Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Ruins of Gster – Legacy

The Tears of Tyria – The Chronicles of J’Rontia

 The Ruins of Gster – Legacy

 

 Brught – Capital of Fraist

He knew that he would die tonight. He also knew that his death would not be pleasant. When he came to work for the King, he thought this would be such an honor and his family was so proud. If they only knew the truth they would cry. There was only a small group of the staff who understood how the system worked. Everyone else thought the King was in charge. He, Notire, was not so lucky because he knew about the King’s Chief Advisor.

The King’s Chief Advisor worked behind the scenes and mostly in the dark shadows of the Kingdom. Still, he needed people to ferry messages and handle shipments, to document transactions and to deal with those who failed. So, many of those who went to work for the King found themselves drawn into the web of the advisor and his backroom dealings.

Oh, there are those who love the work. They enjoy threatening people and destroying lives, he was not one of those. Notire was a simple accountant and only wanted for the numbers to balance. His greatest sin in this situation was that he was honest. He had only worked for the King a short time when he uncovered hundreds of inaccurate records exposing many in the government to punishment.

Naturally, the Chief Advisor, who is in charge of punishments, became involved in the investigations. Once he realized how efficient Notire was, he tried enlist him in his schemes. When Notire refused to doctor the books, the Chief Advisor transferred him to Internal Controls so that Notire worked directly for him. When he still refused to help with the illegal operations, the Chief Advisor told him he could have two of his four children live, his choice which ones, or he could quit reporting his findings to the King and start to help.

He refused and a week later his youngest son died in a tragic accident at school. After the funeral, he requested and received an audience with the King. He reported the incident, hopeful for the King’s assistance in righting this wrong. The King sat silent during the report and avoided eye contact. When he finished, the King had a tear in his right eye and told him that his family was also being held hostage. The King was ashamed and apologized for not finding a way to better help his people. Notire did not know what to say and after a while just stood up and left with the King still mumbling.

He remembered going to his office after the meeting and finding the Chief Advisor there waiting for him. The Chief Advisor asked him, “How many of your family members must die before you will lie?”

Notire had felt his heart fall and believed all his hopes were gone. His whole life had been dedicated to the King and his family was taught honor at all costs. He told his kids many times that it was better to die than to lie. How could he save his family by violating everything he taught them was important? Notire thought for a moment and then answered, “They will all have to die because I cannot do as you ask.” Notire slumped down in his chair that day ready to die and praying to his God that some of his family would live.

The Chief Advisor was silent for a few moments. He looked carefully at Notire as if he was a wild beast sizing up a kill and then said, “Fine. I will adapt my plans at a cost. You are now promoted to Head Auditor in charge of Internal Controls. This means that by law your investigations are confidential and that you only report to the King and me. Discussing the results of any of your investigations with anyone else would be considered treason and punishable by death. Not to mention the humiliation your family would feel forever.” The Chief Advisor stood up, laughed an evil laugh, and then walked out of the room.

Notire remembered the day well. He was in torment throughout the workday and had trouble completing anything. His fears were realized when he went home at the end of the day and found that his oldest daughter had died in an accident on the way home from school. It was a long night and his wife never fully recovered from the tragedy. The other two children could not sleep for weeks and refused to go to back to that school ever. The days following her death were tragic and he knew things would never be the same for his family again. The following week he started his new position with the Chief Advisor.

Seven standard years later, and he was sure that today he would finally die. He knew the message he was carrying could not be good because everyone involved in receiving it had already left the building. They all knew that those who bring the Chief Advisor bad news have a tendency to die or suffer horribly. During his seven years in this building, everyone that was here when he arrived had either moved out due to a serious medical problem, usually an injury from an accident, or they died. Almost every single “accident” happened to the people after bringing the Chief Advisor bad news and this message was horrible news.

This was the announcement of another failure to kill the Kuli J’Rontia. Notire did not know why the Chief Advisor was so set on killing this particular Kuli but he had spent large sums of the treasury’s funds in his attempts to kill her. His success rate with killing others was almost 100%, so this young lady frustrated him immensely. Today, he would be receiving notice of another failure.

Notire entered the hallway into the building’s main reception hall. The room was huge and very dark making it almost impossible for an average person to see the other side. 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 knew no one would sit in that chair except the Chief Advisor. With venom dripping from every word, the shadow spoke slowly in a careful and measured pattern with deliberation, “What news could be so bad that they all left the building and you have to bring the message?” The deep gravelly voice entered Notire’s ears and he could feel his hair on his neck rising and fear stopped an answer from coming out of his mouth. He struggled to breathe as the air left his lungs and he found he could not inhale.

The shadow spoke again, “Well. What is it?”

Notire gathered all of his courage and responded. “I have only read the cover and it indicates that the Kuli lives.”

Notire could feel the hatred flowing out of the Chief Advisor as he said, “Give me that and wait!”

Notire did not move as the message was read and then read again. It was as if the Chief Advisor could not believe what he was reading. Finally he looked at Notire and said, “The City of Gold. The City of Gold was on that worthless planet and the Kuli rescued it. It could have been mine.”

The room was silent and Notire realized that he had never seen the Chief Advisor stunned before. Whatever this City of Gold was it impacted the Chief Advisor more than the news that the Kuli got away. The Chief Advisor stood up and walked over to Notire.

In a calm voice, the Chief Advisor said, “I need you to find out everything you can on the City of Gold. Then, download it into a Gremner crystal so that I can review it as I have time.”

“Yes sir,” said Notire and he turned to walk out of the room.

“One more thing,” said the Chief Advisor with a return of that his tone sending shivers up Notire’s spine once again. “Send the guard to find the manager of communications and have him sent to me. My auditor should not be bringing me messages.”

Notire knew what would happen to the communications manager but was extremely relieved it was not happening to him. He notified the head of the guard and went to his office to start the research.

There had been mistakes made and bad news given before and the length of the screaming was directly related to the depth of the anger of the Chief Advisor. To help others learn from the mistakes, the Chief Advisor allowed no one to leave the building when an interrogation was ongoing. Notire knew the cost of the four ships sent to Gster so he figured it would be quite a while before they all went home; however, when his research showed him what the City of Gold was, he knew that they might be there a really long time.

The communications manager arrived in the early afternoon and the exterior doors unlocked two days later.

 

The Abyss

The entrance to the abyss is a size almost beyond compare. Multiple galaxies could fit in the area known as the entrance to the abyss. In the middle of the entrance was a lonely rock and this rock was very small, only the size of Thor’s smallest moon. It was composed of an extremely dense material that gave the little rock the same gravity as most average sized planets. The rock had a cave that was big enough to house an entire city the size of Locsit. Inside the huge cave, an old man lived in a small house attached to a small office where he monitored a very unusual communications system.

Next to the communications system was a stasis chamber filled with a liquid that the man was suspended in during the long waits between messages. Today was a busy day as two separate communications came in. One of the messages, the first, was the regular type of communiqué for him. He basically translated that kind of message and then he would forward it deep into the abyss. The second message was different because that type came coded in a very old language. He would decode any messages like that and then enter them in the messaging unit for the machine to apply an algorithm to and then automatically send.

The old man studied the incoming messages and composed his outgoing ones. The first message was ready right away and went deep into the abyss as usual. The message said, “The engine has been found and the white guardian is being trained.”

The old man thought about the second communication a long time. He even ate a leisurely meal before composing the outgoing message. After the message was sent, the old man took his robe off and climbed back into the liquid. He put the tube in his mouth, the plugs up his nose, and then he lay down and turned on the unit. He wondered how long it would be this time before he awoke again.

He lay in the machine waiting to fall asleep and considered the second message. “The blue pair learned how to control the white of the trio on their own. Level ten was achieved with no violation.” The old language messages never seemed to make any sense. He often pondered their meaning but in most cases he was not able to figure it out. He never knew where those messages came from or where they went. The machine would only send them after he was in stasis and all the data was deleted before he awoke. He wondered; were there other old men in caves?

Sleep was starting to take hold and he was thinking about the tens of thousands of years that he had lived in the cave when he had a sad thought, “Was anyone listening anymore?”

 

J’Portia ‘s Outpost

“But you must turn on all the rest. Who knows what danger will come next and he might not be ready for it,” argued J’Rontia.

J’Portia shook his head, “The pathways you followed were active and you knew what they were doing. You are asking me to turn on things that we have no idea what they are for. I cannot do that.”

J’Rontia was frustrated. They had stopped on their way to deliver T’Lhast for training at J’Portia’s outpost hoping that he could accelerate the process of bringing her Soretto up to his full capacity. J’Portia was not willing to do this. She felt as if there was more to it than a lack of knowledge. She asked, “Can you not turn on all the pathways where you know what they do?”

J’Portia shook his head, “No. What would happen if all of the sudden your right leg was way stronger than your left and it moved five times as fast? You would need a lot of time to get used to that before you were comfortable enough to go into dangerous situations with confidence about your performance. Do you really want to place your Soretto into that position?”

“Of course I don’t. But are you really turning on all that you can safely turn on?” J’Rontia watched him and felt him to see his answer in her mind. He would not be able to lie and deceive her easily.

“I can tell what you are up to and do not fear I can control my mind well enough that you would not know if I lied. Still, this is silly. I do not need to lie; I only need you to trust me.”

J’Rontia could sense that this was close to the truth but that he was still holding out. She asked, “Why do I sense that you are holding something back?”

J’Portia was a bit surprised that she was capable of detecting that. He was doing his best to keep it hidden. He decided that he had to tell her or she would not trust him anymore. He said, “Very well. Your Soretto should not ever have more advanced measures that you. That is part of the balance involved in having a Soretto. You are way ahead of him in your training and he must catch up before I turn on too much. You also must be ready for the advancements because you will be involved due to his being your Soretto. Just consider what happened when you discovered the controls and how you used it. I have to make sure you are both ready for whatever I turn on.”

J’Rontia could feel his sincerity and realized that he was trying to protect them both. She said, “I guess I can see how that would be a problem. We do try things out on each other all the time.”

J’Portia was relieved and commented, “I will go as fast as I can. Are you willing to do homework?”

“Of course, like what?”

“I can tell you the areas that I am close to turning on with him and you can explore your abilities in those areas between now and your next visit. Will that be satisfactory?”

J’Rontia said, “Yes. I just have one big worry left.”

“Yes.”

“What if something happens to you? Can you leave us a map?”

J’Portia thought for a while and said, “Give me some time to develop it and I can map out most of it. Good idea.”

J’Rontia smiled and gave J’Portia a hug. Mentally she sent her Soretto the information and asked him to check on the girl. Her Soretto sent back that the girl was anxious and wanted to get to her training. J’Rontia turned back to J’Portia and said, “We will be back in a tenth of a standard year. Will that be a good timeframe?”

