“"Dominicus Vinterva", it means "Imperium Eternal" in the tongue of Those who coined it. A lot of civilizations claim their empires will be eternal. But for those star dragons. Was it prophetic? Were they so sure of their dominance that they knew their Imperium would last even on the day it was established?”
- - Unknown historian
"The Star Dragons" is an account of one possibility that lies in store for the Draconid Imperium. An ancient empire controlled by draconic reptiles. Originally they were merely another species who believed in the rightfulness of their dominance. Over time they made their mark, forged alliances. But even after 250,000 years their empire still held strong, and it was almost certain it would live for even longer...
But for the draconis, what lies in store? Or perhaps more importantly, how will they continue to change the universe?
- 1 The Waning Godslayer
- 2 A Bond Shared Beyond Death
- 3 The First Arks
- 4 How Times Change
- 5 Small People, Big Universe
- 6 Alien World, Familiar Feeling
- 7 The Angel And The Professor
- 8 Coffee and Biscuits Anyone?
- 9 Expedition Is Green
- 10 Alcanti Here We Come
- 11 Time Does Not Divide Us
- 12 Across the Desert of Ice
- 13 Greetings My Throne
- 14 Loneliness Broken
- 15 The Immortal City
- 16 Triumvirate Square
- 17 Ancient Heritage
- 18 Dreamwalkers
- 19 Boiling Point
- 20 Centre Of Commerce
- 21 Trivia
The Waning Godslayer
18th June, 3742 A.D.
As the sun set outside the walls of a remote estate, Uriel was sitting on a bench in a greenhouse within the Imperial Palace. It had been over a thousands years since the day of his birth and he was becoming old. His chestnut hair now a glossy silver, his scales were fading and his eyes were worn and deep-set into his skull, surrounded by bags. Even in his advanced age he still posessed the strength to stand on his own two feet. But the weight of the years was getting to him, he had lived for a time considered monumental by his kind. But to the kinds of entities he both fought and befriended, a mere thousand years was still an almost-epiphemic length of time.
Tyraz waked into the greenhouse. He was now standing taller than before and displayed much more tone upon his muscles. He walked in with an air of pride and confidence but there was much more. From his bulk, the size of his wings and his tail, he was becoming less Zazane and slightly more Draconis in appearence. He approached from the far end of the greenhouse, a familiar and strong smile worn across his face. He had changed within the last few centuries, as he had gone from a hated madman to a respected and, in some places, worshipped political figure and protector, a benevolent angel of death who fought for the righteous. He wore his Firesword upon his side with pride, wearing black and crimson battle armour.
Uriel sighed as he observed the plant life in the greenhouse. As he looked around, a winged insect delicately fluttered from a flower and perched itself upon his shoulder. He turned his tired eyes towards it and smiled softly. Lifting his finger up for the insect to jump to it. Tyraz observed the flora that surrounded him, it was all exotic but yet it seemed so familiar to him as he had been here many times in the past. He had seen the flowers here constantly grow and wither, like the mortals he protected as his duty. Yet, the realization that surrounded his friend had not struck him yet, or rather he didn't want it to strike him. He continued to walk until he saw his old friend resting on the bench. As Tyraz approached, Uriel turned his head to face him and cracked a weak but friendly smile. In his mind, he could remember something, the lives that revolved around the study of such plants...the lives he had outlived.
Uriel - Alensia was such a wonderful gardener. I rememebr how she catalogued all these plants. Recorded every detail. Sometimes I wish I had joined her on her journey to Drakon's Garden. Oh to see her face...
Tyraz - She would be wondering why you arrived there so early, Uriel. It is not like you to be in a rush for a meeting, not with your calm and balanced demeanour. Besides, Alensia was a patient woman. Well, she had to be considering how often you'd get yourself in trouble.
Uriel chuckled, remembering all the situations he had been in, all the times he had been close to death. And also how many times Tyraz had saved him. Tyraz had been a friend of his for over eights centuries. The two had grown inseperable and the idea that they would one day be separatd by time never troubled his mind. As Uriel himself always believed that a memory could immortalise someone as much as - if not more then - any attempt at physical immortality.
Uriel - She was always grateful. You, Davius, Iovera, the other Dragons. You all kept me safe.
Tyraz smiled and sat beside his friend. Whilst before Uriel would have outsized Tyraz, now the tables had been turned and Tyraz found himself positioned taller and straighter than his old friend, the man he had saved so many times from the brink of demise.
Tyraz - Then there came a time where you no longer needed us, heh, or rather thought you didn't. Like the whole Volkarus incident.
Uriel - I came away with my scars. But I thank you for being there upon my and Alessa's return. I feel a fool for not seeing the entire incident coming.
Tyraz - Volkarus was a fool for trying. Such a disgusting man...Heh, I only just managed to come to terms with his death. He revived himself so many times that it was almost as if he existed simply to challenge me and you.
Uriel - I suppose I should feel proud for outlicing a man you calimed was immortal. Yet outliving my enemies feels...empty.
Tyraz - So eager for a fight in your state, Uriel? Heh, even after 800 long years, you can still surprise me.
Uriel - Volkarus, Antediluvian, Wormulus, you, Iovera, the Draconizane Emperors. The list of immortals I have both sided with and stood against goes on. Yet...somehow I live. Not in a state like yours or theirs but still I live.
Tyraz - You are a legendary man, Uriel. The incarnation of legend itself. While we deny the rules of the Universe, you abide by them and yet still accomplish the feats of those who do not. In fact, you have performed feats even greater than us immortals. You are a walking inspiration, Uriel.
Uriel turned to look at Tyraz. he felt inspired for a moment at the words of encouragement his friend had given him. One of his last remaining friends. The paragons were blessed with a long lifespan. Nto as long as other lifeforms and cerainly not immortal. But with it came a price. Uriel had lost both friends and relatives to time. To be Paragon was not a position to recieve lightly and would offer some of the greatest burdens of the galaxy. Even after all this time, Uriel had remained true and had endured such trials.
Uriel - You think so? I am but a man. An insect to you and all of them. I wonder...how it must feel for them when the insect stands triumphant over the giant. Bah. Such thoughts are not for me...
Tyraz - You know, Uriel...you are much older than I am. I am still 210 or so years younger than you, you have accomplished more than I ever have. Think about it; you are older than the angel of death and always will be, both in physical form and in legend. You are no mere ant, Uriel...you're one of the greatest giants.
Uriel smiled and stood up from the bench, stretching his legs with a grunt as his weakened body strained to support itslef. This act in itself drew an expression of impression from Tyraz who looked upon his effort to walk with awe. Even if Uriel let out a few coughs as he took a few more steps away from the bench.
Tyraz - Even your bones try to weigh you down and yet you do not let them.
Uriel - Defiant to the end. As my father always taught me...
Tyraz - Not even a walking stick, your own will is holding you up. Some would say that logic benefits the majority, but you are not part of the majority. While there are those who will live endless lives now without the needs for Essence, you do not need them. You live an endless live by your own strength.
Uriel - My day will one day come. But I do not fear it. As you have said I have led a long and eventful time in this universe. Do you mind if we take a walk? Such exercise helps keep my blood flowing.
Tyraz - Why of course, my dear friend. Hell, if you requested it, I'd take us to the very bloodiest of battlefields.
Tyraz stood up and walked beside his friend, placing a hand upon his shoulder with a confident smile as the two of them walked out of the greenhouse together. As Uriel walked he looked up at Tyraz, smiling back and clearly realising this warlord now loomed like a giant over him. At some obscure time it wwas the other way around. A circumstance that the Zazane warlord was mocked and almost killed over. Uriel was not this kind of person however. Even if Uriel may have shrunk with age, it was undeniably clear that Tyraz had made himself larger, an effect he trigggered from the energies at his fingertips.
Uriel - I remember a time long ago when you used to be this high against me.
Uriel positioned his palm horizontally against his hip and jut above his elbow. Given his age now, the indicator he gave was deceptive as his weakened body made the imagined hight smaller than it really was. However yraz understood and he cracked a wide smile, humouring the elderly paragon.
Uriel - How times change, yes? How much the roles have been inverted.
Tyraz - Hah, but size has never been a problem for me. Outside of the bedroom, anyway, hehe. Iovera is doing well, by the way. She has allowed herself to age somewhat, but then so have I, just a different aspect so you might say. She likes to keep in touch with her mortal feelings.
Uriel - How has she been lately by the way?
Tyraz - Well, her sacrimonious duties are beginning to find themselves more worth the time than I am, heh. If it wasn't for the fact she can't stand most immortals, she probably would have divorced me long ago from boredom.
Uriel - Her feelings for you run deeper than states of being. In fact I still vaguely rememebr the first time you two had feelings for each other.
Tyraz - Heh, of course. She would never be so shallow as to desire a divorce, not after all we had experienced. And neither would I, I am grateful for a woman such as her putting up with me for this long.
Uriel nodded and continued walking. Servants passed them by as Uriel travelled with Tyraz to his study. In his advanced age, Uriel found himself preferring to stay in country estates such as this one on Primalta II. Thousands of light years away from the bustle and political weight of Minos'Drakon.
Tyraz - Ah, this reminds me of the days. I remember when Septis was just a lad.
Uriel - It feels unsettling that despite being born around your time, he is no longer of a fit age to take my place. Were it not for modern medicine and nutrition, he would ahve died of age years ago...
Tyraz - What of Alessa's descendants? I'm sure they have become healthy examples of how far Drallivians have come in the society of the Imperium.
Uriel - I have been considering one for the throne. It has been a lifelong ambition for Draconis and Drallivian to unite and advance together as one. Perhaps my eventual passing will be the start of the next step?
Tyraz - Don't speak such nonsense, Uriel. You have at least another few decades before you have to start considering such decisions. You are still Paragon and you shall be for years to come.
Uriel smiled and entered his study. The room had been designed to mimic the study in Alcanti's imperial palace. As Uriel was living here now he had moved his most treasured posessions. Hanging in a cabinet were Urie;'s three swords; the longsword he has been given in his fifties, the greatsword he was famous for using and the thermic greatsword given to him by Hel'Bre'K. Uriel entered the study and looked at all three intently, sighing as he did. Tyraz followed and looked at the cabinet with eyebrows raised feeling impressed at the sight of such legendary weapons. TOols that after all these years were worthy of being centrepieces of the greatest sagas. Indeed, Uriel's exploits led to some glorious sagas to be written since the Imperium exploded back onto the galactic stage. Tyraz leaned against the doorframe and smiled, in awe of his closest friend.
Tyraz - Swords are a man's soul, they are the embodiment of his power and determination, his skill and willingness. You have to have three swords just to contain yours.
Uriel - This is true. All three have seen violence. All three have stung mortal and immortal alike. Upon my passing...I want you to take care of them.
Tyraz - ...You would entrust me with such gifts? You speak as if your passing will be coming soon. Has age effected your piercing confidence?
Uriel - I am one thousand years old Tyraz, I have outlived my kind's natual span by far.
Tyraz - And you shall do it twicefold, I know you shall!
Uriel - I know you mean well Tyraz but I do not fear death's embrace.
Uriel approached the glass cabinet and rested his hand on the pane. As though drawing strength from the memories trapped inside each blade. Tyraz's smile slowly dissapeared as he became slightly concerned.
Tyraz - Uriel, you're starting to scare me. Why would you speak in such a...concerning manner?
Uriel - You're unsettled by this? As I said I am old Tyraz. I do not fear death because I have spent plenty of time in this universe and one day I am due ot move on.
Tyraz - Do you not consider the coming of death as a negative thing, Uriel? Why do you sound so eager to leave this realm? You're the Paragon, you have people to lead!
Uriel - On the contrary I see it as a final chance to rest. My faith teaches me that those of my species who die and remember Drkon will live eternally in his garden. No worry, no pain, no fear, only innocence. As for my people. I am confident my successor will serve my memory well. As I had done with Korr and my father.
Tyraz - ...What of me? What would my purpose be once you decide to lay yourself to rest? What if your successor isn't the influence you are? All of these questions...
Uriel - Tyraz you have Iovera and the Brood. I have done my best to choose the most appropriate successor to my throne. The best you can do is keep him on the right path.
Tyraz - Uriel, you can still go on for many more years! I can feel it! Does your existence really bring you so much pain and unrest as it does now? Am I not enough to settle it? Are your memories not enough to settle it?
Uriel turned to Tyraz with a look of cocnern in his eyes. Concerned as his friend's positive attitude was suddenly destroyed. Replaced by this sense of worry. Uriel loked at him and wanted to ensure his friend was alright.
Uriel - Tyraz..I wish I could explain my reasoning but. I do not mind living for a few more years but I do not mid my eventual passing. This past millenium, In a way I shall live on in the peoples' memories.
Tyraz - What of the man who killed gods?! What of the man who survived catastrophic disasters?! What of the very man who showed a fallen angel the right path to lead?! What of that man?!
Uriel walked up to Tyraz and grabbed his arms in an attempt to calm him down. Looking deep into Tyraz's crimson eyes with his own faded emerald ones. Now both of them were deistressed, Uriel remembered what used to happen whe nTyraz was furious, frustrated or distressed, he rememebred the pain of such events and as TYraz stood here now, Uriel did not want to relive them. He always had his best friend's mental health on his mind, such as now.
Uriel - Tyraz you are scaring me.
Tyraz huffed in desperation and turned his face away for a moment, evident signs of denial painted across his face. He inhaled and exhaled aggressively, although he made no sudden movements that could have hurt his friend of himself for it was not the man he carved himself to be. With a last inhale, he released a sigh and shifted his eyes back towards Uriel, his angered denial overwhelmed with saddening acceptance.
Uriel - Tyraz...We have been friends for centuries, surely you knew the day would one day come?
Tyraz - Agh...Just because I knew this day would one day come does not mean I am one to look forward to its arrival, no matter how selfish that sounds. So many die... I kept it at bay for centuries.
Uriel slowly walked up to Tyraz, letting out a worried sigh before he lifted his arm to rest his hand on Tyraz's shoulder. This would have been easy back in the day but with his advanced age he settled for cradling Tyraz's scaled forearm i nhis hand, looking up at Tyraz with sorry eyes.
Uriel - We have seen many places together, we have doen many things, both of us performing feats beyond mortal possibility. You ar eone of my closest friends, I would spent whatever time I had with you to the end of time if I could but...it would be selfish of me.
Tyraz - No, no, do not worry yourself Uriel. I would not have you punished with eternity within a mortal shape just for my own sake. Immortality is a curse more than it is a blessing, I shall treasure our moments throughout my eternal service. That is the magic of mortals; death equates to living, while eternity makes living merely existing.
Uriel - Some call mortality a curse and desire to find a way to remove it forever. But you and I see it as a blessing. I am past my prime Tyraz, I passed it before we met.
Uriel turned his head sideways and opened his mouth, lifting his hand up to his face ot mask an extended yawn.
Uriel - I...I am not as young as I once was, I feel the need to rest.
Tyraz - Of course. I shall escort you to your quarters. I shall say it now before I forget, but I believe age has made you more beautiful. Not physically, but in a spiritual sense. That is why I am an ugly creature, for my soul is absent from my form.
Uriel - I wish you would stop depreciating youself Tyraz. You may be a monster on the outside, yes, but I have been with you for long enough to know how much of a remarkable man you are on the inside. After all, look what you have accomplished despite your curse.
Tyraz - ...Heh, perhaps you speak truth. I blind myself to my own actions with my words, perhaps I should stop speaking and start listening. I may not have, in essence, a "soul" but that does not necessarily regard me as foul. I am just lacking.
The two of the mwalked happily together through the corridors as the sun set outside. Night was drawing in on today, the two of then had changed considerably but the palace itself had not save for a few new technological articles. It was a static aspect in the fluid path of the lives these two friends had, an anchor point on the turbulent current of time. Uriel's bedroom as the same as it had been for a long time. Even with Alensia's passing, Uriel insisted on keeping the bed. Even when he was the only occupant he always slept on the side heh ad doen while she was alive. Uriel entered the room and stumbled a little, his body worn from age and tiredness but he didn't fall over. He managed ot catch himself before he did and arched backwards to straighten himself.
Tyraz - Do you require my assistance, Uriel? Would you prefer if I raised you and carried you?
Uriel - I'm fine Tyraz, I can stand on my own...well...you could always help walk me to my bed, I do not want to burden you or anything.
Tyraz - It would be my honour. It would also not be the first time I have had to help you stand upon your feet.
Uriel smiled as Tyraz let out a small chuckle and helped him stand. THe old Draconis hobbled to the bed, weakened form age and drain and raised a hand to insist to Tyaz he would still climb inside the bed himself. He removed a few of his heavier garnaments and tossed them onto a rack before settling down on the silken sheets, laying on his stomach.
Uriel - Thank you Tyraz. I will be fine now.
Tyraz - Uriel... what shall happen to your Imperium once time takes you from us? Who shall replace you-- Urgh, my apologies, you cannot be replaced. Who shall assume the title of Paragon?
Uriel - I have been thinking about that for a long while. Most of my immediate offspring are too old but there is one...what was his name...Veltimus I believe. He was one of the hatchlings in Alessa's third clutch.
Tyraz - Ah, yes. Is he not the spawn of a Drallivian? Not to sound crude or primitive, I am merely curious if it is his hybridized heritage that influences a factor within your decision.
Uriel - Well...partly. But the boy has a strong mind and Alessa had tutored him well. When the day comes I have a request. Can you be the one to present him with Drakon's Eye?
Tyraz - You believe I am worthy of such a responsibility and duty? ...What am I saying? Of course I shall, I will fulfill your request with pride and honour, it will be a pleasure.
Uriel - Also...my greatsowrd...and the blade gifted to me by Hel'Bre'K...I want you to keep them.
Tyraz - I shall preserve them eternally, the power in their edges to gleam for time infinite even after their crafters and original wielder have passed into the wind. They will be not weapons of war, but tools for protection and preservation as they always have been.
Uriel - Thank you Tyraz...
Uriel let out another yawn as his eyes fluttered as tiredness overcame him, he leaned his head to give one last goondight look to Tyraz, a slight smiel creeping across his face. Tyraz returned a smile, one of calm and tranquility. It was a look that Uriel had not seen often upon Tyraz's face, not even during the past few centuries when their relationship as brothers of the soul had been birthed and developed, but it was not a look that was at all unwelcome.
Tyraz - Enjoy your rest, Uriel, for you of all people deserve it.
Uriel slept calmly that night, his heart slow and his breathing subtle. Some time at two hours past midnight however, uriel's heart began to slow down even further, to a rate lower than most mortals could survive on and then...it stopped. He stopped breatihing, letting out one last exhalation. The superstitious might say this was his last ounce of life passing from him. Tyraz sat beside the bed which held Uriel, resting against the wall with his arms folded and his eyes sealed shut by his own action. His expression hours before was once of peace, closure and enlightenment, but now it had been replaced by a quivering frown of acceptance and revelation. Those final moments that initiated true silence pained the Zazane more than any attack or scar against him by several hundredfold, stirring an acidic fire within his heart that he struggled to suppress even after having calmed the beast he was centuries ago. Uriel was gone but something lingered, something possibly beyond the mortal range of senses. It was there for a brief amount of time, a faint tingle in the air that lasted for but a moment before subsiding. Tyraz's eyelids lifted slowly, the quivering of his lower lip ceasing and the disturbed beast of burden locked within himself placed back to its abyssal slumber. His tear-filled eyes darted around, analyzing all angles of the room before closing once more. The frown slowly and gradually became a slight smile, which parted to allow Tyraz to utter a last phrase.
Tyraz - Tell the family I give my regards, and tell Drakon that he had better take care of you or he will have I to answer to.
12th September, 3821 A.D.
Veltimus walked down the finely-decorated hallways of the RASC Worldfather's Grace, escorted by four Blood Dragons. Things had changed since the days of the war for Andormeda since two of these Dragons were Zazane. Veltimus was wearing a more casual attire than what was expected of an emperor of his standing, a loose-fitting shirt with wide sleeves trimmed with silver underneath a deep purple waistcoat and a pair of black velvet trousers that met a pair of polished crimson boots at the ankle. Down one of the halls he felt a sense of insignificance, for these were once the private suites of the paragon and his closest connections. True this was the home of Veltimus and his new family but he always remembered it as the private abodes of his grandfather whenever Uriel had not been on ALcanti or in one of his estates. The man was dead, he had been for many years now, many of the friends he had known were gone as well...save for one, who's door was marked quite clearly with bright red wood. Veltimus gave a silent gesture for his guards to stand back as he knocked on the door with three firm taps of his knuckle.
Whatever response there was would be delayed for around one Imperial minute, although the door refused to move its hinges and was kept tightly shut as it always was. However, there was some response to a degree; there was a voice that called towards Veltimus, sourcing itself from behind the door. The tone and mood sensed within the voice indicated that the speaker was feeling a state of desperation and hopelessness, a saddening sense of guilt and loss.
Tyraz - Paragon Veltimus, what do you require?
Velimus - Uncle Breek? Is there something on your mind?
Tyraz - Nothing more than the usual; strategic coordination, tactical plotting, resource and armament division amongst task forces and fireteams. I am fine, if that is what you are asking.
Velimus - I worry. May I enter?
Tyraz - ...Come in, feel free to take a seat.
