The Fall of Nathan Zachary

Five figures sit at a round table, in the middle of a large room. Two of the figures sit next to each other in the West of the table, while two others sit on the East side. At the South end sits the last man in the room: All eyes present are directed at him.

His naval dress uniform sets him apart from the others who are wearing suits. His cloak is navy blue with red lining and has a heightened collar. His uniform underneath the cloak is crimson red.

“What do you have to say for yourself, Admiral?” One of the two men on one man’s left, challenges. “Do you have any words to defend yourself with, or are have you subjected yourself to your fate?”

The Admiral diverts his attention from his pocket watch to the challenger. “I’m sorry… I could’ve sworn your name was Roland, not Tarron Damos.”

Roland spat. “You will answer me when I ask you a question, Zachary!!”

Zachary just laughs. “In your dreams, moron! So long as I am Admiral, I don't have to listen to a single word coming out of your pompous mouth; and I’m sure as Hell not going to explain myself to anyone aside from Damos himself! So suck it!!"

The other men let out groans of disgust; a couple of them even berate Admiral Zachary for his childish mannerisms. He doesn’t care one bit.

The double doors at the far end of the room opened inward, letting in four more people. At the head of the procession is a tall, broad-shouldered, muscular, winged man. He wears a bright red military dress uniform, sporting many medals, with a cloak draped over his shoulders and connected with a gold chain over his chest. His polished black boots echo throughout the room as he steps towards the now silent men. His seemingly, angelic wings spread out from appropriately made holes in his clothing attire. His mood is dour as if he is eternally displeased by his surroundings.

Coming in behind him on his right is a dark-haired man with a mutton chop beard. He wears a black naval uniform, although it does not bear medals; Over it, he wears a dark red cloak with Epaulettes. A visor rests on the narrow nose on his face, and his left arm is mechanical. On his waist is a handgun, the only visible weapon in the room.

At the left of the bearded man is a White haired woman wearing her own ink blue, naval uniform. She wears knee-high boots and a black hat. As soon as she is able to, she strides over to Admiral Zachary.

At the end of the procession is a spry skinny man with a smile on his face. He wears black dress pants and shirt, along with a red vest, tie, gloves, and shoes. He closes the doors behind him before following the others.

Admiral Zachary salutes the winged man. “Welcome to the party Mr. Damos. I would offer you a drink, but I’m afraid that my supply of liquor is now lost to the world.” 

“Spare me the formalities Zachary. You have a lot to answer for.” Tarron Damos replied. The man in the vest hurries to pass the others and pulls out the two closest chairs for Damos and the mustached man. He waits for them to sit down before sitting next Damos on his right.

The White haired woman sits down next to the Admiral. She whispers to him.

“Please tell me that you at least acted like an adult while I was gone.”

Zachary replied. “Only as well as they were acting, my love. Tell me, did the engineers fix our little ‘problem’?

She sighs. “Unfortunately, they still haven’t restored the actual footage. We’re still stuck with the edited video log you happened to stumble unto last night.”

Zachary groans. “It’s a damn good thing I decided to look through that blasted thing… Damn it, all of my heroic acts were completely cut out!!”

In frustration, the woman raises her voice. “NATHAN this is serious!”

“Relax Naomi, I got this. Your husband has a plan.” Zachary simply states."

Tarron’s voice breaks through the chatter. “NOW, my admiral…. Tell me, what happened to my ships?”

Roland hastily stands up. “They were completely destroyed your lordship every last-”

Tarron stares down at Roland, causing him to shut up. “I asked my admiral a question. You will speak when addressed, and you will keep silent until then.”

Roland sits down uttering a weak “sorry”.

Nathan would have laughed at Roland if Damos did not return his gaze back towards him, but Nathan still smiles.

“Well your Lordship, what actually happened was not far from what the idiot just blurted out. Nearly all of our ships were destroyed during our last skirmish. Out of the seven battle cruisers, ten grand cruisers, thirty-five light cruisers and the plethora of frigates, fighter jets, and destroyers that flew into the fray only a small amount made it back. To be precise, only one grand cruiser, nine light cruisers, two frigates, and an innumerable amount of slagged jets and destroyers ever returned. Our grand cruisers and battlecruisers including my own ‘Crimson Redemption’ were ruthlessly shot out of the sky.”

