Chapter 7 - The Baron

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In the silence of space, a young man wept openly. His ship was miniscule against the vast carnage of an entire world. Rock, debris, and unknown things impacted the hull, causing him to rock back and forth in the wave of memories. Visions of his wife and son played across eyelids clamped shut with pain. His comms were open and his sobs echoed out into the vacuum. He cried their names aloud, over and over, his tears streaking the weeks of dust and grime caked upon his face.

He was emaciated. The depression he endured took away his appetite. He only ate when he knew it was essential to his survival. He drank only water, and a limited amount of that. His days were spent in piracy, building, collecting, recruiting. His solar system had been the pinnacle of peace with all of mankind united in the joy of exploration. The outer planets of the system were terraformed and colonized with countless space stations dotted about. Trillions of his people lived away from their home world coming and going with ease.

But not his wife and son. Both had been very much alive and happy on Aria. He pictured her in the setting sun of the field not far from their house. His little boy hoisted on her hip, both staring into that golden curtain with him. He felt his love for them expand within him, fill his being, light his soul with warmth. But when he opened his eyes, they were gone. The world of Aria was a ash and rock. His wife and son were gone with it. He felt that light extinguish again, the anguish of their absence exploded within him and he unleashed his pain in a tortured wail of madness that burned his throat and split his skull with pain.

This was his weekly pilgrimage. The Arian military evacuated the area when his ship sailed through their lines. They knew better than to try to stop him. They once had, and the cost to their fleet was catastrophic. He fought on their side, for his own reasons, but no man in all of creation could control the enraged animal he had become. He used his ship as a sword against the darkness, delivering death and destruction to all who would stand against his judgement. His only desire was revenge. His only thoughts were of Brian and Stephanie. He was filled with the vast emptiness of their loss, his mind bent and twisted in a rage unmatched by even the most violent conqueror of his people. One enemy life at a time went into the void that their deaths created. He took no pleasure in it. He was merely filling the void with life, the only way his savaged mind would allow.

From the Cavalry, thousands of men and women stared out of viewports overlooking the remnants of Aria and his seemingly insignificant fighter being hammered about by the ghosts of their people. Heads were bowed as they remembered the day Aria was destroyed by a force of unimaginable power. A flash of light lit up every inch of the solar system at the moment of impact. A shockwave ripped across the planet as the atmosphere itself ignited. All organic life on the planet was vaporized in an instant. 14 billion Souls, lost. For what? He felt the renewed rupture of his soul and let loose his torment into the void.

Arian war ships hung motionless in the space surrounding the planet's carcass. Their crews paid silent vigil to the Baron's howls of agony. They felt the echo of his pain in their own hearts. The emotion was true and raw. One by one, The Calvary joined him in his grief, filled the nothingness of space with their sorrow. Tears were shed freely in the worship of memory, a living religion of agony. Those who had not lost loved ones on Aria felt the Baron's loss, and the loss of every other Witness aboard the Cavalry, the stations that were an Arian orbit, the war ships, and beyond. They, too, wept for the combined loss of their people.

And then, the sounds of anguish were silenced as the baron turned off as communications. He was purged of his pain for another day. His tears fell clean and he wept in controlled breaths. For half an hour, he regained his composure before igniting his engine and reengaging the deflection systems, his jaw set in grim determination, renewed. His people sought for and found the source of the destruction. Their combat probes were already engaging the enemy in the Proxima System.

Soon, the baron would join them and the blood of the Guardians would paint the universe. His ship would bathe in their crimson life force and he would know his revenge. His plan was simple: Annihilate Proxima and render it uninhabitable forever. He would destroy them as completely as his beloved Aria. Every life therein would suffer the same fate as his own wife and son.

Please understand that a scene like this is difficult to write. For all who have known the pain of unfairly losing a loved one, this chapter will ring true. This story is not for timid minds, and this side of it in particular. As will be played out, the worst villains in history were those convinced that they were in the right.

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