Monthly Archives: January 2013

Memories: Hunting Trip

You awake to the diffused red light of Valkyr 43’s cargo hold. Your mind races as you realize your eyes will not open. You also notice a severe tinnitus resonating in your ear. You realize with a sharp and failed attempt to gasp that your body is still in stasis. But, then, why are you–? You reach into the ship with your mind, searching for any life signs beside your own. There are none. You expand the reach of your search, and find that you are in the depth of space, the interplanetary void. You’re also completely alone. ‘Shilo?’ Your internal voice almost seems to echo inside your head. Shilo does not reply. If your heart were beating, it would do so more rapidly at this point. Unfortunately, it isn’t doing anything right now.

You search Shilo’s memories, which are still accessible, for an idea toward what may be happening right now. You find yourself unable to make sense of the material through sheer access without Shilo’s assistance. This leaves you with only one choice: You have to sort through each memory in chronological order and learn what you need to know for yourself. Shilo’s consciousness is still in stasis with the rest of you, and it’s of the utmost importance that you understand what this is so that you can solve your current predicament. If you continue like this for the entire journey to Thor, your mind won’t survive. You start with the earliest memory you can find: the hunting trip.



Zhilo’di Khuda’Cronell, Age 5, Skogr Forest

“Can you see it, Shilo?” A woman speaks to a young girl, Shilo, while dropping to her perch on the branch, her motion almost birdlike in its gracefulness. There isn’t a sound as the woman moves onto the branch, which moves no more than it would have had there been a mild breeze. Her long, almost purely blue hair falls into perfect, wavy locks as it settles against her back. She points in a direction slightly right of forward, her eyes trained on Shilo.

Shilo looks in the same direction as the woman, her eyes training on a small Lake Wyrm, its ulfr-like snout sniffing at the air as it climbs up the side of a distant tree. Its forward paws clench at the bark of the tree with razor-sharp claws while its rear flippers bat at the tree in a typical hunting pattern. A nearby bird hears the wet beating and responds with a low-swooping scan of the water, looking for the creature that so clearly just slapped the water with its fins. As it passes the wyrm’s position, however, the bird sees the predator turn its head toward him. The bird manages a few rapid beats with his wings before the wyrm lands on him, enveloping his wings with its flippers and digging its claws into his neck, already biting into the bird as it passes into the water.

“Yes,” Shilo replies, her eyes fixed on the point in the water where the wyrm just plummeted. Her mouth is still slightly open as the ripples fade.

The woman ties her hair up into a recursive bun and pulls two small knives from the leather pouch tied to the side of her leg. The first knife, she places into her hair, securing the bun. The second, she hands to Shilo, smiling gently. “They all do that. I’m not sure why the birds haven’t caught on yet, but it works, so that’s how they hunt. You’re going to counter it with this knife.”

Shilo gives her a quizzical look. She’s clearly not sure how the knife is going to counter the wyrm’s hunting method. “How?” The question is simple and childish, as innocent as if she were asking how to tie a bow rather than how to kill an apex predator with a single throwing knife.

The woman smiles patiently as she explains, “When the bird is passing, the wyrm will jump from the tree to the bird. Any other time, and she’ll hear this knife long enough before it reaches her, giving her plenty of time to move out of the way. At that exact moment, though,” the woman grinned, “the wyrm can’t change direction. She can’t dodge. In fact, if you throw the knife right through the bird’s neck, you’ll get her clean in the head every time.”

Shilo grimaces at the thought of a knife passing through both a bird’s neck and a wyrm’s head at the same time. Nevertheless, when the woman asks, “Ready?” Shilo nods.

The woman points again, designating Shilo’s target. A wyrm only a few trees away has just started batting her tree. Dead silence runs through the two as they watch the wyrm’s prey approach. The bird flies around the edge of the tree, expecting to find a fish or small water mammal. Instead, he only finds smooth water. The bird caws lightly at the sight in surprise, but continues his glide around the tree. As he passes beneath the wyrm, the predator’s head turns toward him, her front legs kicking out from the tree and turning it about.

At that exact moment, the woman glances slightly to her side toward Shilo, whispering directly into the girl’s mind, ‘Now!’ Shilo, however, grimaces and hesitates for a single moment, long enough for the wyrm to drop with h
er prey into the water before the knife passes through the point the wyrm had just been, planting itself into the bark of the tree.


Clearly disappointed in herself, Shilo looks to the woman, expecting a similar expression from her but instead finding a kind smile. “Sorry, Mommy.”

The expression on Shilo’s mother’s face grows even softer as she ruffles her daughter’s hair. “It’s no problem, Shilo. We’ll just get a different one…”



The memory fades, and you find yourself once again alone with your thoughts. Were it not for the stasis, you’d certainly have produced tears at the memory of your mother and Shilo’s so young. As is, however, you simply focus your resolve and move onto the next memory. This is going to take a while…

The Linthian Council – KR Decree

The Linthian Council – KR Decree

His mouth tasted terrible. It was that dry, sticky feeling that came with a taste like the bottom of your feet after a long hike. Although, he wondered, did anyone ever actually taste the bottom of their feet? He opened his eyes and the bright light hit them and sent that small shock to the body letting it know that it was time to wake up.

 

He sat up in bed and stretched his long arms and legs, hitting the walls of the small cubicle on the ship; even though it was a first class cabin it was still small. He pushed a button and the bed split in half with one side partially retracting and the padding rolling on to the bottom so he would have a small desk as he spun sideways.

 

He opened his mouth and inserted the oral refresher. The nanobots roamed around in his mouth cleaning and then providing nutrients to his teeth, gums, and tongue. When they finished, the rod glowed green and he put it back in the wall. He laid his hands on the table and feet on the step on the floor and started the nail cleaner. This one even massaged your hands and feet while it worked. He never had access to this equipment before and was enjoying it immensely.

 

When all that finished, he pushed the button for the refresher. It removed his clothes and more nanobots went over his entire body as they cleaned and provided nutrition. Kulis did not normally receive any special attention and usually cleaned themselves with wash rags and electro-sanitizers. So, he was determined to enjoy this as it may never happen again.

 

He sat back down with his new clothes on and considered his life. The events of the past few cycles had started to wear off and the questions surrounding his summons to the Council had now moved to the front of his mind. He had spent almost his entire life as a nobody and all that had changed recently. J’Rontia was already quite famous when they met, mainly because she was the top candidate Kuli in thousands of years and someone tried to kill her. The investigation that followed the assassination attempt on her at her final training exercise exposed a whole group of people in and out of the government and in and out of the Kuli organization who harbored resentment and fear toward the KR products.

 

He hated the term “KR product” for many reasons, including the implication that they were not as good as “natural” born individuals, but never heard a term that he liked better. There were two main groups against the KRs. One, wanted them exterminated and considered them an aberration against all natural born creatures. The other group felt that they were dangerous and needed to be quarantined to protect everyone else.  

 

The immediate result of the investigation was to bring this entire mess out in the open. The Kuli, as expected, took care of their own and the punishment was severe. The government fired all of their conspirators and those who actually took part in the attempted murder went to a rehabilitation center in the Gorpro system. It is pretty much guaranteed that they will not be seen again, at least not any time soon.  Still, all of that brought the whole situation with the KRs to the front and feelings were very mixed.

 

The KRs were a huge military success and the Linthians and Murhans had been able to almost completely eliminate their regular military forces. The vast majority of people in the Galactic Wing felt they owed a huge debt to the KRs and did not wish to bring back the armada that had existed. Still, they were concerned about the few that became unstable and the horrible things they had done. Most of the planets created identification processes for the KRs and their children acting as if they were their own heroes in waiting while sending them off to special schools.

 

The problem was complicated by the planets that did not have a system in place and by the KRs who did not wish to leave. There was also the matter of those with special skills who were not KRs. Should they have to leave also? This was a huge concern among families with long histories of producing talented Kuli candidates.

 

He shook his head as he considered once again that he was probably one of the KRs and may have to spend the rest of his life restricted to a single planet, except when on a mission. He sighed as he realized that for him that would be a huge move up from his childhood. He was so glad that he was able to see his parents and arrange for them to move into Linthia proper.

 

His salary was not large but using almost all of it he was able to move them out of the ghetto they lived in and provide pretty good medical care for them; however, after he set it all up he received word that his pay was not needed as an anonymous donor had purchased a lifetime retirement package at a top Linthian home care provider for them. When he found out that his parents were upgraded to a top package, he actually broke down and cried.

 

He contacted the company he had worked with and asked who purchased the upgrade. They said they were contacted through an attorney and had no knowledge. He thought he knew who was responsible and he was even more determined to be worthy of the help he had received.

 

During the investigation of the attempted murder, the Kuli released information on J’Rontia stating that she was not one of the KRs or their descendants. This greatly increased her popularity in the galaxy, especially when it was revealed that she had experienced other attempts on her life. The down side was that this latest attempt brought him into the picture as her savior and, at the same time, propelled him into the whole KR debate as no one released any information about his origin, leaving the news speculating about his origin. He was not in a comfortable spot.

 

The Council did notify the news outlets that they would be making a decision on the whole KR matter in short order so the news reporters figured he would be discussed at that time. He was not sure what they would do and spent considerable time thinking about it.

 

A familiar knock sounded on his door and he pushed the button for it to vanish. J’Rontia was standing there with one of her famous mischievous smiles and asked, “How many times have you used the refresher equipment this morning, less than ten?” The sight of her almost always made him smile. She was as tall as he was, and he was taller than most males, standing at 17.8 troes. She had beautiful hair that was naturally thick and curly with sea foam blue (the color of the water on Thor’s resort moon) and amber waves running through it. He always had trouble deciding which color was prominent and he actually believed she could control it and changed it each day to match her mood. In extreme combat, her hair turned as blue as the sky on Rhondtor and even glowed like her eyes did, although usually her head was covered and she wore an eye cover computer when they went into a combat zone so he believed he was one of the only people who knew. Right now, her hair fell to her narrow waist and highlighted the shape of her body. She always wore some form of combat gear and almost never had any skin showing, except for her face. The combat dress allowed you to see that she was very fit but did not accentuate any particular assets. She dressed very professionally and often wore the Guardian Kuli combat robe that she had won when she completed her final exercise in record speed.

 

“I only used it once this morning and twice last night,” he answered with a wink.

 

She lightly punched him on the arm and said, “I knew it. Are you ready for breakfast?”

 

“Yes, can we eat in private?”

 

She nodded and they walked quietly to one of the private meal closets. They sat down and the computer flashed the menu in front of them showing available food items, one at a time, in a hologram on the table in front of them. After it described each item, the computer would say, “The cost for this selection is complimentary.” They could not help but smile each time.

 

J’Rontia said, “They must not be mad at us or they would not spend all this money on us.”

 

He responded, “Who is paying for all this?”

 

She answered, “The Linthian Council is who I was told is responsible.”

 

His face twisted a bit as he considered that and then he said, “It makes no sense.” He started to say more but saw the current selection the computer was displaying and said, “Menu – select.”

 

J’Rontia laughed, “Are you always going to take the fruit?”

 

He said, “Maybe.”

 

She said, “Menu – select.”

 

They didn’t talk much as they ate because they both took good food seriously. Their last few missions did not have much in the way of food, let alone good food so they understood how long it may be before this opportunity came again. They finished almost at the same time and decided to just sit back and relax for a while before going back to the main compartment where the other passengers were sure to be full of questions.

 

“How do you handle being famous?” he asked.

 

J’Rontia thought for a moment and answered, “I really don’t think much about it. I have been so busy, as you well know, that there is not much time for consideration. Still, I do have news outlets trying to speak to me whenever I go in public when they know I will be there. I try to handle that by not letting anyone know where I am going to be. Also, as Kuli, we do not have individual net contact access so almost all of my correspondence is filtered by the Sector 4 command as is yours.”

