Monthly Archives: February 2012



Your story begins with a fist. If you’re wondering whose fist it is, then it ceases to matter after the fist hits your face. The cold air must have lowered the sensitivity in your face, however, since you feel only pressure and a slight warmth on your skin. You hear a crunch. Your nose is likely broken, but you pay it no matter. Now, your fist has made contact with the face of another. This is the face of a bearded man. His hair feels soft in comparison to the bone with which your fingers soon become well-acquainted. A howling grunt emanates from the man. One down.

You open your eyes again. A blink has been completed. You make note of the 0.3 millisecond timespan of the blink itself. That means it has been 0.5 seconds since your nose broke. You count your adversaries. They count five. The man you just struck is still falling. When he hits the ground, they will count four. That’s still too many. Your eyelid begins to lower again. Your nose broke 0.9 seconds ago. Your leg extends upward to one of the slimmer men. You twist your heel toward his collarbone and pull your leg down. Contact has been made. Your foot feels warm against the man’s collapsing frame. You are barefoot. This is strange, but you are not swayed. Two down. Your arms swing out toward a common point: the center adversary’s temples. Contact has been made here, as well. His skull begins to collapse. Your eyes open. Your nose has now been broken for approximately 1.2 seconds. Three down.

The other two men are beginning to realize what they are witnessing, but it’s too late for them. Their guns are 0.4 seconds away, and your fingers reach their eyes just as your foot contacts the ground only 0.2 seconds later. Your fingers hook into their sockets, and your arms pull them to the ground. You now register that the ground is metal grating. Contact has been made. Adversaries down. Your nose has been broken for 1.6 seconds. You reach toward your face and correct the misalignment of your nose. This is painful.

You take time to assess your current situation while retrieving your adversaries’ clothing and weapons, both of which you seem to be lacking. You are crouched on a catwalk inside some sort of warehouse. There are no windows. The walls are metallic. The temperature is approximately ten below zero centigrade. Your extremities are lacking any damage due to the cold. You haven’t been here long. Odd. You cannot recollect anything prior to the fist 45 seconds ago. You are fully clothed. It is time to move. But where do you move?

Up seems like a probable choice. Heat rises. You do not wish to expose yourself to unnecessary cold, and these clothes fit loosely. The men were rather large. You begin to wish that you had kept one alive to question regarding your current predicament, but the past is itself, and you cannot undo it. You head up the nearby stairwell, not knowing what you hope to find at the top.

You make it up several levels without further contact. Upon the tenth level, you encounter a hatch. It’s fully dogged, and you begin to wonder whether this is actually a warehouse. Suspicions rising, you open the scuttle in the center of the hatch slowly. You begin to hear footsteps and voices. You cock the smaller of your weapons, slinging the other over your shoulder. There will be no time for mistakes. You rise from the scuttle to find yourself in a narrow passageway. You already have your weapon trained on one of the approaching men. There are two. The chances of them being armed seem slim from their panicked reactions, but you don’t risk an underestimation. Keeping them beyond arm’s length, you speak. “What is this place, who are you, and where are we?” Your voice comes out ragged. You haven’t spoken in quite some time. The men seem even more shocked now. The man without a gun pointed at him speaks.

“This is The Leviathan. It’s a top secret research facility. I’m Nicholson, and this is Clayton. We’re scientists. I can’t tell you where we are because I don’t know. I do know, however, that that hatch is supposed to stay closed.”

This man is being oddly open for being held at gunpoint. His heartrate hasn’t changed since he saw the gun, which means he’s either experienced with this type of situation or he’s telling the truth. You try speaking again. “Why is it supposed to stay closed?” Perhaps this will yield more answers.

Nicholson just stares at the open scuttle from which you just came. The man Nicholson identified as Clayton speaks up this time. “There’s supposedly some sort of killing machine down there. Some new weapon.” Nicholson looks away from the scuttle, which you begin closing. You may have just been down there, but you don’t want to take your chances. You’re careful to keep the weapon trained steadily at Clayton. Nicholson speaks again.

“You know we aren’t supposed to talk about what’s down there, Clayton! And that’s just a rumor. Nobody up here actually knows what’s down there. What’s down there?” The question is directed at you.

