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Parts 1~4 - Assasination - Warfront - Settling Differences - Gods amongst Men - Conclusion - What once was - Now and again


"Conclusion"




 Midnight. 
The cold night had embraced His body much like the icy fingers of death had done His heart. 
Behind Him, the soft amber glow of the burning crucifix still shone, the crowd it had gathered had gone to their homes.

Still kneeling beside His fallen wife, He had cried quietly for a while, but now just sat there, alone.

His body was unmoving and His mind was numb... there was nothing left for Him to live for anymore. 
So lost in Himself He was He didn't even notice the Baron and his aids had walked up to Him.

The Baron took a stand next to Him, signaling his aids to stay away for a moment.

Placing a jewel-studden hand on His shoulder, he spoke after a long moment of silence. 
"You have my sympathies for what happened, and my pity for what is to come."

"She's gone..." He replied with a hoarse voice.

"I was told to give you these exact words..." The Baron stated, taking a deep breath.

"Now is the time to remember what you lost."

His eyes flickered open, an unfamilair sharpness to them betrayed His state of mind. 
"What did you just say?"

The Baron snapped his fingers and gestured the aids to the fallen maiden.

A sharp pain suddenly shot through His skull.

He cried out, gasping his head with both hands and doubled over. 
That glimmer of awareness at the back of his mind awakened and roared through Him, like a floodgate memories and ideas poured out of His subconscious and took a hold of Him. 
Through squinting eyes He saw the Baron's aids moving to Her body and gently lifting Her up between them. 
He wanted to fight them off, but though the pain and another mind's unwillingness to stop them He could not move.

"What's... Happening?" He gasped. 
Another surge, another outcry. 
The Baron took a step back, as more aids brought out a large cylindrical machine.

"Our mutual friend left clear instructions... You know them I believe."

"What are you doing with Her?!" He managed to squeeze out.

"Preserving her... So that you may save her."

They eased Her body in the tube, and with a hiss the machine slid shut. 
"He left a ship for you, and weapons. You have a promise to keep."

And with those words, the pain stopped.
Slowly He stood up, releasing his head and straightened. 
His eyes shone with holographic patterns, lines and circles rotating slowly for a minute before fading again. 
He felt his body changing, as though parts of Him had been asleep for aeons now finally awakening 
"Show me." He commanded, His voice calm and clear.

"Come, I have made arrangements to keep Her safe, your mansion will be under our protection until you return." 
The Baron gestured to his vehicle, a large groundcar with heavy wheels and armored plating covering it's body, entirely the opposite to the luxury shuttles he had employed before.

It took them a good hour's drive to reach the hidden landing pad, all throughout the trip He remained quiet at the back seat, sorting His thoughts and growing accustomed to the new memories.

As they approached the hangar, it's large doors slid open, revealing a large ship hidden underneath a dark cloth.

His eyes flashed their holograms again, cycling through filters and patterns until finally able to peer through the mesh. 
It was an intricate weave, engineered to dampen almost all emitions detectable by sensors, but he managed to find a band that negated the effect. 
The ship itself was sleek and long, two disproportionally massive engine nacelles sat at the back on either side of the smooth hull.

"That's the Falcon, our friend left it here for you." the Baron stated, noticing his guest staring at it.

"It'll take you where you need to go, and will do what you need it to do."

"I know this ship." He replied. 
"I once build something like it, far from now."

As they entered the hangar, He gave a tug on the covering fabric. 
Like water it rippled and flowed, gliding over the smooth hull of the Falcon and dropping in front of Him like an amorphous mass, then started hissing and dissolving, leaving only a few threads behind.

"We will not meet again, so I wish you all the best luck in your future endeavres." the Baron concluded. 
He gave a brief salute, and left his guest promptly.

"Falcon..." He muttered.

At the sound of His voice the ship, the Falcon, activated it's systems. 
The enormous turbines within it's nacelles started turning, speeding up causing massive amounts of air to be taken in. 
Gradually the sleek white hull took on a metallic sheen, a hexagonal grid pattern became apparent.

A hatch opened from underneath the nose, from a ladder extended. 
It was definitely not a ship designed for cargo hauling or ferrying people around.

Like a dagger, it was sharp and quick, sleek and deadly, He made a mental note to remember a few design elements for a ship of his own.

As He took the pilot's seat He noticed the controls were exceptionally minimal, just a chair, the wide window, a two-handle control collumn and nothing else.
Taking the joystick with both hands, Falcon noticed Him.

Carefully nudging it's way into His mind, control interfaces started appearing in his field of vision.

"Hello there." He said out loud, addressing Falcon. 
It didn't reply, but He knew the ship had heard Him.

More information poured in, as well as clearance to depart.

He fired up the Falcon's thrusters and pushed the ship outside the hangar and onto the landing strip. 
Accelerating across the runway, the Falcon quickly rose it's nose and shot upwards at ever increasing speed.


The weapon systems came online as He left the atmosphere, showing Him what He had at His disposal. 
Two light energy cannons, a tailgun, a missile launcher and several warheads to choose from. 
One type in particular stood out. 
'Nanite Container'

He pulled up advanced statistics. 
The weapon was a single jet-propelled vessel with an extensive countermeasure suite and impact-resistant nose. 
It's compartment housed a sealed canister, a silver-grey viscous material contained within.

There was a warning sign affixed to the missile, marking it a weapon of mass-destruction.

Remembering His past projects, it was one of His more desperate gambles. 
Nanobots had already made their way into common application, used often to patch starship hulls and fix minor damage while a ship was still in-flight. 
But those types of drones had no means of reproducing, they could not grow out of control, unlike these ravenous little monsters.

'Grey-goo' 
A terrible concept, indiscriminate and complete destruction of everything in physical contact.

There were six such warheads present on this ship, and the equipment required to make more. 
A sly grin touched His lips, as geographical data bled into his perception. 
A faraway planet, four stations and an old battleship, all known Xeno hideouts.

He decided to hit the planet first, not only was it closest by but it would send a clear signal across the stars. 
Falcon accelarated even more, it's massive engines pushing the sleek ship against the border of light speed. 
Sensor readings indicated fuel usage, hull- and shield integrity, heading and ETA, everything was within nominal ranges. 
This ship was designed to reach far, made for speed and build to last, He would have no trouble enacting His revenge.

After all... He had a promise to keep.

 

 

Hasarith found himself alone again. 
He had just finished reading a book, Romeo and Juliet, and felt the crushing weight of how solitude pushing down on him. 
His mentor had instructed him to familiarize himself with the concept of traditional romance, to learn the intricacies of human bonding and the breath and depth of their more favorable emotions. 
"After all, you already have anger and hatred down, you should broaden your pallet." He had said.

He scoffed at the recollection. 
'What does the old fool think, that some mere work of ancient fiction could change my opinion?'

He wanted to smash the book down, break both the table and the classically bound copy both at once, but found he couldn't bring himself to do so.

There he stood, book in hand, right next to the table, staring at both.

He found himself doubting wether or not doing so would actually make him feel better... Then caught himself thinking that way. 
'What's happening to me?'

He glanced at the doorway to his ward. 
A heavy door, multiple locks and an airlock behind it. 
It was designed not to keep him inside, not to keep others out, it was build to block all access, one way or the other.

Only his father could open it... Or rather pass right through it, like it wasn't even there. 
Hasarith recalled how he had tried to do the same, thinking the doorway a mere illusion, but found the barrier to be just as solid as the rest of his prison.

'How does he do that....' He wondered. 
He often wondered how his mentor did a lot of things, seemingly knowing what would happen before it happened, acting outside the normal confines of causality.

He often spoke of a perfect future, but only when the two of them were alone and he had interrupted the security systems from capturing them. 
"A unifying flag to govern all, a single voice, a single future...."

'Nonesense...' He always thought to himself. 
'Humans are too diverse to fall for a cause like that.'

Then it struck him. 
Gently he put the book down and took a seat in a comfortable chair his mentor had provided for him. 
He contemplated the thought that intruded. 
'Humans are... But I am not.... Father made me, he fabricated me, ergo he can fabricate others... And so can I...'

He gave the doorway another glance, then turned to his memories and to the books he had read. 
One was of special interest to him now, a novel about a daring escape from a seemingly impregnable and inescapable prison, the hero of the story used ingenuous methods to elude his captors.
Then another book sprang to mind, prisoners of war also breaking free from captivity under the harshest of circumstances. 
Finally his mind wandered to known works regarding guerrilla warfare, those epics had some value as well.

'Now!' He thought to himself. 
In the blink of an eye he grabbed his unfinished dinner and hurled it at the overhead camera. 
A simple piece of the intricate surveillance system, the food remains stuck perfectly to the lens obscuring vision. 
Next he attuned his body to match ambient temperature and remained perfectly still, making himself invisible to the thermal and motion sensors dotted about.

The control he had over his body wasn't quite as complex as his father's, but it nevertheless was significantly more than these mere humans could ever hope to achieve.

He waited, feeling the air around him cooling and calming as he halted his breath and slowed his heart. 
'Only a matter of time before...' 
Sooner then expected the doorway slid open and four armed guards barged in the room.

They looked around, checking the corners, cupboards, even the ceiling, but ignored the obvious. 
After a split second Hasarith jumped up and dashed towards the closest guard, slamming into him with enough force to knock him off balance. 
As he soldier fell Hasarith grabbed the rifle by the barrel and pulled it away, swinging it across and striking another guard.

Next he jumped up and over the third guard, slapping his palms against the sides of the guard's helmet.

The last soldier managed to fire a single shot, but missed as Hasarith dove beneath him and rose up again, slamming his fist against the soldier's jaw. 
In only a moment he neutralized his captors. 
Freedom was within his grasp, but he couldn't make it out without some tools.

Checking the four soldiers, he noticed three of them were in critical condition, a concussion, cracked skull, broken jawline. 
They would most likely die if left unattended, but he didn't care. 
Merely human, barely worth his attention at all.

He took several pieces of their body armor and affixed it to his own tunic, then a utility belt, a pistol, three energy packs for it and a knife. 
The doorway was left unlocked, without a second glance he left the ward and headed outward.

A faint sense of euphoria washed over him, he started to run towards a distant window, ignoring the rest of his surroundings. 
From the opposite end of the corridor, a fifth soldier raised his weapon and fired. 
A searing hot projectile shot forth and struck the young man in his back. 
He tumbled, carrying by the momentum of his spring fell forward and crashed against the wall.


Cautiously the soldier approached his mark. 
Keeping his rifle trained on the fallen youth, he kicked the body. 
No response. 
Next the soldier slung his rifle over his shoulder and drew his own sidearm, pressing the barrel against the boy's head, as he kneeled down and pressed his fingers against the side of his neck, checking for a pulse. 
He found none.

Satisfied the soldier holstered his sidearm and pressed the transmitter on his communicator. 
"Target is neutralized." 
An inaudible reply came through. 
"Negative, he's dead." 
A brief moment of silence, then another reply. 
"Copy that, awaiting medical teams."

Hasarith's eyes flicked open. 
Quickly he pulled out the knife he stole and jabbed it into the leg of the soldier, placing the blade between the segments of the soldier's armored suit. 
The soldier cried out, reaching for his sidearm, but the young man was faster. 
He grabbed the soldier's chest plate and pulled himself up. 
One a fluid motion he leveled himself to the soldier, grabbing his head with both hands and turned it entirely around, breaking his neck with a dry snap.

"Vermin..." He muttered in disgust, turning to the window. 
From the distance he thought it was just dark outside, nighttime perhaps, but now that he stood in front of it, he bore witness to an ocean of stars. 
'A space station!'

Peering out the window he recognized several constellations and determined from their orientation where they were located, somewhere close to Bretonia.

Closing his eyes and touching the wall, he listened. 
This was a technique that his mentor had taught him, a way to determine the layout of a facility by sensing vibrations and hearing how it's internals worked. 
It was small station, barely an outpost, but it had a docking bay and only a few dozen people on board. 
In addition to the corridors, there was an intricate airduct system, narrow tunnels that did lead to the docking bay.

Using his knife he pried open the airvent, he crawled in and started heading for the bay.

As he made it to the airvent leading into the docking bay, he peered through the slits and inspected the bay.

Completely deserted.

This surprised him, as did the complete lack of any alarms sounding yet. 
Surely those medical teams would've found his handywork by now?

With a swift jab the slits of the airvent gave way clearing the way for him. 
Without a sound he dropped to the floor, and carefully walked over the the waiting ship. 
It was a simple craft, a small two-seater with minimal defenses and a short range, but it was enough to get him away from here.

As he walked past it he let his hand glide over the hull, it felt rough to the touch, clearly this ship had seen it's fair share of atmospheric descent and rough flight.

Quickly checking over the ship, he noted it was fueled up, serviced and even cleared for departure.

He took the pilot's seat, but suddenly felt very uncomfortable. 
It was all a little bit too easy, the silence, the pending ship, the mere handful guards.

Sitting in silence, he waited, gazing out the ship's viewport and keeping his ears primed.