 

He noted, “Until our recent incidents, I never received anything. Now, they tell me that I have various invitations to news programs and grand openings; however, nothing that I have wanted to read.”

 

J’Rontia laughed and said, “I cannot remember receiving information that I wanted either.” She continued, “The thing about being famous is that it does not affect most of the missions we go on. I do have to factor it in when we have an ambassador role because they will have more security surrounding us and more events to attend. For the most part, our lifestyle insulates us from the majority of the effects of fame – and I LIKE my lifestyle.”

 

He nodded and then smiled as he said, “and my partner.”

 

J’Rontia stood up and he followed. She reached over and gave him a hug saying, “I have the best partner ever.” She looked at him for a minute with a smile that he would be more than happy to die for and then turned serious as she said, “Let’s go face the galaxy.” He was not as nervous as he had been and knew he could face anything at her side. He grabbed one more piece of fruit, shoved it in his mouth, and headed out the door.

 

The Linthian Council chambers were intimidating and impressive. The council members sat on a raised platform that included chairs for each that floated above the floor. The chairs wrapped around the front giving each member a desk to write on if they wished. The desks were the interactive models that connected to the building’s central computer and provided multiple updates in either monitor mode or 3D mode on top of the desk. Any display could be transferred to the center of the room and displayed on the wall or served up as a hologram in the middle. The walls were all muted colors and were almost invisible, partially due to the lighting scheme, giving the room the appearance of being extremely large and highlighting the members and speakers in the room.

 

The speakers stood in another raised area to the side but in front of the members. There were three floating podiums that the speakers could use that had most of the projection and computer features of the members’ desks. The audience area was backed by a movable wall so that the room could accommodate small or large audiences and still leave the impression that they filled the center of the chamber while having that open feeling due to the features of the walls.

 

Behind the members, a holographic display showed the galaxy in 3D as it rotated on four axis in slow motion sometimes giving the first time viewer a bit of vertigo, depending on the species. The area behind each speaker dimmed when they were actually speaking and gave almost a halo effect around the person.

 

Today the council consisted of the twelve official Linthian members, the Murhan representative, and one member from the new Tyrian Republic. The council had arranged a unique relationship with the Tyrian Republic. Due to their standing in the galaxy, they had a veto member on the Republic’s assemblies and the Republic had a veto member on the Linthian Council. The Linthians were full members of the Republic and guaranteed all of the same rights but were allow more self-government than any other system, even Murhan. Since the Linthians offered extensive support to all systems joining the Republic, they had all signed off on the agreement with no exceptions.

 

J’Rontia sat next to him in the speaker section and, except for the presence of two Supreme Kuli, there was no audience. He had expected Tomli to be there but he was not. This did leave him a bit apprehensive, although Tomli did have a rather full schedule and this may not be very high up on his priority list.

 

The representative from Tyria started the meeting by saying, “We wish to begin by letting both of you know how proud we are of your accomplishments and how grateful we are that the assassination attempt was foiled. We also wish to report that the alleged connections of the attack to the King have proven false. The attempt to discredit the Kuli may be coming from the same group that attempted to assassinate you, J’Rontia.” He paused for a moment to allow all of that to sink in.

 

When he did, J’Rontia and her Soretto heard another voice in their heads that said, “Do not respond to the comments on the King. You will receive additional information later.”

 

The representative went on, “We have some questions for you and some answers also. I would like to have the Kuli address your backgrounds and then we will start the questioning.”

 

At this comment, the Supreme Kuli, T’Drofe stood up and moved to one of the podiums. He turned to the two and said, “We have records on J’Rontia’s ancestors that show she has her fantastic skills from naturally occurring DNA adjustments that are common to many of the Linthian families since the time of last Linthian DNA adjustments as a race. He turned to the Council and continued, “Her Soretto is rather unique. We do not have the information on his birth parents. He is not related to the parents he had as a child. We have had our best geneticists review his DNA and they cannot tell us if his DNA is naturally enhanced or if it has been altered. He has some of the most advanced DNA we have ever seen but without knowing who his parents are we do not know if it is natural.”

 

The entire room went quiet as everyone processed this information. With many of the people in the room looking at him, he started to feel very uncomfortable. In his mind, he felt a calming presences flow over him and he recognized J’Rontia’s influence. This time it was different. His new abilities showed him how she entered and what part of the brain she worked with. She signaled for him to follow her touch as she moved around his brain and showed him what he needed to do to relax and redirect the anxiety he started to feel. In moments, he had learned more about himself again and told her thanks as her presence left his mind. He turned back to the council.

 

The Section 8 member, Yseter Qzucy, spoke, “All Linthians have altered DNA, which is what makes us Linthians. That is also the reason that the Murhans and the Linthians separated and we are no longer one system. While it is true that the Linthian Council greatly restricted DNA manipulation a long time ago, my family has always believed that we should be the best that we can be and any alterations that come naturally from our previous changes, or already exist in Linthians, should be treated as natural. The Council designated me as their representative to review his DNA and I can state that there is no section of his DNA that does not exist somewhere in my family’s line. My whole family and all of our planets support the declaration of J’Rontia’s Soretto as a naturally enhanced being. We believe that this is the reason he matches so well with J’Rontia.” Shockwaves swept the room as the most politically powerful member of the council, and a regular detractor of the Kuli, endorsed J’Rontia’s Soretto by comparing him to his own family. In addition, all official Council members are monitored during the meeting and cannot lie without triggering an alert on the other Council members’ displays, giving his proclamation extra weight when it is finally broadcast to the public.

 

J’Rontia’s Soretto was not able to hide his surprise but recovered rapidly. As he came back under control a message popped up on his podium top. The message read, “Surely you didn’t think I would let you go before the Council without my support?”

 

There was no author listed but he heard J’Rontia in his mind as her touch told him, “Tomli.” Tomli continued to surprise them. Who would have thought he was working with Yseter Qzucy.

 

The Council members went into private mode, where the galaxy hologram moves in front of them, gently blocking the view and sounds. They spoke among themselves for quite a while. When their chairs came back into view, the Council Chair, J’Lopt stood and walked over to J’Rontia and her Soretto. J’Lopt was a former Supreme Kuli with an honorable and storied history in the galaxy, mainly loved by all. He asked, “May I probe?”

 

The Soretto smiled and said, “Of course.”

 

 J’Lopt placed his hand on the Soretto’s forehead and closed his eyes. His mind felt the new presence and was surprised at how light it was. The presence smiled and said, “Don’t worry. I already know you and who your mother is. I want to thank you for exposing the connection to the King. Yes, we know that the Tyrian representative is wrong. For now, you must remain quiet.”

 

He felt another more familiar presence enter tentatively. J’Rontia said, “He is speaking to me also and asked that I join you two.” He could feel both of them in his mind and he could not help but smile.

 

J’Lopt went on, “You will be contacted by Qzucy after you leave. Follow his directions exactly. You will also be asked at various points in the future to work with banned technologies. If these directives come from Tomli or Qzucy, you have the blessing of the Council. We put a plan in place years ago and our agreement with the Tyrian Republic allows our existing plans to continue. I do not have time for questions now, but may after the meeting. Also, feel free to ask either of the above for more information, although they may not be willing or able to answer.”

 

J’Lopt paused for a split moment and then went on, “You are the product of a naturally advanced mother and an unknown father. Your mother put the blocks in place to protect you from outside people and from some adjustments to your father’s ancestor’s DNA. J’Portia can help you work through those problems. Lastly, you need to know that your work is extremely important to the galaxy. Some of us believe that your work, both of you, will allow our races to survive the terrible times that are coming. You have more friends than you know and ghosts and angels will be watching over you.”

 

J’Lopt left his mind leaving him and J’Rontia with more questions than before and she “smiled” mentally as she left. J’Lopt spoke to the room, “Qzucy is correct. His DNA and mental functions are no more complex, advanced, or dangerous than members of the Qzucy family. I second his declaration of J’Rontia’s Soretto as a naturally enhanced being.”

 

All of the remaining official council members declared the same. The Murhan representative proudly declared, “Murhan has no veto.” The last representative to vote was the Tyria Republic’s. He opened his chair and stepped forward so that he stood in front of J’Rontia and her Soretto and spoke directly to them as he said, “I am not a science expert; however, I do recognize exceptional abilities when I see them. The fears people have of those with advanced abilities deals with how they use them. I see no reason to believe that your abilities are being directed toward anything other than protecting Linthia and the Republic. The Tyria Republic has no veto.”

 

The representative then leaned forward and quietly spoke to them, “I will be following your careers carefully to make sure that your handlers use your skills properly.” The Tyria Republic’s representative returned to his seat and the chairman sealed the decree and the votes.

 

The chairman spoke to J’Rontia and her Soretto, “You may sit in the audience now as we finish the matter of the KRs. The chairman turned toward his colleagues and the galaxy moved in front of them once more as they entered into private conversation.

 

The time passed slowly as they waited in the room. There was no talking as they sat wondering what the council was discussing. The fate of all people with special abilities hung in the balance and those in the audience understood only too well what that could mean. For thousands of years, the Kuli helped those who had difficulty with their technology advances and tried to prevent technology from destroying people and civilizations as happened at the peak of Linthian power. The Kuli sought out those with special abilities and trained them in the safe use of their powers. Now all of that might change as more and more people were scared of those with special abilities, fearing that what happened with the KRs could happen to others also.

 

The galaxy hologram moved back behind the councilors as they prepared to reveal their decisions. The chairman spoke, “The council has made a decision on the KR situation and the difficulties surrounding people with special skills.” Clearly this was part of prepared comments and he was going to be rather formal. The chairman continued, “The Murhan people have worked hard for thousands of generations to improve their genetic make-up without changing who and what they are, as many other races have also done. This process has been very successful but, as with all technology, reached reasonable limits where some did not feel Murhans would retain their character and so the Murhans and Linthians split. The Linthians continued to work to improve themselves until some technology problems arose where they felt safe limits had been reached.” The chairman paused at this point to let the admissions sink in a bit and so people could process the reasons why the Council was even in this position.

 

When the chairman continued, he was a bit more sober, “The weight of the responsibilities the Linthians and Murhans have as technology and economic leaders place us in military situations quite often. It was in an effort to reduce the impact of these military obligations that the KR project was allowed. We were trying to help the entire galaxy without being an excessive drain on our own economies.” He paused again and then said, “We succeeded in this goal but with some unintentional consequences. The enthusiasm that some of the people with the KR gene set have for excessive violence was not anticipated, at least not outside of the battle field. In addition, they were designed to be sterile and the way the abilities magnified in the following generations was inadvertent.”

 

The chairman sighed and went on, “We believed that the situation was under control until the arrival of a grandson of a KR warrior. The warriors were sterile and there were many preventative measures taken; however, the birth of a son should have been impossible with the code used. Still, it happened and he grew to be known to most of you as the Lord of Light and the leader of the destructive Religion Wars. Since that time, many are suspicious of anyone with special powers, even the Kuli are not as welcome as they once were. Now, with the attempt on J’Rontia’s life, we are forced to examine the situation and come to a conclusion.” The chairman sighed once more and then sat down.

 

The room was on edge as those in the audience tried to understand why he stopped. After a few moments, Yseter Qzucy stood up and spoke, “The situation is dire as there are many planets where even the hint of special skills will cause crowds to gather and destroy the being that appears to have powers beyond the common. We have tried to support the establishment of advanced schools and gave rewards to societies that placed their children in these schools. Yet, we still have large areas where anyone who appears to have eyes that glow or bluish tints to their hair is hunted down and killed.” Yseter Qzucy’s voice crackled with emotion as he spoke and all in the room could see the determination in his eyes as he went on.