“I don’t know what’s down there,
either. It’s too dark. I just know that it’s really cold, and that people down there tried to kill me.” Well, there are multiple lies hidden there, of course. You were down there. You know that the temperature is about ten below zero centigrade and that the room is a large cargo hold or hangar of some sort about fifteen levels deep. You also don’t know for certain that the people who attacked you originally intended to kill you. Interesting. You hadn’t intended to lie, but there it was.

“Do you know me?” Maybe that’s why they’re being so compliant. You don’t hear footsteps yet, but you’re sure you don’t have much time.

Clayton speaks. “No, we don’t. But I don’t want to die, and neither does he. Please let us go.” Go? You pause to contemplate your own stupidity. Where are they going to go? As soon as you let them go, they’ll tell someone that you’re here. In fact, someone may already know that you’re here. Claytons eyes move away from the gun and toward Nicholson. They’re both clearly afraid. People in fear are stupid people. They get brave too quickly. You can see that running through their minds already. The golden blur of neural pathways firing is all too prevalent in their amygdalae. They’re planning an escape already. You can’t take that chance. While the two men are looking at each other, you quickly open the scuttle, grab Clayton and Nicholson, and pull them into the hold. On the way down, you close the scuttle. The whole process takes approximately 4.8 seconds.

You quickly unsling the larger gun from your shoulder and train it at Nicholson. Your smaller weapon is still trained at Clayton. You’re kneeling on the men’s chests now. It’s a much more controllable scenario, only now it’s cold again. It was so warm in the passageway, which had been twenty degrees centigrade. The men are gasping and gaping at the weapons only inches from their faces. At this distance, you don’t actually need the guns, but you don’t think they realize that. Appearances can be deceiving. The golden blur has dimmed away. Good. They’ve given up on escape.

“Now, perhaps you’d be so kind as to tell me what you’re researching here.” Your words are coming more readily now, but your voice still sounds foreign to you. You haven’t recovered yet. That’s an interesting thought. Recovered from what? The answer is hidden from you.

Clayton seems to enjoy speaking more than Nicholson. “Well, I don’t know about everyone else here, but Nicholson and I have been researching the psychological effect of having guns pointed at us. Obviously, we can’t tell you. It’s top secret.” This man is remarkable. Even under threat of death, he maintains a sense of humor. Or, perhaps, that sense of humor is a result of the danger. Either way, he’s funny. You suppress a smile. Nicholson looks at Clayton like he’s ready to kill the man himself.

“We’ve been working on oxygen production for long term space flights. We’ve managed a great deal in the four years we’ve been here. But we really don’t know what everyone else has been researching. We only know that all our research is both sponsored and outlawed by the UN.” That doesn’t make any sense. Why would this “UN” outlaw research and then sponsor it? Or did they sponsor it then outlaw it?

“I need somewhere safe to stay. Are your quarters private?” The scientists look at each other, and their brains light up like supernovae. Odd. They were afraid only moments ago.
They speak together. “Yes. We’ll take you there.” Wonderful, it seems some progress is being made. The three of you return up the scuttle, and you follow them down the passageway, regularly hiding in supply closets and laboratories. This facility is massive.

At last, you approach an area that says “Quarters”. There are several doors ajar here, but the lights in the passageway are a dim red to allow for sleep at all hours. A sign next to one of the doors says, “Nicholson, H. and Clayton, W.” The three of you enter the room. Inside, there are two twin-sized sleeping racks, two armoires, a closet, and a head. You aren’t entirely impressed, but it’s no pittance of a living, either. You tie the men to one of the beds to prevent them from escaping or trying to kill you while you sleep. You also lock the door for good measure. You use the head to take a shower and utilize the toilet. Afterward, you fold the stolen clothing, set the weapons beside your rack, and tuck yourself away to sleep.

You awaken to the sound of Nicholson and Clayton trying to wriggle free of your bonds. Indeed, they would have done so by now if you hadn’t thought to tie their necks to one another so tightly that they had difficulty breathing if they tried to move or call for help. You smile at your own brilliance. Of course, they also can’t swallow like that due to the immovability of their throats, so they’re also covered with drool, which you find disgusting. You sit up over the edge of the bed and stretch. Now to deal with these two. You don’t think Clayton will be much of a problem, but Nicholson will invariably become trouble quickly. Gagging them both, you cut the cords holding their necks together and spin Nicholson’s head around 180 degrees. A satisfyingly loud crack emanates from his spine, and he goes limp. A stifled scream comes from Clayton’s weakened throat. Looking at you, his eyes beg for mercy. You simply pat his shoulder gently. It’s not his
day to die today.

