Terms of Surrender
Scarlietti scowled across the smoldering landscape from the cockpit of his coldrake while perched on the main balustrade of the Numian palace. Despite the balcony's impressive breadth, one of the coldrake's iridium talons crushed the stone railing and its tale had torn a long scar across the wall, but the palace commanded the clearest view of the scorched valley, and Scarlietti cared little if the last scrap of Numian heritage was ground into the sand where it had grown.
The coldrake writhed in response to his thoughts and its shining tail ripped a hole in the side of the palace. The metal beast was a delimited construct tied directly to Scarlietti's mind through a delicate neural interface. Over the centuries, the Endowed had refined their powers and now created impossibly complex devices from raw elements, but talented Delimiters were scarce since the Great Purge. Every pilot in the Scythe battalion was bonded to his own coldrake, but Scarlietti was the only pilot who delimited his own beast.
As his thoughts seethed, Scarlietti retracted his visor and ran his thumb across his beard. The short red hair covered a jagged welt that stitched its way from his left eye to his chin. No one could see it was there, but he felt it. Like any Delimiter, he could have healed the scar, but he left it to remind himself of the price of weakness.
A squadron of coldrakes breached the smoke and dust swirling over the valley and followed the boiling river as they searched for survivors. Flashes of white fire from their beaks meant they had found and dispatched the running cowards.
Scarlietti had given the colony fair terms of surrender: cease all hostilities, lay down all weaponry and return to work. The alternative was death. No negotiation.
For some unfathomable reason, the rebels refused to relinquish their arms. Perhaps they believed the old stories about a handful of scrappy insurgents destroying the repressive empire with courage and a bit of luck, but in reality, every single one of the craven worms threw themselves face down in the dirt, begging for mercy when the Scythe squadrons came screeching from the heavens and rained cold fire across the face of the earth.
The colonists were simply cogs in the vast machine, and it was far easier to replace a squealing cog than repair it.
“I beg your pardon, Monsignor Rosco...” Vittoro's voice crackled in Scarlietti's helmet.
“Go ahead lieutenant.”
“Reports are in from all sectors, Your Eminence.”
“Where do we stand?”
“The colony has been cleansed.”
“Fine. File your report and prepare to ship out for Darvidian Colony at 0600 hours.”
“Yes, Your Eminence.”
Scarlietti spurred the coldrake with a thought, and the great metal beast toppled the entire upper floor of the Numian palace with a thrust of its haunches as it launched itself into the sky. In his mind, Scarletti felt the boiling wind under the coldrake's wings as if it blew through his own fingers. The cockpit isolated him from the holocaust that incinerated all life from the colony, but Scarlietti's blood burned just the same. He sneered and cursed the pathetic Numians for dragging him to this forsaken rock.
This work was beneath him, the only son of Cagliostro Rosco, wasting his days exterminating backwater vermin when he should be leading the family's forces as they cleansed the planet of Bad Blood. He banked his coldrake hard to the left, bearing back onto the Numian palace, and poured all his vexation into a thought that unleashed a searing white blast from the coldrake's mouth and vaporized the entire structure.
As he swooped over the fuming wreckage, his rage goaded him to delimit the entire seaboard and sink the coastline beneath the waves. But he knew his father wanted the colony rebuilt and operating before the month was finished, and he knew that slaking his anger wouldn't serve the needs of Clan Rosco, so Scarlietti cursed again, set course back to the carrier and prepared to offer the same terms of surrender to the Darvidians.