After several long minutes, he finally heard the shrill whooping noise of the station-wide security alert. 
Relieved, he reached down and primed the ship's only weapon, a single low-yield pulse cannon, meant only to clear debris out of the way and maybe, if the gunner was a crack-shot, take out a missile or mine.

Additional bracers started sliding in place, moving in to lock the Dockbay access doors down. 
He fired the pulse cannon, blasting the mechanism and damaging the doors. 
One more shot, the massive doors buckled outward.

Another alarm sounded, the decompression alert, overruling the security alarm.

The little ship lifted up from it's cradle and it's solitary engine fired. 
With as much speed as he could squeeze from it, he slammed the ship against the doors. 
His gamble paid off, the doors gave way and the ship, carried further by the sudden blast of air escaping from the bay shot forth tumbling and turning. 
It took him some effort to stabalize his flight, but used the chaos to avoid the station's defensive turrets from gaining a targetlock on him.

The station launched a pair of missiles next, arcing around the bow and heading towards the runaway ship. 
Just before they came in range, the ship's Cruise engine fired. 
With a brilliant bright plume of white hot fire, the little ship with it's minute mass lurched forward and left the missiles, the stations and all the people who imprisoned him behind.

He smiled broadly, letting out a chuckle as the realization settled in.

Freedom!


On the station meanwhile, several shady men and women watched on as the little ship disappeared from view, then from scanners.

"Looks like you were right Margaret, he cut through them like a blowtorch." 
"Deetex did warn us about this, you think he wanted the specimen to escape?"

"Who knows WHat he wants, he's been treating most special projects like dirt over the past year, this was no exception."

One of the figures pressed a button on the console in front of him. 
An audio-only comm channel opened up, president Seraphine replied after a brief pause.

"Sir, it's Hasarith..." the man reported.

"Escaped?"

"Yes sir, just now he..."

"Good, everything is going according to plan. Mister Harrison?" 
He was addressing another figure, the man named Harrison bolted upright and glanced around nervously. 
"Uh, yes sir?"

"Thank you for your excellent assistance in this project, in spite of your original intentions." 
With that statement, he closed the channel.

"What was that supposed to mean?" The woman asked.

Then the realization sunk in, just as one of the overhead monitors indicated the station's reactor control had been taken offline and an overload had started. 
"Traitor!" She hissed mere moments before a blinding flash of fire consumed them and the station around them.


 

The Mercury Foundries. 
In record time this seemingly insignificant little manufacturing concern had grown to rival even the most fierce competitors. 
Now, having defeated and absorbed Infinity Inc, it's reach had spread all across the Sirius colonies and beyond.

They developed technology, weapons and shields, ships and starship componements, terraforming equipment, construction materials and computer electronics, delved into biological and chemical research and manufactured vast ships and stations faster than anyone else could even dream to compete with. 
Their scientists were amongst the brightest, the engineers the most creative, their security the tightest and military muscle the strongest. 
In just under two decades they had grown beyond their borders, and it's president knew what was to come next.

Within his office on the Capitol world Almere Prime, Deetex Seraphine had filed a petition with the colonial council for official major-house status, citing personnel count, reach and capabilities. 
Some of the council members welcomed them with open arms, but others, ironically the more influential were more reluctant. 
Major house status would invalidate the company's vaunted neutrality, alliances would have to be made and rivalry would escalate. 
None of them wanted to lose their favorite and most efficient arms dealer.

It had been a week since his petition was filed, and still no definitive reply. 
Business continued as usual, and business was booming, especially after their clientelle had witnessed how effective the Mercury Foundries' naval forces overcame Infinity's fleet during the final battle.

Selene was still performing her magic over at the Bretonian kingdom, along with her sister and several other diplomates, attempting to put the Foundries in good graces with the new King. 
Deetex himself was a personal friend to both the Liberty President Tolderian and the Rheinland chancellor Fuchs, but friendship alone would not win them over. 
The Kusarian Emperor however, as well as the Hispanian High Don, barely ever dealt with the Mercury Foundries, outside the odd project here and there, a cruiser, some minor weapon designs, nothing really special, considering the Foundries' broad reach.

There was a knock on the door. 
"Enter."

An adjudant stepped in. 
"Sir, they're ready."

Deetex looked up and smiled, having expected some good news today. 
There wasn't anything that could be done about the Emperor, the stubborn old fool had dillusions of grandure and was generally considered a close-minded arrogant fool, driven mad by the power of the throne, even though the empire did thrive under his reign. 
In keeping everything domestic, their equipment and tactics were highly specialized and able to a fight anywhere within Kusarian space with ease.

Hispania on the other hand could prove more pliable, high Don Rocker was said to be one ofthe youngest, yet wisest leaders in Hispanian history to date, sensible and insightful. 
The proper bribe paid by the right person could prove useful, and he had just the thing for the job.

"I have just a few more things to take care of, please inform the dock workers I'll be there shortly." He told the adjudant. 
The aid acknowledged, and quickly left.


"Hello sir." Someone else greeted.

"Mister Laybrant, what a surprise." 
From a dark corner of the office, a man stepped out of the shadows.

His footsteps were entirely silent, as he moved gracefully to the chair opposite the Presidential desk and took a seat.

"To what do I owe the honor of your visit?"

Laybrant was a spy, one of the best the colonies had to offer. 
He had skills unmatched in the field, able to sneak into anything and obtain whatever he came for.

"The one you asked me to watch... I think you should see this." He replied quietly, handing over a data pad.

Deetex took the pad and started reading.

"Oh..." He finally said beneath held breath, as he fell into his chair. 
He witnessed the events that partook on the distant planet, the assault on the cottage, the massacre of the Xeno terrorists... Then the death of the beloved woman. 
"So, it has happened then..."

There was a slight tremble in his voice, subtle but Laybrant heard it clear as day. 
Leaning forward, his weary eyes cast a razor-sharp gaze at his spymaster. 
"There's more, the reason I'm here."

Deetex pushed a button, the next page of the report displayed.

His eyes grew wide as he read the statistics and witnessed a horrible sight. 
A sleek grey ship fired a missile at a planet. 
The missile took a few minutes to travel down to the surface, detonating in a faint and insignificant blast spreading a dull mist over a small continent. 
The silver mist dropped to the ground, remaining dormant for a brief moment before spreading across the land. 
Gradually a grey patch formed on the landmass, growing outward further and faster. 
He watched as the grey viscous mass grew eventually consuming the entire planet. 
Detailed images showed clear as day how entire islands, buildings and even people dissolved into the grey goo, adding to the uniform lifeless mass that became the entire planet in only a few hours. 
Deetex put the data pad down. 
"All of it?"

"Everything... All of the stations, their ships, the entire planet. He's good, and now he's coming here, to the colonies."

"Then we are running out of time, the next act must be played now."

Reaching down Deetex grabbed a communicator and punched in the code for the central command tower. 
"New fleet orders, the Checkmate directive is now in effect."

The comm remained silent for a moment. 
"Did you say... Checkmate, sir?"

"Affirmative, broadcast immediately and begin redeploying assets."

"Aye sir."

"What's next?" Laybrant asked.

"I have other business that demands my attention first, you must remain here and keep your eyes on the Citadel." 
"Until?" 
Deetex was already halfway across the office, pausing in his stride to contemplate the question. 
"Until I order otherwise."


His orders were executed immediately, quietly the fleet of Leviathan's holding in orbit activated and started heading towards the distant Jumpgate. 
Each one activated it's cloaking system just as they passed through the gateway, spreading across the colonies like an invisible net... ready to strangle like a noose. 
Hundreds of ships moved out, all of them setting a course for pre-defined planets, stations and locations, all of them fully armed and with clear orders to watch, and to wait.


Finally the Raven mated again with the Midnight Falls as it slowly crawled it's way towards the jumpgate, silently followed by a pair of Leviathans as its commander set a course for Hispanian space. 
There were only a few things left to take care of before he could proceed to Liberty, and he would play this part to perfection.

After a few days of flight, the mighty vessel Midnight Falls held orbit around the golden planet as it's daughter ship, the Raven, departed for the surface. 
The atmospheric descent was turbulent and rough, filled with toxins and pockets of extreme weather conditions.

The entire realm of House Hispania was filled with similar worlds, one less habitable than the other. 
Even the frequent gas clouds and asteroid fields proved incredibly difficult to handle, yet the hardy citizens made it their homes none the less.

Malta was their Capitol world, meticulously terraformed and maintained, but remained an unpopular tourist's destination.

Finally reaching the landing pad, he identified himself and disembarked, heading with all haste to the armored embassy, trying to shield himself from the caustic rain. 
Something about this planet just screamed hostility, almost everything here was trying to kill it's inhabitants.

Yet they persevered.

Entering the airlock, it quickly ran through a decontamination cycle, spraying him down with filtered water then blowing him dry with several hot gusts of air. 
He entered the receiving hall, and sure enough Don Rocker was already awaiting him.

"Mister Seraphine?" He greeted, his expression just barely showing his confusion.

"High Don Rocker, I assume."

"You assume correct, please follow me, I have a private room set up for us..." 
There was something else he wanted to add to that, but held his breath instead.

Dutyfully Deetex followed as the two headed further down the hallway. 
They passed several groups of Hispanians along the way, some bothered to greet the corporate President, others merely glanced at him and turned away.

Some of them he never saw before, others looked familiar, recalling wanted adds on certain mercenary hitlists.

They reached a convergence room hidden behind an airlock. 
Rocker took a second before deciding to skip the lengthy process. 
"Please take a seat." He mentioned before taking his own. 
Deetex obeyed, now was not the time to resist.

"When I was told the head of the Mercury Foundries was at my doorstep, asking for a meeting, I was skeptical... Then hearing you flew here alone and in one of your dreaded leviathans, I became suspicious..." He started. 
"But now that you're here, out of an environmental suit, things are becoming clear, realizing you are a client of ours this meeting might prove mutually beneficial indeed."

Still smiling, Deetex leaned forward. 
"A client? What do you mean?"

The high don reached inside a drawer of his desk and pulled out a packet. 
Through the clear wrapping, Deetex saw it was stuffed with a bright red powder. 
"Hispanian Red, mister Seraphine." 
'Of course, narcotics.' Deetex realized. 
He had almost forgotten the main reason this planet was so dangerous. 
"You being here, indeed still breathing means you have a significant tolerance for our primary produce, the very air you breath and the rain you walked through is permeated with it."

Deetex took a moment to consider his options, then decided on telling him the truth. 
"It would benefit you to consider me immune to such materials." 
"We'll see, eventually everybody succumbs..."

"Don Rocker, the reason for my visit is one of business, wether it's mutual or not I'll leave to your judgement..." 
There was a slight pause of silence, barely noticeable. 
"But please allow me to make a demonstration of our potential first, I welcome you aboard my ship."

His smile broadened slightly, noticing he had in fact intrigued the head of the house. 
"Then let's not waste time."

The young Don may have been an insightful and capable man, his impatience betrayed his age. 
The president knew he had him right where he wanted.

As they boarded the Raven Deetex offered his usual -and only chain to the Don. 
"I must apologize for the rather spartan accommodations, this ship was not build for a crowd." 
"That's okay, I can stand..." 
"I wouldn't recommend it, that chair and the cargobay are the only places in this ship with inertial compensation..." Deetex replied teasingly.

Rocker took the seat as Deetex walked up to the front of the cockpit, standing tall.
He had no need for large control consoles or displays, once he interfaced with the ship he knew everything and controlled everything, but just for good measure he waved his arm around the room causing a plethora of holographic displays to appear.

"Impressive..." Rocker commented as he looked around, whistling.

The pilot stretched out his arms and took a hold of two false control levers, Raven responded to the fake gesture by bucking up and taking off.
Accelerating sharply Rocker was pushed back in his chair, the inertial compensators clearly less effective than he had been led to believe.
Deetex meanwhile stood up straight and brushed away the force of momentum like it wasn't even there.

In only a few minutes they passed the orbital docking facility and streaked towards the distant black battleship.
"That's my flagship, the Midnight Falls." Deetex began, easing his hands of the throttle and letting the Raven drift along.
"We won't be boarding her, she's merely here for demonstration purposes."

"What exactly do you wish to demonstrate, mister Seraphine?"

Turning to face his guest, Deetex smiled again.
He had this pitch all worked out, knew what was needed and what would be tempting.

"Don Rocker, as recognized major house, Hispania's space faring fleet is, to put it bluntly, laughable."
He folded his hands together.
"You have no capitol ships to speak of, aside from a few severely outdated designs and some refurbished transport ships with cannon strapped to their hulls."

"Times are tough all over, a Capitol ship is a novelty if you have no room to park it."
Don Rocker was referring to the dangerously dense asteriod belts and treacherous gas clouds scattered throughout this region of space.
The Kusarian Empire once tried to invade Hispanian space, but found out the hard way their biggest assets could barely make it anywhere without suffering severe damage and loss of life.
In the end only a few wings of fighter craft and corvettes pushed through to the main planets, only to clash with Hispania's finest, those who knew the terrain like the back of their hands.

"But what if I told you there are ways to make the room?"
Deetex snapped his fingers in midair, causing another hologram of a starship to appear.
It's long nose and thick angular wings bore a striking simularity to the Dagger-class interceptor Hispania employed, but was much larger.
A giganic set of arches underneath the hull caught Rocker's attention.