You sort through Nicholson’s belongings and find a clean pair of underwear and socks in his drawer. You then proceed to put on an assortment of less conspicuous clothing than the gaudy clothes of yesterday’s attacker. You find a pale brown turtleneck sweater and a pair of dark blue jeans. Luckily, Nicholson was a fairly small and thin man. These clothes fit you much better than your previous had.

You put on a few extra pairs of socks to make your boots fit better and a stocking cap to hide the fact that your hair is longer than the typical cropped cut in this facility. You then untie Clayton and warn him not to speak loudly lest he suffer Nicholson’s fate. He nods in agreement, and you ungag him.

In a panicked whisper, Clayton worked through his tears a few quiet words. “Why’d you kill him?! He didn’t do anything to you!” Odd. For some reason, this actually bothers you. You are compelled to answer Clayton’s question.

“I did what I had to do. Nicholson would have incited trouble, and I don’t need any undue attention.” This is true enough, but you don’t want to admit that you would just as soon have killed Clayton if you hadn’t been impressed by him so much.

Clayton buys it, but he clearly isn’t pleased. “Well, you’re going to get plenty of ‘undue attention’ anyway if you don’t hide those.” He nods toward you and looks at your chest for a very brief moment before his eyes dart away.

“Hide what?” You don’t understand. You haven’t picked up your guns yet, and you had planned to keep them under a leather topcoat. You look down. Are there bloodstains? No, there isn’t anything on your chest. You’re even more confused than before you thought about it.

“Well, I’m pretty sure you’re the only woman in the whole facility. Your, uh, breasts are… are rather obvious. And trust me when I say that anyone would notice those, even if they hadn’t been unable to see a woman in years.” You hadn’t thought about that. What’s the difference, anyway?  Nonetheless, there’s nothing you can do to hide those without constricting your chest, which may affect reflexes and free motion. You pick up the guns, sling the larger one low, and place the smaller one into your boot. You tuck your knife into your sleeve and put your excess cords around your waist. After you’ve put on the topcoat, you look to Clayton.
“Is this any less conspicuous?” You give him a look that implores absolute honesty. He shrugs noncommittally and says it will have to do. “Good. Now, how do I get out of this facility?”

Clayton furrows his brow. “You don’t. This place isn’t exactly a part of the daily cityscape. I still don’t get how you wound up way out here.” Clayton looks at you questioningly, expecting you to explain just how you did wind up in the facility.

“Well, I don’t remember how I got here. I can only remember the past 6 hours, 4 minutes. I just know that this place is mobile. I can feel it.” This apparently comes as no surprise to Clayton.  He shrugs.

“Ok, then. Should we go up, then? I haven’t been to the main deck in a few weeks, myself. I could use a little sunlight.” Clayton seems to be forgetting that he’s a hostage. That’s just as well. A happy hostage is a compliant one.

“Yes, I think I’d like that, as well. Maybe I can figure out where we are.” Clayton gives you a look that says he doubts it, but you show no sign of wavering. You place Nicholson’s body in a sleeping position facing away from the door and step away. “Let’s go.”

Clayton leads you into the passageway and toward a ladderwell. You follow him up the ladder three decks until you approach a hatch. Clayton opens it, and the ladderwell is flooded with light and warmth. You catch a familiar scent, though you cannot place it. There is a saltiness to it, but it is brisk and pleasing. The two of you step out, and you cannot contain a gasp. You’re on the weatherdeck of a large ship in the middle of the ocean. From the looks of it, you’re near one of the poles. That explains the cold and the winterwear, but what –

A loud burst of sound, a thudding sensation, and you find yourself short of breath. You’ve been shot. You look to Clayton. He’s holding a shotgun. He must have picked it up from one of the bodies on the deck. Why are there so many bodies? Clayton begins to pull the trigger again, tears coursing down his face. You won’t allow it. Your foot reaches the barrel before the hammer falls. The shotgun blasts shot into the air. By the time Clayton realizes you aren’t dead yet, your larger gun, a modified battle rifle, has proven to his face that he is. He drops. You swing the gun round. Just as you suspected, someone has come up to inspect the situation. He soon falls to the deck as well. You run as best you can to the superstructure. Your chest is in great pain, but you had been careful to conceal from Clayton the plates you had placed in the topcoat, which you now shed.

