Category Archives: Guardians

TT: He didn’t quit

The Tears of Tyria – The Chronicles of J’Rontia

He didn’t quit

J’Rontia was just below the water and breathing through a Thristle stem that she had poking up throw the reeds. This was a difficult exercise and all of the candidates, except one young man, had surfaced. Most of them came up fast choking and sputtering. Some of them she even felt sorry for, well for a little while.

She probed out with her mind and did not see the young man. He was very close so she should have connected right away and not being able to “see” him in her mind made her curious. She increased her efforts and found his body. His mind was not lit up and it took a moment for her to realize that he did not have advanced mental abilities.

She changed techniques and started to probe for a mind that was not enhanced. She did not find him. She went back to her first probe and investigated deeper. How strange. He had the design of an advanced mind but it was as if it was turned off. No, it was like it was blocked. Even more curious.

Her probe had gone deep enough that she recognized him as Resurt from Trewst. He was a candidate without special skills and he was able to participate in their training due to a condition of the Trewst Corridor Treaty. She searched her memory for the details on the treaty and found little. She had overheard two instructors talking and they only said that the original family bloodline was allowed to attend Kuli training but that no one had ever graduated. In fact, most of the candidates from the family dropped out right after they started. Resurt had been here for years and they said he did great on all the non-mental ability trainings.

She was having trouble staying focused. It was as if he was resisting her and the deeper she probed, the greater the resistance. She noticed that her probing was disturbing him as his heart rate increased in direct relation to the depth of her probing. This was causing him to increase his breathing and the tube he constructed was not large enough. She needed to back off.

Several times, during the long night, she repeated her probe and her curiosity increased as she discovered in him a calm determination to win this contest. He knew that he was going up against her and that she almost never lost. Still, he didn’t quit and was even convinced that at this event he could beat her. He knew that no one in the contest had ever gone past the next morning and he wanted to break at least one record while at the academy.

When morning came, she could sense his pride at lasting longer in the contest than any others before this time. It was not arrogant and he had no intention of using it to advantage with anyone. She smiled as she came to understand the quality of character that she was competing against. He was a very worthy opponent.

The day was almost over and the sky had started to darken when she felt the creature. It was a water creature swimming toward them. The creature was not deadly and could cause very little harm. Perhaps this little swimmer would panic the young man and this contest could end.

The creature bumped into the young man several times and herself a couple without making any impact. Clearly, this young man was determined to win; however, she had no intention of giving him the win. She knew that most of the records she had broken belonged to her grandfather and she could not let him down. She realized that the contest may last a long time.

Then disaster struck for the young man. The creature bit his breathing tube and his air stopped flowing easily. The young man had to work hard to force the air in and out of the tube. Surely he would give up now.

When morning came, the young man was weakening. He could not draw enough air for his body and she knew that soon he would black out if he did not rise out of the water. She probed once more.

Resurt could not believe that it was coming to this. He finally had a contest with one of the best that he had a chance to win and his tube was damaged. He knew that he was close to blacking out but he could not give up. Maybe her tube is also damaged and one more moment might be all it takes to win. He was representing his family and his people. No, he would have to keep trying until he blacked out, even if it could mean he died.

J’Rontia considered what she just heard. She knew that she was not supposed to be mentally listening in but could not help herself. She wanted to win and sure didn’t want to deliberately give up. Still, she might cause him to die if she continued. She wondered what she should do.

 

Late that afternoon, at the end of the current set of exercises, J’Rontia debriefed with her grandfather.

Tomli asked her, “Why did you quit the water test?”

She looked at him for a long time before answering. She said, “I know I am not supposed to quit.” She paused again before speaking and then said, “The young man in the water with me was a strong man and very dedicated to doing good. I have watched him help many other candidates during the time we have worked together. We need him alive and I could not take the chance that he might die. My job is to save all the lives I can and my ego cannot be allowed to get in the way.”

Tomli smiled and said, “During a Kuli’s training, the Guardians watch for many things. In order to ever become a Supreme Guardian, a young Kuli must demonstrate certain traits without prompting or training. Some Kuli never understand why they are not offered additional training later in life. They never understand the weight arrogance and ego have in determining what opportunities are provided.”

J’Rontia’s face lit up and she said, “You told me to let you know when I decided on the most important characteristic for my Soretto. Well, I have determined it.” She went on, “I want whoever it is to be like that young man – no matter how bad it got, he didn’t quit.

Tomli smiled and nodded.

That evening, on the other side of the compound, there was a small ceremony for the very few students who completed their training and passed all areas except those that required exceptional mental abilities. This was usually a somber celebration as these students would never be a Kuli and most came with family expectations of how special they were. Whatever abilities they showed when they were young did not expand as they grew and they were going to have to face social pressure for failing when they went home.

Technically, it was a huge honor to finish the training as over 80% of all candidates drop out at their own request. Usually this happened due to repeated failures or because they did not want to work so hard. Still, the mood was seldom upbeat.

Tonight was different. The mood tonight was very upbeat and most of those earning a certification of completion held their heads high. This was the first time in the academy’s history when a non-graduate broke an academy record. Resurt was now the record holder for the water exercise. To top it off, he won against the highest scoring candidate ever, J’Rontia.

Resurt was not as excited as the others. He knew how close he came to dying and was not sure what he was going to do when he left the school; however, he did have his name down as a record holder and he might as well enjoy the celebrity. So, he smiled and tried to have a good time as a representative of his people.

Toward the end of the night, an older man came up to him and asked if he might have a moment of his time. He said yes and then went off to the side of the hall where it was quiet.

The man asked, “What do you plan to do after you are done here?”

Resurt answered, “I guess I will go home and ask my uncle for a job.”

“Are you interested in working for the Linthian Intelligence Service?”

Resurt was shocked and took a long look at the man. He recognized this man as one of his instructors. The man had taught a few sessions on the practical aspects of stealth and camouflage. The courses were excellent and exceedingly practical.

Resurt said, “I must first return to my uncle and honor the commitment I made. If he has no work, then I would be very interested.”

The old man nodded and replied, “Excellent. I like a man of his word.” The old man stood and handed him an identity crystal. Then he smiled once again and walked away.

Resurt turned to go back to the party and J’Rontia was standing right in front of him. She was always very stealthy and he thought that she must enjoy startling people. She was as beautiful as ever and he wondered what she was doing here.

J’Rontia said, “I had to stop by and offer my congratulations. You did a great job and I am glad that I was able to work with you.”

Resurt was surprised by her words and did not know what to say. A few of his friends stood nearby and were clearly stunned that J’Rontia was talking to him. He was rather impressed that she even showed up.

Resurt said, “Thank you. That means a lot coming from you.”

J’Rontia smiled and turned toward the crowd. She took his hand and lifted it into the air in a victory spear. Everyone in the whole area cheered. She did it two more times to bigger cheers each time. She turned back to him and gave him a warrior clasp which elicited another rousing cheer from the crowd.

J’Rontia looked him in the eyes and said, “When you are ready, call the old man. It will be the toughest work you will ever have but, in time, it will be the most fulfilling.”

J’Rontia turned and walked to the gate to leave the party with all eyes on her. Everyone was so impressed that she had come to congratulate Resurt. At the gate she turned and said to him loud enough for all to hear, “I am confident that in the future we will work together again.”

After she turned and walked away, the crowd came over and took turns giving him warrior clasps. He was thrilled that she had come by and was touched by her comments. Although he was not too excited about the warrior clasps – he was going to be very sore in the morning.

J’Rontia had not walked far when she realized that the old man was beside her. Without missing a step, she reached out like lightning with her knife and killed the deadly creature that had just dropped on his shoulder. The old man never flinched although a slight smile drifted across his face.

J’Rontia spoke first saying, “I did what you asked. Do you think he will take the job?”

The old man nodded and replied, “You sealed the deal.”

“What about his uncle? He might have a job for him.”

“We spoke with the uncle earlier today and he agreed to release Resurt in exchange for the Psner contract we were negotiating with him.”

“Are you sure he is the one?”

“No. But he has the DNA and the family treaty would indicate that he could be.”

J’Rontia walked beside the old man for quite a while before speaking again. She said, “Is it right for us to manipulate people’s lives?

“No. That is why we always tell all before they finally join, including how we helped them decide. We occasionally have some that back out at that point; however, they usually come back later. Once they understand what we really do, they almost always join.”

“Why can Kuli not join?”

The old man sighed. He knew that this question was coming for a long time but had hoped she would be much older before he had to address it. He stopped walking and turned toward the river. She stepped up beside him.

The old man said, “Kuli take a vow to never display their beliefs in public so that the organization can avoid the politics of religion. It has helped them greatly as an organization but leaves the individual Kuli trapped without much of the spiritual support others enjoy.”

He paused for a moment or two and then continued, “All warriors, especially superior warriors such as the Kuli, take lives at times. This is deeply disturbing to the psyche if not properly prepared for and properly handled afterwards. Having a Soretto helps many but not all Kuli.”

He paused again, this time for so long that she almost began to talk herself. He went on, “The Order left this galaxy tens of thousands of years ago, leaving the Kuli to carry on in their place. Since that time, the Gatekeeper and the Tall Man were the only members from the Order that have interacted with this galaxy. The death of the Gatekeeper when I was a boy changed many things; however, the Order believes that this galaxy will be saved by its own people with help from the Kuli and they do not plan to return. I was assigned the job of findin
g a new Gatekeeper; however, as a Kuli, I cannot join either. I can only help on occasion.”

J’Rontia understood what was being said and what was implied as she had figured out most of it when she read the real history of the Silver Realm using the patterns of the Tall Man. Still, she wished they could tell the young man right now. She asked, “Why can he not be told now who he might be?”

The old man smiled. She was always direct. He answered, “He has not had a chance to become what he wants to be. He doesn’t know what he will be giving up until he has experienced it. Everyone can do more than they think but not everyone figures that out by themselves. He did. He must be allowed the opportunity to find out who he is before he is asked to give it up, especially since there is no going back.”

The old man thought he knew what was next. J’Rontia had not been allowed to choose. Her life choices had been significantly narrowed by a society that did not accept those who were different in certain ways. Once again she surprised him.

J’Rontia said, “I think I understand why so many Kuli candidates drop out of the training now. The religion wars and the KRs have changed everyone’s perception of people with extraordinary powers and quitting training is the only way they have a choice. Of course, then they end up giving up the best parts of who they are for their own perception of choice. How sad!”

Inside he smiled a huge smile. She had accepted her role and her abilities in a way that made him so very proud. He turned back to their path and they walked on in silence. They were almost to her barracks when he stopped and gave her a hug.

J’Rontia hugged her grandfather back and said, “Please let mom and grandma know that I am doing the best I can to make them proud.”

The old man answered with no small measure of pride in his voice, “I will pass the message on but they already know.”

She smiled again, turned, and entered the barracks.

Later that night, the old man looked at his view screen as a response to his message came in, “Why do you believe that this descendent is the gatekeeper when the others were not?”

The old man answered, “Because he did not quit, even when it meant his life.”

An answer came back immediately, “If he didn’t die, how do you know?”

He sat there looking at the screen for a while before answering, “He did die. And yes, I removed the memory when I brought him back.”

The answer came back quickly, “You are authorized to put the Gatekeeper plan in motion.”

Resurt went to the window before bed that night and looked up at the stars. It took a long time but he finally found his home star. He knew that his uncle would not have work for him. The Linthian Intelligence Service would find a way to make sure that there was no work for him, he was sure of it.

He knew who the old man was and he did want to help. Still, the old man did make a mistake. Resurt had a very unusual memory. When he was very young, his grandfather had taught him how to use his brain to store important information in two separate locations. The second location was hidden, even from himself, unless he ran a special algorithm through his mind.

Before he went to bed he had decided to review the exercise that he was being praised for because he could not remember the end of it. With all the excitement and activities he had not been able to find the time to access the hidden memory to check the events of the water exercise. What a surprise to find out that he had actually died. It was an even bigger surprise to find out who entered his mind/body and “restarted” him.

Resurt made mental notes on the section of the brain and the locations on his body that the old man used. He did not know enough to use the information himself but he was sure that it would be valuable in the future. He prepared for bed but could not relax so he went to the window and looked to the stars.

He spent a long time looking at the stars. His grandfather had told him he was different and that his time would come so he needed to be ready. He was six at the time and had thought he was already ready. His grandfather went on and said that in time he would be as Trewst was, but until then, he needed to grow up and have patience.

Trewst was not a location in the beginning; it was a man – his ancestor. Trewst was asked by a Kuli to hold a space channel that protected that sector of the galaxy from invasion by a neighboring galaxy until he could return with help. Trewst had very few old ships and no experienced warriors.

Trewst moved quickly from planet to planet in the area and offered protection from the enemy if the locals supplied minimal assistance and gave him control of the passage rights through that space for the future. Everyone thought he had a great force and so they aligned themselves with him. In time, all the minimal assistances added up and he did have a great force. He held off the enemy in some ferocious battles until the Kuli returned with a Linthian Armada and destroyed the enemy.

During the engagements, there were many times when Trewst was outnumbered and the enemy asked for his surrender. Every time, he refused and then attacked with such ferocity that the enemy was forced to regroup. He was very good at timing his attacks so that his reinforcements would show up at critical moments, often surprising both the enemy and his reinforcements.

He hoped that someday he would be able to assist the Kuli as Trewst had. Resurt had never accomplished anything so impressive. Still, he never gave up during a fight in his life. There was one thing he already had in common with Trewst – he didn’t quit.

That night, J’Rontia dreamed that far away beyond the reaches of space, another man contemplated a message he just received. The man was a tall man. He looked old, but not real old; he had light brown eyes with a gold glint in them and there was evidence of faded 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 roughly trimmed beard that covered most of his face except for a large scar on the left side. When he walked, his long coat would sway with each step accenting his stride and giving him an almost royal look.

The message read, “We have found a Gatekeeper. We need you to hold.” The Defender of the Realm walked to the nearest window and looked into a dark and empty sky. They want him to hold? Hold what? There was nothing left here to hold. He struggled to fight back against the darkness that was pressing on his mind. Each year the fight became more difficult and his mind tired easier. The truth was that there was plenty to hold and knowing help was coming gave him the strength to go rally his troops once more.

They all came together in the main planet’s largest hall. There were representatives from all the original planets and from the new floating colonies. There was excitement in the air for the first called assembly in decades. When he took to the stage, the crowd came to their feet in anticipation of good news.

He raised his hands and the great hall fell silent. He said, “Yesterday, we received a message from the Order.” Cheers resonated throughout the hall and it was a long time before calm was restored.

Once it was quiet again, he read the message. The cheers rang out again and it took longer for the quiet to return. He raised his hands again and then went to his knees. The entire room followed. After a few long moments, he arose.

He moved back to the podium and said, “It will take a long time to prepare the Gatekeeper and for the Paladin to prepare his army. Can you hold?”

The crowd in the hall answered, “Yes!”

He said, “It may take more than one generation. Can you hold?”

The crowd answered even louder, “Yes!!”

Three days later, an evil, dark warrior stood on a hill on a distant planet confused. He had beaten them at every turn. He pounded their cities and destroyed their planets and still they would not surrender. Most of their original planets were destroyed or under his control. The people left were sharing planets or living on floating colonies. He thought he had them beat. He thought that their spirit was finally broken and then they held their meeting.