 

He said, “We can no longer watch innocents suffer or die. It is with great regret that the Council has passed, unanimously, the following decree.” Yseter Qzucy read the decree.

 

Linthian Council of R’Sterlix – Decree 87334

 

Whereas, the advanced skills and powers of a small group of beings, having been used without proper ethics and training, has caused great consternation and suffering; and

 

Whereas, the public’s response to these beings causes discord, riots, various forms of violence, and illegal terminations; and

 

Whereas, the Tyrian Republic has requested the assistance of the Linthians, Murhans, and Kuli in their efforts to handle this situation; and

 

 Whereas, the current efforts to mitigate the problems of these beings, notably the KR2s and their descendants, are not proving effective;

 

Therefore, it is decreed that all new born beings in all the areas of influence of the Linthians, the Murhans, or the Tyrian Republic will be tested for advanced skills. The parents of those who are found to possess such skills will be given the choice of dedicating their children to one of three lifestyles; the Kuli, the Valiant Warriors of the Matriach, or the special skills schools of the Linthian military.

 

Furthermore, any citizens of the above who demonstrate advanced skills are directed to report to the nearest Kuli Guardian Station for testing and possible placement within one tenth of a standard year of discovering they possess such skills.

 

Yseter Qzucy paused and looked out at the small audience and it was as if a dark shadow fell over him. He straightened himself up to his full height with his stern expression emphasizing his words as he added, “My family has many members with special skills. We have spent generations improving ourselves as have many families in the Galactic Wing. I can assure all that we will bring this experience into the process for testing. My family will design the tests and regularly monitor them to ensure that people with special skills are not included in those identified as having advanced skills.”

 

Yseter Qzucy turned and faced the representative from the Tyrian Republic and said, “We will be ready to test newborns within one half of a standard year, adults within one standard year, and children within one and half standard years.”

 

The representative nodded and said, “That is an acceptable timeline and the Tyrian Republic will be eternally grateful for your assistance in this delicate matter.”

 

J’Rontia’s Soretto almost let out a shout when he saw his readout but J’Rontia had reached his mind first and calmed him down. He still had much to learn about his new abilities and how to control them. The readout indicated that the Tyrian representative had lied about being eternally grateful and everyone in the room knew. He was pretty sure that those results would not be part of the broadcast to the galaxy and wondered what it meant. He thought that the meeting was over when Yseter Qzucy sat down and he expected to hear that the meeting was adjourned when J’Lopt spoke again.

 

Instead, the chairman said:

 

These changes and our entrance into the Republic also necessitate an examination of the structures in question. First, we will discuss the military. The Murhans and the Linthians will have a separate military from the rest of the Republic because our military will have these special people in it. In addition, the Murhans and Linthians will not draft any of our population to the military of the rest of the Republic. Instead, we will bear the entire cost of our military ourselves. Due to this separation, the Galactic Wing is allowed to vote separately on any declaration of war from the Republic.

 

The Kuli have always subjected themselves to the will of the Linthian Council although there has never been a formal agreement. The Council has determined today that the Kuli are now a separate entity from the Tyrian Republic and all other political organizations. They will have voting advisors on the councils of all the military organizations in the Republic including the Linthian and Murhan military and the Valiant Warriors of the Matriarch. All of their participation in military matters requires the approval of a newly created Kuli Council consisting of Supreme Kuli elected by Supreme, Guardian, and other advanced Kuli guild members.

 

The Kuli are assigned the duty of policing the KR Decree. They are required, as part of the agreement for their separate status, to enforce the decree and punish those who refuse to follow its parameters. They are required to continue to follow the Kuli codes as written today and will receive funding from the Republic for their technology, police, advisor, and military services. The amounts of funding are set as a percentage of the systems’ populations and cannot be changed without unanimous agreement from all parties.

 

The past generations have benefited greatly from the KR2 warriors. Known by some as The Valiant Warriors of the Matriach, they won many of the battles of the Religion Wars and in other actions have greatly reduced the Galactic Wing’s reliance on its traditional military; however, many of those same warriors have a poor record of adjustment to regular society. We cannot discount the honorable service they provide and the sacrifices they have borne for us. Still, we must restrict their homes and their families homes to a planet designed to handle their special needs. In exchange for this restriction, the planet will be semi-autonomous and receive taxes from all planets that send people to them and will be paid for their military contributions.

 

The Council has three planets that are currently undergoing transformation and they will be able to select the one they prefer. The Council will give the warriors the treasure of Bandora the Lean to use to build their world. The treasure comes from one of the planets during the Religion Wars and the warriors have earned it. The warriors will be ruled by their own Council of seven consisting of their current Matriarch, one Kuli, one Linthian, one Murhan, and three elected warriors. Any selection of a new Matriarch will require the approval of the Kuli, Linthian, and Murhan Councils.

 

J’Lopt looked very tired as he finished and J’Rontia’s Soretto wondered how old he was. He marveled at the stories he knew about J’Lopt and could only imagine how many more there are. Some of this decree confused him as very little would actually change for the Kuli and the warriors. These rules were very close to what was already happening and, in some cases, how it had been for many generations.

 

Looking at J’Lopt, reminded him that J’Rontia had promised to share the true story of J’Lopt’s battle with the Lord of Light. He needed to remind her about that promise. The Council was finishing up the formalities of voting on the decisions just explained by J’Lopt and he was anxious to leave. He liked it best when it was just him and J’Rontia training or working together.

 

One of the Supreme Kuli walked up to him and clasped him on the shoulder saying, “Congratulations.” The Supreme Kuli, T’Drofe, handed him a medal and said, “You are now officially no longer an apprentice and have won the Honor of the Ancients for your prevention of the assassination. The Kuli would have been vilified if that plan had been a success.” T’Drofe turned to J’Rontia and said, “You continue to make us proud and your training of your Soretto is incredible.”

 

When he turned away, the other Supreme Kuli came up and clasped him on the shoulder delivering similar congratulations to both of them. A powerful realization came to him as he understood he was now a Kuli and that he had not undertaken the final trials.

 

J’Rontia smiled at him and said, “None of the trials are as intense as what you went through. Besides, I wouldn’t want you to score higher than I did!” They both laughed and turned toward the door.

 

Standing in front of them was the Tyrian representative who said to J’Rontia’s Soretto, “Congratulations on two counts. Now, you are not considered one of those who will be quarantined and you are a full Kuli. How does all that feel?”

 

J’Rontia’s Soretto smiled back at him and said, “I am thrilled to be able to continue to serve J’Rontia and help the galaxy stay as safe as possible.”

 

The Tyrian representative smiled an evil smiled and said, “You are only able to do what we allow. Today the dominance of all the Linthian and Murhan technical superiority has come to an end and you are all now placed in nice boxes so that we can keep a proper control over you. The Tyrian Republic is now the driving force in this galaxy.” The Tyrian representative laughed a horrible sound, turned, and walked out the door leaving the two of them standing there shocked. How had he drawn that conclusion to what had just happened?

 

There were only two other people left in the meeting room as they moved to exit the room. Yseter Qzucy and J’Lopt were deep in a conversation on the other side of the room so they figured they would get together with Yseter Qzucy later. They had just reached the door when they heard J’Rontia being called. They both turned back to see J’Lopt gesturing to them to come over to the council members’ seating area. The door shut as they turned away from it. When they reached the council’s seating area, the hologram moved to the front of the chairs.

 

Yseter Qzucy spoke, “No one can overhear us now. We have a special message for you from the old council. When the Tyrians asked us to join the Republic, they worked hard to eliminate our council and strip our sovereignty; however, they wanted our wealth and technology to be a part of their Republic. Therefore, we reached a compromise. We kept some of our sovereignty, especially in the areas of technology and war, and the Republic would only have representation and veto power on our council. In addition, all of our previous council decrees were allowed to remain in effect. As a result, the Republic believes that we cannot do anything without their permission anymore. However, we have a large number of activities ongoing that were put in place before we became a member and we have no intention of sharing knowledge of those activities. Still, we can no longer create new projects without Tyrian approval.” He paused as he often did to let the impact of his words settle.

 

J’Lopt continued the conversation in a very serious tone and with a wrinkled brow looking at them with his head tipped a bit to his right side, “We previously promised you two to Tomli for a project he is working on. You are to report to the Wartrag system and he will contact you. Stop by the Rhomsati Resort where we have made reservations for you. Enjoy your time there as it may be the last vacation you have.”

 

Yseter Qzucy spoke again with a softer voice as if he was addressing his grandchildren, “Today we gave the Kuli and the Warriors official status and income that they did not have before with the Republic. We did this because the Linthian and Murhan peoples no longer support many of the advanced technologies. The Religion Wars were terrifying and our society learned the wrong things from those wars. They wish to hide. They hope that if we abandon our technologies, then everyone else will also; however, we have an opponent in the King and the Deceiver who helps him that is capable of using the most advanced technology. They have done a great job in helping our people become convinced that there is no danger in the galaxy anymore, even as our Guardian Kuli are hunted down and executed. So we needed to act while we still had the people’s trust and votes.”

 

J’Lopt interrupted him saying, “But that means there will be a time when the people no longer trust and no longer will vote. There will even be a time when the council is not allowed secret decrees for security. If Tomli is correct, the whole Galactic Wing will refuse to help when they are needed the most. We must be ready if that happens.” 

 

J’Lopt continued, “The Linthians have more wealth than is imaginable. During our years of supremacy over the galaxy, we amassed wealth beyond people’s wildest dreams. Over the past generations, the council has converted the wealth into forms that could be hidden in obscure locations around the galaxy. You two will be given some of those locations so that you will never run out of funds. Also, J’Portia is only one of the medical and research stations we have hidden throughout the galaxy. Tomli has permission to use any of the advanced technologies if he needs it to counter technology brought forth by the Deceiver. The wording of that decree was difficult but it is all legal.”

 

Yseter Qzucy went on, “We will provide you with copies of the relevant council rulings so that when others turn against you the truth will be available for all to see.” His ring glowed amber twice and then he spoke again, “I have to go. I wish you the best of luck. My family may speak against the Kuli and many of the things we talk about here but you can always count on us if you are in trouble.” He handed each of them a ring similar to his own and said, “These are Qzucy family rings and once they are on your fingers they will adjust to you and become invisible forever, whether on or off. You will be able to sense them in a room but no one else will. You do not need to wear them but if you need us, just put them on and press the star. That will activate a stealth beacon and someone will come to help.” Yseter Qzucy slapped his right hand on his left wrist and raised them up to his mouth and said, “May the Ancients protect you.” Then he left the two stunned Kuli standing with J’Lopt.

 

J’Lopt smiled a soft and genuine smile of friendship. He said, “So you did not know that the powerful Qzucy was a religious man? Maybe someday I will tell you about the Qzucy family’s true history and which of the Ancient Myths are actually true.” J’Lopt laughed softly and added, “He is also one of the biggest supporters of the Kuli and the Warriors.” When J’Lopt saw their expressions he added, “The Qzucy family are great politicians and their public stances are many times designed to prevent anyone from suspecting what they are doing behind the scenes.” J’Lopt then spent some time with them going over various parts of their plans and answering their questions.

 

It was late in the planet’s day when they left and a beautiful sunset greeted them as they walked out the front doors of the building. Immediately, J’Rontia’s Soretto stepped in front of her and summoned all the energy he could. He built his energy field just in time as a blast hit him square on throwing the two of them back into the doors. J’Rontia leapt into the air as she threw six knives toward their opponents swooping down from the sky with graviton carriers. The knives found their marks and six of the ten would never speak to anyone again as she landed on one of the carriers. Almost instantly, her Soretto did the same on another carrier. The fight was over in seconds and they jumped back to the ground just as the Linthian Council’s security arrived.

