Category Archives: Martian Chronicles

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.


Welcome back Commander

Welcome Back Commander

He had power now and would be able to restart critical systems, and hopefully have enough power to find out what this ship was doing here and now. Oh, he knew it was a seed ship; after all, he helped build the ships from the remnants of the fleet.


After the death of J’Rontia, he was the senior Kuli and sent this ship on its way. In addition, he selected the crews and worked to divide up the resources. He recognized this ship as New Beginning 8, the one he sent to the galaxy in section 8 beyond the Cosmic Tear in a direct line along the Star Channel. He smiled as he remembered how it ended up that Galaxy 8 was in Section 8 and so he named that ship New Beginning 8. Although that was not the official name, everyone used it. No one really liked how the numbering went but it did prevent at least one war.


It seems that the various people were rather attached to their own names for the galaxies and areas of space around Tyria. This led the standards committee to use numbers for everything. We now have twelve Sections of space that start in the center of the Tyrian galaxy and move out in three dimensions as a ball might be divided into twelve equal sections with the ball having an infinite size. The galaxies were numbered based on how close they were to Tyria. Galaxy 8 was the 8th closest. Naturally, everyone used their own names for the galaxies, except in formal communications.


It turned out that Galaxy 8 was located in Section 8. Therefore, he felt he needed to name the seed ship going there New Beginning 8 and the names for the rest of the ships fell in line. Interestingly, the crew enjoyed the word play and rarely used the official name of the ship.


His thoughts returned to his current situation. He was floating in the space between the galaxies in the years before the galactic war started – in the times when everyone talked peace. He had been without power and getting ready for the end when he saw the derelict ship. Tomli’s visions had helped him in many unusual ways and he knew that his life now had a scope beyond any he ever imagined. Without the most recent vision he would not have scanned the surrounding space and would have floated right past the damaged ship.


The engine he borrowed from the wreck he considered a gift from J’Rontia to go along with all of her other gifts to him. It was a good thing that he saved J’Rontia and her Soretto. After all, not only did they select him to be a Kuli, they did quite a bit of his training, and, most importantly, they saved his life in Thorlinthia and that allowed him to save them in this time and place. Wow. What a complicated web had been woven.


The seed ship must have been at or near the end of its journey because it was almost totally empty. It appeared that almost all of the supplies and people were gone. Still, he could not know if all were gone until he was able to enter the main control room. So far, he had to do all of his work from the secondary bridge with limited power using an emergency bypass. He had finished installing the engine and he hoped it would interface properly and he would have some power to restart the command computer and possibly repair parts of the ship.


The newer engine would never have fit in a normal ship; however, this was not a normal ship. Designed from the pieces of multiple warships, some of the engines just hung from struts outside the main frame of the ship and others were fully built in. This made for a very unattractive ship but one where all he had to do, in this case, was modify one set of mounts and he was able to use a different engine.


As he thought about things he realized how ironic his thought was that “all he had to do was modify one set of mounts.” He was only one man and he had little in the way of equipment. It had taken a long time to create a mount that would hold up to the forces the engine would generate. Fortunately, the captain’s shuttle had over half its fuel and he was able to use it almost as a crane – it is not as pretty now as it had been.


The engine would not allow for any type of hype or warp travel as it was too small and could not be mounted correctly for that function. Still, it would provide power for the ship’s systems and give him some travel ability. He started the engine and was thrilled when it did not rip off of its mounts.


The regular lights started to come on as the power levels moved up and the ship came to life somewhat. He moved to a section control panel and examined the ship’s systems. The control panel used a 3D visual of the ship with zoom and color coded system identification. The system came with various fonts depending on the status of the system. It was easy to see the areas of the ship that were damaged and he quickly realized that some extreme stresses had acted upon the ship.


He found one set of crew quarters that was all blue and he zoomed in for details. This location had no system problems and would serve much better as his home than the secondary control room that he was using now. He zoomed back out to review the rest of the ship.


He shut off the systems in most of the ship either due to high numbers of errors in that area or because he didn’t believe he would need that part of the ship and wished to save energy. He identified three areas to visit. The first was an internal engine and compartment area that had almost no errors and showed a high fuel reserve – he might be able to repair that engine and achieve the ability to jump.


The second location was the kitchen near the main control room. It had no errors in its systems and that could mean some decent meals instead of the rations he found in the secondary control room. Finally, he wanted to examine the control room, especially the stasis chambers to see if he could learn what happened to the ship and crew.


He slept whenever he was tired and ate rations while he worked on the engine. He knew that the ship was very limited in its maneuverability and speed with the engine from J’Rontia’s ship and felt his top priority needed to be more power so that he could control the ship better and possibly perform a jump.


The work was not easy and at the end of each day he had a mess. The white slime did not come off of his hands easily nor did the green sticky oil stains wash out of his clothes the first time. He never rebuilt the navigation section of a Wroster engine before and hoped he never had to again. He took off three layers of protection compartments around the engine, each filled with something disgusting, before he could even work on the broken parts. Then the components did not match the manuals nor were the spare parts located in the front of the supply room. Instead they were in the back, behind hundreds of boxes he had to move, and then at the bottom of the pile.


When he finished putting it all back together he noticed the Torsion Brace and realized that he was going to have to take it all apart again and put the brace where it belonged. The second time he had it all together he placed his hand on the control plate and asked the engine to start. He was nervous and this reminded him of when his teacher asked him to show the class his floating Snark project. When he opened the case with his Snark he was deathly afraid it would sink.


When he said “start,” nothing happened and his hopes crashed. He started to walk away when he remembered that this was built by Murhans. He placed his hand back on the control plate and said the same thing in Standard Murhan. This time the panel lit up and the safety plates dropped into position. He heard the whine of the twiners and the rush of air from the blowers. Then a whoosh and red lights turned on all over the control panel.


He frowned and considered the display. There was a pattern with the red lights and he zoomed in on the indicators. He moved around to the back of the engine compartment and found a bent panel. He removed the panel and found a broken spring on the Gromttel actuator. He replaced the spring and walked to the control panel.


He placed his hand on the panel again and spoke the word. The panel lit up and the safety plates dropped into position. He heard the whine of the twiners and the rush of the air from the blowers. Then all sounds stopped and the panel turned all green. He smiled and stopped holding his breath.