Veltimus asked for his escort to wait outside as he entered the room. He took a deep breath as he looked upon Tyraz's visage. Tyraz's shape and form had changed since the time of Uriel's spiritual departure. While once he had appeared almost Draconis in appearance with noticeable remnants of his Zazane heritage such as his crest, he had undergone a reversal; while he was still large and imposing in his appearance, he appeared to have hybridized the more terrifying physical aspects of the Draconis with those of the Zazane, giving him a not just intimidating visage, but also a fearmongering one. Finding a rather plush lounger to lay on Veltimus did so, his eyes fixated on Tyraz's expression as he did so. The room was sparsely decorated, filled with varyong reds courtesy of the velvet, redwood and in some cases there was even black upholstry. SOmething was off about the roomm however, some of the wood appeared gnarled, in some cases twisted, as if the very presence of the apartment's long-term resident had polluted them, infected and mutated by his dispair and depression
Velimus - You still miss him don't you uncle...
Tyraz - Was it so easy to guess from my expression and tone? Shyrak...
Velimus - You're ashamed. Well..we all miss him but he wouldn't want this. He...he used to tell me how he was proud of how far you had come. What would he say if he saw you...well...
Veltimus pointed with an open palm and a sheet-like hand to indicate to Tyraz's appearence, a sutbtle look of worry and apprehension as he did so. Tyraz grunted and sat down on a lounger opposite of Veltimus, holding his head in his hands as he did and rubbed the forehead of his crest, appearing to be visibly frustrated or stressed and was gradually allowing it to show while at the same time struggling to hide it. While Veltimus lay sprawled across the blackupholstered lounger, Tyraz preferred to sit straight, his legs firmly planted on the wooden flooring. The indication had triggered agitation as Tyraz gave a dissapointed look towards to his late friend's grandson.
Tyraz - Uriel never saw concern upon my appearance. It was the man beneath the skin that counted to him, the essence of a being rather than its form. I am still that man, I assure you, I just... it is difficult to come to terms with, even after all of these years.
Velimus - I'm sorry I brought it up I...I was merely trying to say i'm worried you're slipping. My grandfather had great respect for you, after all.
Tyraz - ...Slipping? Does my efficiency not prove otherwise, Paragon?
Velimus - It's not your ability that worries me. If you say you're fine, you're fine. We all feel bad when we lose something just...Well...I was always close to him but never as close as you. He gave you two of his swords and carried the third to his tomb after all.
Tyraz - He also gave me responsibility to bestow you with Drakon's Eye. We were not merely friends, Paragon, but brothers bonded and forged by spirit. Could you imagine if your most inspirational sibling, who led you to change your character for the better, accompanied you for a millennia and then died in the night while you are forced to carry on without his presence for the next few eons?
Velimus - ...Maybe I came at a bad time. As much as i'd like to imagine it Tyraz...such a picture is unthinkable...
Tyraz - No, no. Don't go, I am merely... troubled. And confused. Gah, my apologies, Paragon, I did not mean to impose my feelings upon your shoulders.
Veltimus sat up and forward and delivered a heaving sigh. as he cupped his hands.
Velimus - I know you did not mean it.
Tyraz - It is my duty to defend the Imperium at all costs and I shall not faulter that purpose, for both the Imperium's and Uriel's sake, as I have always done. I can assure you that my efficiency and performance shall not wither.
??? - What about your sense of well-being?
Whispers emerged in Tyraz's mind .Veltimus was oblivious. They were subtle at first, like utterings in the wind. But this was a voice of confort, the words were from a confident and respectful being. They went unnoticed however, barely audiable as though the nonexistant wind had spoken ot deaf ears.
Velimus - Uncle you're not a machine, sometimes people need time to simply take a break, relax, not worry about the trials of reality.
Tyraz - I...I know, I... Perhaps you are correct, maybe I do require some form of... vacation, or break. But... what happens if I am not there to fulfill my duty? Who else will be able to accomplish it?
Veltimus - The Imperium can survive for a tenday without you Tyraz, do not worry.
Tyraz looked down and sighed again, grunting as he struggled to come to terms with the thought of possible vacation within or outside of the Imperium without having to worry about its protection. His hands clenched against his crest, though soon eased up and passed themselves over his snout and off his face, rubbing his eyes as they descended down his head. The whisper's returned, their utterance jolted Tyraz's dissolusioned frown into a gaze of surprise, lighting up his eyes.
??? - I always knew there were advantages to a combined lifestyle of duty and relaxation. All those hunting trips we went on.
Tyraz - <<What trickery... who dare impersonate the voice of the Paragon? Who... which demon speaks to me...?!>>
??? - Tyraz it's me. This seems strange but I am not an invader or a malevolent entity.
Tyraz - <<Lies! Uriel passed... Uriel's gone! No one but him is allowed to speak to me on such memorial depth!>>
??? - I know I did but...something happened.
Veltimus - Can you at least think about my suggestion uncle? You can't die, I know that, but you can still hurt yourself.
Tyraz - I... I'll take it into consideration Veltimus. You are a good nephew... heh, that is why Uriel chose you for such a task as Paragon.
Veltimus nodded and stood up. He stepped forward and rested his hand on Tyraz's shoulder, giving a friendly pat before he opened the door. Tyraz turned to him and, for once in the conversation he bore an expression that was almost thankful. His hunched-over posture was still present, al lthose thoughts brewing inside his mind.
Tyraz - Veltimus... your concern is much appreciated, it shall not go to waste. If anything, I shall retire only temporarily to gather my thoughts and... straighten the line.
Veltimus - Thank you uncle. That's all I ask.
As Veltimus left the room, Tyraz felt a hand rest upon his shoulder. But something about it was not right, it did not feel entirely normal. There was an oddity about it as though it was not entirely there. Or if it was, it was no normal palm that dared rest itself upon his shoulder. Tyraz leaned his head down, his muscles tensing as his body prepared itself for potential combat if it was necessary. He had fought many an Essence being and demigod throughout the millennia of his life, yet this time it was different. Rather than a brash reaction, he kept himself calmed.
Tyraz - ...Why do you torment me so, demon? Why lie of your identity within my presence?
??? - Search inside yourself, and look to your right.
Tyraz shifted his head, fixing his eyes upon the spectral image that displayed itself to only his eyes, gleaming with an aura undetectable to even the most adept of Essentials and "gods". Tyraz's bloody eyes widened and his jaw dropped somewhat, his expression being one of astonishment and fear for to Tyraz' right was the image of Uriel, smiling welcomingly and appearing much younger than when he had died. He emitted a calming presence about himself. Rather than his usual attire however, Uriel was dressed in a fine silken coat threaded with silver, trailing along his horns were silver-embedded grooves, his scales were so healthy they appered to glow softly with an earthly radiance. Uriel tilted his head, a playful smile was now plastered across his face.
Tyraz - Uriel... This is trickery, it must be! The... Y-You're dead... Is this... Is this really you?
Uriel - No trickery Tyraz, although I admit I was a little bewildered myself whe I first awoke.
Tyraz - ...Awoke?
Uriel - How to explain...When I died, I did see blackness and then...oh TYraz it was incredible. It was like someone pulled the veil from my eyes. The universe became more beautiful than I had ever imagined it. I watched you, you know, these past few years.
Tyraz - You... You have been watching me...? Uriel... Uriel, please understand! M-My mental state... My anger, it's... I-I have it under control, I assure y-you!--
Uriel held up his hand as tyraz blubbered, whatever was about to come out of Tyraz's mouth next was instantly stopped as something beyond his control clamped his mouth shut. Uriel looked at him with concerned eyes, it was then Tyraz noticed; His eyes, those handsome emerald eyes Uriel was known for, were borderline luminous.
Uriel - Shh Tyraz, I understand completely how my death affected you. Do not worry about it, after all, I may have died but I have turned out rather well, no?
Tyraz - I... I cannot even... how are you here? How did... you're not an Essence being... you're far beyond that, I can barely... barely manage to comprehend you.
Uriel - I learned Tyraz. Upon my death I discovered that my entire life had been a lesson. And a power, some power beyond even me...or perhaps it was a product of my own mind. I am still trying to work out-- My point is, the best description I can give is it was some form of awakening.
Uriel lifted his hand away and walked around the room Tyraz was in, looknig about. Tyraz stood up out of the launger and watched as Uriel wandered casually, his footsteps not even making the slightest pat on the floor. THere was something else though...While Tyraz was illuminated by various lamps and an overhead light, casing shadows evrywhere, Uriel was not. Not even a trace, it was as though he had no form ot cast.
Uriel - I see my grandson has been good to you.
Tyraz - Veltimus has been a good Paragon, yet he will never live up to your legacy. No Paragon in the foreseeable or distant future ever shall, at least within my eyes. His heart is within the right places, however.
Uriel - You know, maybe I have exceeded my father...at first I thought otherwise since I met him when I awoke, then learned he met me because my mind wanted to make me feel comfortable.
Tyraz - In my eyes, you have exceeded even alien rulers in terms of your influence and benevolence. You are a Gigaquadrantic inspiration, Uriel, or would it be more accurate to say you still are?
Uriel - In honesty...you are the first person I have contacted in this state. As far as everyone in the gigaquadrant is concerned, I passed away from this plane years ago.
Tyraz - ...I am honoured, Uriel, if you still go by that name. I have heard only stories of people who have achieved states of being that are comparable to your own, but... I have never encountered one nor thought they truly existed as others have depicted them.
Uriel - Being in this state I can understand why. It is not something I would broadcast. I admit it is tempting however, I suppose I will always miss those days when I am one with other people. In this state I still am...in a sense.
Uriel approached Tyraz onace again and looked him square in the eyes, his gaze was pleasantly hypnotic.
Uriel - Tyraz if being by my side means that much to you, remember I will now be with you until the very end of time itself. Whatever decision I may make to stay out of mortal affairs, I will not forget about you.
Tyraz gasped, struck with an assault against his capability to speak coherently. It wasn't an effect of Uriel directly, but the words he spoke and the claims of dedication, even into eternity. A few streams of tears ran down the sides of Tyraz's crest, causing his crimson eyes to glisten slightly.
Uriel - Was this offer too much for you?
Tyraz - ...Can you a-assure me this is just not m-mere imagination of d-desperation, or a h-hallucination b-brought on by insanity?
Uriel - I kept an eye on you for this long didn't I?
Tyraz - If you turn o-out to b-be just a f-figment of a dream... I'll k-kick your arse, y-you know that?
Uriel chuckled with a braod smile on his face, but at the same time he expressed a sense of playfulness as he looked up and back at Tyraz. As he did however the room felt strange, disorienting, it was as though all sense of orientation and depth had been lost from Tyraz's senses. A few moments passed, the disorientation was rather disturbing as Tyraz's room was warped around him. he held his head as the disorientation of the room struck against his beyond-paranormal perceptions, taking a step back as his tear-drenched frown lifted itself with a struggle, ascending into a weak smile as Tyraz's eyes found their way towards the former-Paragon's ethereal image. After several disturbing moments, permeated by that mischevious chuckle, the room began to settle down once again Uruel held up his hands as he had that smile still on his face.
Uriel - I am merely playing but...you did threaten to hit me if I was a hallucenation.
Tyraz - It is bizarre, seeing you so youthful with little to no restrictions to hold back your deeds. Heh, a man without limits, I wonder how far that man is willing to go to prove a point.
Uriel - You know I would never live with myself tormenting you.
Tyraz - I am merely curious as to what your state allows, I have lived with torment for a century or so. I can tolerate, even encourage, a bout of playful experiment... child.
Urie lowered his head and let out a moutless chuckle, almost snorting out of his nostrils and looked back up to Tyraz with a rather ambitious gleam in his eye.
Uriel - Whatever my mind allows.
Tyraz - Then it appears now is not the time to be closed-minded, hehe!
Uriel - Come, step closer. I want to give you another demonstration.
Tyraz chuckled and stepped forward, glancing towards Uriel's bright eyes as he took loose steps that were now unhindered from doubt and released from fear. Faith and hope welled inside Tyraz's mind for it was for the most part clear, yet not definite, that he had once again been reunited with the spiritual mentor and brother he had grown close to in his "life", if that was what it was what the torture of eternity was to be called.
Tyraz - It had better impress, for I have seen a great many things. Then again, I assume you can surprise me, am I correct, brother?
Uriel stepped up and pressed his hand gently against Tyraz's chest. For a few seconds there was nothing, then Tyraz felt it, a thump he had not heard in centuries, another, another, getting faste, a two-beat rhythm that pounded against the inside of his chest. The feeling of energy coursing though his veins. For the first time in over eight hundred years, Tyraz could feel the beating of his owwn blackened heart, willed to beat again by a force beyond his own control. Uriel looked up and into Tyraz's eyes with a knowing smile, this was him. Tyraz's heart beat somehow though him, the immense power he commanded flowed though into his friend's chest.
And yet he commanded it to revive Tyraz's heart. To make it beat once again. Tyraz' lips quivered and his eyes lost focus, struggling to suspend the smile he wore on his face just moments before. His eyes began to transition; the bloody crimson irises, the jet black sclere, the scorching white pupils were erased, replaced by a sight alien to Uriel as Tyraz' eyes returned to a more standard looking form. White sclera, black pupils, striking grass green irises. A twitching hand gripped ahold of Uriel's shoulder, with Tyraz's head resting upon the other as tears escaped the glands.
Uriel - Your eyes Tyraz...I have never seen them that way.
Tyraz - ...I-I saw the w-world only in b-blood and d-d-death... My e-eyes were stained w-w-with the sins of m-mortals, m-murder, war, w-wrath... Urgh...
Uriel rested his hand on the quivering hand Tyraz had gripped on his shoulder. He looked at Tyraz, a comforting gaze as he witnessed the transformation, he tilted his head slightly, a soothing feeling travelling between the hands.
Uriel - I wish I could make this permenant Tyraz...right now it is my will that beats your heart. The corruption within however It is indeed immense.
Tyraz - Do n-not waste f-f-freedom u-upon it, f-for it s-shall o-only gather t-the d-d-dark d-dust once m-more and d-die once more. T-This is my sin t-to carry, i-it is not a b-burden for y-you to f-fight with. I w-will someday r-rid myself of this curse... I a-am grateful t-to be r-reminded w-why I seek to e-end e-eternity.
Uriel - Then never forget this day Tyraz, for I shall not.
Uriel moved his arm and wrapped it around Tyraz's back, tugging him inwards towards Uriel's embrace, the light from his body shining from every inch of his skin, surrounding Tyraz in a benevolent light that soothed. Uriel held his head close, he moved the hand from Tyraz's chest and to his upper arm but the heart still pumped, bringing whatever life-force still remained to the surface. Tyraz accepted the Draconis' embrace without resistant nor reluctance, his gleaming eyes of marvellous green soaked in mortal tears. Tyraz struggled to keep an appealing expression on his face as he was required to breathe, something he had not done for nearly nine long centuries when he had been condemned to bear the eternal burden. He was more than a mere weapon of will and principle, he was more than a tool to be used by those he sought worthy; he was alive, a person, an individual who breathed and saw and heard and felt like any other mortal.
Feelings that Tyraz had been deprived of flooded back; what was distant memory was now present reality. The aggressive pounding of his pardoned heart as Uriel's touch had opened the gates of the prison of filth and corruption to allow space to truly breath, the violent churning and twisting of the relic that was his stomach as hunger greeted the Zazane after having not been satisfied for many centuries, rushing of blood through his veins as it raced around once more like a caged hound that had never forgotten the sensation of the chase. Uriel felt it all as he wrapped his arms around Tyraz, he could feel every moment as mortality returned to the cursed Zazane warlord he had known for centuries as a friend. He was shocked himself however, in all the power he posessed he did not imagine such a drastic change with an act so minor, but the thoughts filled his mind "if only this were permenant, if only I could let Tyraz live his entire life like this." He kept silent, merely allowing the warlord to shed the rush of emotions ont ohis comforting body.
Uriel - ...How do you feel?
Tyraz - I-It feels...strange, almost surreal... Yet, for a r-reason b-b-beyond m-me, i-it feels...f-familiar, I-I r-recognize e-everything. I m-miss it...I t-took it a-all f-for granted a-and p-paid the p-price.
Uriel - I can sustain you in this state for a time longer...a few days at most. If that is waht you so wish.
Tyraz - S-Several d-days... heh, I-I'd like t-that. I s-shall b-be r-reserving a p-place to v-vacate f-for a s-short t-time...it w-would be n-nice to r-really e-enjoy it l-like this.
Uriel - Enjoy the time Tyraz. But know I will do my best to find a way to make it permenant, even if it means living a few more centuries I will not forget you
Tyraz - Uriel... h-how can I r-return s-such g-gratitude?
Uriel - There is no need to return the favour, your happiness is enough.
Uriel let go of Tyraz and stepped backwards, away from him. Tyraz smiled as his hand brushed away the tears of his green eyes, a sense of amusing embarassment overcoming him as his self-sense returned to him and saw that he had been crying.
Uriel - I will not abandon you Tyraz.
Tyraz - Heh, agh I m-must look s-so w-weak right n-now... I-I know I-I f-feel it, s-starved, t-thirsty...
Uriel - Enjoy yourself Tyraz,
Uriel faded away, his eyes being the last things to dissapear completely, leaving Tyraz alone in his chambers, his mind flooded with new feelings and new senses, new wants and new desires. Tyraz sat upon the nearest seat, panting heavily with a smile unmatched by any other spread across his face; his intimidating, hybridized amalgamation of horrific traits designed to evoke fear into the hearts of his adversaries had been torn away, in its place stood the figure of Tyraz that he had assumed upon the days before Uriel's passing and departure for another plane. Tyraz wiped his tears away once more, his breath easing with each inhalation.
Tyraz - ...I shall repay you...and you cannot argue otherwise... Such contrast, a reversal unlike any other... I'll dine on your behalf, I'll drink wines and taste flavours for you and for myself... I existed in a world of assumption, I could only guess my preferences... now I can truly discover them, I'll live for you, Uriel. I have so much to do...
The First Arks
19th September, 4168 A.D.
A lone shuttle travelled towards a rather large shipyard over Valle Prime. Held in one of the construction drydocks appeared to be a starship perhaps a hundred kilometres in length., still under scontruction. The half-finished vessel hovered over Valle Prime like a partially-decayed whale, it's stelly ribs protruding from what it had of its metal flesh. What "flesh" was available was a dulled silver threaded with a gold-coloured analogue. The patterns weaved themselves across the titan, dwarfing even the Imperium's largest ships.
It was a stark contrast. Here was a ship no one had ever seen before, both guarding and supplying it were ships that merely by look had not changed in countless millenia. But everyone knew how the Imperium worked. Ancient and old on the outside, advanced and elegant on the inside. The shuttle approached an opening on the ship's lover levels and it was greeted inside the bay with several senior constructors. Krrogvont who had been hired by Valle Astroengineering for the construction. The shuttle's side door opened, stepping out, followed by four Blood Dragons that surrounded him appeared to be a rather bulky Drallivian who's chest protruded outwards. draped over his body was a silken navy-blue robe trimmed with gold paterns topped with a high collar folded over. Hanging around his neck, a gold necklace studded with hundreds of gems of all colours, in the centre of it all, a clear, blue-tinged and perfectly-cut thousand-faced diamond.
The Drallivian - in truth a hybrid of Draconis and Drallivian genetics - passed by the engineers with regal grace. All the engineers ceremoniously bowed to him as he passed. At the end of the hall was a senior foreman, dressed in a sharp suit and wearing protective gear around his neck. As the Dralllivian approached, he bowed his head out of respect to the man who he saw as his Paragon.
Grovek - Paragon Veltimus! it is an honourfor you to visit our humble drydock erm...to what do we owe the pleasure?
Veltimus - I was keen ot see how construction was coming along. How is the progress so far.
Grovek - Framework's complete and we were installing the interiors now. It took us some time but the expansion emitters are in place. A little GUT-tampering and we managed to offset the expansion.
Veltimus - Quite remarkable technology.
Grovek - Only the start, my paragon. Expanding and compressing spacetime in a warp drive is easy. Expanding it to encapsulate a specific area...well that's a little mroe difficult.
Veltimus - I have faith you and the associated scientists can make sufficient progress.
Grovek - It's the incline of technology sir. Things start off slow but as time passes the rate of multiplication becomes phenomenal.
Veltimus - As you insist. Now about that tour...
Grovek - I'll show you what we have so far, my paragon.
Grovek made a hand gesture and Veltimus followed him gracefully. Only the lower levels of the ship were complete, there was still much work going on from robotic drones and nanite clouds. As they passed by gutted bedrooms and empty plazas Veltimus peered inside, observing them in detail. They reached one room and Grovek pressed a button on a device on his wrist, a flood of light and the room was suddenly pristine. Fine art adorned silver walls patterned with floral golden patterns. The floor was a beautiful polished wood, the furniture in each room was finely carved and made of solid materials in a functional and elegant style. Veltimus nodded with approval at this. The room was clearly very comfortable to live in
Grovek - It will all be climate controlled, the view outside can be changed at a whim.
Veltimus - Impressive. If this works out, Valle Astroengineering can consider itself the leading manufacruter of these new ark vessels.
Grovek - Oh thank you my paragon. We'll not forget this I assure you!
Veltimus - You don't have the contract yet, foreman. Be patient.
Grovek - Of couse, of course.
With a chuckle, Veltimus was led deeper into the ark. he was shown the engines and the core of the ship's expansion emitters, which were able to expand the observed interior dimensions of a confined space by a number of times while leaving the outside unaffected by the size change. The technology was still in its infancy, the interior with current technology was only capable of tripling a space's volume by three times and such technology was very energy-hungry. But was Grovek the Kroogvont foreman had said the technolgoy was still in its infancy. It was basic, inefficient and inelegant, hopefully tiem would change that as advances were made. And like all Imperium-made vessels, every inch of the design was replaceable and interchangeable, meaning that such vessels may never becoem obsolete. That was the theory anyway, the times move so quickly and these wre one of a few kinds of ships that may live for millenia with little risk of flyingi nto warzones and risking sdestruction.