J’Portia smiled and answered, “I can be ready. Tell J’Lopt hi when you see him.”

J’Rontia had turned and was walking away. At this comment she turned back around and said, “J’Lopt is going to be there?”

J’Portia gave her a mysterious look and responded, “He will be somewhere you are before you return.” Then he turned from her and clearly had no intention of saying more on that subject.

J’Rontia turned back to the docking port and thought to herself and her Soretto, “The next tenth of a standard year is going to be exciting,”

Her Soretto answered back, “We have never had a hundredth of a standard year that wasn’t exciting.” They both laughed in each other’s thoughts.

 

 

Vrester Outpost

The Kuli training command was thrilled when they heard that J’Rontia was coming to visit; however, the Supreme Guardian in Charge was not thrilled at all with what she wanted.

“No. Absolutely not!”

J’Rontia stood her ground and said, “I must, respectfully insist.”

J’Trdest was average height for a Linthian with dark brown hair, a mustache, brown eyes, and a body built for endurance and power. He had a deep voice that normally intimidated his audience as his volume came up. J’Trdest shook his head and raised his voice a bit as he said, “No. We do not train anyone who has not followed the proper protocols for admittance, you know that.”

J’Rontia paused and walked across the room to shelves full of pictures. She asked, “Who are these pictures of?”

J’Trdest smiled and answered, “Those are our graduates and some of our candidates. All of the pictures are of them receiving an award for exceptional service.”

J’Rontia turned and looked J’Trdest in the eyes with all the intensity she could muster. She asked, “Do you trust me?”

J’Trdest was not prepared for this approach. How did he tell the Kuli’s top Guardian he didn’t trust her? Clearly the Kuli High Command trusted her explicitly based on the missions they sent her on. Could he trust her less? The problem was difficult and complex. He answered, “Yes, with missions. What assurance can you give me that your judgment is of the same quality with the training of candidates?”

J’Rontia smiled. He had walked right into her trap. She answered, “My Soretto!”

J’Trdest allowed a small smile to drift across his face. “Nicely done, I especially appreciate how you distracted me with my students.”

J’Trdest went on, “I am still not convinced but I do want you to tell me what you hope to accomplish.”

J’Rontia had a bit of her mischievous smile on when she answered. “I am supposed arrange training for her to be a “white guardian” for the City of Gold.”

J’Trdest was rather startled. He walked behind his desk and sat down. After a few moments, he said, “The City of Gold is real?”

“Yes. Her mother was the previous guardian and I promised her that I would train her daughter to take over the job. I could train her myself but that would really curtail the work we are currently doing. I am hoping that you will take her on and give her the regular Kuli apprentice training.”

J’Trdest asked, “Is she willing to face the same tests as all the rest of the apprentices? Does she understand what she is facing?”

“Yes. I believe that she does. She did say that the white are not born with their power online. I am not sure what this means but I believe that she will not progress the same as the rest of us do.”

J’Trdest laughed. “Did you say, “As the rest of us do?” Is this the legendary J’Rontia, who broke all the records since Tomli; and you put yourself in the same category as a regular candidate – not likely. All right, I will train if you will agree to one stipulation. She only gets two years to make the first cut.”

J’Rontia’s smile left her face and the intensity returned as she said, “Three years and you have a deal.”

J’Trdest answered, “Done. Can I meet this young lady?”

At that moment, the door to J’Trdest’s office opened and in walked T’Lhast She had a smile of gold on her face as she exploded with excitement when she said, “My mom said you are going to train me!” She reached up and gave J’Trdest as big a hug as she could.

She turned to J’Rontia and said, “Mom said you did a great job keeping your word.” She jumped up and gave J’Rontia a huge hug as she wrapped her arms and legs around her.

T’Lhast turned back to J’Trdest and said, “You said you wanted to meet me. What can I tell you?”

J’Trdest was stunned, surprised, confused, and very happy. He bent down to the little girl’s height and said, “You are all that J’Rontia promised and more. I am very glad I agreed to train you. Can you do me one favor?”

“Of course,” answered T’Lhast. “What can I do for you?”

J’Trdest said, “I need you to only tell me what your mom says. Do not tell any of the other students or instructors that you talk to your mom. You will be able to come see me when you need because I will make myself your official mentor. Can you agree to that?”

T’Lhast twisted her smile into one of those serious faces that kids have when they think adults are crazy. She said, “I can do that if you will do something for me.”

“What can I do for you?”

T’Lhast answered, “I need you to call your sister when we are done. She needs your help and asked for you to call.”

J’Trdest stepped back, stunned once again, and said, “I don’t know where she is. I have not heard from her in years.”

T’Lhast told him, “She is at the Watergarden prison on Groster in Sector Nine.”

T’Lhast turned to J’Rontia and asked, “Can I go tell your Soretto the good news?”

J’Rontia said, “Sure.”

When T’Lhast left J’Trdest went to his desk and sat down. J’Rontia took a chair in front of him.

J’Trdest said, “It will be true won’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Wow. No wonder you believe. What kind of guardian was her mother?”

J’Rontia thought for a while before answering and then said, “She was a “White” guardian and she said in a way that made me feel I should know what it means.” She looked at J’Trdest and saw recognition on his face.

J’Rontia asked, “Do you know what it means?”

J’Trdest spoke in a very quiet voice when he answered, “Many thousands of generations ago, Murhan had a couple of families that were very “skilled” and made excellent Kuli or special agents over the years. When they were under extreme stress, their eyes and hair would glow white rather than blue. The family officially died out a long, long time ago. The genetic enhancements that the Murhans and Linthian used over the years to advance the race were, in many cases, based on what these people could do. After they died out, many thought that they were Ancients who helped improve our race.”

J’Rontia found this interesting and asked, “What do you think?”

J’Trdest responded, “Let me call the prison first and then I will answer.”

J’Rontia nodded. J’Trdest got on the comm and queried the Watergarden prison.

“This is Kresstra of Wreter the commandant of Watergarden, how can I help a Supreme Guardian of the Kuli?”

J’Trdest hesitated a few moments and then answered, “Do you have a prisoner with an ID code of G45hr23TT11 and a bloodline of R4e3W3?”

The commandant replied, “Give me time to run those IDs.”

“Yes we do. She is accused of stealing from the T’Prodts on Ferst in Sector Seven.”

J’Trdest asked, “What did she take? No wait. Let me tell you. She took a blue gem with the initials JTR engraved on the back.”

The commandant said, “Yes. That is correct. How did you know?”

J’Trdest’s voice soften and shook just a little as he said, “That is my gem. Twenty two years ago, my mother died and her home was robbed. The only thing missing was the gem. My sister told me that when she completed her training she would retrieve it for me. Eight years ago, my sister finished her training and disappeared.”

The commandant asked, “Do you have evidence to support this claim?”

J’Trdest’s voice hardened and anger flow through the comm, “You would doubt the word of a Supreme Guardian? I will be at your location soon.”

J’Trdest turned off the comm and turned to J’Rontia with his voice barely under control and said, “Please excuse me, I must attend to this.”

He pushed a red button on his desk and moved toward the window. There was a circle on the floor between him and the window. The area above the circle glowed and then shimmered. There was a flash and J’Rontia saw a man appear on the circle. The man turned and J’Rontia realized that it was J’Lopt standing there.

J’Rontia said, “J’Portia says hi.”

J’Lopt answered, “Tell him to use 13. You and your Soretto need to know that you can use the trio if it is active and you can understand what it is doing.”

J’Lopt grabbed J’Trdest and pulled him onto the circle. The circle glowed and then shimmered. There was a flash and then they were gone.

J’Rontia smiled as she realized once again how complex the web of her life was. Well, at least she knew what to tell J’Portia next time she saw him, although she guessed that she wouldn’t get J’Trdest’s answer any time soon. She left the office to find T’Lhast and tell her goodbye and good luck. After what she just witnessed, she was positive that J’Trdest would do his best to make sure T’Lhast had the best training he could provide.

 

The Ghost

Gster was having a bad day. In the morning, he dealt with a particularly disturbing call from an agent of his mysterious Kuli hating friend about the Kuli incident and how foolish he was to lose the City of Gold. He was informed that he would receive no more assistance from him and that the courts would be receiving lots of information about his shadier deals.

This call was disturbing but quite frankly he was glad to rid himself of the mysterious man. The jobs had turned ugly and he was sure that sooner or later the man, or whatever he was, would have had him killed. The losses would seriously impact his finances but he had plenty of assets and would survive to rise again.

Of course that was before the call from the banking guild. It turns out that the Kuli had purchased almost all of his loans and they were calling them due. Almost every single loan he had was being called. He would have to liquidate over half of his assets in order to pay for the loans. So he contacted his trader, only to find that the trader had just sold all of his business and the new owner’s accountant would get in touch soon.

In the afternoon, he was contacted by a gentleman named Notire. This trader was not very good and it would cost him almost everything he had to pay off the loans, everything except his secret holdings. Gster spent the rest of the afternoon contacting everyone he could to find a better deal, yet no one would even make an offer. Near the end of the day he finally made the trade using Notire and paid off the loans. It was his worst business day ever.

Still, Gster had weathered other crises and getting through this successfully would boost his reputation even more. Business people thought he was finished because they did not know about his secret holdings. He would come back even stronger and everyone would marvel at his recovery, soon he would be back on top. He smiled as he thought this and went into his kitchen to have the chef prepare a special meal for him. It was time to beat down the bad news with some good food.

His kitchen was one of the new models from the artist Horeter. On one side was the preparation area, which held every modern convenience that money could buy. There was a long counter where the chef prepared the delicacies that Gster loved so much. On the other side of the room was a low table with cushions around it. The entire room was decorated in shells from the nearby ocean and the leaves of the bango tree. The entire mood of the room was uplifting and he really enjoyed eating there.

When Gster entered the room he noticed two unusual things. First, his chef was not in the room. He paid four chefs so that one would always be in the kitchen no matter what time of day it was or what time of the year. Second, leaning against the counter eating his food was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen.

The woman had sea foam blue and amber streaked hair with deep green eyes. She was wearing armored vestments in the style of the Linthian special intelligence forces but all in shades of black. Around her waist was belt containing hand weapons ranging from throwing knives to plasma guns. On her back was a Thomps pack and she wore boots to her thighs. She had on a neck protector with an auto mask and a water breather, both disengaged. There was a jacket over the vestments that ran down to her ankles and up in a cowl to the top of her head. She had long hair with a light gold head band that crossed over her forehead.

J’Lantia spoke, “I am sure you would like this fruit salad. Can I get you some?”

Gster pushed a button on his sleeve and said, “How would you like to die?”

J’Lantia laughed and said, “Who do you think is responding to your alarm?”

Gster answered, “I have 125 guards, all deadly, thirty two house keepers, 56 grounds keepers, and 17 office workers in this home, plus at least one chef.”