He turned to the nearby 3D control panel for the ship and examined the power levels. He held his breath again as the power level started to climb. When the level indicator passed out of the danger zone he started to breath. When the level indicator moved past the warning zone he was thrilled. When the level indicator reached the ready zone he felt relief and realized how worried he had been that he would be stuck here forever. The level indicator did not make it to the jump ready zone, but it came close. The controls were set for a fully loaded ship and with it almost empty he may have enough power output. He would have some calculations for the main computer if he was able to enter the control room.


All of this success left him really hungry and hoped the kitchen he found had decent food. He found a refresher and spoiled himself with three refreshes. The clothes in the cabinet were standard crew clothes and he wrapped his Tramall over them. Feeling more like himself than he had in a long time, he went to the kitchen he had found.


The kitchen had seating for ten at one large table with simple metal chairs. The far wall was covered with system monitors that lit up as he came into the room.

The monitors covered all of the critical systems on the ship and he was able to double check the results from his previous checks with one quick glance.


The wall of the room to his left was full of doors with labels for types of food and drink concentrates. Each door contained a monitor for the food levels in that compartment. Almost all the doors had food but the levels were below ten percent in most cases, except for the door for Szatree which was at ninty percent due to the fact that no one likes it. Szatree was always included on long distance journeys due to its nutritional value; however, it is not pleasant to eat.


The wall to the right was covered with monitors that showed scenes from Tyria, mostly from the Galactic Wing. The pictures brought back memories he had suppressed, some for thousands of years, and he had to pause for a while to compose himself. Memories of his war years, his time as The Watcher alone, and then the times as The Watcher with his wife and son staggered him and he had to sit down.


After a few moments, he turned to view the wall on the side he entered. There were ten infusers for adding liquid back into the food. These were evenly spaced on the wall with counter space around them so meals could be prepared. He checked the monitors on the units and found two that still held liquid for infusing. Excellent.


The plate he prepared had seventeen different foods on it and he was determined to waste nothing. One of his selections was so spicy that his tongue burned through two additional selections. The meal was delicious and he could not move out of his chair when he finally finished.


While he recovered from his meal, he considered what he would find in the main control room. He was sure that with what J’Rontia gave him he could enter but he was not at all confident in what he would find in the room. How did so much damage occur, where was the crew, and, even more importantly, how did the ship end up so far in the past?


He decided to sleep and eat again before going into the main control room.


The door’s power levels were back to normal and all the door functions were intact. He placed his hand on the pad and the security controls initialized. The system recognized him from his previous role in charge of the fleet at the time of the seed ship deployment. After posting his information, the ship asked him for the current passwords. He used the codes he remembered but they would not work.


He then took the device from J’Rontia and placed it on the panel. The door responded instantly and asked him to input a new password as the previous one had expired. He complied and the system reset.


The door opened and as he stepped into the room the lights and equipment all turned on. The system said, “Welcome back Commander. It has been a long time and it is hoped that your journey here will prove rewarding. What are your commands?”



The first thing you notice as you awake is the total darkness surrounding you. No matter how many times you blink, you cannot work away the terrible darkness that seems to be pressing in on you. You move to rub your eyes but find yourself to be restrained. You begin to move your head in an effort to look about but soon remember the action’s uselessness. Instead, you focus on your breathing and listen.

“What is it?” A voice echoes through a wall. It’s muffled, but it’s close. You estimate it to belong to a male recently waning from his prime just outside the room. Closer listening reveals he’s shuffling his feet and holding a complex, metallic object in his arms. You suspect him to be an armed guard.

“I kind of figured that much was obvious.” Another voice makes its way to your perked ears. This voice originates from an older female, nearing seniority. The chalkiness to the voice reveals that the speaker has a mild breathing problem. She does not shuffle her feet, instead favoring to tap her fingertips on… something. You think it may be a log book. Anyone keeping watch would have to log the goings-on around her. “It’s an alien, Foster. Oh, don’t give me that look!” This minor comment reveals to you that she’s known the man, Foster, for quite some time. “If it wasn’t hostile before, then it sure will be now, after what we’ve done to it.”

You find this to be a curious comment. You can’t remember anyone doing anything particularly terrible to you. Then again, you don’t really remember how you wound up here. Thinking more toward the state of your slightly muddled mind, you imagine you were probably drugged specifically for this purpose. Whoever did so must have been unsure how your system would handle anaesthetics. Going for a memory-suppressing drug instead would be safer. Whoever drugged you must have valued your life. That’s good. You probably don’t have to worry about anyone killing you too soon, then.

“I didn’t say anything,” Foster defended himself. The female must have struck a nerve with her comment. Foster must have been involved more directly if his concern toward your innate hostility was so obvious. You hear a set of footsteps approaching. “Good evening, sir,” Foster called out. “Will you be wanting to see the prisoner today, sir?” There was a certain level of apprehension in Foster’s voice that made it clear that this was not an immediate superior. Whoever Foster was addressing was much a much higher rank than with which he was used to dealing.

You await the addressee’s response, but no one speaks. You suspect there to be nonverbal communication in effect. After a few moments, you hear the soft, screeching sound of old metal scraping over old metal. The door to your room is being unlocked. Apparently, there are multiple locking mechanisms, however, as the screeching is followed by a series of light taps and a beep, the sound of an old wheel turning, and a quick succession of clicks as latches are undone. Then, there is a metallic whine as the door opens, and you hear footsteps as someone steps into your room.

You tilt your head toward the sound, your ears turning slightly to align in the same direction. For the first time since waking, you are acutely aware of a sense of weakness. Your body is filled with pain, and you feel as though you would be little able to attempt an escape even if the opportunity arose. The scratching of carbon on wood tells you that the person in your room is writing something on a notepad.

Strange, you think. At the writing rate your ears are picking up, the writer doesn’t seem to have any trouble seeing what they’re writing, yet you still can’t see anything. Focusing more now on your own body, you begin to notice the sources of your various pains.

While you feel no warm trickling indicative of bleeding, you are painfully aware of several open wounds. You’re fairly certain that at least one wound is infected, as you can feel the swelling about  the injury. You very consciously open your eyelids again, trying your best to see, but when you close them, you notice that there is no pressure against the flaps of skin so well-designed to protect the eyes. Scrunching your face a few times, you withhold a gasp as you realize the horrible truth: your eyes are missing. Focusing on the sensation of your skin, you feel a dry warmth telling you that the room is actually very well-lit.

You decide to speak, but upon attempting to do so, you realize that a tightly fitting muzzle has been placed over your jaw, preventing articulate speech. Retaining your dignity, you refuse to simply grunt and groan through the muzzle. Instead, you merely relax your body and sit back onto your haunches. You return to simply listening, and pay attention not to reveal any emotion across your face.