You head down the main ladderwell, exterminating any opposition you find along the way. You get to Deck Four and find the nearest hatch to the cargo hold. You hurry through the escape scuttle and run to the ladderwell you originally came up. When you reach it, you bolt down the ladder until you get to the place where your nose was broken six hours and forty-two minutes ago. You look about searchingly. There! On the deck of the hold below you, a small electronic device is laying innocently. You know better now. You leap down the remaining distance and pick it up. You run to the door nearest you. It’s ajar. You go through it and find the room where your clothes had been stripped away in search of the explosives you had already planted. In the hands of one of the dead men, you find your bag. You take it and run up to the weatherdeck as fast as you can, dispensing of all witnesses.

Your legs lead you to the side of the ship. Looking down, you can see the line to which your boat is tied from over a mile away. You climb over the rail, cross your arms over your chest, and jump feet first to the cold water far beneath you. The cold envelops you instantly, but you remain calm and keep your breath as you rise to the surface. You follow the line to your boat and pray that the device is as waterproof as you had been told as you cut the line to the ship. You squeeze the spring-loaded switch on the electronic device, and the facility which had been performing illegal experiments on particle beam weapons and privatized graviton propulsion for the past four years collapses upon itself as a small, controlled black hole forms inside it for twelve seconds before you release the switch.

You ensure that the black hole has died before putting away the device. You take your keys and open the cabin of your boat. Stepping inside, you grab your comlink. As you remove your stocking cap, you depress the side switch and speak into the com. “TAS Dragon King, this is Operative #33920-138-394-47. Mission accomplished. I could sure use a ride home. And a medic…”

A familiar voice emanates from the com. “Copy that, Terira. We’ll send your husband down with a Dragon 73C. You’ll be home in no time. A medic will be standing by on your arrival. Good job.”



Sheii’Cronell stood at the front of the bridge of the TAS Dragon King and
looked down on the planet that he hadn’t considered home for years. He had
thrown Earth aside long ago along with his old life. There was nothing left for
him on that pathetic Level IV planet.

sir?” The admiral behind Drigondii was apparently fed up with his dawdle-some
contemplation. And Drigondii had once thought Earth life to be too high-paced.
But he had wasted thirty whole seconds, and it wouldn’t be long before someone
tried to fire an ICBM at one of the 20 ten-mile-long ships he now had stationed
in Earth’s orbit.

Drigondii pulled himself back to the present. “Begin the EM assault and notify
the chief that I’ll need those fighters prepped before I hit the flight deck.”

            “Right away,
sir!” As the admiral relayed the orders, Drigondii began the long trip to the
flight deck at the rear of the Dragon King. There were shuttles for ambassadors
directly below the bridge, but he knew too many Earthers to think that they
wouldn’t try to shoot him down before he hit the stratosphere. He would need a
ship capable of dodging bullets, and there were none better for the job than
the Dragon 52-Fs. He still remembered the first day of flight school when
everyone had laughed at the concept of so-called deflector shields…

            “You’ve got
quite the imagination, Excellency,” Lieutenant Civos had said when the Monarch
had suggested the idea of an energy shield surrounding a ship that could alter
the momentum of external projectiles. “That’d waste way too much energy, even
if it could be done. Besides, it’d be easier to just hype ’em out of the way,
and I don’t know a single fighter that can power external hypes without burning

            At this,
Drigondii had decided to shut up and pay more attention to dodging techniques.

Sir? I said you could get in the pulse-car now, sir. Ready to go… Unless you
were planning on walking across the whole ship?” The young ensign looked a bit
concerned for Drigondii’s health. Then Drigondii realized that he had been
walking next to the car, which was more of a maglev monorail, for a good five

            “Sorry about that, uh…
Ensign Carden. Just got lost in thought for a second.” Drigondii got in the car
and strapped into the seat right next to the young officer, who had obviously
not expected him to do so. “So, why’d you join the Armada, Ensign? You seem
overly patient for an Armadian.”

apologies, Excellency. I grew up on Valhal, sir, and we have much longer days.
There’s more time to get things done during the day.”