J’Lantia laughed again and then put another fruit in her mouth. She loved the flavor of the yellow ones and smiled as the juice ran down her throat. Then she said, “Your guards are all dead and the rest are all tied up right now.”

Gster laughed nervously and said, “I think you are seriously mistaken. You would have to have an army to take out that many people.”

“No. Just me when I am angry.”

J’Lantia straightened up from the counter and looked into his eyes. She could see the fear building as she spoke with strength and anger. “You tried to kill the wrong Kuli in the Ruins of Gster.”

Gster was very afraid now but he thought he saw a way out and said, “Kuli do not kill unarmed men.”

“I am not a Kuli and you still have your arms.”

Gster had known fear over the years and recognized how he felt. Someone should have responded by now and he could see blood dripping from some of her weapons as she moved closer. So he stepped back and said, “If you are not a Kuli, why do you care?”

“Because the Kuli you tried to kill is my daughter.”

Gster saw her green eyes start to glow a bluish green color and he realized what she was. Panic was in his voice as he said, “You are a KR and in this area of the galaxy you are not legal. I warn you that my cameras are on and my alarm went directly to the security of this planet.”

“Your alarm went nowhere and I am not a KR. You appear to be wrong about a lot lately. Perhaps I will let you live and give you a lesson instead of death.”

Gster was terrified but he had to ask, “If you are not a KR or a Kuli, what are you?”

The beautiful woman in front of him smiled her most deadly smile, sending shivers all up and down his spine. “I am the Ghost.”

Immediately, she disappeared and reappeared behind him. She touched him on his back and then was gone again. Before he could recover, she reappeared twice in different parts of the room. Finally, she appeared directly in front of him, scaring him almost to death. He felt liquid run down his leg and the embarrassment completed the worst day of his life.

Gster took a moment to build the courage to speak while she stared at him. When he spoke, only a squeak came out but she recognized it. He said, “I will take the lesson.”

She answered, “Good.”

In an instant, she was gone and he fell to the floor. It was a long time before he could stand up. He started to understand his situation better as walked through his home and found dead guards everywhere but no other employees. Still, he could not let go of his belief that one woman could not do all of this. Nor could he swallow the idea that the great Gster could be so helpless. Surely the planet security staff would come to his rescue if they knew. As he went through his house, he could not find any communication devices that worked. His fear began to leave as he decided that he had hallucinated due to the stress of the day. His fear was slowly but surely replaced with arrogant frustration at being confounded all day. He decided to go into his garage and use one of the shuttles to fly to planet security and get some help.

He placed his thumb on the control panel of his shuttle and activated the security program. The ship requested his eye print and he leaned forward to look into the sensor. When the door opened, he felt some of his confidence returning. The system would have notified him if there had been a breach so she had not entered or messed with his ship’s security.

He watched the door shut so that he knew no one else entered the ship. He then ran the scanners and did a complete system diagnostic. A smile came across his face as he realized that she was not invincible if she even existed at all. He found his old confidence returning and he was sure that he would get out of this. If she existed, the woman would be sorry she ever interfered in his business. He engaged the engines and exited out of the garage and started toward the city.

The shuttle was a small eight seater with a Thorst engine that allowed for extended space travel if needed. Naturally, it was equipped with the best of everything. He set the auto pilot for the nearest security base and went into the back to get a drink. He desperately needed a drink. As he was reaching for one of the glasses the ship lurched up toward space and accelerated throwing him backwards into the back wall. The Ghost was suddenly next to him with that deadly smile and his fear returned in a rush.

“Going somewhere Mr. Gster,” she said with a gravelly and angry voice.

Gster trembled with fear and lost control of himself for the second time in his life. Slowly he slid to the floor and started mumbling incoherently. Gster was a big man. He was only of average height for a Pliixian but was built stout and strong and taller than this Ghost. Many times, when he was younger, they compared to him to the main trunk of the Frester tree. He had blue eyes with short green hair and pointed ears on the bottom. His nose was bulbous and small with large holes and he always wore a mustache. He gave the impression to others that he was physically powerful and he enjoyed the deference others gave him because of that.

 There was no evidence of that power right now. Gster lay on the floor in a heap still mumbling in his drool. Suddenly, a hand reached down and picked him up like he was a rag doll and threw him forward in the ship. Gster crashed against the seats like so much garbage and then rolled off onto the floor. He had just started to come to his senses when he was picked up again and tossed back into the bar, sending glasses and bottles flying in all directions. Before he knew what was happening he was picked up and shoved down into a seat breaking the seat mounts and crushing the arm rests.

Gromut Gster was no longer the powerful man he had been. He was a weak child in the hands of The Ghost. When he could think, he was astonished at her power. With only one hand she lifted him with no effort at all. He was learning to believe that the Ghosts he heard rumors about are real. He passed out.

When Gster returned to consciousness, he was aboard an old cargo transport ship. He looked around for his captor but did not find her anywhere. He started to rise and found that he was buckled in. He unhooked his seat belt and stood up. He immediately fell back down into the chair. He was in agony all over. He should have considered the effects of the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Ghost before he stood up. He was sore and he saw bruises all over himself.

The Ghost walked into the room and said, “Well. I see that you are awake.”

Gster turned in his seat and saw her standing near the entrance to the cargo hold. She was as beautiful as the first time he saw he. He could not understand how someone so beautiful could be so deadly.

Gster replied, “I may be awake but I think you broke all the bones in my body.”

The Ghost laughed for what seemed to Gster a very long time. Then she said, “You only have one broken finger. The rest is just sore. I can assure you that I break what I want to break and no more. If you want all your bones broken, I can break them all for you.”

Gster believed her and responded, “What do you want from me? I have nothing against the Ghosts. I didn’t even know that you existed for real until now.”

“You have a campaign against the Kuli and your recent attempt was against my daughter. I take that personally!”

“They killed my mother! They all deserve to die.”

The Ghost was intrigued, “Why do you think they killed your mother?”

Gster started to sob and had trouble speaking as he said, “I was on the comm with her when a Kuli transport went by. She said it wouldn’t even try to save anyone. The Kuli cut off all the communications and flew right past them. She was looking out the window yelling at the Kuli transport when her ship exploded. I know because I was on the comm with her at the end.”

The Ghost spoke quietly, “I checked the records and there are no unaccounted for Kuli at that time. They all were far away. I don’t know what she saw but it was not a Kuli.” She then raised her voice and the edge returned to it as she went on, “In any case, my daughter was still in training at that time.”

Gster responded, “J’Rontia is your daughter?”

“Yes.”

“What do you want with me? Why don’t you just kill me and get it over with?”

The Ghost sighed, “I don’t enjoy killing, even if I am an expert at it. I also try to limit my killing to solders and mercenaries, such as the guards you hired at your home. I avoid civilians unless they are neck deep in harming people such as you are.” She paused and then went on, “There are only a small number of people with leadership ability in this galaxy and we need them all to be working in the right direction, for good. So I am willing to spend the time with this lesson to see if you will learn or not.”

Gster no longer cared. He hated the Kuli and would never believe they were not responsible for his mother’s death. It did not matter to him if he died trying to avenge her, he considered it an honor.

Gster replied, “You are a murder machine like your daughter and you can go to hell with her.”

One swift movement of her hand and Gster was out cold. She knew the value of turning a man as resourceful as Gster and so she wanted to try one more thing. She called her dad for help.

Tomli’s arrangement with the Linthian Council only allowed him to use advanced technologies if he had documentation of their use from his travels through time in the time ship. When he received the request from J’Lantia, his first answer was no. She explained the lesson she hoped that Gster would learn from the little trip and eventually he saw what she was trying. So he ran his search and found that the event she wished to initiate had happened.

His daughter had the name J’Lantia because it means lone warrior. She picked it herself when she left the Matriarch’s training. The KR purges had not been good to her family and friends so she felt that she could not live as a Kuli and, although it disappointed him, he understood. When she entered the Matriarch’s training he was worried about the conflict it might set up. There had been very few over the years who completed both trainings successfully. Yet, today, his heart was given rest as he could see her struggle about what was right. Gster deserved to die if anyone did and yet she still wanted to help him see the error of his ways so that many could be helped. So he would support her and he sent the device she asked him for.

He had been tempted to find out the results of its use but he knew how dangerous it was to move through time with knowledge. Besides, his arrangement with the Linthian council only allowed him to use advanced technologies under limited circumstances. Still, all of his experience told him that she would not get the results she expected. Time travel worked that way.

The Ghost came to the conclusion that she had hit Gster harder than she planned, which was an unusual occurrence. Of course her dad also responded faster than she would have ever believed. It was as if he knew she was going to contact him and had everything ready. Although that was how he was. As a girl, she knew that he always knew more than he admitted to. The look in his eye would often be enough for her to just tell all. She was glad her daughter was able to spend so much time with him during her Kuli training.

She had the device hooked up to the two ships and decided to go ahead with the plan while Gster was still passed out. She could explain it all to him when they were in position. Moments later, the space around them spun apart and they fell through time into the past.

When they stabilized, she checked the calculations and sure enough they were in place. She started the engines on both ships and set the courses. She had just settled into her chair with a snack when the proximity alarm went off. She saw the thousands of fragments flying toward them and tried to maneuver out of the way. To her dismay, the tether between the ships broke and a fragment hit the device.

Lightning flew out of the device the ship Gster was is moved on while her ship stopped. The lightning increased as the device destabilized and soon the whole area around her ship was glowing and sparking each time a fragment came into range. Then the ship began to spin and the universe imploded around her.

When the commotion stopped she checked her instruments to find out what damage was done to her ship. The control board came back clear. She checked her navigation and found that she was back to the place in space and time where she started. She sat back in her chair and wondered what happened to Gster. He had no idea where he was, let alone when.

She sat there for a long time. She needed to return the device and had promised that she would after she finished her trip and before she did anything else. It was a real long time before she made the call to return the device. Even though he would be nice, she hated having to tell her dad that he was right.

 

The Abyss

The ship landed gently in the cave on the lonely rock and a tall man stepped out. He did not look old, nor did he look like he was very young; he had light brown eyes with a gold glint in them and smile lines all over his face. He was two legged and from a distance looked like a Linthian or Murhan, yet up close seemed to radiate a visible energy that was impossible to define. His hair was white but he had a confidence about him and a certain spring in his walk as one has when they are young and indestructible. He wore a coat of dragon skin that rose from his shoulders to the top of his head in a cowl and flowed down from his shoulders to his ankles. His hair fell out of his cowl down across his chest and he wore a neatly trimmed beard that covered most of his face. When he walked, his long coat would sway with each step accenting his stride and giving him an almost royal look. As he came close to the little house his image started to shimmer and he slowed down. Moments later he walked right through the door into the office without opening it.