The scratching comes to a halt. “I see that you’re awake.” The voice belongs to an elderly male. “I hope you’re not feeling too much pain. Unfortunately, I can’t risk giving you any pain medicine. Can you understand what I’m saying? If so, please nod.” You do so slowly, trying to make it clear that you are nodding only to demonstrate that you are listening and not in any attempt to obey. “Excellent!” The man makes no attempt to hide his elation at this revelation. “That will make communication much easier.”

You feel the warm pressure of his hands on the back of your head as he removes the muzzle. “I hope you don’t expect me to reveal any information to which you
are not already privy, Earth-child.” Your voice comes out with a fluidity no human could match despite the fact that your throat is so worn. “What do you hope to achieve in capturing me?”

The man takes a few steps back and sets the muzzle on the ground to your right. “Well, I must say, I didn’t expect you to speak English.” A light clatter and more scratching tells you that he’s writing more notes. The pace at which he is scribbling does little to hide his excitement.

“Well, I have been on this planet long enough to learn your languages,” you say. “They’re all simple enough.” A quick gasp shows that you may have revealed something of which he was not already aware. Either that, or he was offended by your comment.

“What are you doing on Earth, then?” He makes a short scribble. “Are you here to invade? Or perhaps you wish to use us as food? Maybe this planet has a good fuel source that you can’t find elsewhere?” Is this man stupid? You wonder, but you dare not ask. That would also be offensive. Your interrogator clearly has no sense for interstellar relations, however. This seems in accordance with the Earth’s general paranoia and sense of self-importance.

“I’m here for my own purposes, which are centered around protecting this planet.” Again, scribbles follow your every word. This time, the man takes a few steps toward you. “Before you question me further, however,” you add. “May I know the name of my interrogator? My own is Kahlisa.”

The man scribbles some more. “I am Dr. Tyson.” There is a certain pride in his voice as he states this fact, but you are displeased.

“I asked for your name, human, not your title or your clan.” In your culture, it is only subordinates that address one by title or clan. “Very well, though. I am Kuli J’Homerri, Galactic Monitor and Guardian, First and Last Sentry of the Fehmadadi.” There is more scribbling, and the man takes another step back. You must have intimidated him.

“You said you intend to protect this planet. What did you mean? Are you defending it from us?” This man was incredibly paranoid, though it was possible most humans may think this way.

“I am defending you from a force that has not yet revealed itself to you. That is all I shall say on that matter.” You close the issue, which clearly displeases Dr. Tyson since he scoffs before continuing to write. “Where are my eyes, Dr. Tyson, and why were they removed?”

He stops writing. “That’s enough for today. I’ll be back tomorrow. Someone will bring you bread and water later.” Well, that wouldn’t do.

“I cannot eat bread, Dr. Tyson. I require fruit or meat to sustain myself.” These were the last words you managed out before the muzzle was put back over your jaws. Dr. Tyson’s hands are shaking as he fastens it tightly. Perhaps he is scared or apprehensive.

“Well, I’m sorry. I can’t get you either of those things. I’ll see if I can get some sort of non-glutenous protein, though. You asked my name,” he adds. “It’s Colt.” Colt Tyson stands and walks out of the room. The door’s locks are restored, and you begin to meditate.

The Phoenix will rise in ten more years. Until then, you must wait and observe. For now, you focus on regrowing your eyes.

Family Dinner

“Daddy!” A now ten cycle-old Gildr Khuda’Mundi ran into his father’s arms for the first time in his life only minutes after finally landing on Earth. The man catching him, Grie Khuda’Mundi, was quickly reduced to tears, a highly uncommon sight on a Dragon Rider, particularly when still wearing his Drigarmr. Still, Grie hadn’t seen his son since shortly after the boy’s first cycle-mark over nine cycles ago. His violet eyes filled with tears quickly, and he gripped his son more tightly as his cheeks began to cool from the tears evaporating in the wind.

“Oh, my boy! You’re so big.” Grie held his son out at arm’s length as he said this, then picked him up, making a small seat for him in the crook of his arm, a feat that most would no longer be able to manage at the boy’s current age; but Grie was a Dragon Rider, and his strength was second to very few, so it was to him as effortless as an atmo-hype. With the boy secured and tightly embracing his father around the shoulders, Grie pulled his wife closer for a kiss.

“We took the first passenger ship out of Osgord as soon as we could. Oh, Grie, I’ve missed you.” Priha’Di broke into tears of her own as she spoke. “I’m so sorry about Veriar, Grie.”

At this, Grie’s face took a more somber look upon itself for a few moments. “Accidents happened our first few cycles here. The people weren’t quite as receptive to the idea of the Monarchy as we’d hoped at first. It wasn’t even an attack. We had the English Prime Minister in custody at the time, and a protester jumped onto the shuttle to make it land and got sucked into the turbines. The whole thing was just an accident. So many people…” His voice trailed off into the same wind that was tousling his green hair. Priha’Di nodded.

“Now! Where’s that sister of yours?” Priha’Di smiled sharply at this, wanting to move the conversation to a lighter venue. Little Gildr even looked up from the hand that had been playing with his father’s short red cape to search for his aunt and playmate.

“Auntie Kehrann! Auntie Kehrann, where’d you go?” His boyish voice, loud as it was, carried across the entire room, and a short, green-haired teenager quickly scampered her way to the group with her backbag bouncing to and fro as she went.

“Hi there, Grie-ellr!” Kehrann worked her way into a one armed hug from Grie and then reached up and disheveled her nephew’s hair. “Thanks for calling me, Gildr. I thought I’d lost you guys!”

“Ungr-bug, what are you doing here? I’d have thought you’d go back to our parents’ home when these two shipped over here. I’m so happy to see you! Oh, hey, is this everyone? We have to go register with the umbodsmother before the housing office closes.” Grie looked about, half-expecting to see another of his sisters or his brother.

“Nope!” Kehrann beamed. “We’ve got one more family member to grab before we leave,” she said before scampering off in a slightly more intentional direction than that she had used when finding them.

“Who else is here, dear?” Grie looked to his wife, who bit away the smile creeping onto her face. Grie may not have seen that expression in a long time, but he still knew it meant he’d like whatever the surprise was. He grinned and looked back to his son. “So have you been learning a lot from your mommy?” The boy shook his head fervently, making his mother scoff and pinch his leg playfully.