            “Isn’t the
Valhallan day about 23 hours long? How is that a long day at all?” Drigondii remembered the 24-hour days of Earth. How long they seemed now. He hadn’t had more than 18 hours in a day in years. In that respect, he supposed 23 hours was a rather long time. “Anyway, we should get going.”

            The ensign nodded. “Aye, sir.” Carden rotated against the throttle, and they were off. It was only a matter of minutes after that to get to the hangar bay.

            Upon his arrival, Drigondii remembered why he loved this part of the ship so much. The deck was stained with lubricant, there was a constant noise of men shouting, tools grinding, and drives winding up. It was almost like being back on Earth. He headed to the nearest wound-up Dragon and started up the ladder.

            “Good luck, sir!” Carden’s excitement was apparent in his voice as he looked up at Drigondii. Drigondii smiled back, and set his subframe into its respective port into the cockpit, climbing in as the OS came to life. He could see the others in his squadron were already prepped and waiting for him.

            “Dragon King actual, this is Dragon One. All conditions are green. Ready for exohype.” Drigondii held his breath after the last word. He hated this part.

            “Dragon One, Dragon King actual. All green, aye. Exohype approved. Good luck, Dragons.” The radio lit up shortly as the other six pilots exchanged yelps and cheers, prepping for the most exciting moment of their lives. Then it was time. “Hype in three, two, one!” All seven pilots slammed their hype activators simultaneously as they hyped out of the hangar.

            The familiarity of a hype does not aide in its discomfort. That feeling of implosion and simultaneous explosion always made Drigondii’s heart race. Suddenly, he was out of the Dragon King and over the Earth’s vast sky. Five, four, three, two, one…

            The roar of entry fire surrounded his ship. He angled down more so that he may see his trajectory. His display showed that he was on track, straight into a large electrical storm approaching the eastern American seaboard.

            Drigondii prepped the radio to hail the UN’s headquarters in New York, where a summit was taking place at that very moment. This was it. He was back, and things were about to get very interesting.

Akrehd Khuda’Nahal

Akrehd Khuda’Nahal

Thorlinthian Armada Flagship Fhit, KGT 2398273921:392:16:13

Inside the cold, dry bowels of the Qzceno-class warship, there was a
deathly calm. A young man had just struck another man. The man who had just
been struck was large and tanned. His facial muscles gave off no sign of
emotion, but his bright green eyes had lit up like seven suns. He was livid. His
cheek had reddened and was already beginning to show signs of bruising. A drop
of blood fell onto his uniform, but it would not show on the dark red tunic.

The young man, on the other hand, had
over thirty weapons aimed at him from all around the dining hall. He was
panting, sweaty and bruised, but his eyes showed as much passion as those of
the man he had struck. His arm was still stretched out as though time had
frozen at the end of his swing. His hand showed signs of broken bones, and it
was swelling rapidly. He also wore a dark red uniform, although he wore armor
plating instead of a tunic and loose kilt.

One of the armed men nearest the two
began to walk toward them, his weapon still aimed at the young, armored man. He
spoke. “Fargerre Sheii’Cronell, you are under arrest for the assault of Grand
Armadian Qzcihad Khuda’Cronell.” Upon this remark, he realized it was a

The armored Fargerre immediately
turned toward him and smirked. He began to draw a blade from the back of his
armor and walk toward the man whose weapon was now shaking violently in his
hands. The sound of the drawing blade could be heard across the room as a deep,
painful howl that rang out ominously. Just as the tip of the blade began to
show, and Fargerre began to swing it forward, the silent Qzcihad reached out
and grabbed his arm. The blade stopped a hair’s breadth away from the attempted
arrestor’s neck. The man’s weapon fell to the ground with a pitiful percussion
of clanks.

Qzcihad spoke loudly and clearly. His
voice was deep and confident. “If you want a fight, you will fight in the
proper environment. Men, stand down. We’ll be taking this fight to the training
deck. Anyone caring to watch may do so, but no one must interfere. A
Sheii’Cronell answers only to the Monarch and myself, so no arrests may be made
in the event of this young fool’s death. Is this clear?” There were immediate
responses from the men around the room in acknowledgement of the Grand
Armadian’s orders. They then began to head out of the room into a narrow hall.
The fight would be starting as soon as possible.

