The General registered enemy approach before she even saw them entering from around the Carminian columns. She locked in on her mysterious unwelcome guests, deciding how to deal with this new challenge. The people of Anax had many enemies, so Ciris wasn’t troubled by the appearance of the Physis ships: they no doubt wanted to test their strength against the Anaxians and possibly gain access to the largest output of Phoenix Fyre energy on the planet—and most likely in the galaxy. 

As the group of ships got closer to the docking site situated outside of the force shield at the edge of the red column, General Ciris deduced that the enemies were from the far province of Physis, with their symbol of the falcon on the side of the ships. She had never encountered them before, but she had heard stories of their journeys around Meddo, spreading their dream of galactic inclusion with the hope of accessing a larger output of Phoenix Fyre. That conversation was certainly going to be interesting, knowing that Princeps Zior was set on keeping outsiders where they came from.

That is what everyone wanted here: more power. But they were two centuries too late. The city of Alcathous in Anax had the most powerful forceshield made on Meddo, put up when Ciris’ parent, Zior, came to power as Princeps during the time of the third settlement. Through life-force manipulation and Fyre-weaving, Zior was able to create the unbreakable shield. No one could predict how beneficial Phoenix Fyre—Meddo’s liquid core—would be for the people there, and due to the research done after the third settlement, the province of Anax became home to the most advanced version of humans to date: cyborgs. Being a cyborg was an option in Anax, but many people had found its benefits to be life-saving and age-defying compared to the limited reach of ordinary technology. Most of the population had few bodily alterations yet preferred its practical benefits. On the other hand, the Anaxian soldiers had the most alterations: the majority being outfitted with Fyre guns, laser spears, special vision, and strength. The benefits were high, which was why Phoenix Fyre was coveted. There were small Fyre spots around Meddo, but not large enough to power an entire province like Anax. That was why there had been many provinces that wanted to take down Anax and reap the benefits of the unlimited Fyre.

Ciris’ soldiers met the ship at the outpost and they guided their guests and the General to where she was waiting. After closely scanning the technology of the ships and soldiers, she deduced that their equipment was inferior to their modern Fyre technology, and they would not be a threat docked outside of the barrier. It was also her responsibility as General to speak to any incoming guests and to negotiate any terms regarding the safety of the city and province. Princeps Zior would only get involved if anything serious came up concerning the politics of the province. 

The General of Physis came into the room flanked by Anax soldiers, attired head to toe in a hard black protective material and the falcon, his ship’s namesake, was centred on his chest. It was surrounded by a golden glow emitting from under the panels to indicate that all functions were ready for active duty. 

“Welcome, General of Physis. I am General Ciris of Anax. Please, have a seat,” Ciris gestured to the table in the middle of the room and they all took a seat. 

“Greetings General Ciris. Thank you for agreeing to speak to me without notice. My apologies. I’m General and Princeps Rei of Physis and if I were so bold, I hope to have an open conversation of what our future could look like if we work together.” As General Rei spoke, he removed his onyx-coloured helmet, which revealed a much younger and more handsome man than Ciris was expecting, as Princeps were usually middle-aged. His golden brown eyes locked onto hers, piercing straight to her soul. That was unexpected, but Ciris was a General and future leader and had to put responsibility ahead of curiosity. 

“I am afraid to disappoint you, but Princeps Zior is not looking to expand their territory to outsiders, nor are they welcome to the idea of distributing our precious resources to the people outside of Anax, and especially the galaxy. We have heard of your journey across Meddo and the requests you have been making, so this meeting is not a surprise to us. It is best to move on and keep searching for whatever you are looking for elsewhere.” Ciris’ finger clinked on her crossed arm, indicating that she was not going to change her mind on the matter. General Rei smirked at her stubbornness. 

“You cyborgs seem to think you know everything, don’t you? That’s alright, I won’t be going far. I look forward to our future conversations. I’ll be on the Falcon when you want to talk again.” General Rei stood up with his helmet on his hip, saluted goodbye, and sauntered out the door. Ciris was stunned by the young General’s haughtiness, as most humans who came to negotiate with her were terrified of the capabilities of the cyborgs, since those who chose to fight them were often badly defeated. It seemed she would have to dedicate more time to the problem and discuss it with Princeps Zior. 