"Okay, NOW I'm impressed." he emphasized.

"I present to you the Darkhammer class battleship, it was designed specifically with House Hispania and it's particular needs in mind. It's fast, slim, capable of both forward base operations as well as force multiplication, and most important it's primary weapon has a dual firing mode."
Pointing at the rail underneath, the hologram turned over and started showing compressed technical details.
"In it's primary mode this gauss cannon lobs a condensed pocket of plasma, it's magnetic envelop should give it a reach of about a thousand kilometers. Alternatively, the magnetic cohesion can be set to an alternating frequency stream, this turning the weapon into a lateral force application beam..."
"A leafblower." Rocker interupted.
"blunt, but aptly so.  This mode can be used to clear the road as it were while the ship is in transit."

The hologram started turning around slowly, showing it's angles and features. 
There were several turrets mounted on the tip of the wings, a few smaller turrets for defensive purposes at strategic locations, even a hangar bay just behind the bridge.
Rocker took a long hard stare at the new ship, considering his options.

"Well..." He began.
"It's certainly tempting, and I thank you for taking the initiative to design it without explicit request, but we don't have the funds nor the means to purchace and maintain such weapons."

From a fold in his coat, Deetex removed a small datapad and handed it to his guest.
"What's this?" Rocker inquired, looking puzzled.

"It's a signed document stating that I will give you the Darkhammer, free of charge and without contractual obligations, giving you a carte blanc to do with as you please."

Don Rocker looked over the document, then at his host, then back at the document.
"Absolutely free, no strings of any kind..." His voice was laced with skeptisism.
Deetex merely shook his head, still smiling softly.

"My laywers aren't going to find some nasty claus in there or anything?"
"Wether you sign it or not is entirely optional, it's merely a sanctioned contractual gaurantee that I am giving you this ship."
Rocker signed, finally resigning his enthusiasm.
"It's a nice design and a very generous gesture, but we're still looking at the problem of logistics, Hispania's navy might be laughable, your ships are definitely out our league when it comes to materials and repairs."

"And that's the beauty of it all, Darkhammer was designed specifically with your logistical capabilities in mind, you should have no more trouble servicing it than you would refitting a Dagger or Sabre class."

Silence fell as the two stared at each other, Rocker was considering his options as Deetex was awaiting the expected reply.
He got none at all, so broke the silence.
"I realize how this looks, Perhaps it's just a gesture of kindness, perhaps a beautiful bribe or clever ruse, maybe I'm secretly arming the enemy of my enemy and seek a hidden alliance..."
He took a step closer.
"Or maybe, just maybe, all of the above apply, but lets face facts, can you afford NOT to accept this gift?"


Now was the Don's turn to smile broadly.
"Hot damnation Deetex... I had heard you were good, but damn, alright..."
He stood up, reaching out to shake Deetex' hand.
"How soon can you deliver?"

"How soon can you have a berth ready?"

"We've got one vacant right now."

"Well then." Deetex replied, raising his hand and once again snapping his fingers.
Behind him, Rocker saw the Midnight Falls coming back to life.
It turned it's bow away from the planet, then fired a projectile into the void.
As it cleared the Midnight Falls' shields, the tiny projectile lit up like a ball of fire, finally bursting out in flames where it lingered and pulsed.

Only a moment later a massive anomaly formed from the bright dot, an artificial jumphole was taking shape and emerging from it the sleek long nose of the Darkhammer emerged.

In only a few seconds the capitol ship, notably smaller than the Midnight Falls emerged in full.
Rocker watched in awe as the ship took shape and the jumphole collapsed behind it.

Turning back to the windows, Deetex guided the Raven to the Darkhammer, letting it fly past the nose section, then took a dive underneath the hull to give the High Don a good look at the massive cannon underneath, then turned the Raven upwards and heading for the rear landing bay.
The doors to the bay slid open, but was just slightly too narrow for the Raven to fit through.
With a mental command, Deetex altered the Raven's geometry, folding it's wings forward and pulling the engine nacelles closer to the hull.
Slowly he set the ship down on the bay floor, right next to a Hispanian Dagger class interceptor already present there.

Rocker didn't miss it, looking suspisciously at it, then at his pilot.
"I don't suppose I want to know how you got a hold of that ship?"

"We build it ourselves, consider it a bonus."
With a thud the Raven settled and powered down.
Deetex and Rocker marched past the idling Dagger and headed for the ship's bridge.

"You can park three such interceptors in there and still comfortably service them, or five if you park them crosswise plus one from the ceiling..." Deetex explained.

"And you might want to have a few engineers take a good look at that Dagger back there, I took the liberty of retrofitting it a bit, we saw some room for improvement here and there."
Finally reaching the bridge, Deetex held the door open but insisted Rocker take the lead.
"It's your ship now."

Rocker marvelled at the design of the bridge, it simply screamed efficiency from front to back.
Three control stations sat along the sides, facing inward and aligned like a wedge, two more slightly elevated in front, and a central podium with the command chair in the middle.
"The forward hull is impact resistant in case your shields fail, the main engine coils are hardened against missiles, explosives, suicidal idiots you name it, and the hydrogen intakes can double as gas containers should you need to improvise a bit of camoflage." Deetex explained.

Rocker only absent-mindingly listened, making his way along the consoles towards the central chair.

"You'll find the weapons more than adequate I believe, but of particular pride are the sensor- and countermeasure suites we designed. We know full-well that the usual Magentostatic scanners normaly used on most ships are rendered largely innert in some of the denser asteriod and debris fields around here, so we designed a double redundant passive detection array that works in tandem with a delayed feedback emition cluster..."
"And what does all that mean?" 
"Basically, the more a potential hostile tries to overcome the sensor dampening effects of your grounds, the more clearly they will appear to you, it listens passively for sensor sweeps and triangulates the coordinates. Meanwhile your own sensor signature is echoed back severely reduced."

Deetex studied his friend as Rocker inspected each console and tried various buttons.
"I see you are more interested in the ship than my describing it, so I'll just wrap this up with a final word."

Rocker turned his attention back to his patron and listened intently.
"You are free to choose your own allies, but I hope we'll continue to so business in the foreseeable future. There are hard times to come, and I believe everybody deserves a fighting chance."

"Hard times comprise our daily lives here mister Seraphine, but I'll keep the offer in mind, thank you."

Bowing his head respectfully, Deetex  took to his departure.
Raven was still where he had left it, neatly folded inwards to fit in the small bay.
As he cleared the Darkhammer he released all control to the high Don and headed back to the distant Midnight Falls.

He was nearly out of time, and yet still so much left to take care of before the final curtain.
"New course." He proclaimed as soon as he entered the bridge.
The computer gave a soft beep to indicate it was ready and waiting.
"Liberty space, planet Manhattan."
Another beep signaled acknowledgement.

Finally for good measure, he added one more command as he sat down on the command chair.
"Cloak the ship once we're out of sensor range."

 

 

After a long assignment in deep space, Azriel was glad to be back home again.

From his command deck he watched on as the BlackKnight gracefully maneuvered into a pending berth and locked down.

He felt the pinpricks of a million eyes staring at them. 
This mighty vessel was a rare sight to behold around these parts indeed, but hardly the biggest ship ever, the Imperial Sword took that achievement and ran with it.

They were scheduled for a week's stay, resupply and maintenance for the ship and some much deserved R&R for the crew.

Azriel made his way through the APOS to a pending shuttle that would take him down to the planet's surface, then straight to the private quarters he shared with his brother.

He noticed the door was already unlocked, which surprised him as Deetex was not supposed to be here today.

"Dee, when did you get back?" He asked out loud as he stepped in.

A slender longhaired figure stood in the living room, holding a picture frame. 
Instantly Azriel felt at high alert, this was not his brother. 
"Who are you?" He demanded. 
The figure put the picture down and turned. 
His young face looked familiar somehow.
"Hello uncle." He replied. 
Azriel drew his pistol and aimed it at the young man. 
"I am Dayarith, son of Deetex."

Sighing, Azriel holstered his sidearm. 
"The offspring project, I should've known. When did you get out?"

"A few days ago, satisfied with my progress, father gave me clearing to do as I please."

"I really wish he would keep me better informed about these projects of his, what about the others?" 
Dayarith looked surprised. 
"What others?" 
Azriel looked at the young man, his nephew it seems. 
Staring long and hard he concluded they were being kept in the dark as well.

"Not my place to tell, talk to your father."

"I would if I could, he stopped visiting us a while ago, nobody's seen him since."

"Us?"

"there's another, I don't know him nor where he is but I sense another, I can feel it, in here and in here."
He gestured to his head, then his chest.

Azriel looked the young man over, sensing both longing and anger in him.
He concluded it was probably a better idea to keep those two apart for now.
There was something else about Dayarith that he appreciated, his strong body and heavy garment reminded him of his own youthful days.

"Stick around kiddo, things'll get intresting soon enough."







Delahue and Dante marvelled at the incredible selection of ships hovering overhead, everything from recon scouts and interceptors to supremacy fighters and bombers, even a gunship floated by.

"Now now Dante, we're looking for a pilot, not a ship."
"But they're so pretty." Dante replied with a dreamy slur.

He stared at the curvy ships, their smooth hulls and flush wings.
Bretonian starship design had something elegant to them, they were like fish swimming through a river and he felt right at home in one.

This dealership had almost all possible designs in his collection, everything up to Bretonia's much feared Gunship.
Special markings, as well as a sign they passed when they entered the bay, told them these were civilian copies, just slightly inferior to the genuine article but still capable ships none the less.

"Why not both?" A voice from behind them announced.

Both turned in surprise to the direction of the voice.
There, leaning against the doorpost, they saw a young man with wild hair and tathered clothing reseambling a combat uniform.
There was something slightly feral about him, from the way he carried himself to his long unkempt rust colored hair and the wild look in his eyes.

"Who are you?" Dante asked, but was eased back by Sarah who took a step forward.
"How did you get here?"
A very slight look of concern was etched in her face, this young man managed to sneak up on them entirely unnoticed.

He straightened up and took a few steps closer.

"You need a pilot, and I need a ship, it's like we're made for each other."

"Are you any good though?" Dante inquired, looking sceptically at the young man.
The boy pulled something from a pouch on his belt and flipped it in the air.
A little coin flashed and gleamed in the lighting, spinning wildly and gaining height.
At the apex of it's flight the youth grabbed his sidearm and shot at the coin.

With a clatter and shower of sparks it slammed into the ground and bounced a few times before coming to a rest, a perfectly centred hole still smouldering around the edges was clear for all to see.
Dante whistled, clearly impressed, but Sarah remained cold.
She couldn't quite place it, there was something very remotely familair about him, but the inner voice of Aos failed to provide her with visions of his involvement.
"I'm the wildcard, the key to freedom, the wayward son of destiny that can be your companion for as long as you want, if you'll have me."

"But what is your name?" Sarah demanded.

"My name is is not important, just call me Kid and I'll call you ma'am."

"Alright Kid, we'll take you with us, provided the lady agrees"
"well?" he asked in return, focusing his attention on Sarah.

She pondered the situation for a moment, then nodded.
"I foresee no problems, can you take us to Liberty space, to Manhattan?"

The Kid bowed his head in respect.
"In the blink of an eye ma'am."

Suddenly Dante looked surprised.
"Wait, what? You're not going to, you know, do your thing and..." 
He fumbled for words, recalling what she did to him and countless others.
"Judge him?"
"My gods hold their tongues, perhaps they will want him later, perhaps sooner but right now he might prove useful as he is."

She looked the youth over from head to toe, finally returning to a smiling visage of beauty.
"A wildcard."

The Kid walked over to an information terminal and pressed his palm on the identification pad.
Neither of his new associates saw what the screen reported, but could tell he was browsing the inventory.

After a few minutes and several disappointed grunts he finally made an announcement.
"ahHah, perfect!"

Above them, one of the ships on display slowly dropped from its suspension field and hovered just above the floor.

"Just bought this beauty." he announced with a smile.
It was a small corvette, just the size of a bomber.
The infocard indicated it's civilian counterpart was called a courier ship.
"Interesting choice, why this one?" Dante remarked.

"Because with a few minor tweaks..." the Kid started.
"It can become a blockade runner."

Dante looked very sceptical.
"What sort of tweaks?"

"Oh simple things really, a new coat of paint, rerouting a few powerlines, overdriving the thrusters and chocking the fuel manifolds so they burn less... minor adjustments really."

"Well lets get started then." Sarah concluded.
"We have a long trip ahead of us."

 

 

As Falcon reached Manhattan He was immediately greeted by the orbital Flight controller, directing Him to the customs outpost.
"Please proceed to the priority lane and have any items you wish to declare prepared for inspection."

Falcon navigated effortlessly to the pending docking bay, landing softly and locking down as the inspection crews marched past.
He made His way through the hallways of the small customs station along the indicated path to the offices.
It was very quiet, barely a soul around, in large part because the holiday seasons were still so far away.

He reached the desk, and was greeted by a bored looking official.
"Welcome to Manhattan sir, please place your hand on the terminal."

