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Next: A Glimmer of Light

StoryEdit

Good things come to those who wait.

- Human proverb

The shuttle touched down slowly, barely disturbing the rocks below it. It was not long before its pilot stepped off the boarding ramp, adorned in a spacesuit seemingly twice as grimy as the moon's barren surface. Above, rays of sunlight crept over the horizon of an immense gas giant. The moon itself was littered with craters, some natural, others not. A storm was building on the horizon, almost echoing the battles that had been fought here centuries before.

The pilot who was now climbing down the side of a nearby crater was a young Lommakkian, the markings on his spacesuit indicating that he was a member of the Mpilenhle dynasty. He ended his descent some distance from the centre of the crater, lifting several loose rocks beneath him to an opening - the blast that created this crater had torn into some form of underground facility. Reattaching his climbing equipment to his spacesuit, the Lommakkian crawled inside.

The room was strewn with rocks and debris, and its walls and ceiling had begun to decay. Several doors had been ripped open, now barely visible under the dust that carpeted the floor. What lay beyond was shrouded in darkness. The Lommakkian took out a flashlight, heading towards one of the passageways. It was not long before he found himself in another room, less cluttered than the first, but for the most part identical. Something clattered behind him, and he spun around in surprise.

  • Lommakkian - "There's no need to sneak up on me like that."

The figure that now stood before the Mpilenhle was also Lommakkian, clad in an intimidating suit of armour interwoven with elaborate robes; the attire of an Arbiter.

  • Arbiter - "You should be more aware of your surroundings, Sifiso of Mpilenhle."
  • Sifiso- "It's this place. Everything about it unnerves me."
  • Arbiter - "That is to be expected. That which we face is... potent."
  • Sifiso- "That's why you're here, is it not, Arbiter Nkosingiphile?"
  • Nkosingiphile - "My orders come from the highest authority. The Archmonitor himself. Do you understand our purpose here?"
  • Sifiso- "The briefing was ambiguous at best."
  • Nkosingiphile - "Very well. This fortress was constructed during the Hyperspatial Revolution, and served as the primary store of supplies for the discordant known as Unathi. A former Arbiter of the Singularity."
  • Sifiso- "I've never heard of him."
  • Nkosingiphile - "And you shall endeavour to keep it that way. Unathi experimented with tainted power, believing that he could prolong his own life indefinitely. The Singularity was forced to take action. He fell here, as his fortress and fleet were burnt to ash."
  • Sifiso- "You quarantined the moon. It doesn't appear on any known records."
  • Nkosingiphile - "Precisely. But a number of arbiters have sensed something stirring here."
  • Sifiso- "And we've been sent to find it."
  • Nkosingiphile - "We have been sent to destroy it."
  • Sifiso- "I see. Where do we start."
  • Nkosingiphile - "This place already feels... familiar to me. We must go down."

It did not take long for the pair to locate a turbolift shaft. The doors had already been torn open, and they were soon climbing down. Leaving the shaft at the lowest floor, they found themselves in a large chamber. Unlike the interior of the uppermost level, this room was built out of stone. A row of pillars on each side of the room supported a heavily ornamented ceiling. At the end, a large set of doors.

  • Nkosingiphile - "Proceed with caution."

The pair were barely halfway across the room when the Arbiter came to a sudden halt. Before Sifiso could speak, Nkosingiphile threw him to the side, a beam of energy passing through the space that he had been occupying moments before. Behind them, a barely functional drone began to recharge its weapon, lit only by the glow of its visor. The Arbiter did not hesitate to draw a jagged sword, leaping at the drone and splitting it in half. Getting back on his feet, Sifiso looked at her in confusion.

  • Sifiso- "How did you know?"
  • Nkosingiphile - "I felt it. I know not how."
  • Sifiso- "Somehow, that's more concerning than comforting. Let's move quickly."

Behind the doors was a set of corridors leading in five directions. Nkosingiphile chose one and strode forwards briskly. As they moved deeper into the complex, a cry for help could be heard in the distance.

  • Nkosingiphile - "But... that shouldn't be possible."
  • Sifiso- "Whoever that is couldn't have survived since the attack. Perhaps the Singularity sent someone else to investigate?"
  • Nkosingiphile - "No. That cry - I've heard it before."
  • Sifiso- "You heard it before? Where?"
  • Nkosingiphile - "Here."
  • Sifiso- "What do you mean?"

The Arbiter didn't respond. Instead, she began to walk forwards again, rapidly picking up pace. The crying grew louder; soon, they arrived at a heavy-looking door, plain but for a single window. Another Lommakkian stood behind it.

  • Lommakkian - "I've been waiting for you."
  • Nkosingiphile - "What have you done?"
  • Lommakkian - "I gave you another chance, my friend. I see you used it well."

The Lommakkian turned to Sifiso.

  • Lommakkian - "So you must be Sifiso of Mpilenhle. Nkosingiphile here told me all about you."

He smiled.

  • Sifiso- "Who are you? When did you speak with the Arbiter?"
  • Lommakkian - "Now, now, little Mpilenhle. Let's not be too hasty. Let me go and I'll answer your questions."
  • Nkosingiphile - "Don't do it."
  • Lommakkian - "Silence. You have proven yourself to be useless to me, and are no longer my concern."

The Lommakkian turned back to Sifiso.