He saw the old man in the stasis pod and smiled. He remembered training the old man when the old man was just a boy. That boy became one of his most dedicated troopers and later an extremely reliable observer; a post he had held for tens of thousands of years. The tall man bent over the stasis pod to get a good look at his old friend. He smiled again.

The tall man moved to the computer and held his finger over a small sensor. The computer lit up a second sensor over which he placed his eye. The machine now came to life and printed out a message sheet that the tall man read carefully. The paper read, “The blue pair learned how to control the white of the trio on their own. Level ten was achieved with no violation.”

The tall man walked slowly over to the only window in the building and looked out through the cave toward the lights of the stars of the Tyrian galaxy. His thoughts drifted over the history of his life and a sad smile appeared softly on his face. His heart had become very heavy over the span of his years as he battled the evil in the universe. The victories seemed oh so short and the failures way too long. Still, in the end, good always won because every crisis inspired some unlikely hero or heroes to rise to the challenge. He never knew which of the seeds he planted would sprout but, consistently, enough always did.

He sighed and took in a deep breath as he considered how good it was to be alive and to be on the right side. He turned and walked over to the messaging system where he placed the message in the shredder. He reached into the pocket of his coat and removed a black leather-bound book that contained actual pages made of paper. He placed the book on the desk and laid a metal on it that he retrieved from another pocket. “It is time,” he thought.

The tall man took one last look at his good friend and dedicated warrior wishing that he was able to speak with him. The desire of his heart was to answer all of the warrior’s questions from his years of service and suffering; however, that was not the reward chosen. He turned and walked through the door again. His stride sped up and he was on the ship in no time at all. He set the controls and smiled again as he drifted back out of the cave. Once the ship reached space, it turned toward the abyss, shimmered, and was gone.

The old man awoke confused. The clock indicated that he had barely slept at all and yet no alarms were ringing nor was the messaging system lit up. Once he was able, he got out of the liquid and stood still while the machine cleaned him off. While he was being cleaned he noticed the book. No one had used books with paper in tens of thousands of years except on the worst planets and they did not have the elegant leather bindings that he saw in front of him.

When he picked up the book and read the cover, he cried tears of joy. This could have come from only one person and that person died a long, long time ago. He picked up the medal on the Book, gazing on the elegant symbol of the Silver Realm etched into the metal with an amber gemstone set in the middle of the design. He turned it over and read the inscription, “Knight of the Light – SRT.” He had to sit down.

It took a long time for him to recover from the shock of the discovery but finally he lifted the band that was attached to the medal over his head and allowed the medal to hang from his neck. He opened the book and read inside the cover: “This book is given as a gift to the recently knighted Samuel R Thompson of Clearwater from the planet Oxwood in the Klypas system from the Steward of the Realm, given this 213th day of the 43525th year of the reign of the Silver Sovereign.” The message was followed by the embossed seal of the Steward of the Realm.

The Knight Thompson opened the book and flipped through the pages looking at the beautiful calligraphy of the hand-written and wonderfully illustrated masterpiece. The tears of joy returned again and he felt his heart would burst as his deepest dreams had come true with his knighting and the gift of the book.

After cleaning up and setting the security, the old man left his little home and walked slowly to the back of the cave. He held up a crystal to his communicator and in moments the wall parted in front of him to reveal a small ship. He entered the ship and turned on the systems. He moved in front of the computer and held his medal with the amber gemstone facing one of the sensors. The system came alive and a stasis pod slid out from the wall. He entered the pod with a smile knowing that the next time he awoke he would be back home. The old man kissed the medal and laid it on his chest. Then he took the book out of his coat pocket and laid it over the medal. His face brightened as a smile filled his face unlike any he had for years. His heart was full of love for his family, the Silver Realm, the Steward of the Realm, and the Silver Sovereign, all of which he had thought were long gone. The old man watched the monitor as the ship moved away from the lonely rock. When the ship entered the abyss, he pushed the control and the pod closed. The old man slept the long sleep for the last time.

The lonely rock of the abyss was silent for only a short time when the space in front of it shimmered and a ship appeared. The tall man checked his instruments to see if the old man was gone. “Good,” he thought. He reached out and readjusted the controls to search the space between the rock and the Tyrian Galaxy. He found the anomaly he was looking for and sent a command. The panel in front of him flashed a confirmation signal.

Moments later, a great and unusual ship approached. The ship was in the shape of a pyramid. The ship turned with the point toward the cave and slowly settled into place in the rock until only the top showed. The sparkling city of gold shone even in the dim light of the distant stars. The tall man adjusted his control panel once more and the view of the city of gold disappeared and was replaced with a view of bare rock.

The tall man set the security controls so that only two specific people could enter the city of gold. He looked again toward the Tyrian galaxy and a single tear ran down his face. A sad sweet sorrow crossed his face as he thought, “The tears of Tyria will fill an ocean before the evil is stopped.”

The tall man’s ship shimmered again and was gone.

 

Gster’s Legacy

When Gster finally regained consciousness, he was traveling in a small transport ship in an area of space he did not recognize. Ahead the monitor was showing a ship in distress. The visuals showed a medium sized cargo transport on fire and drifting, apparently without power. The information he was collecting indicated that one of its engines had exploded and sent its fragments ripping through the rest of the ship and space around it.

The pleas for assistance were flooding his communications channels. He had no time for this now, he needed to return to Gster Headquarters and straighten all this Ghost mess out. He became irritated by the constant pleas for help. He turned on his comm and told them to shut up. He listened to the pleas of their captain for a while and then turned off the sound as he moved near the ship that was now on fire. “Idiots!” he thought as he came close. Did they think he was a rescue ship? Anyone could see that this ship was barely big enough to transport one person and their luggage. There was not a chance it could be used to rescue all the people on a ship that big.

He was almost all the way past the ship when he saw a woman through the glass of the main cabin pounding on the glass with one hand as she held a comm in her other. He had to take a second look as some things about her were familiar and his heart tugged for a bit but the moment passed. He remembered his anger at his situation and thought “I don’t have time for this.” He went to close the visor on that side of the ship to block the view when he saw the reflection of his ship on the glass of the cargo ship’s main cabin. He was in a one-man Kuli transport.

The realization of who she was hit him with a force that shook him to his core. He was moving to turn the radio back on when the rest of the other ship exploded. Fragments of the other ship slammed into his transport and he was thrown against his restraints with enough force to tear his flesh. The concussions, explosions, and flying parts continued for what seemed an eternity. At some point, he lost consciousness.

When he awoke, the alarms were blaring and he looked to the control panel. Errors flashed across the panel as the ship was trying desperately to repair itself. He was numb as he considered what had happened.

After a considerable amount of time the ship completed its repairs and the board was clear. The ship queried the pilot for a new destination. It received no answer. The body in the pilot’s chair was still poised over the video feedback from the explosion. Somehow the machine had broken and the scenario was looping through the viewer showing the disaster again and again. Without the desire to eat or drink, the body in the pilot’s seat had long ago ceased to function – but the video continued to play as the little transport ship drifted into the abyss.

 

The Silver Realm

Sliding out from the stasis pod the first thing he noticed was the skin on his hands – the wrinkles he knew so well were gone. When he climbed out, he realized that he did not have any problems with his knees or back. A glance in the mirror required many moments of wonder as he stared at a young man instead of the old man he was so used to.

His uniform had disintegrated and when he looked in the refresher he found a brand new Knight of the Light uniform that fit him perfectly. On his monitor were all the recordings he sent home during his first three years as a trooper of the Realm. He plugged in a speed reader and reviewed them all as he landed and docked.

Knight of the Light, Samuel R Thompson, left the ship to a hero’s welcome. The crowd that awaited him seemed like half of the planet of Oxwood, although later he learned it was only estimated at twelve thousand. He had barely stepped onto the platform when his wife and two kids ran up to him and they all embraced until they almost fell over.

The Governor of the planet greeted him home and presented him with the key to his new home. All returning Knights received a new home and a pension for life along with automatic admission for their children and grandchildren into the Academy of the Realm. There was a parade and he had to speak three different times about what it felt to be a Knight.

What could he say? Everything that happened to him was considered confidential. Besides, who would believe him? So, he told them of the honor to serve and how proud he was of his family. He went on about the value of service to the Realm and thanked them all for showing up.

Late that night, he retired with his wife into their new bedroom and hugged her until she almost broke. She brushed her red hair out of her face, looked deep into his eyes, and said quietly, “The Steward of the Realm told me that you have lived thousands of years and that I could listen to your stories if I would promise to tell no one. I agreed.” She had tears running down her face as she wrapped her arms around him and went on, “I am so sorry that for you it was so difficult.”

He cried in her arms for a long time.

 

The Osgord: Wardroom

Dinner reminds you immediately that you’re on one of the Armada’s best ships. Large bowls of fruit and vegetables from the arboretum on the bottom deck are lined up down the center of the table along with platters of fresh mirchn and fiskr grown in that same artificial habitat. The colors alone are enough to make your mouth water. There are small bowls filled with various insects, oils, and nuts, too, but your adventurous sense of taste doesn’t yet stretch that far. Your own plate is filled with a large, dark salad with lots of fruit and a moderately sized cut of fiskr on it. After some gentle prodding by the Osgord’s Chief of Nutrition, you agree to add some oil and nuts to the salad, along with a small, red fruit you had originally thought to be a berry but which had a much more succulent taste. Apart from the small meal with Shilo before the encounter with the wyrms, you haven’t had a bite to eat since the attack on Nivlahim, so you dig in as soon as the benediction is finished.

“It’s Keria’Ledrii, isn’t it?” The nutritionist sitting beside you seems to be attempting conversation. You set down your fork, returning yourself to the appropriate mindset for engaging in conversation and taking that time to swallow your food.

“That’s right,” you reply.

He continues, “Did I hear the Cap saying that you were on your way to train as a, umm…” his throat catches for a moment before he manages, “a Valkyrie?” His eyes briefly catch on your hair, and he makes it a point not to gulp out of apprehension. You’re not used to this type of response to your appearance, but some of Shilo’s memories surge up for a moment, particularly ones of a nasty incident between the monarchy and the Blue only about twelve cycles ago, more than a lifetime for you but not even half of one for the man beside you. There is a very violent reason that the Valkyries came into light and became the only group independent of monarch control those several cycles ago.

“Yes, that’s right,” you say again. “My sister was a Valkyrie, and my mommy was one of the Blue before their official formation.” The mention of this causes a twinge of discomfort to spread across the table like a small explosion. “My daddy died a little while ago, and then my sister found me, but then she died, too.” As the words make their way out of your mouth, they grow progressively slower and further apart, tears welling up in your eyes upon realization of the full tragedy of it all.