Without a word He obeyed, the terminal lit up and identification details displayed themselves.

"Please state your name and purpose for visit." the official inquired, still looking bored and barely paying attention.

"Derrick Seraph, personal matters."

It took the computer a long time to process the information, notably longer than the handful of other guests going through the same routine.
Derrick stood patiently as the uninspired official watched the computer hard at work, but was quietly wishing for the damned thing to finish already.
Just as his train of thought came to an end the computer gave the results.
"Alright, everything looks in order mister Seraph..." The official began, his interest suddenly peaked.

"wait, you're not related to Deetex Seraphine, are you?"

"No, not related." He replied, keeping it brief and to the point.
It wasn't a lie, merely one of any number of manifestations of the truth.
"Didn't think so, you don't look anything like him anyway, you're clear, next!"

The official pointed Him to a sign behind the desk, directing visitors to the shuttles.
He marched down the hallway and found a large and worn down short-range people mover waiting there.
After he had found a seat, the shuttle departed and made planet fall with a bumpy ride.

Some of the visitors mingled and talked amongst themselves, others were sound asleep.
He stared out the small window for a moment until leaning back and closing his eyes.
He let his mind wander, further and further away.
Across the gulf of time and space he saw a great battle unfolding, people fighting a war on some distant long forgotten planet.
They made impossible moves as they fought each other, jumping high and falling hard.
One of them was shot in the chest, but brushed it off and ran for his attacker.

The image faded as his vision rose above the clouds, he could just barely see the face of a man looming overhead, laughing loud as he pushed a piece on a chessboard to another square.

Bolting upright, He noticed a steward was shaking His shoulder.
"Mister Seraph, wake up please."
He shook the vision from His head, then looked out the window again.
They had landed, the magnificent landscape of Manhattan's Capitol city extended before Him as far as his eyes could see.

"Yes of course, sorry." He muttered.
Without any luggage, he found himself standing outside the station within minutes, gazing at the gleaming skyscrapers and passing shuttles.
One such shuttle directed his attention to a particular one, a modern tower with several private landing pads along various floors.
Another ship came in and settled down on one of its pads, it's dull black painted hull showing signs of scorching, as though the paint had been applied haphazardly.

'There I must be.' he concluded.
His stride was strong and proud as he marched over.
The plaza was busy but people moved out of his way as he kept walking.

As He entered the tower, He remembered He had been here before, many times even in a long forgotten past life.
They seemed to recognize Him however, the tower receptionist glanced up at Him as He entered the hallway, got up from her desk and walked Him over to the elevators without a word.

Even the elevator system seemed to realize who the occupant was, instantly moving to one of the top floors as soon as the doors closed behind Him.
'Mercury Foundries, executive offices' the floor sign read.
'Always the top floor, always the nicest office' He remembered someone telling Him.
The floor above it had it's nameplate removed, not too long ago judging by the decay in the classic woodwork, couldn't be more than a few months ago.

The elevator cab came to a stop, and opened the doors.
The floor had been deserted, no one was around, but several chunks of the ceiling had been removed.
'Expanding to the floor above...' He concluded, reaffirming the statement about top floors being the best in the house.

He carefully walked down the corridor passing several offices, a meeting room, a cantina, utility closet until finally reaching a pair of large wooden doors with stunning classic ornamental carvings along their frames.
He recognized the nametag next to them all to well, it was His own after all, long ago.

Pressing His thumb on the locking mechanism, it clicked and unlocked, opening both doors.
With a slight groaning of aging wood they swung aside revealing an extravagant office with a massive window overlooking the city.
A massive wooden desk sat just in front of it, a large leather chair resting behind it.
Taking a few steps inside He looked around.
The walls were covered with bookshelves, all of them stuffed to the brink with bound copies of a plethora of different works.
Encyclopedias, novels, manuals...
Some looked very worn down, others showing only the smallest creases, mostly applicable to the technical manuals He noted, where some bound poetry books had the worst signs of wear on them.
Only two exceptions dotted the walls, a computer monitor sat idly by on the left side, and a classic fireplace on the right.

It was a fake of course, a holographic fire would project just the right amount of heat and light, and a chemical generator would produce the scent, but suspended above it, there was something of true value.
He remembered putting it there, it was an ancient short sword, a relic to a long forgotten past back on Earth, almost three thousand years old, and yet kept in pristine condition.
He didn't need to touch the blade to know it was still sharp, He saw it's edge and heard the inaudibly faint whistle of air blowing over it.

One of the books caught His attention.
Inspecting the entire case, there was nothing out of the ordinary with it, matching the rest of the works in the same shelf.
'Secrets of the Mind' the spine read.
Instinctively, he pulled at the top.
The book was hinged at the bottom, following His pull a louder clank sounded behind the case.
He took a step back, then witnessed the seem between two cases started glowing, then extending over the two cases.
'Zerospace compartment.' 
There was a small room hidden behind the glowing fold, stark and clean, white walls with pale ambient lighting, no decorations and only a floor-to-ceiling safe and a cold metal table in the middle.
Ignoring the table He approached the safe and thought about opening it.
As though it had been listening, the safe, nothing more but a featureless grey block, started showing a seam along the side he was facing and slid open.
Hidden within it was another entire room, it's walls covered with racks of weapons of every conceivable type and size.
Right in the middle, a single stand rested and hanging from it, His famous black longcoat hanged perfectly still.

This entire room felt different.
In the office, a fine layer of dust had settled, the wood cast off an organic scent to the air and it felt alive, but in here, the very essence of it all felt cold and lifeless.

He brushed His hand over the sleeve of the coat, the heavy weave felt vibrant and energizing, as though the entire thing was bursting with hidden energies.

There was something concealed in one of its pockets that He felt He should keep with him.
Reaching inside, He pulled out an intricate handgun which activated as soon as He looked at it.
The highly segmented gun had a good weight to it, excellent balance and though it looked fragile He found it to be very robust.

There should be a second such weapon in there.
He reached inside the coat again, but found nothing, absolutely nothing at all.
The coat was made from a highly resilient material, it's weave tight enough to deflect most personal weapons, iconic in style and use but it's most important feature was hidden on the inside.
Zero-point spatial compression, otherwise known as zerospace, the ultimate solution to personal storage and secrecy, and the entire inner fabric of this coat was lined with aperture matrices.
Yet in spite of infinite storage, there was only this one handgun hidden within, and this gun needed no such gimmick for concealment.

A very long time ago, a lost life and past career, He had discovered His body was starting to develop attributes that were not organic in nature.
Starting with the holographic patterns His eyes would show when He focussed on something, His ability to interface mentally with computer systems and then the development of these two handguns, which could collapse their core and retract the segments that composed their bodies into His arms.
Over the past few centuries His body had changed significantly since He first arose to a new level of awareness, and was showing no signs of stopping.

Looking around the room once more, He took the sidearm and left, leaving the coat and all equipment present in the vault exactly where it was.
Someone else might have use for it all later.

He sealed the vault, then left the room and closed the zerospace opening.

Walking up behind the central desk, He noticed a few datapads scattered about.
They too had gathered a fine layer of dust, but remained active and connected to the vast information exchange network the Mercury Foundries had established, their tiny power cells keeping the incredibly efficient electronics alive and well.
Sitting down He picked up up and pressed a button.

Financial reports, profit margins and exchange rates, not what he was looking for.
Another pad, this one containing research documents related to faster-then-light travel.
Another Tesla class frigate had been lost, apparently a single drive coil failed to provide any navigational stability, something He already knew as a fact but had left the gruesome discovery to the people in charge.

Still holding His gun, His attention was drawn to another pad.
This one contained several intelligence reports, all related to the Foundries' standing amongst the rest of the colonies.
For a long time before His exodus to that distant world, He maintained a dream where the Mercury Foundries would rise up as equal to the colonies, not just a major player but an actual major house.
Infinity Inc must've had the same dream, as outlined by the document poor old Maxwell Benningfield had several drafts for a petition ready.

Suddenly He felt alert, like He was being watched.
In a swift gesture He dropped the pad and raised His weapon, aiming it at the door to the office.
There before Him stood a woman dressed in a heavy cloak, a good covering most of her face and body, her lavender eyes barely visible, but seemingly glowing faintly.

"Hello beloved." She stated.
"Who are you?" He replied, keeping His weapon trained on her.

She took a few steps forward, then lifted the hood revealing her face.
Her long back hair dropped freely behind her, portraying a classical beauty.
"I have come for you." she added.
It wasn't just her voice now, there was another hidden within, very deeply but carrying with it an ominous tone.

"You, alright then, lets play this game." He concluded.
He stood up and raised His weapon, then placed it on the table.
"This probably won't effect you."

She merely shook her head slowly, still keeping those mystifying eyes locked on His.
"I know why you are here." He stated, walking over to the fireplace in a calm manner.

"I know what the future holds for us, and for me..." He reached up and took the anchient shortsword from it's plaque.
"and I'd rather not be a part of it."
Holding the soft by both the hilt and it's blade, He walked over to her.

"This was once the most advanced weapon in excistence, it was wielded by the best soldiers in the land, and this particular one once slew a nation's leader, a Caesar they called it."
Lifting the sword, He offered it to her.
"I know what must come next."
He kneeled before her and bowed His head down.

"I beg you not to judge, but rather kill me now instead."
This surprised her, Aos didn't reveal this sudden change of heart, nor did she provide any advice at this point.
"What to do..." she muttered quietly.

She looked down at Him, then took the sword and placed it against His neck, the razorsharp edge tingled against His skin but He remained still.
For a moment she seemed to contemplate her choices, until finally lifting the sword up and tossing it away.

"No..." She began, taking a hold of His shoulder and pulling Him up again.
Her free hand moved towards His chest.
"I think we'll have some use for you yet."
She plunged her hand into His chest, diving into a well of energy and light and sending waves of curling smoke-like emissions creeping along her arms and into His.

It made Him feel like He was burning up, made Him want to scream out loud and cry for His lost wife, but gradually felt His consciousness shifting, His priorities changed and entire outlook altering.

The ordeal ended in only a few minutes, he collapsed to the floor, unconscious, but alive.
She took a step back, smiling.
"Deetex Seraphine, you have been judged..."
She turned to leave, glancing back only briefly before pulling the hood over her head again.
"...and found worthy."





High on top the citadel, Dayarith leaned against the railing. 
Azriel joined him. 
"Quite a view." He commented. 
"Indeed, a grand vantage from which the future expands."

"Your father used to come up here, to think I believe..." 
"He sought solace, a moment of clarity while watching over his subjects."

Azriel was taken aback by this comment.
"Subjects? They're employees kiddo." 
Dayarith turned to face him, his sharp grey eyes focused. 
"Father truly has not informed you then." 
"Careful kid, he may be your father but he's still my brother." 
Azriel's knuckles turned white as he squeezed the railing, deforming the metal underneath with force. 
"I know what Deetex has planned, but it won't come to that." 
"Won't it?" 
The young man turned away again, staring down at the vast city beneath them. 
"Look at them, the mindless sheep and preaching gospel, they know nothing of the future but for what they are told. They need someone to tell them how to live, what to think, why to act... It's in their nature to be subjugated and deep down inside they know it." 
Looking over at the distant horizon and setting sun, Azriel didn't reply. 
"Perfect order, our order when we decide to take over." 
Finally Azriel snapped. 
"And who is to herald this new age, you?" 
"If I must, then yes." 
"The extend of your delusions astound me, your father will never permit a hostile take-over, he'd..." 
"Then why hasn't he made his move yet? The fleet is in place, the stage is set but the actors are missing!"

Before Azriel could muster a reply, Dayarith grabbed the railing and hopped over them, jumping down the towering citadel and plummeting to the ground below. 
Azriel looked in as Dayarith let his thick cloak spread out like a pair of wings, controlling his descent and finally landing with a dull thud. 
Azriel sighed, burying his face in his palm. 
These kids Deetex made, this Offspring project, the results were chaotic and dangerous. 
Sooner or later it will backfire, he just knew it in his gut.

He checked his clock, it was almost time for the BlackKnight to deploy again.
Giving one last glance to the wayward youth he decided to give in to his nature and followed him down, jumping off the tower and leaping into the depth, smiling to himself as the wind carried him down.

 

 

It took a long time for Derrick to regain his consciousness. 
Laying on the floor, his gaze was focused on the ceiling above. 
The sword he had given Sarah rested next to him. 
How easy it would be to thrust himself upon it. 
But that wouldn't do. 
The alien deity that now coursed through his veins both raged and lectured him within. 
His vision expanded, much like his perception had when the Baron spoke those magic words a month ago. 
He could see across the stars and beyond time, such vast realms of space, infinite possibilities presented themselves.

He could see all, but his vision was clouded. 
Something behind his mind's eye was casting a dark shadow, surrounding him in fog keeping him from seeing clearly.

He tried to get up, but found he couldn't move. 
His body did not respond to his will. 
Closing his eyes he gauged his entire body. 
What he found caused his heart to skip a beat, his entire nervous system had been rewired! 
It took him little effort but considerable concentration to find the right pathways, and compensated accordingly. 
"Ghaal was it?" He muttered to himself. 
"Shut up."

