In one of the more remote Rezahs of squadron O, Maria Anasta found herself winding through a labyrinth. With every step forward, the wood degraded ahead of her and grew like a wildfire behind her. She knew where the tree took her, so she didn’t stop to marvel at the beauty of it all nor was wary of getting lost.
Up, left, right, left again, up some more, she mapped out her pathing. If she could figure out the layout on the way in, she would know whether someone misled her on the way back. How convenient. If only my Rezah could do something like this!
At last, the pathing stopped. A door laid out before her, adorned with miniature figures of small men worshipping a circle lit up by fluorescent bugs. One figure, in particular, caught Maria’s attention: a woman with a bow aiming at a stag.
‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ Maria’s sister appeared out of nowhere. ‘I made it out of our namesake. And that’s not me being self-interested. The mythology’s dynamics truly is breath-taking.’
‘It is, Artemis,’ Maria uttered.
‘Diana,’ the Xernim1XernimA parasitical entity that sometimes benefits its host user corrected. ‘Still a while away till Artemis, my dear Anasta.’
‘What a shame. Worth a try,’ squadron W’s leader raised her hand towards the glowing circle. The bugs didn’t irk her. They didn’t react to her approach; just a simple squirm in their own little world.
‘Does my presence disappoint you?’ squadron O’s leader chuckled to herself.
‘While I don’t mind our conversations, you are not the one I want to be speaking to.’
‘I understand your sentiment. Yet, I do need to implore you to be a little bit more patient with me. The precarious nature of a mortal being unlike myself is not something to be trifled with as I’m sure you realise,’ Diana mulled over her words before changing subjects. ‘Regardless, shall we go in? I have quite the interesting development in our circumstances that I wish to display.’
Maria nodded. At that, Diana stepped forwards. She placed her hand on the door when vines grew out, encircling the arm of the woman until tree and person alike became inseparable. The door soon engulfed both of them, not a single trace left behind except for a few of the blue bugs found on the “moon” prior.
On the other side, a small room with neat, little furniture, a desk that looked too large for Diana’s stature and a set of glass chinaware unfurled before Maria. She didn’t realise it but squadron O’s leader had already taken her seat at an also-comically-large chair with papers at the ready.
‘Anasta, my dear, take a seat and take these as well. I’m sure you know what they pertain,’ she slid the sheets over her desk, almost climbing on top of it to get it all the way across.
‘Allow me,’ Maria helped out, picking them up and crashing down on one of the armchairs. She flicked through them both, her eyes widening with every page. ‘They do move fast, don’t they?’
‘It’s as you predicted. Feed the mouse cheese and you get a vermin tide at your doorstep,’ Diana chuckled at the situation. ‘But worry not. I have already drafted the required course of actions to make both your rise and my squadron’s victory an avid success as you can see.’
‘Mhm,’ Maria carried on reading. As she did so, she noticed the similarity between the two sets of documents. ‘Why do they both say the exact same words?’
‘Anasta, I thought you were taught better,’ Diana tutted back. ‘You must exercise completion and an entire understanding before asking trivial questions for the answers are often found because you were simply too lazy to do so. I will not be so forgiving the next time your impatience shows, my dear.’
Maria raised an eyebrow. However, she still carried on. She read through map designs, general tactics and alterations when the enemy does certain actions. Yet, word for word, each document read the same.
What was different? squadron W’s colonel wondered until she reached the end of the second document. ‘Oh. There’s more to the first.’
‘How astute of you to notice, my dear,’ Diana smirked her toothless grin.
‘I know, I know,’ Maria grimaced.
‘Good. As long as you realise your forthcomings,’ the smirk receded and Diana leant back into her chair. ‘Now, I believe we ought to discuss the matters at hand. The shorter file is self-explanatory. Everyone shall know its contents in due time. As for that primary document with the surplus pages, that is for your eyes and your eyes only. I’m sure I make my intentions clear here, do I not?’
‘Brilliant! I shall let you read on then.’
An eerie silence fell upon the room. One could hear either the creaking of the surrounding tree or the pages flapping around. Diana became statuesque in her chair, watching Maria with great intent, who puzzled herself on the writing meant just for her.
For the remainder of this parchment, I shall refer to several entities, of whom you may or may not know, by various codenames that my most trusted of allies must decipher.
They are as following:
The Mouse – CC2414020418050200316031619W983118101271031021217
The Pied Piper – CC011716051417172200000316031619W971101219811031021217
And The Paidi – CCC08210821171717171420202117W1161216515627321
These three shall be the key components for our victory, based on observations on AAA and on how these personnel act themselves. I have ascertained their character over the course of their time here and, should any one of them deviate from my predictions, I shall take full responsibility for any disaster that befalls my people. The pied Piper already knows my plans.
As for the intended plan…
Maria stopped reading there and went back a few lines. She looked at the numbers and the two letters “C” and “W.” What did they mean? The letters repeated with each codename while the numbers differed. Unless… Maria thought of something. She flicked back through the notes and pinpointed a single word “squadron.”
‘Hmm. You’re as cryptic as ever, Diana. Artemis would never do something like this,’ she commented while figuring out the rest of the code.
‘One has to be wily in these times, darling,’ Diana chuckled to herself. ‘There is a saying that the walls have ears. And while it may be true that these walls are my ears, you can never discount the efforts rodents take to hide within them. All shall know the contents of the smaller document but if the larger of the two were to become common knowledge, our demise is sure to follow.’
‘Right,’ Maria nodded and exchanged a glance with Diana.
‘If you cannot figure out what I mean, however, that is of no concern to me,’ Diana smirked back. ‘You not knowing means little. In fact, the fewer who understand, the better. But you’re a smart lass, so I’m sure you’ll break through the conundrum eventually, either through context or by straight out deciphering the code.’
Squadron O’s leader didn’t respond. She didn’t like the somewhat mocking tone of those words. It made her want to solve it straight away but, knowing Diana, it could also be a means to make her do so anyway. Answer and she got trapped in her methods. Don’t do so and now she became clueless about the secondary plans. Either way, Maria lost this engagement.
The Pied Piper, coupled with the venus fly trap that is I, is an integral part of victory. For the mouse has found ways to bring its plague into our ranks all while our paidi is left unaware of the predicament. He may figure it out or he may not. Whatever the case, it is of little impact on the outcome. The trap has been set and this is how our battle will play out:
‘Ah, I’ve got it,’ the context, combined with the code itself, clicked at last in Maria’s mind.
‘Excellent!’ Diana beamed. ‘Then I shall let you take care of your people. We’ll have a mass meeting next week. I will need you to debrief your most trusted leaders but otherwise, our own meeting has been adjourned. Goodbye for now.’
At that, the room shifted. Branches sprouted out of the ground, making a wall between the two colonels. Behind Maria, the chair and walls collapsed, leaving her sitting on the floor with a minor knock on the rear. The office disappeared and so did Diana. Only a small passageway, leading to an exit, remained alongside the documents.
‘Why is she like this?’ Maria grumbled as she stood up before dusting herself off. Another big battle loomed over the horizon and squadron O’s colonel had much to prepare for.