These arks were to serve as habitats for new generations of Draconis, possibly even other aliens if time and fortune were good. A chance for the Draconsi to finally free themselves fro mthe bonds of living eternally on planets at the mercy of cosmic forces. With these arks they could live in completely self-sustained environemnts, safe fro mthe risk of cosmic phenomena thanks in-part to technology.
How Times Change
History moves on, time flows, over the millenia the already ancient Draconid Imperium fades into memory. Stories of advanced draconic beings sighted across the unvierse grew more and more into myth. Since the days of Uriel the Sublime the universe had never been the same. What fragments remained of the old universed continued to twinkle vainly in the infinite. The once-immense universe could never recover from the cataclysms that tore it apart many many times.
The catacylsms did not stop, new and mroe alien threates faced the universe time and again as the millenia passed. THe heroes of old faded into legend and new powers arose. Some out of the ashes or the ruins of the precursors. One of these new powers being the Theian Dominion. As millenia passed, they too rose to prominence, some say they were aided by the immeasurable intelligences left behind by a group of precursors known merely as "The Civilisation". As the dominion prospered, it gathered more powers under its wings, eventualyl reforming itself into a more egalitarian state known only as The Collective. Another successor of the ancient alliances of old, a civilization that stretched from arm-to-arm in this new and different Plazith Rim. The Theian peopel evolved, prospered, developed, eventually improving their bodies with enhancements that improved them beyond baseline possibility. it became normal, common, the machines that made it possible passed down bloodlines, turning a commoddity into another part of what constituted each one oftrillions of cells inside their bodies.
Silicon-carbon DNA and mitocondria, these structures were ancient components, known to Theian bodies before they could talk. Structures that differentiated them from simple bacteria. Both structures once alien. Then though science, Ravoliform was born. Another kind of sub-cellular organ that lingered in cells, extending the potential of their brains. A lifeform alien to all but the Theians themselves. Time passed and the machines were inserted. Tiny constructors that improved the bodies of those it was inserted into. Eventually it became as hereditary as all other "alien" structures within their cells and code, passing on through the loins of both man and woman alike. The commodity became simply "there", owners could generate it, maintain it and pass it on, the idea of purchasing it passed on to memory, it became encoded into their blood, essential, irreversable, unmoveable, but vital ot their evolution.
Small People, Big Universe
There were other superpowers before the Collective however. Distant Borealis, in the time of Uriel the Sublime, saw an end to the crime and piracy that had run rampant after a few millenia of chaos. With the aid of Legendary heroes who put their life o nthe line at its turning point, Borealis changed forever. Originally it saw the return of one legendary precursor, if an individual, but that was enough to change its destiny. As the Draconis became ever more mysterious and as the Theians slowly and gradually began to develop further than simple tools, the Polar Crystal Alliance, the catalyst for this Borealis restoration developed further on it's path to match the Kormacvar precursors the galaxy's had so long admired and derived its technology from. One planet, known to these ancient empires as Macronormus, said to be home to giant beasts and plants as well as minute sapients, saw a new intelligence adopt the planet as its cradle.
Unlike other civilizations before them, these sapients - who referred to themselves as "Mikmik" from some ancient verbal utterance their ancestors made long ago - did not dig tunnels or devour mountains with beasts of steel to sustain themselves. Instead the Mikmik harmonised themselves with their savage environment, in a way as though ants had come to dominate a land of monsters. What these Mikmik had as an advantage were their speed, numbers, and incredible determination to survive. They grew what they needed; food, machines, houses, helped along by the equally biotech-savant Alvino Brood. Conquering the stars in ships of hardened flesh and conduits of nervous tissue. An affinity for such biological mastery unmatched by anyone except for their Alvino mentors themselves.
Long after the ancient Draconis had moved to live in their behemoth hive-ships, these Mikmik, alongside their ancient allies the Mighew settled among the stars and established the Republic of Olimarius, a united civilization of all Mikmik ethnicities. Expanding under the watchful eye of the ever-benevolent Polar Crystal Alliance.
Rumours persisted thoughout expansion that the fabled "gods" of the republic were in fact ancients who visited the planet long ag before the Mikmik had any recorded history. To this day there are artifacts considered the gifts of such gods: A helmet said t once belong to Nái, God of War. A helmet of alien shape, colossal in size and massive in weight, liftable by none except the Mighew and Purple-skin Mikmik. Another artifact was an icon said to have been presented to the primitive Mikmik by Urái, God of Resolution upon the dawn of their civilized history. Precious and beautiful enough to have been envied by Lemmái, God of Wealth. As the curiosity of the Republic's people grew, so did their desire for knowledge and thirst for understanding.
And their desire to lear nmore of their strange origins beyond the artifacts of home.
Alien World, Familiar Feeling
Arriving in orbit over an uncharted planet was a research bioship belonging to the Republic of Olimarius. Following odd energy emissions that were difficult for the republic to decipher, the republic research team were brought to this system following altered infra-red emissivity of the parent star; signs a Dyson structure had been constructed around orbit of the parent star. The team was composed of several Mikmik led by a Red-skin named Miymat. Among the team were various subspecies including Kraoth, a Migehew guard. While there was no sign of any civilized life on the surface or orbit; no transmissions no industrial activity. Their sensors did detect energy pulses travelling from the star to the planet, which while more concentrated than sunlight, were also more focused, akin to a large laser.
Miymat studied the signals by telepathically linking with the bio-ship's detectors. As he did so he was approached by another researcher, who was a white-skin.
Miymat - Interesting signals. We'll be sending a team to the surface to explore the source.
White Mikmik - Are you sure? We don't know what to expect.
Miymat - We have everything prepared. And we'll be taking Kraoth with us. Nothing can stand before a Migehew. But before I go, any sapient life detected on the surface?
White Mikmik - Nothing, but it appeared to have housed sentients in the distant past.
Once reaching a low orbit the energy signature appeared to disperse across the sunlit hemisphere, with one signal stronger than the others. The beam itself was intercepted by an array of constructs that surrounded the planet to create a network, all communicating and all for some reason still transmitting energy to the surface despite no one being around to collect it as far as they could tell. One dispersed signature was noticeably stronger than the others, landing at the heart of what appeared to be one of the larger old settlements. From orbit, images fed though to Miymat and the team indicated these cities had not been inhabited for millennia yet even now it looked as though the ruins were in a stable, if somewhat decayed condition. Perhaps this lack of degredation was a testament to the engineering qualities of the original builders or their successors?
Gathering the away party to explore this abandoned metropolis, A shuttle taking Miymat and his squad slowly made its way to the surface, flying over the settlement and finally landing on a platform that jutted out the side of one of the large skyscraper-like buildings. The shuttle was too large to simply land in the street which appeared to be a further kilometre down. After it landed the team slowly exited the shuttle while being joined at the rear by the Migehew Kraoth. The city itself appeared as a marvel of engineering: Titanic columns of glass framed and trimmed with gold, and within the centre of the city in the far distance the mammoth buildings reached over a kilometre in height. This sight was eough to Instantly make everyone who gazed upon them feel small, funnily enough a feeling reminiscent of their ancient homeworld and the Republic's capital. Perched on walls and corners were fierce-looking dragon heads plated in faded gold. The enormous scale of the city made it feel as though the team were wandering though a canyon range of glass and gold of massive proportions. For the residents of the republic however, such scale was nothing unfamiliar, Kraoth's very existence was proof of this since on the team's homeworld practically everything was gigantic compared to the Mikmik. Miymat looked upward, seeing the tarnished gold gargoyles and looked at them in wonder, their stern expressions sparking memories.
Blue Mikmik - Reminds me a lot of home.
Miyamat - Those statues...everyone, see if you can find an image of the full body of these aliens somewhere.
Everything looked majestic, yet millennia without care and the gold was becoming tarnished with age. Resting nearby to the landing site were a few vehicles, designed for beings larger than the Mikmik and made with sleek and simple designs that were clearly aerodynamic, yet elegant in their own right. Their tops were dominated by large plexiglass windshields that stretched over them, after all these years the bright colours of these vehicles became faded and many cars possessed a layer of dust or dirt that covered their wondshields completely. Upon closer inspection there was no sign of exhausts or wheels on any of them.
Kraoth - Whoever lived here was advanced enough to have wheelless vehicles. You think they are still functional?
Miyamat - We'll check later. For now, concentrate on investigating the place.
Wandering near a door, one of the Mikmik triggered it to open, a brief fizz emanated from it as it slid open, revealing an old interior. The gold environment inside was not as tarnished as outside, but the plaster walls were faded and the velvet carpeting was tattered; a once-brilliant red was now a faded rust colour. Some pink-skins flew inside of the room and collected samples of the carpeting, putting them in small vials. Miymat and his helpers investigated the corridor carefully, wanting desperately not to damage anything if they could help it. What evidence for wood in this place had rotted away, exposing bare metal panels . Exposed from behind the wood, no wires no cables, but there were indentations in the metal, like strips of gloss that appeared to shimmer a little in the light despite their age.
Yellow Mikmik - When do you think this place was abandoned?
Miymat - By the looks of it, hundreds of thousands of years. The big question is, "why" was this place abandoned?
Flanking either side of the corridor were more doors, but unlike the one on the outside these doors were made of now-rotting wood, framed with gold. On some of the more preserved doors were traces of intricate carvings. Each door had on its left side a metal panel that reached from the top to the bottom. The decoration was easier to see on these metal panels: Intricate carvings of snaking dragons and vines covered the surface of each, inlaid with silver and gold.
Yellow Mikmik - The fact there is wood structures standing imply the abandoning was not that long ago...or the aliens were very good at preserving their buildings.
Pink Mikmik - Interesting carvings. I'd put my finger and say these creatures were quite proud. They liked to put their faces in everything.
Further down the corridors were framed pictures. Even after millennia these images were still quite clear. Some depicting exotic landscapes, others portraying bipedal dragonlike-creatures wearing everything from fancy armour to elaborate clothing fit for princes and emperors. The Mikmik team approached the images and scanned them in order to keep a record, as they approached , the subjects seemed to change location as though they were looking through into a small room of some kind rather than looking at a two-dimensional image on a flat plane but lifting up the frames revealed nothing behind. Finding the pictures, the team were content they had found full-body images of the aliens at last.
They all looked upon the figure in one of the the images, curious as to its structure. It's long digitigrade legs, it's large three-toed feet, the sheer bulk of it, the pronounced chest. Proturding from their back were two massive wings, appearing as hands with long bony fingers, connected at the tips by thin terracotta-coloured membranes that stretched between each like the skin of a webbed hand. Looking closely the creatures shared traits with a few of the Mikmik types: The wings they had were vastly different to those of pink-skins as they lacked feathers of any kind. Their skin was covered in tough plating almost like grey-skins, complete with hard, long protruding growths coming out of the backs of their heads, these aliens possessed a roughly similar muscle bulk to the burly purple-skins although over a vastly different skeleton. The heads however looked more fitting for a Routrith than a Mikmik. Each of the team were puzzled, fascinated and curious, so they took pictures as a record.
Miymat - Fascinating...
Kraoth - They look like four-limbed, flying Routriths. But with small heads.
While the research team was looking, a grey Mikmik went in the other direction and investigated one of the doors, opening it as best he could. Pushing the large door aside gave way to a large central room, built for creatures that must have been almost three-to-four times the height of the grey-skin if not taller. Centred in the middle of the room was a fountain, which had long-ago stopped spewing forth the life-liquid it was built to pump upwards. Around it were bookcases, sparsely populated by rounded plastic tablets. Opening the door however disturbed a pack of tiny bipedal lizards that, after generating a panicked hissing scurried away under the remains of giant furnishings
Miymat and the others approached and looked in fascination at the room, marvelling at what the grey-skin had found. They made their way inside being careful where ot step in case they disturbed one of the tiny lizards. Miymat picked up one of the tablets which was resting on a low table, while Kraoth remained vigilant for any more wildlife. In touching it, the tablet illuminated itself, lighting up Miymat's face. Sprawling across it were symbols strikingly familiar to the research team, the words they made however not so much. Several of them could have sworn they had seen words like them before. The tablet itself was quite large, almost as big as Miymat himself. Had he placed it against himself, it would have reached up to his upper torso
Miymat - This text is strangely familiar...have we studied these aliens in the past?
Red Mikmik - Negative, sir.
As Miymat studied the tablet, one of the Slikkids returned, sniffing towards one of the mikmik's legs. Seeing the pest, Kraoth lifted his fist to smash it but Miymat stopped him. Approaching the creature, he crouched to get a good look at the Slikkid's face. The Slikkid tilted it's head and blinked its large eyes looking at Miymat. It began to sniff upwards and made curiosity-fueled spitting noises as it observed Miymat. As it did, Miymat pet the Slikkid's head, showing no fear of it. It continued to sniff, it then crawled to Mimyat's side as if trying to reach one of his supply pouches. Seeing it approach his supply pouches he jerked up.
Miymat - Hey, that's not for you, little guy.
Miymat grabbed the Slikkid by its sides and lifted it up to his eye level. Doing so caused it to narrow its eyes and bare piranha-like teeth within its stubby beak. A pale lizard-like tongue could be seen inside which flecked up inside the beak, pointing between Miymat's eyes as if the small creature was about to stab him there with its tongue. Miymat still showed no fear of it and put it down again. When he did the Slikkid scurried away, a sign that despite the vicious display that Miymat gave, slikkids were cowardly creatures. Once he put it down he turned his attention back to the tablet, racking his brain as to where he had seen the contents before. From the arrangement of the text, the tablet could have been some form of notebook. The script itself was neatly arranged, forming characters that appeared familiar to the MIkmik but he could not for the life of him put his finger on where he had seen the characters before.
Purple Mikmik - It appears to be some sort of notebook. I'm sure no one will mind if we take it back to the lab.
Miymat - If everything in our way are these lizards, probably not, no.
Pink Mikmik - We must take them, ASAP. All of these scripts are strangely familiar.
Something suddenly struck in Miymat's mind. A puzzle piece that only clicked after enough concentration, the familiarity became crystal clear. Perhaps it was the fact they were aliens that his mind refused to believe it was true, yet the connection was staring back at him plain as day, illuminating his face in a soft and pale light.
Miymat - Call em crazy but...it somewhat resembles our alphabet.
Pink Mikmik - That's exactly what I mean.
As they talked, several slikkids ran out of the room. They darted out and ran further down the hall, hissing in urgency as they ran out.
Kraoth - Urgh, vermin everywhere.
Pink Mikmik - Aww, don't say that. They're cute little lizards.
Miymat - Let's take these notebooks and move on.
The energy signal they had detected from orbit converged with an enormous tower in the very heart of the city some two kilometres high. As they wandered though the deserted streets, like mice scurrying through the refuse of the titans that once called this realm home, there was that disturbing feeling they were not alone here. Being a veteren soldier, this unsettled Kraoth who felt the need to alert his companions. He felt more comfortable wandering down this chasm, it was much less claustraphobic than the elegant and dusty room his Mikmik compatriots were exploring and studying.
Kraoth - I feel like we're being watched. Everyone stay close.
Miymat - Indeed, I'm having a strange feeling about all this...
At the foot of the central tower was an open plaza, a sunken area that was away from the urban chasm they travelled though. Dust and moss covered everything, various clumps of foliage had grown out from their confined areas, creating patches of fertility in this largely silver and gold landscape. While the previous occupants had all but disappeared, life remained in this plaza and flourished long after they were gone. The floor was decorated with marble edged with gold and in the centre of the plaza were titanic golden statues of the same dragons wearing impressive and intricate armour. Each one holding greatswords in front of them. In the centre of a plaza was a Draconis looking down, At the base of the statue was a coat of arms that looked exactly like the seal from Mikmik mythology. Miymat ran up to the statue and examined the coat of arms, His eyes were widened in astonishment. he was mesmerised by this monumental discovery and could not for a moment believe his eyes.
Miymat - Is that...no, it can't be. This is Urái's symbol...
Kraoth - The god of prosperity? What?
Miymat - Look at it yourself. It looks exactly the same!
Etched into a plaque underneath, was a name: "Uriel Ultanos". Beside it were markings for the Dracid letter sixteen. The discovery was monumental, the statue itself proof of Urái the Resolute's origins. Standing here as godly a visage as all their scriptures and mythologies had them believe save for the fact Urái was a wingless MIkmik and not an creature whose physiology was completely alien to the Olimariusians.
Miymat - By Hachái the Ultimate...Was Urái one of these aliens?
The Mikmik team was both startled and fascinated by the discovery. Another step on the road to understanding their origins. As Miymat touched the seal with the desire to feel the texture it triggered something. behind them a grainy full-colour hologram appeared of Uriel standing at his full height. While much smaller than the statues, he was still massive to the team save for Kraoth. Adorned on his body was a suit of armour of the purest white, trimmed with gold and covered in busy gold-filled patterns. Miymat fell on his back in shocked surprise, not expecting such a find. But after the initial shock he got up and looked up at the hologram in fascination.
Kraoth - Well, I know we proved Hachái was an alien...but does this mean all of our gods were aliens?
Uriel - Sal-alutation-ns vist-rs.
Miymat titled his head and narrowed his eyes in curiosity. Whatever was generating this hologram had clearly endured the ages as the image showed signs of age. The image was broken up in places and the hologram spoked in a glitched manner, jumping phonetics, stalling occasionally or even missing entire syllables.
Miymat - It must be a welcoming sign of a similar device.
Uriel - Thi-is plaza wa-as dedic-ted to those who ri-ked their lives to sa-ve this gala-y from the threat of ass-ssz-lation by the Borea-s Grox Emp-ire.
Pink Mikmik - It spoke of the Grox. Assimilation threat?
Grey Mikmik - Old logs claim the Grox were hostile before the beginning of the first golden age.
Uriel - I mys-slf was pa--t of that ch-rrge. One of ma-y battles in my lon-nn-g life.
Miymat - Urái was a hero for his people and ours, it seems.
Uriel - I a-am programm--d to an-wer what quest-t-s you may ha--. So pl--e. Ass-- Away.
The entire Mikmik team stood in front of the hologram, their minds whirring intensely in a spark of curioisity. Here stood one of their gods, could they ask anything? Was the hologram still coherent enough to be responsive, was it still able to answer their questions after all these years? All these questions churned inside their minds and many of them were eager to answer. They all gathered around the hologram that looked down at each of them as they gathered in a circle like exited pre-school children. At least the hologram was still in such a state it could recognise where people were and where their faces were.
An Ancient Calling?
The group talked with the hologram of Uriel, they were all fascinated with what knowledge it could have had to impart. However...as they talked with it, the assumption was becoming clearer that time had corrupted its data storage unit as the hologram drew sudden blanks for answers it could have had. Some questions the hologram appeared incapable of answering such as "what were draconis" "how old is the imperium" "how advanced is it" and so on. From deduction, the hologram's primary use was to explain the plaza and the event it was dedicated to. Nothing more, it seemed apart from its knowledge of Uriel's skill in combat, his involvement during and after the battle with Regnatus and the events of the Second Borealis War in general.
What information was provided awed the research team. Even with the information provided by the Polar Crystal Alliance the magnitude of the Second Borealis Galactic War had never been fully conveyed. The information in this plaza however was written by a species known for epic tales and legendary stories. The Mimik were presented with a dramatic portrayal, degraded holograms showing armies of valiant cyborgs squaring off against the gods of time and space themselves. Criminals and mercenaries revelling in unrestrained debauchery. The holograms portrayed well that without the intervention of the forces of Order, the galaxy would have peen plunged within into a maelstrom of turmoil and ruin.
Miymat - The legendary war was much bigger than our records stated. Kraoth - Uraí fought and defeated five gods one after the other...this is some amazing stuff.
More slikkids were gathering in the plaza, nibbling at the overgrown foliage and sniffing around as the holograms danced around them. There was an abrupt shriek as three slikkids were startled by a pair of large doors that opened up by themselves. The central tower had decided to open the way for the squad, opening forth the enormous golden doors to expose its threshold. Hearing the shriek and the creak of the doors, the Mikmik team turned to the doors and walked up to the opening pair, slowly and cautiously. Their minds wondering what invisible force had opened the way. There was a flicker as lighting inside the central spire shone though the door. Inside the detailing was far more opulent than the previous internal area they visited. An obvious display of the vast wealth and power the Imeprium displayed.
Miymat - Looks like we scored again. Check this place for new information you can find.
In entering the hallway, there was a fizz as forcefields materialised in front of all doors save for one at the pack, which opened up invitingly. The interior looked in better condition than the other buildings they had searched. The velvet carpeting was faded but intact and the gilding that decorated the walls, ceiling and floor had a better sheen. In the ceiling was a faded fresco of four galaxies, all four were connected by fluid ethereal lines while the central galaxy - the largest of the quad which resembled a barred - ring, was dominated by a large figurative yellow star within its inner regions near the core
Miymat - Check that door. See what's behind it.
The door led into a small well-lit room, large enough to fit the research team if they huddled save for Kraoth as the room was designed to hold a group of these aliens that Urái belonged to. The doorway itself being only four metres in height. Kraoth looked at the door with his deep-set eyes and huffed sadly as the door was tiny compared to him. His bulk meant that he could not squeeze into the small room.
Kraoth - Urái was too small. Guess I'll have to wait here.
As a team entered the room, the doors shut. Suddenly, they could feel themselves getting lighter as the room descended rapidly downwards. That strange feeling of your guts trying to rise up and push your lungs upwards The Mikmik team appeared startled by the sudden rush, but remained confident as they came to realise the room was an elevator, a common contraption within the Polar Crystal Alliance. The republic of Olimarius even had its own biotechnical versions of the invention. The elevator was almost silent as it descended, a sign that it had been built around frictionless materials. They travelled for a few minutes before their weight began to return to them.