 

After a few moments of explanation, they boarded their shuttle to head back to their ship. It was a quiet ride on the shuttle and they were very careful entering their ship. After checking all their security measures and convincing themselves that they were safe. They set their course and were on their way.

 

Two of the planet’s days later, J’Lopt spoke into an encrypted comm noting, “They were attacked as they walked out the front door.”

 

A voice commented back, “Was he able to generate a strong enough field or were they injured?”

 

J’Lopt responded, “They had no injuries at all and the blast spray that hit the building showed a blast force of 15.3 grets.”

 

The voice said, “Then he has more capacity than you.”

 

 J’Lopt answered, “That is correct. He would have been able to stand up to the Lord of Light.”

 

There was a pause in the conversation and then the voice on the other end of the comm said, “His father had to be an Ancient.”

 

J’Lopt shook his head no as he said, “I saw the last one die.”

 

The voice responded, “Could she was been pregnant before that?”

 

J’Lopt answered, “I don’t know. The timeline would say no but with an Ancient – it is possible.”

 

The voice said, “You have done well.”

 

 J’Lopt said, “Then can I retire?”

 

The voice answered, “Not yet, but soon, very soon.” The comm connection was broken.

 

Rhomsati Resort

 

When J’Rontia and her Soretto arrived at the Rhomsati Resort there was no one there to meet them so they settled back and enjoyed the solitude and the amenities. The facility was located at the edge of the galaxy in sector seven on an old space station from before the Colonial ERA. Originally used as a fueling depot for the transport fleet, each docking port had been converted into a complete self-contained luxury suite that included food, drinks, and entertainment. The resort was a favorite of those who wanted to get away from it all, including people. There was no staff and the place was run by robots and automatons – the perfect place to escape to. The facility was surrounded by Kuli training planets, repair stations, and other secret facilities, making the overall security tight as it could ever be.

 

J’Rontia settled into a deep water bath and her Sorretto sat across the room enjoying bowls full of fresh fruit as he studied and practiced controlling the various energy forces with his mind. There were no windows in the room but the walls showed scenes from around the Tyrian Galaxy and left the visitor feeling as if they were in wide-open space. J’Rontia’s Soretto concentrated on adjusting the gravitational fields surrounding his body but was not able to connect with the force. He cleared his mind of all other thoughts and concentrated on releasing his body’s energy field from the forces of gravity.

 

After much work and concentration he was starting to get frustrated when he heard J’Rontia say, “You need to clear your mind – that means not thinking of me also.”  

 

He turned around and saw J’Rontia floating in the air above the bath with one of the biggest smiles on her that he had ever seen. He started to say something and then caught himself as he almost dropped her. They both laughed as he sent her down gently. This was going to be a fun vacation.

 

 

The Dark Sun System – Hrusti City on Ternw

 

In the dark shadows of the forest, in a small ship with advanced stealth capabilities, a woman with seafoam blue hair watched her monitors as a shuttle deposited the Tyrian representative to the Linthian Council at the door of the King’s Advisor. The woman wanted desperately to reach out with one of his weapons and kill him. She had heard him bragging over his unsecured comm to the station’s security officers how he almost killed J’Rontia and her Soretto as they left the Linthian Council building. He was so proud of himself and seemed sure that the people here would make a hero out of him for his attempt. But she stayed her hand. She had made a promise and that promise was worth more than this worthless man’s life.

 

The woman put her emotions back in the box she had built for them and went back to the task at hand. She activated her receptors in the building and prepared to listen.

 

The Tyrian representative walked through the entrance hallway into the buildings main reception hall. The room was huge and very dark making it impossible to see the other side. As his guide led him further into the room he grew irritated. He told the guide, “Turn on the lights in here, a person can hardly see.” The guide said nothing and continued walking without acknowledging the Tyrian representative in any way. The representative demanded again, “I will not go any further until you show me some respect.” At this, the guide turned to the side and exited a door. The representative shouted at him, “Get back here now! You fool. Don’t you know who I am!”

 

At that moment, the lights came up just enough that he could see a figure in a chair at the end of the room. It was only a shadow that he saw but he heard the sound from the shadow as it pierced the darkness. With venom dripping from every word, the shadow spoke slowly in a careful and measured pattern with deliberation, “He knows who you are and wonders why he should care.” The deep gravelly voice entered the Tyrian Representative’s ears as a knife slide between the ribs delivering agony with each sound. The Tyrian Representative felt his hair on his neck rise and fear choked him as the words and their meaning sucked the arrogance right out of him. He struggled to breathe as the air left his lungs and he found he could not inhale. The shadow moved slowly and stood but did not come closer as the proud Tyrian Representative fell to the floor writhing in agony.

 

The shadow spoke again, “The Linthian Council tricked you and you are the fool. You gave their precious Kuli funding they did not have in exchange for what they were already doing. You gave that group of female mutant slime a planet of their own and funding also. And, worst of all, you allowed them to keep all of their past decrees. Did you not think that they planned ahead?” The representative was allowed one breath and then his skin was on fire. The agony from the fire spread from his head to his toes.

 

The shadow spoke once more, “It has been reported to the Republic of Tyria that your ship crashed. I will make sure that you are replaced with a more intelligent representative. That leaves you plenty of time to spend with me as you consider how much you disappointed me.”

 

The representative was picked up off the floor by four servants and taken to a room where he was laid on a table. He realized too late who his real boss was and it was not the King.

 

Outside, the woman with seafoam blue hair realized that killing that man would have been a mercy and turned off her receptors. She knew that someday she might have to face the person in the shadows herself and it increased her determination to continue her training every chance she had. She thought about her daughter and was happy that she had such a powerful Soretto. She knew that all her sacrifices were worth it.

 

 

The Black Abyss

 

Moving out from the Tyrian Galaxy there were galaxies in all directions except one. Far, far out, in that empty, lonely expanse known as the Black Abyss, a small ship received a message. The computer on that ship processed the message and repackaged it to send a pulse toward a black hole even further into the nothing. On the edge of the black hole, an old space station spun just fast enough to keep from falling into the hole and the message was received and processed. The monitor of the station was awoken to review the message. He smiled and composed his own message. The message was simple and he sent it deeper into the nothing. It read, “We were right to help.” He looked out his window in the direction of the bright light that is the Tyrian Galaxy. His life was a circle that was almost complete and he looked forward to his part in the great opera of the people known to some as the Linthians. After a few more moments, he returned to the kitchen for a snack before he returned to his duties.

 

 

Linthian Space – New planet

 

The terraforming on the planet continued at a much slower pace than was projected. Two standard years had gone by beyond the agreed upon end date. This was a complex job that included surface and subsurface work and it was the subsurface work that continued to cause the details.

 

The contractors complained again and again that they did not understand the delays. Continually they found members of their work groups tunneling deep into the planet because their instruments showed they were still moving in a level manner when they were not. The plans had all of the transportation for the planet moving underground and that required a lot of tunnels. What the contractors could not comprehend was how their equipment could continue to malfunction.

 

The contractor was losing money left and right as tunnel after tunnel bored deep into the planet. They were also frustrated because none of the workers ever noticed the problems and so they had to chase down the tunnels daily themselves; however, on a planet this large, they never seemed to find the errors until the tunnels with the problems were incredibly deep. When the contactor reached the point of going bust, they brought in some experts to test the equipment in an effort to demonstrate that it was the planet causing the trouble. They showed the results of their tests to the owner’s representative and, after intense negotiations; she agreed to pay for enough of their overruns to prevent a loss on the project.

 

The contractors were relieved that they would not go bankrupt on this job and begged the owner’s representative to sign a non-disclosure agreement so they would be able to find work in the future. Never had they had so much trouble with terraforming a planet. This place now had some of the most extensive and deep tunnel systems ever. They were so glad to finish the job and leave that they did not notice that none of the workers ordered tickets for transport off the planet as was common after these types of projects.

 

The Matriarch felt bad that the contractors did not make any money; however, she was assured that they would receive some lucrative contracts in the future. She looked around at her new planet and smiled. Perhaps this would all work out. Perhaps …

 

 

Linthian Council Archives

 

In one of the basements of the Linthian Council, a rodent moved across the floor. It had a headache and its body was sore. It had never gone this far from home before and was a little scared. So far the trip was good because he had found lots of food so he kept going. He could smell the food nearby and he became excited. He jumped up on the equipment and felt his fur rising but the power of the food drew him on. He saw the food! He pounced on it and started to eat. It was delicious. After he finished, he realized he could not remember how to get home and his head started hurting even more. He felt a strong desire to move toward a small blue light. He stepped forward and electricity surged through his body and life left him.

 

The technician shook his head when he pulled the rodent out of the equipment. It was hard to believe that this little creature just destroyed the records of so much of Linthia’s wealth. Of course the amounts are not significant, so they say, because the government still has an incredible amount. Still, they don’t even have dust down here so how did this rodent even get in. He shook his head again and went back to work.

 

Qyerrw Ghetto

 

She was crying herself to sleep again. They were so mean to her every day. When she was a baby they said her eyes glowed so they put her in this cage and never let her out. She was now three standard years old and barely fit squatting. There were men who kept an eye on her all the time. They told her that she was insane and would kill people if they ever let her out.

 

Lately, she thought that they were right and that she was crazy. For many days now, late in the night, she would hear a voice calling to her and asking her where she was. It was hard to describe where she was because she was never allowed out of her cage and the light was poor. Besides, they beat her every day, especially if she spoke. The men also beat the woman who fed her. They said that the woman was her mom and that she must be evil to spawn such a creature. The woman came once a day and fed her. The woman would tell her how sorry she was that this was happening and would clean her up as much as she could through the cage. The woman would occasionally tell her that someday angels would rescue her and take her to heaven. She no longer believed the woman.

 

Today she the food was so bad that she spent the last parts of day throwing up. The men laughed every time she retched until the room smelt so bad they had to leave. She was glad they were gone but figured she would die soon as she was shaking uncontrollably. There was a noise across the room and she looked up at the sound. The wall opposite her started to shake and then fell down in pieces revealing a bright light. A beautiful woman walked through the light into the room. The beautiful woman was taller than anyone the girl knew and had bluish hair with a soft voice that she only heard in her mind. The voice told her to relax that help had arrived.

 

The men threw the huge door open and started to lift their weapons. Before they could act, the beautiful woman moved with unbelievable speed, throwing knives and other sharp objects at the men. The weapons ripped at their throats and they all fell to the ground. The woman stooped down and picked her up. She couldn’t believe her eyes as she realized that her mom was right and an angel had appeared. As she was being carried out, she saw her mom run into the room. The angel stopped for a moment and her mom looked at the angel and fell to her knees saying, “Thank you” over and over again as she wept. The angel took her out of the room and up into a ship.

 

When the ship was safely away from the planet, the woman picked up the comm and reported back to her controller. She spoke, “I have successfully extracted another one. She is weak and in bad shape but will recover. I have placed her in status and she will need to go straight to medical.” She sat back in her chair. She hoped her mother would be proud.

 

Across the galaxy,  J’Lopt stepped away from the comm and smiled. His daughter had earned her nickname – Angel.

