Gamepoint by Ava York



The universe floated past the projection screen in my office, creating the illusion I looked out of a window into the void outside The Alliance Star, the flagship of my fleet. Profound reluctance weighed on me. Though I wished for a different course of action, battle loomed, and I could not abandon my people to the Snaughian invasion.

For three-hundred and seventy years, my Empire flourished, citizens of a hundred worlds thriving. Then the Snaughians’ fleets arrived in Imperial territory eight years ago, and I had to watch world after Imperial world fall to their rapacious advances.

I closed my eyes, covering them with a hand. I massaged my forehead, hoping to relieve at least some of the tension plaguing me, but it was no use. Rubbing my forehead would not improve our coalition’s odds of pushing back the most recent wave of the Snaughians’ advance.

I will do what I must and continue to look for new ways to resist. I refuse to believe the Snaughians are inevitable. There must be a way to resist them, and I will find it.

A ding from my desk pulled me from my dark thoughts. I dropped my hand from my forehead and glanced at the message blinking on the display. I pushed a button, opening the comms channel. Captain Plorik’s voice buzzed through the comms.

“Emperor Brannic, Captain Zelgor of The Snaughians’ Bane and Quislik High Commander, Flupil Tanack await you on the secure channel.”

“Thank you, Captain. Put them through to my office.”

“Immediately, Emperor Brannic.”

I stood from my desk and straightened my battle suit, then turned to face the projection screen. On the left side of the screen brooded the red-and-orange-striped, Kirtaxian Captain Zelgor. I had met many beings in my five-hundred and Fifty-two years of life, but none so consumed by rage.

Guilt stabbed into me. The combination of frustration, pain, and fear swirling inside of him was far too easy to exploit and turn in the direction of vengeance. Even though I knew he fought for the cause of his people, I had already seen countless beings across the galaxy consumed by exactly such rage.

How does one heal such a man? How does any leader find a way to make such a man whole? But, what choice do I have but to utilize the beings before me. Captain Zelgor leads a fierce fleet of pirates, and I need his ships if we are to have any chance of holding the Snaughians back.

The Quislik, displayed on the right side of the screen, was an entirely different matter. Tall and thin, long-limbed with a large ribcage, the teal High Commander Flupil Tanack blinked the eyes at the tips of his two eyestalks.

If only I had any other alternative than the Quislik…

“Greetings, Emperor Brannic, Supreme Leader of the Draksian Empire, first of your line. May your reign never—”

I raised my hand. High Commander Tanack fell silent.

“High Commander, you know I do not appreciate such pageantry. Flattery gains you nothing. Let us move onto another concern…your Xunon units—”

“Our Xuno—”

I narrowed my eyes, interrupting his words.

“Do. Not. Interrupt me again, High Commander. I am already uncomfortable with our arrangement. I have heard disturbing rumors about your Xunon units. Are they, or are they not capable of intelligent thought? I will have an answer, and do not lie. Your race would not appreciate the consequences.”

The Quislik High Commander paused. Quislik had tiny skulls with few features, making them difficult to read. I had not been in contact with their race for long.

“I also have heard rumors, Quislik. I, too, have reservations about your troops.”

“Let me assure you both our Xunon-class Combat Units are not capable of independent thought. The cloned bodies are not capable of living independently of their computerized components. They are drones, Emperor Brannic. They are not capable of life beyond their designed use.”

A worry settled into my gut, screaming at me not to trust the Quislik.

But what choices do I have?

Captain Zelgor sighed, and he looked as trepidatious as I felt.

“What choice do we have, Emperor Brannic? Without the Xunon Combat Units, we cannot even hope to hold the Snaughians back, and we all know that, if the Snaughians break past us now, there will be nothing left to stop them from gobbling up every planet within reach.”

I nodded at Captain Zelgor’s words. Resigned to the unavoidable reality the entire galactic sector faced this day, I held up a hand for silence.

“Captain, I wish your words were not so true. I wish there was another way. I founded the Draksian Empire on the belief we could all mutually prosper through peace and cooperation.”

“And that worked for three-hundred and seventy years, Emperor.”

“Thank you, Captain Zelgor, I just wish we had been able to keep the Snaughians at bay outside of the Empire’s borders.”

We stood in silence for a moment, until my desk dinged and interrupted us. I pushed the comms button and Captain Plorik’s voice spoke with the gravity I felt deep in my soul.

“Emperor Brannic? The Snaughian fleet has arrived. They will reach engagement range in one galactic standard hour…”

“Thank you, Captain Plorik. Battle stations, Captain. Today, we either stop the Snaughians’ advance…or we will die defending our Empire.”

“Yes, Emperor. Our people understand, Emperor.”

I closed the channel with Captain Plorik and returned my attention to the projection screen.

“Best of luck, High Commander. Best of luck, Captain Zelgor. One way or another, today we meet our destiny.”

Best of luck, Emperor. I could not think of a nobler way to die, than fighting to protect the galaxy from suffering under the hands of the Snaughians as the Kirtaxian people have.”

“Do not worry, Emperor, Captain. My Xunon Combat Units will turn the battle in our favor.”

I closed the comms channels.

One way or another, today we meet our destiny—and determine the future for all the worlds remaining in the Draksian Empire.