maximize efficiency. Entire solar system's worth of room are devoted to the gifts and treasures given to the commander, who, for his part, has paid little attention to them.
The commander is presently standing in the center of the sphere, in a small chamber without gravity whose spherical walls display perfectly what is outside the flagship. He watches the world passing quite closely, through his featureless metal helm. He never removes the helm, nor have any seen what manner of creature he is under his white containment suit.
A door opens in the chamber, and he exits, transitioning from weightlessness to weight without effort. A soldier in a sharp well maintained uniform is waiting there with a report.
“The excursion into the lands beyond was successful,” he says, “They have surrendered and brought you tribute. Their lord is currently waiting in the antechamber.”
“Not yet,” the commander says, “I will take the tribute of the tree-born first.”
The military man tries to hide his bafflement, “Sir, that was only a small, goddless world, one untouched by Imperial forces, why-”
“Because they are tree-born.”
The officer shuts his mouth and nods, “As you will.”
The tree-born are, as promised, savages. They are small beings who live in collective colonies inside the exoskeletons of the great beasts of their world. They are pathetically grateful that their Sun has been saved, but rather perplexed at its new location so far away. Still, they bring offerings of red gold and a mild neurotoxin they harvest from a strange light given off when the excrement of a rare native species is burnt. They use the neurotoxin recreationally, and value it enormously.
The commander takes the gifts graciously, but with the Imperial distance of one used to it. The creatures swear fealty to him, and give him dominion over their lands. He assigns a ship to do a proper survey and determine appropriate tribute.
Then he dismisses them.
The Excrucian is brought in next. Soldiers to either side of him.
“Name yourself,” the commander says, “And your purpose.”
The Excrucian stands tall. For a moment, he is a thing of glory, his black and velvet cape regally laying on his shoulders, the thick leather armor looking almost impenetrable. “I am Aragas Teraven, child of Harumaph and Strategist of the Valde Bellum.” Then, his luster is gone; he looks tired and broken. He goes to his knee. “And I am here to surrender myself and my lands unto Darinus of Kaal, Dominus Imperum, Lord of Stars.”
Darinus of Kaal, Dominus Imperum, Lord of Stars, stands on his dais patiently. “What do you offer as tribute for your existence?”
Aragas Teraven rises and unslings a bow from his back, a composite made of the Ash itself, and strung with something other entirely. “I bring you Despair that is called Andabus, with arrows tipped with the stars of my land.”
One of the soldiers produces the quiver. Darinus of Kaal makes no gesture as they are placed before him. He waits.
Aragas Teraven trembles as he realizes what has happened. “And I give unto your service, and yours alone, Haerev who Ruins and Kaleen who Commands, flesh of my flesh, soul of my soul. May they serve you in all things.”
Darinus of Kaal waits.
Aragas Teraven swallows, hard.
Darinus of Kaal waits.
Aragas Teraven reaches a trembling hand up to his face. It hesitates a moment.
Darinus of Kaal waits.
Aragas Teraven digs his gloved hand into his eye socket, and pulls his eye out, blood leaking from the hole. “I offer you a world in hand, more stars to add to your collection, and half my sight.”
Darinus of Kaal steps forward, and personally takes the eye, full as it is of falling stars, into his gloved hand. “Your surrender is accepted, Aragas of Teraven. I shall dispatch a ship to survey your lines and determine further tributes. Your shards shall report to the Egalias Kentaneera for basic training. You will want this,” he gestures, and a soldier produces a palm sized device, a simple handheld tablet of sophisticated simplicity, “It contains the laws by which you must adhere. You will find them suitably lax. Outside of these restraints, rule your lands as you will.”
Aragas Teraven bows again, and is led out again.
Darinus of Kaal holds up the eye, black, round, and full of falling stars. Then he turns attention to the bow, raises it up, looks up and down its length.
The door opens and an officer bows before entering.
“Speak, Captain Ontael” Darinus of Kaal permits.
“Sir,” he says, “We've picked up a signal on the long range vibration sensors.”
Darinus of Kaal waits.
“It sounded like this,” he produces a tablet similar to that handed to Aragas Teraven, and touches the screen. A sound like steel on steel issues forth. The sound of struggle, of taking by force.
Darinus of Kaal listens to it closely. “Thank you,” he says, “Prepare Klevent for me.” He puts the quiver on his back and takes Despair, as well as arming himself with his traditional laser pistol. “And tell Grand Admiral Undathe he has command of the fleet until I return. Strictly peacekeeping, we shall wait before the campaign across the Kerove branches.”
“Of course,” Captain Ontael says, bowing and exiting again.
Darinus of Kaal heads off to Apocalypse.

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