Brasidas saw troops filing in still, checking the clock every so often. He sat atop a horizontally laid power node for the armored hovercavalry driven by the Hippeis. A few of the special unit were in the midst of a drinking contest, two of them in an arm wrestling match that looked to be the best nine out of seventeen. They were useful in their capacity, though they weren't the bedrock of the contingent like the hoplites. He glanced at the wider crowd again, scanning it subtly. He didn't care if any of the unaffiliated men missed the meeting, but the officers had a duty to be within the dome during the broadcast, and Brasidas wanted to make sure all of the hoplites under his command were present. None had disappointed him, as of yet. The men were talking among themselves, and out of the crowd strode Brasidas' two subordinates and friends.
Ajax the Mycenaen was a huge bear of a man, though he lacked the winter fat of that ancient terran creature. He was so large, bits of his armor were simply pieced apart outer armor of the minotaur personnel mechs men could drive as powered combat suits. It made him a bigger target, but it was almost as if he wore a double layer of the hoplon shield across his shoulders and torso. Anything but a point blank explosion from a medusa-mine or an anti-vehicle streaker missile would hardly have him give notice.
The other was Kelomenes, a man from the planet Thessaly in the Aeolian system. He was slighter in build than the other two, but an expert scout sniper and melee combatant, and he was useful to have during downtime when they played cards for money. Brasidas (and Ajax when he wasn't on the receiving end) would always bet on Kelomenes and get their money's worth. Either Apollo had his eye on him, or he had some implant in his head that could detect lying and the barest glance of an eye. Brasidas expected it was likely both.
"How long will the commute be?" Kelomenes asked, scratching his scalp, just under his closely cropped black hair.
"A few weeks to a few months, depending on the transport available." Brasidas answered. "We don't know if we're getting the same ride back as we had here."
"Doesn't matter. We were paid enough to last us a good few years." Ajax grunted through his beard, smiling.
The light went out suddenly, but not unexpectedly. Merely a moment later their eyes adjusted to the dimness, and the image of the inside of a lavish pavillion displayed atop the lectern. The very lighting of the room illuminated the chamber the Hellenes had gathered in. The lectern holograms were so lifelike, some of the men from lesser civilized worlds swore it was a pocket dimension they could look within, for they claimed they could feel the very heat of a fire lit within the image.
Many people called the Spartans brutish and dimwitted folk, but even the lowest of them wouldn't have considered something so outlandish.
Within the feed, they saw their four generals standing amid their chosen guard, at the ready to greet the Great King, who seemed to be about to make his appearance. Clearchus wore his spartan lamilar cuirass, red cloak splayed behind him; the only aspect of his clothing showing his rank as an officer. The ambitious Proxenus of Boetia stood across the carpet from him, flanked by three of his hoplites. With them were two generals Brasidas knew very little about. Menon and Cleanor, the latter he knew hailed from Arcadia.
"Do you think they could squeeze a few more coins out of the King for being good sports?" Kelomenes asked. Brasidas couldn't tell if he was joking.
The men began to murmur again, and Brasidas turned back to the hologram to see Artaxerxes the II enter the room, flanked by royal 'applebearers' the Hellenes nicknamed them. Everyone else knew them as the Immortals. Their faces were masked by high tech and visored helms, whereas Artaxerxes II was unclad on his head. He had a long beard, carefully woven as if he were a pharaoh of old, and resplendent robes. Golden bands, some encrusted with jewels hung upon every limb and extremity one could see on his clothed form. He walked like one who expected all to serve him, and rather than bow to the generals presented, he passed them by as if he had yet to notice them and take a seat on his throne.
"Now," He said. "Let us begin." @Penny