Looking incredibly irked by his normal standards, Damos interjects. “I see . . .  Care to explain why?

Zachary starts to sweat a little, but he is determined not to appear cowed; his smile doesn't lessen in the slightest as he addresses the issue. “Well sir… I’m afraid that the odds were against us from the start. We were literally outnumbered two to one in this battle; and if that wasn’t enough, a new threat arrived just as we were winning the fight. Despite my heroic and legendary battle stratagems, I could only whittle them down to their last three battlecruisers, two of which were bellowing enough black smoke to be mistaken for a small cloud.”

Tarron grimaces. “And the rest of their fleet?”

“As far as I know, either damaged or destroyed. It’s not exactly easy to get a head count of those ships during battle.”

Roland coughs. “If I may speak my lord?” Tarron glanced at Roland. “Permission granted.”  

Roland grins and turns to Nathan. “Admiral Zachary, I believe you said something about a threat that arrived midway into your battle. Please enlighten us, what do you mean by that?”

“The threat? Oh right! You see our fleet had finally shot down enough of the Zeno fleet to outnumber them, when our dear neighbors, The Druxans, decided to send in two of their own battleships with their own fleet right at our flanks.”

The men in suits murmur among themselves. Roland elects to make his statements heard by the crowd. “Druxans?.... That’s quite the bold claim, Zachary. How are you certain it was their fleet? Did they have any markings on them?”

Zachary stares at Roland. "I fucking knew it.” He thinks to himself. “They didn’t have markings on their vessels. All of them were painted with a new coat of paint in a vain attempt to prevent us from recognizing their fleet.”

Roland smiles incredulously, but Tarron held up his hand and talks first. “Zachary, we are on good terms with the Druxan nobles, yet you would have us believe the biggest reason that my fleet has been shattered, is because they have stabbed us in the back. And all of this, without the slightest bit of evidence?”

Nathan replies immediately. “Oh, I got evidence! One, they were the only other human fleet in the area, meaning that the culprits were not Xenos in nature.

Two, the direction the ships came from was the Druxan’s own jurisdiction, there is absolutely no way they would have missed two giant battle ships and their retinue just cruising over their lands. Those guys are such tightwads about their airspace! One time I flew a helicopter just a mile around it one time, and they scrambled a cruiser to intercept me!

Three, even you humor the possibility of it happening, human pirates and mercenaries don’t have enough money to maintain a battlecruiser let alone a fleet that large.

FOUR, the ship designs themselves are Druxan in nature, I could tell them apart from any other ship if you had them in a lineup!”

Roland laughs. “That’s hardly evidence! You’re just trying to save your sorry ass by shamelessly attacking our allies! All just so you can save face, and hide your own folly!”

Zachary’s counter-argument is swift. “Clear your ears, moron!! I just said that the ship designs were Druxan in nature, and there’s no possible way I’m mistaken or lying!

Don’t you have any idea why I’m so good with ships to the point of being ranked as an Admiral in our dear Tarron Damos’s fleet!? It’s because I have an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge concerning all aircraft and their capabilities!! You probably couldn’t tell the difference between a frigate and a destroyer, but I can tell you everything about them down to the very bolts used to fasten the pilot’s seat!”

Roland remains calm in the face of Zachary’s rebuttal. “I still have yet to see any evidence that these ships even exist, Zachary. Why don’t you show us the feed from your ship’s cameras? Surely they would have seen these ships coming in from behind your fleet.”

Naomi tensed up slightly, but Nathan put his hand on her shoulder and leaned back with a smug look on his face. “Oh if only I could do that Roland, sadly that will have to wait till a later time.”

“Why is that Admiral? Is there something wrong with your ships’ camera feed? Or are you trying to buy time for your crew to forge footage to back up your claims?” Roland tries to maintain a straight face, but a malicious smile breaks through his façade.