Ciris flew through the copper city gates on her auto-glider towards the Princeps’ tower, the tallest structure in the billowing city of Alcathous, which was situated on one of many Carminian columns in Anax. From the base of the column to its peak, the city wrapped itself around like vines, with the Phoenix Fyre refining plant directly beside it. The russet-coloured houses blazed past her as she quickly made it to the tower, thinking about what the General had said to her. Would it be so bad to open up a little to outside ideas? It wouldn’t hurt to mention it to Zior; perhaps they would change their mind about the distribution of Fyre outside of the province. 

She docked her glider and entered the palace, making her way up to the Princeps’ meeting room, where she knew they would be at this time. Her metal fist clunked on the door three times, and she let herself in. Princeps Zior was suited up in their long white and gold robe, with their brown neckpiece clipped together by three energy straps, their short greying hair interrupted by two metal headpieces. Zior glanced at her entrance with glowing blue eyes and turned back to their work.

“Ah, Ciris, are you here to talk about our conversation last night about marriage? I am not going to allow you to enter into that trap knowing how disastrous it could be for our province. Once married, you are weakened by the power they hold over you, so I forbid any such acts. This will be the end of that conversation.” Ciris sighed heavily, disgruntled by this topic being brought up again, as it was a sore subject for her. All she had ever dreamed of was to be loved by someone and to share her future with someone she could trust. But she had a duty to her Princeps and parent to follow their orders, even if that was not what she wanted for herself.  

“That is not why I am here, Princeps Zior. Princeps and General Rei of Physis is here outside the barrier, as I am sure you know. I wanted to discuss his plan moving forward.” Zior rolled their attention back to Ciris, brows drawn forward.

“I see. Tell me.” 

As Ciris updated Zior on Princeps Rei’s expectations, she could tell that this was yet another attempt at globalization that was going to be rejected. “I can see that you are displeased, so I will deal with this as quickly as possible.”

“Yes. We are in the midst of our fifty-year plan and it cannot be changed; we do not need anyone else for our success. It is crucial that we stay on track; it’s for the good of our future. Now, I have a tech-check coming up that I cannot miss. The next time I see you, I hope this issue is resolved.” Zior rose and dismissed Ciris. She would have to deal with the human’s stubbornness by herself, but she had never turned a challenge down before. 

The humans had become even more troublesome than she originally thought because after re-analyzing their docked gear, she saw that they had fastened an updated unbudgeable anchor to the cliff since she’d been gone; considering it was outside of the barrier and she didn’t want to start a civil war, she concluded that she would have to keep negotiating with General Rei. 

As the weeks went on, Ciris and General Rei communicated daily through the comm-tech, and Ciris realized she enjoyed talking to him. They saw each other every day through the holo and as more weeks went by, she had to acknowledge that she longed to see him and even touch him. She made up every excuse she could think of to call him, but she didn’t know why. Since she became a cyborg, she noticed her emotions often got confused with the higher intellect of the technology and found it easier if she ignored it and focused on her new physicality instead. Now that it had been a century of adaptation, she had never felt the raw emotions of her human self—until now. And she didn’t know what to make of it. Observing Rei through the holo on his ship made her stomach ache, and talking to him made her feel like she would do anything for him. The only possible feeling that could be, she guessed, was love. It had to be. And it was something she longed to feel since she was a child. 

General Ciris sent a comm to Rei to meet beside the small pond beneath the tall withered Koa tree by stardown to discuss an important matter. As she waited, Ciris examined herself in the reflection, taking note of her pretty, human-like face—most of it real—but knowing some of it was replaced by the Fyre technology. Her long black hair was tied back in a braid and her white-coloured robe with her gold military markings covered most of her body. She remembered that 80 per cent of her body was altered to be weaponized for combat, advanced intellect, and longevity. But in her eyes, she was beautiful: her body could do anything and endure everything. It wasn’t until recently that she thought she lacked anything important from her humanity and she was excited to have discovered it. 