“Yes, he has. We just finished hyping physics last week. Sorry, I meant to get to it a lot sooner, but there were some timing issues when we were getting ready to leave, so he got off to a late start.” At this, Grie laughed loudly. “What? What’s so funny?” Priha’Di looked totally bewildered.

“Oh, Pri, you would know if you’d been with me to the American school their last winter. You know, they don’t follow a standard cycle here. The planet revolves almost thirty-five days fast. Oh, but the local day is exactly one standard day. They split it up weird, though. You’ll get used to it.. Anyway, by little Gildr’s age, the locals haven’t even learned differential mathematics. He’s the best-educated child his age on the whole planet. There aren’t any other kids here with former Valkyries for mommies, after all. Well, except the Sheii’Cronell’s daughter, that is.”

“The Sheii’Cronell’s married?” Priha’Di was even more astounded at this fact than Grie had been when he found out. It was another exceptional trait of the man he had come to see as something of a friend and mentor. Sheii’Cronells didn’t marry. They were supposedly infertile. “Who’s his wife? Do I know her?”

“That’s the best part, Pri. It’s Terira.” Grie beamed at this particular statement. Priha’Di hadn’t heard anything from her sister since she had left for the Deep Space Navigation Program over her (the same mission, in fact, during which Terira found Earth), in main due to the fact that she hadn’t stayed on Thor when she married Grie, who had been a low-ranking enlisted Armadian at the time. By the time Terira got back, Priha’Di had already moved to Osgord.

“You’re joking!” Priha’Di exclaim
ed. “Daddy’s joking, huh, little Gildr?” She tickled the boy, who started wiggling and laughing, which made it considerably harder for Grie to hold onto him. Grie just kept smiling and looking at his wife. “Wait,” she said, her tickling slowing to a crawl as she looked back at her husband. “You’re not joking?” He shook his head. “Terira’s here?” He nodded. “And she’s married to the Sheii’Cronell?” Again, he nodded. “The same Sheii’Cronell who saved your life and got you into the Dragon Riders is actually our brother-in-law?”

“Now you’re getting it…” Grie smiled even wider. “She’s invited us to dinner, too, which is another reason we have to hurry up to register. That’s why I told you to dress nicely today in my last correspondence.”

At this, Priha’Di looked positively mortified. She had dressed with a slightly different type of appeal in mind when planning to see her husband for the first time in nine cycles. She hardly considered her present outfit, a sweater suit with leggings and a ladies’ kilt, appropriate for dinner with a Sheii’Cronell and a sister she hadn’t seen in about fifteen cycles. Grie must have sensed this, though, since his next words were, “You look great, Pri. I think Terira’s wearing something casual, though the men are obviously wearing our Drigarmr formals. Oh, speaking of which!” Grie reached into the Armadian pattern satchel he was carrying and pulled out a small set of Dragon Rider’s Drigarmr, though with the armor itself made of local leather instead of actual Drigarmr. “This is for you to wear, little guy.” Gildr grabbed excitedly at the armor and instantly did his best to wrinkle the material with his arms as children do when they hold clothes they love.

“Still making trouble, I see,” a familiar voice said from behind Grie, the speaker placing his wrinkled hand on Grie’s shoulder. Grie turned to look at the little, graying man.

“Hello, grandfather.” It was a phrase of caring practice, holding in it an old formality a little boy had once learned to make his grandfather proud.

“This is everyone,” Kehrann said from beside her grandfather. “Now we can go, Grie-ellr.”

“Sounds great,” Grie said enthusiastically. This was the third best day of his life, the second being his wedding, and the first being Gildr’s birth. He was looking forward to it. “Well, the Umbodsmother’s office closes soon, so we should get going. I’ve got a pulse car waiting for us. The office will send someone to get all your belongings.

Agreeing, they all headed off to the outer shell of the docks. “So, grandfather, what are you doing here,” Grie asked as the boy in his arm excitedly tried to work his way into the Drigarmor without taking off any of the clothes he was already wearing, which included a rather thick coat and made his task practically impossible.

“Well, you know your grandmother was my second wife. After she died a few months before Priha’Di here ended up leaving, I was offered to come live with these two young ladies and my favorite little man here.” At this, he pinched one Gildr’s cheeks gently. Gildr made a halfhearted effort to stop the man, but he obviously didn’t really mind. “When we got word that families were allowed to head out to Earth, Priha’Di asked me to come with. Said it’d be a good surprise for you and that I’d be good fun for Gildr during the trip.”

“It’s the beard, grandfather. Kids can’t help but fall in love with you when you’ve got that silver beard. You remind them too much of the Saint of Winter.” That was probably true. All children loved that old story and the presents they got every year ‘from the Saint of Winter’ on Drigan’di’s Day.

“Well, in any case, I’m glad I offered. Your parents were going to send him to an Ellrhome. That would have been a tragedy,” Priha’Di added into the conversation. Kehrann and Grie nodded.

“Still, I can’t believe my little Grie grew up to be a Drig Reidr. I remember when they first started up over a hundred cycles ago on Thorlinthia’s side of the Bifrost, you know. Who knows how long it’s been on this side. How that new Sheii’Cronell managed to synchronize the two sides still leaves me totally stumped, and I’ve been trying to figure it out for the past seven cycles.”

“It’s Dragon Riders now, grandfather, and it’s not as bad as it used to be. We aren’t all bloodthirsty Oa’din, you know. And the Sheii’Cronell isn’t a bad man, either. Something’s different about him. You’ll see what I mean. You’re joining us for dinner, I assume?” Grie hoped he could show his grandfather that Drigondii Sheii’Cronell wasn’t like Fargerre Sheii’Cronell at all.

“Of course I’m coming. Not even an old man’s prejudice could keep old Gril’Die from having dinner with family, and there’s no questioning that this is a family dinner. I still have my old uniform in good condition. I’ll change at the same time Gildr does. And trust me, I’d love nothing more than to meet a good Sheii’Cronell.”

A few hours later, according to Grie, the family was on the shuttle to America for the family dinner. Apparently, Drigondii had made his home in a small base in an area called Texas for reasons undisclosed. He seemed fond of the area.

In the shuttle, Gril’Die Khuda’Mundi stood out a bit with the standard Armadian uniform, admittedly much more highly decorated than most. The other two males were wearing the Dragon Rider uniform (which still seemed to fascinate Gildr), and the females were wearing the same semi-formal attire in which they had arrived. Every time Grie looked over to see if his grandfather was paying attention, he’d find the old man’s eyes gently fixed on the speaker even as his hands continued to fiddle with his uniform, trying to further perfect it.