You notice when you finish speaking that the previously tumultuous table was now silent all but for the sobs of a girl only five cycles old. Nonetheless, the sobs don’t stop, and the men and women surrounding you make no effort to look away from what you can only see as a broken child. None of them can know the pain you feel, and none pretend to. Quite different from the petty consolations you’d received upon your mother’s death from strangers who’d never truly known her as you did, the respecting and gentle gazes you receive now are those of men and women who have known similar pains and have experienced great loss themselves and, thusly, who know that the pain they felt was not the same.

So you cry. You cry for your mommy and daddy. You cry for Shilo. You cry for the friends who hadn’t been evacuated. You cry for every life lost in your city and every heart broken over this war. When the sobs finally begin to peter out, and the slim hand of one of the female officers makes its way to your shoulder, you look into her warm, blue eyes and realize that the only person you won’t ever have to cry for is yourself. The room remains silent until you wipe your eyes and nose, quietly thanking everyone. “Thank you. I’m sorry if I ruined your dinner.” You give a halfhearted smile, and a few chuckles make there way around the table.

Suddenly, as if it had been no one’s idea at all, the wardroom began to fill with a somber dirge of a tune:

“In lonely nights,

The shadows fill the room,

And the nightmares

Hang my heart in gloom.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.

“We once had dreams,

But never now fulfilled,

Stillest waters

Ripple now with guilt.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.

“The cold of night

Has reached my lonely heart.

But golden gates

For your good soul part.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.

“In sweetest fields

Of golden felmag hum,

We’ll run again

When my day has come.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.”

A few moments pass as you realize that the song is finishing slowly throughout the ship, having made its way through bulkheads and open doors and hatches. It’s a song the crew knows well, having sung it for plenty a fellow, and you feel as though you’ve just witnessed the exposed hearts of these men and women as must as they have yours.

The executive officer of the ship quietly takes a drink and clears his throat. “We may not know your pain, but we know ours well enough to say that if you keep moving forward, time heals all wounds.” A hushed assent makes its way across the table as various men and women look down in memory of those they had been singing for. “Now, I’m not sure how good you are on a quarter-grav platform like this, but there’s only one way to keep moving forward on a ship like this, and that’s working. The captain may have gotten to welcome you to the ship, but I would like to welcome you to the crew of the TAS Osgord, if you’d have it.”

You blink away the tears in your eyes. “It would be an honor.” Everyone smiles. No one expects you to become a fully qualified spacer, but they know how much it means to have something to do, particularly in the hard times. You, of course, take the offer to heart. You plan on becoming the best spacer you can be in the time it takes to reach Osgord.

The Ruins of Gster – Restoration

The Tears of Tyria – The Chronicles of J’Rontia

The Ruins of Gster – Restoration

The City of T’ouraget

 

The huge ship had appeared on Hastee’s monitors after it was almost to the surface of the planet. That meant they jammed the security sensors for the planet. The pilots could only have received the sensor frequencies from one source, Gster Construction, and that was a betrayal in her mind. The fire streams and explosions that followed showed how foolish it was to take on the Kuli. She could only imagine what was about to come her way.

Hastee put the entire planet on high alert and readied the security forces. She would not be surprised if the Kuli ship destroyed half the planet before she stopped it, if she could stop it. She contacted her security chief to get his advice on how to handle the situation.

General Barek Tond was not a real general in any way, he just liked the title. He had retired as a prison warden on a backward planet in Sector Four near the end of the spiral arm. He had tried security consulting and built a reputation as efficient and effective. After a number of jobs, he moved up to large companies and secured their more unusual holdings. This was his first job securing a whole planet, even though it was a rather small one.

Hastee watched General Tond as he walked into the room. He was one of those races that had two legs and they always looked like they would fall over to her. Why any intelligent being would want to be tottering up so high off the ground she could not understand. He was not a Murhan or Linthian but looked similarly and was about their average height. He had long black hair on his head and face that hung down almost to his waist. He had three eyes, two blue and the center one smoke gray. His mouth was below his eyes and when he came to a stop he said, “Good Evening, General Tond at your service.”

Hastee could never decide whether to scream or laugh when he did that. So, she just responded, “I need your advice. Read this briefing on the incident tonight and let me know what you think.” Hastee slid over to the window and looked into the night sky. It was a clear night and she could see the smoke from the fires and explosions drifting across the over the city. The news reporters would have lots of questions soon.

General Tond did not move up fast in the security consulting business by being stupid. He already knew most of the information Hastee provided him. Still, he took time to read through it all and found some pieces of information he did not know. General Tond asked, “Are you sure that Gster Construction hired the ship to attack the Kuli?”

Hastee turned away from the window and answered, “I called my boss to update him right after the incident. He could not believe the Kuli were able to destroy the Kiltrin Warrior ship and said that he was sure they would send more. When I asked how he knew, he admitted to offering one-half interest in the planet to an unnamed person if they would eliminate the Kuli from the planet.”

General Tond nodded and went back to reading as he wondered if this time he took a job too big. Hastee looked back out the windows at the clouds of smoke and wondered the same thing. The moon’s glow around the edge of the clouds made for a beautiful picture and she made a note to herself to frame some variations of the view. She started to turn back toward General Tond when she stopped still and her brain raced. Hastee slid to the computer at her top speed and punched in her question. When the answer came up on the monitor she couldn’t believe how stupid she had been. What else had she missed?

General Tond saw her stop and then move to the computer and knew she figured something out. He had worked with her for quite a while now and was very curious as to what she discovered. Her race almost never moved fast and when they did it was important. He was done with his analysis and looked up so she would know.

Hastee noticed that General Tond had finished and asked, “What do you advise?”

General Tond said, “The Kuli are very well known for avoiding civilian casualties and I believe that is why they attacked the Kiltrin ship where they did. The ship’s appearance without setting off our sensors confirms that they had Gster’s permission. The way they slid over from the landing base and attacked just out over the ocean show that they wanted to catch the Kuli off guard, basically in a sneak attack. That it didn’t work does not surprise me. The Kuli ships have such advanced technology that I don’t know why anyone would attack them; however, the sensors also indicate that the Kuli ship has a force field around it and they almost never do that on a planet they do not own.”

Hastee interrupted, “They do own the ruins on this planet.”

General Tond was intrigued by that comment. So, he thought, the situation has many levels. He went on, “My own calculations after the incident determined that their force field has almost completely covered the ruins. A feat that very few races have the technology to do. The feat is even more impressive when you see that they are mapping the ruins exactly. Think about it, a custom shaped and sized force field. I wonder what kind of computing power that takes, not to mention energy.  I would also bet that since the incident the Kuli have deployed sensors of their own and will no longer use our sensors to track incoming ships. They will not be snuck up on again. I have more but I believe you would like me to provide suggestions for action as it appears we both know most of what happened.”

Hastee smiled. This is what she liked most about General Tond, he hated to waste time. She told him, “Yes. Please let me know what you advise.”

The General smiled back and said, “Do nothing.”

Hastee was actually a bit shocked and asked, “Why nothing?”

General Tond answered, “Up to now, the Kuli have done nothing illegal. It is their property and they defended it. In addition, our security forces did not attack them and they have no reason to believe we will. It is natural for us to raise our defense levels so that won’t bother them. We should have someone, probably me, go over and ask what happened so that we can assess the threat to the planet. They would expect that and it will keep their little war with Gster off our backs. So unless our boss directs us to participate, my recommendation is to stay out of it.”

Hastee nodded and then spoke, “There is one other piece of information for you to consider. Ever since the Kuli arrived, the moon has remained above the ruins. In that location, the contract stipulations place the entire moon within the area then own.”

“So, this is about way more than we know. Do you have any ideas?”

“No,” she lied. Hastee slid back and went on, “The contract gives them the land down to the planet’s core and out to just beyond the moon, although I cannot see a reason why they would care.”

The General shook his head and commented, “I remember an old saying from my grandmother, “When you can’t figure out what a Kuli is doing, you need to either help or run.” Of course the saying sounds way better in her language and we cannot run.”

Hastee smiled, in her own way, and added; “While you are there, ask if they need any help.”

 

 

The Ruins of Gster

 

The ship’s medical room was full of children, anxious children. Their savior was seriously injured and laying in the stasis pod. They had not had anyone, except Greeney, care about them for years and now two angels dropped in. They all were stunned and asking questions about the Soretto, except one little girl. Would he be alright? Would he live? Is he an angel? I thought angels did not get hurt? Where is his mom? And more.  J’Rontia did not answer and just kept cleaning him and working on the medical equipment. She did not have advanced enough equipment for this and it would be a disaster if they had to leave.

When she had finished hooking him up she turned to Greeney. “Please take the children into the main room. He will need to rest.”

The kids left the room while moaning about leaving and asking even more questions. All the kids left, except one little girl. “Why don’t you heal him?” she asked J’Rontia.

The ship became silent as J’Rontia turned and said, “I am. That is why I set the controls on the machine.”

The girls shook her head no and said, “I did not ask about the machine fixing him. I want to know why you don’t.”

J’Rontia looked closely at the girl. She seemed to be about eight standard years old but rather short for her age. She had close cropped hair that was as close to white as blond hair gets with brown eyes that appeared to have golden sparkles in them. J’Rontia answered, “I am not a Kuli healer and I cannot fix him. His body will have to fix itself and the machine can help. What is your name?”

“They call me shorty,” she said, pointing at the kids in the other room. “Greeney calls me little sister and my mom called me her little warrior.” She stepped forward to J’Rontia and said, “You are a Blue Warrior like my mom but she wasn’t blue. I saw your eyes and hair glow like hers did, but you have blue and another color too.” She reached out and touched the end of J’Rontia’s hair. “Your hair even feels like my mom’s.”

Greeney stepped back into the room near the little girl and said, “Never mind her Miss. She has lots of stories and I doubt she ever had a mom like you.”

Little Warrior turned to Greeney and said, “I did have a mom, just like I said.” Then she turned back to J’Rontia. “Why don’t you fix him. You have the glow.”

J’Rontia was intrigued by the girl’s comments and asked, “How did your mom fix broken people?”

“That is the lesson I have for you.”

Greeney stepped over and said, “That is enough. You are coming with me and this blue and glow talk is over.”

J’Rontia held up her hand to Greeney and said, “Please. Let me hear her story. I will send her to you when we are finished. ”

Greeney was stunned but did as she was asked. She stepped into the other room and shut the door.

J’Rontia turned to Little Warrior. “I am ready for you to teach me.”

“My mom said not to let anyone in my mind except the Guardians of the Bright because I have secrets that only the Guardians can have. She told me stories about the Bright people and that I would grow to be their guardian. To learn the lesson, you will have to go into my mind and follow the training my mom put there.”

J’Rontia answered her, “I understand and I will try my best.”

Little Warrior looked up at J’Rontia and said, “I have one test to give you before I can let you into my mind. You need to answer a riddle. Will you do that?”

“Yes.”