His spies told him about the Gatekeeper and the Paladin. He laughed that night. How could a promise so vague, about something so far in the future, affect the battles here?

The days since the meeting were a nightmare. All the years of steady progress were wiped out. He lost three planets in two days and was barely holding on to this one. Even if he stopped them here, which he now doubted, it would take many, many cycles to reclaim the lost ground. He just didn’t understand the man leading the fight against him. His situation was hopeless but he just didn’t quit.

J’Rontia awoke from a nasty dream about an evil, dark warrior and a dark realm. She got out of bed and went for a drink. The dream completed the story of the Silver Realm. Everything must balance. The Sovereign did not remove the Silver Realm from the rest of the galaxies to get away. He used the strange black hole near the Realm to send the Silver Realm in one direction and the Dark System the same distance in another direction.

The myths made it seem as if they left to avoid the wars and responsibilities. They didn’t. Instead they sacrificed their own system to protect the galaxies from a growing darkness. They also sent their best warriors to fight the evil and did it as far away from everyone else as they could. The universe thought he took the Silver Realm and fled when, in reality, he didn’t quit.

Soon, she would join the universal battle against evil. She hoped that she would be worthy of the honor given her. She learned a lot recently about why people were worth fighting for. As she looked at the ceiling from her bed, she considered the young man in the water. The young man was representing his people. His honor for them put him in a situation where, even when it meant his life, he didn’t quit. How much harder would he fight when more than just honor was on the line?

 

SR: A Light in the Darkness

The Silver Realm: A Light in the Darkness

I used to think I was a great warrior and was so very proud of the history of my warriors. I am a member of the Order of the Silver Star and over the years won every personal battle I fought. I moved up in the ranks easily and few were even able to provide me a challenge. I won many accolades over the year and was even an undefeated general at one point – then I went to Hrunt.

The Hrunt system was under attack by the Tourab Empire and they pleaded with all the surrounding systems to send help as surely we would be next in the Empire’s expansion. Our system answered the call for many reasons. As a general of the Order, I was chosen to lead a group of 35,000 troops sent from the Gloster Federation.

We arrived on the battlefield with a string of victories going back to the days of my great grandfather. The glories of years past drove us to victories in the first days and brought hope to a devastated planet. We took the battle field and soon mastered the ground driving the Empire back. None could stand against us and I personally battled their best without difficulty. Then we met up with the evil one they called the Emperor’s Hammer and our world changed.

I was inducted into the Order of the Silver Star as a young soldier who was barely out of school. After my third war, I was given the Amulet of Freedom which I wear at all times. The Amulet is a high honor and contains the essence of truth. It was only this that saved me on my first encounter the Hammer. I had led the charge up one of the lonely hills in the battle zone in a total rout of the Empire’s soldiers. They had no chance against our superior skills with weapons and our advanced fighting techniques. When I reached the top of the hill he was standing there alone. He smiled an evil grin that made my skin crawl and we slowed our pace to a walk. As we approached, he raised his sword to the sky and lightning came down and struck the weapon in his hand. His whole body glowed as the lightning flashed and a dark gray outline formed in the air around him. He brought the blade down as the lightning abated and moved toward us.

He was on my right side and one of my lieutenants felt the force of his attack first. When the blade came down it struck the lieutenant’s sword and an explosion shook the ground and a wave of destruction flowed out from the sword. Hundreds fell in that first blow and most of my troops stopped in their tracks to see what I would do. I moved directly toward him.  

It was clear to me that he was surprised. He did not expect that anyone would come after him once he unleashed the lightning in his sword; however, this was not my first encounter with an entity that had supernatural powers. My sword was given to me by the Last Knight of the Silver Star and when he dies I am destined to become the Last Knight if I survive that long. I believed that my sword would take the day and walked up to the Hammer with no fear in my heart.

The Hammer hesitated and that allowed me to get into a comfortable position. We moved around assessing each other as adversaries do when there is a level of respect. Then he attacked. His sword swung around as he spun in a circle after a feint to draw me off guard. It did not work as I anticipated that move from one such as him. When the sword came around, I was ready with a stroke of my own and the swords hit with a tremendous force.

The resulting explosion would have killed most men and a concussion wave swept across the battlefield leaving much destruction in its wake. After the blow, I still stood in front of the Hammer with my sword held high and the Silver Star’s Amulet of Freedom glowing as a beacon in the night. The Hammer was stunned that I was still standing. As he looked around, I dropped quickly to the ground to try and catch him off guard as I spun and then swept around with my sword. The Hammer did not have time to get his blade in a defensive position and my sword struck his legs with all the force I could muster. The blade went through his legs gleaming with silver as the blood flew across the ground. I watched him fall to the ground as I prepared my killing blow.

Just as I was about to finish him off, the ground around me evaporated and we both fell into a fresh crater tumbling into separate piles at the bottom. I stood slowly while surveying the newly formed terrain around me. The Hammer struggled to sit up and you could see the agony on his face as the pain from the loss of his lower legs struck him. For the first time, he understood what it meant to face an equal. I moved to finish my job when, suddenly, on the edge of the crater, I saw a figure appear. The figure was in a dark robe that was almost black yet escaped the totality of that color with unusual light gray patterns that swept across it in a lively yet disturbing way.

The figure lifted off the ground and floated down in front of me just to the side of the Hammer and I recognized him. The emperor asked, “How did you survive that blow?”

I did not answer and directed my stance in his direction.

He looked at my amulet and reach out to touch it. I swung my blade to cut off his hand and somehow it missed. He laughed and touched my amulet. There was a bright light and he screamed in agony as he was thrown back onto the ground next to the Hammer.

The emperor arose and said, “You are not a Hrunt! What are you doing here? We did not attack your system.”

I answered, “The Hrunt asked for help and we answered.”

“You fool. This is not your battle.”

I replied, “Regardless, we are here and we are helping.”

The emperor gave me a disgusted look as he said, “You will wish you never came if you do not leave now. I will give you a safe passage out of this system if you leave today. If you do not, you will wish that you had not been borne.”

I leapt forward with my sword swinging and struck the emperor on the upper arm. The blow did not penetrate deeply but it did throw him to the side on top of the Hammer. I followed with a spin and a jump to avoid any of their sword action, which I did, and brought my blade down with all the force I could muster on the two of them. The blade went through the emperor’s arm and pierced the Hammer’s side.

The emperor screamed in agony, slapped his remaining hand against his belt buckle, and vanished. The Hammer, realizing that his master had left, did the same thing and disappeared also. I foolishly thought that I had won the day. After I crawled out of the crater, I looked around and realized how many of our troops had died in the engagement. There were no cheers of victory as the two evil ones escaped with their lives and we knew they would return.

Two years later, I stand on the ground that we recently “won” in battle and look at my remaining troops. Of the 35,000 that came to save the Hrunt, only about 500 are left. The Hrunt army is still 25,000 strong as they replace their losses regularly. The problem is the age of the new recruits. They are either very old or extremely young and my forces spend almost all of their waking time training or stopping a breach in our line. There are no smiles anywhere. We have withstood the best that the enemy sent and I have won every encounter with the Hammer, who is now not much more than an apparition. Still, we have lost many battles and the wins come further apart all the time. Yet, it is not the battles that we have lost that destroyed the spirit of my men. It is this battlefield that we cannot seem to get out of.

This place really smells bad and no one ever gets used to the odor. Over the years, on various planets, I have experienced other really foul smells and they all would seem to go away after I was around them for a while. That is not the case for this particular battlefield. It isn’t just the decaying corpses, the burnt flesh, or the explosive residue that stays with us; it’s more the atmosphere of despair that creeps into our souls and damages everything that makes us who we are, making the smell a live thing that attacks us at our core with our every breath.

The emperor never returned to the battlefield but his presence did. Ships would fly over and drop diseased corpses on our camps, into the streams and lakes we drink from, and on us during battles. Soldiers of the empire would light themselves on fire and run into our camps trying to set everything they could touch on fire. In the middle of the night, tortured animals would be set loose in our encampment. The list of dishonorable tactics deployed goes on and on.

My soldiers wanted to leave and go home, even though it would be the first defeat ever since the establishment of the Order of the Silver Star on our planet. So that afternoon, I decided to kneel and pray. As I knelt, I could hear the question roll through my mind in a soft voice, “Do you want to quit?” I could also hear, even louder, “You cannot win, go home before it is too late.” The conflict in my mind was complex and I was torn. I prayed for guidance and another voice, a quiet, gentle female one I have never heard before asked, “What is the right thing to do?”

I know what is right. I must stay and try to win against this evil even if costs me my life. Without our help the Hrunts would have lost long ago and my oath to the Order of the Silver Star requires me to help the weak against all evil. This question galvanizes my thoughts and brings strength back to my convictions that I almost lost. I am ashamed that I even considered leaving. The people on this planet do not deserve to suffer like this without any assistance. I changed my prayer. Instead, I asked for a ray of hope for my troops and a light in the darkness for this planet. As usual, I did not receive an answer. When I finished my prayers, I came down from the hill and attempted to rally my troops once again.

I awoke in the morning to the sound of explosions with dread that another attack had started before we were ready. Today could be our last day. I decided that I would go out in style and quickly put on my dress armor. I walked out of my tent into confusion as everyone outside was looking up into the morning sky. A ship was descending under heavy attack from the Empire.

The ship was like no other ship I have ever seen. There was no defining shape as it seemed to morph as it came down. The color was silver with gold stripes on what became the bottom. The explosions that had destroyed almost all of our supply ships had no effect on this ship and it was not deterred in its course.  The final shape as it landed was a square box with four feet on the bottom.

I ran to the front of the group forming around the ship with no fear as I remembered my prayer from the previous day. A ramp descended from the ship and anticipation rose as we all prayed as never before. After a few anxious moments, a woman walked down the ramp with confident strides and a commanding presence that quieted the crowd.

Her black boots rose above her knees and had a silver band around their tops. On the front of each boot, in the silver area near the top was the symbol of the Order of the Silver Star, an outline of an angel with a star in her outstretched right hand. Her pants were laced with the light armor of our Special Forces, except that hers had vertical silver force lines glowing from her boots to her belt. The belt was silver and had a buckle with the symbol of freedom from the amulet engraved on it. Everyone around me was kneeling and bowing down, leaving me the only one standing as is proper when greeting a dignitary.

She wore a breast plate that covered her body from the neck to the waist. The plate appeared to be metal but flexed with her movements and seemed to change shape so that there was no discomfort to the wearer. She was wearing a long jacket made of a material I had never seen that ran from her neck to her ankles and was open in the front with a catch chain at the waist. Her helmet had a gold band that ran around her forehead and above it her head was covered with a black metal. The helmet came down and covered her ears and the back of her head and neck as it draped over her jacket. On her hands, she was wearing gauntlets that covered her jacket sleeves and ended just before reaching her elbow. The only part of her body showing was her face.

Her hair was in her helmet except for some that came out around her neck and flowed down over her breast plate. The hair was bright blue and so radiate that it seemed to glow. Her face was firm and delicate at the same time with deep hypnotic blue eyes. She had thin lips, a thin face, and clearly was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Still, I could not miss the tremendous power that she exuded. When she came closer, I could see symbols engraved on her helmet’s gold band. The symbols did not mean anything to me but I will remember them always: άγγελο

She stopped at the bottom of the ramp and asked, “Are you the General of Orinth?”

“I am known by that title on some planets.”

“I am here to assist you.”

I felt my heart leap in my breast as I realized a prayer answered. I did not know what to say, so I reported as I would to a superior. “Excellent. I could use another 15,000 troops, weapons, food, supplies, and the use of this ship.”

She smiled and I felt my heart lift even more. Then she laughed and said, “I am afraid you misunderstand. I am here to assist you. You will have my services for three local days. Then, I am afraid, I must move on.”

My hopes were dashed to the winds. Just when I thought things were turning around we were back to where the day started. I said, “Sorry. I thought…” I paused. I really didn’t know what I thought.

The woman spoke as I tried to regain my thoughts. “What exactly did you pray for last night?”

I was stunned for moment and then said, “I asked for a ray of hope.”

She smiled a very mischievous smile and said, “I guess that I am Ray.” Then she laughed some more as the troops around us joined in. It was the happiest I had seen them in a long time.

When the laughter settled down, she asked, “What are your plans for today?”

“I was going to attack their headquarters.”

“Very well, let’s get to it.”

She reached between her coat and her side and pulled out a magnificent sword. The sword was as long as mine with strange symbols and drawings all over it. She lifted the sword to the sky and spoke the Oath of the Order of the Silver Star.

She turned back to me and asked, “What approach were you going to take?”

“I was planning to go across the front behind the trees, after that we will travel in the river, and finally we will come up behind the hill.”

She nodded and said, “I will go straight up the hill in a frontal attack.”

“They are the strongest there. Why would you do that?”

She smiled that smile again, “Because they are strongest there. If we can defeat them at their strongest, then there is no hope for them and we regain the momentum. Plus, that is where their anti-ship weapons are. If we destroy them, then your reinforcements will be able to arrive along with supplies.”

I looked on with surprise as she continued, “You have fifteen ships in orbit awaiting a clear path. Shall we go make one?”

What could I say? Nothing had prepared me for someone so bold and confident. Worry ran through my mind about what would happen to our new hope if she was killed. She was looking at me and it felt as if she could hear my thoughts.

She said, “Do you believe in your prayer?”

I was ashamed. I knelt, bowed my head and said, “I apologize. I am unworthy.”

She laughed again and then, becoming serious, said, loudly so all could hear, “You are one of the most worthy warriors of the Order ever. The Order commends you on your dedication to this cause and the valor with which you have served it. In honor of our fallen Knights and with my authority as a Steward, I now anoint you a Paladin of the Order of the Silver Star.” She took her sword and tapped both of my shoulders. “Please rise.”

She turned me toward the troops and raised a cheer. “May we live well, may we cherish our families, may we honor the Order, and may we follow our Paladins into hell and win!” The troops repeated the cheer three times and then they gathered around and congratulated me until my shoulders hurt. The atmosphere had completely changed and their eyes were bright again. We had not seen a knighting in the field nor had anyone been knighted a Paladin in thousands of years, it cleansed our souls.

After some time, everyone settled back down and she asked, “Are we ready?”

“Yes.” I turned to my men and said, “Form ranks in 4D with the Hrunts as your cores.”

The troops quickly formed squares of 100 men with the Hrunts in the middle of the squares and my men on the outside with the Hrunts’ best troops filling the gaps where I no longer had enough to complete the square. Each of my lieutenants took the lead of a square and formed up behind me and my group of special mission forces, although only twelve remained of a force that originally held 200.

I led them to the bottom of the hill where she joined us. We were now a fierce looking army and all of the troops held a sparkle of determination in their eyes I had not seen in a long time. Hopes were high as we prepared to assault the enemy’s stronghold from the worst possible approach.

I returned to the front of the assembly just in time to hear laughter broadcast loudly over the battle field. The Hammer stood at the top of the hill with the Emperor standing next to him. He bellowed into a sound amplifier, “Did you bring your daughter here to die?” He laughed more and the Emperor just stood by silently. After a bit, the Hammer yelled some additional insults and bragged about the destruction of our force and how the Hrunts are running out of men to die. Finally, the Hammer bellowed, “You better hope your daughter dies because if she doesn’t, she will be mine.”

