The transport landed near the small city of Klerel, a location picked originally for the two rivers that flowed through the region. It had not taken long for farming to become the city’s predominant form of employment, and as the centuries passed, the land was irrigated and livestock grew in number, which in turn led to nearby towns and villages doing a lot of trade. Klerel remained famous for the quality of its produce, from meats, to clothing derived from wool-like materials, to the cereals and fruits the land surrendered. It was far from the most obvious place to land a military transport, least of all one delivering rations to the Forge, but the Resistance could hardly fly around forever, so the beginning of a plan was hatched.
Seluban would be the first to admit it wasn’t much of a plan. There were no witnesses to the violent escape of the Resistance, but it would not take long for an unannounced military transport to gain attention, and the authorities would soon put two and two together. Still, hopefully the civilian population of Klerel would merely be curious, rather than concerned.
“We can suggest to the locals we are searching for the Resistance.” Acklaran remarked as they donned the armour of ground forces.
“A feasible possibility.” Replied Seluban as the pair got changed in the rear of the transport. “But the very notion of escaping the Forge will seem like pure fantasy to the citizens of Klerel.”
“A training exercise then. It will explain the lack of military uniforms as well.”
“A good idea.” Seluban clipped his belt, then cast his gaze to Zarthara and De’rata. “The women will not pass as members of the military.”
Acklaran considered this for a moment, then grinned. Seluban cocked his head, curious.
“They are Priestesses. It is not a role they will relish, but they have been on a humbling journey to see first-hand what is required of the soldiers who fight in Requeteran’s name.”
It was Seluban’s turn to smile. “You are correct, they will not enjoy such a role. As it was your idea, it would not be appropriate for me to deny you the pleasure of informing them.”
Acklaran’s eyes went from Machiavellian to murderous, but he then his shoulders relaxed. “I invited such a task upon myself.” He said, with a shake of his head.
Seluban placed an arm on Acklaran’s shoulder. “Yes you did my friend. I shall however be there to offer support.”
“Revel in my misery you mean.”
“I am appalled and wounded that you would say such a thing.” Said Seluban with mock astonishment. “You are however correct.”
Acklaran chuckled, then took on a sombre expression. “Beyond slipping away among our people, I do not know what to do next.”
“I have felt the same way. This is where the hard work truly begins. I want you to send a message, like I did back in the Forge – transmit, planet-wide, that you and the Resistance have escaped the Forge, for we, like many imprisoned there, are not cowards.”
“What about you? You are the visible face of the Resistance. Would this message not be more meaningful coming from you?”
Seluban met his friend’s eyes. “The Council will scorch the earth to destroy me. I will place anyone and everyone near me in danger, and at this point, I fear that applies whether they are Resistance or not.”
“They will hunt all of us.”
“But they will send overwhelming force to find me. I am more than a pariah now. They cannot permit my survival.”
“Then perhaps…” Acklaran began. “They should believe you are already dead?”
Seluban arched a brow. “Give the Council a victory? I am not sure I wish to give them that.”
“Consider how it would affect them if they thought you gone, only for you to reappear. Rumours and whispers, all over Oanerath, that you are alive, when they were so sure you were deceased.”
Seluban stopped to consider the notion. It would allow easier movement across Oanerath, albeit it still felt like handing the Council a platform.
“Let us share this idea with the others, see what other options exist to us.”
No one was immediately forthcoming with their thoughts as Seluban and Acklaran finished divulging their idea. Seluban’s eyes swept across the assembled Chon’ith, but their faces were inscrutable. Zarthara was as disciplined as Seluban had ever seen her, whilst Risharath was uncharacteristically quiet. The supply ship’s transport compartment felt very small, under the weight of such a pregnant pause.
“Well, would anyone have an opinion they wish to venture?” Asked Seluban.
After a moment, De’rata spoke. “If you are believed dead, perhaps our ambition should be wider in scope.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are dozens of star systems that will not have heard our message. The Council will find it harder to reach you if you appear somewhere among them.”
It was an angle thus far unconsidered. To leave Oanerath completely was a bold move…
“But Seluban would be alone.” Replied Risharath.
“Perhaps he should be.” Remarked Zarthara, which drew some piqued glances. “I do not mean this in a negative way…” She quickly corrected. “But if he has an entourage, Council agents and loyalists will find it easier to find him.”
“‘He’ would prefer to be involved in deciding ‘his’ next move.” Said Seluban sardonically.
“Apologies.” Zarthara grinned. “You did however, ask for ideas.”
“True. We shall consider off-world adventures, but for the moment, I feel there is still work to be done on Oanerath. Scattering is undesirable but I fear it necessary, and I must separate myself from you all.”
“How will we do this without you?” Asked De’rata quietly.
“You will have Acklaran, who is a far wiser leader than I could ever be.” Seluban offered the group a lop-sided smile. “I will simply have to find a way to make trouble on my own.”
“I have no doubt you will be good at that, old friend.” Acklaran smiled back. “What will be your last command?”
“To split up, to spread our message, to get into as many government systems as possible and reveal to all our people the truth of our situation. Strict adherence to the old ways will doom us. Use every avenue available to you to spread that message.”
“Then you should at least consider going off-world.” De’rata pressed. “Perhaps not immediately, but please, consider the idea.”
“There is merit to it De’rata, and when the opportunity presents itself, I will see what our situation is, but for now, let us enact our current plans, and see where fate takes us.”