 

Tunnels

‘This is insane!’ You almost yelp at the blast that just narrowly missed your ship as you maneuver it through the icy labyrinth of tunnels beneath Nivlahim’s surface. The automated defenses for the tunnels have not been deactivated by the flight control station and are now vehemently firing at you, an assumed enemy. When another blast sends a shock wave through the ship after missing by only a hair’s breadth, you shout pointless at the turrets, “I live here!” Needless to say, they ignore your exclamation.
‘Just focus on not getting hit, Keri,’ Shilo’s calm voice resonates through your mind. In response, your face contorts further into frustration. You bite your tongue on the response you could so easily release on her. ‘We don’t want to blow up before we get off this giant ice cube.’
That was it. You can’t take it anymore. ‘Oh, this from the woman who actually got hit and crashed!’ You tear at the controls once more, pulling the Valkyr into a 28-by-15-point turn, spinning round a bend in the tunnel with a heaving groan as the monstrous drives roar to maintain speed. You know that comment isn’t fair. Shilo had been facing not only the automatic but the manned batteries as well, which nearly tripled the defenses and would have made passage through these tunnels all but impossible. Still, you feel better now that you’ve released some of that frustration. You’re almost there, anyway.
‘Overhead,’ Shilo’s voice calls out, and your vision is directed to a small opening that you would have missed otherwise. You press into the controls and send the Valkyr into a forward flip, shooting the ship straight up the small opening in the ceiling of ice before the flip is finished. You’re glad you didn’t miss it, as a shot can be seen passing straight through the point through which you were about to fly before your ship disappears into the tiny tunnel.
At this point, your main goal is to keep the ship from colliding with the sides of the tunnel, which, if anything, seems to be getting narrower. The edges also appear to be increasingly jagged as you pass up through what you realize may simply be a ventilation tunnel ending in rather solid grating. ‘Oh, don’t be ridiculous,’ Shilo says. ‘Only an idiot would design something like that the size of a ship. Plus, need I remind you, the atmosphere is toxic on Nivlahim. No one wants to ventilate anything to the atmosphere.’
You can’t help wondering, then, exactly what this overly convenient tunnel is doing here until Shilo interjects again. ‘Look at the walls.’ You do so, and Shilo’s observance once again seems to focus your eyes on what she intends  for you to see. There are claw marks all across the tunnel. Ice wyrms definitely explain the size of the tunnel. While the females are the hunters and fighters, male ice wyrms are the builders and considerably larger than their female counterparts. Some male wyrms can grow to sizes two to three times as big as a Valkyr. That also explains the changing size of the tunnel. As the wyrm dug upward, it lost weight, wanting to finish its tunnel to the snow before breeding season.
You find the ice wyrm’s breeding habits quite extraordinary. Ice wyrms have the unique ability to extract their oxygen from the snow and ice they eat, though in small enough quantities that when on the surface of Nivlahim, they can hardly maintain their hunting habits. Only breeding and hibernation occur on the surface. After ice wyrms breed, they hibernate for almost an entire cycle before the female awakes her mate, and both return to the sea below the ice together before the female gives birth in the water, leaving the male to feed it while she goes to hunt. Both genders of the ice wyrms produce milk for feeding, and while the female is off hunting, the male takes the child to the wyrm caverns, where all ice wyrm children and females live out most of their time while the male adults return to digging after having replenished their strength. It seems strange to you, but nature is a very odd thing.
Sure enough, as the tunnel approaches its narrowest point, a mass of snow can be seen covering the hole at the end of the tunnel. Shilo reminds you quickly to activate the plasma shielding to melt the snow before traveling through it, and you do so just in time. A small patch of snow makes it past the plasma field’s range before it’s raised, causing it to thud softly on the hull of the ship before being melted away. The rest of the snow is turned to steam before it reaches the field and is pushed gently out of the way. Then, for the first time in over four cycles, for the first time since you moved here, and for the first time since your mommy died, you see it. There is a single, solitary source of light in the sky, yet it fills the sky’s vastness with its bright luminance as if there is a hole gently poked in the darkness. Of course, the Bifrost is on the other side of the planet and currently unseen, but you remember it looking more like a tissue that had a rainbow sneezed onto it, simultaneously beautiful and yet somehow disgusting and disturbing. Linthia, however, is like perfection in your eyes, its gentle pinprick of light passing through millions of rosts of void just to reach your eyes. At this distance, it isn’t even harmful to stare at it, and you feel as though you could do just that for days, but you have other business to tend to, and the green star which can look so much like a Valkyrie’s eye during an eclipse isn’t going anywhere.
You press into the controls once more, pulling the Valkyr into a fully vertical ascent and increasing the throttle to full atmo. It is, of course, possible for the ship to fly much faster than this, but the forces would cause undue strain on the air around the ship and cause such events as compression-induced flames and heat lightning, which would not only play hell with the sensors but also draw unnecessary attention to your ship. Full atmo permits speeds well above the necessary for exiting the planetary gravitational field while avoiding such atmospheric anomalies as these. Even at what the ship considers very low speeds, however, you certainly feel the movement of the ship. Your eyes are pressing into the backs of their sockets, leaving your vision extremely narrow as you accelerate to exit velocity. As you pass through the first sets of clouds, even through the dark edges of your vision, you see them.
Large, crudely shaped behemoths barely fit for flying plow through the air like falling boulders. As the compression heat reduces, the ships open their hangar doors, which begin to spew forth small landing shuttles full of Armadian troops. A planet like Nivlahim is, of course, too dangerous to trust with Peacekeeper forces. This is full martial law going into effect, and it’s only after a full surrender will have been issued by the Nivlahimi government. ‘Of course,’ you think to Shilo, ‘the government here is only a shadow government already. Daddy said on the wireless a few weeks ago that the Ginnung Headquarters had been successfully transferred to its new home off of Nivlahim.’
‘What?!’ Shilo’s surprise makes it clear that she didn’t know anything about that before now. ‘Then where are the Ginnung headquartered? We’ve occupied every Ginnung-controlled planet!’ There are a few millidays of mental silence as you rise up through the last of the clouds, the pervading dark of space truly visible now, Linthia a solitary light in the black of the void. You can see the rest of the invading fleet now, its ships issuing forth from heavy carriers and forward operation mobility docks. ‘Then this entire operation was meaningless.’ Shilo’s voice seems distant, sorrowful. So many lives had been lost for no reason, as she saw it.
You can’t respond to her like this. You set the necessary course into the navigation interface and move back down into the cargo hold, where you enter a stasis po
d before your bones start to deteriorate. You haven’t received the proper treatment for extended space travel, and the distance from Nivlahim to Thor isn’t short. Zero gravity for so much time can take a serious toll on an untreated body. As you activate the pod, you utter an audible, “Goodnight, Shilo,” to the hold full of dead bodies and broken parts, your eyes resting on your dipulse as you enter full stasis.

Departure

You check the harnesses again. Even with the utmost confidence in the expertise Shilo’s merge of consciousness with you has provided, you can never be too careful. Even Shilo never actually piloted a dipulse before her… Well, she never piloted a dipulse. You push aside some of your negative feelings and unchain the dipulse. You wish Shilo had noticed the same glisten you had seen through the webbed grating at the bottom of the dividing partition, but she had been too tall. As it is, you still have to make it to the docks and find a ship. Hopefully, there will be one in adequate condition.
You sit yourself atop the massive machine, its primary reactor square between your legs. Reaching down, you pull the securing pin, licking your other hand’s thumb and placing it on the activator switch. At first, there isn’t a sound. Then, in a slow crescendo, you begin to hear the pulses of the engines grow louder as the coldstone reactor feeds them with unfathomable power, the low tone growing into a roar you’ve never heard from a pulse car. It’s almost… animalistic. You grin, a bit of Shilo’s darker burn showing in your eyes for a few moments. Then, you activate the throttles.
There’s nothing in your or Shilo’s memories to which you can compare the sensation you experience as the dipulse rises from the floor like a yawning drig. Your grip tightens and your legs clench against the dipulse harder as you begin to understand just how difficult this beast will be to control. At the same time, Shilo’s experience as a pilot keeps your hands steady and your eyes forward even as some very distracting sounds begin to emanate from the rear engine. You pull the throttles apart and lean forward into the proper position and very carefully manipulate your feet over the engines’ positioning controls. The dipulse’s engines begin to tilt, and the machine begins to move forward.
You squint a bit as the dipulse pulls out of the side of the building that can no longer be your home, regret toward that fact absent from your focused mind. You turn your toes outward from each other, turning the vehicle left with a true zero turn radius, hard to obtain in even the most advanced pulse cars today. You return your feet into line and bring the throttles up. The sound of the dipulse’s ridiculous engines grows even louder as the beast rises higher and begins moving forward with unparalleled power. Before you know it, you’re turning again toward the docks along the main lowway, your feet adjusting deftly to any fluctuations in the dipulse’s movement against your intentions. For fun, you roll the machine full circle, almost losing contact with the positioning controls. When you get back into an upright position, you decide you won’t be doing that again.
You crank up the throttles even more along the lowway, tilting the engines back toward horizontal more, bringing the dipulse into a lower but much faster position. Wind rushes past you at obscene speeds as you approach over 50 rosts per centiday, and you can almost feel the air cutting at you with a chill factor that would be completely unbearable were it not for your armor. You see the docks ahead and factor down the throttles. When you reach the turn for the docks, you turn your toes toward one another, turning the dipulse to the right.  Quickly, you rotate your right foot to face the same direction as your left, changing the dipulse’s momentum away from its previous direction and redirecting it forward. You gradually bring your feet back in line as you begin to travel along the correct road, reducing the throttle as you approach the docks.
As you reach the ships locked into place, you start looking for one in flying condition. Most of them have been destroyed or severely damaged, likely as a part of the initial incursion. Then, you see a ship that is both foreign and familiar in appearance. Though you have never seen a ship anything like this before, Shilo’s memories tell you that this is a Valkyr, its viewport cracked and covered in old blood from the inside. Your initial suspicion is that there was electrical damage to a vital component for the main drives, and that led to an explosion inside the ship before they were able to finish suiting up. You park the dipulse alongside the cargo bay door in the aft section of the ship and get off, your legs a bit shaky for a choice few moments.
You walk over to the bioswitch on the cargo door and press yourself against the hull of the ship as the door opens. Just as you suspected, air comes rushing out as soon as the seal inside the ship is broken. The smell of death is borne freshly into the surrounding air, and you close the fresh air intake on your breather, switching into recirc. The smell of rancid flesh is quickly replaced by the scent of sterilized air, and you gulp in the clean air like it’s water. Your eyes begin to water, and you feel unease in your belly as the mere memory of such a strong odor almost sends you to your knees.
‘It isn’t the worst smell in the worlds,’ Shilo comments in your mind. At this, you thin your gaze and harden yourself, shaking off the sensation that the smell had sent coursing down your spine. You then step out and turn toward the door, your eyes narrow behind your visor as you analyze the cargo hold. Once you’re satisfied there’s nothing alive in there, you take your first step onto a real warship.
The cargo hold is fairly utilitarian, intentionally built to be as versatile as possible. There are indented portions of the bulkhead which look as though they’re designed to fit stasis pods. A quick check of Shilo’s memories lets you know for sure. The deck has many ports and interfaces in it, as do the struts in the bulk- and overhead. A ship like this could be purposed to serve as anything from a prisoner transport to a concealed command center, as long as the appropriate equipment were brought aboard. A rush of images of items you loaded onto the dipulse without even realizing it make their way into your thoughts as Shilo says, ‘We need to keep focused on the task at hand until we’re off this planet.’
You start unloading the items and hooking them up in the cargo hold, one by one. Once you finish putting together the spare components you might need for repair, you load up the food and medical supplies for your journey and anchor the dipulse inside the cargo hold. Before opening the main hold’s hatch, you activate the dipulse’s engines, and air whooshes through the hold. With any luck, that will keep any foul smell from staying in the ship much longer. Then, you activate the bioswitch with the built-in interface in your armor, preventing you from having to remove your breather to lick your thumb again. In your mouth, a small suction tube extends under your tongue, removes some saliva, and retracts once more, pumping the saliva brought a series of valves and to a small divot in your armor’s lightly padded thumb. You place it against the switch, and the responding light indicates that the process was successful.
The main hold hatch dilates open, and you pull yourself up. Looking about, you find the drive maintenance panel to the aft of your present position and move toward it, carefully treading over the paste-like spread that was once a Valkyrie’s head, walking around the body as best you can. Shilo’s memory of protocols tells you that their present state should be preserved for future investigation and memorial services. Before you open the panel, you receive a memory nudge, and you activate the main drive holographic sensors and your armor’s radiation shielding, which protects you from the high energy radiation of the sensors, which isn’t enough to irradiate any of the materials in the drive compartment in the long term but could make living tissue in the compartment a bit uncomfortable for the next several hours. The high energy sensors, however, could detect even the most microscopic defects i
n the drive system, and that point is illustrated when the sensors deactivate, and the ship’s systems send the results to the nearest handheld interface, which is conveniently built right into the wrist of your armor.
As you make your way through the diagnostics, you notice Shilo’s voice making note of each parameter that is outside of the range she desires, even if the ship doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem. Finally, you get to the list of defective parts and find it to be very similar to the list of parts you assembled in the cargo hold, minus a few smaller parts here and there that didn’t seem to make the ship’s list. ‘How’d you know what was wrong with the ship, Shilo?’
A moment of clearheaded silence follows before Shilo replies, ‘This is what’s wrong with all of the Valkyrs. These are the parts that the ship isn’t actually supposed to use. They just happen to be the best parts we can put on the ships right now. This one,’ an image of a particularly large part that had been very annoying to put together, ‘is what seems to have caused the malfunction this time, which is why we needed so many of the replacement parts. Officially, this may only be Valkyr 2, but that’s just because it’s being used in conjunction with an Armadian operation, and as an official strength of its own, the Valkyrie has only existed for a few cycles now. Truth be told, though, this is Valkyr 43. I was piloting Valkyr 45. We actually have a different drive system that these ships are designed to use, but it hasn’t been reinvented yet, so we can’t use it publicly. Not that that drive system was really used a lot beforehand, anyway…’
Shilo trails off, but the point has been made. Shilo had put together a list of parts that might be needed to repair any expected malfunction, and because of the particular malfunction at hand, you happen to need most of them. You get to work bringing the replacement parts up and installing them as you bring the replaced parts down to the cargo hold and secure them for evidence.
A few centidays later, you seal up the drive compartment and perform another scan. After the diagnostic reports seem to satisfy Shilo, you walk forward toward the main hatch. Again, you step around the remains so thoroughly grafted to the deck of the main hold and now covered with a sealing agent that has been placed over both itself and the other corpse slightly forward of the hatch. This time, however, when you head down into the cargo hold, it is to deactivate the dipulse and seal the ship once more. Once the door has closed, you begin to remove your helmet before thinking of the two bodies upstairs, along with the body of Shilo’s copilot, which had been so horribly decapitated when it found its way flying through the ship’s main viewport. You leave the helmet fastened as you head up and into the cockpit.
You look about at the various displays and interfaces and notice that some things appear to have been intentionally withheld from the design, as if to make it easier to put something in later. Thinking back to Shilo’s monologue only a few centidays ago, you realize why. It hasn’t been invented yet, but the Valkyr was somehow still designed to use it. You shrug it off for now, determined to ask every question you have the moment you get somewhere safe. You begin activating switches and interfaces, and the cockpit comes alight. The displays come to life around you, and you find the seat securing your armor to itself with thick bolts that screw into the joints of your armor.
Without bothering to clear your takeoff with the now-desolate control station, you start up the main drives, a monstrous sound that Shilo insists is normal emanating through the compartment aft of you. With one last check that all parameters are to Shilo’s liking, you press into the controls and start flying a ship toward space for the first time in your life, despite the fact that your feet can barely reach the deck. Keria’Ledrii Khuda’Cronell is not a name the future will soon forget.