  • Lommakkian - "If you open this door, you need not fear me. You know I speak the truth."

Sifiso glanced at the door's control panel.

There was no turning back now.



I wait no more.

- ???

The shuttle touched down slowly, scattering a number of loose rocks below it. It was not long before Sifiso stepped off the boarding ramp, adorned in a spacesuit seemingly twice as dark as the moon's barren surface. Above, an immense gas giant eclipsed the system's star. The moon itself was littered with craters, some natural, others not. A storm was loomed overhead, an echo of the devastation that had been wrought here centuries before.

Sifiso, who was now climbing down the side of a nearby crater, was a young Lommakkian, his spacesuit bare but for faded markings. He ended his descent some distance from the center of the crater, lifting several loose rocks beneath him to an opening - the devastation that had rendered the moon uninhabitable had opened up a rift into some form of underground facility. Reattaching his climbing equipment to his spacesuit, he crawled inside.

The room was strewn with rocks and debris, its walls and ceiling barely discernible from the moon's surface. Several doors had been ripped open, likely hidden under the dust that carpeted the floor. What lay beyond was shrouded in an overwhelming darkness. Sifiso took out a flashlight, heading towards one of the passageways. It was not long before he found himself in another room, just as cluttered than the first. Something clattered behind him, and he spun around in surprise.

The figure that now lay before him was barely more than a skeleton, clad in an battered suit of armour interwoven with colourless rags; this had once been an Arbiter. Something about it was wrong. A memory flickered at the back of Sifiso's mind. He needed to go down.

It did not take to locate a turbolift shaft. The doors were gone, behind them a well of darkness. Sifiso began to climb down, knocking some loose plating into the abyss. Leaving the shaft at the lowest floor, he found himself overshadowed by a vast chamber. Unlike the interior of the uppermost level, this room was built out of a dark stone. A row of pillars on each side of the room supported a crumbling ceiling. At the end, an ominous set of doors.

Sifiso couldn't help but feel that something was waiting for him. Cautiously, he began to make his way around the room's edge. He was barely halfway across when he felt something behind him. He threw himself to the side, a beam of energy passing through the space that he had been occupying moments before. Behind him, a barely functional drone began to recharge its weapon, lit only by the glow of his flashlight. He pulled himself up, and charged the drone. Grabbing hold of its side, he began to tear away at the wiring as it tried to shake him off. Suddenly, an explosion tore the drone in half and sent Sifiso flying. His visor had been cracked, but there was nothing he could do. He had to keep going.

Behind the doors was a set of corridors leading in five directions. Sifiso chose one and strode forwards briskly. As he moved deeper into the complex, a cry for help could be heard in the distance. A feeling of dread began to grow; he'd heard that cry before.

He continued forwards, rapidly picking up pace. The crying grew louder; soon, he arrived at a heavy-looking door, plain but for a single window. Another Lommakkian stood in front of it.

  • Lommakkian - "Welcome back."
  • Sifiso- "I... remember. What have you done to the Arbiter?"
  • Lommakkian - "I only promised to answer your earlier questions, little Mpilenhle."

Sifiso grimaced.

  • Sifiso- "Then answer them."
  • Lommakkian - "Very well. You may have guessed the answer to the first. I am Arbiter Unathi."
  • Sifiso- "Nkosingiphile told me you were dead."
  • Unathi - "Why wouldn't she? If the Singularity was aware of my continued existence, they would have sent far more than a single Arbiter and a child."
  • Sifiso- "You stayed here in hiding."
  • Unathi - "I had centuries to prepare myself for you. Centuries to perfect my abilities. I chose to be found, so that you would release me."

Sifiso chuckled.

  • Sifiso- "Defeated by a door? You could only send me back to my ship when I opened it."
  • Unathi - "Do not try your luck. Our deal prevents me from harming you directly, but there is still much I can do to destroy you."
  • Sifiso- "You didn't answer my second question."
  • Unathi - "When did I speak with Nkosingiphile? Now. Just as I spoke with you, and am speaking with you. I let the events that led her to me play out once more, with her, shall we say, "more aware of her surroundings"."
  • Sifiso - "And you did the same to me so that you could eliminate her?"
  • Unathi - "Indeed. You needed to reach me, alone. Nkosingiphile would have sensed certain preparations immediately. You see, I can't be sure that you won't try to stop me leaving. That's somewhat less of a problem when I'm already gone."

Sifiso reached towards Unathi. As he suspected, the latter was a hologram.

  • Unathi - "And I'm afraid I haven't been entirely truthful. I doubt Nkosingiphile was aware of my family name, a name that you might be quite familiar with. Xolani."
  • Sifiso - "You're... the Archmonitor?"

Unathi smiled.

  • Unathi - "Not yet."

The hologram vanished. It was too late to stop Unathi, but Sifiso knew that something had to be done.

There was no turning back now.

TriviaEdit

Further ReadingEdit

Treebeard's Fiction
Everything falls.
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Science Fiction
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The only thing you can truly count on is for your enemies to attack.
Enlightenment will be seized by the many.
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Fantasy
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Scientia potentia est.
We rise again.
  • Galaxy Colonisation - Open
  • Native Civilisation System Limit - 62,500
  • Foreign Civilisation System Limit - 10,000
  • Advancement Cap - Tier 3.5/Kardashev Scale II
Civilisations
Information
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