“Oh no, no, no, no,” Nathan replies. “You see, it has nothing to do with my ships mind you. That data is still secure. We’re actually still in the process of retrieving the data. Because of how much protection this data need to prevent theft and destruction, it's something of a pain to retrieve through the proper procedure; But that is not the reason why I cannot show the data today, even if it was retrieved within the hour.

You see, the biggest problem is . . . This table.” Roland and everyone else blank. Roland can only mutter a “What?” Zachary grins.

“Can someone tell me what’s so special about this table? Hmm?” He looks at everyone present and sees one raised hand. “Ah, good old faithful Ramierez, tell me what you know.” The man in the red vest, sitting next to Damos, stands up. “Actually, I’ve been led to believe that I’m only half your age, but I digress.

The answer is simple, this table doubles as a hologram projector, and it creates a three-d environment based on the data that has been inserted into it! In this case, the table would serve as a video projector; show us exactly how your mission turned out.

“Very good Ramierez, you are absolutely right!!” Exclaimed Nathan. “Except for one tiny detail . . . It’s broke.”

Nathan kicks the table, causing a panel to open up. Electrical circuits zap, and sparks fly out of the machinery under the table. All the suited men lean over and to inspect the damage. “Yeah, turns out, some inept idiot damaged our precious hologram table! So even if we did have footage to show, we couldn’t use it!” 

Before Roland can respond, a phone rings out. “Sorry about that. I’m afraid I neglected to put it on silent.” *Bleep* “State your business.” The mutton chop man says. Tarron Damos glares furiously at his left-hand man, but he holds his hand up to silence everyone up in the room.

After a moment of uncomfortable silence, the left-hand man speaks again. “Good, send me photos of what you found, NOW.” He hangs up his phone.

“There had better be a damn good explanation to why the call could not wait, Alexi Harahknivi.”

“Sir, that phone call was from my Stiletto Guards. Last night, I had them scrambled to investigate the battle sight that we are now talking about. They have searched through the debris, and have found the wreckage of two human-made battleship cruisers that do not match our designs.”

Gasps echoed among the suited men. Roland's face turns into a mask of shock.

“I’m getting photos of the ships now, here.” Harahknivi hands Damos his phone. After a moment of silence, Tarron returns the phone back to Harahknivi.

“So it appears that there are other forces that are willing to see us fall to our knees. Still, I see no evidence of the Druxan nobles being behind this; Frankly, I don’t believe they have the backbone to do it.” Damos exclaims in a matter of fact type of tone.

“As convincing as your argument is Admiral Zachary, we cannot make any moves against our allies so long as we don’t have the solid evidence to prove that they were behind this attack. I believe you would know the consequences of such an unjustified action.”

Zachary scoffs but makes no argument against his lord. He learned well enough when to keep his mouth shut and when to rant off against Damos. The timing never proved to be right for the latter.

Instead, he decides to move the conversation into a new direction. “Right you are Mr. Damos! On that note, I would like to show you exactly what happened during the big fight!! Hey, General Faux Shot did you ever get around to doing that other thing I asked of you!?”

Harahknivi seems to be on the verge of chuckling. “No one has called me that in years” he muttered to himself. “Yes, I just received a text message that my men are just right outside the door. My Lord Damos, if I may?”

On Damos’s command, several soldiers dressed in black cameo gear walk inside the room carrying several, miserable looking boxes. As Ramierez aids in unpacking the contents of the boxes and setting them on the table, as Zachary instructed, Naomi finally gets to speak to her husband.

“Didn’t I tell you to get rid of those things?”

“You did, but I was just too attached to them, so I decided to keep them in storage. When I accidentally spilled alcohol on this machine the other day, I thought this would be the perfect time to bring them out. And how about a pat on the back for me, buying us enough time for your plan to work?” Nathan replies.

Naomi smiles. “You really are just trying to piss everyone in the room off aren’t you?”

“Is it working?”

“Not yet for me, but Roland seems to be at his limit.”

As if on queue, Roland speaks out. “Model airplanes…. You’re bringing out model airplanes, to this trial!!??"