Everything Must Balance

Everything Must Balance

The Watcher appraised his past as he contemplated his next steps. He was the last Kuli left in Tyria after the galaxy’s destruction and the expulsion of the Linthian system from normal space and time through the Galactic Tear. He had spent thousands of years watching the Galactic Tear for signs of the lost Linthians. The rest of the Kuli had taken the remnants of the galaxy, in cobbled together ships, across the gulfs of space to the eight nearest galaxies. The Kuli that came before him worked to prevent the destruction of the galaxy but failed. Ultimately, the end of life in the galaxy was due to the ministrations of the Great Deceiver and complicated by Kuli mistakes.

The Kulis’ last Supreme Guardian, J’Rontia, directed the remnants to seed the surrounding galaxies and do all they could to restore the Linthians to Tyrian space. During his watch of the Tear, he received the Journal of the Traitor and learned that a Deceiver’s apprentice lived and the Deceiver’s poison had spread across what was left of Linthia creating a violent and vengeful population that now considered themselves Thorlinthians.

When information came to him about an opportunity to remove the legacy of the Deceiver forever, he went deep into Thorlinthia to destroy the reconstitution chamber that allowed the evil and knowledge of the Deceiver’s apprentice to transfer to additional generations. His mission was a success and he was also able to terminate the use of an ancient archive of forbidden knowledge by exploding the device along with the reconstitution chamber. He knew his mission was a one-way trip and fully expected to die, probably after serious suffering at the hands of the Thorlinthians.

To his surprise, he was rescued by J’Rontia and her Soretto and then, for unknown reasons, was dropped onto this ship only to find that it was one of the seed ships tens of thousands of years in the past and in the middle of nowhere. This ship was the first seed ship finished and his command ship before he decided to be the Watcher and now it full of mysteries and dead crew men. After many primitive repairs, he finally had enough energy flowing so that he will be able to check the Captain’s log to find out why the ship is in such bad condition and so far in the past. Reading the log is not his only option and he could contact the Kuli of the time he was in for help; however, Tomli’s instructions were to do what “he” thought was best. So, with an understanding of the weight his decisions may have on the future he relaxed in the commander’s chair and connected with the computer and the captain’s log.

The captain’s log is very thorough in its descriptions of the planets that were seeded and in providing details on the disasters that befell the expedition at various points. The New Beginnings 8 was actually the first of the seed ships to be completed and the seed ship builders designed most of the on-board protocols for the long trips using this ship. It was good to see that the captain and the crew used the protocols, thus allowing him to understand the structure of the log.

His interest, at this time, was in how the ship ended up so far in the past and what happened to its crew. The thought of the crew caused him to stop his scanning of the log and he turned to the monitors. The command control center was a mixture of several battleship command control centers. They had taken them out of the original ships and set them up in the seed ships to control the section of the seed ship that was built from that particular battleship. The control centers were covered with monitors that allowed the user to see the various outputs as directed by the ship’s main computer. The ship’s main computer hooked all of the various computer systems from so many ships together and acted as a translation interface to a standard control room computer. This allowed for synchronized command and control through the use of seven pedestal interfaces in the primary control room.

Each of the seven pedestals has their own control orb to allow simultaneous control for separate components of the ship in a battle or planet seeding. Each of the pedestals was positioned in front of a hatch that covered a stasis pod. The control room was in the middle of the ship for protection and away from any escape modules. Thus, each operator had their own emergency stasis pod that they could enter in mere moments if the ship was in peril.

He told the computer, “Display the status of the stasis pods.” The monitor lit up with seven sections, each showing the status of one pod. He was surprised when he realized that six of the pods contained some sort of life form. “Display the information on the contents of the pods,” he commanded the computer. The monitors showed that the pods contained four Linthians and two Murhans. He asked the computer, “Display the Kuli energy levels.” The monitors now showed that all six were Kulis and two of them were Guardians, at least in their energy generation ability. It was exciting to know that some of the crew survived and that he may be able to learn a lot from them.

Each of the six outputs showed flashing symbols indicating that there was a problem. All six of the monitors showed errors on the recovery charges. This meant that he could not restore any of the people in the pods without replacing the recovery capacitors. To use external power would be extremely dangerous and if anything went wrong the occupants would die. He needed to replace the capacitors and recharge them.  Still, the monitors showed that they were safe for now.

He returned back to the Captain’s log and continued his search.  The results showed three sections of interest. The first was an extended stay in orbit around the last seed planet. Then there was a crisis on a nearby planet with an attack by the Thorlinthians, which he was sure dealt with the ships he saw from the Station. The third section of interest dealt with a time period after the crisis and consisted of the latest entries. The rest of the log was the largest and seemed to be rather boring data about the trips between seedings. He did tag the times in the log when the seedings occurred so that he could review those areas to form some idea of how successful the landings were.

He decided to target the area that he believed dealt with the Thorlinthian attack on the people called Fehmadadi by the Captain in his log. He told the computer which areas he wished to review and went into the kitchen to eat a snack while the computer was loading the Kuli reader. Kuli readers are rather fascinating devices as they match the data outflow to the user’s maximum brain processing ability. The ship still had his readings from before the destruction of Tyria and was almost done building the review when he stopped it. He had completely changed since he was this ship’s commander, especially after his visit from Tomli, and now his abilities needed to be diagnosed again.

It took quite a while on this huge ship to find where the diagnostic equipment was and even longer to set it up. The ship did not have day or night and he just ate when he was hungry and slept when he was tired. He could have set the timekeepers for days and nights but he could neither find a reason why nor could he decide what system to set the clocks by. So, he just went by feel and made sure that each waking cycle had time set aside for appropriate exercise and studying. During his search for the diagnostic equipment, he had traveled through almost the entire ship. It was sad to see the number of crew members that lay dead everywhere. At first he thought to move them and proceed with proper disposal; however, after doing that with three of them he realized that the people in stasis had not done that and there might be a reason. So, he only moved those who were in areas of the ship where he now had life support running as they would decompose. They were moved to the nearest area of the ship with no life support and a note was left on them indicated exactly where he found them. Every day brought more mysteries.

The diagnostic was not a fun process and usually Kuli only did this three times. The first time usually was when they became an apprentice, unless they were a Soretto who processed through their Kuli. The second time ordinarily was after they graduated and became a Kuli. After that is was mostly at the times when they were promoted due to a better understanding of the lifeforces, such as when one would become a Guardian, a Healer, or other major change. There were also other more exotic reasons to use the equipment, such as preparation for a core build to use for reconstitution, preparation for certain surgeries on the brain, and other times when the entire body’s input/output system needed to be measured with extreme accuracy.

These tests are not often given by the individual being tested as they can be very disruptive to the nervous system and may leave a person incapacitated for an unknown period of time. Unfortunately, he had little choice. Using a properly attuned reviewer, he could skim through the tremendous amount of data in the Captain’s log in minutes and review only the areas he needed in perhaps one or two sleep cycles. Without the synchronization, he might take up to a standard year to find only part of what he needed and, for some reason, he felt that he needed to work as fast as possible.

The equipment was in one of the medic offices and, after a small snack, he settled into the examination chair. He attached the connectors to his naked body with care. He then strapped himself in and adjusted the pressure to the highest level he could tolerate. He knew from previous experience that the process would not be fun and that the body, on occasion, revolted on its own. Naturally, as a Kuli, he would attempt to control his body throughout the tests; however, only a few Supreme Guardians had enough control to prevent the body from responding on its own. Of course, that is also part of the testing.

He hesitated before pushing the start button. Pain is always different when you know what is coming. He pushed the button and time stood still. This diagnostic was different from before and it seemed that the tests went on forever. He had taken some of the tests before and mainly reacted to the probes. This time he was able to anticipate and prepare his body for most of the trials and responded quickly enough to negate the worst of the body’s reactions in all other cases. His new understanding of his body and the world around him allowed him to finish the tests without losing control once. He stepped out of the chair astonished with how much he had changed. The diagnostics showed that he had the instincts and abilities of a Supreme Guardian but with the lowest training level on the charts for a Supreme Guardian. He would have to find some of the Supreme Guardian training and fit it into his schedule. He smiled a rather mischievous smile and silently thanked Tomli followed by J’Rontia and her Soretto. They believed in him before he believed in himself.