Seconds later, the elevator stopped and the doors opened into a bizarre room floored with an obsidian material that sparkled like a starfield, connected to fluidic silver walls made of a composition too advanced for even the Republic's knowledge. The Mikmik entered the room and looked around, in awe of its beauty. Dancing across the surface of these walls were glowing lines that followed a rigid and mathematical pattern, glowing softly and illuminating the room. Some of these lines formed lines and lines of Dracid text. Some walls were covered in it. The entire room was stranger than any Kormacvar construct or ruin, some of the researchers wondered to themselves if the elevator had in fact taken them to an alternate dimension, or a universe completely alien to their own. The bewilderment began to get frightening to some of them.
Pink Mikmik - What...is this place?
Miymat approached one of the walls and tried to read the text. As he did the letters shifted and reformed into a language more familiar. By approaching the text he could now read it perfectly. The words formed into a timestamped list of activities - primarily the team's journey across the planet starting with arriving in the solar system. Everything the team had done was recorded in exact detail - Their descent trajectory, Miymat's examination of the Slikkid, the route they took through the city and so on. As Miymat read the information, a curious yellow-skin joined him.
Miymat - It appears to be a planet log. Interesting.
Yellow Mikmik - As interesting as it's somewhat unsettling. These logs have been stalking us.
As Miymat studied the text, a white dust cloud swooped into the room. Stopping in front of the group and forming into a luminous white Mikmik dressed in thin silk garb. It looked at each member with a friendly face, but nonetheless startled the research team.
Miymat - What the...
Luminous - Salutations visitors. Do not be startled by my presence, I am here to welcome you.
Miymat - Who are you?
Luminous - My name is Rheesa, I am the caretaker of this facility.
Blue Mikmik - Caretaker, hm? You don't look like one.
Grey Mikmik - Dumb. He doesn't mean the Kormacvar Caretakers. I'm taking this Rheesa is an artificial intelligence.
Rheesa - I have been online for ninety-thousand, four hundred and seventy two orbital cycles, each cycle of which is one-point-seven-one times the orbital cycle of the Homeworld.
Miymat - Perhaps you can answer our questions then. Who were the Draconis?
Rheesa smiled. He had somehow predicted that question.
Rheesa - Draconis, fterosaurus sapiens, are my overseers. They colonised this planet three-hundred-and-sixty thousand Honeworld cycles ago.
Miymat - Homeworld?...Where were they from? I take they were not from Borealis.
Rheesa opened his palm and from it an anatomical hologram of a Draconis appeared within it.
Rheesa - Draconis herald from the Dranvamus galaxy, a barred-ring galaxy over four millionn light-Homeworld-cycles from our present location. Alcanti was their homeworld. It is a terrestrial planet orbiting the main-sequence star of Aldra within Dranvamus' inner-rim. Borealis was not the first galaxy other than Dranvamus that they colonised.
Miymat - Dranvamus?...The name is somewhat familiar.
Pink Mikmik - I think the Alliance co-relates that name with Andromeda.
Rheesa - "Andromeda" is another name, commonly used by lifeforms from the Plazith Rim.
Miymat - How old are these Draconis? Are they still living in Dranvamus?
Rheesa - My awareness of my overseers' activitries in Dranvamus is restricted. Draconis have been spacefaring for over six-hundred-and-fifty-thousand Homeworld cycles.
Miymat - Hmm. How advanced were the Draconis?
Rheesa - Presently? My recollection states that Draconis are presently comparable to the old Kormacvar Empire if not more advanced. The usage of "were" is inaccurate as they are still somewhat active, merely beyond this universe's domain wall. However. From your familiarity with the Dracid primer and your behaviour towards Uriel Ultanos the Sixteenth, you have been imprinted. Come, there is something I have been assigned to show you.
Miymat nodded and the rest of the team approached her. Rheesa led the group into a rotunda further inside the base, adorned with the starfield-like obsidian not just on the floor but also within the domed ceiling. Clapping his hands, Rheesa triggered a mechanism that made the whole room shift, In the blink of an eye, the group were standing on invisible material surrounded in every direction by space. This space was an illusion: They could still breathe, talk and walk normally. If this was a hologram, it was made with considerably advanced technology.
Rheesa - Long before the Draconis rose to become comparable to this galaxy's precursors, they seeded their home galaxy and others with life. Millions of worlds were terraformed and seeded with lifeforms specialised for such environments. Before shedding the need for currency, such an endeavour created an entire commercial industry.
The Mikmik listened, deeply interested in what Rheesa had to say.
Rheesa - For a select few species they imparted a piece of their own culture. A cultural imprint, that would allow the descendants of the imprinted people to be more open to accepting an invitation to join the Draconis vast' empire. In some cases it is possible that they inserted an imprint believing such people could make effective allies or potential successors to their domain. Out of thousands of sapients created and imprinted, hundreds followed the trend, yet none have been comparable to their creators.
Pink Mikmik - Are you saying Urái visited our world to uplift us?
Rheesa - From records no. But it is possible you were imprinted as a chosen successor. "Urái" offered you a token, a seal bearing his crest and his family's motto. From this generosity he became one with your pantheon and provided the foundations for your written language. He prepared you, demonstrating a foresight all my overseers posess. Urái did not visit your homeworld with the sole intent to uplift you, but when he saw your ancestors he believed there was potential. He taught some of your people how to fight, he taugt some of you discipline, it is from this along with demonstrating a determination he is legendary among Draconis for, that you grew to dub him "the Resolute".
Miymat - Fascinating...if this is the case...are all of our gods aliens? We have encountered Hachái and now Urái...we must find the others!
Rheesa - You are correct. But the actions they performed were worthy of celebration. Your ancestors merely saw beings beyond their scope, the conclusion they came to is common with such encounters when such a wide socio-technological gap is encountered between two people. In observing you, I have a gift to offer you. My belief is that you are ready enough to accept such a gift.
Rheesa waved his hand and a data matrix appeared within Miymat's hand. A simple shape that resembled a silver cylinder that was small enough to fit tightly within his grasp.
Miymat - What is this?
Rheesa - You sought to understand the nature of the Draconis, inside is information on their culture during and before the time your ancestors met Urái. I have arranged the data so it may be compatable with your information technology. Inside I have also provided a documented history of Urái up until his passing. I hope it is very useful to you.
Miymat - I'm certain it will be.
Rheesa - I apologise if you were expecting a physical article once posessed by Urái, you are by no means the first to deify him. Were we to hand out personal articles to every culture he influienced, we would quickly run out of articles.
'White Mikmik - Heh. One of our gods is very polular then.
Rheesa - Urái believed that to be remembered was the most righteous incarnation of immortality. It is clear he was not mistaken.
Miymat - I believe we are done here. Let's go back to our ship and analyze this matrix.
Rheesa - Farewell, citizens of the Olimarian republic.
Miymat and his tream returned ot the elvator, several of them still looking about the room as they left. In returning to the surface they were all eager to tell Kraoth what they had found. Several of them sad that he missed getting to see the alien room for himself.
After they left the base, Rheesa - who was still in the rotunda - turned around as a white point light materialised within the entre. He kneeled and lowered her head as a booming voice echoed thoughout the chamber.
??? - Report. Rheesa.
Rheesa - The Olimarians came as your records predicted my lord. I enlightened them and offered them a fragment of our history from when Uriel the Sublime visited their homeworld.
??? - You did well. Rheesa. Continue to observe. The Olimarians show promise and their deviation could lead to catastophe and summerily, your decomission.
Rheesa - I will do what I can, my lord. My judgemnt was they were worthy enough to know of you before your ascension.
??? - Admirable. Maintain your efforts.
THe light faded and Rheesa let out a sigh. He returned into her previous form of a dust cloud and scattered himself thoughout the base. Back on the surface, the Mikmik research team were preparing to leave, but Kraoth was unhappy that one of the pink-skins had managed to catch a slikkid and had brought it on board. The slikkid did not appear to mind being held for the pink-skin was lucky enough to find one of the more docile members of the species. The stuttle returned to the orbiting bioship which relayed the information it had gathered back to civilized space.
As they left the system something happened once they passed the system's Kuiper boundry: The entire star slowly vanished, but since the ship was travelling at FTL away from the star, they could not see it dissapearing, in fact the whole solar system eventually vanished once they returned to interstellar space. A delay system meant that the bioship's FTL sensors did not pick up this change.
The Angel And The Professor
January 5th, 602140 AD
On a single example of the millions of constructs that littered this new Plazith Rim; Constructs that drifted in orbit of solar bodies that acted as the furnaces of energy and material, giving light to the universe, constructs that served as homes for millions, perhaps billions, all under the generous and guiding hand of The Collective. Within this particular construct was a place of learning, of knowledge and wonder. Such places had many names "college", "university", "campus", "academy", to the institution's constructors, such a place was differentiated by the name of "Study Nexus". A simple name, yet evocative of it's purpose as a place of education. Not only did such places cater to young minds, whos empty heads came to be filled with life-enhancing knowledge, but also cater for more senior minds. Who used the resources at the institution's fingertips to further advance the vast archives of knowledge nadi nformation shared thoughout this galactic civilization. This particular study nexus had a generous faculty dedicated to the unearthing of history both ancient and modern, as many of its lecurers and scholars were fascinated by the past, eager to learn more.
In one of hundreds of rooms that served as nodes for the outlet of information, gathered seated in front of a smal lcrowd of perhaps two dozen aliens was an entity of almsot heavenly significance. Standing tall, wearing a respectable and highly expensive suit by Theian equivalents and standards. He appeared vastly more mature and impressive than what his physical appearance was all those centuries ago. For he was one of the ancient legends, a relic of times gone by but a popular relic nonetheless. The outfit was tight, made of a comforting and elegant silken material that portrayed a dynamic and confident air about the wearer. He appeared almost handsome with an adult-face and fairly toned musculature. He was an array of gold and white which felt easy upon the eyes of those within the room. But what stood him out the most was the stuff that the suit did not hide. One hand was covered in white, soft and flowing fur dancing in an undetectable breeze, the other hand was similarly white but shined like the alloys it was made from. Above his neck the fur continued, covering a rounded, animalistic muzzle tipped with two inlets that one could say would ahve been nostrils. Above that his face was dominated by one lustous eye, indistinguishable from mortal eyes yet etherally beautiful, a small pupl rinked by a silver iris. The other eye was a golden orb that glowed softly even in the brightly-lit room, the room itself reflected on the surface if one coudl look past the glow. Topping his head was an untamed mass of gold and white hair that flowed down to his shoulders, broken by two enormous and thick flaps of skin that hung down the back of his head.
This relic, was Hachiman Hin-Sha. Who millenia ago had slain demons in distant galaxies while the creatures that sat in this room today still lived in caves or huts. He was sitting within a History Studies lesson, for he had been called as a guest speaker for a lecture on the third millenium. Hachiman, being a native of that tiem period, was looked at by the two dozen students with intrigue. Some appeared to be paying more attention to him than the lecturer herself, who was talking though a series of holographic images on Andromedan history. The lecturer's presenation was interrupted every 20-30 minutes to draw attention back from the waining students, who appeared mesermised by this tall and powerful figure who sat at the front of the class.
One Theian girl looked twoards Hachiman looking dreamy-eyed. She slumped with a cheeky smile and puckered her lips, returning to giving a broad smile. Seemingly not caring for her lecturer's words.
Teremva - And so we can deduce that from the building style that these buildings on Telassi were built by the Rumidians in the late twenty-sixth century and-- Dradmala what are you doing?
The Theian girl jolted up and looked at the lecturer as other students peered towards her. She slumped in her chair, a crushing embarrasment washed down her face realising she'd been caught. Hachiman, in the state that he was as of the current time, could sense all within the room. He could make out every expression, thought and physical detail of appearance upon the students that sat crowdedly within the room. With one pupil focussed upon the embarassed Theian girl, he gave his trademark smile that seemed to gleam with an invisible light. It was clear from his expression that he enjoyed such receptions of admiration from the people he had come to settle with in his latter years, retiring from his service and allowing for younger, far more fresh individuals to take their chance. But he was not alone in detecting the girls dreamy thoughts For young people of this age, posessing the augmentations the machines provided came at a price: An entire society shared thoughts and ideas like a single mind, transmitting their desires subconsiously though invisible signals. Deception and secrecy could be pulled off in this day and age but not for someone as young as the girl. This connectivity allowed for the lecturer to notice if her students were paying attention or not, it was this ability that allowed her to know when to gain her students attention and to know when to alter the flow of the lecture.
In this society, certain acts of selfishness were akin to self-abuse. Accepting bribes, lying, betrayal, they say doing so was as apinful and as destructive as hurting oneself, thanks to the machines people were would ahve been as aware of community acts as much as they could ahve been aware of the passings of their own bodies. For the girl, being spotted not only drifting off but also flirting with the guest speaker felt as painful as any migraine.
Dradmala - N-nothing professor...
Teremva - Now Dradmala I am more upset about you are lying to me than about you not paying attention to my lecture. You could get a disciplinery for such a combination. Are my lessons dull?
Dradmala - N-no professor it's jut..well. Mr. Hin-Sha... Ma'am.
Hachiman stepped forward with his eyes focussed on Dradmala. He smiled and held his hands behind his back, his hair flowing at the tips as if being animated by some form of soft, gentle breeze that radiated from his aura. Surrounding him was a soft white and golden glow. He looked at her expectantly
Hachiman - Yes, Ms. Dradmala?
Dradmala's forehead began to gloss over. A sign she was nervously perspirating, she opened her mouth and her lip quivered before seh finally had a chance to speak.
Dradmala - Well...you're attractive. Mr. Hin-Sha.
Hachiman gave a short chuckle to Dradmala's statement and gave an obvious wink towards her with no intention or attempt at hiding it, perhaps hoping to make it as obvious as possible as it clearly seemed that way to most in the room.
Hachiman - Then it is a pleasure that we think alike, Ms. Dradmala. However, let us reserve the flirting for after the presentation, shall we? My apologies, Mrs. Teremva. I hope I'm not too much of a distraction from your lecture.
Teremva - I'm more concerned that the good lady tried to disguise her actions. Nonetheless, it seems intrest in my present lecture is waning. Everyone I call a twenty minute break. Mr. Hin-Sha may I see you in my study?
Hachiman - It would be my pleasure, Mrs. Teremva.
Hachiman looked back towards Dradmala and blew a sly kiss to her as other attendants of the lecture began to prepare themselves to leave. Surprisingly, even though it was but a mere gesture, the woman felt something touch her cheek for a second or so which seemingly rejuvenated her supply of physical energy. Afterwards, he turned back towards Teremva and nodded to her as confirmation to proceed onward. Meanwhile the class gathered their paper-thin computers and other accessories and formalyl filed out of the rom, leaving the two adults to head to an office behind a glass door at one side of the room.
The first thing to notice in this cluttered room was that adorning the wall was a galactic map of Andromeda, the words "Draco's Veil" were drawn within an irregular shape that marked out what Hachi would have recognised as being Segmentum Draco at one time. Political dividings had changed, especially in Andromeda. Hachi had watched such progress as time went on, "Segmentum Draco" fading into the annals of histroy while other names too their place, other powers rising in Andromeda. Her office was also scattered with e-books and on her desk was a gilded and gem-set chalice, marked with patterns of exquisite beauty and intricacy. bringing into question if sapient hands really made this or if it was the work of a machine. There were other small ornaments too, each too beautiful for words that adorned shelves and bookcases. These were no Theian crafts, they were coloured with golds and beautiful gems, wheras even the finest of Theian designs were more about patterns and colours beyond the visual medium.
Hanging from one wall was a small painting of a heroic and draconic figure in gold and white gold armour with amber scales, a halo and a billowing red cloak. Clutched i nhis hand was an enormous sword the blade of which appeared to burn with a whitish flame that extended right down the metallic blade. The entire scene was evocative of heroism, the presence of more golds and reds was a clear indicaor this painting was not made by the same species as the scholar that owned it. As Hachiman moved about the room the painting appeared to alter its position, almsot as if the frame were a window into another room that turned its angle so that you were always looking at its subject.
Hachiman raised an eyebrow at the many forms and sources of information that were scattered across the room, as if he was impressed by this intellectual collection of data and intelligence. It was nothing he had not seen before, however. He had probably at some point been involved with half of the events and historical retellings that were depicted and described within these great many books. His eyes were attracted towards the picture that hung from the wall after he had analyzed the other contents of the room several times within just a second of entering without even having to take a glimpse at all the subjects.
Teremva - I hope you don't mind the clutter. I'm something of Draconiphile.
Hachiman - Heh, it would not be the most disturbing of "philes" that I have come into knowledge and contact with.
Teremva - And that's a picture of Uriel ultanos the sixteenth I believe. He was around during your time, yes?
Hachiman - Ah yes, he was. Needless to say, the depiction of his being within that picture is...greatly exaggerated. His recorded feats, however, are an entirely genuine matter.
Teremva walked over to a small disk planted on her desk. It stood as as stark difference, sleek, simple and modern, to the old and worn clutter the schollar had so eagerly filled ehr study room with. She pulled a mug of coffee-like substance from this device, a replicator designed to disperse all manner of food and drink the user equired. and wandered over to Hachiman, sipping from the cup.
Teremva - I can't imagine anyone delivering a crippling blow to a creature imbued with the power of several 5D ultraterrestrials. Not in this day and age at least. Well.
Teremva lazily gestured toward hachiman with a smile. As if almsot forgetting hachiman's reputation ,remembering it at the last minute in a hope to not seem like she didn't have a clue.
Teremva - Then again...history states Uriel the Sixteenth was never as gifted in essence as you.
Hachiman chuckled casually and folded his arms with a warm smile on his face, recalling the days he had encountered the once-living legend that was Uriel Ultanos the Sixteenth, the very epitaph of masculinity, honour and pride for mortal forms all across the plane of existence that they all shared.
Hachiman - If it was anything, it was minimal. He had slain gods without ever even managing to conjure a basic Essence sphere.
Teremva - Were it not for the technology of the day, such things would be as believeable as any fairy-tale. But i'm veering off course a little. Sorry. These Draconis...well they exite me.
Hachiman - Is that so? Heh, you share a passion similar to myself when I was younger. Of course, I will not deny that the "cause" for our excitement is anything but identical. However, I can understand clearly why such a species that possessed such an intricate and detailed culture and society would make anybody's blood run faster.
Teremva put the mug on the desk and sat in her chair, looking up at the galactic map on her wall. She pointed to it looking back to Hachiman, a twinkle of exitement in ehr eye as she spoke with incredible eagerness.
Teremva - Draco's Veil. That is what I want to see for myself. I read that in your day it was their seat of power so who knows what lies hidden within the barrier. Too bad anyone who enters the veil is never heard from again. Well...either that or they find nothing. Seriously an entire region of a galaxy and it's completely vacant
Hachiman - It reminds me of a certain phenomena that my own people, humanity, once told tales of during their days before their ascension to space; the Bermuda Triangle, an expanse of ocean that would condemn those who travelled within, beneath and over it to a mysterious, disastrous demise.
Teremva - Only in this case, people have come out. Thing is, they report not seeing a thing and their flight computers come up completely negative of any findings. It's like there's nothing there I don't get it.
Teremva sighed heavily as she slumped in her chair with defeat. A little off-put by this information.
Hachiman - Hmm, that is certainly bizarre...because there is something there.
Teremva - Is this intuition or do you feel something?
Hachiman - Which answer would make you feel more comfortable?
Teremva let out a pout and threw her arms into the air, a sign that she she was desperate enough to hear anything at this point.
Teremva - An ESP confirmation would be nice.
Hachiman - Then, yes. I feel something. What do you know of the place known as "Minos'Drakon", Mrs. Teremva? Surely you must have read about such a place in your studies.
Teremva - Are you kidding? Minos'Drakon has to be one of the most mighty settlements the Draconis ever built. Not the biggest but by my mentor said they love to publicise it. "The Immortal city". Sounds about right for a settlement that was glassed four, maybe five tiems in its history? And don't get me started on how it was the home of the leaders of the Draconis for millenia or that it was where the charter for the old Andromedan Commonwealth was signed. It certainly had a lot of history with enoughglory to make it the envy of any city...well...ever.
Hachiman - And have your people ever ventured so far into Draco's Veil that they explored such a magnificent city?
Teremva - Truthfully? No. In fact I hear that everywhere perhaps 2000 light years out from the Aldra system is a dead zone. No one's ever come back.
Hachiman - And what would you say if I was to claim, oh I don't know, that I would be willing to lend assistance into such a dangerous exploration? You know, just a simple helping hand in getting there.
Teremva looked at Hachiman with widened eyes, having trouble believing the offer he was making. A smile crept across her face as it lit up. her aura also perking up.
Teremva - You...you really think you can?
Hachiman - I don't 'think' I can, Mrs. Teremva. I 'know' that I can. It would be my little way of repaying you and your people for allowing me to settle within your territory for my retirement. And besides, what sort of master of Dream Energy would I be if I was unable to fulfill one's dreams?
Hachiman chuckled with a reassuring expression on his face, watching every detail of Teremva's face come into place as he spoke.
Teremva - If...If we ever find anything on Alcanti. If it still exists. it would be the find of several lifetimes! I can only imagine the acumen we could achieve for such a discovery and...what's the catch?
Hachiman - Catch? Well, there is no catch. I never ask for repayment for my deeds for seeing people succeed is a reward enough for me to be satisfied. Honestly, there is no such need for repayment.