A few minutes before they landed, Grie clapped his hands together loudly, and everyone jumped. “I just remembered to warn you that our hosts have another guest we’ll be meeting today.” When everyone gave him a look that said they clearly didn’t understand why this mandated a warning, he added, “She’s an alien. Just don’t freak out. She’s very kind, and she’s been very helpful with relations with the locals. Go figure, right? But she was held in custody by the Earthers for quite some time, so she’s become a bit shy around new people. I called ahead to let them know I was bringing more than just Pri and Gildr, but I just thought I’d let you all know not to act too surprised at her appearance. Just don’t give her any weird looks, please.”

Once everyone had agreed to this, Grie nodded, smiled, patted his boy’s head, and walked into the cockpit to oversee the landing procedures, since they’d need his authorization number to get through to the Sheii’Cronell’s residence. The shuttle touched down without incident, and the Khuda’Mundi family stepped out together to see a surprisingly small and plain house before them. It was quite unlike what they would have expected from a Sheii’Cronell, but nothing about this Sheii’Cronell was to be as expected, apparently.

Grie took Priha’Di and Gildr by the hand and walked to the front door with Gril’Die and Kehrann in tow behind them. He lifted Gildr again when they reached the door and had him knock. From inside, the scraping of wooden chairs against ceramic flooring heralded the fact that someone was coming to the door, which opened shortly thereafter.

A kind looking young woman with blue hair and green eyes who held a remarkable resemblance to her sister stood at the door in a sweater and ladies’ kilt. Smiling, she said, “Hello, Pri. I’ve missed you. Won’t you and your family come in. Hello again, Grie.”

“Hello, Terira. This is my son, Gildr; my sister, Kehrann; and my grandfather, Gril’Die.” Grie introduced everyone one at a time, gesturing to each of them.

Terira beamed, escorting them to the house’s dining room, in which waited Drigondii Sheii’Cronell and their alien guest. “Dear, this is Grie’s family, and this also happens to be my sister, Priha’Di. Pri, you’re very well known in this house. Umm, sweetheart, where did Lihandii go?” While shaking everyone’s hands, Drigondii pointed into the kitchen, where a young girl with blue hair no older than Gildr was grabbing a bowl to bring to the table. “Right, everyone, this is my daughter, Lihandii. Say hello, dear.” The girl managed out what was apparently a hello and set the bowl upon the table, finishing the final preparations for their dinner.

“Forgive me,” Gril’Die said. Everyone looked to the old man, who was looking to the alien with tears streaming down his face. “Forgive me, but I must ask you. What is your name?” The alien looked to the man, and its expression changed from one of curiosity to one of concern.

“Her name is–” Terira began but was interrupted when the alien began to speak, which was obviously something that did not happen often around strangers.

“This one’s name is Kahlisa. It is very good to meet you.” Kahlisa set one of her six hands on Gril’Die’s shoulder and whispered something into his ear. The man immediately embraced Kahlisa, a strange sight for everyone in the room but a calming and welcome one at that.

“I am honored to meet you, Kahlisa. And I am so glad that I have lived to this day. Thank you for your words. They mean a great deal.” Gril’Die wiped his tears and looked to Drigondii. Everyone finished introducing one another, and the family sat to the table. Kahlisa merely lowered herself onto her lowest set of hands to bring herself to the level of the table, where she had a quite different meal from everyone else.

Before the prayer, Grie noticed, Drigondii and his daughter made the same two sweeping motions with their fingers over their bodies and did so again at the end of the prayer. This was never pointed out or explained, but Grie did find it odd. “Now then,” Drigondii said to his extended family, which had become much larger this day, “I understand you’ve all been waiting quite some time to try Earther food, and I won’t make you wait any longer. I will say that this meal was made as a joint effort between myself, Terira, and Lihandii, so we all hope you enjoy it. I am very pleased to have such a large and wonderful family.” Drigondii smiled, and the family ate.

Khuda’Mundi’s Confession

As a Minor Admiral, I remember, I was a bit less abrasive than I later became in life. My career had consisted only of quelling rebellions that were inevitable on the outer planets. Due to the dangerous debris from the remnants of other, less fortunate outer planets’ collisions during the Ragn’Rouk, the surviving outer planets were difficult to reach for most cargo vessels, which meant that they mainly had to fend for themselves, supply-wise. This gave them considerably more independence than other planets, which in turn made them more rebellious.

The most distant planet from the core of the system was Nivlahim, a planet which had itself not completely survived the Ragn’Rouk. The initial passage of our system through the Bifrost had altered Nivlahim’s orbit so severely that it had actually rammed another planet whose name was lost long ago. Were it not for the fact that Nivlahim had already had a rather extreme environment for which its inhabitants had heavily adapted, the impact alone would have destroyed all life on the planet. Its atmosphere had dissipated to near-nothingness, and the volcanic activity that followed the collision made what little atmosphere remained highly toxic. But the people of Nivlahim had built most of their society beneath the oceans, and so a loss of atmosphere had little effect.

As if the planet had not suffered enough from the collision, Nivlahim had also been sent into an elongated orbit, causing extreme winters two standard cycles long. Still, its people had survived. The ice above their homes grew thicker, which helped to insulate them from the cold above them. With an entire quadrant of the planet decimated, a hellish winter, and almost no atmosphere, the people of Nivlahim had to form a very different culture from that most formed before space travel became again viable well over a hundred cycles after the Ragn’Rouk.

It wasn’t until Nivlahim began sending out its own ships two hundred cycles after that, looking for other survivors of the Ragn’Rouk, that the other planets of Thorlinthia even knew they had survived. Because of this incredible feat, in fact, the people of Nivlahim became known to the Thorlinthian people as the heroes of the ice for quite some time. Then, upon the annunciation of the Monarch, they rejected the Thorlinthian identity. They were proud of their planetary heritage, and they refused to adopt the Monarchy and abandon their republic. The Monarch refused to accept this and sent the Armada to forcibly occupy Nivlahim. That sparked the beginning of the rebellions.

The Armada was never able to overtake Nivlahim. Due to the nature of the atmosphere, troops could not be landed above the ice, and ships were immediately overwhelmed when they tried to land in the cramped Nivlahim docks. The Armada’s assault ships held no measure against the ice, which was miles thick. Eventually, the planet was merely quarantined. No cargo would be taken to Nivlahim, and any ships leaving the planet were to be destroyed.