Back in the control room, the new data was fed into the interface and it adjusted for his updated abilities. He started with the “Fehmadadi” incident. The various data points flowed across his mind with the corresponding audio or video context, including advanced data analysis such as emotions from the Captain and crew entries. It was his most intense review he ever experienced and he began to understand why the Supreme Guardians were able to comprehend events at such a greater depth. The story was both fascinating and frightening as he came to realize how vulnerable the nearby seed colony was.

He turned off the review and leaned back in his chair as he contemplated what he had learned. The pieces did not all fit together but he did learn enough to understand how the seed ship ended up in the past. The ship seeded the planet called Terira but there was a problem with the seeding. It turned out that there were already Murhans on the planet and had been for a long time, although they did not have all of the advanced genetics the current Murhans had. In addition, there was a race from the planet with the same DNA ancestry of the Murhans that evidence showed developed on the planet. He was not sure how this was possible as the Murhans supposedly developed in the Galactic Wing of the Tyrian galaxy.

He understood why the ship’s crew would want to spend time there to resolve the issues the DNA brought up. Still, the Kuli running the ship did not have the answers when they left Terira and something about the whole situation stirred an old memory that he could not quite grab on to. He queried the part of his brain where the Tomli memories came from but there was no recognition or vision that came forth. His curiosity demanded answers that were not forthcoming. The temptation to review the logs about Terira was huge, but his present needs demanded that he move on with the information he had already found.

He summoned the computer and asked, “Consider the coordinates from the log that I highlighted and access all archives the ship is connected to and find any related histories.” He went off to the kitchen and ate some troger root. When he returned, the computer had the data ready and there was only one entry about the area in question. The entry had limited information as the complete entry had a security block. What was being shown indicated that the entire section of Galaxy 8 where Terira was located had been marked off limits by the Linthians long before the Murhans separated from them genetically. He tried to access the restricted information but the data was not on the local archives and he was too far out for a system connection. He could use a hype connection, except that they had security protocols that he was thousands of years out of date with, in the reverse.

He went back over the Captain’s log on the Fehmadadi incident. The seed ship had found a perfect planet for seeding, the third planet, and entered the solar system. As they entered, they recognized that the fourth planet was already populated. The planet’s occupants, who called themselves Fehmadadi (pronounce using Linthian standard phonemes), came out to greet them near the seventh planet. The Fehmadadi thought they were returning to visit their planet and welcomed them as old friends.

The confusion continued when they reached the planet. Across most of the planet were extremely primitive settlements of Murhans and other related peoples. The Fehmadadi introduction shows that the seed ship settled in orbit around the third planet for thousands of standard years. It did not contain the information on the exploits of the ship, its crew, and why they stayed although that is in another section of the logs. On the other occupied planet in the system, the Fehmadadi were not silent but did not interfere as they believed in a hands-off approach to other life forms. The Fehmadadi were a private people who explored the galaxies for information only and did not interact much with the people of Terira or any other planet, until the visit to Thorlinthia.

He remembered, when he was at his station back in Tyria, how the Fehmadadi accidentally went through the Galactic Tear to Thorlinthia.  When they came back out they were being pursued by what later turned out to be Thorlinthians. The home defenses were able to repel the little ships that came but the thought that more would come was difficult for the Fehmadadi and they did not have the mental aptitude for war preparations. They asked their friends, the Kuli, for help.

The Kuli had notice the skirmishes and recognized the Thorlinthian technology as an offshoot of Linthian.  The voice recordings from the Fehmadadi ships of the Thorlinthians also showed a language that was closely related to Linthian. When they examined the damaged components of the Thorlinthian ships it became obvious that the equipment was Linthian based but had many pieces of banned technology in it. The crew searched their on-board archives and came up with the Journal of the Traitor as it had been retransmitted by himself as The Watcher.

They explained to the Fehmadadi what they knew about the Thorlinthians and reviewed the resources at hand. There was no way out except to turn their economy to war and prepare for the Thorlinthian attack that was sure to be coming. The Fehmadadi refused and indicated that they would rather die than turn their society into a war machine. They had many advanced skills but refused to consider an option that would change their fundamental nature.

The Kuli explored many defensive options with them and came to the conclusion that the technology the Thorlinthians possessed would surpass any defensive stance they could take. The Kuli sent a shuttle back to Tyria to see if any help was available and then set about working on the only answer they could find – the preservation of a small group of Fehmadadi through the use of a temporal lever.

The mathematics of a temporal lever is a bit beyond his current training in space-time but he understood the fundamentals. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This axiom works in all dimensions of space-time. The Kuli decided to eliminate all evidence of their presence on Terira and to help the Fehmadadi use a temporal lever to send some of their people into the future in the hope that the calls for help will be answered in time to save at least part of their race.

The Kuli knew that they were not supposed to use a temporal lever as it was forbidden technology. Still, the only other choice would be to allow an entire civilization to fall. They sent their request for help and proceeded with their plans, hoping against hope that help would arrive in time. It didn’t.

The Kuli withdrew all of their members from Terira to work on the project and left a group of trained Terira members to continue the lifeforce schooling for the peoples of Terira. The original crew of the seed ship had grown many times as they all had families. For this project, the families were left on Terira and the crew worked with the Kuli to help the Fehmadadi build the lever.

The theory of a temporal level is simple, to go forward in time, an equal amount must go back in time. The Kuli of the seed ship and the crew were dedicated to the preservation of life and volunteered to go back in time. The ship had the main stasis pods in the control room and they also had the sleep chambers from the original journey in the back. The sleep chambers were inexpensive stasis pods that were not designed for more than one use so they needed to be restored to their original state. Part of the crew went to work on rebuilding enough of the sleep chambers for the crew to use.

Their plan was simple. In order to send a small group of Fehmadadi forward in a self-contained city, they would have to send the seed ship back in time. The formula is extremely complex but the underlying logic is simple. Mass times distance in one direction must equal the mass times distance in the other. Then, there is the rather significant matter of opening a portal and providing momentum for the journey. Based on the technology from the first assault, it was believed that the Thorlinthians would use a form of nuclear bomb to destroy the cities of the Fehmadadi. They built the lever right near a city so that they could use the energy from the blast to open the portal and provide the momentum. This plan fit with their desire to wait until the last possible moment in case help did arrive.

The plans called for the Fehmadadi to go forward one hundred local years and to move in space to near where the solar system will be at that time. The seed ship was to go back in time approximately six hundred standard years and would move into an unknown area of space in a direction that balanced the equation for the Fehmadadi. The sleep chambers had been design for one sleep of up to one thousand standard years so they should have plenty of capacity to park the ship, go into stasis for six hundred years, and come back into the system right after they left. One group worked on the weapon systems to see what they would be able to help with when they returned. Most of the weapons had been left in Tyria and as a seed ship it was only armed with defensive weapons and shields. The group was planning on gutting the ship where possible and using as many materials as they could for building offensive weapons. The outlook was not very positive but based on the weapons in the scout ships, they were pretty confident they would be able to defend their own ship.

He had skipped a lot of the data dealing with the years of preparation; however, two things became very clear. First, they were not able to fabricate offensive weapons. Second, the Fehmadadi refused to build any offensive weapons. Still, they did manage to greatly increase the number of defensive weapons and the planet may be able to hold of the attack until help came.

The temporal lever was completed less than one standard year before the Thorlinthians arrived. Once the lever was finished, they started working on disguising the seed ship and the Fehmadadi city that was to be moved. They had barely finished when the Armada arrived. When they saw the size of the ships and the number in the Armada, they knew they had miscalculated. In addition, the technology they were looking at was thousands of years improved over the scout ships they had seen before and their defenses would not hold. As the Watcher, he understood how the time difference through the Tear can be confusing to those in normal space/time.

He took note of the exact time of the attack by the Thorlinthians. His son used/will use the information to sneak into the past and rescue two Fehmadadi, not knowing that an entire city was being rescued. He pondered for a moment the intricate threads that wove together throughout these events to make a web that continued to draw important people into the continuing story that was the Tyrian disaster.

The crew took their positions as did the Fehmadadi in their city. All of their plans for the temporal lever were about to come to fruition when the Thorlinthians surprised them again. The Thorlinthians brought an Armada with over 200 ships, including one that was a forbidden judgment ship. The Kuli did not have enough power to support the jump without external power and as the Thorlinthians attacked it was clear that they planned on something other than dropping bombs. First, the Thorlinthians deliberately destroyed all of the defenses that the Fehmadadi set up. It was as if fire raged across the sky for days in their local time. The Fehmadadi civilization learned quickly that all that they were or ever would be now rested with the temporal lever.

The battle raged on as the Fehmadadi defended their homes with the courage of champions. As the last defenses fell, the Captain of the Kuli seed ship reviewed his monitors with a grim expression on his face. All of his emotions were recorded in the log and the Watcher could feel the anger and frustration rushing through him. The Thorlinthians had plenty of conventional weapons and did not need the judgment ship. The hatred could almost be tasted after the mental broadcast from the Thorlinthians. He wanted to radio the Fehmadadi city in the lever to let them know what was about to happen but that might have drawn the interest of the attackers. Once the Captain realized what was about to happen, he only had time to tell his crew, “Prepare for a long jump and a rough ride.”

The Captain and his control room staff knew what was about to happen and they could do nothing about it. The judgment ship used a forbidden technology known as Glascing. The technology was forbidden for many reasons but one was its use of unstable power sources intermixed with lifeforce. There was no way to calculate the amount of energy to be released and this completely changed the temporal lever’s effects. The amount of energy that would now be absorbed by the opening of the portal was beyond control and their previous destinations were now a joke with no humor.

The Watcher hooked back up to the computer to review the jump once more in regular time. He was connected to the Captain’s input channels. The Captain tasted fear in his throat as thoughts swirled in his head about being tossed into a star or too close to a black hole or any number of other situations that could extinguish all life on his ship. When the Glascing happened, the energy released was over one thousand times what their computations had showed for a nuclear bomb. The transition into the portal was smooth but the massive energy release threw them tens of thousands of years into the past and off course into the abyss between galaxies. The last thoughts of the Captain before he blacked out concentrated on the Fehmadadi and if they survived their thrust forward in time.

The Watcher unhooked from the computer and sat back again to consider what had happened. The condition of the ship made more sense with this information as did the number of dead crew members he had found all over the ship. Plus, the sleep chambers would not have been able to withstand the energy that flowed with the Glascing in the unshielded parts of the ship and even in the shielded areas the electromagnetic forces would have shorted out the controllers on almost all the chambers, not to mention the destruction to the ship’s engines, life support, and defensive systems from the huge, high intensity energy waves. The same was true of any living things in areas of the ship with limited protection eliminating the hydroponic atriums and other live foods as the Glascing destroyed all unprotested life forms. Any of the crew who did not die immediately would likely have perished before help arrived as there were only six in the protected command center at the time of the Glascing.

The Watcher had witnessed the energy waves that had flowed out of the system from his station near the Tear when the monitoring devices laid by the seed ship sent him their data. He also received some information from his son’s trip, although his son did not yet understand the time dimensions he traversed with wormholes in the experimental ship he used so he did not have the equipment set to record properly. There are very good reasons for all of the Linthian decisions to ban research in certain areas and that ship was full of banned technologies. Not that it really mattered. His son did as was expected and even brought new Kuli to the station, even if only for a short time. His son’s performance ranked up there with some of the best Kuli and he did not have anywhere near their level of training. On the first diagnostic his son took, his skill was up there in the range of Guardians and he was still getting better. His mother felt that he could reach the level of Kuli such as J’Rontia and she was seldom wrong.