I looked at the strange but beautiful woman warrior at my side and she smiled. It was a smile that radiated confidence and no little mystery. I knew that the men would follow her into the jaws of death itself but at that point in time I could not have given you a solid reason. I turned to my men and gave the command. We started to move forward and the enemy attacked.

The guns thundered in the morning air as they sent explosive rounds toward our position. We braced but kept moving forward, waiting for the impact and death that would follow. It never came. The woman’s ship flashed silver threads that consumed the rounds from the guns before they did any damage. We were thrilled and started to run up the hill like the young men most of us were not.

We had always just accepted the losses from gun attacks and never considered that we could move in close without huge losses. The explosions taking place over our heads created a light show that was spectacular if deadly. She had truly brought a light into the darkness in many ways.

We were close to the top of the hill before the enemy moved to engage ground forces and additional weapons. They rolled their engines of death forward to the crest of the hill. Their favorite was hot oil. They had catapults powered by various sources that propelled canisters filled with oil into our midst. After two years, we were ready for this. We all had modified our armor so that we had cloth with a paste on it that overlapped all the exposed areas. We also carried a shield that we used to protect our faces and to deflect most of the oil. Still, it was easy to make a mistake or slip and then the damage could be severe.

They also liked to retarget their large guns close and use less power so that they would deliver a large amount of shrapnel into our ranks. The armor we wore prevented any serious damage unless you dropped your shield at the wrong time and the shrapnel hit your face. The problem was the minor damage the shrapnel inflicted. Little by little a soldier who was not careful had their armor damaged and the soldier became less and less efficient.

The worst came from their projectile weapons. The weapons were not accurate over a long distance but deadly as we came closer. The projectiles would not penetrate our armor but they would bruise the soldiers they struck and if they found a chink in the armor they could cause a serious injury. As we closed on the top of the hill, their soldiers stepped to the edge and started firing their weapons at us with some effect. Some of our troops fell in the front lines, but this time no one stopped and those that fell rose up and continued on if able. Clearly the woman was making a huge difference.

I was close enough at that point to see the enemies’ faces as they realized that all of their tactics made no perceptible difference in the speed or quantity of troops racing up the hill at them. The woman and I reached the frontlines of their troops at the same time and our swords flashed at speeds that were barely visible. We drove through the line as a Knife through creost. My elite troops were only steps behind and widened the path even further allowing the squares to enter and then move sideways in their attacks. The additional squares would flow forward and then move sideways at a new spot alternating left and right. Soon the enemy was in a rout over the sides of the hill while we continued on toward the headquarters.

The woman fighting at my side never tired or slowed down during the attack up the hill or during the head-on assault against the massed troops at the top of the hill. She was like a fine-tuned war machine that was untiring and extremely accurate. When we engaged the enemy at the top of the hill her blue hair seemed to glow and her eyes took on an almost eerie appearance that obviously upset the men she faced. As we finally broke through their main lines, we paused and sent our troops in squares after the remaining groups that fled down the sides of the hill and the balance of the squares formed up behind us.

Once we had reformed, we looked down on their headquarters. Standing directly in front of their main ship was the Hammer and the Emperor. On their sides and behind them were soldiers that we had never seen before. These troops were wearing advanced armor and held cutting-edge weapons such as plasma guns. The ships that they protected were not the battle carriers we had seen before. These ships had interstellar capabilities and progressive weapons systems. This equipment was banned on planets with a level of technology such as this one. The emperor had crossed some serious lines this time. I was about to say something when I heard that evil laugh over the sound amplifier.

The Hammer said, “Surprised. I warned you about bringing your daughter into battle. Even your best troops cannot stand against these.”

The woman moved an object in front of her face and said, “Why don’t the leaders just fight it out? Or are you scared of losing to a girl?” The object was some sort of sound amplifier and we could all hear what she said.

The Hammer answered angrily, “We will see about that.” The nearest ship emitted a sharp whine and a beam flashed out toward the woman. Instantly her sword was in position and the beam hit the sword which appeared to absorb the energy. When the beam quit, she pointed her sword at the ship and the beam flew from her sword and impacted on the ship causing a huge explosion. Anyone who doubted she was from the Order no longer had any doubts. Only a sword of the Order could contain such energy. The explosion was soon followed by more as the ship blew to pieces and sent the enemy scrambling to get out of the way. She started to move toward them and we followed along.

We were almost close enough for the plasma guns to be in range when the woman’s ship appeared overhead. An orange beam fell on the enemy troops and their ships. Moments later, her ship returned to its original landing spot. I was curious what that was about for a while until I noticed that their plasma guns were not working and that the lights on the ships were slowly going out. The enemy was confused and angry.

This time the Emperor spoke to the woman, “Who are you?’

She answered, “I guess I am Ray.” Naturally, all of my troops broke out laughing at that comment. She held up her hand for everyone to stop.

The Emperor spoke again, “You have no right here. You are using forbidden technologies and this is none of your business.”

She replied sweetly, “Section 4G.5r of the treaty notes that any use of technology above that of the home civilization without the Treaty Council’s permission can be neutralized by any other technologies as long as the other technologies are not used for attack.”

“The council members are all dead so the treaty does not matter.”

Her voice tightened and the steel came out as she spoke striking all with its confidence and strength, “There is one that you did not kill who still lives and who sent me.”

The Emperor hesitated and his voice was shaky when he replied, “He cannot still be alive. It has been tens of thousands of year.”

She answered, “Yet – I am here.”

With confidence returning, the Emperor replied, “Yes, and you will die here.”

The Emperor motioned with his hands and the strange warriors moved forward to attack. The woman next to me looked at me and smiled. I could see that her eyes were glowing blue as was her hair. She said to me, “I will lead. Watch my back.”

I ran as fast as I could and was barely able to keep up. I heard my special forces running hard to catch up with us. In the background, I could hear the lieutenants setting their squares in motion carefully. In mere moments, she engaged the enemy with a level of ferocity I have never seen. When she hit a soldier with her sword, they would either be neatly sliced in half or they would fly back from the impact. I got behind her just in time to prevent an attack on her back and soon my special forces joined me. It took all of us just to keep up with her and prevent attacks on her from behind as she cut through the enemy like they were nothing.

Soon she was twisting and turning to maximize the effect of her attack and to prevent the enemy from escaping. In a short time, she had decimated the enemy’s forces and was moving against the elite troops protecting the Emperor. When we reached the Hammer, she stepped aside and allowed me to engage him.

He was no longer the powerful man I fought years ago. He had maintained some of his strength over the years but I knew that his losses were taking a toll, yet so had mine. Now he just watched as his secret weapons were disabled and as a woman destroyed his special troops like they were nothing. It only took me a few swings of the blade and he was down for good.

After the Hammer went down, there were only five warriors between us and the Emperor. The five stepped away from him toward us to engage. Before they had gone two steps they dropped as spinning metal stars cut through their armor and slit their throats. I had hardly seen her hands move.

She walked slowly toward the Emperor and asked, “Do you wish to surrender?”

“You do not know who or what I am. I will give you no more warnings if you continue.”

She laughed and took another step.

The Emperor swept his hands around and clasped his wrists together. A blinding flash flew out and a concussion wave followed. I was pushed back but not far as I had anticipated this. The woman was not fooled at all and used the flash to move forward and swing her sword. The Emperor was sliced in half.

His armor sealed the wound immediately as he screamed in agony. He reached to slap his belt buckle and escape when he realized that she sliced him above his transportation device. His face twisted in hate and he screamed in rage, “He will only send another. You cannot win.”

She looked back at him and, before his life left him, said, “You tell him we will be waiting.” The Emperor’s eyes rolled in his head and he screamed once more as his life drained out of him.

The woman turned to me and said, “I guess you did not need three days.”

She reached out and pulled me toward her in a big hug. Then she turned to the troops and shouted, “May we live well, may we cherish our families, may we honor the Order, and may we follow our Paladins into hell and win!” We all joined in for three more cheers and then she said she must go.

The two of us walked back to her ship as my lieutenants started mop up duty with the remaining enemy troops and as my special forces dug through the strange soldiers gear and ships. As we walked, I asked her, “How can I ever thank you?”

She smiled again and said, “Go back to the priests of the Order and Complete the Rite of the Paladin. They will be able to help you understand.”

We talked as we walked about the planet and what must be done to restore it. It seemed like only moments and we were at her ship. She started up the ramp and turned and walked back to me. She leaned over and gave me a kiss on the lips. Then she pulled me closer and gave me another deeper kiss. This time I kissed back rather eagerly.

She stepped back and said, “I will return when you need me.”

Then she turned and climbed aboard her ship. As the ship rose into the sky I just stood there staring as I realized that I was in love with her. There had been a growing darkness in my heart and now she was like a bright light in the darkness for my soul and this planet. The understanding came over me that I would never love anyone but her and that somehow that was all right. I stood there looking up until one of our supply ships started to land.

 

 

 

 

 

Later, far out in space, the warrior woman got out of her seat and removed her uniform. She carefully placed it on a special carrier and the refresher went to work on it until it was sparkling clean. Throughout the cleaning she just stood there watching with a distant look in her eyes. Finally, when the uniform was clean and refresher done, she sighed deeply and turned back toward her command chair.

Walking toward her as if he had just come through the wall of the ship was a tall man. 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 he stopped and unleashed a smile that warmed her heart.

This time, she was barely startled by his sudden appearance out of the wall of her ship, not like the first time when she attacked him. In fact, she was very glad to see him and she smiled deeply outside and inside. He had changed her life before and now, after her recent mission, she felt reborn.

The tall man asked, “Well?”

He never wasted a lot of words and was quite to the point and yet all of his words, even a simple well, made her consider carefully her response. She answered with a question, “How often will my missions be like this one?”

The tall man responded, “In what way?”

She smiled again. He always managed to turn a question back to try and make her realize what she really wanted to know and how she really felt. She already knew her answers once she thought it through. She said, “I understand. The evil that was there will be in all my missions and so will the good. How often will I be able to be άγγελο?”

Now it was the tall man’s turn to smile. He knew that she understood now and his work was almost completed. He answered, “I will need you in this galaxy once every year or so to represent the Order. Yet, I sense more to your question. The uniform is yours to keep and use as you wish; however, you may not use the Order’s marking outside of this galaxy, except for the helmet. You have earned the right to wear άγγελο.”

She could not help herself and she reached out and hugged him. She was surprised when he hugged her back warmly and when she looked up he had tears in his eyes, which he discretely brushed away. She stepped back and asked, “Is he your son?”

The tall man did not need to answer; she could see the answer in his eyes. He said softly, “Yes, one of them.”

He anticipated her next question and handed her a small metal object. When she grabbed it, it disappeared and she felt a tingling in her arm. “It will stay with you and when you are needed it will appear and give you a location to go to. One of the priests of the Order or your Paladin will let you know what they need.”

“How will I get across the galaxy in time to do any good?”

The tall man smiled and walked over to one of the panels on the walls. “Touch here.”

She did and the panel slid up revealing a hand print recorder.

“Place your hand here and the ship will almost instantly return to the location I first brought you to in this galaxy. The temple there will be reactivated by the Paladin you just knighted and when you activate this your ship will appear in their temple grounds. Now, I must go.”

She gave him another hug and thanked him again for saving her.

“You have paid that back many times over and you owe me nothing.”

She smiled and he turned away. He walked toward the wall of the ship. He shimmered a little and then was gone. She thought back to when she met him and knew that she would gladly give her life in his service. Of course, the Paladin was a pleasant surprise and she knew that she would happily answer the Order’s calls for help.

 

 

 

 

When I returned to my home planet, I went straight to the temple. I sat with the high priest and told my story. Then I drew the markings I saw on the woman on a sand tablet. The priest looked at the tablet and smiled. He went to his bookcase and found an ancient book. He set the book on the table in front of me and opened it to the center pages where there was a detailed drawing of the symbol of the Order of the Silver Star. It was a woman with her outstretched right hand holding a star. The priest then unfolded the pages to revel a larger drawing that showed the woman in great detail. The drawing was in color with a silver star; the woman’s hair was bright blue and there was a blue glow around her eyes. Her uniform matched exactly with the one worn by the woman who came to help me. There were strange symbols all over the page but I quickly recognized one set right away: άγγελο. I pointed to it and the priest nodded.

The priest quietly told me, “It is a word: ANGEL. You have been knighted by one of the Angels of the Order. This is the first time in tens of thousands of years that an angel has shown up. It is both a great honor and a warning. The Order has let us know that a Paladin is needed. For thousands of years, we have kept faithful with the tithe. We will now open up our resources to you so that you can prepare the army that will be needed.”

After much planning and a very long day, I walked out into the night alone and crossed the Silver Piazzas to the Star Chamber. I climbed to the control chair and set the coordinates for the location of space we saw the Angel’s ship head for. I sat there reviewing the stars in the path indicated. What crisis was developing in the galaxy that required an army of the Order of the Silver Star and how bad would things get before my light in the darkness returned?

 

The Lord of Light

Tyria’s Tears – Volume 1: The Chronicles of J’Rontia

Chapter 6: The Lord of Light

J’Rontia looked at the grade on her exam and was very frustrated. She was used to all perfect scores and this one was definitely not perfect! The older students told her that this instructor was one of the hardest when it came to grades but she did not believe them. She had always found a way to earn top marks and was confident that she would prevail once again but she hadn’t on their first large project.

 

The assignment was a situational problem where you had to decide on a rescue. The deeper into the course the students went the more complex these types of situations became. This one actually seemed simple on its surface. There were two people trapped by a criminal in a closed alley way that only permitted access from one direction. The criminal had the two hostages in position so that at least one of them would die if you took action. In addition, there were traps in place to destroy the rescuer if they made a mistake.

 

The directions gave the criminal force sensitivities to prevent the Kuli candidates from using their stealth abilities or mind control techniques on the criminal. She thought she had done very well with her solution. Her result was that only one hostage died and the criminal was taken care of. Everyone else in the class either lost both hostages or died themselves along with the hostages. 

 

She was on a porch outside the building where she had picked up her assignment and was trying to find her way through the problem. The wind was coming off the ocean with a mist and she enjoyed the moist feeling on her face as it helped to keep the frustration at bay. Her eyes were squinted to keep out the salt from the mist and she took an occasional deep breathe to enjoy the smell and taste of the ocean. She closed her eyes and imagined the forces working against her in her mind. Slowly she defined all of them until she no longer felt the wind pushing on her. She was sliding sideways through space time in her mind and wondering if she would ever learn to do it in the real world.

 

A touch on the shoulder brought her back to reality and she turned to see the face of the instructor that was haunting her mind, Supreme Guardian Kuli J’Lopt. He grabbed her arm firmly and pointed down. A shocked look came across her face as she realized she was out over the ocean. She started to drop until his grip on her arm held her. He stepped back and lifted her over the railing and back on to the porch.

 

“Well I guess you have taken your first steps at controlling space time.”

 

J’Rontia looked at him, still in shock at what she had done and said, “I didn’t know …”

 

J’Lopt laughed. “You are a very talented young lady and it will be a long time before you can control space time on purpose. Still, even by accident, it shows the tremendous talent you possess.”

 

She turned away in embarrassment and mumbled thanks.

 

J’Lopt interrupted her saying, “I came by to talk to you about your assignment. Do you have a moment or two?”