“I leap off cliffs of death for fun, I am hunted by that which I hunt, I monitor pure hate with love in my heart, and my child walks with angels and ghosts. Who am I?”

J’Rontia turned and looked at the computer console for a while as tears fell across her face. Finally, with moist eyes, she turned back to the Little Warrior and answered, “My mother.”

Little Warrior smiled and said, “You can look into my mind. My mom said to tell you to follow the heart sign and to be careful of the bright light.”

J’Rontia asked her, “Do you know why she said that?”

“I have a very bright mind.”

J’Rontia reached out and touched her forehead. Several long moments later, she pulled her hand back from the little girl’s forehead and cried to herself deep down inside. “Your mother was extremely brave and wonderfully special. She loved you very much!”

Little Warrior walked over to the Soretto and took J’Rontia’s hand. She placed her hand over the end of his right arm and said, “Hold your hand here. Think about growing his hand the way my mom just showed you and then turn on your glow.”

J’Rontia turned toward her Soretto with tears still streaming down her face from what she had learned. She placed her hand as the girl told her and concentrated in the manner she learned from the girl’s mother while she was in Little Warrior’s mind. Her Soretto stirred awake and his mind joined hers as they traveled through his brain looking for the area she saw in the girl’s mind. They found the controls that allowed a repair and a regeneration to happen at the same time. She then turned on her glow and they watched the acceleration of the regeneration. In a short time, her Soretto was able to take over the work, promising to rest after he started his other hand growing. JRontia did not know how long this new method would take but clearly it would be a small fraction of the time needed in a medical stasis pod.

J’Rontia disconnected and turned to Little Warrior. “You have taught me a great skill. Your mother would be proud.”

Little Warrior smiled and said, “My mom would be proud of you. He is healing now.”

“Your mom told me your name in the lesson.” J’Rontia hugged Little Warrior and said, “Your name is T’Lhast. It has two meanings. In an old language, it means Bright Light and in Linthian it means Bright Warrior. She said that I am to arrange for your training so that you can be the Guardian for the ruins.”

They opened the door and went into the main control room of the ship. As they entered, an alarm went off on the control panel. J’Rontia quickly accessed the system to make some adjustments and then moved to the monitor. There was someone outside the perimeter in the uniform of planet security. It appeared she was getting a visit from the planet’s security forces. This should be interesting.

A short while later, J’Rontia walked up to the edge of the force field near the man in the planet security uniform and asked, “What can I do for you?”

“I am General Tond. I am the head of Gster planet security. We noticed the incident with the ship and are interested in knowing if you need any assistance.”

J’Rontia looked at him and said, “I appreciate the gesture General; however, I know that Gster Construction, your employer, ordered the attack on us. So, why are you here?”

General Tond was surprised but not shocked. The Kuli usually were a step ahead. He said, “I wanted you to know that the planet’s administration had no knowledge of what happened, nor did we participate.”

“Tell Governor Hastee that we have the records of her communications with Gster and have no intention of retaliating against the planet Gster but will respond should anything else happen. If you leave us alone, we should be gone in a few cycles of the planet.”

General Tond bowed and said, “We appreciate that and wish you to know that we are willing to do whatever we can to help if there are any injuries.”

J’Rontia’s face darkened and she deployed the techniques she learned from Tomli so the General would not see her eyes glow. She responded in a voice that sent shivers up the General’s spine and that he would never forget. “My Soretto sacrificed greatly to ensure that only he was injured. I will personally oversee his healing and no help is needed.”

General Tond could see how hard it was for the Kuli to hold herself back and he knew fear like he had not before. He had recognized her as she walked up and knew her reputation. This was the Kuli’s most deadly warrior, J’Rontia. He had watched the video on the battle she had with the thousands of Kiltrin Warriors many times. It was difficult to control himself while standing in front of one of the deadliest Kuli ever.

Her face remained tight as she went on. “You can tell Mr. Gster that if any of us were near his mother’s ship when it burned we would have saved her. The story that we were there is not true.” She paused for a moment with a pensive look on her face and then she continued. “You can also let him know that his loan on the section 4 projects will be called due tomorrow. Now, will there be anything else?”

General Tond stepped back and bowed. “Thank you for your time and candor,” he said and quietly thanked his family gods that he was still alive. He turned and walked back to his shuttle thinking it might be time to retire again. He would enjoy telling Gster that his loans were coming due. That should be an interesting conversation. How did someone as smart as Gster do something as stupid as attacking the Kuli?

J’Rontia returned to her ship determined to speak again with the Little Warrior.

 

 

The City of T’ouraget

 

Hastee watched General Tond’s back as he left the room and wondered what it was like to have met the famous J’Rontia. He told her about the meeting with the Kuli in his normal concise manner; however, something was different. When he had finished with his short narrative, he gave her his notice that he was retiring and that his company was returning all of the money for this job. Evidentially, the young Kuli was rather impressive.

She was looking out her window across the city when she saw the flashes. They came like lightning down from the sky. Orange and red streaks flashed with the white as the streams hit the ruins with a huge explosion. Hastee reached over to her console to hit the alarm and to close the window’s shutters. It would be too late for most of the citizens living near the water but perhaps some may be saved.   

 

The Ruins of Gster

J’Rontia had just finished feeding the huge crowd on her ship when the alarms went off. The control panel showed three Kiltrin command ships coming into orbit around the planet. The sensors she placed after the first Kiltrin ship was destroyed detected them approaching the planet. J’Rontia connected with the visuals from orbit and watched as the three ships started to come together.

J’Rontia went to the wall and held her hand over a blue triangle. Jump seats slid out from the wall all around the room. “Get into a seat and strap in. We are going to have a bumpy ride,” she said.

One of the kids asked, “Where are we going.”

“We are not going anywhere, we are about to be attacked. Now strap in quickly.” J’Rontia had that tone in her voice that left no question about obeying and all the children attempted to strap in. J’Rontia and Greeney went to each one and made sure that the connections were correct. Then Greeney strapped herself in and J’Rontia went to check on her Soretto.

J’Rontia smiled when she saw him and said, “I see that you have not rested very much.” She laughed and he joined in.

“I found a way to speed the process even more and I should be back up to speed soon.”

J’Rontia walked over and checked his straps. “They are about to attack. They have a three way boost coupling that I believe will power a nuclear pulse gun.”

Her Soretto shook his head and commented, “That will cause a lot of damage to the area around the ruins but it should completely recharge our ship. Are the field converters fully functioning?”

J’Rontia nodded. “Yes. I completed them just before dinner. I also redirected the capacitors so that I can store extra energy for a response.” Her smile was not pleasant as she looked at the damage her Soretto absorbed in order to save them all. She turned and headed out of the room.

Her Soretto watched her leave and noticed that her hair had started to glow. As she closed the door, he realized that her blue hair was not the only thing glowing. Now, her amber hair had started to shine. He lay back down and wondered what that could possibly mean. Well, he knew it did not mean compassion for her attackers. He closed his eyes and concentrated on restoring his limbs.

Sweat beaded across her forehead as J’Rontia reached out with her life-force toward the city. She broadcast an overwhelming sense of fear in the direction of the water front. The thought that went with the fear was to get as far away from the water as possible. Soon her hair was so bright that the children on the ship needed to close their eyes. She could feel that her efforts were not enough so she detached a part of her brain to look inside itself.

In her brain, she could see the pathways she was using as bright as can be. She followed them, wary of the warning of Tomli. She found three locations where the pathways appeared to be restricted. She did not know if damage would result if she modified them but she had to increase her broadcast power. She was about to open one restriction when she heard his voice say, “The blue bird has power to burn, the amber bird strength to endure, but the white bird is control and should always fly first.”

The line was from a children’s story Tomli told her when she was very young. Looking at her brain, she realized that one of the obstructions was tinted blue, one white, and the third amber. She concentrated and opened the channel to the white.

In moments, there was a panic on the water front as citizens ran screaming away from the water and some unknown terror. The crowds swarmed over each other in a panic as they moved as fast as possible from the water front. The streets were strewn with dropped items of all sorts as people stopped whatever they were doing and just fled. Soon there was no one left except an old man with a broken leg who was hobbling as fast as he could away from the water.

The old man slipped and fell to the ground. Tired and in pain he got up slowly. He looked back at the water that he loved so much and tried to make sense out of the fear he felt. He was still looking when the flashes from the sky burned the vision out of his eyes. Moments later, when the wave of water struck him, he smiled with the understanding that death was upon him and that he was content. It had always been his wish to die in the water he loved so much.

J’Rontia turned back to the ship’s console and checked the level of energy in the capacitors. They were almost full. She looked toward the kids and gave them a smile to let them know everything was going to be alright. She walked over and sat in the control chair by the viewing screen. The screen activated and she could see the three ships that were attacking her. She switched the view screen to one of the sensors she had placed in orbit.

The close up view of the ships revealed three huge Kiltrin command ships of Murhan origin. These were expensive and luxurious warships that were custom built in the Yustry Shipyards. They had a unique design feature that allowed them to couple together to greatly increase their destructive power. Of course the Kiltrin Warriors should have read the fine print on their contracts.

J’Rontia took visual and spectral readings and sent them by hyperspace to the Kuli Council. Then she repeated the process to the Linthian Council and the Murhan Council along with the clause from their contract with Yustry Shipyards. The great ships fired a third volley while she waited for a response. The Murhan Council responded with a confirmation that those ships were sold under a contract with the clause in it.

J’Rontia directed the small sensor to move forward toward the Kiltrin command ships. The sensor moved into a small slot in the first ship’s hull near the docking bay and connected to the computer of the ship. Using a code reserved for the Kuli, she activated a hidden subroutine. The sensor backed out of the slot and returned to its position in orbit with all of its systems recording the activity.

 

The City of T’ouraget

 

Hastee turned back to the window and watched as the sky lit up a second time. The second volley generated additional explosions that moved out from the ruins to the lake and sea where the shock waves and tremendous heat created more steam and waves. Added to the first volley, this series created a mini tsunami that travelled rapidly across the lake striking and destroying all of the boats and docks except the largest. She watched in horror as the waves came over the docks and into the business district.

Hastee’s attention was drawn back to the sky as more flashes flew down to the ruins. She could not imagine anything withstanding the force of those attacks. The smoke and steam prevented her from seeing the ruins but she recognized a nuclear pulse attack when she saw one and knew that little in the galaxy could withstand the force. Evidentially, Gster did not appreciate the Kiltrin ship being destroyed or his loan being called due and was looking for some revenge. Did he think these were the only Kuli left alive?

Hastee turned back to her console and started the process of determining what the damages were. The estimates of casualties were high as building after building was discovered to be destroyed.  Gster was killing tens of thousands of his own people without a second thought. Hastee directed the computer to prepare a report of all the activity and messages related to this incident. She had no intention of this ruining her/their reputation. The Republic would receive all the needed information to investigate this disaster properly. She also submitted multiple copies to safe locations in case parts of the government proved corrupt.