As the men left the room, Akrehd
Khuda’Nahal fell to his knees. He had to fight a Sheii’Cronell, a legendary
warrior with heightened senses and abilities that would make even the most
experienced soldier shake with fear. The man had just struck the Grand Armadian
for a simple insult, and it looked to Akrehd that his hand had broken from the
force of the blow. Just as he was beginning to plan his escape, he heard the
voice of Fargerre Sheii’Cronell mock him inside his own mind. ‘Are you really
such a coward that you would run away from a simple brawl? I will use no
weapons against you. You may bring whatever you wish, even that Verier 72 you
are so fond of.’ At this, Akrehd knew he would not survive, but he stood at
last, picking up his Verier where he had dropped it, and walked boldly to the
last place he would ever see as a single tear rolled down his young,
unblemished face.



Fire was spread across the Fehmadadi sky. There was panic
on the streets. A young mother was frantically searching for her daughter, who
was only four orbits old. The daughter’s point of interest, however, was the
young soldier to whom she had run. His name was Darwhan. His tall stature at 10
dinthets set him several thets above his colleagues. In each of his three sets
of arms, he held a rapid projectile launcher, making him a seemingly
intimidating figure. However, the girl knew better. He was her uncle, a very
kind man who would only hurt someone if it was truly called for. He normally
didn’t even use a weapon. He was a shield engineer, dedicated to preventing
injury. But today, as the sky was burning with the blue flames that this
foreign enemy’s weapons caused upon impact with the 
Fehmadadi fighters’ ships, he
was being called to the infantry in case of a ground assault.

Darwhan stooped down and set his uppermost weapon in its
holster on his back so he could pick up his niece. “Kahlisa, defri bara?
‘Kahlisa, what doing?’ he asked.

Kahlisa jibah felof Darwhan kired.” ‘Kahlisa
wanted see Uncle Darwhan.’ she looked up into his face. His eyes were sad. “Defri
perwha Darwhan kired?
” ‘What wrong, Uncle Darwhan?’ This perfect example of
innocence did not understand that the fire in the sky was an attack on the
planet. Kahlisa only knew the joy of celebratory sky-fires. Darwhan smiled at
his niece kindly, hoping at least she would survive this whole ordeal, but as
he looked up at the first ship to reach below the clouds, he knew it would not
be so.

The 50-plinthet-long ship was long and elliptical, much
like a medicinal capsule, but with a bulbous aft. It was 10 plinthets in
diameter along the length of the ship, and the bulb at the end was 20 plinthets
in diameter. There were thousands upon thousands of massive ten-thet guns
constantly raining fire upon the 
Fehmadadi Defense Force. The propulsion systems
were a crude replica of a
 Fehmadadi Time Drive, but well-enough made that there
were no apparent signs of singularity erosion. Just when Darwhan thought he had
seen the worst these ships could dish out, he saw them. Emerging from a port in
the back of the ship, thousands of smaller ships were pouring out like a
blizzard of metal. They were as the darkness, silent but fearsome and deadly.
Each smaller ship had two guns that fired hot plasma in small bursts at nearly
30 bursts per camth. They rained fire upon the
 Fehmadadi fighter ships. The Fehmadadi Defenses had quickly been withered down to a mere ground force.

Sha filan jibah serai kalaha. Defri kha bara serai
” ‘God didn’t want such things. What devil does such things?’
Darwhan’s answer was to be soon at hand, for the enemy’s smaller ships were
returning to their larger ship. When Darwhan looked around for the savior that
caused this retreat, however, he saw only several more of the enemy ships
gathering up their small fighters. It was then that the voice burned down into
his mind and those of his companions and niece. It spoke in the universal language
of ideas.

‘You came to our worlds and fired upon our convoy. It was
then that we took it upon ourselves to fight back. When we disabled your great
time ship, we studied its technology thoroughly until we were able to build our
own ships even greater than yours so that we may destroy such a powerful enemy.
You have been judged by the Great Monarch himself. He has demanded your demise.
We assume this means you are the dreaded Murhans. You must now be destroyed.’

