He was not one who minced his words. Nor was he one given to overly verbose statements. No, his words were always succinct and to the point, his orders always clear. He surveyed the docking platform with a severe intensity as though looking for something that was no longer there. Which he was. He was looking for the Zeppulian. As the flagship of the Ulion fleet, its sudden disappearance was a blight against the reputation of the Intergalactic Ulion Council. How could they convince outlying planets to join the Council when they couldn’t even keep their own fleet in order? They still didn’t even know how it was stolen or by whom. One moment the pride of the Ulion fleet was proudly docked, its crew disembarked for a routine solaroach fumigation and the next it was gone. He shook his head in disgust. The incompetency on this planet was staggering. It was clear that he didn’t hold Lozth in the highest regard. This was largely due to their ineffectual form of government and shockingly terrible tasting ice cream. No self-respecting planet in the Intergalactic Ulion Council should have elections with every popularity poll cycle, he thought. How they managed to get anything done when they were constantly rotating their leaders every third sun was beyond him - Lozth had three suns, the third of which only rose on the eighth day of their thirteen day week. And any society which managed to ruin ice cream was one he held in utter contempt. There could be no more terrible crime in his opinion. Aside, perhaps, from stealing the flagship of the Ulion fleet. For the slight against the Council alone, that might make it the worse offence.
“Commander Titus, a word,” came the request from just behind the commander’s left shoulder. He turned round and looked up at the officer staring apprehensively at him. The commander wasn’t large, even by the reckoning of his own species, but he was an imposing figure. A Garlandian from Diadēma, one of the 4 original planets which began the Intergalactic Ulion Council, the commander bore the regal bearing of all who hailed from his home planet, the slight sense of superiority in all in he did. His skin had a strange metallic look to it which tended to shine bright in the sun but his touch was always cold and hard. His hair was aflame, adorning his head with rings of white fire which would burn until his dying breath. His body was slender and delicate but exuded power despite his small frame. While only 5 feet tall, he seemed to tower over those around him no matter their size.
“Yes?” Titus replied, his voice prim and dismissive.
“Message from High Command, sir. They request your presence,” the officer announced. A Kerrlu, his sole limb shakily gave a salute. If Titus noticed the officer’s unease, he didn’t acknowledge it.
“Very well,” he accepted and brushed past the still saluting officer. He walked with purpose to his steed, a slazwic named Lethe. Like all of her kind, she was more bone than flesh and loyal to the death. She lay waiting on the ground, for he wouldn’t have been able to mount her if she stood upright. Titus swung his slim leg over her back and gently stroked under her bony jaw, a metallic hand caressing wizened gaunt flesh.
“Up, Lethe. I have matters to attend to.”
The slazwic came to her feet, joints clicking with screeching pops as her six skeletal legs unbuckled themselves underneath her, raising the commander high into the air. She then unfolded her gargantuan wings and took to the sky.
As he soar over the the city, Titus survey the chaotic quiet below him. Too high to pick out individual sounds, he only heard a loud murmur, a soft cacophony of people walking and gliding along, of cars honking impatiently in wait, their engines humming before they pulsed off, of beeping signs and invasive holographs. Cities on Lozth didn’t have many tall buildings since its citizenry preferred the sight of an open sky, a sky which was now marked by an emaciated winged creature bearing a small imposing figure. Titus saw the Ulion Embassy fast approaching below him and signaled Lethe to descend with the slightest touch of his hand against her gaunt neck. She landed with a final flap of her enormous wings and the screeching pops of creaking joints as her feet found solid ground once more. Titus swung off Lethe with a royal dignity. He patted her raw boned head fondly as she twitched her ears and let out a deadly yawn.
“Wait for me here,” he told her. “I shan’t be long.”
With that he turned and walked up the stone steps to the Ulion Embassy. The Embassy on Lozth was more modest than those on most other planets with the Intergalactic Council. Tall columns of granite marked its entrance, which was somewhat impressive to be sure but they weren’t anything special. They didn’t glow with the splendor of a red sun like the Embassy on Gabreell. Nor did the Embassy rise from the depths of a volcanic sea with crystalised waves woven into a clear blue cathedral of diplomacy like the one on Zafirre. It was adequate for its purposes and that was enough for the people of Lozth. Titus let out an inaudible sigh at the thought of adequacy. Yet another reason to dislike Lozth. When he entered the Embassy, a subordinate was there to anxiously direct him towards to the room where the High Command was waiting for him. He stepped into the room and stood to attention. They sat before him behind a high pulpit, again crafted out of granite. At least you could say this about Lozthian architecture, it was consistent. Consistently made of granite, that was. Their faces were all severe, aside from Supreme General Cukin of course. As a sentient data cloud he had no face but he appeared no less severe as a result, evident by his dark hue of ones and zeros. They all surveyed Titus’ perfect stance and military discipline with some approval, not much, but some. Supreme General Nok cleared what most species would consider a throat,
“At ease Commander.”
Titus heard Nok’s words as though whispered within in his own head and felt breath on his neck with each syllable, the sound of Nok’s voice heard yet unheard. He softened his stance by the slightest of degrees, undetectable to the civilian eye. He was the perfect soldier after all and a Garlandian, his regal disposition never forgotten. Noke once again cleared the what sounded like her throat but as a vague dark shape barely perceivable to the eye, it wasn’t agreed upon if she even had a mouth, let alone have a throat connecting to it. Umbramoris were quite mysterious about their biology, which proved quite useful in wartime since it is difficult to kill an enemy when you aren’t sure if they even need to breathe.
“As you are aware, the Zeppulian has been stolen. How this occurred we are not entirely certain. What is certain is that it must be retrieved at all costs. However to avoid embarrassment to the Council, we have suppressed the knowledge that the Zeppulian is missing,” his voice slithered within Titus’ mind.
Just then the mountain which was Supreme General MORDEM spoke, his voice a boom which Titus felt bass in his chest, "CAN'T RISK FULL-SCALE RETRIEVAL MISSION."
Nok nodded in agreement and continued, “You have been selected to head a classified operation to locate and retrieve the Zeppulian. You will have access to unlimited resources but secrecy is of the utmost importance. No one will know of your mission."
Titus could swear that the breath on the back of his neck turned icy cold with the last sentence but he was a Garlandian and used to cold. He looked up at the High Command and knew what was expected of him, as well as the price for failure.
“I accept the charge given to me. What of the thieves?”
“You may deal with them at your own discretion. Due to the sensitive nature of the crime, there would be no public trial if they were returned alive."
There was no denying the intent behind Nok’s words. She couldn’t officially order him to kill the thieves but Titus knew what he had to do as clear as if she had given him a direct order. He was the perfect soldier after all and he had a mission.