She had almost finished when General Tond entered the room. Hastee finished the directions for the computer and turned to address General Tond. “What can I do for you?” she asked.

General Tond bowed toward her and spoke, “Naturally, I kept working to help you and the residents of this planet in this time of need. I also have some interesting information for you.”

Hastee was a little surprised that he stayed. She asked, “What information?”

“It seems that we have almost no casualties on the waterfront.”

“What?” Hastee exclaimed in great surprise.

“Yes. During the first strikes, something scared the people along the water front and they all went screaming hysterically away from the water. Their panic spread and within almost no time just about everyone anywhere near water of any kind was fleeing for their lives from some unknown terror.”

Hastee slid back on her tentacles and was filled with awe as she realized that this assistance could have come from only one source. She looked back at the General and asked, “Do you think the Kuli caused them all to run?”

General Tond smiled and nodded. He said, “I think that my first assumptions were wrong. I don’t know how their force field could have held up, but after reading the reports coming in I believe our visitors are still there and probably even madder than they were before.”

Hastee looked out the window where she could see a fifth series of attacks taking place as they spoke. She wondered if the planet would have to be evacuated when this was all completed. Gster was a fool.

Hastee turned back to the General. “If you want to post-pone your retirement for a while, you can assist with the evacuation.”

General bowed and said, “Agreed.” He left the room quickly.

Hastee turned back to the window in time to see the entire sky light up as an explosion took place far out past the moon. “I guess the attacks will stop now,” she thought. Hastee went to her computer to see if she could arrange for transportation for her citizens.

 

The Ruins of Gster

J’Rontia switched off the viewer after the explosion. The children all saw the small hole blow out the side of one of the command ships. The resulting disturbance twisted the coupling causing it to interrupt the flow of energy during the next volley and the energy collapsed back on itself melting the couplings and tearing the ships apart. All three blew apart in a series of explosions that lit up the sky and guaranteed no survivors.

J’Rontia turned to the children and told them they could unstrap. She nodded at Greeney as Greeney moved to help the others. Then she went in to see how her Soretto was doing. J’Rontia entered the room and saw him sitting up and smiling. J’Rontia wondered how he could be so happy all the time when so many people were trying to kill them. She smiled back.

Her Soretto asked, “Did you get them all?”

J’Rontia smiled back and said, “Yes I did. I wonder if they will send more?”

“I don’t think so. I saw what you destroyed on the monitor. Those were some very expensive ships. When you add in the cost of the first ship and the costs Gster will have with the Republic cleaning up the mess he just made, I think he is going to be short of money for quite some time.”

J’Rontia nodded and asked how he was doing. He showed her his new stubs, one on each wrist. She asked, “Would you like to try something that I just learned?”

Her Soretto answered, “I would love to.”

J’Rontia told him to keep his healing process going and she entered his mind. He joined her as she followed the pathways for healing once again. The process took a while but they finally found the trio of restrictions she was looking for. She examined them closely and found the white one. When she removed the restriction she felt his joy as the process accelerated.

J’Rontia left his mind and asked, “How does it feel?”

“Like the difference between night and day,” her Soretto responded.

“Good. I wonder how long this will take now.”

“Look at my wrists,” her Soretto exclaimed.

They both looked down at his wrists and watched as the stubs grew before their eyes. Within moments, they could see the beginnings of his hands. J’Rontia smiled at him and went back into the other room by the children. She was looking for a particular child, T’Lhast.

T’Lhast saw her and smiled. As J’Rontia approached T’Lhast anticipated one of her questions and said, “I was never worried. My mom told me that you are the best warrior in the galaxy. How is your Soretto doing?”

“He is doing great. Your training helped a lot as did some information from an old friend of mine.”

“Good. Are we going to start my training?”

J’Rontia smiled at the precocious child. She was going to enjoy her time with this little girl. J’Rontia said, “No. That will have to wait till you are on a different planet. Right now I need your help to finish my job here. Will you help me?”

T’Lhast was clearly disappointed that her training had to wait but she said, “I guess.”

J’Rontia took the little girl outside and they walked away from the ship toward a tall spire. As they approached, T’Lhast spoke, “This leads to where my mom is.”

J’Rontia said, “We need to visit her. Can you handle that?”

T’Lhast looked at her and said, “Of course, I visit her all the time. She talks to me best when I am with her.”

J’Rontia smiled at the little girl and told her, “I just did not want to interfere between you two.”

“She is expecting you and has for a long time. She cannot finish her work until you help her.”

J’Rontia had no idea what the girl was talking about but she nodded anyway. When they reached the spire she asked, “Do you know how to go inside?”

T’Lhast said, “Yes. You can come to. Just do as I do.”

T’Lhast walked up to the spire and placed her hands on two triangles and then she faded away to nothing. J’Rontia reached out and placed her hands on the two triangles and felt the power flow through her as the device slipped her out of phase and she dropped through the ground into an underground room where she came back into phase. A very interesting experience she thought.

J’Rontia looked around the room and drew a breath in awe at the beauty. Everywhere she turned there were gleaming surfaces of polished metal. She was standing next to T’Lhast and in front of a control console. She examined the console and recognized the symbols as those from one of the ancient languages. She reached out and turned on the monitoring system. All around the room the walls turned into monitors displaying the various systems of the city.

T’Lhast smiled as J’Rontia turned on the various components. Her mother had told her that J’Rontia would be able to fix things. She hoped that J’Rontia could help her with her mother. She waited patiently while J’Rontia worked with the computers to learn about the city.

J’Rontia had the answers she needed in a short time. The computer console was very intuitive and she learned fast. It was a good thing because she could tell that T’Lhast was running out of patience. J’Rontia smiled at the little girl and asked, “Where to now?”

“To my mom!” the girl said. T’Lhast took off at a run toward the green striped door on the far side of the room. J’Rontia hurried to catch up.

They travelled through many doors and a few lifts until they came to an area marked “Restricted.” T’Lhast said, “My mom is in there but I can’t go in. I have tried but the door won’t let me. My mom said only those with the blue can go in. She said that I don’t have the blue. She said that I will grow up to have part of the white, which she says is better, but that I can’t enter until then because only the blue are born with the power turned on.”

J’Rontia wished that she understood what T’Lhast meant by “part of the white” but decided to wait till later to find out. She was pretty sure that what she learned today about the white bird was connected to the girl’s comments. Tomli taught her a lot of things indirectly and the knowledge seemed to come when she needed it. So, she would trust that this was another one of those pieces. She turned to the door and started to examine it as she said, “I am sure that your mom is correct so you better stay back. I have had the blue to one degree or another since I was born so I should be safe.”

 

J’Rontia saw two ancient symbols on the door for death. One of the symbols was for death by poison and the other for death by radiation. Next to the door was a panel with seven colors on it. The colors were spread out as if to form fingerprints from a seven fingered hand. She examined the panel and smiled as the image came directly into her mind on how to use the panel. She was about to place her hand on the panel when she noticed that the button near her thumb had three colors on it – blue, amber, and white.

 

J’Rontia move her thumb so that it pressed on the white part of the button and lined the rest of her hand up as directed. The door swung open and she stepped inside. The door closed immediately behind her and the lights in the room came on.

 

A voice spoke, “I am glad that you have arrived. I have waited a long time for help.”

 

J’Rontia looked toward the voice and saw a white table with a skeleton lying on top of it. She moved closer and said, “How can I help you?”

 

The voice spoke again, “I can no longer operate the equipment because the main power cells ran dry. When the Kuli first came, it was about a thousand years after  held off a major attack and I was almost completely out of power. Thousands of years earlier, we had arranged for the Kuli to come to the planet but it was assumed that I would still have power to communicate our needs with them when they arrived. That last attack drew down my power so much that I could no longer waste energy for communications. Still, we had an agreement that this year they would come to charge me. So I waited in silence till you came.”

 

J’Rontia was thoughtful for a while and then said, “Will a channel burst on a spire charge your cells?”

 

“No. You need to send power to the three smaller spires at the same time or it will reflect back.”

 

J’Rontia answered, “I can do that. I currently have seven trillion zrytors of power available in burst from my capacitors.”

 

The voice was excited when it answered, “That will almost fully charge me and is more than enough to restart the star engines. How were you able to bring that much energy?”

 

J’Rontia said, “I didn’t. We were attacked and I had my force field absorbing the energy and then transferring it to my capacitors.”

 

“Spatz! Those are some powerful capacitors. In my time, only the ancients had that type of holding capacity.”

 

J’Rontia was curious and asked, “You are not one of the ancients? You use their language.”

 

The voice laughed, “We are not the ancients and that is our language. We based most of it on their language when we discovered one of their civilizations during our space travel years.”

 

J’Rontia asked, “May I ask who you are then?”

 

The voice responded, “We are the bringers of brightness. The symbol of a hand pulling a sun is ours. Although we never left this arm of the galaxy, we did travel for a number of years until we realized how dangerous our inventions were becoming. Then we dismantled most of what we didn’t need and hid the most dangerous ones that we thought we might someday need or that we could not destroy. Like this weapon.”

 

J’Rontia was startled, “I thought that this was a hidden city that I was restoring.”

 

“Yes and no. This is a city, one of our greatest achievements, but it is also our most dangerous weapon and I was placed here to make sure that it did not fall into the wrong hands. I have waited a long time for your help.”

 

J’Rontia was not sure how this was going to play out. She asked, “Who are you and where are you? Also, once the weapon is powered up, what are your intentions?”

 

The voice did not answer right away. The white table started to glow and the wall behind it lit up with monitors showing multiple systems. Then the voice answered, “May I draw some power from your ship? I need it to show you what you want.”

 

J’Rontia sent a thought to her Soretto that power would be bleeding off the ship a bit and told him to keep a watch on the energy flow. Then she said, “A small amount of power will not be a problem.”

 

The room came to life and system after system turned on. The voice directed J’Rontia to watch a number of screens as the information started to flow to the equipment that had been silent for so long. The screens showed J’Rontia the story of her people and the city building of the city. Then the voice spoke again, “I am T’Lhafter, the last brightness. I was given this name because I am the last of my people left alive.”

 

J’Rontia interrupted, “What about the girl? Isn’t she your daughter?”

 

“Yes she is. However, she is only half of my race. The other half is from the man on the table there. He was a Kuli that crashed into the ruins during my last battle and died after years of helping me. The child is ours.”

 

J’Rontia said, “I guess that only brings up more questions.”

 

The voice answered, “Correct. However, I do not have time to answer everything. Let me be brief and then we need to bring the machine back online before it automatically self-destructs when it runs out of emergency power.”

 

“Agreed.”