 

“Yes. I have time.”

 

“Good.”

 

J’Lopt moved over to a chair on the porch and sat down, motioning to her to join him. He reached out with his hand toward the paper she was still holding and she gave it to him.

 

J’Lopt asked, “Do you think I should have given you top marks for letting a hostage be killed?”

 

J’Rontia was a bit startled by this question and thought for a moment before answering. She said, “I understood the assignment to be about solving the problem and was not able to find a solution that kept everyone alive. If there is a solution that does that, then I should not have earned top marks.” 

 

J’Lopt answered, “Good. You are thinking through it better now. However, my question was about a hostage being killed, not you or the criminal.”

 

“I did not consider a situation where I died. We were taught in past courses to factor ourselves in at a high value so that we could compensate for the number of times, over the course of our lives, that we would save people.”

 

He asked, “Who were the hostages?”

 

She tried to remember and could not. She took her paper back and looked over the data again. The names of the couple sounded familiar so she checked her computer. When the results came back she understood the problem much better.

 

The names of the hostages matched the names of the founding parents of Murhan. The ancient story said that all of the advancements of the Murhan and Linthian people come from the pure blood of the first ones. The first ones’ children breed with the life that they found on the core planets and produced the peoples of the Galactic Wing. This was only one of the stories of creation and was not very popular but still she should have studied harder. She was humiliated with her failure and said, “I am so sorry to disappoint you!” She got down on one knee and bowed.

 

J’Lopt responded softly, “Rise my girl. You are never to bow to me. The story is designed so that you will learn to always look beyond the immediate problem to how it fits in the entire picture. Now, what would you do knowing that your hostages represent all that Murhan and Linthia would ever become?”

 

J’Rontia spoke quickly, “I would use the F’Hored force technique to protect the hostages while killing the criminal as quickly as possible.”

 

“Do you know that would more than likely kill you?”

 

“Yes. But compared against the elimination of our entire race, my death would be a minor thing.”

 

J’Lopt nodded, “I thought the same way at one time.”

 

He paused and looked at her carefully. She was still very young, only six standard years and yet she was smarter and wiser than most of his adult trainees. He didn’t know if she was ready but decided to go on.

 

J’Lopt pointed at a nearby classroom and said, “Let’s step into this room and I will tell you the true story of The Lord of Light.”

 

J’Rontia entered room F-7 and sat in a chair in the front row as J’Lopt pulled a chair in front of her. He took an unusual device out of his pocket and placed it on the table. It was in the shape of a ball, so small that he could have hidden it in his hand. The ball started to spin and then lifted off the table hovering in the air. After a short time, it returned to the table top and three legs came out. The ball balanced itself on the legs and a green light leapt out of its top and flowed around the room as if it were a liquid. Once the entire room had been swept, the light returned to the ball and a steady orange glow emanated straight up.

 

J’Lopt said, “It is now safe to speak the truth of the Lord of Light.” He sat down in the chair and continued:

 

The story they tell you of my battle with the Lord of Light starts on the Planet Hrufger at the edge of the Galactic Wing – 75 standard years into the Religion Wars. I was sent to the dark moon of Hrufger where the Lord of Light’s forces were massing for an attack into the Galactic Wing. I had one of the new Kuli combat ships with the high capacity energy shields and the latest weapons. I was being sent to destroy the fleet that had gathered there. The Linthian Armada was engaged in other areas and the mission was designed to be a quick surgical strike. I was given the authority to deviate from my mission if the Lord of Light himself was there.

 

The true story started much earlier. The Lord of Light was the grandson of two KR2s. The KR2 soldiers were genetically enhanced warriors that were used by the Linthians to reduce the number of regular combat troops needed to defend the planets and interests of the Galactic Wing. The KRs were created from volunteers from some of the most prestigious families in Linthia and Murhan. At first, they were a great success and their numbers increased as the armed forces numbers decreased. As time went on, problems began to develop. It turned out that they burned so bright that their light went out early. There were also problem with some losing their mental stability.

 

Their military use was so successful that tremendous effort went into attempts to correct or compensate for the difficulties. Still, some did incredible damage and the Council ordered them out of the general public and restricted them to combat situations. This worked very well and the public became comfortable with their new soldiers.

 

The project had a failsafe built in by making all of the KRs sterile. This meant that as they died the military needed volunteers to maintain their force strength. As time went on, the KRs stabilized and the armada was able to shrink in size. It was a success of sorts. And then the children came.

 

The military kept the births quiet because it eliminated the problem of having more volunteers. This attitude created an issue with the KRs as they had agreed to serve for life but they did not agree for their children’s life to be given to the military, plus a lot of the children had no special abilities and the military had little use for them. Dissatisfied, many of the KRs slipped away from the military and tried to raise their children in secret.

 

The situation moved into the classification of a crisis when a couple of the KRs who were in hiding lost control mentally and used their advanced abilities to totally destroy a group of planetary police who were trying the capture them to return them to the military. This confrontation included a lot of news video and the public was able to see the true depth of their power and their glowing eyes. Fear ran rampant throughout the galaxy as word spread about the danger of those with glowing eyes.

 

For approximately 40 standard years, the situation worsened as the various civilizations outlawed the KRs and demanded they leave their planets. Faced with charges of desertion if they returned to the Galactic Wing, the KRs who left the military were forced on to fewer and fewer planets. Then the impossible happened.

 

In a hospital on the planet Raxfet, a child was born to two children of KRs. The event was broadcast on the newsnets all throughout the galaxy. The child had no special abilities and his parents believed that if everyone left them alone, the KRs would fade away. The galaxy breathed a sigh of relief. That is, except a small group of Linthian scientists and one Supreme Kuli who knew the truth. The KRs were designed to be sterile to prevent a child like this from being born.

 

There is so much more to tell… But we are not here for that. Suffice it to say that when the child reached puberty, the advanced abilities awaked. The limitations and constraints on the powers that were built into the originals were not there in this boy and the child soon learned that he was the most powerful person in the galaxy.

 

By the time he was 20, he had a following that thought he was a god sent to rescue the exiled KRs and all the other unfortunate people in the galaxy. In short order, he had multiple planets under his control and armies rose against him. He crushed them all. Each victory brought him more worshipers and additional resources to build his war machine. At 25, he named himself a god and declared war on all who would not give tribute. The religion wars had started.

 

You have studied the wars so I will not bore you with the details again. I only wish to remind you how he drove a path straight through the galaxy toward the Galactic Wing, swallowing system after system. He was about half way across when the Linthian Armada started to engage his troops. No ships or troops were able to withstand the Armada and soon the war ground to a halt far from the Galactic Wing. We thought the war was won until he appeared in front of cameras on the planet G’Rosst where a Supreme Guardian was protecting one of the Linthian Council members.

 

As the galaxy watched on the news programs, he took the light out of the sky and roiled it in his hands. Then he threw it at the Supreme Guardian and the galaxy watched as one of the greatest warriors known, T’Klot, went to his knees. A second blast destroyed T’Klot’s protective shield and he literally melted into nothing. The galaxy was stunned. The KR grandchild stepped in front of the recorders and told everyone that he was The Lord of Light and no one could stand against him.

 

This scared many in the galaxy and governments all over sent assassins to kill the Lord of Light, including the Linthians. Everyone tasked with killing the Lord of Light died, even the Supreme Guardians that the Linthian Council sent. This scared the Council as they saw the ranks of the Supreme Guardians start to diminish due to the losses in battle and the losses from assassination attempts. Soon they decided to back off of the personal attacks. They changed strategies and sent a group of us to a special outpost in the Abyss where we trained in the advanced technologies that they believed the Lord of Light was using.

 

We only took one break during our years there. When we emerged from our training during that break, we learned that the war was going poorly. The Linthian Armada was the best in the galaxy and outperformed all that they came up against; however, when the Lord’s armies were being pushed back he would show up and turn the tide with the use of technologies so advanced people other than his followers started to believe he was a god.

 

The Lord of Light had learned enough about controlling energy to withstand some of the most powerful energy weapons of the Linthian Armada. The Armada could destroy all of his ships and troops but every time they started to win a battle, the Lord of Light would show up and melt some ships to stop the Armada once again. Soon the war became a controlled retreat. System by system the local governments agreed to worship him in exchange for him letting them survive.

 

There were five of us who survived the advanced training, including my wife. My wife was also a Supreme Guardian and she not only survived the training but gave birth to our daughter while we were there. My wife was very gifted in the advanced arts but did not have the broad range of abilities that I had. For this reason, I was chosen to be one of the two who would be the first to face the Lord of Light. After all the years of training, we were eager to face the enemy.

 

The war had almost reached the edge of the Galactic Wing when the two of us arrived on the scene. The Linthian Armada had slowed the advance of the Lord of Light’s troops to almost a stand still because the Linthian Council had allowed the building of ships with advanced technologies that prevented the melting and because they deployed the KR troops. Except for battles where the Lord of Light fought, the Armada was winning. Still, the creep into Linthian and Murhan space continued.

 

J’Trudd was my partner and we were trained to work in pairs to help protect each other when battling the Lord of Light. The Linthians had learned that the Lord of Light could slip through space for short distances, much as you just did, which allowed him appear and disappear as he wanted. So we planned to attack in pairs to cover each other’s back. When we arrived on Hrufger, J’Trudd stepped on a mine that took both his legs. He was send back to a Kuli hospital for regeneration and I ended up alone.

 

The planet Hrufger is a huge planet with three moons. One of the moons always stays on the dark side of the planet and after three local days I received word that the Lord of Light’s troops were massing there. I had one of the new Kuli combat ships with the high capacity energy shields, the latest weapons, and stealth capabilities. With my advanced training I was sure I could handle anything.

 

I landed without incident near the rim of an old crater on the dark moon. My sensors said that I was not detected and that there was an enemy base over a nearby hill. I could see hundreds of enemy ships in the night sky and proceeded to set up my monitoring equipment to prepare for my attack. When I finished, I moved outside my ship. The gravity was light and my breathing equipment slightly uncomfortable. The moon had an atmosphere of sorts and I did not have to wear a space suit but it was far below freezing and I was dressed warmly. I went to the rim of the crater and set up the rest of the monitoring equipment that I brought with.

 

As I finished, I turned toward my ship and saw him. The Lord of Light was standing between me and my ship. He was a thin man with pure white hair and a face with no beard. He stood no taller than the average Murhan and had an angular face with a pointy chin. He looked young but had a cold and stern look in his eyes with a smile that could raise the hairs on your neck. His skin was leathery and had scars all over it in grotesque patterns with no hair. He wore a gold band around his head, one on each wrist, and one on each ankle. He did not have any clothes on except for a light gold cape and a wrap that went from his waist to the top of his thighs. He wore sandals with gold straps and he had six toes.

 

The Lord of Light looked directly at me and smiled as he said, “J’Lopt. How are you doing?”

 

I was shocked that he knew my name but tried not to show it as I said, “I am a little cold. Are you here to surrender?”

 

He laughed and shook his head. Then he said, “I don’t think I will be surrendering. Do you really think your special training can have any impact on me?”

 

I was young, strong, and fresh from training and said, “I don’t know what you think you know but I am not afraid of you. If you surrender, I will escort you to Kuli headquarters so that you will be assured of a fair trial.”

 

He laughed for a bit and then stopped. He reached out with his hands and rotated them in a quick spiral pattern and the sky disappeared. The faster he moved, the darker the sky became. The only light I could see was coming from his hands. It looked as if he was drawing all of the light out of the sky into his hands and in mere moments he unleashed a light pulse on me.

 

This was what we prepared for. I also had gold bands on my wrists and absorbed the energy he sent, working it with my own knowledge to create a pulse that was out of phase with his that I hurled back at him. I hit him square on with the pulse and fully expected him to die or melt.

 

He only laughed and said, “I guess their assumptions were wrong. Now try this.”

 

The Lord of Light motioned again and another blast hit me and sent me flying into the rocks of the crater’s rim. I felt my bones shatter from the force as I hit and my clothes and skin were torn to shreds as I slid across the rock. I focused on my condition and shut down the blood loss while accelerating my healing. I quickly turned my focus back to the Lord of Light and started to rise.

 

The Lord of Light was walking over slowly shaking his head once again saying, “Stop and save yourself. You cannot stand against me. Your powers are nothing compared to mine.”

 

I tried to concentrate on the energies around me but only found my ship. When I went to draw power from the engines I could feel the Lord of Light interfering as he said, “That power is mine also. You have nothing here to draw power from and I need nothing to have power. You Kuli gave up your real knowledge and power thousands of years ago and now that knowledge is mine.” He raised his hand and blasted me into the rocks and dirt again. Agony rippled through my body as it screamed in distress over the damage I had sustained. Caught off guard by the sheer magnitude of his power I had allowed myself too few defenses and was paying a price for my arrogance. I decided it was time for strategy and told my body to act like it blacked out.

 

When I seemed to come to, he was almost directly over me and coming closer. This is what I had hoped for. I had stored up a large amount of energy and was acting as if I was knocked out to bring him closer. I was about to strike with laser precise and cut off the wrists so that his bands would not work when an unknown force threw him off to the side with great force. I tried to sit up but could not due to all of my injuries.

 

I saw flashes of energy as a battle raged. I fought through the pain and it seemed like eternity before I was able to sit up and what I saw brought tears of pride and fear. My wife was engaged in an energy exchange with the Lord of Light and was losing. She had caught him off guard but he clearly was the master of the forces in use. My wife was both beautiful and fierce at the same time. She warmed my heart with her courage and skill as she parried his every move with a speed and proficiency that exceeded the best I had ever seen before. But it wasn’t enough.

 

The Lord of Light just kept speeding up while my wife was slowing down. He was thriving as the energy flowed through him and I could see that he was strengthening every time he used the power where she weakened. I reached out to the ship and siphoned the engine’s remaining energy and waited for my chance. After one of her attacks, the Lord of Light fell back and I sent all the energy I had, even some cell level energy, directly at him. The blast threw him across the crater into the ship. An explosion erupted from the craft as pieces flew in every direction. My wife had an energy shield up in time to deflect the debris and I could see her relief.

 

Soon, my wife was walking toward me with her lovely smile as she said, “Your timing was perfect. I could not have held out much longer.” She took two more steps and then froze.

 

I saw him standing there with the flames behind him. His skin was glowing as were his eyes. The look on his face was evil itself. He rose up off the ground and floated toward us as he held my wife frozen in place. His clothes were burned off and the remaining threads fell as ash to the ground. His evil laughter filled my head and fear clawed its way into my soul.

 

The Lord of Light said, “You fools! I have all the power of the best of you and training in areas you could not begin to understand. I can control all of the energy around us and it feeds my cells directly. I cannot be damaged permanently by your pitiful attacks.”

 

He looked me directly in the eyes as he motioned with his hand and the flames from the ship formed a cone that rose in an arch that landed on my wife. At first the fear was in her eyes and then only sorrow as she said, “I am sorry. I love you.”

 

I watched as the flames consumed her. My heart shattered and I could not even cry. I looked at her till there was nothing left except ash. My hatred formed a burning coal in my soul as I turned to the Lord of Light and summoned everything that was left, even the energy of my cells, as I prepared to go out in a blaze of fury. Then I saw the ship.