Teremva - I'm not sure what to say... This is incredible.
Hachiman - Hehe, it would be my pleasure to assist you and your kind in achieving such an incredible discovery. Ah, time goes by so fast...I still remember that one day where me and a friend of mine had shared snacks together within the Immortal City's finest public park. It was what humans would call a "hotdog". Needless to say, the quality was unmatchable.
Teremva - You...you've been in the Immortal CIty? Oh how I envy you Mr. Hin-Sha.
Hachiman - I was granted the fortune to even explore the Imperial Palace upon request from Uriel the Sixteenth himself as a reward for one of my more noticeable deeds in my youth.
Teremva gave Hachi a light-hearted smirk
Teremva - Okay now you're simply torturing me. So...how can we get to Minos'Drakon?
Hachiman smirked at Teremva and tilted his head to the side in a mischevious manner, raising his shoulders as he took the opportunity to fake a casual chuckle to indicate some form of intention. It was clear to Teremva that the deal he was offering was not entirely without a hitch, she could see it in his smile.
Hachiman - Weeeelll, I'm afraid I may need a little reminding. Perhaps letting Ms. Dradmala off the hook for what happened during the lecture may spark my memory once more?
Teremva - You drive a hard bargain but I suppose her actions can be overlooked. In all honesty, half my class were more interested in you than me so she wasn't alone in being distracted.
Hachiman rubbed the back of his head with a chuckle, almost embarassed
Hachiman - Ehehe, well I'll be sure to have a talk with certain ones after the lecture is over in order to prevent such from happening again. Students should always pay attention in class after all, hehe. That aside, I am sure I can get you to at least near Alcanti through a little Dream Energy shielding and spatial manipulation. Although, I cannot come with you directly in person.
Teremva - A shame. I can always bring you back a souvenier.
Hachiman - Ooh, that would be delightful. You know, I could always fill in for your position while you're away exploring Minos'Drakon and fulfilling your dreams. I do have first-hand experience with such topics, after all. And besides, it has been a while since I have officially lectured a class.
Teremva was speechles. Her mouth opened but no words came out. but Hachiman could feel the exitement radiating off her. Before he realised it, she had haer arms wrapped tightly around him in a hug. Her eyes closed and almsot coming ot tears. She was completely overjoyed by the news of this charity.
Teremva - Oh thank you thank you thank you!
Hachiman's face slowly began to radiate with a tone of pinkish red, a sign that he was still capable of blushing despite all the power he had flowing throughout his fur-covered body. He rested his hand on her back and patted gently, smiling with an expression of content on his face.
Hachiman - Never knew lecturing was that exciting to get away from.
Teremva - Wel...I was...well...I wasn't sure if you still wanted to lecture after your contribution to the Adept programme. I was going to cancel classes during my trip but thank you so much for filling in for me.
Hachiman - Hehe, well, without revealing too much, let's just say that the Adept programme provided me with more "benefits" than what was first thought when I undertook it.
Hachiman gave a mischevious smile as he said this, indicating something that was perhaps left without detailed description as of the current moment. It was clear from his expression that something had transpired during the programme that wasn't originally intended, although it wasn't something that provided any real form of threat or harm to its success, perhaps even providing more benefit towards it through providing encouragement of some form or another. After a minute, Teremva let go of Hachiman and brushed herself down and regained her composure. A slight cough escaped her throat.
Teremva - Well...I'd better continue my lecture if you'd liek to join me. Do you mind if I bring a few others along? It would be selfish if I was the only one who was able to see the Immortal City firsthand.
Hachiman - Of course I don't mind, I'm sure there are others who share your aspirations and desire for knowledge concerning the Draconis. It may also be...safer for you to be accompanied as well. Never know what may happen, after all.
Teremva - Of course of course.
Teremva walked over to the door and it slid open as she passed near it. The opaque coloring of it returning to a transparant shade once more. In their time in theroom the glass door had decolouret to a fristed white in order to give them some privacy. As she returned to the room,students were filing back inside and she gestured that she was happy for Hachi to enter the room first. Hachiman nodded with confirmation and stepped forward into the room. Without so much as having to move an eyeball, he saw all the students begin to take their places or enter the room in a massive crowd. He always enjoyed the sight of crowds that were not raving hordes or savage beasts; these were sophisticated, civilized people who had come to study and educate themselves with knowledge. Or at least, most of them anyway as Hachi caught sight of Dradmala and chuckled to himself in his own amusement.
Coffee and Biscuits Anyone?
Hachiman and Teremva had agreed after the lecture to meet at a cafe down the high street of the Study Nexus' home city. It was a bright sunny day and people were wearing comfortable and light summer clothing. T-shirts, shorts, light trousers. everyone was enjoying the sun that day. Teremva ws staring into the abyss, lazily looking out ont othe street at one of the cafe's outside tables. Sitting in front of her, a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. In truth, she was reading a written novel. The words panning up like a telepormpter within her eyes. This sort of thing was normal for Theians, who millennia ago had taken a widespread embrace of trans-sapientism. Adding mechanical and inorganic parts to their bodies. For many Theians their approach was to augment the existing body rather than replace anything. Teremva's eyes were her own but the retinas were not. There was no projection either, the words were merely a computer-generated illusion.
The blur between reality and computer-generated fantasy was so great that most Theians accepted the existence of the two as fact. No one minded, in fact the craze of hidden implants was spreading to other species within the Collective. Linking up the entire society into a vast superconsiousness. Everyone was still self-aware and still free to think what they wish, but those thoughts had an extra layer to them which was the communal sensation. As she read her novel, Hachiman approached towards Teremva's direction, carrying in his hand a plate that held a decorative array of biscuits and related products of similar classification, structured into some form of pyramid-like formation just for Hachiman's own mere enjoyment and creative expression. They appeared to be of expensive taste and appearance, appropriate for Hachiman's own social status and reputation although they were structured in a more childish manner. Hinting at the mentality this anicent being still clung on to. As Hachiman approached, Teremva kept reading, her dulled silver eyeballs staring out into the abyss. But any bystander could tell that whatever was going on inside her head she was enjoying it. A slight smile across her face. Occasionally she would break this gaze to take a sip of her coffee. She didn't seem to aknowledge Hachiman's approach at first, who continued his approach while gaining some attention from the surrounding public for he seemed to be casually eating a biscuit despite the obvious fact that it was being effortlessly suspended within the air without any form of physical assistance. It was as though it was being held by a spare, invisible hand that Hachiman seemed to be manifesting from his aura.
He arrived at Teremva's table and placed his plate of biscuits upon it, taking a seat without so much as laying a finger upon the chair's material, pulling it out with just a passing thought that flew by quickly. He sat down and looked towards Teremva, his golden, sparkling pupils focussing on the dreamy expression upon her face.
Teremva blinked as Hachi sat down and looked at him with a friendly smile. Her mouth was opened slightly, a little surprised by his sudden appearence even though she was waiting for him.
Teremva - Oh-- It's good to see you mr Hin-Sha...m-may I call you Hachiman?
Hachiman - Hehe, I'd prefer if you call me Hachi. The full name relates to a supposed deity that my clan once held in high regard within their mythology. An entity called "Hachiman", the god of war and warriors.
Teremva - I suppose its fitting given your history. Sorry you took me a little by surprise.
Hachiman - That's funny, I seem to taking people by surprise so often that it's becoming ironic.
Teremva - It's nothing serious. I was merely reading. I managed to aquire a copy of Therim Tansquaru's "The Lost Empire" two months ago and it's been sitting in my archive.
Hachiman - Sounds like an interesting read you have there. What is it about, if I may inquire?
Teremva - It's an anthology. Therim Tansquaru spent twenty years of his life gathing information on the Sarimchi Empire's hidden decline. The Sarmichi being lifeforms that - if memory serves - discovered they wre creations of the Draconis quite far into their development.
Hachiman - Sarimchi. I have heard of such lifeforms, I am no stranger to the creations of the Draconis within the latter years of their expanse.
Teremva - The Sarimchi were one of the lesser-documented species that had been seded here in the Milky Way. If I recall, most of the engineered sapients seeded by the Draconid Imperium were in Andromeda.
Hachiman - That is correct. There were a great many who were birthed from the Imperium's loins, although I will admit that none of them managed to really follow within their footsteps.
Teremva - A shame. Even long before they advanced to a level beyond even what our society is now they were so...fascinated with seeding their galaxy with life. They made many bologists quite envious. And I just recieved a message that Queldim and Serin are on their way.
Hachiman - Ah, excellent. Heh, if there's one society I really do not miss was the Zazane. A shame about their decline and extinction, really. They spawned some great heroes who saved Andromeda more than once, but they were pretty stubborn creatures who loved the thought of violence. Although-- they brought up the Cyrodi pretty well considering how well the Cyrodi Union has been doing. The Zazane were close allies of the Draconis, you know.
Teremva - "The great Draconic Alliance" as some of my history students call it.
Hachiman - Indeed, a particularly strong bond was between two men, leaders of their respective empires at the time. Uriel the Sixteenth and Tyraz Breek, the "Angel of Death".
Teremva rested her elbows o nthe table and took another sip of her coffee as a piece of the cake she had broke off fro mthe main slice. She was a psychic herself, most Theians were in fact. However many preferred to keep to the basic practices such as telekinesis and mind-and-body. Teremva wasn't an Adept; select individuals who volunteered to progress their psychic potential further, some wf which were lectured by the man sitting across the table from her.
Hachiman - I suppose you have heard of this Tyraz Breek?
Teremva - Certainly. We've found several hints at his exploits in Draconid ruins all over the galaxy.
Hachiman - What if I told you that I had come into conflict with him in my youth?
Teremva - Well i've heard the stories. If I recall he could transmutate into some demonic version of himself and posessed a sword made of solidified fire that blazed with the intensity of a star.
Hachiman - That's all true. I've seen him take damage that would absolutely obliterate even the most heavily-modified of people yet still carry on. There was a time where he went on to fight with the blade gripped between his jaws.
Teremva - That's...quite insane.
Hachiman - That was his strength; his madness.
Teremva sat back a little, feeling unsettled by what she had learned, a mild gulp was heard from her throat. Hearing of Tyraz breek in such a way, the tihngs he did would dwarf the efforts of even the most determined of soldiers. She could not recall any tale of any man so determined and insane to fight with the grip of a sword cleched tightly within their jaws when his own arms had been torn off. Made more unsettling in that someone like Tyraz could have easily allowed wounds to heal, in fact it was such a healing factor that granted him such endurance. There were even stories of the man engulfing fission and even antimatter warheads, detonating in his insides and producing nothing but a cloud of volatile gas that would escape his jaws.
Teremva had gained one conclusion from imagining the nature of Tyraz's madness: All this extremity, and all this desperation came from a single source: The desire to feel something. She remembered accounds from Zazane archaeological sites, that the "Descended" such as Tyraz were effectively corpses animated with foul energies, some reaching almost godlike levels. No heartbeat, no churning stomach, no tensing of muscles. The only real thing the Descended were said to feel was pain, and she had found account after account of Descended being resorting to pain as a way of reminding themselves they still existed.
Teremva - He...sounds unpleasant.
Hachiman - Ah, he was an okay guy. If his strength wasn't his madness, it was his love. People often labelled him as some sort of "demon" or "murderer", and those may be true, but he was passionate towards those he cared for and would even risk damnation of his existence for them without a second thought.
Teremva - A horror and a hero I guess. Y'know, I never got a real chance to ask but. You say you met Uriel the Sixteenth...what was he like?
Hachiman - It is difficult for me to place such into words, but he had that sort of air around him, you know? The sort of air that made him appear like a godly figure who had been there and done things beyond mortal achievement. He was a nice guy, though. Kind to his people, outgoing, adventurous, forgiving. He was powerful, but not at all tyrannical. He had experience. Of course, when I was younger I never really had the chance to appreciate such qualities. Heh, he had more than a century's worth of experience in whatever fields I was involved in at the time.
Teremva - I undersand now how he manages to live up to the kind of reputation that warranted the picture in my study. I don't believe gods to be undenying all-powerful supernatural beings. For me it's technology or technique. But this Uriel...Maybe he did deserve some...what do people call it..."divinity"? One of my students claims Uriel had been sighted years after his official death. He's not alone but...i'm not sure waht to think. A clone? A meme? A copycat? Who knows.
Hachiman - Perhaps he got his divinity, perhaps he was there when his people grew into what they are now. Beyond us.
Teremva - Well I suppose through this expedition we could always find out. I mean the guy did spend a good deal of time in Minos'Drakon's palace.
As the two of them talked over their light meals, two male Theians wandered casually up to the pair, One was taller and bulkier than the other, although given theians were slight creatures often with raw power coming from physical augmentation than raw muscle power, muscle mass was irellevant for anything other than appearences. They both wore tight-fitting t-shirts, with the smaller one, who went by the name of Serin, wearing baggy silver shorts.
These two however represented how modern technology meant that appearence was all for vanity these days: The muscles clinging to their wiry frames? Enhanced to triple or even quadruple natural strength at least, their summer attire? It mattered not as their bodies were climate-controlled by semi-transparent nanoskin jumpsuits that clung so tight it was a second skin. In fact the clothes weren't even real, they were fabrications of augmented reality software designed to make the wearer look distinct. They could have come along looking like they were dressed in winter coats or they could have wandered about completely naked. It was all in illusion, it may have turned heads but neither preference would feel different in a practical sense. Their boodies were maintained by their nanosuits which for most werers were essentially permenant. They did not stink with perspiration, they did not rot, they were breathable, a "hyper-epidermis" of sorts. Most of them, Teremeva included, were so familiar with theirs that casual wear felt akin to nudity without the social embarrassment born from consience regarding public indecency.
Serin - Enjoying the midday sun with your new fling Teremva?
Teremva looked behind herself in surprise and a broad smile streched acorss her face, her eyes lit up with exitement as she saw her two colleagues approach.
Teremva - Oh please Serin, you know I like guys with silver hair.
Queldim - Then you need to look more closely Ter. The guy's covered head-to-toe! You can't get more appealing than that.
Teremva turned back towards Hachi, her cheeks turning a deep shade of blue out of embarrassment.
Teremva - D-don't mind Serin he's erm...a bit of a joker.
Hachiman chuckled, the very tone of his mirth almost boomed with power, hinting at what lay beneath the charming visage. As he chuckled he looked towards Serin with a smile, standing from his seat as he ate another biscuit that remained suspended within orbit around his muzzle. His fur and hair flowed with a calm breeze yet there was no real wind of any kind here. It was quite probably strands of his fur and hair caught within his aura, suspended just as the biscuit was.
Hachiman - A man after my own heart, it appears.
Queldim looked a the hovering biscuit and let off a brief tutting noice.
Queldim - Show-off.
Serin - Well Teremva talks a lot about you. Although it's either you or that Draconis emperor.
Hachiman - Both are pretty attractive historical figures.
Hachiman gave a sly chuckle as he took another bite out of his biscuit, the crumbs also suspended in midair as if the invisible hand that held the biscuit up was polite enough to not sully the cafe's table with dirty crumbs.
Teremva - Serin and Queldim are both experts on Andromedan history.
'Serin - Yeah but when it comes to Draconis we can't hold a candle to Teremva here. One of the few people who can remember at least twenty dates from each era fo the Imperium without resorting to her library implant.
Hachiman - That's...impressive, if not obsessive. But then again, I cannot really talk.
Serin - Yeah. Teremva's really obsessed with anything remotely Draconid. We find it a little creepy to be honest.
Queldim - Anyway Tel called us saying you had a way of getting deep enough into Draco's Veil to reach the planet Alcanti?
Hachiman - Ah yes, thanks for reminding me. The process involves using a fair bit of Dream Energy and spatial manipulation on my part, although I am afraid I cannot join you directly. I would be able to effectively teleport you near Alcanti at least, although it would be inaccurate to call it "teleportation".
Queldim - So we're going to need a starship?
Hachiman - What, you were expecting me to simply teleport you there at a whim? I'm retired for a reason, you know! Hehe, that aside, I can only just barely remember Alcanti as it was during the last time I visited it. Its orbital position may have changed by a degree by this point in time.
Teremva - Well at least it gives us an orbital base to work from while we're down there. A couple of translocator nodes and a hyperdrive-capable vessel with tactical cloak and we should be fine.
Hachiman - Nothing too big nor complex, just the right size and equipment for an exploration and analysis mission. Also, it makes it easier for me to get you there.
Teremva - I'm sure the university can provide something.
Hachiman - Is your team going to consist of only three people?
Teremva - Well... Selin Queldim and I will be the coordinators but last I checked we've got at least...fifty volunteers? Hachiman - Oh phew! You had me worried for a moment and I haven't been worried for over 150 years. I wish I could lend my direct support but I have to lead Teremva's lectures while she is away, as well as the fact that I would rather leave this discovery to you and your kind.
Serin - Her students are going to love you don't worry.
Hachiman - That's what I'm worried about.
Teremva - Oh i'm sure things will be fine.
Hachiman - It's going to be a repeat of the Adept programme all over again.
Teremva rubbed the back of her neck out of embarrassment, blushing once again. She hand Hachi stood up and walked over to the two men who had met them that day.
Teremva - Yeah...sorry about that.
Hachiman chuckled at Teremva's reaction and placed an arm around her shoulder in a friendly manner, pressing her against his side while he laughed loudly. Teremva responded with a broad smile was she felt her skin press against Hachi's velvet-soft and dancing fur. She suddenly found herself enjoying being in Hachiman's somewhat-ethereal embrace and blushed once again. Hachiman gave a glimpse towards Teremva's silver eyes with his own golden pupils that sparkled and shined almost divinely. His laugh faded into an amused chuckle while a handsome smile crept across his face.
Hachiman - You should be careful out there, take precautions. I don't like hearing my friends being exposed to danger, or not hearing from my friends at all.
Selin - It's not the first time we've ever visited Draconid ruins. Although if Alcanti is as advanced as Teremva suggests, this will be a first.
Hachiman - I'm sure everything will go swimmingly, but please, keep in contact with one another and nobody try to act like a hero out there.
Serin - We promise.
Hachiman - Good. I don't want to see the next generation of great scientists face their demise out there due to carelessness.
Teremva - We'd better prepare the final stages of the journey. Hachi i'll call you when everything is set, okay?
Hachiman gave a nod with a cheeky smile, repositioning himself to stand directly in front of Teremva.
Hachiman - Affirmative, mission control!
Hachiman placed his hands upon Teremva's hips firmly, but not roughly, and smoothed his palms over them for just a moment. It wasn't rough or violent, but rather playful and expressive of his character, like he was letting loose or giving into some sort of childish temptation. He let go shortly after, returning to the plate of biscuits that were laid upon the table behind them.
Teremva had been caught in the moment, hardly remembering a time she felt such energy and warmth. As Hachiman returned to his plate, she walked over with him and picked up the cup of coffee and the plate with the remainder of the cake on it and gave Hachi a friendly wink before walking off with her companions. Hachiman sat and watched as Teremva made her way towards her place of course and destination in order to finish whatever preparations that her and her friends and colleagues had cleverly devised for the journey they were about to confront. Hachiman, however, was not so much focussed on their plans and plotting but more upon something rather evident to him. He had his eyes locked upon Teremva's noticeable rump and a sly smile made its way upon his face, before he bit into his biscuit playfully and leaned back, nodding to himself in satisfaction and content. Externally he was a far cry from the man he was back when the two men they talked about - Tyraz Breek and Uriel the SIxteenth - were still alive and well. Yet in his expression something fro mthat time still lingered, as though no matter hwo old he was he could not let go of such urges.
Not that he would be ashamed of such things.
Expedition Is Green
9th February, 602140 AD
As agreed with Teremva, the day had finally come. Called to the construct's starport, Hachi arrived and waited for his newfound companions within the starport's departures lounge. This station was one of the larger trade hubs of the Collective with ships of all varieties warping in and out, pumping the lifeflood of society like the cells one would find dominating the blood vessels that made up the bodies of many living, breathing beings. Perhaps society could be described as merely a giant living being, such talk ov superorgnisms were not unheard of and in contemplation it made so much sense. The parilament buildings or the palaces of the monarchs were the brain, the nillions of acres of farmland were the intestines, the trade lanes were the arteries and the universities and creative institutions were the higher-functioning mechanisms. The massive industries were an organism's muscles, the numberless habitats were the lungs. The heart? Pehraps the capital city itself, perhaps one of the many thousands of industrial hubs, berhaps society was an organism with multiple hearts. While this is all metaphor, to the internetworked galactic community of the Collective it made complete sense. Though technological evolution they learned t osee their society for the body it was, they learned to see the rot. They could better understand how to repair it and know when a chunk of flesh was lost. If the capital city and the parliament buildings served as the brain, then perhaps the superintelligence formed by trillions of brains communicating with each other and sharig thoughts and ideas was society's consiousness.
To keep descreet, Teremva had chartered a small science frigate. Hachi had proceeded to the loading gantry waiting room where he saw it; its seamless whit shell glistened from the light of the nearby star. Not a single seam or chip lay upon the vessel's surface as though it was a moulded eggshell. A curving organic shape also gave the impression this vessel was shaped or perhaps grown, not built, sculpted like clay by enormous hands. Hachiman looked upon the starport with much intrigue and interest, he had seen such ships being developed and 'grown' during the early years of his retirement from heroic service and allowing others to fill the niche that he created with his bare hands. He had a warm smile on his face, an eager and hopeful expression to display his faith within this undertaking of many great lifetimes. In days gone by he made his home wherever he could, traversing the stars and seeing endless wonder. Ever since he signed up to the Collective's Adept programme he felt mroe at home within its borders, growing attached to the hundreds, perhaps thousands of students he tutored through student-teacher binding and remote holoconfrences. Modern technology meant he could be anywhere but his favourite lessons were with real pupils and not projections of students wh oowere in fact thousands of light-years away. As Hachiman looked about, a presence walked up behind him, a familiar one at that - Teremva paced up in a flightsuit. Something far mroe practical than her normal attire. All but her head was covered in a tight, soft, form-fitting plastic-like material that curved elegently across her body.