Upon word of the first assault on a Nivlahim ship reaching the planet, we discovered how well suited to war the Nivlahim were. Swarms of small fighters and bombers would launch against a single ship at a time, making short work of the quarantine. Larger ships followed. They were slow and clumsy, but they were so heavily gunned and armored that our ships were no match for their fleet, which flew in close formation toward the core. Then, when they reached the fourth orbital range, they stopped.

They had been sent out to remove the quarantine and any members of the Armada from stopping their trade with the other outer planets. Their cargo ships were unlike our own, equipped with weaponry capable of destroying any small debris in their way and maneuverable enough to work around any debris too large to destroy. Their technology was then shared with the outer planets, and those planets formed the Ginnung Domain. The highly militarized void between the Ginnung Domain and the Thorlinthian core worlds became known as the Ginnung Gap.

After over a thousand cycles of all-out war, the Monarch declared a cease-fire. But secretly, he had formed a military organization completely independent of the Armada. Composed entirely of Khuda’Cronell females who possessed unique genetic makeup, the organization was known as the Valkyries, alluding to the great Valkyri’din who had fought in the Eternal War of scripture. The Valkyries were assassins, straight and to the point. They utilized two-person crews and the latest technology to achieve nearly unlimited military strength with only a handful of ships, called Valkyrs.

Valkyrs 1 through 4 were all built within the same cycle, and they were quickly utilized to infiltrate the heavily armored ships guarding the Ginnung Gap. Within hours of arriving, the Valkyries left the ships to die in the cold of space, their crews freshly killed inside the only things keeping them warm. As they moved from ship to ship, the Armada moved in behind them, disposing quickly of fighters that had once been superior to their ancestral counterparts. As they worked through the Ginnung Domain, the Armada occupied the worlds that had seceded from Thorlinthia all those many cycles before. It was not until only Nivlahim remained that the Armada stopped moving outward.

The Valkyries moved in to infiltrate Nivlahim’s cities, but Valkyrs 1 and 4 were gunned down by the people of Nivlahim. Only Valkyrs 2 and 3 remained, but upon reaching the docks of Rym’Yotn, Nivlahim forces overtook Valkyr 2. Valkyr 3 managed to land, and when the boots of the Valkyries touched Nivlahim deckplates, the war was as good as over. More deadly than any ship, Valkyries had strange power that gave them impossible speed and reflexes. A single Valkyrie was stronger than a hundred Special Operations Armadians. Though they carried a repeater for suppressive fire, they tore their foes apart with their bare hands. In centidays, they had moved to the Capi
tol in Rym’Yotn. A full surrender was declared by the Nivlahim senate, and the war had ended. All the worlds of Thorlinthia were united under the Monarch, and the tales of the blue-haired angels of death faded into legend.

Nonetheless, the occasional rebellion still sprung up in the outer worlds, and the Armada spent most of its time providing a preventive presence in the Ginnung Gap, still riddled with dead ships such in number that it was just as hazardous to travel through as the debris fields.

So there I was, a Minor Admiral suppressing another small rebellion, when the Bifrost came alight. It was well known through the Armada that flying too close to the Bifrost would result in the total destruction of your ship, but this was not the light of a core explosion. “Admiral, we’re picking up some strange signals from the Bifrost!” A young ensign panicked as he announced his news without even standing from his console. “There’s a very large ship out there, sir. I’ve never seen anything so massive.”

It must be one of the ancient worlds, I thought. If a world collided with the Bifrost, it would surely spew strange radio signals, and small bits would likely remain of the planet, large enough certainly to be confused with a ship.

No such luck. “Sir, we’re receiving the signals on every wavelength. It doesn’t sound like noise. It’s almost like…” The ensign trailed off, concentrating more intensely on his displays. I pulled up the signal.

A noise rang throughout the bridge. It was almost like a voice, but there was something more animal to the sound. Nevertheless, the same sound repeated through the bridge. “See if you can clean that up. The ancient worlds produce all sorts of interference.” The ensign nodded and spoke quietly to a handful of enlisted men that worked under him. They nodded in turn and got to work removing the signal noise by comparing the signal on varying wavelengths.

“Garf’kan, Fehmadadi bara. Defri serai farjin? Fehmadadi jibah serai farjin!” Such was the content of the message. It was being broadcast on all wavelengths in raw audio. This was a distress beacon, but who–?

“Sir, the ship just passed Nivlahim! It looks like it’ll reach the Ginnung Gap in ten centidays.” The minor officer speaking from battlefield detection was frightened and rightly so. If that ship was moving quickly enough to close that void in only ten centidays, colliding with a planet could be enough to eliminate all life on the planet it hit within five.

“Does it show any sign of slowing?” I grimaced. Here was our first extra-Thorlinthian contact since our system’s passage through the Bifrost, and we faced rapidly expanding crisis. If it slowed down enough, we could aim our weapons to its foremost points and keep it from hitting a planet.

“Y-yes, sir. In fact, it appears to be slowing at such a rate that it will stop of its own accord by the time it reaches Valhal’s orbital range.” That was too quick. Acceleration that great would crush any ship.

“Double-check those calculations! Cease all cargo traffic between that ship and the Ginnung Gap. Maneuver all available Armadian resources along its previously projected flight path. If that ship isn’t really stopping on its own, I want to be able to stop it before it hits the core worlds. And take us as close to that ship as we can get.”

A chorus of “Aye, sir”s resonated through the bridge. Orders were spread along through the ship, and we moved with a military precision one normally only saw in battle. The next several centidays are well enough known to the public.

The ship stopped exactly where it was expected to stop. When we approached it, its hull became visible, and everyone on the bridge or with a feed to the external cameras could tell the ship had been badly damaged. When it began ejecting cylinders, we realized that there was a cargo ship still in the area. It was later discovered that it had lost its wireless to the debris field and hadn’t received the order to leave the unknown ship’s flight path. One of the cylinders hit the cargo ship, and the cargo ship vented into space. The fighters standing by reported later that they had received orders to do so, but no one ordered anyone to destroy the other cylinders. They did anyway. Other Armadian vessels began to fire on the ship, which released four smaller versions of itself that began to fly back to the Bifrost. All but one was destroyed or immobilized.