 

The Lord of Light saw it also. He turned away and moved to the center of the crater and concentrated on his hand movements as he darkened the sky once again. He threw a light pulse at the ship and hit it square on. The energy flashed and sparkled but the ship continued on surprising the Lord of Light and a smile came across my face. It was not a nice smile.

 

The ship was like no other ship I had ever seen. There was no defining shape as it seemed to morph as it came down. The color was silver with gold stripes on what was now the bottom. The final shape as it landed was a square box with four feet on the bottom.

 

The Lord of Light had not stopped attacking the ship. I had never seen so many types of energy attacks and was just beginning to understand the extent of the power the Lord of Light had at his disposal. Yet the ship was unfazed. The Lord of Light stopped his attack as the ship landed. We both watched as the door opened and a ramp descended from the ship.

 

I saw a strange, tall man coming down the ramp toward the Lord of Light. The stranger 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 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.

The strange man was holding an elaborately decorated cane. The handle appeared to be of silver with a delicately crafted symbol of a solar system with three suns that shone silver almost like a beam of light. The length of the cane was a deep yet shiny black with traces of silver threaded through it. Just below the handle was a band of silver with streaks and sparkles of gold scattered randomly. The bottom of the cane had an unusual end that was the blue of the open sky without that rubber look that most tips have.

The Lord of Light attacked as soon as the man reached the bottom of the ramp. Energy flashed and flames erupted in the most concentrated and intense attack that the Lord of Light had managed yet. When the flames faded, the tall man stood quietly and said, “Are you done?”

 

The Lord of Light sneered and said, “I have only just begun.” He began to weave another attack when the tall man held up his cane and the Lord of Light collapsed to the ground as a silver beam came out and struck him. The tall man walked over to the Lord of Light and motioned with his hand. The Lord of Light floated up off of the ground struggling the whole time against invisible ropes.

 

The tall man said to him, “We told you that the technologies were forbidden and that you could not use them. Did you think we were not serious?”

 

The Lord of Light answered, “You are not allowed to interfere. You better release me or you will suffer consequences.”

 

The tall man all of the sudden looked very sad. He set the Lord of Light down and said, “Go ahead and call for help. I will wait.”

 

The Lord of Light reached to the sky and a bolt of lightning flew from his hand into the depths of the heavens. Moments later he sent another. A third leapt from his hand in frustration a short time later.

 

The tall man looked at him with a sad look and softly said, “You have been deceived. Now surrender.”

 

The Lord of Light screamed in defiance, “I will never surrender. You cannot defeat me.” He then clasped his wrist bands together sending a blast into the tall man. The tall man had moved with lightning speed and was not there when the blast would have hit. Instead he appeared behind the Lord of Light. The Lord of Light also disappeared but when he appeared he found the tall man directly in front of him and he received a blast from the man’s cane. After four more attempts, and four more blasts, he dropped to the ground again.

 

As he struggled to rise back up, the Lord of Light appeared confused about this tall man that was besting the one who blasted star ships out of the heavens. He asked, “Who are you? You cannot be an ancient; they do not have this kind of power.”

 

The tall man shook his head and answered in his sad soft voice, “There is always a civilization more ancient and there are always people who rose higher.”

 

The Lord of Light went to clasp his wrists to his head band but was stopped just before they connected. The tall man said, “You will not survive a blast of that magnitude.”

 

The Lord of Light sneered again and said, “Neither will you. So prepare to die.”

 

The tall man moved and stood over me with a sad look on his face. The Lord of Light was still working against the forces holding his wrists back and they moved ever closer. The tall man glowed as a force field surrounded me. Then my world exploded.

 

When I came back to my senses there was nothing as far as I could see. No ship, no tall man, no Lord of Light. The moon’s crater was about twice as deep as before and I was lying on a hill left due to the force field. I quickly assessed my injuries and realized that I would die soon. The battle had taken too much and I had even drained deep cell energy. I tried to connect to the lifeforce but found little within the reach of my weaken powers. My wife had died in vain.

 

I drifted in my mind as I wondered if the tall man was dead also and who he was. There were more questions than answers. I was so wrapped in my thought and in controlling my pain that I did not see the ship approaching until it was almost upon me. It was one of the advance Kuli fighters. When my vision cleared again, I could see Tomli bent over me. He held his hands out and I felt healing powers run through me. The power did not flow properly and I could see the concern on his face. I blacked out again.

 

When I awoke, Tomli was still there. He said, “The Lord of Light’s energy blasts injured your cells at a level that damaged their core components. I have repaired what I can but you will have to go into medical stasis until the Kuli healers can fix the pathways. It will take a long time.” I nodded.

 

Two years later, I was released from the Kuli healing center to a hero’s welcome. Tomli credited me with destroying the Lord of Light and his fleet. He recorded the energy blasts from afar and then the final blast that destroyed most of the nearby fleet. I tried to tell my version but ended up in front of the Kuli Council.

 

The Council sat in silence as I waited in anticipation for their reprimand. Time seemed to drag on forever, them not speaking and me not being allowed to speak. Finally, a door opened behind the Council and the tall man came forward. No one looked at him or even seemed to notice that he was there.

 

He smiled at me and said, “You and your wife fought without holding back. You were willing to give all to stop an evil and save the galaxy. Your unspoken wish and prayer for the leader of the religion wars has been granted with a considerable cost to yourself. There are a great many challenges ahead and even more evil. Only you can do what is needed in the years to come. You learned many of the Lord of Light’s secrets during your battles and mine. You will need this knowledge in future years.”

 

The tall man gave me a small book and said, “You have earned the knowledge in this book. Use it well and give it to the child who walks on air.” I nodded yes and then he vanished in front of my eyes.

 

The Council chairman spoke as soon as the tall man left and said, “Thanks, you are dismissed.”

 

I walked out of the room with the book and never told anyone my version of the story until now. You have read many of my exploits since then. You are now one of only three outside of the Council who know that I did not have great powers at the time of my battle with the Lord of Light. Nor did I destroy the Lord of Light with them. What I learned from the battle and the book enabled me to address the remaining KR threats and end the religion wars. I also used the knowledge to rebuild the Supreme Guardian Kuli forces.

 

I never healed completely and live every day with pain almost as intense as the day it happened. It is only the techniques that Tomli taught me that day on the dark moon that enable me to control the pain. Still, that is nothing compared to my agony over my wife. Love is the most powerful force in the universe and the loss of a great love is the most excruciating pain one can endure.

 

 

When J’Lopt finished it was quiet in the room for a while. J’Rontia was stunned by the story and wondered how he lived so long with so much pain. She had always thought of him as a hero and, now that she knew the true story, she was even more impressed. It reminded her of an old saying Tomli taught her:

 

“It is not how many times you win or how big your victories are that determine how strong you are. Rather, it is how big of a disaster you are capable of surviving or overcoming.”

 

J’Lopt handed her an old book and said, “You will have to sacrifice much in the years to come. During those years you must remember that you may be all that stands between evil and this galaxy we love. You cannot ever sacrifice your life willingly. You must fight to the end and always believe that you will win and good will triumph. You need to remember that, up till the end, you will be watched over by Angels and Ghosts.”

 

J’Lopt stood up and put the chair back. He stepped in front of her and went on, “The correct answer to the assignment was to have the hostages attack the criminal.” He smiled at her and then he turned and walked out the door.

 

J’Rontia watched him leave the room and then looked at the book. The book was old, leather bound and it had pages made of real paper. There were three words, one paired with two, etched into the leather in a language she did not understand but that she knew one day she would figure out. J’Rontia carefully opened the book and flipped through the pages looking at the beautiful calligraphy of the hand-written and wonderfully illustrated masterpiece. She was awe struck and closed the book to look at the cover again as it seemed to radiate a warmth deep in her soul.

 

 

That night J’Rontia slept soundly and dreamed of J’Lopt and the stories she had learned. In the middle of the night, a tall man materialized in the room next to her. He walked over to the desk and looked at the book. He smiled. The seeds were bearing fruit. He looked at the girl in the bed and smiled again. He took an object and a paper out of his pocket and placed them on the desk next to the book. After one last look at the girl he vanished.

 

 

In the morning, J’Rontia dressed and prepared for the day. When she completed her preparation she had some time left before breakfast so she went to look at her book. When she reached for the book she saw the object sitting on the paper. She read the paper. “This crystal will translate the book for you. Just place the crystal over what you would like to read and you will understand the text.”

 

J’Rontia picked up the crystal and held it over the book. She was surprised by the book’s title and set the crystal back down. As she quietly sat eating breakfast, she wondered what secrets the book held.

 

That night she started her reading of the book with the unusual title of “πάντα αρχή & πάντα κατάληξη.”

 

 

SR: To Understand Them You Must Walk Their Path

The Silver Realm: To Understand Them You Must Walk Their Path

Earth – 2052 AD

The man looked at his hands and saw the card attached to his wrist. It was an interesting card and full of color to attract attention. He wondered what is was for and why it was attached to his wrist. He read the card.

“Your name is John Carter. You live at 12007 Freedom Avenue, Corpus Christi, TX”

This was followed by a picture of a really old man and a mirrored surface below which was written: “Look in the mirror.”

He looked into the mirror and saw the really old man staring back at him and he remembered that he was John Carter. The memories flowed back into his mind along with the realization of what that meant about his condition. He imagined that he went through this multiple times each day and a strange sadness spread through his body as the weight of the years overwhelmed him.

John Carter flipped the card over and saw the map. He was seated on a bench in the park about half way on his daily walk. He looked at his timepiece and noted that he was on schedule based on the map’s notations. It was nice to know that there was a plan and he felt much better. He decided that he needed to start on the next segment of his daily trip.

When he reached for his cane, he saw a strange, tall man coming directly toward him. The stranger 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 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.

The strange man was holding an elaborately decorated cane. The handle appeared to be of silver with a delicately crafted symbol of a solar system with three suns that shone silver almost like a beam of light. The length of the cane was a deep yet shiny black with traces of silver threaded through it. Just below the handle was a band of silver with streaks and sparkles of gold scattered randomly. The bottom of the cane had an unusual end that was the blue of the open sky without that rubber look that most tips have.

John Carter looked up at the man after taking time to consider all of what he had observed. The tall man smiled and John Carter felt his heart open with joy. The man said, “It is time. I have brought your cane.” Then he took John Carter’s cane and replaced it with the black and silver one. He smiled once more and left. John Carter had nothing to say as the shock of the visit tried to settle.

He watched the tall man walk out of the park and cross the street. He grabbed the handle of the cane and sparkles flashed across his vision. The cane was warm to his touch and his knees reminded him of why he needed the cane as he stood up. The memories about his walks came back as the pain in each step told him the reason for taking a break on the seat in the park. He walked as fast as his 90 year old body would allow and was surprised by a memory of his 50th birthday when he ran two miles with his son. He wondered what happened to his son and if he had more than one.

The cane was a perfect fit and he pondered the tall man again. The man looked so familiar to him, yet he figured with his condition that might be the case all the time. He was just thinking about how comfortable the cane was when he heard the explosion.

The sound came from just beyond the entrance to the park and he ducked just in time to miss a flying fragment of something. He quickened his pace as he moved deliberately toward the sounds of plasma guns firing. He tripped and fell down on the sidewalk with his cane hand underneath him. He felt shards of pain screaming through his hand and wrist as bones shattered and skin ripped. When he came to a stop he had scrapes on his face and he was laying on his side in agony.

He tried to move his hand but it would not let go of the cane and the warmth spread from the cane through his hand and wrist. The pain in the hand lessened and in moments he was able to roll over and stand up. He looked at his hand while he opened and closed it. There was no pain. Nor was there any of the old arthritis stiffness he usually felt. He decided that adrenalin was a good thing.

He moved toward the sounds of battle once more. His thoughts surged with memories of times when he went into the crisis zone as other left. He remembered running to stop fights in a school and rushing to an accident to help out the people in the vehicle. Other memories were of fighting fires and more of a violent nature. In every case, he ran toward the action while others fled. He smiled as he understood that he had been brave in his life and helped others, even at risk to himself.

He stepped off of the curb at the entrance to the park and almost fell. He half jumped and skipped to keep his balance and managed to recover without falling. He could smell the burnt flesh that comes from a plasma strike on flesh and anger flooded his heart as he saw the terrorists in the distance shoot a child.

He saw the faces of his six children, twenty three grandchildren, and some number of great grandchildren as they flashed across his mind. The joy at being able to remember them was tempered by the scene in front of him as he increased his speed to a trot with a stagger as he moved closer to the fiends.

The woman who ran to the child as he fell had red hair and was screaming hysterically. She clearly did not understand the danger and the terrorist smiled was he leveled his gun. John Carter yelled “Coward” at the top of his lungs drawing the terrorist’s attention away.

The terrorist turned at the sound and was stunned by the apparition of the old man hobbling rapidly toward him. He yelled back, “Idiot. Now you can die.” The terrorist fired his plasma gun directly at John Carter.

John Carter instinctively lifted his cane to block the assault knowing he was about to die. The fire did not hit him as the cane blocked the blast with a force shield and energy flowed through his body. He had stopped when he saw the attack and now without a moment’s hesitation he surged forward.

The terrorist almost fell to the ground when the old man survived the blast. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He fired again and the old man glowed again and kept on coming. He flipped the gun to full power and held the contact.

John Carter had a part of his mind telling him this was not possible as the pain in his knees, back, and neck disappeared in the heat of the battle. The cane continued to act as a force shield for the next blast although it slowed his pace a bit. Then he was hit by the sustained high capacity blast. He was stopped in his tracks and fought to hold onto the cane as the shield withstood the continuous blast from the plasma weapon. He could feel the power hitting the shield and yet he also felt his own power increasing. His memories were also returning.

He missed his wife. The redheaded woman had stirred the memories and now they poured out of his brain as their life together came forward in chunks of love and struggle. He wished she was here now. She had stood by him during so many times of trouble and never let him down up until the day she passed. After he married her, all of his struggles were theirs and she was the best warrior friend a man could have. He wished again that she was at his side even as he tried to understand why he used the phrase “warrior friend.”

He felt his strength continue to build and he started to move forward even under the impact of the continuous blast. He could feel his strength returning at a faster and faster pace and soon he was running. He had not run for years and the sensations were welcomed by his whole body and a mischievous smile slowly drifted onto his face.

The terrorist was holding the contact and screaming at his companions. The old man looked frail enough to collapse on his own when he first fired and now the impossible was happening. Soon all three of them were firing on the old man and it had almost no impact. Fear choked their throats as they came to grips with the face of death.

John Carter’s body was old no longer. He leapt into the air just before reaching the three who were now conveniently all together. In the air he twisted and reached with his other hand catching the first terrorist under the chin with his forearm. He locked his arm as he finished his twist on his way back to the ground with a snapping sound coming from the terrorist’s neck as the terrorist collapsed to the ground. John Carter did not stop.

He continued dropping toward the ground sweeping his leg around taking the second terrorist to the ground in a thud. During this motion, he was spinning the cane and struck the handle on the forehead of the third terrorist as he turned to fire on John Carter. The impact on the terrorist’s skull created a loud crack that was followed by a second terrorist dropping to the ground. John Carter did not stop moving and continued spinning as he stood back up and released a sword from the cane. The sword came down on the second terrorist as he attempted to rise slicing off his head as a knife goes through butter.