Teremva - Adming the view, sailor?
Hachiman turned towards her and pretended to act surprised. In truth, he has been expecting her and allowed his senses that detected that which was beyond standard mortal, baseline perception to alert him of her arrival when necessary. His senses meant that he had detected her the moment she entered the departure lounge but instead he humoured the silver-haired blue-skinned girl that approached him. Upon turning to face the woman, his divine, godly eyes shifted to her face for just a moment but stayed focussed upon the details of her body for a minute at most, examining and observing every curve and rounded aspect to her physiology with much interest - personal interest, to be more precise. He let loose an amused chuckle and stepped forward.
Hachiman - Aye, I was. I looked upon the vastness of space and all those which were destined to traverse it. I looked into the blackness and sight of many stars, bright candles that burn and wither within this bleak expanse. A billion suns, a million vessels that saluted within their celestial light. It was beautiful, one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen...Then, of course, you stepped into the room and changed that.
Teremva's cheeks momentarily flushed a deeper shade of blue as she smiled. A little speechless and completely flattered by the angel's charming demeanor. She had grown incredibly fond of his presence over the past month. Hard to say if it was his charm or his pleasant aura that attracted him or if she was attracted by something deeper, perhaps a sense of kinship or desire.
Teremva - Oh my...are you always this charming?
Hachiman - I could ask the same of you, Mrs. Teremva. Absolutely captivating.
Teremva - You're too kind. I wanted to thank you again for doing this for me and the study nexus.
Hachiman - Heh, it's my pleasure to be able to assist you, your colleagues and the Collective in learning a little more surrounding the relics of the Imperium.
Teremva - I have yet to ask the intricacies of your plan seeing as this is more than a simple personnel telport.
Hachiman approached a little closer and rested a hand at the side of Teremva's shoulder in a reassuring, comforting manner. Throughout the area which he placed his hand upon, there was a sensation that felt delightful, euphoris, good. It was as though a soothing mood had been given form, touched her shoulder and flowed liquid inside it, a pleasant feeling spreading over her body with a plesant liquid sensation.
Hachiman - Well, in full detail, your vessel shall traverse towards the border of the Imperium's former territory. Once there, you and your team shall have to focus very, very hard upon my image within their minds; doing so shall ensure that I can establish a link with with the vessel and its crew thus allowing me to imprint tiny slices of my power upon you. Using these imprints, I will transport you, your crew and the vessel itself as close as I can to Minos'Drakon via transforming your physical forms into a metaphysical state. Once the process is completed, I shall merely have to "remember" Alcanti and you shall physically materialize within Aldra intact, or that's the basic rundown of the act. The imprints are temporary, so you and your crew will be required to initiate the envisioning process close to Imperium territory for it to work effectively.
Teremva - So we head for the border of Draco's Vale, visualise you as best we can and then you will be able to transport us by imparting fragments of your being?
Hachiman - Yes, quite so. Sort of like making a wish really, although this one is guaranteed to come true. Have you ever made a wish before, Mrs. Teremva?
Teremva - Well...
Teremva's gaze veered away, a smile spreaading across her face as she felt Hachiman's energies spread over her shoulder. She appeared to grow slightly shy, the blue in her cheeks returning. Hachiman's hand slowly raised itself from her shoulder, sliding upwards in a tantalizing festival of internal sensual manipulations and malfunctions before perching itself against her cheek, settling softly while the invisible path that the hand's traversal had left behind still felt warm and fantastic. Reality seemed to softly melt around her as her focus was drawn to the impressive and almost heavenly features that made up the rianth's face. That moment, all she wanted i nthe world was to be with him and bathe in that feeling forever.
Hachiman - What did you wish for, Mrs. Teremva?
Teremva - T...T-to see Uriel the Sixteenth in the flesh...It's stupid I know.
Hachiman - Not at all, Mrs. Teremva. It's a wish, it can be as meaninful or ridiculous as you desire it to be. I myself find your wish to be...fitting for such an aspiring, young, attractive adventurer as yourself.
Teremva - Maybe...Ahem, perhaps it is time we meet the crew?
Hachiman chuckled and nodded in confirmation to her query, removing his hand and placing it down by his side. He had teased her enough, at least for the moment that is. He stretched one arm outwards, gesturing Teremva to lead the way. Teremva let out a light cough and led him through the docking port inside the ship. They went through a few sleek corridors as they wandered towards the pilot's core of the ship. Illuminated under shafts of light were tiny particles that could have passed off as dust. Being familiar with Theian technology Hachiman may have rememebred the particles to be nanotechnology, drifting about the halls like cells in blood vesels.
Hachiman - It's pretty. The lights I mean. When I was younger, I'd stare at the dust under lights for many hours on end to myself, mystified by how they swam through the air without ever gaining our attention until it is brought to us. I thought it was always pretty. I know that this is not dust, but the resemblance and nostalgia is still there.
Teremva - Such simple technology is mesmerising to watch, so I get where you are coming from.
The command centre was an unassumng chamber with a single chair at the very centre of the room. Serin and Queldim were also here along with a Theian wearing a similar jumpsuit with blue markings across it.
As Hachiman stepped into the room, he gave a brief nod of acknowledgement towards Serin and Queldim with a smile and looked upon the Theian that he was not so familiar with on such personal levels as the other scholars. The room aslso had a few other pesonnel; scientists, security officers and. They were strangers to him, although unlike the days where he lived in fear of embarassment within the company of strange, unknown company, he welcomed it with an eager grin upon his face.
Teremva - Hachi I would like you to meet Morin. Our pilot along with a few of the expedition.
Hachiman - Hello there! It is a great pleasure to meet you all, I wouldn't have missed this chance for the galaxy.
Morin - A pleasure, Mr. Hin-Sha. Miss Teremva tells us you will be staying behind to take over for her. A shame really I hear you have a history with the Draconis.
Hachiman - Indeed I do, although my knowledge revolving the fine details of their culture and society escape me due to age and my lack of attention towards detail and structure as a child, which was when I last visited the territory of the Imperium.
Teremva - Would you like to speak to the crew at all Hachi?
Hachiman - Hmm, of course! It would be my honour. Is there anybody in particular you think I should familiarize with while we're on board?
Teremva - Perhaps a word of encouragement or a way to remember you? We're going to need it after all.
Hachiman - Ah yes, of course. Been a while since I have made a good speech.
Hachiman took a step forward and placed his arms stretched outwards to his sides. Across the personnel that were onboard the vessel, whatever thoughts they possessed within their minds were mysteriously and quickly discarded, replaced only by a state of conscious that indicated half-sleep, although this only affected those who were not in the room while those who were bore witness to the powerful flowing of his fur and hair, as if a mighty breeze had picked up with the room. His eyes glowed brighter than Teremva had ever seen them glow before, a sight rare to witness from this man in the current age for he had not been the center of absolute attention for a long while. Here was the figure of legent - powerful, celestial, what she could see in him were beyond words, it was as though for this brief moment he had thrown off the trappings of a mundane to reveal his true visage. One remeniscent of tales of gods and angels in ancient cultures although such stories, for a few cultures, was not beyond mere fantasy.
Hachiman - Today is an important day. Today is the day that you shall be remembered and regarded as men and women of legends, of scientific and archaeological significance. Today, you shall take your first steps towards a goal you all share between yourselves. You are to be enlightened and you shall document the fruits of your labour for all to read. Set aside your doubts, cast away whatever feelings of disagreement and regret you possess for they shall only hold you back and time will not wait for any man. You must go forward together, for your dreams and ambitions are one and all. I had a dream, and I fulfilled it! Now it is your turn to do the same! This is your time, this is your hour! The Imperium awaits you, as does all it has to offer! The discoveries grow upon trees, ripe for the picking.
Teremva stood back in awe by what she witnessed, this divine image burned into her mind. She could barely speak as Hachiman's words imprinted themselves into her brain, burning an indellable mark, booming across the room as though every word he sais held a power of its own. The others in the command room did similar and after Hachiman's sppech ended, she stood there frozen in awe, almsot intimidated by him.
Teremva - That...was...inc-incredible.
Hachiman's fur and hair settled with dying gusts of wind until they returned to their usual pattern of levitating ever-so slightly. The angelic fire in his eyes extinguished to the golden sparks that they were before his speech, bringing him back to his more casual appearance as interpretated by Teremva and the other commanders of the ship. He let out a quiet sigh of exhaustion, but his smile never left his face. That grin was always there before and even during the initiation of his speech. The words that etched themselves within the minds of Teremva and the others also rang through the minds of the rest of the personnel who attended whatever business they were doing before Hachiman's unexpected interruption. For them, they felt as if they had lost only a few seconds while in reality they had been idle for several minutes.
Hachiman - Aww, I wouldn't think so. I was never so good at making speeches on the spot. I'm still a rookie at quite a few things, even after 600 millennia.
Teremva - I think that worked.
Morin - By the moons of Thei where did you find this guy!?
Hachiman - Heh, well, I was taking residence within the Collective, Theian territory specifically, for quite a long while before I was formally invited by Teremva to a lecture.
Teremva - He encouraged me to set up this expedition.
Morin's co-officers nodded and headed out of the chamber. Morin himself climbed into a comfortable recliner chair i nthe centre of the room. A thin translucent film covering him like a layer of plastic wrap that clung tightly to his body. The plastic material ascended from his feet and up from his sides, merging over his torso to become a single membrane. With that, a heavier protective casing lowered over the chair.
Hachiman - I also encouraged a nice, fresh, hot dinner upon your return, Mrs. Teremva. ...Oh wait, no I didn't now that I remember. Well, I'm encouraging it now!
Teremva - I will remember best I can Hachiman. We are preparing to travel now. You will always be in our thoughts.
Hachiman - Oh, before I go, one last thing.
Teremva - Hm?
Hachiman stepped forward, placing both hands upon Teremva's hips softly with a caring manner while leaning himself forward. Before Teremva's incredibly advanced and highly developed mind and intellect could register and identify what was occuring at that precise moment within the brief expanse of time, Hachiman had his lips pressed against hers. It was not a forceful embrace, but it was surprising to say the least although due to the explosive array of sensations that followed the act it was incredibly pleasant, bringing Teremva into a dream-like state as Hachiman kissed her. Suspending the kiss for a few seconds, he made sure not to overstay the welcome and withdrew with an expression on his face which displayed an obvious tone of seriousness and concern. Leaving her stuck in the dream-like state. Even as she stood half-dazed his words were still clear as they ever were.
Hachiman - Be careful out there, I do not wish to lose you.
Termva reached out and rested her hand on Hachiman's cheek as he retracted from the kiss, her reflective eyes glassing over, mesmerised by his gestures and his compassion for her. She felt slightly surprised that he was so caring over her considering her age. A mere thirty-four years, her existence was less than epiphemic compared to his. She brushed her hand through his flowing fur, a dreamy smile spreading across her face.
Teremva - I...I will
Serin - Teremva, having fun in dreamland?
Hachiman looked towards Selin and chuckled, his serious expressing vanishing within moments and returning to his standard, friendly face that hosted the heartwarming smile which he had become so renowned for during his time as a saviour before his eventual settling for permanent residence.
Hachiman - If you want Serin, you can be next.
Serin - Thanks for the offer but I'm good.
Hachiman - You sure? I like to make sure that all of the crew are...comfortable, after all.
Serin - No no I don't want to steal Teremva of her lover.
Hachiman - Ah, well that's fine, Serin. You don't seem to be my type, anyway. I much prefer curves over musculature.
Hachi chuckled as a soft blue light was bathed within the ship. Hachi had ridden on THeian ships before, they had a thing for soft blues but in this case he recalled this was an indicator the ship was preparing to set off. He gave a respective nod to the command crew and paced of the ship, a silent but memorable farewell as his pleasant aura lingered for a few seconds within the command room.
After he disembarked, the airlock behind him sealed shut, after leaving the gantry he walked over to a nearby window and watched as the ship drifted away into the blackened and star-filled void to which it sailed though. After clearing the dock it turned its rear to the station, revealing strips of luminescant structure that glowed with a soft sky-blue haze. Watching the departure as he leaned with one arm against the window - a screen so clear it looked as though it were a window with no reflection and no sign of some invisible material that reached form floor ot ceiling - watching as the ship trailed off before vanishing forward into the infinite. With the final sign it had gone, he lifted his arm away and, with that ever-present smile, wlaked over to one of the ships in the departure lounge, licking his kips as he wandered towards a bakery.
Alcanti Here We Come
14th February, 602140 AD
To be a Pilot within the Collective was an incredible experience, one that few could share but many desired. Morin was one such person. While it is true that an A.I. would ahve made a much better pilot, as one that is less prone to error, the desire for the Pilots grew fro mthat instinctive drive to sail between the stars without limitations and boundaries.
Pilots were individuals who underwent a particular breed of enhancement, they were implanted and trained to tolerate the idea of actually being the shisp they piloted. Once inserted into a chair, the consiousness of the individual would be shifted to become one with the starship. The various sensors and detetors became their new eyes noses and ears, it was an unsettling thing as the brain of any sapient is primarily designed to work a body it was familiar with. Pilots underwent months of training, learning to get used to being a very alien form. Starships had no arms, no legs, their internal organs and their very shape felt different. The base senses everyone was endowed with were completely different, it was an immense trial but for those who persevered were regarded as a new breed of person.
THose who endured came to embrace a sensation hardly anyone else could feel, not without copious amounts of nausea alongside it. To sail across the stars as the very container that transported you. Pilots often developed a dual awareness, a second mind that allowed them to remain sane and utilise their alien piloting method. To imagine yourself drifting through space, the absolute inverse of any claustrophobia was indescribable, the stuff of dreams. Being a pilot was perhaps the closest any Theian or lifeform close to them could get to unrestained flight. Unlike other organisma, Pilots wer also aware of the people and cargo they carried. Morin could sense everyone though the ship's internal security systems; Termva taking a rest, Serin in meditation, Queldim looking over his research notes and the fifty-odd other lives that scurried around within Morin's adopted insides. He loved being a pilot, he loved being such a carrier, to travel the stars feeling no container was breathtaking the only thing better that he could think of wa sshedding his body completely, drifting thoguhout the universe as a spirit. No body, no burden, no shell to hold him back.
To be a Pilot, was to submit to the first stages of shedidng who you are yes, but in doing so you became something much more. It was this that made the idea so alluring. Morin had taken the crew fro mthe construct where Hachiman had said farewell and had used wormhole technology to coem close to the border of Draco's veil.
When they were four lightyears form the boundary, as Hachiman had ordered Morin joined his crew. Even as a Pilot he could still imagine and still remember, he pictured Hachiman, focusing his mind, drawing fro mthe ships' computer core the divine image he was given. Everyone else did this, thinking intently wishing his existence into form.
They all felt it, that euphoric feeling. Teremva rememebred it well from Hachiman's touch, she embraced it more tha nthe others that feeling of joy as they all subcinsiously connected themselves to Hachiman in a way indescribable. As his image came into view for each and every one the next stage came in. They all concentrated, made the wish to be taken to ALcanti. For Morin, wishing where he wanted to go was normal, it's how he flew - granted he needed to make that wish based on points of reference but such "wishes" entered a secondary system, cross-referenced the destination with known star-charts and activated the ship's wormhole drive - he disconnected from the propulsion systems and wished, imagined Alcanti as best he could alongside every other crewmember.
After a short while things begam to shift, the Adepts on board felt themselves charged like never before, all other theians could also feel it, that exhilerating and pleasant energy. Morin was exposed to the product of this wishing the most. In front of the ship, vortexes of gold, white and blue spun into view, enveloping the ship. Morin could feel the wniverse rushing past him, the points or nvigation blurring before his senses, the vortex spinning faster and faster before vanishing in a ship-shaking thump. Getting his bearings, Morin fed his sensory data to Teremva though the ship's systems and the Collective's telepathic network; A main-sequence star surrounded by seven planets, three of which were solid planets varying from half of to 1.5 times the size of Alcanti to four massive gas giants. Dividing planets two and three was a ring of debris. Recieving the information she looked up from her notes with a smile.
Teremva - We're here...this is Aldra.
The vessel had arrived not too far from Alcanti. Re-engaging the FTL drives, Morin guided the ship closer to ALcanti to establish a stable orbit. There was an air of exitement spreading among the inhabitants of his body as they approached. Here was ALcanti, seat of the historical Draconid Imperium. They had all heard the stories of spires of gold and glass that stretched for kilometres into the sky, of wide open estates surroudned by gardens and fields as far as the eye could see, the vast archives of knowledge within the enormous cities that peppered its landscape. No one could barely contain their exitement, their feelings telegraphed between them.
Entering into a mid-altitude orbit, Teremva gathered her datapad, survival supplies and some literature, her face beaming with exitement. As their orbit leveled out ot a consistent altitude she was overcome with a screeching pain. Gaining her composire and running ot the command module she pressed the emergency release mechanism for the safety container around the command chair. The ship was bathed in a purple light, whin the Collective this was a sign of crisis. Morin's vital signs were escalating, as the film over him dissolved she roused him to be greeted by a gasping Morin, who screeched and spluttered.
Teremva - Morin what's wrong?
Morin - Burning...I felt burning!
Teremva - Burning?
Morin - Across my body. I felt like the ship was bathed in acid.
Teremva - Acid?
Morin gasped and fell back into the chair, his eyes glassing over. As she tried to tend ho him he grabbed her arm and looked at her with vacant eyes.
Morin - Go... back. Must....go back.
Teremva - Go back? What you you mean go back?
Morin - Go...back! Away!
Teremva - Morin listen to me, what is happening.
Morin - Away! Go back! No place...Go back!
Morin went a pale blue, hus teeth chattered as a siren sounded across the ship. As she tended to Morin, Serin rushed in.
Serin - Teremva the ship's falling apart!
Teremva - What?
Serin - We're losing decks something is eating away at the hull!
Morin - Go back! Shroud comsumes...consumes all!
Serin - What's he talking about?
Teremva - I don't know I pulled him out and he was talking about some burning sensation and going back.
Morin - No belong! Shroud consumes! No place!
Serin - Moons of Thei Teremva he's in shock. We need to get him to the med--
Teremva - In this state? Serin the ship's falling apart and the shielding's doing nothing.
Serin - And you've pulled the pilot out of command!
Teremva - We're in orbit Selin we're not exactly going to crash.
Serin - This is your expedition so what do we do?
Teremva - ...the teleport bays. Our only chance is the planet.
Serin - What about this shroud?
Teremva grated her teeth, realising she had been a complete idiot to Morin's ramblings.
Teremva - Shroud...I rememebr accounts that after the first battle of Alcanti in the early Andromedan Triumvirate War the Imperium deployed a berserker swarm to protect the planet.
Serin - And you think this is what's causing what's happening now...
Teremva - It has to be! But could it really have been active all this time?
Serin - Teremva...the entire ship is DISSOLVING.
Teremva pulled Morin his chair and dragged him out. WIth an inhalation she tensed her muscles, triggering the nanomachines i nher bloodstream to ebhance her strength, giving her the power to carry Morin over her shoulder.
Teremva - Teleport bay. Now. Everyone!
Serin nodded and informed the rest of the crew telepathically before heading down to the bays himself.
As the ship fell apart the three of them took detours. Serin resorted to running along the outer corridors, he noticed thee female scientists running towards him but as they were twelve metres away there was a creak, looking to his right Selin's eyes widened as he realised the bulkhead was weakening. BEfore he had a chance to warn the scientists, the bulkhead broke apart, a violent torrent of air being pulled form the corridor forced him to the side, he reached out as two of the scientists were sucked out instantly, the third he managed to grab his hand but the surrent was immense. As strength-enhancing machines augmented his muscles, he could feel ehr grip slipping. As he pulled her in he heard a "click" and i nthe blink of an eye he was left holding a severed arm. THe forcefield had been degraded by the berskerker swarm and by the time it activated the third scientist was halfway within the hole. The energising forciefield had sliced her in two.
Serin could barely hold back his lunch as he tossed the arm aside and kept running. The loss of such life burned into his mind, made worse in that thnaks to the telepathic connection they shared, he could feel them as they died out i nthe blackness of space. Joined with the burning pain as their bodies were quickly consumed by the berskerker swarm. SUch an image now haunted his mind, he wondered if he could ever sleep with such thoughtts, the price of connectivity was always guilt and empathy, and the pain it spawned when suffering was witnessed.
Less than half the research team had made it to the teleporter bays. Serin saw Teremva tending to a pale and balling Morin. He gave a heavign sigh as he walked up to Queldim, who was working a console. He rested his hand on a panel on the wall, interfacing invisibly with the somputer that was in charge when there was no Pilot at the helm.
Serin - So wehre are we going now?
Queldim - Where else? Minos'Drakon.
Serin - Wait-wait are you sure that's a good idea?
Queldim - Relax, Teremva is certain this "Shroud" is not present on the surface. So long as we're below what we can classify as low orbit altitudes we should be fine.
Serin - Sure?
Queldim - ...Not entirely, but Teremva's convinced.
Serin - Well she best Imperial buff on this voyage.
Queldim - Morin was getting interference when he scanned the surface so hopefully I can get us close as I can to the city.