The clambering in his head stopped, at least for a moment long enough to regain his footing.

As he stood, a torrent of discomfort washed over him. 
'Someone behind me!'

"She got to you." A voice proclaimed. 
He recognized the arrogant inflections all to well, even though he struggled to understand how. 
"It's you." He replied, turning to face his guest. 
Deetex Seraphine, president and general director of the Mercury Foundries stood before him, dressed almost in almost identical clothing safe a long black trenchcoat.

"Hello Deetex." He replied. 
"I don't understand, how could you be here?" 
"Through the artifact, where you must go now." 
Derrick bowed his head in defeat. 
"I can't, I'm changing inside...."

Deetex walked up to his younger self, placing his hand on the chest of the other. 
"It's not the Sarmich's doing, that's you, us adapting to a new state." 
The elder Deetex' arm started glowing, circuitry lines flowed from him into the body of the younger.

Derrick grabbed his arm and tried to pull him away. 
"No! I need this!" 
With his free arm, Deetex struck his younger self with a firm fist. 
The blow was hard enough to cause the glass windows to shatter and books to plummet from their shelves, just barely strong enough to knock the younger man out cold.

"Clever move, the alias you took, some saw through but enough will be held a fool." 
Deetex leaned down and pressed his hand on Derrick's chest again, continuing his work.

"You have somewhere else to go..." 
The glowing circuitry and wiring encased the younger man's entire body, flowing all around until finally gathering again around the elder's hand. 
As though he pulled something from his younger self, Deetex pulled up his hand clutching the circuitry like so much filth. 
"Hello again Ghaal..." He stated, glaring with disgust at the bundle held to his face. 
He stared at it for a moment, before casually tossing the bundle of energy away.
Heaving the unconscious man over his shoulder he left the office and headed for the landing pad.
Raven was waiting for them, but gave off an uneasy vibe.
Clearly the almost sentient ship did not like the next act in this play, but did what it was told regardless.
"I'm truly sorry old friend, but I have no lives to spare nor time to waste..." he said, placing his palm against the smooth black hull of his ship.
The tension in the air subsided a little, Raven understood.

Gently he eased his younger self into the command chair, then send the Raven back skywards and into orbit.

Silently awaiting them, the cloaked Midnight Falls held it's low orbit, it's landing bay wide open.
Only those who knew where to look and what to look for would come even close to noticing the might ship, through the open maw underneath just big enough to fit a shuttle in.

It picked up speed as the Raven approached, both ships matching their heading until finally the enormous black ship scooped up the incoming craft and sealed it's doors.

Within the span of barely a minute, Deetex programmed Raven's flight computer and systems, locked the controls in and left the ship.
Still invisible, the Midnight Falls let it's daughtership fly out again, both heading their separate ways.
Deetex looked on from the bridge of his gigantic ship as the Raven flew away, a feeling of sorrow creeping across as he said his fairwell to a ship he's known for a long time.



Sarah wasted no time returning to her associates.
They had agreed to meet at a bar along the city's outskirts, a quiet place out of sight, where no undue questions were asked and people went to disappear.
Dante had already found a table and worked his way through another one of what she assumed were quite a few drinks already.
The small glass held a very strong spirit, guaranteed to get any patron drunk after only a few glasses.
Normal people would anyway, but their spirits were stronger then these drinks.
The sarmich wouldn't let them get drunk.

He noticed from afar and immediately signaled the barkeep to bring out more drinks and some food for her.
Finally in earshot he immediately stated his question.
"Well? Did it work? Was he worth it?"
Only then did he notice she was traveling alone.
"He's not here, did they find him wanting? I knew it, it took too long anyway."
Unhappy he took another deep swig of his drink, then put the glass down with a loud thud and grabbed another.
"I'm surprised you didn't ask for the bottle instead." She commented, taking notice of the many empty glasses scattered across the table.
"No, they didn't find him wanting, he was strong though, Ghaal chose him."
Hearing that name Dante nearly chocked on his drink and spat it out.
"Ghaal?!"
Coughing a few times to recover, he looked at her with bewildered eyes.
"Ghaal, the Wargod?"
She nodded in reply, declining the offer of a drink from the barkeep, but took the plate of snacks.
"I uh... I don't think I like that idea." Dante fumbled for words, wiping some of his spilled drink from his flight suit.
"No, I definitely don't like this, we don't like this."

"Please be calm, Seesa is a jester, he doesn't have the vision of either Ghaal or Aos..."
A young voice interrupted.
"Hey, what's up?"
The kid had joined them, having finished his chores and somehow found them despite not having been informed of their meeting place.
"And what about him them?" Dante continued, pointing a thumb at the kid but otherwise ignoring him.
"Anybody queuing up to take him as avatar?"

"No, we haven't decided yet." Sarah replied absently.
Het attention was drawn to someone else.
A lean man was passing by the terrace dressed in a utilitarian flight suit, an insignia on his shoulder indicated he was a member of the Bountyhunter's fleet, one of the largest and deadliest group of mercenaries the colonies had to offer.

"Christopher Engle!" She yelled, surprising her associates.
"Who?" Dante inquired.
She got up from her seat and hurried over to the mercenary, who had stopped dead in his tracks and looked around.
When he noticed her hurrying towards him he signed and unlocked his sidearm, but didn't draw it yet.
Confident in both his skills and the local legal system he stayed put and waited for her to reach him.

"Look lady, wether it was your brother or husband or whatever, if I killed him it was a legally sanctioned hit, take it up with...."
"It is your time to be judged." She interrupted.
Taken aback, he took a step back and rested his hand in his holster, ready to draw at a moments notice.
"Judged? Well this'll be good."

She raised her hand and pointed at him, her faintly glowing lavender eyes locked onto his.
It gave him an uneasy feeling.

"What is your purpose in life, why would you deem yourself worthy of a perfect future?"

"Purpose in life, are you serious?"
He paused and waited for a reply, but saw she remained unflinching, indeed serious.
"I live for the hunt, the thrill of the kill,  when people need to die I am there to kill them, that's what I do and what people want me to do, so I do that with pride and joy."

"I see" she replied, her voice thick with scorn.
"What, you disapprove? Fuck off lady."
In a defiant gesture he jabbed his hand against her shoulder, trying to push her away.
Protected by unseen forces, her footing was secure, her posture unchanged, but the glow in her eyes grew brighter.
"You dare lay a hand on me?" She stated.
She grabbed his arm and pulled him closer, then placed a flat palm on his chest which started to glow.

As though an infection was spreading, every vein througought his body started glowing brighter and brighter.
"You have been judged...." She began, as the man started screaming.
The sensation must have made him feel like he was on fire, squirming desperately trying to break free.
His entire body now shone bright and indeed within a moment burst out in intense flame.
"And you have been found unworthy."
It was over in only a few seconds, charred bones and ash dropped where the bounty hunter had been.
With a smug look on her face, she kicked the skull away, scattering the ash to the wind, the skull itself shattered to pieces as it struck the ground again.

Dante turned to his pilot, noting to his amusement the kid's bewildered expression.
"What the hell just happened?" The kid asked.
"I think we had better leave now." He replied as Delahue joined them again.


 

Dayarith found himself wandering around the strange marble corridors of the Citadel's tower.
Something had lured him here, either his own curiosity or the knowledge he inherited from his father's genetics, or perhaps he had been summoned.
Whichever the case, he felt an unmistakable need to be here, now.

As he walked along lost in thought, he instinctively let his hand slide over the smooth milky-white walls.
It looked and felt like plain old marble, elegant in its soft texture and curly patterns, pleasant to both sight and touch.
Even the smell of it, just slightly damp like it had been freshly cut was not entirely obtrusive.
He was sure had he bothered to debase himself in doing so, he could taste the stone and find even that sensation pleasurable... But there was no need for that.

This particular hallway was the inner-most ring surrounding the Citadel's core, at it's base level.
Still a good hundred floors high, the architecture of the entire building suddenly changed dramatically compared to the simple office tower resting below him.

This structure preceded all his genetic memories, possibly one of the first structures his father had erected when they arrived here so long ago.
It didn't seem to serve any purpose, just a fancy adornment to one of the Foundries' principle offices, but towering far above the rest of the city and hollow for the most part.
Nothing else in this city, or anywhere on the planet nor indeed anywhere within the company's reach had anything quite this gaudy been made fact.
Reaching a junction, he stopped.
One way would lead him around the core again, the other way would branch into a staircase and the outer ring of the citadel's base floor.

Standing there he let his mind drift absently, trying to sense which direction to take, listening to the very air surrounding him, feeling the atmosphere as it crept along the empty hallways.
The pure silence that washed over him felt unnerving, like he wasn't just being watched, he was being scrutenized and observed, manipulated like some laboratory experiment.
A gust of wind soared past him, blowing his coat and hair towards the right most pathway.

Smiling to himself, he continued on his way in the direction indicated to him.
It didn't even matter to him where either the wind or the ambient light came from, there were no windows anywhere and yet the halls were illuminated entirely.
An interesting phenomenon, he made a mental note to research it at a later junction.

He reached the outer ring, a long corridor that curved gently around, the end disappearing behind the bend.
Cautiously he proceeded, until noting the end of the hallway was dark.
A glooming shadow crept forward towards him, quickly reaching him and covering him in complete darkness.
From far away a wave of ambient light reached out again, but stopped halfway across, giving him a lot corridor in front of him, but absolute darkness behind him.

"Hello brother." A voice greeted.
Standing right next to him, the shadow-clad figure of another man stood firm, facing the darkness.
Neither man turned to look, merely staring in the distant direction they faced.
"Hello Heratex." Dayarith replied.
"How have you been?"
Heratex shrugged.
"Biding my time, been watching you."
"I sensed that...." 
"I won't let you do it."
"Do what exactly?" Dayarith asked, still smiling to himself.
"Checkmate." Heratex replied.
"Father never intended for it to be a military operation, the colonies won't accept it and I can't let you do it."
"I would like to see you try."
"I'll do more than that, I'll stop you, even if I have to kill you to do it."
"You would dare raise your hand in anger against your empire, your own brother?" Dayarith taunted.
"If you go through with this, you'll betray the foundation upon which this family was build..."

With those words the hallway fell dark again, only for a brief moment but when the lights came back up again Heratex was gone.
Dayarith raised his head and sighed.
Obviously the decadent governments of the colonies wouldn't pose nearly as big as a threat as his brother would.
Time would tell, as it always had and always shall.
The air within the corridor felt incredibly cold and harsh, something had changed the atmosphere into something inhospitable, almost hostile even.
Dayarith shuddered, a novel sensation he had never before experienced.
He would be needed elsewhere soon, deciding to arrive there earlier just so he wouldn't have to stay here any longer than was necessary.





The sleek hull of the blockade runner was lit ablaze from frictionfire as it rose above the planet's atmosphere, pulling free from gravity at supersonic speeds.
Finally out it headed for the depths of space, it's occupants relaxing in the aft bay as their young but skilled pilot navigated the orbital shipping lanes.

Looming overhead the massive battleship Midnight Falls awaited them patiently, silently flanked by a pair of its sister ships unseen by all.
"Would you look at that?" Sarah gasped as she witnessed the massive craft through the viewport.
Dante, fiddling with a small device put it down and headed over to her.

He gasped softly in amazement as the magnificent vista of a distant star cast a radiant glow around the enormous ship.
"Soon they will be everywhere, they will lead us to salvation and carry us to our destiny." She added.

"You really think Deetex will be along for the ride?" Dante asked, still uneasy about the whole matter.
His deity, Seesa the Jester never held much affection for the god of war and death, and their respective avatars wouldn't have much in common either.
They weren't exact opposites per say, Aos fulfilled that role, but fact remained Seesa was I'll at ease around Ghaal.

Sarah reached over to the intercom and pressed a button.
"Hey, are you seeing this?" She asked.
"That leviathan? Yeah I've seen them, not impressed."
"Our new ally is onboard that ship, see if you can't get clearance to dock with it, won't you?"

With a disgruntled scoff, Hasarith acknowledged.
The intercom chirped as it fell silent.
Sarah turned to looking at the black leviathan again, close to swooning as she sighed with amazement once more.

After staring at it himself for a few minutes, Dante decided upon the most pressing question he had.
"Why do you think this one is black?"
She pondered the question for a moment but couldn't think of a suitable answer.
"I don't know, we'll have to ask our new associate when we see him, it'll be a good place to start...."
The hissing door to the lounge slid open, interrupting her as their pilot stepped in.
"Can't get a hold on anyone over there, and I don't see any activity in it anywhere, it's probably deserted."

"Those ships hold up to a hundred thousand soldiers alone, it can't be empty." Dante replied.
There was no way he had those figures from fact anywhere but it took only an educated guess based on the Leviathan's size.
"Well I don't know what else to tell you, no answer to hails and nothing to be seen behind the windows.

Sarah took exception to that last comment, quickly glancing out the viewport at staring at the Midnight Falls for a moment.
"It's still too far away, how could you possibly see anything at this range?"
"Asked the lady who vaporized a man by touching him, look, let's just say I'm kinda special and leave it at that, okay?"