Everything had come back to him. He knew who he was on this planet and he knew who he really was. He was not John Carter. Years ago, the officials had found him wandering without his memory and just gave him that name. Still, it didn’t matter what his other name was here because it was time to go home.

He looked around and saw the tall man off on the side smiling. As a huge crowd looked on, he walked toward the tall man with sirens screaming in the distance and people crying all around. Some started to approach calling him a hero but then they stepped back as both tall men started to shimmer. It was only a moment or two and then they were gone leaving an unbelievable story behind for the police to sort out.

 

The Silver Realm

The portal entrance started shimmering and the staff hurried to their tasks. Moments later, the two tall men stepped through the portal smiling. Neither of them looked old, nor did they look like they were very young; they had light brown eyes with a gold glints in them and smile lines all over their faces. They seemed to radiate a visible energy that was impossible to define. Both had hair that was white and had a confidence about them with a certain spring in their walk as one has when they are young and indestructible. One 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.

The other had extremely unusual clothes that had burn marks on them and were filthy. In his hand he carried the Cane of the Realm. The staff immediately bowed down and said, almost in perfect unison, “Your Majesty.” The man with the cane looked around at his subjects and tears ran down his face in happiness as he bowed back and said back, “Stand and give me a hug.” The staff ran to him and smiled and hugged as they welcomed him home again.

That night the Silver Sovereign and his son the Steward of the Realm stood in the night looking into the night sky at the Black Abyss.

The Steward asked, “How many times does this make?”

The Silver Sovereign answered, “Almost as many times as there are peoples in the universe.”

His son asked, “Why do you do it?”

The Silver Sovereign was thoughtful as he considered his response, “Most of the journeys are enlightening and give insights that you can get no other way. Then, you have one like this last…” He looked off into space and a single tear fell. “I loved her more than ever. I can see and feel her red hair in my hands. She made me feel like I was special and valuable in a world where I was nothing. I can still hear the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren playing on my knees. I was able to watch them grow and become adults and have their own children. I know them like you can in no other way. I truly love them and they are now a part of me for all time.”

The Steward knew that the time was coming for his own journey, his first, and he needed to know more. He asked, “Yes. I can understand that. But you also take on their aging, their pain, their rules, and, most importantly, their limitations.”

The Silver Sovereign took a long pause before answering, “The Great One has given us a job like no other. We influence growing civilizations in subtle ways to keep the darkness from taking over. How can we make decisions in their best interest unless we truly know them?”

The Steward of the Realm nodded and put his arm around his dad.

His father continued, “To understand them you must walk their path.”

 

 

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 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.

 

The Ruins of Gster – Sacrifice

The Tears of Tyria – The Chronicles of J’Rontia

The Ruins of Gster – Sacrifice

 

 

The City of T’ouraget

 

The fog settled on the tall grass forming a mist that concealed the movements of the young woman who was slithering across the marsh. The air was damp and full of the smells so familiar to those who live near water. Her clothes were made from the skin of the lotran and the water ran off of it as if she wore glass. Her boots were soft, subtle and they molded to the contour of the land as she walked over it. She used a balancing staff made from the dark wood of the grotso tree so that she could appear to float more effectively just above the ground.

 

She was 18 standard years old and felt like she was 50. She had dirty blonde hair with hints of blue and amber that was short cropped on all sides except the back where she had the hair in a ponytail. Her face was narrow and tall with piercing green eyes that sat deep with thick lashes and brows. She was tall compared to others in the area and very tall for a girl although the other girls in her group were also tall.

 

There were now 16 in her little group and quite often she felt that it was more than she could handle. One of the first girls she helped called her Auntie Green Eyes which was shortened to Green Eyes and over time the names stuck. The younger girls call her Auntie and the older girls started calling her Greeney after one of the little ones pronounced her name in that special way little kids do.

 

The group lived outside the city of T’ouraget in the old ruins on the far side of the marsh on the Planet Gster in Sector Six of the Tyrian Republic. They had a group of homemade tents scattered through one of the small maze-like sections on the ruins. Everything was built for a speedy exit in case a Gster Patrol Unit visited. From the time they heard the sound until the ship was overhead, they could completely break down and hide the camp, including all of the children.

 

Four years ago, when they started talking in the streets about joining the Tyrian Republic, there were high hopes about the future of their group and the planet that have since dropped. They had even built a few permanent structures during that time. Two years ago, Planet Gster joined the Republic to much fanfare and many promises. Still, three months after joining, the Gster Patrol Units started their raids again. While it is true that the citizens of the planet now have the ability to vote and the merchants are making more money due to the new space lanes, her group still had no place to stay or food.

 

The planet was never a valuable resource but served the Kuli well as an outpost for thousands of years until the emergence of the Tyrian Republic. When the Kuli left, the entire planet was to be returned to nature. Gster Construction was contracted by the Kuli to destroy all of the Kuli built structures on the planet. Everything was to be torn down, all the waste removed, and terraforming completed, leaving only the ruins of the Ancients as they were. Instead, the large buildings were converted to apartments and the limited resources on the planet exploited.

 

Gster Construction bid the job at a very low price with the understanding that they would own the planet when the work was done. The Kuli had agreed that they could own the entire planet with the exception of the ruins. The Kuli kept ownership of the ruins and had been working hard to force the completion of the contract.

 

Greeney knew that the real reason Gster joined the Tyrian Republic was to prevent the Kuli from taking the planet back due to the voided contract. They are counting on using the complex court system of the Republic to find a way to avoid all the expenses involved in the fulfilling the contract. Greeney had researched the terms of the contract when she was looking for a home for her group and that is why she selected the ruins. She knew that the Gster government had absolutely no claims to that area and she hoped that the Kuli would be fair if they ever found her group living there. 

 

All of this information and more she taught to her students in between looking for work and scavenging for food. The group had appointed her their guardian because of her ability to avoid getting caught on food raids. The rest of the group said she was able to turn invisible, which was just superstitious garbage. Still, she was very good at not being caught and sometimes people could look right at her and miss seeing her. She did not believe that she had special powers, only that she was very good at merging into her environment; which is why she was here today.

 

She lay on her stomach about four steps from the back door to one of the best restaurants in the city. Every night they threw out about five bags of food. The bags were almost as tall as her waist and they were always full to the top. The problem was that, according to city rules, all wastes had to go in the incinerator. The public was told that the rules were designed to prevent people from becoming poisoned from spoiled food. She believed that it was to force the homeless to register at one of the shelters. She was determined to prevent that from happening with her group, especially since the people who registered at the shelters regularly disappeared.

 

So, she had to intercept the bags on their way to the fire. Oh, and do it without being detected. She had just moved into position when she heard a noise behind her. It was a deep rumbling sound that shook the sky. She saw the light coming from the clouds and the sound took the shape of a great ship. The ship was first a cylinder, then a circle, then a square, then an oval, and so on. It was not possible to define the shape as it appeared to keep changing. The ship also changed colors as it moved with the most common colors being silver and gold. The ship was nowhere near the spaceport and was heading into the ruins. Why would anyone be landing in the ruins? She worried about her kids but even more about what the reason could be for this visit.

 

At that moment, the back door of the restaurant opened drawing her attention back to the task in hand, and a worker came out. The worked looked to be a Murhan of slight stature with golden hair, a brown restaurant uniform, neatly pressed, one of those crazy round hats with a point on top, white gloves, and shiny shoes. Perfect! She waited and he lived up to her hopes.

 

The neat ones never wanted to walk over to the incinerator. Too big of a chance they might get dirty. So they threw the bags. Her challenge would be to catch the last bag before it went in but after the worker turned away. A few moments later she was sneaking through the outskirts of the city on her way back to their hideout in the ruins with a smile on her face. She was successful with food again.

 

 

The Ruins of Gster

 

J’Rontia’s Soretto stepped out of the ship and surveyed the surrounding area. His scan found the location of the 15 life forms they had identified in this area on their way in. Kids. And most of them were young kids of Murhan or Linthian descent. Such a shame that there was so much wealth in the Galaxy and yet still so much poverty. Double shame that it was here on Gster where cleanup and terraforming should have left a beautiful and lush environment. He looked around at the ruins and the environmental damage they saw in almost every direction outside of the ruins. The company officials should be in prison, not rich.

 

The Kuli had followed the appropriate legal channels to try and get the original work they contracted for completed to no avail. Their contract allowed for three contingencies in case of default. The first was legal action that for all practical purposes they had exhausted. The second was the physical reclaiming of the planet, which was not possible now that the Republic had accepted it as a full member. So they were here to use the third contingency. Some people should read the fine print.

 

His scan revealed that one of the “kids” was a young man only a short distance away reconnoitering the ship. He concentrated on the young man and found that his intents were protective and not hostile. He released a small smile as he realized that the young man knew he had been probed. J’Rontia’s Sorretto went back inside to let her know what he had found.

 

Kleft was shaking to his core. He was the best scout next to Greeney and he was positive that the man who came out of that ship looked directly at him. Kleft had “felt” him in the same way he “felt” prey when it recognized that he was stalking it. He did not know who was on that ship but he knew that his own presence was not a secret. He moved back toward their camp slowly with no belief in his invisibility and a growing fear that their camp was no longer safe.

 

Kleft arrived at camp at the same time as Greeney. She was greeted by much happiness as she opened her huge bag of food and started handing out some of the most expensive food on the planet. The irony of garbage being so tasty was not lost on Kleft as he grabbed two handfuls of noodles as thick as his fingers. 

 

When he finished eating, Kleft took Greeney aside. He told her about the ship and his feeling that they were no longer hidden. He said, “I have never been so sure that someone was looking at me in my life. It was as if he saw me and everything inside of me. Then he just smiled and went back inside the ship. What does that mean?”

 

Greeney consider all that he had told her and said, “Nothing. The man, if that is what he is, went back inside the ship. He may have smiled but that doesn’t mean it had anything to do with you. Perhaps he was getting ready for dinner.” She held up her stolen garbage food for emphasis and laughed.

 

Kleft nodded and gave her a smile as he walked away. Greeney thought it all over for a bit. She was worried but did not want Kleft to worry so she did her job as the leader and calmed him down. He would be much more useful if he was not panicking and besides, she did not need him to upset the rest of the group. As for her, she needed to visit the ship herself, and soon.

 

 

The City of T’ouraget

 

There were many people who saw the ship land but only three who knew what kind of a ship it was. Hastee the Shawt was one of them and her two mates the others. She was the leader of the trio and on duty as the planet’s governor for this year. All three of them jointly owned property and every year they switched who was leading. It was a great arrangement as it allowed for them to have two standard years off in between jobs.

 

They had accepted the contract job as governor from the Gster Construction Company and thought that their acceptance into the Tyrian Republic would protect them from trouble with the Kuli. They had been very successful up to this point and she did not understand what the Kuli were doing here since they now had planet status. She decided to pull up the contract once again. The Kuli had landed in the ruins and that may be a hint.

 

Hastee slithered up to the computer console and extended one of her tentacles to the control bar. As she wrapped around the shaft, the lights came on and the screens lit up. She commanded the computer to examine the agreement for any references to the ruins. In a fraction of a moment, one section of the contract was highlighted on the screen.

 

Exclusions from reclamation

 

The ruins located at 45.34.5ty7 x 928.43.5der2 x 554.551.edr8 are to be excluded from all activity on the planet. These ruins are to remain exactly as they are. The property associated with the ruins, as described in appendix 152.32d, including all property subsurface to the planet’s core and above surface to fifteen sectrons, are not a part of contract section 213.45t and retain their existing holding.

 

It was such a small section that it had not been examined in the detail it needed. She knew the Gster Construction owners knew about it because it gave them permission to eliminate that piece of the planet from demolition and they liked the idea that they would not have to spend any money on that area. She did not need to review section 213.45t as she recalled that section’s purpose but she did anyway. Section 213.45t described how the contractor could gain ownership of the planet. When she finished reading it a third time, she could find no way to deny the fact that the Kuli still owned full rights to all of the territory of the ruins from the core out to the surface and into space fifteen sectrons. They also retained the ability to remove their property from the planet. She was concerned that the right to remove was in the agreement and remembered a quote from one of her mentors. “Trying to outsmart the Kuli is like stabbing yourself.”

 

Her mentor did not think the Kuli were more brilliant than all others. Rather, he felt that after tens of thousands of years they had been tricked in almost every way possible and they documented everything. When agreements were made with the Kuli, they always submitted the contracts to the Archivers for review and adjustment. Hastee slid back to the wall and relaxed her body as she considered the available options to address this issue and how she was going to report this to her employer, Gster Construction.

 

 

The Ruins of Gster

 

J’Rontia exited the ship and immediately sensed the presence of an advanced mind approaching. She probed for intent and found only concern for the “kids” of the ruins. J’Rontia stepped away from the ship and waited for the young lady to show herself. The air was moist and contained the stale scents normally associated with the ruins of stone and steel with the breeze bringing the smells from the nearby marsh on occasion.

 

They had landed the ship in a clearing that at some point far in the past had been a city park. The area was clearly not a park now and the barren ground stretched in all directions to the crumbled structures that composed the area known locally only as the ruins. J’Rontia reached out with her mind and probed the entire “park” as thoroughly as she knew how.

 

J’Rontia’s probes found the hidden markers left by the Ancients who built the original city. She sent the coordinates to her Soretto with directions to on how to orient the ship over the coordinates. The ship’s graviton capacitors activated and the huge ship floated gently over to the location she described. Once the ship settled into place, she returned to her probing of the environment and now, mentally, moved out of the “park” area.

 

J’Rontia found the three marked entrances to the “park.” Each of the markers was hidden in ways that only those with training in the Ancients’ methods would be able to find them. She directed her Soretto to set up a force field just outside the marked entrances to the “park.” She saw the field flow into place and checked it for any variances created by the local environment. The field was secure.

 

Greeney saw the force field rise right after she entered the clearing. For a moment she paused and contemplated what she was doing. Did the field just rise to trap her? She shook her head and smiled. She doubted that she even gave them a second thought and then continued to the ship.

 

J’Rontia was tracking the young lady as she approached. The young woman was definitely an advanced Murhan or Linthian and she was able to block most of the basic mental probes generating some respect from J’Rontia. The young lady approached confidently and with determination. J’Rontia noted to herself that the young woman was almost as tall as she was.

 

J’Rontia said to the young lady, “Welcome. May I assist you in some way?”

 

Greeney answered, “Yes. I am interested in knowing what you are doing here and how it will affect those I care for as I am sure you already know who we are and where we live.”

 

J’Rontia appreciated the direct approach. She could tell that the young woman was extremely nervous but that she was doing an excellent job of controlling her feeling and fears. She smiled and answered, “We are asserting Kuli rights to the ruins. I do not know the response that the local government will have so I cannot inform you about the effects on your group. I can tell you that we mean you no harm and will protect you as best we can.”

 

Greeney understood that the answer was not complete but believed that it was honest. She went on, “Do we need to move?”

 

“No. Your location is fine. In fact, I would like to come by and show you a resource of the ruins that may help if that is all right by you.”

 

Greeney did not expect help from the Kuli and was rather surprised. She took a hard look at the woman in front of her. The woman was as tall as Greeney and possibly even taller with a trim and fit body that flowed as she moved like one of those jungle cats. She wore combat gear that had lifter boots and control gloves with only her face and hair visible outside of the uniform. She had very long, thick, and curly hair that was a kind of bluish color with amber streaks through it. Her voice was soft but firm and she spoke with the confidence of one much older.

