Chapter 18:

A Meeting of Gods

Code: Zero Defect

The Spire, a massive tower resting at the very center of New Olympos. It is the base of operation for the Queen's Guards, and at the very top sits the Queen, the supreme ruler of the city.

Above ground level, the government maintains law and order. They are the messengers of the Queen, who has never once shown herself to the public. Those who carry out these laws are known as the Generals of the Queen's Guards.

They are the most powerful individuals in the entire city, each with a reputation that precedes them to a great degree. They often appear on television as a way to ease the public of any rumors and doubts, solidifying themselves as celebrities of sorts.

Entering the Spire was a squadron of Queen's Guards. Their presence was requested when a sighting was made. Zephyr of Calypso was spotted at an abandoned factory towards the Eastern Ward of the undercity.

The squadron reported suspicious activity, but nothing more. They found piles of corpses scattered across an old dig site. No Calypsos in sight, and the cameras in the area found nothing, as if they had been tampered with.

Whatever happened there, it was done professionally and with the utmost caution. In theory, no one but the Calypso squad is capable of such a feat.

In response, a meeting was called by the government, and the presence of the generals was requested.

Within massive halls of the Spire, the clacking of high heels echoed. Making her way down the red carpet was a woman draped in black. Her short hair of the darkest night fell to her shoulders, and a single strand of magenta whisked down her forehead. A white coat hung from her shoulders—a symbol of the generals. Sown into the back of the coat were two markings. A true beauty in the eyes of many, though terrifying at the same time.

Keira "Sigastiris" Van Lachlein, the second general of the Queen's Guards.

She stopped in front of a grandiose set of doors, where two soldiers covered in a black cloak greeted her.

"General Sigastiras," one of them said while planting his fist on his chest. "The others have been eagerly awaiting your arrival."

"Like I didn't know that," she scoffed. "Out of the way, boys. It's time for my grand entrance."

She lifted her red sunglasses while the guards opened the doors. There, she met a group of people sitting at a round table. Among them were her fellow generals. One of them was the first to greet her when she sat down.

"As beautiful as ever, Van Lachlein," the man said eloquently. "You really know how to liven the atmosphere, don't you?"

Keira turned her head to meet his bright smile, but she would not give him the same treatment. While he sat there like a god on his throne, it was as though a shining ray of light was following his every movement. Adorning his head were wavy golden locks that fell to his shoulder while smaller strands on the side of his head stretched to his chest. As he smiled at Keira, his sharp eyes of hazel glistened like a topaz gemstone. An energy line ran past his right eye, a small line curving into a circle right below his eyelid.

His bare chest was nothing but black metal with golden lines running through the edges. A white, short-sleeved coat covered it all, and sown onto the back were three markings. Nothing more could describe such an elegant appearance.

Ramses "Prostatis" Zakaria, the third general of the Queen's Guards.

"Unfortunately, I can't say the same about you, darling," Keira mocked. "Maybe if you got rid of that fake smile, you'd be a lot more attractive."

"Ah, but this smile of mine tells no lie," he replied. "You, on the other hand... I would think your whole face speaks of a lifetime's worth of lies."

"Careful, Zakaria. If lies are kind, then the truth must hurt. Keep running your mouth at me, and you'll find out exactly what that means."

"Enough," a deep voice boomed and echoed in the circular chamber.

They both looked up at the man who was sitting in between them. It was a rather tall and bulky man. His head of white hair was slicked back. Old as he may seem, the others knew full well of the power he held. Even with just a glance at those scornful blue eyes, Ramses and Keira felt intimidated. Multiple energy lines ran through the entire left side of his face.

His entire body was covered by a thick white coat with three markings on the back, but the others knew full well the augmented body that lay beneath. The perfect image of what an augmented human can achieve.

Theo "Archontas" De Leux, the first general of the Queen's Guards.

"Do not make a fool of yourselves," he demanded adamantly. "We are in the presence of the council."

"And?" Keira giggled menacingly as she rested her chin on her hands. "Look at these fools. Pray tell, is there anything they can possibly do to us?"

"Sigastiras!" one of them shouted.

"Relax, old man. You might pop a blood vessel with those human limbs of yours. Just be grateful that I've answered your call."

"Worry not, General," another one rose from his chair and said. "We won't take up too much of your time."

This one, Keira had to at least hear out. Among the council that makes up the government, he is by far the most powerful in terms of influence.

"Then do make it quick, Edward," Keira winked. "I'm a busy woman, you see."

The one called Edward sat back down and pulled out a remote control. With a press of a button, the massive screen behind them flickered.

It then shifted to a window that showed multiple boxes with details pertaining to the five members of the Calypso squad.

Holiday of Calypso, bounty of three hundred million credits.

Astrid of Calypso, bounty of two hundred and twenty million credits.

Loki of Calypso, bounty of one hundred and ninety million credits.

Zephyr of Calypso, bounty of one hundred and eighty million credits.

Minerva of Calypso, bounty of one hundred and fifty million credits.

"As you all know, they made their return public a month ago," Edward said. "Since then, we've been seeing a large increase in defective activity within the undercity."

"Heh, are you about to say that it's our fault?" Keira smiled menacingly.

"Of course not, General. I am simply stating a fact. The point is that the coatsmen are ill-equipped to deal with Calypso. The army has also been dispatched, but it clearly isn't enough."

"So you wish for the Queen's Guards to get involved," Ramses said.

"It is a request. I know you have your hands tied with the eidolon business in the outer lands, but right now, I believe that the defects are a much bigger threat."

While he awaited their responses, a drop of sweat was trailing down the back of his neck. While the government is responsible for delivering the Queen's will to the city, it can't be denied that the generals hold the most power.