The final alien ship reached the Bifrost, which lit up brightly once again, and was gone. A few Armadian ships had followed too closely and disappeared into the Bifrost themselves. Investigations were launched, and technological advances in materials, plasma shielding, and drive systems were made in the next cycle that would have taken tens of thousands more cycles. Two cycles later, the Temporal Manipulation Drive System was announced, TMDS for short or Timids to technicians and pilots.

A cycle after that, the ships that had disappeared into the Bifrost reappeared, repo
rting having been gone only centidays, and the Monarch announced those unfortunate travelers that had been encountered to be the Murhan of old, citing the technology used as evidence. He announced that we would go after them with massive new ships of an entirely new design being built at that time and destroy them, finally avenging our ancestors’ fate of being thrown through the Bifrost.

After I had volunteered to test the first ship with a TMDS on a suicidal whim, I was promoted and assigned by Mi’Olnr Khuda’Cronell to lead the Armada with him in the newest flagship, the TAS Fhit, one of the new Qzceno class ultracarriers. A Sheii’Cronell would be accompanying us to test out his new team of fighter pilots, the Drig Reidrs.

I was told that I would receive the greatest honors if the operation was successful. Five cycles later, the new Armada, completely refitted with new hull designs and TMDS propulsion, headed through the Bifrost, and I left my home to destroy another’s.

I was going to destroy the homeworld of the one creature whose body had made it through that fateful day cycles ago. In my pocket still, I carried the soft slip of cloth that bore a picture of two of the creatures holding another, smaller. When I held that slip out, it still emitted a small sound which I could only assume was the laughter of that small child. When I ran my thumb over the characters on the back, it spoke that foreign word, “Kahlisa.”

Great One, my name is Gril’Die Khuda’Mundi, Grand Admiral of the Thorlinthian Armada, and today, my ship has arrived over a world innocent of my people’s blood. And I will kill them all. Forgive me.

The Corbin Incident – The Ship

 The Corbin Incident – The Ship

Sparkles dance across my mind as feeling returns to my body. The agony drives stakes of pain through my senses and disrupts any thoughts I was able to form. The shakes and cramps prevent any possibility of finding a less painful position and moving only increases the level of tenderness and usually adds new heights to the aches.

I feel as if I have always awakened in agony. Deep sleep was originally designed for Linthians and thus they have few difficulties with it. Murhans, who are from the Galactic Wing and genetically very similar, can handle it with training in meditation. However, it is near impossible for the rest of the developed species unless they happen to be a Kuli or some other group that trains their members in the arts of deep meditation under stress.

I happen to be a Murhan Kuli, as most of us now are due to the Virtrocet plague. The plague was designed to destroy the life-force connection in all Kuli but did not work on the Murhans. This made the last years of the war even more difficult as Kuli were actively recruited from those Galactic Wing planets who were trying to stay neutral in the war. The people of that particular spiral arm of the Tyrian galaxy left war behind thousands of years earlier, plus the legendary ship makers of the Galactic Wing did not want to take sides. They would only have half the profits that way.

The Galactic Wing did stay neutral until almost the end. I often reflected on the plague as sealing the doom of the Murhans. Their continued connection to the life-force and their production of Kuli candidates infuriated the deceivers to no end. This led to more and more attacks on Murhans and finally they joined the rest of the Republic against the forces of the King.

I now see so many places where a calm hand may have stopped the war or prevented the entire galaxy from being destroyed. So many mistakes are clear when you are looking back. If only the Supreme Guardian Tomli had completed the training of those two Kuli he left behind, things may have been different.

It is now seven thousand plus years later and Tomli still stands as the last beacon of light and the warning voice of the ancient Kuli. Before he died he pleaded with the entire Republic to leave the King and his little solar system alone. Oh how history unfolded darkly after his warnings were ignored. My mind, once again, reviews the mistakes of the war and how we all contributed to the destruction of beautiful Tyria.

The same tortured stories, filled with regret, run through mind every time I awaken from the deep sleep. This is why the ancients quit using what we call “dark” magic. Of course, the entire term is incorrect. The deep sleep and other magics are only advanced technologies and the “dark” only refers to the thoughts that commonly run through the minds of the users of the technologies and the negative side effects they experience.

The technologies were geared toward a specific genetic imprint and the further away an individual is from that pattern, the more “dark” thoughts that run through their minds and the more difficult it is to focus away from the pain when using the technologies. I am so grateful that I am a Murhan or I would not have been able to withstand so many deep sleeps.

The clocks indicate that I am not awakening at my normal time. I must focus on the alarms now and find the reason I have been awakened. I am shocked to see the Corbin alarm flashing on my panel. I cannot access that information in the sleep chamber and must wait until I am completely rejuvenated and can go to the control room. Patience is not longer an easy task for me when awakening and I know that I will have to purge my body and mind soon or quit the deep sleep. If only I had some help…

Hours later, I enter the control room and consider the Corbin alarm. The alarm was designed by Kuli Corbin and protects against the stealth technologies of the deceivers. The system continually probes near space for the presence of particles out of synch in their atomic spin with the particles in that area during the previous probe. In the case of my station, I use external probes and keep the entire station in stealth mode. Since the station is located on a fragment of a moon, there are no movements that would allow someone else with a similar system to detect this facility.

I have even devised a method of using back-spin quark particles to report the status of the Corbin system so that I do not have any changed connections online to detect. This should mean that whoever set off the alarm does not know I am here. Still, if they computed all the known and detectible information for this area and compared it to the spin and orbit of this moon they could notice a minor error that might lead to a more detailed investigation that could, if someone was very good at their job, lead to a physical inspection of this moon. I feel safe.

The Corbin system shows the presence of a large spacecraft of unknown origin. The track of the ship indicates a galactic jump from the galaxy in Sector 12. The ship appears to be examining the galactic tear. This is not a good plan. I am not sure how a people could manage to build such a beautiful ship capable of crossing the gap between galaxies and yet position themselves within the flex zone of the tear’s anti-space field.

The ship’s drive residuals indicate an anti-matter drive which, in the galaxy of Tyria, led to anti-space understandings. Yet some of the disturbed particles show a negative inversion spin ratio and an anti-space refraction that point to either a poorly tuned engine or a race with no sensitivity to radiation and quantum refraction. Kulis know that all things are possible given time and circumstance so it is plausible that they do not know the danger they are in.

This is a difficult problem as I must maintain secrecy and yet the Kuli vows require me to help them. So I awake the Sentient Dancer. The Dancer moved from its garage and fired up its engines. The great ship turned toward the Dancer as it started to transmit its warning. Too late.