Naomi answers for her husband. “Calm yourself Roland; there is a perfectly good explanation for this if you would give me a moment to explain.”

Ramierez chimes in. “All done Mr. and Mrs. Zachary!” “Good boy, Ramierez; that will be all,” Naomi says. “Gentlemen, back when holograms did not exist, military staff would often plan for future battles, by placing models on a map to simulate a battle. While this often done for imminent struggles, it wasn't an unusual practice for them to use the models to review past battles as well, like we are about to do now. While these models are a little more different than the ones used in those days, they are entirely appropriate for this very serious matter.”

Tarron Damos sighs, causing everyone to remain silent. “Ramierez.”

“Yes, sir!” “Get me some wine. If I’m going to have to sit through this, I need something strong to pacify myself with.”

“I’m here to help!” And with that, Ramierez rushes off.

In the next couple of hours that follow, Nathan and Naomi take turns describing the battle in detail. Nathan is adamant about being the one to maneuver the models, claiming that he was the one best suited to moving them to the correct points: However, his mannerisms are more akin to a child playing with their favorite toy, rather than that of a distinguished adult.

“And that’s when I went out on my custom fighter jet, ‘The Pandora’. and proceeded to destroy two Battle Cruisers! Whoooooosh. Pew, Pew. Boom!”

Damos finally finishes drinking the last drop of his wine. “ENOUGH, I’VE HEARD ENOUGH!” He exclaims. “I am ready to pass my judgment.”

Everyone sat straight in their seats, while the two Zacharys stand at attention; all of them waiting to hear Tarron Damos' words. “Admiral Zachary. I understand that you came back to us, with your ‘Pandora’ somehow parked on the prow of a frigate.”

Nathan puts on a serious face and responds. “Yes, sir. The frigate in question had its hanger already overfilled with damaged fighters, so I took drastic-”

“Is the captain of this ship still alive?” Damos demands to know.

“Yes, sir” Naomi responds.

“Promote him, and give him a new ship befitting his rank.

As for you Admiral and Lieutenant Zachary, you both have faced overwhelming odds and managed to prove yourselves, not entirely incompetent, but I still have a battered fleet that lacks a proper ship. My forces are now fighting without any real air support. What’s more, your loss of the ‘Crimson Redemption’ is nothing but inexcusable. That ship was a vital piece of our military might.”

Nathan Zachary speaks in a humble manner. “Sir, I take all responsibility for everything that has occurred. My wife was fighting under my orders and when I gave her control of a ship, she executed her tactics flawlessly.”

Damos nods his head. “I accept your words. Now here is your punishment.

You will retain your rank of Admiral. I'll pull some strings in order to regain the fleet that you lost; but when I get Battle Cruisers back into our skies, you will not be operating at their helm.

Henceforth, I hereby sentence you to work on the ship you arrived back on. Until such a time as you prove yourself capable of maintaining a fleet properly, you will not pilot anything larger than that frigate. That is all.”

. . .

Scene: General Alexi and Admiral Zachary are leaning on a railing overlooking a frigate.

“Ah gosh…. That could have gone better.” Nathan Zachary exclaims.

“You are a very lucky man, Nathan. You should consider yourself as such.” General Harahknivi says.

Nathan seems exasperated. “You call this lucky? I’m in charge of this piece of junk now!! *Sigh* my poor Redemption, why did I have to lose you? You were so good to me."

Alexi frowns. “Probably because you keep poking the sleeping bear that is Roland. He may be a stock up suit, be he has the right connections to dangerous people. I’m close to figuring out who he truly works for, but I cannot stop him from trying to kill you in the meantime. You’re welcome, by the way, for saving your ass from possibly being literally fired.”

“Yeah, yeah, you can stop with your lectures. Thanks for putting up with me, and thanks for the favor, I hope to never return it back.” Zachary says half-heart idly.

“Glad to hear it, now if you’ll excuse me, I have other things to take care of before the day is over.”

As the General walks away, Nathan gazes at the ship that was now his.

“The Homestead, eh? That’s not entirely a bad name for a ship.” He mumbles to himself.