He refocused his mind on the present and reviewed the events to calculate time. J’Rontia and her Soretto had fought and slept for over seven thousand years before they died. He had been The Watcher for over fifteen thousand years when the Thorlinthian Armada surged forth to exterminate the Fehmadadi dragging their time distorting fields with them making any relationship to real time impossible to calculate exactly. He was sure that they fixed the time leakages in later models; however what came through the Tear for the invasion of Fehmadadi pulled the fabric of the anti-verse with it. All his calculations indicated that they went about two to four thousand years in Terira’s past when this happened. It must have been a shock when the Thorlinthians returned to the Terira system to find out how much time had passed while they were gone since they thought that time dilation only happened on their side of the Tear.

The Watcher’s calculations brought him to the conclusion that the ship had been drifting for over six thousand years and those in the stasis pods must have known the capacitors would run out long before they made it back. It was time to figure out what to do with this ship and then get to work. He smiled a rather mischievous smile as he considered his options.

The remote space dock he approached seldom had visitors. The repair facility was built during an earlier war when the Linthians needed their ships fixed as close to the battle front as possible. After the war, the facility was sold to a private ship builder who kept a skeleton crew on board and made a respectable profit. The operators of the remote space dock ran a check on the credentials given by the strange ship with the Kuli Central Command. Instead of an instant approval or denial coming up on their monitor as usually happened, they received an audio contact. “Please describe the ship’s model and manufacturer along with their system of registry” the voice commanded. The two operators looked at each other and the bearded one answered, “The ship corresponds to no known model and has no registry. The Commander said to tell you, if you did not approve the repairs, to contact Supreme Guardian Tomli and let him know that the two the Commander was asked two save are alive but one needed serious medical attention.”

The pause on the other side was long and the operators were starting to worry when their screen lit up with the message, “Approved. You can repair jump, minimum life support, essential electronics, one kitchen, one Captain’s Cruiser upgrade, and stasis capacitors only! This is an eyes only – no paperwork and the repairs are to be done by drones and robots only. All billing will go directly to the Kuli High Command.” The operators’ eyes widened as they checked the list from the Commander. The two lists matched exactly and yet they had not transmitted the specific requests. Who and what was on this ship?

The Watcher smiled as the approval details came in. He could hear the fear in the operators’ voices as he communicated with them about the repairs. They definitely wanted him out of the dock as soon as possible but knew he would be there a long time. They also kept his bay completely closed so that no one even knew he was there which saved him from asking. It was amazing how Tomli just knew. He wondered once again how all the threads fit together. The smile returned and he went back to work.

The repairs took two standard years. All the main external engines were now working making a jump easy. The stasis pods took the longest to repair as the capacitors he needed had not been invented yet. He had to remove one from the unused pod and send it to the Kuli High Command so they could prepare specifications to send to one of their manufacturers who now had the most advanced capacitors in the galaxy. He smiled as he wondered if Tomli was the one who selected the manufacturer receiving the job.

He had expected a visit every day from one of the Kuli but it never happened as the ship was repaired and now it was time to go. He fired the engines and prepared to move out of his bay. The exit was perfectly timed so that no one would be in the vicinity and his mood sobered as his lonely existence was about return once more. It is true that the conversations with the operators were brief and that they did not talk about anything except what was absolutely necessary. Still, they were people and he did speak with them. Now he was back to being The Watcher, this time of an almost dead ship that he still didn’t know for sure what to do with.

Later, the Watcher turned his viewer toward the space dock and watched as it disappeared off the monitor. He had left any vestige of civilization behind as he moved out into the void between Tyria and Galaxy 8. He had just sat back to consider his next move when his proximity alarms went off.

The viewer showed an experimental ship that J’Rontia had taught him about. The ship had special characteristics and perfect stealth capabilities but poisoned its crew so it was banned. Yet here it was in front of him. He brought his ship to a halt as the strange craft matched his movements. He was wondering how he would be boarded when a beautiful woman appeared right in front of him.

She was as tall as he was and looked very much like his wife. The thoughts brought tears to his eyes as he realized how much he missed her since she died. The woman in front of him smiled as her thoughts drifted across his mind calming his sorrow and enlightening him. This was J’Rontia mother and she was very pleased with the help he gave her daughter. Knowledge flowed from her directly into his mind and he became overwhelmed rapidly so she switched to speech for a while to let him catch up.

“It is good to finally meet the famous “Watcher” in person,” she said with a huge smile that warmed him to the core. She reached over and gave him a huge hug that brought tears back to his eyes. She stepped back a bit and went on, “My missions required me to know some of what you have done and will do. This made me the perfect person to contact you about your current mission and to answer what questions I can.”

The Watcher asked, “What am I supposed to do with this ship?” She looked at him and said, “You already know the answer to that.” He thought a moment and then nodded that he did and continued, “Okay. How do I move this ship into the future and what do I do about the Thorlinthians?” She smiled one of those devious smiles and said, “A much better question. Or shall I say two?” After a short pause she continued, “The ship needs to go back to the Terira system and remain hidden until one of the Matriarch’s warriors finds it.” She let him think about that for a moment and then went on, “You are to take the ship to the Rotrum Black Hole and use the Schripi anomaly to move forward in time.  It will not take you all the way but it will take you past when the fourth planet was shattered and its life snuffed out by the Thorlinthians.”

He told her he understood and asked some basic questions about how to calculate the entry into the anomaly and other related items, such as where he might hide the ship from the Thorlinthians when they come to occupy Terira. Then he grew very serious and asked her, “How do you handle knowing so much from various times and fitting them all together?” Her whole attitude changed and she answered, “I do not try to put any of it together. I once asked Tomli for a huge favor and he granted it at great expense to himself and his plans. My promise was to do as he and his wife, my mother, asked without questions until I die.”

The Watcher was shocked and he asked, “What favor could be so big that you would give up your life?” Her face brightened pleasantly as wonderful memories flew through her mind and she said, “J’Rontia! Would you not give your life for her?” He immediately answered, “Without hesitation and only my own child could come before her!” She smiled a sweet smile and reached out and touched his forehead. She transferred many memories to him of J’Rontia’s childhood and some of what she has done recently. She stepped back as a sad smile stretched across her face, then she vanished. He wished she had stayed longer but with all of these new memories to enjoy he would not be lonely for a long time.

Two standard years later, he was at the Schripi anomaly trying to finish the calculations for his trip to the future and the numbers did not work out. He must have something wrong and he could not figure it out. He reviewed all that she had told him and realized that at one point she had told him he would find out one of the pieces in due time. Well, it was time and he had not found out what the missing piece was. He decided to relax and try to get some sleep.

The vision came in the night. Tomli smiled at him over a drink in the Rsroter café in old Linthia. The café was surrounded by clouds and it floated in orbit around the planet always keeping the setting sun in the windows. He loved the view and had wanted to go there for years. Tomli asked, “Why do you ask questions you know the answer to?” He struggled to reply as he did not think he knew the answer. Finally he said, “I guess I did not recognize that I had the answer.” “Excellent reply,” Tomli said. He continued, “When you received messages as the Watcher on the station, did you receive any that would help now to complete your mission.” He sat up in bed as he awoke with the answer: balance. He was both excited and sad as he hated to leave such a great dream.

The computer asked, “What do you mean?” He was having little luck explaining what he needed. He tried again, “I need you to extend the formula to include the opposite effect on the anomaly.” The computer answered, “How will you generate the opposite effect?” He relaxed as the computer finally understood. “I want to use the Captain’s Cruiser. We can program to travel as we wish and it can go backwards in time as this ship moves forward.” The computer hesitated for a moment as billions of calculations flew through the system and then it said, “You will be sending it far into the past where its technology has not been invented. This is a violation of the Tommotrion Law and my programming will not allow me to do that.”

This could be a problem he thought. And then it came to him, “Your existence and this ship’s in this time line is already a violation of the law and we will be correcting that. Which is more likely to cause a conflict, a secure ship in the past or this ship in the present?” The computer answered, “This ship and the technology it contains, such as myself. I see your point and my programming will allow that if you use a secure encryption from the Kuli to lock down the Captain’s Cruiser.” The Watcher smiled and said, “No problem.”

Two sleep cycles later he was settling the ship into the atmosphere of a gas giant to await its discovery by one of the Matriarch’s warriors. He wondered who the Matriarch was and decided that this was a good time for some more Supreme Guardian training. Fifty standard years later, he decided he had enough training for a while and needed to go into stasis himself as he waited for the ships discovery. Before he entered stasis he broadcast a final message toward Tyria. He remembered when he was working at the station and intercepted the cryptic messages and wondered who sent them, he never thought it was himself. He had been sending messages regularly, although this last message was simple and would provide a memory when he needed it. It read, “Everything must balance. End.” He entered the stasis pod and smiled as it dropped into the floor.

 

 

On a lonely station, in a decimated galaxy, a lone man reviewed the message he just received. Like the ones before it over the past fifty years it made no sense. He assumed the “End” meant he would receive no more. He smiled. The messages had started coming just when he was about to give up his mission. He thought he was the only one left and had decided to just quit the deep-sleep and all the rejuvenation treatments and let nature finish the job with age. The messages gave him hope and he now knew he could continue on as The Watcher. He smiled more as he walked toward the deep-sleep chamber content with the duty he had given himself.

 

 

On a lonely, forgotten planet beyond the edge of the galaxy in a cavern the message was received by the ancient computer and a program was triggered. The program awoke a very old man. He reviewed the message and smiled through his wrinkled face that was wet with tears. Finally, it was almost time. He went across the room to a communications station and sat down. When the equipment had warmed up, he composed and sent a message to a number of locations, including into the deepest and darkest region of the universe where nothing existed. It read, “Everything must balance. Begin.”

She awoke from stasis a bit confused at first and then saw the message on her monitor. The message read, “Everything must balance. Begin.” Tomli, who supposedly was dead, sent her a message just before the end of the war to go into hiding and to use the long sleep stasis to protect her abilities. He had told her she would be needed in the future and what to program the ship’s computer to look for.

The computer finally received the message it was waiting for and woke her. She had been in the long sleep stasis for thousands of years and at first worried that her fitness was compromised. She went through her daily exercises and found that Tomli was right as usual. She had not lost any of her speed or abilities, although she probably could use more practice in some areas. Still, there is no one trained better than her as she had Matriarch and Kuli training. There were even fewer with her abilities, even the legendary grandsons could barely match her and they did not have her training. The thoughts reminded her of her famous niece, J’Rontia, and she wondered what happened to her and the rest of the family.

She reviewed her computer’s data feeds to see what the current year was and felt that she waited too long, but Tomli had assured her that the message would come when her Aunt needed her the most. She set her ship on a course for Galaxy 8 and started an intensive study and practice routine so she would be ready and up to date when she arrived.

 

 

The Matriarch reviewed the report with a growing sadness. Her forces were the best trained and most powerful soldiers ever. They performed exceptionally but her numbers were still dropping.  The birth rates were always low but their lifespans were longer than most and things had previously balanced. Now they no longer did. She had lived too long and seen too much. Her world was so dark and the Monarch only worked to darken things even more. She knew the dangers of the invasion they had planned. It would task her troops even more. She saw no light, no hope, and with her numbers dropping she felt the future fading away from her.

The door opened to her office opened and her secretary walked in. She said, “This just came in and it makes no sense. You said to bring you anything strange. It was broadband and picked up by one of the sensors you had us place outside the Bifrost. I reviewed all of the equipment settings and have no idea where it came from.” The Matriarch thanked her and took the message. It read, “Everything must balance. Begin.” One single tear hit the page. She walked to the window and straightened herself up. She spoke softly to no one, “Tomli, is it possible that you truly did plan for everything?” The sadness was still there when she turned back to her duties as she knew her job did not get any easier nor did the dark responsibilities belong to someone else but now she knew the others did not all die and at least one was on the way to help her.