“Hello there,” Rei broke her from her trance when he spoke up from behind her. Ciris turned to see him, her heart squeezing at the sound of his voice. “What is with this mysterious message about meeting you in secret? Do you finally have good news about our negotiations, or are you luring me here because you’re charmed by my presence?” He smiled and winked, positioning his large frame in front of her. Ciris smiled coyly at him.

“Perhaps. I do have an offer from me to you, but I cannot tell you much of the details. It must be kept a secret.”

“Certainly. What’s the offer?”

Ciris was silent for a moment before speaking, choosing her words wisely, “I will give you what you are seeking, if you promise to return the favour in the future.”

Rei’s dark brows shot up in surprise, a sparkle glimmering in his eyes. “Absolutely. If you give me what I want, I will happily repay you in any way!”

Ciris simpered, feeling gratified by their unity. “Perfect. Then we have a deal. Meet me at the docks at starbreak and I will have what you are seeking.” Rei and Ciris parted ways, agreeing to meet up at the specified time in the morning. 

General Ciris went up to the outpost and retired all of the military positions for the night, as it was not uncommon for her to protect the post by herself at night. Her head was spinning with adrenaline as she proceeded with her plan. It was surely going to be a great success that would solve everything!

As the hours passed and starbreak broke the horizon, General Rei stood waiting anxiously for General Ciris to return with the Phoenix Fyre. With a handful of his soldiers positioned behind him, he remained staring at the path Ciris was supposed to come down while gripping his Fyre-gun, the only weapon lethal to cyborgs. He prepared himself in case of opposition, but he was confident that the General would accomplish what she promised. 

The first thing he noticed was the feeling of an unusual release in the air, like energy popping and spreading outwards. Moments later he heard a banshee-like scream ripping through the trees on the hill, making his skin crawl and causing his men to step back in fear. The last thing he noticed was vibrant crimson. It spattered all over the General, and dripped slowly from her claws. General Ciris emerged in front of Rei, gripping the head and spine of Princeps Zior in one hand, and their destroyed heart in the other. 

Rei stared wide-eyed in fear at her, shaking his head in disbelief. “What have you done, Ciris?”

“What have I done? Everything I have promised you and more! The Princeps is dead and the shield is gone. Now, we can have everything. We can be together forever.”

“Together?! I don’t understand what you mean?” Rei’s voice shook as he slowly started to piece together what Ciris’ intentions were. 

“I love you Rei! With me at your side, you can have full access to Phoenix Fyre now that the force shield is down and without my tyrannical parent controlling every choice I make. We are free to marry and share a life together!” Ciris laughed maniacally; she finally felt free to feel all of her emotions, to finally feel human again. 

“Stop! How could you do this? You killed your own parent because you think you…love me? And now you think that I would marry you under duress? I have never been more repulsed in my life. Please, stay away from me.” 

Ciris’ smile dropped and her face paled. “Wh-what? We made a deal! You promised to give me what I wanted in exchange for what you wanted!” Ciris started to run at Rei, feeling desperate for him to stay with her while still gripping her parent’s remains in her claws. 

“Please! You need to stay with me—” Ciris’ desperate words were cut off by three Fyre-gun bullets ripping through her midsection and chest. Horrified, she looked up and saw Rei’s gun smoking from the after-fyre. Ciris collapsed as her body broke into two, and she lay there as Rei and his soldiers retreated to the Falcon. 

Rei!” She howled, “How could you do this to me?! I love you! Stop!” Her piercing cry could not be contained in her throat any longer, her heartbreak too much for her to bear.

Ciris managed to drag her upper body after Rei, liquid leaking out of her eyes and down her cheeks. She dragged and inched herself forward, using her unnatural strength to follow Rei; a stream of blood and Fyre trailed behind her fragmented torso. 

“Rei” she pleaded ominously. “You cannot leave me. Ever.” The finality of Ciris’ words disturbed Rei, freezing him in place on the ship. 

“I will always be with you!” She shrieked and flung herself off the edge of the dock and grabbed onto the front of Rei’s ship. She sank in her claws and attached herself to it, and in grief, she began to merge with the ship, forever entombing herself in death to the Falcon and to Rei. 

KRISTA GOSSELIN is from a town called Blind River which is situated along the Huron shore. She is an English student in her last year at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. She has always loved to read and imagine stories and she’s excited to publish her first short story at Inventio.