"Just how special are you anyway?" Dante asked.
Both of the avatars now sensed something unusual in this man.
"You look early twenties, but your eyes say much older, you are an excellent pilot and technician but your marksmanship is outstanding..." Sarah started.
"You didn't bat an eye when Sarah judged that bounty hunter, and best of all you were right there exactly when we needed you." Dante added

Sarah stood up and took a step closer.
"Who are you, really?"

The intercom crackled before he could answer.
It was being accessed from an outside source, finally indicating an open channel with a beep.
"Sarah, Dante, Hasarith. Welcome."

Hasarith recoiled as the powerful voice through the comm system.
"No, not him."

Taking a few steps back he looked around frantically, first at his associates, then at the surrounding ship.

"Calm down kid, he's one of us." Dante tried to reassure him, but only made Hasarith's panic grow.
"No, he's not, never was... I can't go back with him, I won't!"

Delahue looked on as Dante stepped closer, too close.
Feeling threatened, Hasarith lashed out at his companion with a sharp strike.
As his palm slapped against Dante's chest, the skin over his knuckles morphed into something akin to liquid metal, razor sharp claws and whip-thin wires burst out from his hand and skewered the man.
Pulling his hand free Hasarith tore the helpless man's chest apart in bloody ribbons, leaving a deep cavity with long gashes where his hand had been, instantly killing him.

Without a pause he stretched out his arms, both of them now changed to something metal.
Wires and pistons, like living metal snaked out from his bare arms and collided with the hull of their ship, ripping the craft apart.
His entire body now changed, metal segments and devices took shape as he was rapidly being exposed to the cold vacuum of space.
Taking a hold of the broken wings and pieces of the hull, the serpentine extensions flowed over the pieces and pulled them to him, forming a tiny space faring capsule of which he was now part.

The sudden change in the ship's design destabilized and finally broke apart the energy tether the Midnight Falls had cast, releasing the unusual craft from its grasp.
Hasarith wasted no time, turning himself, now entirely integrated into the pieces of his ship away from his pursuer and firing the oversized engines to full burn.
Faster even than a strike torpedo he bolted away from the massive battleship, finally igniting his cruise engines and disappearing in only her blink of an eye.

Delahue merely looked on as the ordeal played out, gracefully drifting in space as she slowly started to fade into unconsciousness.
Her gods could protect her from only so much harm, but her body was still human beautiful though it may be, and the depths of lifeless space was never in the habit of excluding anyone.

She sensed something behind her.
With contorted effort she managed to twist herself enough to turn and look.
The bridge tower on the Midnight Falls had been replaced with a violent plume of smoke, venting it's atmosphere as debris drifted by.
In the distance she saw the figure of a man racing towards her, his longcoat flowing freely as he headed straight for her, one arm outstretched.
Within moments he caught up to her, she felt the warmth of his hot body radiating all around him, penetrating her to the core.
He wrapped one arm around her waist and reached for his ship with the other, still keeping his eyes locked into hers.
She had nearly gone, nearly blacked out, until he pressed his lips onto hers.
If she wasn't already about to faint from asphyxia, she would have surely fainted from this gesture alone.
Finally, after such a long and heart fought quest she had finally been given the moment she had been promised, the affections of a man worthy of the gods.
Only then did she notice he was supplying her a breath of fresh oxygen, keeping her alive as he reached for his ship.
Another energy tether shot forth from the massive ship's open shuttlebay.
It soared past then by a hair's width.
He grabbed the tether and linked with it, pulling them both towards the ship.

Still holding her in his arm he released the tether as the shuttlebay doors closed.
She embraced him, took a deep breath of the processed air as it filled the bay, then leaned up to him and kissed him.
The usual clammer of the gods in her mind remained quiet as they shared this moment of passion.
He was hers, she was sure of it, and they would be happy together for as long as time continued.



Through synthetic eyes, Hasarith beheld a sight unlike anything he had ever seen before.
Swirling colors and contours from the folds of space danced around him as he, his ship traversed the vast gulf of space unseen and immaterial.
He could go anywhere he wanted, appear where ever there was something to see, to do.
Completely without limit, he was free...
But something was drawing him elsewhere.

There was a place he needed to be, and he was needed there now.
With a mental command he nudged the improvised wings through the currents of folded space, turning his spaceship shell and heading off in a different direction.

The scanners that had replaced his senses told him he had the right heading, far in front of him he saw his goal, the massive forboding landscape of the Darkmatter cloud on the outskirts of Sirius... and locked away withit it the Almere solar system.
In orbit around it's young star a pair planets, Almere Prime, the homeworld and Almere Secundus, his target.
It wouldn't be long until he got there, only a few days left until he reached the final barrier, the caustic, all-consuming cloud barrier that surrounded them.
Unsure if he could survive exposure he nevertheless continued along.
He had to make it through, it was his destiny.



Dayarith marched down the plaza inspecting his troops.
Thousands of soldiers neatly lined up in formation stood on either side of him.
All of them in full combat gear, polished armor and shining rifles, ammo packs and supplies, munitions and equipment stacked ready to be loaded.
For the second time this decade the Mercury Foundries' ground forces stood at the ready, and by his command they would deploy and take over everything in sight.
'It's will all be mine.' he thought to himself, as he walked past another battalion with a sly grin on his lips.
'All mine...'

But something still made him feel ill at ease.
Heratex had made a definite threat, but hadn't been seen or heard for days since their encounter within the Citadel walls.

Glancing back he stared at the ominous tower in the distance, defiantly protruding above the city reaching upwards to the sky longingly.

He shook his head.
'Mustn't think of it as alive'. he told himself.
'It's a tower, a building. A lifeless thing.'
"Soldiers!" he bellowed.
All the attending soldiers and officers rose to attention, stiff and formal.
"We are at the dawn of a GLORIOUS NEW AGE! Soon you will deploy and we will CONQUER THESE COLONIES!"
The crowd cheered, as they were supposed to.
Most of them were born from military families, entire generations trained from birth to be the first of the new empire, dangerously compitent and fiercely loyal.
Only a handful were the exception, drafted from civilian pools after demonstrating key attributes such as hightened senses, superior technical or strategic knowledge and insight, skilled medics and interpreters.

Far at the back, a single group of Grey Paladins stood at attention, their expressionless facemasks gleaming in the sunlight.
Grey Paladins were the enigma, an integral part of the Foundries' security network.
Elite guards to the chairmen and special forces for the army.
They were dangerous, but nobody knew where they came from or what they looked like underneath their sealed armored suits.
Further more it was unusual for them to have gathered here, without the cover of their cloaking devices clustered so tightly together.
It was a testimony to Dayarith's origin and influence.

Having reached the end of the long line of formations, he stopped and turned, gazing up at the sky.
With a deep breath, he issued the final order.
"To your positions!"




Later that night Deetex and Sarah retreated to deep within the bowels of the Midnight Falls.
They had tried to track Hasarith's flight through the depths of space, but lost his signal far too quickly after he disappeared.
He explained to her what his son had become, how he had used his own DNA, diluted and mutated to create an embryo that would gestate the same way a natural offspring would.
"A bastard clone..." He had added, a sense of remorse lathered in his voice.
"Why not attempt more natural means?" She had asked, to which his only reply was a sigh and pained expression.

Her overtures were obvious to him, her desire clear as day, and he allowed himself to enjoy the feeling, even passively pursuing it.
A compliment here, a glance there.
His clumsy attempts to remain unnoticed were obvious to her and it only made her double her efforts to seduce him.
"If he doesn't want to be found we won't...."
She reached out to him.
"Come, let me show you the future."
He took her hand, she pulled him away from the console and pressed him against her.
Locking each other in a loving embrace, her lavender eyes stared deeply into the grey of his own.
Time seemed to slow down to an eternity until she raised herself to the tip of her toes and kissed him.
He cupped the back of her head and passionately pressed his lips against hers, deepening the kiss.
She reached up and placed her hand against his face.
Only after a long moment did they pull themselves from each other.

She stared lovingly into his eyes, a look of concern finally etching her flawless face.
"I see so much pain in you...." 
"You know who I am." He replied, his voice trembling and broken.
"Yes, I do... As you know who I am, what I do."
Still holding his hand she pulled him away and out of the secondary command center.
Teasingly she guided him through the endless corridors of the massive battleship until finally finding a small vacant room intended for civilian use.
A spartan accommodation there was only a small bed, a table and a couple of chairs present, as well as a window that have a view of the ocean of stars beyond.
With slow deliberate movements she swayed and pushed her hands underneath his longcoat, resting on his shoulders.
Wide and firm, she could no longer contain herself, and pulled the coat over his arms, dropping it on the floor behind him.
He placed his hands at her back and kissed her passionately, over and over and letting each one longer longer.
She unbuttoned his tunic as he reached for the cord that held her mantel in place and pulled it out.
Like silk the gown she had worn slid to the floor, standing almost entirely naked before him.
She finished the last button and pulled his shirt from him.
His lean figure was incredibly firm and slender, but here and there a scar marked his otherwise flawless pale skin.
Tracing each line with the tip of her finger she continues to stare into his eyes as he marveled at her beautifully flawless form.
As she reached a long hash along his thigh he grabbed her wrist and pulled it away.
Tracing a finger along her jaw he pulled her against him and kissed her again.
She leaned back, the pair dropped onto the bed.
This moment was theirs, and they enjoyed it in full, enjoying each other as the night progressed.



 

 

'I... Must... Survive...' 
The journey was coming to an end, he could sense the other side of the dangerous dark matter barrier just in front of him.
'I must!'
Hasarith had hurdled himself through the natural barrier at nearly light speed and pushed through the material that would have consumed any other vessel.
'It all... Depends... On me.'

It wasn't so much desperation that pushed him along as it was a sense of duty, a longing to fulfill his destiny.
'Just a little more'
He felt his skin, though metal it may be, peeling away as the aggressive matter surrounding him burned and ate away at him.
He had come to far to give up now, if he could just make it past this final stretch.
Darkmatter had strange properties, it consumed matter, dampened energy and hampered motion, blinded sensors and chocked fuel intakes, no other ship other than the Galleon with which they arrived originally could hope to make it through.
By all accounts the cloud should have collapsed, consuming the star and planets hidden within its hollow belly, yet it remained in place, keeping out prying eyes and locking in all who were not supposed to leave.
He would make it through, he had to.
And sure enough, with a last gasp if effort, he punched through the other side of the wall.

He was in.

Far in the distance his augmented senses, optical sensors instead of eyes and particle tracers instead of touch told him where the sun was holding, where it's planets were floating.
There were only two, Prime and Secundus.
The only craft ever to head for the secondary planet were mining barges and cargo haulers.
It was an inhospitable planet, rated class D, entirely unsuitable for colonization.
Too close to the star it's surface temperature was rated in the thousands of degrees, it's atmosphere as toxic as it was corrosive, it's gravity low and it's shadow side... The most dangerous part of the planet.
A unique and bitter twist in spatial and temporal physics, the shadow side of the planet revolved in a temporal reverse, undoing all damage wrought upon the surface at day.
Anyone present on it caught at night would cease to exist.
It was the backbone upon which the Mercury Foundries had been build, an abundance of mercury, copper, titanium and other materials in constant state of replenishing.
Massive mining vessels descended from low orbit and stripmined the planet's surface relentlessly, scraping raw the same patch of land day after day after day, always cautious never to fall into the shadows as the sun turned away almost on disgust.

By a prime directive issues by the President himself, one particular spot was perpetually exempt from mining, a small corner on a flat plane of land with nothing particularly obvious to it.
The order, which supersedes all other possible concern, strictly prohibited any and all external scrutiny or interference, even extending so far as hard-wiring all vessels to issue a sensor blockage whenever anyone so much as came close to looking at that particular spot in general.
It was exactly where he needed to be.
Turning his ship and firing his engines to full burn, Hasarith raced towards Almere Secundus, unseen and unstoppable.

It didn't surprise him to see the flotilla of mining vessels holding orbit awaiting to relieve their loads.
With unprecedented agility he darted between the dense formations and followed a tether down to the planet's surface.
A sonic boom occurred as he dropped in altitude, drawing closer and closer to his destination.
As he reached the blackout spot, he raised the nose of his craft and ascended a bit before rolling over and shot straight down.
Additional armor plates slid over the nose of his craft, retracting the wings and consuming what was left of them to further bolster the integrity of his shell.
Accelerating down, he slammed against the surface hard and punctured the hard soil, penetrating deeply into the earth until coming to a final rest.
A small cavern had formed around him.
Like liquid metal the segments of his spacefaring shell started to pucker and ripple, retreating along the contours of his body until only a thin film of flowing metal encased him.