 

Greeney was about to comment on the help being offered when she realized how rude she had been. She immediately bowed and said, “I apologize. I have not introduced myself as required by law. I do not know my birth name but my group calls me Green Eyes – Greeney for short.”

 

J’Rontia reached out and touched the young woman on the shoulder. She allowed comfort to flow from her hand into the woman’s body relieving the stress caused by her shame at violating local greeting rules. J’Rontia said, “Do not concern yourself. Please stand.”

 

Greeney stood up and smiled at the Kuli for being so generous.

 

J’Rontia went on, “I am the Guardian Kuli J’Rontia.”

 

Greeney stepped back in shock. She had heard of J’Rontia and the Kuli was becoming a legend. Her battle against thousands of Kiltrin warriors and her salvation from her Soretto made her famous across the galaxy. Greeney dropped to one knee and said, “I am honored. Forgive me for not recognizing you.”

 

J’Rontia smiled and said, “Please stand. I am honored to meet the Ghost of T’ouraget. You have become a local legend yourself. Currently, there are many who argue whether you exist or not and others who believe you are a failed Kuli apprentice who was left behind.”

 

Greeney was once again surprised. She never considered how the people of the city viewed her incursions. She was concentrating on the needs of her kids and not how it looked to others. The Ghost of T’ouraget was a both a compliment and an insult and yet she felt pride when she heard it, especially the way that J’Rontia said it. “They call me the Ghost of T’ouraget?”

 

“Yes. In fact, the Gster Police have set traps for you multiple times and even created a special unit last year to catch you.”

 

Greeney came to the meeting all confident and determined but now was humbled by the presence of J’Rontia and embarrassed by her own notoriety. Greeney said, “I don’t know what to say. I do want any help that you can give us and would like you to know that I am grateful for your kind words. Thanks.”

 

“You are welcome. The force field is coded to allow all of your kids to travel in and out at will. We will expand the field as we bring more power online until we have covered the entire area of the ruins. I expect us to have everything running soon.”

 

Greeney was surprised again. That amount of power needed to generate a field that size was huge. She asked, “Does your ship have special energy converters that allow for that large a field?”

 

J’Rontia smiled a mischievous smile as she answered, “At first the ship will power the field but later we will be using local power.”

 

“Gster Utilities are going to provide power for you?” Greeney was doubtful that would happen.

 

J’Rontia’s smile increased and she said, “No. We know another source.”

 

Greeney was starting to understand why people say that the Kuli have more surprises than a birthday party. Although she never had a birthday party, she had watched some through windows. The opening of presents seemed to be one surprise after another and that is how she felt now.

 

J’Rontia noticed that Greeney was becoming uncomfortable so she decided to end the conversation and continue it later. “I need to attend to some work. Can I come by your camp tomorrow night?”

 

“Yes. That would be great. Thanks!”

 

J’Rontia reached out and touched her on the shoulder and said, “It was great to meet you and I look forward to meeting all of your kids.”

 

Greeney felt her face flush as she responded. “Thank you. It was an honor to meet you.”

 

J’Rontia smiled and nodded in acceptance and then returned to her ship. Greeney watched her walk away for a while and then turned to head home.

 

 

The City of T’ouraget

 

Hastee had just got off the comm with the owners of Gster Construction. They did not seem to understand the significance of the Kuli still owning the ruins. Their response was “Let them have it. It is just a bunch of run down junk.” She was frustrated with their ability to underestimate the Kuli over and over again.

 

Hastee slid over to the window and looked out at the night sky. This job was one of the most challenging she had taken and she would be glad when her year was over and her next third took over. She sighed and glanced at the Gster moon. Like the job, the Gster moon was an aberration.  The moon was shaped as a rough pyramid and was almost one fourth the size of the planet. It was an ugly moon that wobbled in the sky like a freak of nature.

 

The moon’s weird shape and rotational pattern caused the planet to have some of the most unusual tides ever seen. The variations in the shipping schedules due to the unique tides played havoc with the ability to sustain a consistent profit cycle. Hastee watched the moon as it hung low in the sky and wondered once again why the Kuli cared about the planet or the ruins.

 

Hastee quickly grew tired of the train of thought and started to move away from the window. All of the sudden she turned back, pinching one of her tentacles in the process. She cringed as she freed it but continued to look at the moon. She would need to consult her computer. She moved to the console.

 

When she slid back from the computer she was amazed that she had missed the obvious for so long.

 

 

Gster Construction Headquarters

 

The chairman of Gster Construction, Gromut Gster considered what he had just heard from his manager on Gster. After a few moments, he got back on the comm. He had deliberately let his manager believe he did not care about the Kuli. Nothing could be further from the truth. He hated them with a passion. Where were those do gooders when his mother died?

 

He remembered the burnt ship and his mother’s cries over the comm to him for help. He still felt the pain in his heart over her loss.

 

“Yes,” said the voice on the other side.

 

The chairman said, “They have arrived as you predicted. How much to remove them as we spoke about?”

 

The voice answered, “One-half interest in Gster.”

 

The chairman was not really surprised but still had hoped for a better price. His previous dealings with the person on the other side of the comm left him with the clear understanding that there would be no negotiating.  He spoke into the comm, “I agree.”

 

He didn’t care about the cost. His company was making plenty of money and they almost stole the planet from the Kuli. He had out-maneuvered them throughout this whole affair and he was not going to let them use a loop hole to take back even a small part of the planet, let alone the ruins which cover almost a quarter of the small planet. Tomorrow night they would find out that death comes calling for them as it did his mother. It was their turn to burn.

 

 

The Ruins of Gster – the next day                                                                                   

 

The ship was relatively new and required little maintenance in between fueling. The ship responded well in outer space and in an atmosphere. The unique surface of the ship converted the heat from reentry into energy and also used a graviton field inverter to reduce the energy needed to combat the gravity of massive objects such as a planet. The surface of the ship was built with an integrated force field that converted most forms of attack into energy that could be used for counter attack or to recharge the ship’s energy cells.

 

The inside of the ship was a minimalist design for comfort and a complex design for usability. The ship was engineered to accommodate multiple purposes and allowed for interfaces in many locations for maximum future flexibility. The past few planet cycles were put to use redeploying various outputs into the force field generator to expand it beyond the ship’s surface.

 

J’Rontia’s Soretto was manually adjusting the controls to define the perimeter of the force field as power became available. J’Rontia examined the readouts from the ship’s computer on the force field. It was at 80% and building fast; by morning they should achieve 100% coverage of the ruins. The irregular shape and the enormous size were definitely straining the computer’s abilities; however, things were progressing according to schedule. Although, they had very little time to bring external power online as the ship could only maintain a field of this size for a short time, even with Kuli engines. Still, once the field was completely built, they could start their exploration of the ruins. That was for later though, tonight she was going with her Soretto to Greeney’s campsite for a little relaxation with Greeney and her kids.

 

The weather was cool and a breeze was blowing off the nearby ocean delivering fresh and moist air to breathe bringing a smile to J’Rontia’s face as she recalled brighter days on a beach. J’Rontia walked into the camp with a backpack over her cape with her Soretto behind her doing his normal and constant scanning of the area around them. The kids, all except one, streamed out of the tents all excited to see visitors and ran toward them as if they were long lost relatives. As they approached, J’Rontia started handing out small gifts to the kids such as design tablets, candy, and data crystals with readers. Greeney was off to the side standing next to Kleft and smiling so big she thought her mouth might break.

 

J’Rontia soon noticed that there was one child, a little girl, who did not run to them but instead stood just outside her tent looking at them intently. She looked about eight standard years old but was very short for her age. She had brown eyes that sparkled gold in the setting sun and hair so blond it appeared white. She looked confident and was not impressed by their guests as the other children were. When all the gifts were passed out, the little girl approached slowly. She walked up to J’Rontia’s Soretto and said, “Thanks!”

 

“I haven’t given you anything yet,” J’Rontia’s Soretto answered. He reached into the bag he had to find a gift for her.

 

The little girl said, “You will later.” The little girl turned to J’Rontia and told her, “You are the one I have been waiting for. My mom gave me a lesson for you.” Before J’Rontia could answer the little girl turned and walked away.

 

J’Rontia called Greeney over and asked, “What is the story on that little girl?” She pointed out the girl to Greeney.

 

Greeney said, “I found her deep in the ruins, close to where your ship is. I am shocked that she spoke to you. She almost never says anything and when she does it makes no sense. I think she has some mental problems because her stories are not believable.”

 

“Give me some examples.”

 

“Ok. She says her mother died protecting the light of the night and that she was chosen to teach the hero who will save and destroy the galaxy. She also told us that she is over 200 years old. Then there is the story of the dark –“

 

“Light of the Ancients,” said J’Rontia as she finished the sentence for Greeney.

 

Greeney was stunned and asked, “Do you know what she is talking about?”

 

“Not all of it. But I am here to find the Dark Light of the Ancients which is referred to in many texts as the Light of the Night. I never heard about a protector or the hero who will save and destroy the galaxy. Still, the Prophecy of the Dragon is interpreted in many ways and that could be one. Plus, there are a lot of legends and myths out there, most of which are based on true stories that have been distorted over time accidentally or intentionally.”

 

Greeney asked, “What will you do?”

 

J’Rontia smiled that mischievous smile she is famous for and said, “Try to be a good student when she is ready.”

 

After dinner, dark was falling across the sky as the sun dipped below the horizon and Greeney gathered all of them together in front of a small campfire. The children were mesmerized as they listened intently to J’Rontia as she told them the story of how she tried to save a little boy at a zoo and ended up almost eaten.

 

She had just finished the story when her Soretto leapt across the group toward their ship and then jumped into the air. A stream of fire had hit the ship’s force field and part of it deflected directly toward the little group by the fire. J’Rontia could see her Soretto’s force field coming online but knew it was not fast enough. His mental warning as he took action allowed her to bring hers up to speed at the same time and she jumped in front of the group to her right as her Soretto’s trajectory would position him to protect the group on her left. The stream of fire hit her Soretto as he stretched out with his arms and legs as far as he could to expand the force field to its maximum so that he could block the majority of the impact of the fire stream. The part of the stream that managed to get past him, slammed into her and the camp burning everything not protected to ash. She was crouched in front of the rest of the children. Her field was up far enough to cover the smaller area she held so she was completely protected as were those she was covering. The children blocked by her Soretto were also fine – but not him.

 

Spreading himself out as he did protected the children but exposed his wrists, hands, ankles, and feet to the inferno. Her Soretto lay on the ground in agony as cinders fell from the ends of his arms and legs that were on fire. She connected with his mind immediately and helped him shutdown the pain sensors in those areas and control the blood flow. Then she turned to the sky as light glowed out of her eyes.

 

She reached into her back pack and removed a small ball the size of her hand. She threw it into the air and it expanded into a small force field. Then she turned to Greeney and said, in a steady and barely restrained voice, “I need you to keep my Soretto comfortable and to make sure your children stay within the field.” She did not wait for an answer but instead ripped the top off of her backpack to reveal a propulsion pack and snapped her sleeves open to expose plasma guns. One moment later and she was airborne.

 

J’Rontia barely left the ground when she had to dodge another fire stream. This time it was targeted at her former location and struck the force field she had just erected, shaking the ground and sending fire out from the field in all directions. She accelerated in the direction the streams were coming from without hesitation. The children and her Soretto saw the flash and then watched her fly away as the field held. Greeney thought, for a moment, that her hair was glowing blue and orange but then realized that the fire stream must be interfering with the force field causing an illusion.

 

J’Rontia’s Soretto felt his own glow growing as he focused it on controlling his pain and on starting the rejuvenation process. Ever since their rescue by the Watcher, he had been trying to duplicate the body rebuilding that the medical stasis unit had performed, to no avail. He knew that it would take a long time to regrow his hands and feet but he needed to start. He was happy with his progress developing his abilities and thrilled that his glow had turned on rapidly when he sensed danger. That extra energy enabled him to leap far enough and jump high enough so that he was able to block most of the fire stream. He was glad that his connection with J’Rontia gave her the knowledge needed to protect her and the rest of the kids. He did not have level of glow she had and clearly her level was also growing as this was the first time he saw her hair in full glow. J’Rontia had great control of the life force and someone was in big trouble.

 

J’Rontia maneuvered with a speed and agility beyond compare for most. She pressed the limits of her propulsion pack and used her plasma bursts to deflect the next three fire streams off their set course into the nearby ocean. As she closed on the ship she could feel the warriors inside and probed their minds with no mercy or restraint. The life force was flowing through her like a live current and she channeled it with little hesitation toward her needs. She confused the minds of the weapon operators causing the next fire stream to be far away from her.

 

She then aimed her plasma gun at the ship before it could fire again. She melted the fire stream launchers and then the engines, causing the big ship to fall out of the sky. She did not stop there but concentrated her mind on the hold, finding the weapons and fuel caches on the ship. Additional bursts with her plasma guns targeted the caches turning the ship into a falling ball of exploding fire. The ship crashed into the ocean beyond the ruins and sunk into the depths still aflame. The water heaved and waves crashed against the shoreline as additional explosions racked the deep. J’Rontia did not smile; she just turned and flew back to the remnants of the camp.

 

As J’Rontia slowly landed in the scorched area that used to be the camp, her heart sank. She had planned a great evening for the kids, including giving the kids rides with her propulsion pack. While she was glad she had it on, she was devastated by the scene around her and how she ended up using the pack. No one was smiling now and the lessons learned this night were not pleasant ones.

 

J’Rontia walked over to her Soretto and gently picked him up in her arms. He had saved her life once again. She kissed him on the forehead, turned to the children and said, “For now you will all have to come with me. You will be safe inside the force field but even safer in our ship.” Greeney and Kleft nodded and the rest of the children just stared. The somber group walked off through the dark ruins to the Kuli ship.

 

The Dragon Has Been Fed

The Dragon Has Been Fed

Earth – During the occupation

The Kuli appeared instantly with a hype globe in his hands. He looked around at the room he was in. It was a dark and damp room with concrete walls on all sides and no items on any of the walls. There was an opening that led to another room and a star made out of gold on the floor of the room. The ceiling was concrete without any lights.

He considered what he had just seen. The Matriarch’s forces had finally met up with the Earthlings who had higher abilities. He hoped that the meeting would go well and he knew that the occupation had just entered a new stage. He was intrigued by the recent developments with the occupation’s leader and found the leader’s double life to be fascinating.

The Kuli stepped into the adjoining room and looked around. It was a small room with a bed on one side, a kitchen on another, a computer console on the third sitting next to the bathroom fixtures, and then the wall he just walked through. The ceiling had no light fixtures and the room only had three lamps. Everything was a dull gray color except the computer that was glowing light orange.

He sat down at the console and entered his security codes to unlock the system. The report took a short while to write and then he transmitted it. He used the refresher while he waited for an answer. The response came quickly.

The message read, “You have done well. Be careful of the time paradox and remember that you are due to wake up soon.”

Tomorrow he could finally go home. He was tired and realized that he had lived longer than he had ever thought possible. He was happy with his life and had few regrets. The Thorlinthians had much to do before the prophecy would be fulfilled but he had done his part.