The larger ships retreated then into the sky, and the
voice boomed through the 
Fehmadadis’ minds again. This phrase was repeated over
and over again: ‘We are Thorlinthia. You are sin. We are justice. You will
die.’ It boomed through everyone’s brains as if the entire civilization was
screaming it at them at the same time. Everyone hit the ground screaming.
Everyone did but Darwhan. He looked up now, Kahlisa screaming in his arms to
make it stop, and he saw one more ship through the clouds. It was far up,
possibly even still in space, but Darwhan knew it was these Thorlinthians’ tool
of supposed judgment. Whatever was about to happen, it was going to be painful.
Darwhan then noticed that next to him was a strange looking creature. It was
some sort of bipedal mammal. It stood tall, taller even than Darwhan. It looked
over at Darwhan, calm and collected. It reached gently into his mind and
silenced the shouting of the Thorlinthians. It then spoke coolly into his mind.
‘I am sorry that this moment has come, but it has come nonetheless. I am
Jil’hanr. I am a member of a group of students of the universe called the Kuli.
You share some of our abilities.’ A flash of strange incidents through
Darwhan’s early life where Darwhan had exhibited unknown talents flashed
through his mind. He had learned to control these abilities at will, but rarely
used them anymore. They seemed unnecessary at most times. ‘You have potential
to become Kuli, and our members are few now, so I cannot allow you to die
today. Come with me.’ A ship shimmered into appearance behind Jil’hanr.

‘May Darwhan take Kahlisa with?’ Darwhan asked. ‘Kahlisa
has exhibited the same mind-speak ability Darwhan has, and Darwhan feels that
more abilities are beginning to show.’

‘Only if, on your command, she is able to shut away the
pain the Thorlinthians are inflicting on her. You must be quick, however. Time
is not on our side.’ Jil’hanr stepped toward his ship, seeming anxious to

Darwhan reached into Kahlisa’s mind and told her to shut
off the pain and follow him. She asked how, and he told her that she would just
have to know how to do it herself. She immediately lifted her head and stopped
screaming, drying her own tears and said, “Kahlisa berof.” ‘Kahlisa is ready.’
Darwhan walked into the ship.

Jil’hanr closed the door. It stepped towards the main
console in the center of the entry room, which seemed to be the only room. ‘The
Thorlinthians have mistaken your race for mine, I’m afraid. They have been
brainwashed, it seems, to wish revenge for being lunged into a new universe. We
don’t know what has happened in the past few star-cries, but your race seems to
have reopened the Galaxy Tear, and provoked the aggression of the now bitter
Thorlinthians. We should leave now.’ When its phalanges touched the console,
the walls lit up into a piloting display more advanced than Darwhan had ever

The ship quickly and silently rose up into the upper
atmosphere, where Darwhan could better see the Thorlinthians’ Armada. There
were at least 200 of the large ships. When Darwhan saw this, he gasped.
Jil’hanr spoke again, ‘The Kuli fleet was once a hundred times larger, but when
the Galaxy Tear first opened, its trembling in space-time destroyed most of it.
Only a few ships remain, and we are not in a position where we can yet expand
our fleet once more. We are rebuilding our numbers once more, but we are not
yet enough to stand up to the Thorlinthians. They were once a peaceful
civilization billions of years ahead of your technology, but the Galaxy Tear
destroyed their star system’s equilibrium. No one could have predicted that the
peaceful Linthians would become these bloodthirsty scavengers.’

Darwhan had a hard time believing these devils were once
a peaceful people. He then saw the judgment ship again. It had a bright red orb
hovering directly above it. As soon as Darwhan thought that it might just
explode, and his people would be saved, Jil’hanr turned to him, shook its head,
and said, ‘Watch.’

Darwhan watched as the orb descended into the ship,
pressing into a disk of light. The ship then began to spin rapidly, causing the
disk to expand. Darwhan noticed that another disk was expanding on the other
side of his homeworld. When the disk had expanded beyond the breadth of the
planet, the ship passed through the disk. The disk then fell like cloth around
the planet, covering an entire hemisphere. The other disk covered the second
hemisphere. When the light faded away, all signs of the planet having borne
life at any point were gone. Its oceans had been frozen into two icecaps, its
green terrain had turned red due to oxidation, and the great buildings that had
once stood tall in the cities had turned to dust.