Edward once witnessed Keira shooting his colleague in the head for attempting to dispute a minor complication. He knew full well their capabilities. They could raze the city to the ground if they wished, so he had to tread carefully.

"That's certainly quite the request," Ramses chuckled. "Bringing us generals down to the level of catching mere insects within the city walls. What say you, De Leux?"

He remained silent as a myriad of thoughts began racing through his mind. The Queen's Guards are by far the most skilled soldiers in the entire city. As such, most of their resources are spent fighting the biggest threat to the city, which is the eidolons of the outer lands.

However, if defects are on the rise with the legendary Calypso squad spearheading it, it could lead to a devastating civil war as it did in the past.

Theo pondered until he finally came to a decision.

"Give us some time," he said. "The eidolons have been strengthening their siege against the southern walls. Once we are sure that the situation is under control, we will turn our attention to the defects."

"For real?" Keira scoffed. "I don't understand what the hype is about Calypso. I fought one the other day and she was nowhere near worthy of my acknowledgment."

"Which one?"

"The white-haired one. Ah, Zephyr. Yeah, that's the one."

"Then you got lucky."

Keira raised an eyebrow as turned to look at him. With a tone of irritation, she repeated his words. "Lucky...? What's that supposed to mean?"

Theo turned around and fixed his eyes on the screen that displayed the members of Calypso. He recognized all of them, but there was one he couldn't turn away from.

"You were a mere lieutenant during the Insurrection of Calypso, so I wouldn't expect you to understand," he said. "Had you faced their captain, I can assure you that you would not be sitting here in one piece right now."

Since what he said was true, Keira could not deny his words. She was merely a soldier during the time of the Reclamation. The Insurrection of Calypso happened a year after that, and it was during the aftermath that the city needed another general. And so, Keira was selected by the Queen herself.

"Fine," Keira exaggerated her sigh. "Whatever you say, Mr. Hero of New Olympos."

"Personally, I am against leaving the frontlines," Ramses said. "Leaving the walls in the hands of the army makes it seem like we want the eidolons to break it down again."

"It will be temporary," Theo assured. "Until we can capture or kill the Calypso squad, we must put our trust in the army's capabilities."

"Huh. If you say so. Just know that if another breach happens, I will be taking no fault in it whatsoever."

"Then we are all in agreement," Edward said. "Now, I know that you generals are on a tight schedule, but I must bring something else to your attention."

Keira slouched deeper into her seat with a noticeably annoyed look. "What is it this time?"

"We monitored the movements of Zephyr when she revealed herself a week ago. I'm sure this sounds familiar, General Sigastiras, as you happened to be there."


"Perhaps you've met the new face that has appeared with her."

He pressed a button on the remote, and the screen shifted to an image captured in the field. It depicted Zephyr of Calypso facing Keira. However, there was an additional person in the group, one they had not seen before.

It looked to be a normal young man one would see in the belly of the undercity. His black hair was messy and split in the middle. A mask covered the bottom half of his face. While his cold eyes could be seen, the color was nigh impossible to deduce given the absence of light. Resting in his hands was a unique curved dagger curved like a crescent moon.

"And who is this strapping young man?" asked a curious Ramses.

"We pulled some files based on his appearance," Edward replied. "He is somewhat known throughout the undercity by the codename, Strider. The most evident thing he possesses that separates him from other defects is that dagger."

"He was pretty weak," Keira said. "I would've killed him had that white-haired bitch not interfered."

"Regardless, he seems to be moving with the Calypso squad. As such, he will now be recognized as a high-valued defect along with them."

"Bounty amount?" Theo asked.

"Fifteen million."

"Whoa~, that's quite the shift," Keira giggled. "Last I checked, it was three million."

"If he is actively working with Calypso, then we can only assume that he means to go directly against the High Order. This is the most appropriate response."

Theo could not take his eyes off the image of Strider. 'Another troublesome defect,' he thought to himself. The only thing left to do is to wipe him out along with Calypso before any real damage can be done.

"That concludes this meeting," Edward said. "Generals. We thank you for your time."

With that, everyone left the chamber. While the councilmen made their way back up the Spire, the generals were walking next to each other in the empty hallways at ground level.

"Honestly, I didn't think they would ever show themselves again," Ramses chuckled. "Those foolish girls... Do they really think they can stand against the Queen?"

"That's why we call them defects, darling," Keira smirked.

"Arbitrary questions can stay arbitrary," Theo said. "As long as the Calypso squad remains, the order of New Olympos is in danger. We simply need to wipe them out."

As Keira peeked at Theo's stoic stride, she questioned just how strong his will was. Could it be damaged? Could she somehow make him break? A wide smirk appeared on her face as a truly ingenious idea appeared in her head.

"Say, De Leux... Wasn't your daughter the former captain of Calypso?" she asked in a taunting manner. "It must've been hard for you to see her go defective. I can't even begin to imagine it. Good thing she's dead now, huh? Less for you to-"

Before she could react, Theo plunged his fist past Keira's head, narrowly missing her from what would've been a surefire trip to the afterlife. A massive boom could be heard all across the Spire. The wall behind Keira cracked and crumbled, and a massive crater was all that was left.

She lifted her head to meet Theo's dangerous scowl, but she did not flinch. Instead, her smile only grew wider.

"Don't you dare bring her up in front of me again, Van Lachlein," he muttered bitterly. "Lest you suffer the consequences of your ignorance."

After a subtle scoff, she gently bowed her head. "My apologies... General De Leux."

He marched off in a fit of rage, leaving the other two generals behind. Keira laughed, reveling in this situation she calls, 'reality.' Such is the world they live in and will continue to do so. She knew all too well that a storm was coming, one they could not avoid. For better or for worse, a war was about to start.