The cause of Danielle's mission is revealed, and the rebels head off.
The morning after Danielle's return, Choi received a summons instructing him to be in General Jackson's office at noon. Choi noticed that Sean was nowhere to be seen, and wondered idly where he could have gotten off to.
He wondered rather less idly whether his message to the Emperor had been or was going to be received. He knew that it was possible that the Imperial soldier he'd given the message to could have been killed, or sidetracked, or might not have even believed him in the first place. However, his recognition code had been valid and was known to most of the soldiers in the Empire. It was the universal recognition code for Draconian Warriors. And if the soldier had believed him, he would know better than to get sidetracked. But few men can do much to avoid death if it's coming their way.
In any case, he had better get to the meeting or risk missing something important.
Choi arrived at Jackson's office and, uncertain what to do next, just walked in.
All of the people in the room looked up at his arrival. Jackson, of course, was there, as well as Sean, who leaned against the wall behind Jackson's desk. Dennis and Danielle were there also, standing in front of Jackson's desk.
"Good, you're here. We were just about to start," Jackson greeted.
"Took you long enough," Danielle said.
"But it's noon!" Choi protested.
"But you are supposed to come at least fifteen minutes before the time of any scheduled meeting. It's polite," she responded.
Choi was about to protest more when Sean intervened.
"Quit screwing around with him, Danielle. Let's just get this over with," Sean said in an annoyed, tired-sounding tone.
Danielle didn't respond, only glared at Sean. He had cost her what had promised to be a very enjoyable pushing of Choi's buttons.
"Right, well, as Sean said, let's get this over with," said Jackson, after an uncomfortable silence.
"As everyone here knows," Jackson continued, "Danielle here has just returned from a very important mission. However, I don't believe everyone here knows exactly what that mission was. In short, her mission was to try and convince the Griffins to stop their withdrawal from the rebellion, in both the Alliance and the Rogues. In this, she has succeeded. However, there was a condition. They want us to kill the Emperor, and destroy as much of the Imperial Army as we can, by the end of six months after Danielle's return. Danielle returned last night, and as soon as she did the Griffin that had carried her back here left. By tomorrow, we should have almost a hundred Griffins coming here to assist us in our fight in any way necessary.
"Some of them might actually take part in battles. Some of them will act as advisors to our tacticians. Most, however, will be transporting cargo. They'll be transporting cargo to different parts of the Empire, cargo full of weapons and armor, with which the citizens will rise up against the Empire. This rising up, this takeover, will take place as soon as the Emperor is killed. The Emperor's death will be the spark that starts the fire of the Empire's downfall," Jackson said.
"And that's our job," Choi said, finally understanding.
"Duh, dillweed," Danielle said.
Dennis, however, remained silent.
"Yep. That's us. That is the job that has been asked of us. Individually. Also individually, all of you have the option of declining," Sean said.
"I'm in," Danielle said immediately.
"Me too," Choi said hesitantly.
"I agree to the mission. I believe it is a good one. However, I have one question," Dennis said.
"Yes?" Jackson asked.
"Is Sean going to be lugging a seven-meter piece of metal across Kor, and straight into the Emperor's palace?" asked Dennis.
Sean grimaced. The thought had obviously occurred to him already.
"No. However, it has been decided already that a Griffin will fly it to the capital, where we have an ally who can and will hide it for us easily. I'm sure you have more questions about that particular thought, but I can assure you that they've already been considered and planned for. Also, you all of course will be adequately armed and supplied," Jackson answered.
This seemed good enough for Dennis.
"Congratulations, guys. You've just been commissioned as elite Alliance commandos," Sean said.
Choi was having an anxiety attack. This kind of situation hadn't been covered or even mentioned at any point in his entire training. Should he just attempt to kill everyone involved in the mission? Should he capture everyone and try to take them back to the Empire on his own? Should he do nothing but be an intelligence leak? What was he supposed to do? He needed instructions.
He decided to go along with the mission, wait-and-see.
He desperately wondered again if his message had made it to the Emperor.
The next morning, they prepared to head out. The Griffins had arrived, and one of them was already transporting Sean's giant sword to the capital of the Empire, Rathbane.
All of the commandos (except for Dennis) were wearing traveler's robes and what Sean called 'sheathed armor'. Sheathed armor meant that the armor they wore was nondescript, not noisy, and mostly hidden by the robes. However, Sean had a single shoulder plate on his left side, completely unhidden by robes. Also, none of them wore helms.
In the way of weapons, Choi had a bow and arrows, as well as a small hatchet that he could throw with deadly accuracy. Sean had his twin sabers at his back and hip, plus numerous knives that no one else knew about in various hidden pockets and sheaths. Danielle's weapons were an ornately carved dagger and a whip. Dennis, however, had been born with his weapons.
With a quick blessing from Jackson, as well as several going-away gifts for Sean and even a couple for Choi from the women, they set off.
This was the hardest mission any of them had ever been assigned. And, one way or another, it would change the course of history.
They stepped onto the elevator that would take them down, down into the darkness of the forest.
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