There he stood, underground and shielded against the searing heat.
Adapting his lungs to the atmosphere he took a deep breath, pleased to be able to use this primitive and distinctly human need again.
Having spend a few days as something other then what was essentially a human body he felt different, relieved somehow, even though at heart he still loathed this decadent species.
Looking up he noticed the hole he punched through the planet's crust had already collapsed.
"No way back out..." He muttered to himself, and turned to the wall in front of him.
He saw it was hard, but sensed a key pressure point.
Reaching out he tapped the stone, using just enough force from his augmented arms to cause a crack.
Slowly it grew and started to crumble, until finally, satisfied, he pushed a flat palm against it and broke the barrier.
Exposed behind it a larger cave beckoned him, and he entered.
Seated in the middle of a large open room sat a small shrine with delicate, intricate carvings on the walls around it.
Bits of broken pottery and tributes were scattered here and there.
He could tell this was a shrine, a memorial, to people long dead.
It struck him as odd that the place looked so ancient, even though the surface of the planet renewed itself every day.
'Maybe underground was exempt from the strange temporal effects this planet suffered from...'
Gently he let his hand slip over a pedestal, his fingertips tracing a carving depicting an offering.

"Time waits for no one..." He muttered.
"But death awaits all." Another voice proclaimed from across the room.
For only the briefest of moments Hasarith felt alerted, until he realized who the voice belonged to.
"Father..?"
Stepping out from behind the shrine, holding a small rock carved in patterns and script, Deetex emerged.
"Hello my son."
Hasarith reached down for his belt, but glancing down he found he didn't carry his weapon.
"Please, no weapons. Have some dignity and show some respect for the dead."
"Dignity?" Hasarith scoffed.
"You're the one who killed them!"

Deetex did not reply at first, staring at the rock in his hand until finally placing it on a matching pedestal.
The small outcropping was engraved with a depiction of a teardrop shape surrounded by fire, and something that looked like a circle with a hundred tiny lines extending outward from it.
"Yes... I did." 
It took Hasarith a moment to interpret the carvings, but finally recognized the rough shape of the corporate sigil, that circular barcode.
Having found context more of the carvings and murals started to make sense of it.
Starting at the most distant corner of the surrounding walls, there laid out before him was told a story of a distant army fighting for survival.
Fierce monsters and vengeful gods struck down countless innocents, until three brothers crafted a mighty vessel and left for the stars.
Their journey long and heartships trying, they finally arrived at dangerous shores where they made their beech, but their coming was douched in fire and death.
The rest of the tale was described only in script which he didn't understand, but he knew this story was far from over.
"Look." Deetex states, pointing towards an outcropping.
Hasarith glanced over, noting the scripture started to change.
The words morphed into symbols, then shapes until finally he could make out the depiction of father son embracing.
The scribbles and carvings around it suggested forgiveness or understanding, and further carvings beyond that for told a tale of struggle and difference.

"Our arrival here had consequences, I recognize that..." Deetex explained.
"Everything I did was foretold, my entire future predetermined."
"And that justifies Genocide?!" Hasarith demanded.

"No, nothing ever could, not even our inability to detect the indigenous life forms or unwillingness to look before we took. There is no forgiveness for what we did and not a day goes by that I don't wish to undo the damage I've done..."

"But you did it, and then you made plans to do so again..."
He slammed his fist onto the pedestal next to him, shattering the rock entirely.
"And then you made me! In YOUR image, so I could do so as well!"

"No my son, no..." Deetex replied, taking a few steps closer, his hands spread in a disarming manner.
There was sorrow in his eyes, a gleam begging to be understood.

"I made you because I can't make amends alone."
Hasarith tilted an eyebrow, confused.
"What?"

"I won't last forever Has, I've seen my future and know my time is not infinite. 
I made you and trained you so that one day you may live in a universe that's worth living in, to take over and finish what I started."

Hasarith found himself doubting his conviction.
If his father, a superior being by all accounts and comparison held his own son and the humans, and the life forms from this planet in such high regard, could they be as foul as he had always deemed them to be?
"Dad..."

"They came from this place..." Deetex started.
He picked up another relic, a slab of stone with a depiction of a female figure with a halo above her head and two kneeling figures at her hands.
It belonged to a pile, the next slate beheld the depiction of a male figure with a large sword and skeletal shapes behind him.
"The Sarmich, their deities now rampant through the colonies once inhabited this planet."
The youth glanced at the pile of tablets, recognizing some of the scriptures from the walls.
"My... Older self is currently guiding them along a path that will lead to their survival...gently he put the slab of stone back on top of the pile, shifting it slightly so it was perfectly aligned with the rest.

"You are a monster.... You play at mercy but control all the pieces." Hasarith spat.
He may have found his heart warming to the humans but still hated this man deep within.
"Maybe... But even monsters have a purpose to fulfil."
Reaching out to his son, Deetex took another step closer.

Now was Hasarith's turn to step closer.
"I can't believe how arrogant you are, yet you scold be for being the same. Everyone has to conform to your will and demands or be destroyed of they don't."
"You misunderstand my son, these plans I laid are for the betterment of all."
"Explain."

The two were standing just at arms length, the tension in the air palpable.

"What do you know of the Checkmate directive?" Deetex asked his son.
"That it's the first step in your grand plan to conquer all the colonies, placing your ships and troops at strategic points and deploying them all at once."
Slowly Deetex shook his head.
"No, it's not the first part, far from it even. Checkmate does involve troop deployment yes but the grand plan started long ago, the day we arrived, here..."
He tapped against another pedestal, the one with the burning teardrop engraved on it.

"I recognized the risk they formed and saw what their influence would lead to... Stagnation and eventual extinction, there are too few of them left and they can't reproduce, so right now they are out there taking over everyone they can get their hands on and burning up the rest, inbreeding and apathy will lead to not only the extinction of their own race but also horribly damage the human race they abuse."

"But they said...." Hasarith started.
He had been spared the influence of the Sarmich only by virtue of being an enigma to them.
"I know what they say, but I also know what they think and how they work, and I think you know how I know."
For good measure he tapped a finger against his temple.

"You... You're the third avatar?"
Deetex nodded.
"But how did you break their control, why, don't you want a unified peace, others like you?"

"I didn't, not at first... I was converted and wanted to stay, until my other self... My future self, he changed something in me and pulled me away from their clutches. 
So you see my son, I have a rather unique disposition where in my entire future up to this point had already been explained to me, I won't last forever and I need someone to take over for me when I am no longer able to guide the human race to a prosperous future."

Seeing doubt in his eyes, he reached out for his son.
"That someone is you, Hasarith."
Tears dwelled in the young man's eyes, vaporizing gradually as it started to roll down his cheek.
He bolted forward to his father's embrace, sobbing loudly having finally been explained in earnest what his purpose was in life.
"Father..."

"My son."
The two men shared their embrace, a pure moment of joy that a family should exhibit.
"You will make me proud, you and your brothers."
Hasarith tensed.
'Brothers?'
Deetex sensed the sudden change and gently tried to release his son, but the vicelike grip Hasarith had on him wouldn't let go.

In a flash all the rage and hatred he had felt came surging back to him, Hasarith didn't like the idea not being an only child, and this man who had the sum total of humanity in his sights was even now still manipulating him.
The gleaming metal layer covering his skin rippled and slithered, hooks and claws took shape and tendrils thin as hair but razorsharp started flowing outward, embedding themselves in Deetex' skin and body.
With a roar Hasarith ripped his arms free and tore Deetex apart before him.
"son..." was all Deetex could mutter before his emptied lifeless husk struck the ground.

His metal skin still flowing he leapt up towards the ceiling, slamming through the hard stone tunneling his way through.
Reaching the surface his metal skin flowed outwards to shape his spaceship shell again, blasting away and racing for the stars once more.

 

 

High atop the super carrier the Imperial Sword, Dayarith stood at the front of the bridge tower overlooking the massive formations of ships.
Today was the day, the final act and the beginning of a new age.
He had traded in his usual formal tunic for a combat suit with every intension to join his comrades on the ground.
Soon all the factions would fall under them, unified under a single flag, his flag.

From the top level with the three-story command tower, commodore Kayami looked on as his ship had been commandeered by this strangely energetic figurehead.

Smiling to himself Dayarith counted down the seconds, the minutes and hours left until the order could be issued.

A wing of Dominators flew past overhead, the silent roar of their blazing engines casting a faint glow and tremble across the bridge plateau.
Beautifully designed and evolved to supreme specifications, the current generation of Dominator outclassed and outmatched anything the colonies could throw at them.

'Space supremacy fighter'
These ships defied the definition, being more agile, better armed and armored, faster and reaching further than any other ship in its class.

The Imperial Sword alone carried over a thousand of them, and every Leviathan in the fleet had a compliment of its own.
What's more they didn't just last longer in flight, they were long-range, possessing incredibly powerful yet efficient engines that relied on energy rather than fuel, modern day Carriers served more and resupply bases as opposed to mobile platforms.
That fact alone was evident in the fleet's composition, out of the 2600-ship strong armada a total of 1900 fighters and bombers had joined the formation.

Broadening his grin, Dayarith let go of the console he had been leaning on and turned to leave the bridge.
With slow deliberate steps he marched off, folding his hands behind his back and letting the headpiece of his suit unfold around his head.
There was nothing to differentiate him from the countless, endless hordes of soldiers marching through the massive ship, other than the slow confident stride with which he marched, and a small marking on his chest to tell he was directorial related.
A small sigil, half diamond, half circular barcode with the point of a blade pointing left.
His brother had a similar sigil, but had a shield instead of diamond and the blade pointed to the right.
The thought of his brother brought him to a halt.

"Heratex..." He whispered, his voice morphed and stripped of all defining features through his facemask's respirator.
Tilting his head to the side he considered his options.
The fleet awaited his command, without they would not deploy and the operation would be halted... And without him there was no operation.
His brother was a threat that had to be dealt with.

Quickly he turned and headed for the nearest airlock.
He could survive a short drop from orbit, he had done so before countless times, and his suit had been rated to temperatures much higher than atmospheric friction could bring to bare.

He found a droppod, one in a cluster of a dozen, a cluster like hundreds more scattered througought the ship.
Much more than merely a carrier the Juggernaught class also possessed the means to quickly drop entire battalions from orbit with accuracy into a target area.
Just barely bigger than a single-seat escape pod, he found the the air supply stale, the room stifling, but acceptable.
Overruling the launch protocols his pod blasted off and darted to the planet's surface below, unfolding a set of wings to control descent and speed.

Only a few minutes had passed but to him it felt like an eternity, when at long last the visage of the Citadel came in sight.
He took a deep breath and coiled his arms and legs.
Drawing closer and closer, the little pod spread it's wings further out, creating drag and slowing the craft down a bit.
With a scream, Dayarith slammed his fists and feet against the walls of his pod, shattering the hull and sending burning debris in a rain of fire outward.
Slamming into the base of the tower feet first, he entered the office building upon which the Citadel tower rested and skidded to a halt.

Quickly he jumped, fist reaching up and entered through the ceiling the lowest level of the citadel.
The tower groaned, like a living thing it's skin had been harmed and resisted.
But alas it was anchored to the lifeless structure beneath it, and rendered impotent by the controls that had been placed within it.

Dayarith paid it no heed as he marched along the corridor looking for a staircase higher up.
The atmospshere had changed somewhat since the last time he was in here, gone was the damp smell of stone and dust, the luminous quality of the lighting around him.
He reached a straight and narrow hall, a door to a terrace on the far end, sealed shut.

"Are you watching me, brother?" Dayarith asked out loud, walking over to the door.
"Can you see me, or do you see only my place in history?"

As he reached the door it slid open on it's own, granting him access to the windy terrace so very far above the city.
The view would have been magnicifent, had he bothered to take a moment to look, but instead, instantly found exactly what he was looking for.

Heratex was leaning over a small railing along a wall, glowing panels shimmered both on his arms and the railing.
Several loose wires dangled from underneath the railing.

"What have you done?"

Slowly and gently Heratex raised a hand and pressed a finger against his lips.
"Shhh, she's recovering, don't be rude."

Aggravated, Dayarith reached for a pouch on his suit and drew a small rod from it.
Pressing a button on one end with his thumb, a thin long blade emerged from the other side, forming a sabre, which he held up high in a poised stance.

"What are you doing?" He asked quietly, unconsciously keeping his voice low.
"I'm setting her free."

"Her?"

"This ship..." Heratex replied, taking his hands from the railing.
The glowing symbols slid off his arms and hovered above the console, a control interface of some kind Dayarith was unfamilair with, but Heratex seemed to understand it well enough.
"Do you know the Sarmich?"

"Dad mentioned them a few times, what about them?"

"This is a Mothership, the physical embodyment of their religios core, or at least the source of their beings."
Reaching inside a pocket Heratex pulled a small utility knife and positioned it beneath the console rail, cutting another wire.
"Stop that!" Dayarith ordered.
In a flash he dashed to his brother, barely the blink of an eye had passed until he was upon him.
With matching speed and equal grace, Heratex brought his small knife up and thrust it towards the onrushing Dayarith's throat.

Dayarith had his blade a hair's breath from his brother's chest, stopping just in time to keep himself from hurtling himself onto the tiny knifepoint.
The small knife wouldn't have harmed him through his suit otherwise, but at these speeds even a pebble could prove disasterous.
Pausing only to assess the situation Dayarith brought his sword around and turned, trying to strike a blow over Heratex' back.
His brother responded and curled his back, slapping a flat palm against Dayarith's iron hard thigh stripping them both of their balance.
Twisting and turning, both young men struggled to land properly and scramble back to their feet.