Serin - Yeah...I'm suddenly suspicious. If we're getting interference i'm more convinced this is a bad idea.
Queldim - Morin's babblings spook you as well?
Serin - Kinda.
Teremva - Gentlemen?
Queldim - Co-ords set Teremva.
Teremva nodded and lifted Morin onto her shoulder, walking him over to the teleporter bay. She comforted him with a few samples of music she mentally transmitted to his mind, along with a few soothing words. As the teleporther activated, ehr eyes widened as the ship began to crack around her, she shook her head in disbelief, she saw QUeldim shouting something but she was too far into the teleportation process to hear it.
In a flash of white light she found herself looking out into a wide expanse of tundra, Morin hadd materialised a few dozen metres fro mher, she could feel his presence. She panicked and waded over to him, kept warm by her skinsuit which, detecting the drop in termperature, generated an insulating barrier. She panicked as the two wer eset upon by a blizzard. Reaching Morin she collapsed into the sknow and held him close.
Teremva - Morin! Morin speak to me!
Morin - Ter....rem...va?
Teremva - Yes! It's me!
Morin - Don't belong...must...go back.
Teremva - I'm sorry i'm so sorry it's too late for that!
Morin - Go...back....must leave.
Teremva - Morin we can't I don't know if the others survived.
Morin - Leave...must...leave.
Morin reached up to touch his hand to her face. He was weak fro mhis ordeal. It was then Teremva realised that whatever happened he had endured mroe than some burning sensation, but what was it? He was too deep into his ramblings to expalin anything. She merely sat there with him in the snow, holding him close to keep warm, worried that i nhis weakness his skinsuit failed.
As she cried, an extension to her skinsuit climbed up her neck and enveloped her head, a transparent film over her face allowed ehr to see. She held Morin's hand tightly, in a few seconds his skinsuit did the same, protecting him fro mthe harshness of the blizzard. She and Morin were alone in the middle of nowhere, wonly their thoughts. For some reason she could not fully explain he could not detect any of the others. Were they dead? missing? caught in mid-teleport? COuld the teleporter hae scattered them? There was no clear answer.
For the first tiem in her life. Teremva felt loneliness and isolation.
Time Does Not Divide Us
There was nothing but black, or what appeared to have been black, as he sat upon his bed, adorned with eons-old armour that had been devoid of update and modification for a time unknown, although it certainly outlasted the lives of semi-primitive, pre-spacefaring sapients. Tyraz' crimson eyes were shut, his physical senses nulled as he focused on the thoughts in his mind; remnants of memories, contemplations about his place, regards for his own future. He had been "alive" for far more than what could be traditionally classed as a millennia, his sense of purpose fading and degrading like ancient ruins of forgotten, lost tribes, although still remaining even if it was little more than just a few clutters of pebbles. He had lost much, but he had not lost all.
Another presence emerged in this room of his. Materialising to sit comfortably on a chair, his ancient friend who outlasted death; it was Uriel, his oldest and dearest friend. So close was he to Tyraz the two considered themselves brothers. Uriel sat in his chair quietly, not saying anything and not wanting to disturb his brother. Tyraz could hardly feel Uriel's presence as he was incapable of doing so, what with Uriel's being existing within a plane that surpassed and dominated over that which Tyraz was connected to. As far as he had known, he was isolated from the rest of the universe, left only with his thoughts for company. Far from him learning to understand this new state, Uriel had grown ever-more elusive. He grew further beyond Tyraz's perception with each passing century, his visual image and voice becoming all that Tyraz could recognise, almost nigh-indistinguishable from a hallucination. Uriel knew this and he did his best to stay kind and comforting, a pleasant smile across his snout and a friendly demeanor enhanced by those glistening emerald eyes of his.
Tyraz slowly opened his tired, reddened eyes as he had indulged enough in the tempting cage of his memories. It was then that he had noticed Uriel taking a seat across the side of the room. As he saw a smile upon Uriel's lips, Tyraz smiled also.
Tyraz - I wish you'd tell me when you do that.
Uriel chuckled and lowered his head.
Uriel - I see mortals having no trouble, then again most mortals re not gifted with the ability to locate another though a mind's eye.
Tyraz - When you're a creature that is supposedly beyond sapient, something that escapes your perception is worth fearing. Besides, mortals do not have much trouble anymore due to the fact that we paved the foundations for them.
Uriel - I understand the basis of the fear of the unknown. I actually worry; if I keep advancing I worry that my image will be the only thing you can comprehend. But only because I let you.
Tyraz - Heh, it only requires your image to pile sticks onto my fire, although I do not wish for a universe without your voice anytime soon.
Uriel - I sometimes miss the days when I was peer to my people. The days I could understand them because I was one of them.
Tyraz - Do you not possess a perfected sense of understanding in your current state?
Uriel - It's not that I don't understand them. How can I put this...they all feel so small. I look at people and the vast majority of what I see in each person is dormant or instinctive.
Tyraz - They are by no means small, Uriel. Look at yourself; you were once mortal and yet you became what you are now. Any individual in the universe has that potential.
Uriel - I understand that but the wording is hard to put down. I look at a person, peer at them but much of what I see is hidden from them. I look at a stranger and I feel like I know more about them than they do of themselves.
Tyraz - Is it not a selective ability? Can you simply choose not to do so?
Uriel - I suppose. But it's not that simple, like I'm choosing to ignore certain facets of a person.
Tyraz - Is that regret I sense?
Uriel's kind demeanor became more serious, guilt now resting on his shoulders, weighing him down. Tyraz was right; he had come so far but in doing so he had left countless others behind.
Uriel - This life is not glamorous. it is incredible, yes, but just as I witness the wondrous, I also witness the catastrophic or the terrible, but that is the nature of balance, and i guess life; light and dark mix to allow reality to exist
Tyraz - If that is the case, then we must focus on the lighter shades of monotonous grey rather than the darker tints that corrupt it.
As the two of them talked, a probe drifted inside Tyraz's bedroom, a sphere of etched silver with a large eye and a smaller eye near the rim. Uriel looked at the probe with curiosity as it bobbed in like a heavy bubble. Tyraz meanwhile looked far from pleased to see it.
Probe - Master Breek there is someone who wishes to see you at the front door.
Uriel - I thought you destroyed that thing?
Tyraz - Self-regenerating materials. Urgh, because building cities appears to be too much hard labour nowadays so they simply grow them with intelligent materials.
Uriel - So...it simply grew back.
Probe - What should I tell the visitor Master Breek?
Tyraz - Urgh, tell them to come in but take their time.
Probe - Of course Master.
The probe drifted back towards the door. Within seconds of it leaving the doorway a draconic figure materialised in the threshold. Vaguely drallivian and wearing a tight silver robe edged in gold that clung to his figure, draped agross his torso was a shawl of deep amber; a colour normally associated with royalty among Draconis. The figure bent down on one knee, lowered it's head and pressed a clenched fist to its chest.
Emissary - Our Throne wishes for your audience, Lord Tyraz.
Tyraz - Can you be a little more specific? Is it urgent?
Emissary - Yes my lord, but her request is too important for my ears apart from the involvement of Alcanti. Uriel - Alcanti!?
Uriel's eyes widened and he jumped out from his chair, looking towards the messenger with a look of distress. The messenger was oblivious to Uriel's distress, in fact as far as both the probe and the messenger were aware, only Tyraz was in the room. Tyraz narrowed his eyes and raised himself from his bed, standing at his full height. He reached above the height of the average Draconis, although his size was miniscule compared to that of the towering messenger when it stood In his present state, the messenger was tall enough to meet Tyraz almost at eye-level, but was still slightly shorter while kneeling like he was. Tyraz' wings opened, indicating a rise in his temper.
Tyraz - I shall be there shortly, I have other matters to conclude before I depart for the Throne's residence.
Messenger - yes my lord. I shall inform her you shall be on your way.
The messenger lifted his fist from his chest and returned to his full height, giving a respective bow to Tyraz before vanishing in a flash of blue light. The probe hovered about, tilting itself with curiosity. Tyraz turned towards the probe and glared in its direction, a snarl raising upon his face as he examined it briefly.
Tyraz - What do you want?
Probe - Nothing Master Breek. I did not mean to offend you.
Tyraz - Then why are you still here?
The probe briskly darted from the room, off to perform some other menial chore it was programmed to do and leaving Tyraz alone in the room.
Uriel - I'm surprised you still keep it around.
Tyraz - It's easier than doing pointless and meaningless tasks and chores myself. Beside, most households have advanced probes such as this to maintain their households due to the complexity of these structures.
Uriel - It may be a simple intelligence but I could still see it's afraid of you when you get stern.
Tyraz - You're not the only one whose presence is enough to disrupt rational logic, hehe.
Uriel - I wouldn't call that fear Irrational, remember Avanti?
Tyraz - Ah yes, Avanti. Fond memories. Highly amusing.
Uriel - You know, I remember I was genuinely chilled when I saw you eat an armed fission missile.
Tyraz - I've eaten worse. Like my own limbs.
Uriel - I wouldn't say that's worse considering it must have been a citybuster-grade explosive.
Tyraz - I've busted more than cities Uriel, heh. I'd say these hands have spilled more blood than any explosive the Imperium has devised.
Uriel - So I understand. And yet since my awakening the act has hardly abated.- Anyway, the messenger said the Throne's summons was urgent so we should not delay.
Tyraz looked at Uriel with a raised brow as he laxed his shoulders, adjusting himself after spending an extended period on his back. Uriel had sat back down in his chair, watching as Tyraz adjusted his body from laying flat to standing upright.
Tyraz - Since when were you so eager to meet the Throne?
Uriel - The throne is...elusive. Even for me.
Tyraz - So you want to investigate her further, am I correct? I shall not deny, I have only met her once before, during her initiation as the Throne. Even then, I was merely there for her coronation.
Uriel - Then it must be an honour to be summoned like this.
Tyraz - It depends on who you are and why she is summoning you. If it requires my summons, then it is most likely a special military operation rather than an exchange of pleasantries.
Uriel nodded, understanding what Tyraz was talking about.
Across the Desert of Ice
16th February 602140 AD
For two days she had been wandering the tundra. For tw odays she carried Morin under her arms, luckily for her his sanity was returning enough to walk on his own. He still babbled about leaving and them having no place, something that still baffled Teremva. What itched at her mind even more was the silence. Back in the Collective she would be surrounded by thousands of unique presences, sometimes millions depending on where she was. Even in the most far-flung expeditions she at least had the presences of the crew she travelled with to feel. She had grow nup with this, the feeling was like being with friends; always there for you, always a mere chat away, but they weren't interfering. They often sat in the background, quietly encouraging you, they didn't need to be there and when yo wanted your privacy you had it, still with the notion they were close by in case things changed.
Here in Alcanti's tundra things were completely different. The only intelligence she could feel the presence of was Morin but it felt faint. Something about this planet isolated her from her own team. Collective technology meant that everyone was subconsciously their own hub, they networked with the people around them, there was little need for satellites or big planetary relay stations when the telepathic signals bounced off every individual, it also meant that the system was reliable; if one node was blocked or malfunctioned, it did not adversely disrupt the entire network.
No signal, no relays, something about this planet had blinded her to her team if they weer still alive. Teremva had never felt this separated before. She could handle being in contact with a dozen intelligences, maybe a little less. But one? She felt lobotomised, as though someone had cut a chunk out of her higher brain functions, leaving a sliver of what it once was.
She continued trekking, she had the decency to pack supplies. The nanoskin she wore could recycle waste nutrients and material and diffuse it back into her skin when needed. Such a primitive idea to dump excess material, what happens if you needed it again? Sweat, the moisture on her breath, the waste air she breathed, the contents of her bladder and even her colon, even the heat from her skin was isolated and stored in wafer-thin pockets, processed and made ready for the needed stuff to be diffused back into the body. Of course, some things really were waste to be dumped. She could live with her nanoskin reprocessing her sweat and breath, but recycling the contents of her bladder and intestinal tract unsettled her a little. It was one of the few things that came to mind so to remedy the situation she commanded her neural implants to play comforting music.
She loved the symphonies composed by the old Draconis. Archaeologists had uncovered them in ruins while merchants uncovered treasures in the common markets of Plazith Rim and Borealis. What helped was a single piece could last for hours; boredom for some sapients when in a concert hall but when this was all she had, she treasured every minute. Somehow she felt more at ease havign her implant store a few dozen several-hours-long tracks as opposed to hundreds of modern albums that would merely last a few minutes. Setting her implants to "shuffle" would mean that a few dozen - ironically the tracks she would have loved most - would loop over and over until she was sick of them.
Surface Positioning Systems were no good out here, there was no point of reference, the satellites in orbit were of alien design and not programmed to understand her locator unit so she had to rely on a compass. A simple device that pointed to the magnetic north wherever you went. This particular compass was designed to calibrate which end of a planet was north using a variety of sensors that measured the position of the local sun, the direction of air currents and given a few hours could estimate if a hemisphere was undergoing a period of summer or winter. It was able to do all of this without orbiting satellites. However other than this Teremva had no way to navigate.
Ancient pre-spacefaring civilizations tended to rely on the stars above them to navigate. Using time and the position of these stars to work out where they would ahve been on a planet's surface. A planet moved and spun, the stars around them not so much, in fact looking stationary from the perspective of species that lived only a century or two. SOme planets were graced with a pole-star; a neighbour star at such a position to a planet that you could extend the line of a planet's axis to that very star. This was all useless information to Teremva however. While she had studied holographic images of Alcanti including its night sky, such recordings were tens if not hundreds of millenia old; fabricated long before the emergence of Drako's Vale so the stars would have shifted position. New stars would have been born, other stars would have died and many would have drifted from their original positions simply by the act of the galaxy rotating.
As much as she had studied the planet, the sky was as alien to her as any random planet she could have found herself on. It would have been impossible to get her bearings as even constellations that ancient Draconis had relied on had shifted in shape.
Greetings My Throne
Teremva continued to travel. She never wanted to leave Morin's immediate side, fearful that losing him might deprive her of the only other intelligence she could feel. They kept moving, they weren't sure where but Morin was of little use. Despite the fact he had seen Alcanti from orbit, the information stored in his mind, he was too mentally damaged to examine it himself. There was nothing but snow and ice, nowhere that felt comfortable and safe.
Another day of wandering. The blizzard slowly let up and that's when she lit up. She could feel something, looking forward she saw a shape in the distance. With little regard for waht it could be she pulled Morin with her as she mustered waht strength she could to fight through the blizzard. She wanted this cycle of loneliness to end so badly. As she got closer she could definitely feel it - an intelligence. When she was five metres away she gave up and collapsed. The figure noticed and walked up to her, holding out its hand. Looking up Teremva instantly recognsied the figure - It was Serin! With euphoria, Teremva grabbed is hand and he pulled her up. She immediately wrapped her arms around him.
Teremva - I thought you were dead!
Serin - Well I could have been. I don't know what happened exactly other than some sort of teleporter malfunction.
Teremva - You think it was the Shroud?
Serin - Possibly possibly...But wasn't it designed to dismantle ships?
Teremva - Yes, but this seems new.
Serin gave Teremva an inquisitive look as she let go. He walked over to Morin and kneeled down.
Serin - Morin, I just need to synchronise.
Morin - No...away! Don't belong!
Serin - Easy. The sooner we can find Minos'Drakon the sooner we can call for help.
Teremva - Serin have you been feeling it too?
Serin - Feeling what?
Teremva - The isolation.
Serin - Oh yeah! Yeah I felt it, I felt like i'd rather stay in this one spot in the tundra and die.
Teremva - What changed your mind?
Serin - I figured there would be some who are tougher than to get lost in the buffer of some translocation malfunction.
Serin reached out and clutched Morin's hands. The former's mind rushed with a blur as he recieved an influx of raw data. The panicked delivery indicated that Morin's mind had indeed been shattered. Wheat there was nothing to indicate for however, waht what caused it in the first place. Serin blinked as the influx felt like a rush of air, making him visibly dizzy. It took a few seconds for his mind to sort the data out and it took him a few minutes to decipher it all save for one file. In trying to access it, Serin bent forward, screaming in pain, overcome with a horror that was all in his mind. Something about that one article strained his composure, he could not bear to consider it without his consciousness screaming in pain. He quickly looked for a new thought to examine. For a few minutes he breathed heavily before he looked up to Morin.
Serin - What the hell Morin!
Morin looked at Serin with guilty eyes before looking away.
Teremva - Serin are you okay?
Serin - I'm fine. I think. Morin's got some kind of malignant thought; could be malware, could be a glitch, I have no idea.
Teremva - W-well you don't seem as badly affected.
Serin - I took a glympse. Thirteen microseconds at most. From Morin's memories he was forced by...something to look inside it for ten straight minutes.
Teremva - In the command module when he began screaming...
Serin - Now we know what broke him.
Teremva - Did you get anything to work out where we are?
Serin - Yeah and I ran it though my visual sensory archives. The edge of Minos'Drakon's basin should be...thirty kilometres to the east. Whach is to Morin's exact right.
Teremva paced about in the snow for a few minutes, thinking over. Her features screwing up in deep thought.
Teremva - The more we look into the ciercumstances the more I wonder if we're not welcome.
Serin - You think!?
Teremva - The Shroud, Morin, the translocation error, trapping us in the tundra, perhaps even the Network isolation. Something's trying to drive us away but we can't do that because our ship is now dust or even part of the Shroud.
Serin - "Go back"
Teremva - Exactly. So we're going to Minos'Drakon.
Serin - Good pla-- wait-what? But you just said--
Teremva - I know I said they wanted to keep us away. They also destroyed out only way of getting off planet so I want answers from whatever just happened.
Serin - You do realise whoever's responsible have melted Morin's sanity.
Teremva - Which is why we need to confront whoever's responsible.
Serin grunted and looked at Teremva, baring his teeth.
Serin - "If" we get back to the Collective I want words with your ancient boyfriend!
Teremva - This was my choice not his.
Serin - Whatever, at least I came prepared.
Serin walked back to where Teremva saw him and pulled a large back to them. Unzipping it in front of Teremva he revealed the bag contained a dozen disks centred on one face by large lenses that covered msot of the 12-milemeter surface. Also inside were small squares of a whitish ahrd material that resembled a cross ebtween leather and plastic. Teremva looked at Selim with complete shock.
Teremva - You brought palm emitters and combat skins to a research expedition?
Serin - A simple "thank you" would be nice right about now. You can thank me for my foresight.
Teremva - Serin i'm not going to raid a site of historical universal significance.
Serin - They're for self-defence alright! Now we'd better hope that others managed to make it int othe city.
Teremva - Urgh fine, i'll play along. At least that mlignant thought you contracted from Morin gave you a nasty shock.
Serin - Ouch, i'm hurt by such a remark.
The Immortal City
It took a day to walk across the tundra that was aid to surround Minos'Drakon. The blizzard appeared to let up as they neared the ridge that formed the limit ot the metropolitan area. Reaching the edge the blizzard cleared enough to see the city in all its glory: At its height, Minos'Drakon was a collosoal metropolis of over two hundred million souls. And perhaps a nother hundred million who visited it every week. Stories of it existed thoughout where the Imperium settled, embelshing it into a veritable city of the gods. Indeed, the reputation of the Draconis prompted many in less advanced societies to percieve it as the very cosmopolitan utopia the Imperium wanted ot to appear.
"Gold and glass" was a common term to describe Draconid architecture. Here the minute team stood, on the precipice ot this very city looking dow non the sea of steel plateaus and glass spires lined with gold material stretching out into the horizon perhaps for a hundred miles. If oen looked closely they could see gardens and massive parks of rust-red foliage. Red being the choice colour of clorophyll on Alcanti. Looking around there was little sign of life, the glass was dulled by countless years of dust, washed only by the occasional rainstorm, the gold material was tarnished and dulled. Some buildings had eve begun collapsing. Creaking and groaning filled the air was though the city strained to keep itself upright. Where once the skies were filled with cars that defied gravity, travelling on roads of air, the city felt empty and barrren. However it occured on occasion that a scientific discovery was nothing you expected and while some had suspected even this metropolis to be largely abandoned, they did not expect the structures in the very heart of the city.
Restingominously like diamonds hanging over a sea jagged of rust were starkly bland momotlithic structures. Basic shapes that appeared as reflective silver obilisks that hung lazily in the sky above the core of the city. Some of these floating monoliths had broken buildings pressing against their underside, the bland ominous structures seemily not caring what they crushed by sitting down. Through telescopic vision provided by their implants, Serin and Teremva noticed alien geometric markings lining the reflective silver. Closer inspection revealed colours withi nthe silver to be flowing like liquid. An imperfect surface that constantly morphed itself for some odd reason. Looking at the edges, they noticed the air warping around the structures. Realising that the currents they saw were not from a shifting imperfection of the surface, but by something that created a constantly-shifting barrier, as though the buildings denied Alcanti's atmosphere ot rest against the mas it did everything else on this ancient world.
What spooked Teremva further was how these monoliths hung in the air. One would have thought that the effort to levitate woudl require it to be constantly shifting to counter the currents of the air. Even the most advanced antigrav technology required micriscopic adjustments, or so she udnerstood. Not these structures. They sat there, weightless, reactionless as though they were surrounded by a medium too viscous to allow them to move. Perhaps this was an effect of the distortions she saw. Geometric patterns aside, there was nothing remarkable about the designs of these structures. They hung like a collection of immobile reflective, patterned, air-distorting silver crystals just above the Immortal City. All their pyramidal tops pointing skyward while a mirror of the top pointed towards - and sometimes into - the city below. Observing further, Teremva saw swarms of chitin-covered objects. No wings or legs, they zipped between and swarmed around the buildings like wingless silver flies. She saw some fly into and out of the city itself.