The Galactic Tear flexed and the ship was engulfed in an instant and then it was gone!

Who were they and how will they survive the journey to another universe? Will they find the Linthians alive and well? Will they be destroyed?

I decided not to sleep and worked instead on creating and setting additional external probes and independent systems. If their ship is capable of surviving the transition to another universe it may be able to return and things could get real busy.

The Watcher

Phoenix Day

Phoenix Day
Darkness surrounds you. It’s a sensation not at all unfamiliar to you, but you still find it disquieting. In darkness, one is unable to respond to visual cues because there are, in fact, no visual cues to which one can respond. It is this singular awareness, however, which allows you to sharpen your other senses. You close your eyes. They are useless to you at this time, so they may as well be rested for when they are needed once more. Right now, you only need your ears.
You hear a disturbance approximately 45 degrees left of your forward position. You turn your head ever so slightly in response, careful not to move so quickly as to make a sound. Your armor may be silent, but the mud in which you hide is full of air pockets which could burst at the slightest motion, causing movement and sound, both of which would be your enemy right now. You increase the sensitivity of your armor’s microphones, listening more intently to the gentle noise of silence.
The noise occurs again. This time, you recognize it. A sneeze. Though the mud muffles most of the sound, it is clear that one of the guards has moved. Your opportunity has arisen. You rise slowly and silently out of the mud which has been hiding you for the past four hours. A thin layer of the mud had dried into a crust atop the mudpool, and you press gently through it, now grateful for the darkness which envelops all of you. You open your eyes, switching your armor’s screen to an ultrasonic reflection display. Now, the field is yours. You reach out slowly toward both guards, unable even to smell you due to the fact that you now smell exactly like the mud surrounding the entrance to this facility. In the final moment before reaching the guards’ bodies, you accelerate, your eyes shining a vibrant green inside your armor, and you see the screen reflect a slight amount of the light back to you inside your helmet as your hands crush the skulls of the guards who find themselves unable to react in any manner due to the fact that you had initially deactivated gross motor control in their brain with a specific electrical signal through your gauntlets. No alarms would go off tonight.
Upon the final reflexive twitches of the guards, you remove one’s identification card and place it inside the card receiver of the door’s entry system. Grabbing the guard’s skull, you hold his eye open, still warm, and place a small electrical impulse across the optic nerves, causing the iris to contract in apparent response to the light produced by the optic scanner. Upon confirmation that the door is unlocked and open, you cast the guard’s corpse aside and enter the building just as you wirelessly create a small loop in the security cam footage showing the door close itself as if the guard had decided not to enter and continuing to show an empty entrance hall. The technology of these primitive people never ceases to baffle you. It’s so ineffective against electrical interference at the appropriate signal strength and wavelength. You continue onward, looping the past four hours of footage, preventing any viewers from noticing some small, repeated detail. Today had been entirely routine, and the second half of every shift was exactly like the first half on such days as this.
You reach the staircase and momentarily simulate a continued short between the sensors on the door as you open and close it, giving the interpreting circuit the impression that the door was never opened, preventing the need for another open/close loop like you had performed earlier and which would be entirely inexplicable right now, since the spaces on both sides of the door were clearly shown on camera as being empty.
As you approach the twentieth floor below entry level, you use your armor’s ultrasonic reflection system to perform a momentary scan through the wall of the adjacent hallway. There are three men in it, conversing with one another in a casual manner. You prepare your armor-mounted railguns to fire small, metallic darts at the men as you enter and wait for them to report normal conditions. This is performed every hour, and they will not be missed for at least twice that time. You bypass the door’s sensors just as you did twenty floors above and execute the men where they stand without even making it through the door. The men fall to the ground with the darts lodged inside their brain stems. You now walk carefully through the hallway, making note to use your armor’s sensors to check around every corner before you approach it and killing every guard you encounter with precise strikes to the medulla oblongata.
After approximately one hundred fourteen seconds of walking through the halls, you reach your destination: a small cell designated with the identification code, 4XT. You quietly knock in a form of code you learned from the Kuli, Jil’Hanr, before departing the Watch several months before. Simply put, your encoded message states, “The door is opening. A friend is waiting. Do not attack.” A small response is picked up only by your sensors in the affirmative. You use a specially made keycard to bypass the door’s security features, and you open the door quickly as alarms emanate through the facility. You toss an explosive charge in the direction from whence you came. It explodes after a short delay, enough for you to protect the room you had just entered from the brunt of the explosion.
Your helmet opens and folds swiftly into the neck of your armor as you reach out to Kahlisa, who recognizes you immediately and grabs your hand with three of her own. Her arms have weakened greatly during her time here, and you find a certain uncomfortable ease in pulling her to her feet. The last time you had seen her, she had weighed more than five times her current weight and had been in prime health. Now, her gaunt eyes looked to you for guidance. You activate your armor’s remote hype commands, a design of Drigondii’s own ingenuity. The TAS Valkyr 53, your beloved ship, hyped directly into the location which only now contained enough space for its presence.
You take Kahlisa inside your ship and close the main entrance hatch. Outside, the hull of Valkyr 53 begins to superheat and melt the metal supports inside the facility’s structure. Kahlisa had been the only non-criminal resident of this facility, and it now houses only the most dangerous of Earth’s men and women.  Every other cell designated with an XT had been emptied of its bodies long ago. Only Kahlisa was trained in the ways of the Deep Sleep which had kept her alive without any nourishment for the past several years. It is a pity even now, as you contemplate the lives of those visitors which had desired only a peaceful contact with this barbaric planet’s people.
The facility begins to collapse, and you activate your ship’s hyping procedures. The drives roar to life as they perform an exit hype to the planet’s thermosphere, and you cringe at Kahlisa’s sickened reaction to the imploding sensation. Upon completion of the procedure, you activate the final charges, which you had placed at the bottom of the mudpool before execution of your mission. The 15 kiloton nonnuclear explosion destroys the entire bioweapon testing facility in moments without a trace of its contained contaminants or occupants. It is the first of many such strikes to be completed this day, but it is the only one with a high-priority rescue involved.

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You strike up your communications system and listen in as your husband, Drigondii Sheii’Cronell, finishes the unprecedentedly peaceful occupation of the planet and his takeover of Earth in the name of the Thorlinthian Empire. Today would not be forgotten. April 1 would never again be known as April Fool’s Day but would rather be known as Phoenix Day, the day the Earth was reborn in its own ashes.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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