 

The voice continued, “I was born to be a part of the machine. My race was dying off and this weapon needed to be safeguarded so my parents agreed to allow their child to be customized to be the machine’s guardian. The machine was built into my body as I grew and I was adjusted to communicate directly with the weapon. I still had all the parts of my people but as time went on I accumulated various machine parts. In the end, I was more a machine than a person.”

 

The voice paused for a few moments and then continued on sounding rather sad, “For hundreds of thousands of years I have lived and fought those who would use the weapon. When the time came that someone could destroy this machine of death, then my work would be complete, but that never happened. All that anyone who discovered it ever wanted to do was use it to eliminate an enemy. All that is, except the Linthians and the Kuli. However, neither group had the technology to destroy this machine.”

 

The voice paused and continued with a very tired tone, “After the last battle, I found the prophecy of the blue in my memories. Just before I was placed on this planet, I asked our council what I should do if the machine still exists when my time comes to die. The council chamber had only two of the members left alive and yet that day a third person was in the room. The third person spoke, “If that is your fate, then an ancient prophecy will be fulfilled for you.” Then I was given a viewer with the prophecy on it. I will show you.”

 

The viewing panel in front of J’Rontia held the following:

The bright of white enters the dusk before her final flight

The blue of right will light the brightest night

Blue warrior of unbreakable mold will fight incredibly bold

Blue glow to save the day and the child of bright to lead the way

Power collected bold will save the city gold

And the engine of the stars will rise and leave behind its bars

In the abyss it will stay to hide until the day

The Little Warrior so bright will light the way out of the night

The engine of the stars alive once more will pry open eternity’s door

A final answer to the plea and the ancient ones will be free.

 

The voice went on, “I never knew who the third person was and he stayed in the shadows where I could not see him.”

 

J’Rontia was intrigued by the poem and found a number of familiar phrases in it.  She had many questions but could tell that the voice was fading. Clearly all the talking was a strain for her. J’Rontia asked, “I was told to power the city of gold and that I would understand what that meant when the time was right. I never figured the city to also be a weapon. How long do you have and what will I do with the machine if you die?”

 

The voice was unsteady as it answered. “During my daughter’s time in stasis, I used the machine to build a command center that she can control without having to become a part of the machine, although she will not have the years of life that I have had. The machine knows where to go. Once there it will only allow you or my daughter to enter the command center. I programmed the machine to follow your commands for ten more standard years. Then, either my daughter will have returned to guard it by then or it will self-destruct.”

 

J’Rontia had to ask, “Why didn’t you have it self-destruct in the beginning?”

 

“Because when it self-destructs it will rip open the fabric of space-time itself and create an unknown number of worm holes and other space time anomalies. The star engines must be drained before it can be dismantled safely.”

 

J’Rontia said, “What should I tell your daughter about you?”

 

“She already knows what she needs.”

 

J’Rontia went on, “Where are you?”

 

The voice answered sadly, “I am in the machine. When I became pregnant, my daughter needed nourishment that no longer existed here in the city and my condition did not allow me to leave. I gave birth with the help of the machines I built and sacrificed most of my physical body so she could build hers. Then I placed her in stasis until there were others who could help her.”

 

The story J’Rontia found in T’Lhast’s brain now made more sense and the sacrifice was even more impressive than the little girl understood. J’Rontia wished she could help more. “Can I do anything else?”

 

“Yes. Return the bones on the table to Linthia for burial.”

 

J’Rontia moved back to the table and looked at the bones. Her attention was drawn to the left arm of the skeleton. Just above the elbow was a scar on the arm bone in the shape of a triangle. J’Rontia was stunned! How was that possible? She asked, “What was your mate’s name?”

 

There was no answer for a long time. Then the voice came in a whisper, “I need the power now. I cannot hold the autodestruct off much longer.”

 

J’Rontia sent the thoughts to her Soretto and he initiated the power burst as instructed. In moments, the machine surged to life and J’Rontia asked again, “Who was your mate?” But there was no answer. J’Rontia checked the readouts and saw that the life was no longer registering. She reached out with her mind and found the woman, still alive, and tried to give her energy. It was to no avail; she was too far gone after all those years. J’Rontia thought she heard in her mind one word, ever so quietly spoken, “Watcher,” and then J’Rontia felt her slip away into the eternal night.

 

The City of T’ouraget

 

Hastee had the evacuation almost complete when the air around the ruins started to clear. Perhaps she would be able to see what was left before she had to leave herself. She had the auto washers clear the windows again of debris so that she could see through the glass better. The external cameras, the ones not broken, were worthless due to the filth all over them.

When the bell sounded she turned to the window. What she saw shocked her to her core. She could not believe the sight in front of her eyes and quickly brought as many sensors back online as was possible with all the damage. They showed that her eyes were true and the vision was real.

The marsh and the lake were gone and the bay now extended all the way to the desert. The ruins were also gone – completely. It their place was a gleaming city of gold with six spires rising high to the sky and another group of three surrounding the Kuli ship which was glittering with all the colors of the rainbow. Then the wind shifted and the debris clouds blocked her view once more.

Hastee slumped to the floor. The lost city of gold was a myth, a legend, and in some stories, the home of the gods or the ancients. The city supposedly contained secret weapons that could even topple the Linthians. The walls were believed to be made of gold itself and the buildings full of the riches beyond belief. Hastee never thought any of it was true; she scoffed at those who chased the dreams. Now it seemed that she was the fool, she had been sitting right next to it.

The next morning was forever coming. Hastee never evacuated so many people so fast. They all wanted off of the planet as soon as possible so that they could get away from the water. They were willing to leave everything and anything behind and they were not afraid of the turbulence left over from the attacks on the ruins. Even after one of the shuttles crashed, no one worried about their safety in the air, only about getting away from the water.

Hastee was almost done with her job her. Gster Construction would be investigated for its connection to the Kiltrin attack and more than likely held responsible for the relocation costs for all the planet’s citizens. She doubted that she would receive her final payments on her governor’s contract. No doubt the trio would be upset, although they would have done the same.

Hastee looked to the window and saw the clouds clearing again. Perhaps she would see the city of gold once more. She stared across the sea waiting for a glimpse but was disappointed as the sky clouded up again. Now she knew why the Kuli kept ownership of the ruins and wondered if she was correct about the moon that was still stationary over the city.

Night was falling and Hastee was just about to leave when the ground started to shake. She spread out her tentacles and wondered why there was an earthquake on such a small planet. She slid over to the control panel to close the shutters and glanced out the window one last time. There was the gold city is all its glory. She smiled as she realized how beautiful the city was. Another quake came and she reluctantly closed the shutters in case the glass broke. It was time to go. A short time later, she boarded a shuttle with the final members of her staff and they said farewell to the planet Gster.

 

The Ruins of Gster

J’Rontia exited the chamber and smiled at T’Lhast. “Your mother is a brave woman.”

T’Lhast said, “She was. I am going to miss her. She said to trust you and that you will help me prepare to be the next guardian.”

J’Rontia almost laughed. “I will do my best. Right now we need to get this machine running again. Can you show me the command center your mother built?”

“Yes. This way,” said T’Lhast and she took off so fast she was almost running.

Once the city was up and running, she contacted her Soretto. “You can shut down the force field. I have the city’s field up at full strength. Also, do you have an update on the citizens?”

“Yes,” he answered. “They are evacuating at top speed. I imagine that they will be out by morning.”

“Good. We will leave tomorrow night.”

J’Rontia turned back to T’Lhast and asked, “Do you know who your father was?”

T’Lhast said, “Yes. He was a famous Kuli.”

“Do you know his name?”

“No. My mother said she could not tell me because it might cause a problem when I meet him.”

J’Rontia asked, “Did she say why?”

“Yes. But I promised not to tell.”

J’Rontia smiled to herself as she thought about the events, T’Lhast’s comments about her father, and how attached she was becoming to this little warrior. She said, “We will have to go back to the ship to prepare for our journey.”

T’Lhast nodded and they proceeded to the exit.

J’Rontia entered the control room of her ship. Everyone in the room was smiling at her. She asked, “What’s up?” No one answered. She moved to the next room to check on her Soretto. When she entered the room he was on the medical table. She said, “How are you healing?”

Her Soretto turned to her with a huge smile on his face and held up his hands. Both of them were completely healed. She was thrilled and her joy overflowed as she ran to him and hugged him. He then turned toward her and his legs fell over the side of the table revealing two fully formed feet. J’Rontia was stunned and said, “You are healed? Do they work properly?”

Her Soretto answered, “Yes. The white did the trick. I have looked at some of the other pathways I use and found similar control sets.” When he saw the look on her face he went on, “I did not open any of the others. But I think we will need to have a conversation or two with a high-ranking Kuli soon.”

J’Rontia agreed.

As night fell the next day, J’Rontia and T’Lhast fired up the huge engines of the city of gold. The machine started moving out from the planet causing massive earthquakes and destabilizing the orbit some as it left a huge hole where it had been. By morning, the big machine was completely off of the planet and beyond the moon. The machine rotated so that the six spires faced the planet and then positioned itself so that the moon was between the planet and the city of gold.

Waves of gold washed over the moon as it shimmered in the morning light. The moon shook and rotated so that its pyramid point was facing down. Slowly but surely the moon moved toward the planet. In the Kuli ship, Greeney smiled as her fifteen children faced a monitor and watched the moon travel down. One little boy suddenly exclaimed, “Look, it fits in the hole.” They all watched as the moon slid right into the hole left by the machine. Soon the planet was whole again and the restoration was complete.

J’Rontia looked at her Soretto and said to herself, “Yes, the restoration is complete.”

T’Lhast watched a different monitor that showed the city of gold moving off into the distance and then vanishing as it entered stealth mode. She remembered her mother and the dying city as she thought to herself, “The restoration is complete.” She missed her mom.

One of the sensors in orbit around the planet recorded the return of the moon to its place of origin, the exit of the city of gold, and the departure of the Kuli ship. Once it was alone in space, the sensor sent a message and then destroyed itself.

Moments later, a ship shimmered into view nearby. The pilot of the ship had sea foam blue hair with touches of reddish amber streaks, a smile that could win wars, and eyes so green they could almost hypnotize you if you stared at them. She reviewed the message sent from the Deceiver’s sensor while her ship recorded the final disposition of the planet and the system. The Ghost was correct, they were still after J’Rontia and they had not known that the city of gold had been here.  She could only imagine the scene when it was discovered that not only did they fail to destroy J’Rontia again but that they missed a chance to get their hands on the legendary the engine of the stars.

The mischievous smile on her lips faded as she considered this latest attempt on her daughter’s life. Even with the recent setbacks, Gster was too powerful an ally of the Deceiver to let him walk away. She programmed new coordinates into her ship. It was time for a ghost to visit Mr. Gster and help him see the error of his ways. The mischievous smile returned as she contemplated her options and the ship vanished once again.