‘This is a power of the Deceiver, an opponent of the Kuli
that has existed since our rise to power. They had been killed by the Galaxy
Tear but for one student who had only just learned this ability, which they
call Glascing. It is only one of their powers. Its destructive power is great,
but it comes at an even greater price. Every Thorlinthian on those two ships is
now in a comatose state and will die in eight days.’ Jil’hanr’s face expressed
what Darwhan could only describe as an avid disgust. The expression was only
there for a moment, but it was as intense as Darwhan’s newly-founded nausea for
this Deceiver. Then it was gone. Jil’hanr spoke. ‘We are about to enter
worm-space. It is a bit more turbulence-ridden than your Time Drives, but it is
faster, and it does not involve damaging the universal balances. You will learn
about those in your studies. Brace yourselves.’

It was then that Darwhan realized Kahlisa had been
listening as well. She had also located securing mounts on one side of the room
and positioned herself into one. Before Darwhan could do the same, Jil’hanr
lifted one set of phalanges up into the air, curled them into a ball, and
plunged it into the console. The console began to rapidly wrap itself up around
its arm like a vine. Once it had wrapped itself sufficiently around Jil’hanr’s
arm, it hardened again, and the ship imploded.

Or at least it felt like it. It had actually entered
another field of space-time. Darwhan had not been prepared for this and was now
being thrown violently around the ship as it wove its way through what seemed
to be a sort of asteroid field. ‘This is worm-space. Space correlates randomly
to each of these gateways. Only by using the mind-feel ability that all Kuli
are trained to use can one navigate worm-space. Flying in worm-space prevents
enemies from following us. We are almost there.’ Upon these words, the ship
flew straight into one of the asteroids and imploded again.

The first thing Darwhan noticed was that it was very
bright. Then he realized that he was not being tossed around anymore. After
that, he noticed that he was on a sort of bedding-like nest that was very
comfortable. He looked around for Kahlisa. He didn’t have to look for long. She
was in the nest next to him, sleeping. He then looked for Jil’hanr. It was
standing behind him, talking to another member of his species in a very
aggressive manner. They were not using the mind-speak, so Darwhan had no idea
what the topic of their discussion was, but it was apparent that they did not
agree at all.

“I don’t care what was about to happen to their planet;
the members of that planet aren’t ready to be taken in for Kuli training! These
creatures are not advanced enough in their development. Now if they fail the
Entry Carbint, they will have nowhere to go.” These were the sounds coming from
the creature, but Darwhan had no idea what they meant.

“I think the larger one is ready, and the little one
would not make a bad Soretto for him. We used to be protectors of the Great
Galaxy, but now that our own handiwork has been turned on others, we aren’t
going to clean up after ourselves?! We helped create the Thorlinthians, and we
should help destroy them!” Jil’hanr was adamant about whatever they were
talking about.

Darwhan attempted to communicate with Jil’hanr’s
conversation partner, “Garf’kan, Jil’hanr farjin Darwhan.” ‘Excuse me, Jil’hanr
saved us and we have no home left – we must stay.’ Upon this apparently
unexpected use of the mind-speak, the creature turned to Darwhan surprised and
said, ‘My friend, that is exactly the problem here. I am afraid your people
were not yet advanced enough to be brought here and the initiation required to
stay may kill you. If you do not go through the training, then you will surely
die as this is only a monitoring station with limited facilities – making the
training a requirement if you stay.’ Darwhan was saddened with this creature’s
lack of hope for them.

Darwhan said, ‘My people don’t believe in fear in the
face of ultimate choices. If the choice is mortal danger or death, we choose
mortal danger.’ Darwhan was quite adamant at this point. After seeing his
planet turned to rust, he had nowhere to go. The entire 
Fehmadadi fleet had been
brought back to 
Fehmadad to stand up to those Thorlinthians, whose aggression was apparently
due to these Kuli. ‘The other members of my race are all dead because of your
people, and I ask that we be given the chance to live!’

Now Jil’hanr spoke. ‘Darwhan, you have every right, in my
opinion, to become Kuli, as does your niece.’ Jil’hanr proceeded to speak to
the other, “I will administer the Entry Carbint myself. There is no need to
worry about either of them failing.” It nodded, now willing.

As the creature walked away, Jil’hanr turned to Darwhan
and said, ‘The Watcher is very strict, but he will remain true to his word.
You’ll be given your chance to live.’ As the Watcher entered his private
chamber, he grinned. His son acted and thought exactly as he, J’Homria, did at
that age. Exasperated, he began to chuckle. This Darwhan was indeed from a wise
race. It was a shame his niece would be the only 
Fehmadadi Kuli.