The Kuli lay down to sleep and thought back over the years he had been monitoring activity on the planet the locals call Earth. There was so much they did not know about their own planet and their history. He shook his head, rolled on his side, and closed his eyes. Within moments, the Watcher fell asleep.

 

In a distant galaxy, an old man slid back from his computer console. Thousands of years of planning and preparing were finally complete. All of the lives lost and resources spent now required the brilliance of one young man. The threads were in place and the old man’s job was almost complete.

The old man remembered the prophecy well. After all, he was the one who created the Prophecy of the Dragon. His thoughts moved to the four sections most in flux now:

To Red Dragon King,
The righteous dictator,
Shall be born Gold Phoenix,
Her white light the greater

The Red Dragon’s bride
Shall find the great Eight,
And all the old worlds
Shall cast out their hate.

Gold Phoenix, she rises,
Sword of ages in hand.
The Light People follow,
Their worlds again grand.

Red Dragon, his bride,
And Gold Phoenix breathe,
Their breath light the stars
As worlds lost unsheathe.

If the young man chooses properly, the Prophecy’s fulfillment was soon. Of course, like almost everything he dealt with, the prophecy was only the tip of the iceberg and even it had a beginning. He sat back in his chair and thought back to when he turned ten standard years old and he received the first crystal.

His third class of the day had just started when Supreme Guardian Kuli G’Toruid walked in and asked to speak with him. G’Toruid was on the Kuli Council and the current chairman of the Linthian Council so there was never any doubt about the instructor’s response. The Supreme Kuli was very tall, muscular in a wiry way, and had deep green eyes that captivated you. It was easy to find yourself staring as they flashed and glittered in an almost hypnotic way. His hair was amber and short cropped on the top and two sides with the back grown long to his waist. All in all, he was a very impressive and serious Guardian. G’Toruid motioned for him to stay quiet and they walked down the hallway.

It was very intimidating for him to receive any attention from someone so important, let alone to receive a private visit. His mind roiled as it contemplated the possible reasons for the visit. In the time it took to walk to a private room, he was not able to find any possible reason for someone so important wishing to speak with him.

Once they were in the room, G’Toruid took a small device out of his cloak and placed it on the table. It was in the shape of a ball, so small that he could have hidden it in his hand. The ball started to spin and then lifted off the table hovering in the air. After a short time, it returned to the table top and three legs came out. The ball balanced itself on the legs and a green light leapt out of its top and flowed around the room as if it were a liquid. Once the entire room had been swept, the light returned to the ball and a steady orange glow emanated straight up.

G’Toruid said, “It is now safe to speak of the circumstances surrounding your discovery.” G’Toruid related the story of two young children who were found drifting in a damaged ship deep into the abyss of space. When the Kuli was done, the room was silent. He knew some of what the Kuli had said but most of it was new. He was stunned to find that no one knew where he came from.

“I do not wish for you to speak at this time,” G’Toruid said. “We will go over the story of your discovery in more detail when you turn 15. For now, I only tell you this so that you understand the situation that existed when we found you, your sister, the incredible ship, and this crystal.”

G’Toruid took a crystal out of another pocket in his cloak and set it on the top of the ball. The whole room brightened as blue light flowed through the crystal and into the room. He watched as a sphere of blue light formed above his head and slowly descended.

G’Toruid could see his fear building and said, “It is safe. I have used it myself but could not understand the message.”

He relaxed and the sphere settled in front of him. The bright light hurt his eyes but he could not close them. As he reached up with his hands to cover his eyes everything changed. The pain went away and all of the sudden the message was in front of him as clear as the selter board in his classroom. He did not recognize the individual symbols but he instantly understood the message. His brain worked backward and translated the symbols so that he could now “read” the symbols also.

The message was in three parts. One simply said, “Study and become a Kuli.” The second part of the message was a poem that made little sense at the time. It was titled The Children of the Ancients.

The Dragon would come at the end of time before the beginning was ready to happen.
The Dragon would breathe life into the engine of the stars.
The heroes of old would glow blue once again.
The children of the Ancients would be found without ever being lost.

Salvation would rise from the ashes of the Dragon’s fires.
The children of the Dragon and the heroes of old would make the sacrifice.
The Dragon would lead his people back home.

The Ancient ones would cry and finally rest.

Of course, it made no sense to him at the time and was immediately followed by the third part of the message that read, “Tell no one the poem. Select the Archive training on the Ancients as your secondary and the Guardian training as your primary Kuli fields of instruction.”

G’Toruid told him, “You are not to tell anyone about what you have seen, except myself and then only if you wish. I received instructions on a similar crystal when I rescued you and I will return when you are 15 to bring you a second crystal. My instructions do not allow me to answer any of your questions until I return and you have viewed the second crystal.”

G’Toruid could see how disturbed he was and patted him on the shoulder and said, “I have watched your progress for years and you are the best Kuli apprentice ever recorded in the archives. Trust yourself and I am sure the answers will come.” G’Toruid got up, smiled at him once more, and left the room.

He sat there for a while before he returned to class. That afternoon he changed his selections on his fields of instruction as asked. Within weeks, his search of the Ancients’ history led him to the first discovery related to the poem and the start of his creation of the Prophecy of the Dragon. Before he turned fifteen years old, he had read almost everything that was archived on the Ancients and found it interesting that even with all the relics found there was no proof that the Ancients even existed as a race of people. The relics could fit many of the myths and religions as well as they could fit with the definition of a superior civilization.

 

The old man smiled as the memory faded and he turned off the console. Thousands of years later, he now knew more than anyone about the relics and the Ancients and his conclusion was the same.  Not that it mattered now; he had made his decisions years ago and dedicated his life to what he believed.

He sighed and went back to work. The days to come would be difficult and many things could go wrong. Still, the players were in place, the game was ongoing, and the circle was almost complete. He walked over to another console and sent a new message into the Abyss. It was a simple message and it read, “The Dragon has been fed and the end of our time draws near.”

 

In a place beyond space and time, a being of incredible power received the message. The being stretched its mind and connected with the others. The end of time was almost here and their trust had been well placed. They waited for everything to balance once more so that they might be free again.

 

Dirk D Dykstra

 

Everything Must Balance

Everything Must Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

The Picture was of a Young Man

The Picture was of a Young Man

The window faced the Murhan S’Crotia Shipworks and he could see the Linthian military’s latest battleship strapped to the frame of the spaceport by its landing base. The workers scrambled over the ship like so many bugs on food. Swarming up and down in a totally random manner they flowed across the ship components seemingly without purpose and oblivious to the destruction that was threatening the galaxy.

Then he saw it – the pattern of their work. His brain organized the view until it knew which workers were building which component, who was supplying who, and even more. His brain was working automatically all of the time at a rate he never believed possible. His knowledge of ship building from his training merged with the view and he smiled as the whole picture came into a level of focus he never dreamed possible. And then he paused.

The comm was in his hand immediately. He gave his security code and asked for the Guardian on duty at the shipworks. “You have a saboteur on level fourteen in sector seven on ship frame eighty-five” he said. The Guardian replied, “Who is this and how did you get a security code?” He responded, “I am J’Rontia’s Soretto and it is her code. Who are you that you would question a valid code before checking the data?” He felt anger growing and a new feeling flowed through his body as strength surged and his brain spin up to a new level of awareness.

He spoke into the comm, “You were born on Ramodin in the year of the M’Trodes’ birth and trained at the Kuli base of Gruidness on the Outer Edge of Murhan space. Your mother has brown hair and cannot change it due to a genetic defect that the doctors were not able to correct because she had the age sickness when she was young. Your father died in the Religion wars during the KR assault on Kronot while piloting a command ship for the Guardian Kuli D’Repres.” He paused and then continued, “Do I need to say more or are you going to check the construction?” The Guardian responded, “I am going to check immediately.” The connection broke.

The Kuli taught that anger was a good emotion that the body used to increase its efficiency and power. They trained apprentices to control their anger as it also had a dark side when a person let it take over the body and mind. Anger could allow the body to exceed its limits and break. It could speed up the abilities of the advanced portions of the brain or switch control over to the primitive areas. Anger out of control caused disaster and under control it allowed people to be more than they ever believed possible.

Their last mission was almost the death of both of them and yet turned into the best thing that had happened to him since he was accepted as J’Rontia’s Soretto. He did not remember the defining moment when his body repaired the part of his brain that was blocking all access to his higher functioning. He only knew that J’Rontia went into his brain and assisted it in repairing his injuries. During that process some other component was also fixed and, once it was repaired, his brain recognized the danger they were in and accessed every advanced function that it could. This did not come without a price and the pain was excruciating. The forced opening of channels to areas of the brain previously off limits combined with the disorientation he felt as new inputs turned on and fed data to his brain at tremendous speeds, disrupted his balance and his whole metabolism went out of synch. He was sure that he was going to die while it was happening and mere moments felt like days as he adjusted to increased processing speeds. Moments later he was a new person but with a brain that was not able to understand or control his own body.

He took too long to learn and when he stepped outside of the building she had left him to heal in, he saw the devastation around him and the danger J’Rontia was in. He desperately wanted to help but the flood of information that rushed through his head took him to the ground in agony. The world spun and nausea gripped his throat as his brain exploded in blinding white pain. He was crashing into oblivion and he could not stop the flow of data but he had to help J’Rontia. And then he remembered.

He was a very small boy when she dropped him off with his parents. It was a small apartment, far away, on an insignificant Murhan planet, on the poor side of a dying town. The woman who carried him was crying and the tears fell on his face as he looked up into her sad and puffy red eyes. He could see her amber hair and the streaks of sea foam blue that ran through it. Her face was cut badly and blood ran down her checks sticking in clumps of hair and dripping onto her blouse. The blouse was torn and clung to her body in pieces showing the armor wear underneath.

She looked at his parents and held him out as if she feared to let go of him. She told them, “He is the one and they will kill me if they can. I have sent for help but do not believe it will come in time.” She paused to wipe the blood from her eyes and his parents reached out and grabbed him and the package she offered. She continued, “They will not find you and there is another young child who died in the crash that I will make sure they think is mine.”

My parents shook their heads in agreement but could not speak as the presence of this incredible woman left them in awe and fear. My dad finally said, “We will do as we agreed and thank you for this chance to make things right.” The woman had started to turn away and at these comments turned back. She said, “Your debt is paid and I will restore your family’s name if I live.” They smiled and told her, “We will love this child as our own and we will stay here happily knowing our family will return to their homeland. We have no doubt you will be successful.”

The story played out at high speed in his mind and the realization hit him that his parents adopted him. In the midst of the pain the pieces of his life started to fit better as the memory continued.

She bent down and touched him on the forehead with her hand. Her hand was soft and rough at the same time and his head tingled with her touch.  The sparks flew through his whole body as he shook and then relaxed when he heard her voice. “It’s OK my child. I will take the fear and confusion away. You will be safe from the searchers with these people. I am going to program your brain so you will see this couple as your parents and shutdown the advanced parts of your brain, allowing you to hide who and what you are. Someday, you will know your destiny. If you are remembering this then you have experienced an event that threatened your life or the life of one you love.”

The understanding that he was more than he thought gave him hope and his darkness started to leave. He groped through his mind for something that could help him gain control as the memory continued.

Her face was beautiful in spite of the blood and cuts. Her smile brightened his day and he allowed her to change his brain, trusting her as a child trusts their mother. She went on to say, “When you remember this you will be in great trouble and may think you need all of your abilities; however, that requires training. I am placing an emergency program in your brain to handle your combat skills and all you need to do is activate it. Once it is activated, the program will start to run and it will release many other blocks after you are safe again.” He could see her mind and was in wonder at its beauty. The love flowed from her and he could see how hard it was for her to leave him and he could see the logic that made the decision clear. She went on, “When you are ready, you can activate the emergency combat program by saying your family name out loud. All you have to say is …”

He yelled out, “Djike’Straup,” and the pain left as his brain focused all the inputs into multiple receptors in the brain and another part of the brain organized the planned activities into sequences that he immediately put into effect. The battle did not go well for those attacking J’Rontia as he waded into the melee as a banshee of old.

His memory of the battle, while very clear, was nowhere near as clear as his knowledge of whom his mother really was and why he had been hidden for so long. His mind was open now and the parts of his brain that were unblocked worked hard to reorganize all that he had learned over the years. His world had changed and others were just beginning to find out. His comm started to buzz.

The Guardian Kuli N’Yuiret said, “You were correct. We did find a saboteur and due to your help we were able to uncover the explosives he was planning to use before he finished arming them. I have reported the incident to the High Council and the Supreme Guardian of this sector.” He smiled at the Guardian’s tone of surprise and responded, “I appreciate your prompt action and wish the best for you and your family.” The Guardian thanked him and cut the comm.

Moments later, J’Rontia walked into his room with that devious smile on her face that he loved so much. She then turned serious and said, “So, I can’t leave you alone for even a moment without you saving the ambassador to the Council from the Murhan’s?” He looked at her confused and she went on, “The explosion was designed to kill the ambassador and it was made to look as if the Kuli did it. You have uncovered a plot to discredit the Kuli with the Council and now they want to meet with you,” and she smiled that devious smile again.

J’Rontia told him, “The council will meet in seven cycles of Wratqe so we have plenty of time. The Supreme Kuli for this sector has given us a cruiser to use for the trip while our ship is being replenished and we have extra time, so where would you like to go.” He smiled as they both knew where.

 In a small apartment, far away, on an insignificant Murhan planet, on the poor side of a dying town, the doorbell rang. Inside, an old couple looked at each other wondering who would be coming to see them. The apartment was sparse and there was on one couch to sit on. The main room was kitchen, dining room, and living room in one with only one picture on the wall and no other decorations. The walls had chips and the colors were faded almost to nothing, leaving a dull grey finish everywhere. The picture was of a young man with a Soretto banner walking with a beautiful Kuli to a spaceship.

The old couple was both happy and sad. Their lives held great meaning and they never regretted their choices. Both of them had only three cycles left on their retirement funds and then they were on the street. Their medicines had run out two cycles ago and they were not worried about living on the streets because they would not live that long without their medicine. The bell rang again and the man stood up to go answer. His wife said, “Tomli said he would come.” Her husband smiled and responded, “He never left our hearts so he already is here.” She smiled as hope against hope stood in her heart, a lonely vigil for the only other love of her life.

The old man opened the door and his heart stopped. Standing there was their son and the light of their lonely lives. He fell to his knees and called out, “son,” as loud as he was able. His wife screamed and came to her feet as fast as she could, probably straining herself in ways that would cause pain for days. She made it two steps and he was there holding her in his arms. The old man stood up and joined them. Their son had returned as Tomli predicted and now their life was complete.

Then she walked in. J’Rontia entered the room quietly and with the intent of being in the background but it did not work. The old woman walked over and gave her a huge hug and was followed similarly by the old man. The old man said, “Thank you for seeing what he really is.” Behind them J’Rontia’s Soretto smiled as he watched the scene in front of him unfold.

Two days later, an old couple entered a new apartment on the planet Toron in the Linthian system. The apartment was on the best side of town next to one of the best medical centers in the galaxy. The first room they entered was the living room and it was beautiful. They walked to the main wall which was blank and lifted a picture up on the wall. The picture was of a young man with a Soretto banner walking with a beautiful Kuli to a spaceship.  They both smiled.