The armorclad Dayarith, would-be emperor holding his sword low, opposed to the casual and rebellious Heratex his knife held high.

Feigning a move Dayarith stabbed his sword towards his brother, flinching as Heratex deflected the faux attack with a lighting fast step forward.
Their blades clashed once high, twice below, then crossed and drew the two men closer.

"Practice much, brother?" Dayarith asked teasingly.
Heratex knew he was smiling beneath that mask, but wanted to feel his brother's hot breath.
He pulled his arm slightly back, folding his wrist so that his brother's sabre was locked in place.
With his free hand he grasped at his brother's helmet, but failed to grasp it as Dayarith kicked his brother in his stomache.

Taking a step back Dayarith deliberately retracted the panels that made up his headgear, reseating them in his collar covering the back of his neck.

Ready to strike again Dayarith readied his sword, but Heratex raised a hand in a halting gesture.
Tilting his head slightly Dayarith looked on in confusion.

"This ship was to be their salvation..." Heratex started.
Unlike his brother, he had in fact noticed the atmosphere around them changed, the groaning of the tower stopped.

"What are you going on about?" Dayarith hissed.
Heratex extended his free arm to the control rail he had occupied earlier.
The same symbols as before, now all glowing white started changing positions.
Their random scatter aligned to a neat line just above the rail.
"And now it'll be the instrument of your damnation."
He clenched his fist, at which the tower walls around them shivered and rippled.
Violent tremors rocked the base of the citadel, shattering the foundation and causing the office upon which it rested to crumble.
Three massive tendrils tore themselves loose from the ground, becoming legs with which the citadel rose itself free from its base and leaning towards the sun above.

A deafening roar, like a starship's engine crashed through the otherwise quiet day, matched by a colossal plume of smoke bursting out from beneath.

Shaken and infirm on his footing, Dayarith glanced out beyond the terrace and tried to catch a glimpse of the ordeal.
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!"
He dashed forward, catching his equally unbalanced brother with both arms around his chest and threw him to the ground.
Heratex grinned broadly, he got what he wanted, his brother's panicked breath dancing across his cheeks.
"I have killed you, dear brother."
Dayarith slammed his fist against his brother's skull, then again and again.
"TELL ME!"

Before Heratex could reply, the Citadel achieved liftoff, it's massive engines pouring out raw power pushing the living hulk away from the ground.
Then the dreadful realization settled in.
The citadel wasn't a structure, not some long-lost alien artifact, it was a living ship, a sentient biomech that had been tethered to the ground and imprisoned centuries ago, held in oblivion.

Held against its will by the very same man he worshipped as a god!

Dayarith stopped hitting his brother and wistfully stared out the open terrace.
They hadn't reached too high yet, he could probably jump out.
Looking back at his brother, he felt enraged by Heratex' mindless rebellion, how he persisted to smile in the face of such utter devastation.

"We're not finished yet, you and I."
"Quite right." Heratex replied, stabbing his small knife in Dayarith's unprotected neck.
He howled in response, grabbing his brother's wrist and pulling the knife out.
For good measure he struck his brother's arm just below his shoulder join, dislocating it with a sickening pop.
Both men scrambled to their feet and hurried towards the balcony, taking a leap of faith and falling down for thousands of meters before striking the ground hard.
After the cloud of dust kicked up from their landing had settled a bit, Dayarith glared at his brother for a moment before looking up at the distant citadel climbing higher and higher.
He could tell the citadel's odd material and strange energies would have a purpose to serve, but couldn't quite grasp it yet.
He did see it's heading however, clear as day so to speak... Straight for the young Almere star.

"What will happen when it impacts the surface?" He asked his still-down brother.
Heratex lay flat on his back, eyes straight up, still smiling.

"If I can't witness to your body burning in the fires of the hell you created for yourself, I'll content myself with the still darkness of your damnation instead."

"I'm losing my patience with you, brother, TELL ME!" Dayarith ordered, stepping closer to his brother.

"Fear the oblivion brother, for it will swallow you whole, all of us, whole...."
Stopping next to Heratex, Dayarith looked up again.
The citadel had already left the atmosphere and could only be made out against the daylight sky through the orbital satellites.
"Wait a minute..." He began.
He extended his vision to the sun above, then to the furthest most reach just against the inner wall of the surround Darkmatter cloud.
There were ripples in the cloud's barrier, energy patterns never before seen.

It had never been discovered why the dark matter cloud that encased this solar system remained perfectly round and hollow, all other observations of this stuff unanimously stated it was drawn to itself, by all accounts the cloud should have...
All the pieces fell into place.

"Oh... No...." He muttered.
Heratex meant to destabilize the star, to alter the fundamental properties of this celestial balance and then....
"You're collapsing the cloud..." He stated with deceptive calm in his voice.
"And all inside shall be consumed." Heratex replied, his voice flat and emotionless.

Dayarith brought two fingers to his ear and opened a com line to the city's central command.
"Sound a general alarm and begin immediate evacuation of Almere, right now."
He listened to a panicked reply and dismissed it.
"Get everybody out, every soul, every ship, all of it, now!"
Heratex rose to his feet, patting down his pants and jacket.
"You have less than an hour, how many do you think you'll save, how will those figures measure up to the deaths you would have wrought had your plan continued?"

"Shut up." Dayarith replied with a snarl.
"You wanted a page in the books of history, all on your own... Do you like the ink I wrote it in?"
Grabbing a handful of dust, he let it flow from his gasp again.
"I couldn't decide between the blackness of your heart or the blood on your hands..."

Dayarith had enough.
He turned and grabbed his brother's tunic and threw him back to the ground.
"This is symbolic to you?! This is no better than genocide you fool!"

Turning away to face the distant city, something else occurred to him.
"We still need to get out of here ourselves..."

Surprising them both, a voice behind them spoke up.
"We, so you two are working together now?"
Both Heratex and Dayarith turned to witness behind them a looming ship, it's flowing silvery hull gleaming and slick, an open hatch holding just above the ground.
It's engines were completely silent, there were no windows or viewports of any kind and the whole thing looked strangely organic, yet completely different to the citadel that Heratex had just set free.

Dayarith knew who it was they faced here.
"Hasarith, we meet at last."
Through unseen speakers the voice continued.
"Climb aboard, we'll guide the evacuees from orbit."

 

With a gasp he woke up from his sleep.
Bathed in sweat, he had just witnessed the entirety of hiswork undone.
Had it merely been a nightmare, perhaps he would consider resuming his slumber.
Glancing to his side, he saw her, still blissfully lost in the dreams of her own.
He rose up, gazing at her naked body partially covered by the silk blankets.

Carefully he brushed a locket of hair from her face.
Her beauty was astounding, and for a brief moment, only an infintesimally small flicker of a moment, he considered staying with her. 

He winched as a long lost memory intruded.
Sarah was beautiful, yes... but his heart belong to another, always had and always shall.

Grabbing a corner of the blanket, he covered her body a bit more, than gracefully slipped off the bed and grabbed his clothes.
Pants, a shirt, his boots.
Finally the heavy black longcoat slipped around his shoulders until at last she woke up, just as he stood at the doorway.

"Where are you going?" She asked, her voice as smooth as the silk of the bedsheets.
"I have to undo the damage done in my name." He replied.

"When will you be back?" She asked, a glimmer of sorrow in her voice, hidden well but clear enough. 
He paused at the doorway, barely glancing back. 
"I won't."

After he had gone did she notice a small recorder resting in the nightstand. 
An indicator light blinked, telling her it carried a message. 
She picked it up and pressed the button.

"Hello Sarah, Aos..." The recorder replayed. 
It was his voice, clear as day and determined. 
"First, I want to thank you for your help and company, it had been an untold time since I last felt the warmth of another's company, since I last let my heart swell over the feelings of affection.... But all good things must come to an end, and it saddens me to inform you I have used you for personal gain."

She felt her heart sinking in her chest, dreading what was to come. 
The deity inside her remained eerily quiet. 
The recording continued. 
"The man you infected was immune to your influence from the onset, me in a past life I already carry Ghaal within and have since grown beyond him. What's more the Sarmich's goal of a unified species is flawed and short-sighted, humans within their infinite evolutionary detail are impossibly random, and while your plans are certainly praise-worthy, they do not encompass the length required to complete with my own. 
Mine is a vision for a trans-galactic empire, a dream that reaches outward across aeons."

She pauses the recording and got out of bed. 
Entirely naked she walked over to the window and stared at the lone departing ship, the Falcon he had recovered from Manhatten. 
She really didn't want to hear the rest, but needed to know what to do next. 
"In time I will welcome you and your followers as equals, but not the conquering aliens you harbor, I can not abide such radicals, so until the day you shed yourself of the chains that bind you, I beg you to stay away. 
Farewell my dearest Sarah." 
The moment the recording ended, a hissing noise was heard coming from the recorder. 
She knew he would have programmed the device to self-destruct, this was still a part of his plan, only she could know the future... Now that she wasn't a part of it anymore.



From low orbit, Dayarith and Heratex from within their altered brother directed the evacuation of an entire solar system.
Both brothers were standing in a small central room with only a few consoles and the boarding ramp within it, but without doors to other rooms from where they suspected their older brother spoke to them.

"Land the Leviathans around the central city, and have one of them level the Citadel Base." Hasarith spoke.
"There's no way any of our ships could land on such a small spot!" Dayarith replied.

"Drop containers there for material and lowerclass civilians, a behemoth can pick them up."

Heratex was taken aback by this plan.
"This whole mess started over mis contempt for human lives, you want us to treat them like mere cargo?!"

"I could just as easily vacate my bowls and send you both drifting in space, saving merely myself, do as u tell you."
"Do as he says." Dayarith added, then an idea occurred to him.
"Has, can you get me a com unit?"

Without a word another console formed out of flowing metal, a screen flickered to life.

Dayarith reached out and interfaced with the strange terminal, finding it's almost organic architecture alien and confusing.
After a minute he finally managed to adapt himself, and opened a com line beyond the Almere system.
"Azriel, are you there?"
Through the speakers, their uncle's voice came through sounding panicked and confused.
"Dayarith? What the hells is going on over there, we're getting reports that make no sense!"
"No time to explain, we need a singularity beacon, now!"

"We have less than an hour remaining, what are you planning?" Heratex asked.
"Jump every ship we have, right from the planet's surface as soon as they're loaded up..."

Amazed by this insight, Heratex looked onto his brother with wide eyes.
"Can you do it?"

"If the civilian population can be properly directed, it is possible." Hasarith added.
With a renewed sense of haste the two brothers got to work, Dayarith directed his ships while Heratex guided the swarms of people on the ground.
Hasarith was doing his best to coordinate the effort, to facilitate all the means with which this exodus would be made possible... but finally, after yet another Leviathan wincked out of sight, he gave the dreadful announcement.

"It's time."
All the view screens in the little room changed to show the two brothers a view around them.
Far away they saw the sun glowing brightly, a dark hue surrounding it.
Curling vaporous myst laced with bright lightning bolts slowly embraced the distant ball of light, chocking it, consuming it, until finally the sun's light faded and douced.
All around them they bore witness to an encrouching tidalwave of enraged darkness, creeping closer with deceptive calm but they knew it was close enough to consume them within minutes.

"Brace yourselves." Hasarith announced, retracting the consoles and forming a pair of seats, which the two brothers eagerly took.
His silent engines roared as he opened them to a full burn, pushing the sleek metalic craft into unprecidented acceleration, heading straight for the furthest wall of the approaching barrier.
"Can you make it?" Heratex asked.
A brief pause, a serene moment of silence passed as Hasarith considered what he was doing.
His answer was as calculated as it was heartfelt.

"I Must...."


Falcon burned it's engines beyond it's intended range, driven to extremes by it's pilot's influence.
From within the hull Deetex had his arms outstretched and laced himself through the ship's structure, bracing the hull and funneling raw power to the nacelles and shields.
The Almere cloud was just ahead, just a few more seconds and he would reach the border, maybe he could still do something... anything.
Anything at all to stop this dreadful, nightmareish outlook.

The sensors he tied to his own told him he was there.
Forcing every last scrap of power in keeping himself and his ship intact he brought the ship to an instant halt.
Any lesser ship flown by any lesser man would have either crashed into the Darkmatter barrier or torn itself to shreds... only when he beheld the sight before him had he wished it were so.
The furious black gas that surrounded his home planet had contracted severely and was even now in the process of solidifying.
He glanced around, extending the ship's sensors to his vision, but saw no escaping vessels, no resque party of any kind.
Trying to peer inside, he found only more and more Dark Matter, some of it gasious, some of it solid, and everything in between a violent plasma incinerating all the matter would not consume.

He stared on, gazing at the horrible scene before him, feeling all his strength sapping from his body.
His legs grew weak, and he dropped into the pilot's chair.
There was no one, nothing left to safe.
Defeated, he bowed his head and placed it in his palms, releasing the Falcon from his grasp.

Heaving an exasperated breath, he looked on at a single tear that dropped to the deck.
"Set a course for earth..." He gasped.
"We're done here..."


End of part 1