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 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.”
“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.
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?”
“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.
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?”
“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 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.
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.