Serin was more keen on the city itself and adjusted his vision to look into one of the districts below. Scanning around he came across the sigh of something in oen of the parks: It was Queldim, hiding behind an overturned table with three other researchers, all four firing particle beams out fro mtheir palms. Serin noticed to of them wore combat skins. Panning over to seew aht they were firing at, he too saw the "wingless silver flies". Studying, he watched in shock as each of the flies scattered into dust when hit with a particel beam only to reform on the spot. They fired some kind of pressure pulse at Queldim and his researchers, watching in horror as one unarmoured researcher was blasted back and disintegrated by the pulse, their ashes collected by a flier that exploded into a swarm and collected the remains.
Serin turned t oTeremva who was stil lstaring at the monoliths. There mere glance toward her compelled her, even in her mesmerised state, to return magnification to normal and turn ot his partner.
Serin - Queldim's down there in one of the plazas with some of the reseach teams we have to go and help him now!
Teremva - Queldim's alive...
Serin - I can't feel his intelligence but yes he's down i nthe city but I don't knoe who much longer he can last!
Teremva - Wait last?
Serin - Those swarmer aroudn the monoliths, he's under atack by a few of them, i'll transfer what I saw to you but right now he needs us.
Teremva - Right.
Teremva gave a heaving sigh and looked to Serin as if he was about to express "I told you so"
Teremva - Hand me a palm emitter then.
Serin unzipped his bag and took out one of the disks. He tossed it to her and she grabbed it in her palm with the lens ppointing away from her. She made a huff as several wire-thin strips of metal snaked out of the emitter and curled around her fingers and down her arm. The wires integrated themselves with her skinsuit. Clenching her palm she followed Serin as they walked ot the edge of the cliff cautiously followed my Morin. Implanting a rope deep int othe snow, Serin threw aline down to a rooftop that dug into the cliff wall. The three of the mmade their way down it and into Minos'Drako nproper, getting a detailed feel of how decayed this city had become.
Teremva, Morin and Serin ran though the ruins of the abandoned city. When encountering the various causways that divided the city they would pump their legs with strength-enhancing muscle fibres that allowed them to jump many more times further than they could have naturally. The streets were designed to support the footsteps of thousands, the lower level streets were nestled within notches within the causways, their ceilings arching up to meet back with the chasm walls. THe alcoves were currounded with glass and steel edged with gold and aerodynamic skycars sat parked in alloted slots, forever awaiting the return of their presumably now-dceased owners. The entire city looked as though it had once been calmly evacuated. No panic or terror, the only decay was from age and everything that people left behind was either blown out of its former place or still sat there.
The three of them leaped over chasms or darted though narrow pedestrian avenues. THe entire experience felt as though the two of them were traversing a canyon range of artificial materials, the whole scope many times more massive than what Teremva was used to for in the Collective less was more, cities were dense and focused on the vertical not the horizontal and what megaconstructions there were were often the districts themselves. The spacebound settlements she was familiar with living on were designed for maximum comfort and high-rise buildings were rare. She felt a strange sense of vertigo looking around as though deep in her mind the former inhabitants of this city were colossi, far larger than virtually all beings she was familiar with. But this illusion was questioned with the doors she passed, four or five metres high for the most part. Giants yet but still minute in the bigger picture. Her heart sank as she wondered if it was possible to study this place in detail when the rest of her team were in so much peril. Worse, she rememebred seeing Queldim but could not feel him in this canyon. There was no question that the buildings were blocking her signals, this city was designed to negate the interferance form such megactructures in order of a city this scale to simply survive. What was blocking her fro mthe collective mind, the floating prisms perhaps?
The trio arrived in the plaza, to their horror, two more of Queldim's team had been killed, their lives snuffed out by these probes. Up close they appeared to hum as they hung in the air with a similar indifference to physics as the prisms she saw earlier. The two drones darted about, the polar sun glinting off their silver carapaces, their eyes luminous and yellow as sulphur. Queldim was hiding behind an overturned table when he looked to see Serin and Queldim, his eyes widening. He threw his hand as if to signal them to get back. The drones hovered around, the low hum permeating the plaza's confines as they drifted to look for Queldim. Taking several deep breaths, Queldim looked to the there of them and without warning appeared to dissolve into nothing. This close Teremva could finally sense him. He wasn't dead, merely invisible. She felt him getting closer, the drone screeched and turned to where Quieldim was stalking, he was trying to get to the trio. He dived as it fired another blast fro mits cannons, obliterating a set of tables. It let out a hiss as it searched, Teremva and Serin felt something tug them and morin followed as they were pushed though the door of a nearby house. Queldim slammed the door as he materialised back into view, panting, his face pale with fear.
Queldim - Damanable thing's unstoppable...
Serin - Your emitter didn't work?
Queldim - Nope, every attempt the things disintegrated themselves and reformed after the shot had passed. I think they're soem kind of utility fog.
Tremva - The only way we could known you had camoflaged yourself was the Network yet that drone looked at you as if you were'nt--
Queldim - Yeah I got that. These drones are far more advanced than anything the COllective or its allies have. Serin - Why hunt you though?
Morin - Don't belong.
Teremva - That answers our question.
Queldim - Can someone remind me what happened with Morin?
Serin - He was infected with some malignant message that managed to throw him into immsense shock. I tried looking but my implants couldn't handle the malignant sensation.
Queldim - Information shouldn't do that unless it is a virus.
Serin - That's waht it felt like, but no virus we've ever seen before.
Queldim pressehd is face to the wall, using ugmented vision to look out int othe plaza. The drones turned to each other before they drifted away together, up into the sky and far fro mthem.
Queldim - Okay, we're clear.
Serin - And if they come back?
Queldim - Have someone on lookout.
The four of them cautiously walked out the door and progressed back out int othe plaza. They felt uneasy, worried about the drones coming back. The plaza was a marble triangle divided into three smaller grass triangles by pathways or marble. At each point on the triangle were statues ccarved from solid marble and trimmed with the purest gold, each statue some ten metres tall.
The first statue was a Radeon woman, fibrously thin with a black-marble tone to her explosed body parts, pronounced breasts dressed in a long flowing yet simple robe marked everywhere with Radessic inscriptions inlaid with gold. She posessed long flowing snow-white hair that appeared animated yet frozen, adorning her head was a beautiful crown consisting of a headband and mock fabric protrayed in marble, inlaid with an enormous purple gem. She stood with her eyes half-closed but revealing two large amethyst crystals, her arms open and her hands spread out with the palms inlaid with glistening purple crystals. A long ratlike tail curling playfully around the lower half of her robe. Inscribed in Dracid at the base: "Clericarch Iovera Eloania of the Divinarium. She bore the glue to unite our galaxy and with it, the Commonwealth was born."
To her left, a Zazane of well-defined musculature adorned with fierce-looking armour. Unlike the Radeon both his armour and body made from back marble and inlaid with gold and rubies. The Zazane stood fiercely, a long flowing cloak of marble was draped down the back of his body and parting to make way for two large bat-like wings that opened to enshroud him but open enough to display his intricately-carved breastplate and shoulderpads. His eyes were inlaid with to enormous rubies. Gripped in his right hand by his side, an obsidian greatsword studded with rubies that was almost as tall as he was. At the base of his statue was another inscription: "Lord-Councillor Tyraz Breek of the Brood of War. In his hands was the very might of a unified galaxy. His fury nightmarish, his determination unshakable."
To his left, and to the Iovara statue's right was a Draconis adorned with armour of the purest white marble. Like the Zazane his back was also draped in a long flowing cloak. The upper half of his head and the muscle fibre-like gaps between his armour were decorated with black marble. Set into his eye sockets were two large emeralds and many mroe gems adorned his pure-white gold detailed armour, further inlaid with dancing patterns of gold. Held in front of his stomach and with the tip standing on the base of he plinth was a greatsword with the handle fully plated in gold. The grip that could be seen between his two armoured hands was studied with many rubies. HIs wings were opened into a protective and sheltering degree. More ope nthan Tyraz's but they were not open enough to be at their full span. At the base of the statue was a third inscription: "Paragavatus Uriel Ultanos of the Draconid Imperium. His resolve was the brightest light in the darkest of days, for he showed us that even gods can be humbled."
Teremva looked at the three statues with her mouth dropped to its fullest extent, she found herself spiralling between the three statues. Meeting in the centre of the plaza was a dais of a knot that constructed three arrows. Each arrow pointed to one of the statues. QUeldim, Serin and Mori nwere also impressed.
Serin - I'll be sectioned. I think this plaza was dedicated to the founders of the Andromedan Galactic Commonwealth.
Teremva- Isn't it incredible!
Serin - I'll admit, almost getting vapourised was worth it to see this place. It must have been quite an attraction in the old days.
Queldim - Look at the marble. Whoever sent those drones wanted to maintain this place as it's still beautiful and well-tended.
Teremva - ...Like they wanted to stop time over this place.
Serin - I guess our tormentors aren't all mosntrous. They had enough nostalgia to kee phtis place maintained.
Teremva - FInd a ontrol panel. Places like this often had holograms to expalin the significance of places like this using a local matrix.
Queldim pressed a hand against one of the statures. He smiled as he interfaced with the plaza's data archive and downloaded the information into a storage unit built within his body.
Queldim - Okay i've downloaded what I can. Do you three have enough recording footage for us to construct a holographic reconstruction back in the Collective?
Serin - Almost...okay, cross referencing with the others we have enough. We'd better leave before the drones come back.
Teremva tared one more at the statue of Uriel, she reached out to touch the inscription, brushing her hand over the engravings and sighting. She looked back up ot the goliath statue. A tear formed down her cheek as she for a few seconds blocked out other external imputs, eventually she was kicked back into reality when Serin talked to her over the Network.
Serin - Teremva? I know you're enjoying the sight but we need to go.
Teremva - Hm? Oh...sorry. I just wanted one last experience.
Serin - Sorry. I know seeing the guy is your dream but we have more pressing concerns.
Teremva - Lust a little...okay. I'm finished.
Teremva lifted her hand form the statue and paced over to Serin with a sigh. THe four of them headed down an ajoining street hoping to avoid the reappearence of more drones. Teremva took one last glympse at the plaza as they left, feeling heartbroken to leave it as she did.
The four of them pressed on through the city. As they walked, quietly worried of what could come at them they looked around to admire the empty shell that was the Immortal City; a city where at one time was the heart of Andromeda. This hallowed importance drove some to wonder what happened in this city to drive out all residents save for these drones.
Their curiosity was shattered as the unmistakable hum of a flying drone turned a corner, Upon seeing the group it let out a shriek and out of panic the team ducked for a nearby alleyway. It was only just large enough to fit the drone, which dissolved and reconstructed to slim itself to fit through. The group ran, their hearts racing as the drone fired blasts of energy that obliterated anything it hit, including carving chunks out of walls. Seeing a dead end, Serin pumped his legs and leaped at the wall, he then hopped to a perpendicular wall and hoped to the other side, another leap sent him over the dead-end wall. Seeing his acrobatics, Develani and the others did the same except for Morin who turned around and panicked, jabbering frantically was the drone approached him. Its eyeless body hovered in front of him as it let out threatening ciceda-like chirping. He continued to blubber and mutter as it loomed closer in.
At that moment the drone broke apart, reforming around Morin, the cloud of dust dancing around him, resconstructing around him as he was lifted into the air. Pressed inward he was sealed inside a silver coffin that flew away. Teremva screamed in mourning as the drone flew away. She used her last oppertunity to leap from the wall and managed to grab the edge of the drone, climbing over it as it tried to dislodge her by reforming itself. As she rested on top she punched at the silver chitin-like shell, her eyes filling with glinting silver tears as she hammered away with all ehr strength. The drone flew upwards and higher, with enough force she made a minute crack in the shell, driving her further to open it up. She looked up and saw two more drones approaching. She had no choice; she had to jump from her drone and ducked inside the ajar door of a nearby rooftop.
As she entered she slammed the door behind her, her only comfort being that as she tried to crack the chitin she could still sense Morin was alive, his entombment hadn't killed him. With a tear-filled sigh she descended the stairway, travelling through gilded corridors of gold and velvet, her curiosity drove her deeper inside. One door was unlike the others' it was heavy and layered in brass with a security console next to it.
Teremva remembered the security features she had learned to recognise with Draconid systems. She rested her hand over the display, allowing micrometre-thick wires to extend from her fingertips and interface with the door. She decoded the console in her mind, cross-referencing and doing her best to avoid firewalls and pitfalls to eventually crack the code. A clank marked her success and she pushed the door open, squeezing inside hoping she wasn't seen.
She found herself inside a laboratory of sorts. It was clean, sleek but like everything crafted within the imperium; elegant. She wandered around, this facility designed for beings inevitably taller than she was, noticeably so. She saw centrifuges, injectors, terminals and transparent containers marked with precipitate; the presence of liquid now gone. She continued to walk through, looking around and slightly unnerved by what could have been going on inside this laboratory. Finding a console she pressed her hand against the screen, making more connections and hunting through the dormant system to find out whatever she could.
Her interfacing was met with hundreds of reports and experiments, each one meticulously marked and recorded in some form of Low Dracid; a tongue millennia old. Languages evolve and change, new words new meanings new syntax but always Low Dracid was associated as the trade language of the Draconid Imperium, the tongue of commoners, the less pedigree cousin of High Dracid, which had always been the exclusive language of the Draconis themselves. She identified the logs to date to around the AD 2700s give-or-take a few centuries. Low and high could be easily recognised as Low was less pedantic, more homonyms, simpler syntax, a more universal kind of language. Teremva was an expert at this language as it cropped up everywhere there had been Draconis. Low Dracid also had countless derivatives in languages across the gigaquadrant, a sign of the Draconis' influential extent. Some wondered if even Thalidi - the language used by Theians themselves - had some Dracid influences.
These logs were genetic records but Teremva was no biologist, she only knew as much as any citizen knew of genetics; the building block of living beings, the blueprint of life. Every living thing in the universe had some form of genetic code, recurring sequences of chemicals locked up in polymer strands that when extended to their full length could be longer than the bodies that contained them, all bundled up into structures micrometres in size. With the right understanding, these codses could be replicated, copied into a different biochemical medium or created from scratch. There was some supernatural wonder how such a sequence could code for absolutely everything; height, weight, pigmentation, eye colour, hair length, build, muscle mass and so on. Genes somehow coded for everything yet to the untrained eye reading these genes in order to make a body was little-to-no different to building a solid 3D model using only its binary foundation, mere numbers that - through means beyond understanding to most - dictated the location of every cell, every fibre, every protein. it is no wonder that early civilizations believed their species were sculpted by some hand via means beyond their meagre understanding, it was so much easier to understand than the truth.
Yet. For some species, they were not entirely wrong. Yes, the idea such creatures were hand-sculpted was a fallacy. But some species did indeed have a designer, a creator, a seeder. Some forms of lifeform creation allowed creators to literally mould their ideal creation like clay in a simulation, which computers would then read and translate into a genetic blueprint. This was science, but sometimes science came across as more bizaare or frightening as any supernatural horror story.
Hunting through masses of data, Teremva discovered one blueprint on record. The accompanying diagram made her beam with glee - it was the blueprint for a Draconis, more specifically a Revelations-era one, stored for eternity in digital form. She thus wasted no time copying the blueprint to store in her cranial memory banks. Not only was this computer technology slightly behind waht was avilable in the Collective, the condensed data was not an enormous file and quickly transferred in less than five seconds. it was conveniently stored via what technologists called "holographic data storage", which stored information in not two but three dimensions, multiplying the amout of data that could be stored by three orders of magnitude, perhaps more. Teremva's cranial data banks used similar technology allowing her to store this information and still have plenty of room left. Not wanting to lose this oppertunity, Teremva transferred other files to store - other species, other records, she even managed to find researchers' logs on their progress towards whatever they were doing here.
With a feeling of intense satisfaction spreading across her face, the feeling that after days of hell she had made progress in her dream. The euphoria of finding the gilded treasure after enduring utter nightmare washed over her. She paced towards the door to the lab, the door she entered earlier looking for sanctuary. The hallway was fortunately clear, it appeared the drones did not give chase, but why they had not was unclear. There was another problem however, in her panic to save Morin she had inevitably gotten lost, she had no idea where Serin and Queldim were or if they had noticed she had dissapeared. Her only hope was they would try to find her, perhaps following the drone to some extent. Thinking about it turned her mind back to Morin, bringing pain with it; washe alright? where was he going? What did the drone want? Why pick him?
Teremva believed her best bet was not to think about it until she was reuinted with her allies.
Teremva was alone after her attempt to save Morin. She was exhausted from sprinting, running from predatory drones. For now it appeared the building she found herself in was safe. While there were no silver drones in the halls, Teremva could not halp but feel as though she was being observed with no sign of who was observing her. She kept wary, her mind num as whatever was silencing the Network was disturbing her. She felt even more lonely thn before, she was too far away from Serin and Queldim to feel them and she could not feel Morin's presence ever since he was incased in the alien flier.
She felt more alone than ever, she had never felt so isolated before. From the most basic of pack animals to the most close-knit of sapient communities, one could always feel close, a supernatural connection between members of a comunity, a group, a family. The Theian people and other members of the Collective shared a heightened version of this, enhanced by technology. This enhancement came at a price; centuries of adaptation and dependance on the mind-enhancing technology the enhancement became normal, the idea that one could not sense others in the collective was unthinkable. Teremva felt almost lobotomised, cut off from a sensation she had felt all her life. All she had were her thoughts and the memory banks that had been constructed within her brain before she was born.
All night she felt uneasy, that paranoid feeling dominating her that night. She had only slept for a couple of hours and now that feeling was stopping her from sleeping. She narrowed her eyes, seeing three giant shapes in her peripheral vision. Trying to lok towards them they shifted, always out of direct sight. This only made her more uneasy. She curled up out of a sense of wanting to protect herself, deciding that rather than looking she kept her eyes off the entities that appeared to watc hher in shadow but it was to no avail. No matter how tightly she shut her eyes she could still feel them, while she was no longer on her own she was surrounded by uncaring perhaps malevolent entities whos' minds she could barely feel. Far from being disconnected, the minds that watch felt so great that the were on the verge of what she could percieve. Far from dispelling the feelings of looneliness, this only made her feel more isolated. Her only fellows had unknown perhap sinsiter motives.
But the minds were there, these shadows were not mre figments or perhaps they were? Perhaps they were a trick of her mind to save her from the insanity born from loneliness. It was a thing of irony, insanity. Perhaps one of the most widespread and damaging of mental affectations, was in principle a defence mechanism. When exposed to what the mind could not handle, it created barriers to protect the mind but in doing so externally damaged it further. None more true than the condition of post traumatic stress disorder, while not by default a form of insanity sometimes bordered the line. Instability, irrational fear, paranoia, hallmarks of a deconstructing mind.
Teremva could feel it, these very beings challenging what she knew, assailing her psyche in a way that no augmentation could protect her. She could feel it gnawing, the whispers telling her to give in, to embrace the degredation. But she knew better, for insanity was as destructive as it was protective which bordered the question: What would be the result if this defence mechanism did not exist?
These thoughts plagued her mind throughout the night, something in the hallowed city blinding her to her friends and preventing her from seeking solace with her colleagues through the Network. Why torment her, why isolate her, taking a brief glympse she could have sworn three amber spheres arranged in a sky-pointing triangle had flashed before her within the "head" of one of these spectres.
But with all cycles, night becomes day and so day came, the sun rising beyond her sight. As with many horrors, the morning light banished the darkness and the terror but with it came a certainty; Minos'Drakon was no longer a place for the hermit, the single explorer or the lone wanderer. Loneliness brought with it danger and paranoia which gave Teremva a tough choice: Should she wait for her co-explorers to find her or leave the confines of this haunted apartment to find them herself?
Sucking in her gut, Teremva dismounted the bed and briskly made her way to the door. For a brief moment, she thought she could see the three-eyed figure in the corner of her eye which prompted her to leave the unit even more quickly.
Back in the city, Serin and Queldim prowled the empty streets in search of their lost companion. Serin was in front of the pair ,using his eyes to scout the city in front of him, after a few days the city was blurring together, the walls and spires becoming homogenous as they lost themselves inside the titanic metropolis
Serin - Damnit I lost her.
Queldim - Why's she do that!? Had she lots her mind?
Serin - I don't know, first I lose sens of Morin now this!
Queldim - Maybe it was for the best we left him
Serin - What?
Serin pushed Queldim up against the wall, his hand pressing against Queldim's torso. The collision was followed by a clatter from Queldim's equipment bag while Serin looked at his friend and scowled.
Serin - Why would you even think something so insane?
Queldim - You only had to be near him to know he was losing his mind!
Serin - Is that it? One guy loses his senses and you just...leave him behind?
Queldim - You saw what was inside his head, you saw what these...thing did to him!
Serin - For a brief sec--
Queldim - Not the point. The poor man had it for a prolonged time it was breaking his mind.
Serin - You want us to descend to mercy killings? Snap out of it Queldim we're researchers not soldiers!
Queldim - Not the point!
Queldim delivered a strong kick to Serin's stomach, sending him stagering backwards. Serin looked at Queldim with confusion.
Serin - What on Thei is wrong with you!
Queldim - Me? Morin would have only slowed us down!
Serin - And Teremva? Are you just going ot leave her too?
Queldim - You know I wouldn't.
Serin - But you'd leave Morin to die because he's unstable.
Queldim - He was slowing us down, his fault he got englulfed.
Serin clenched his fists and threw a fist to the side of QUeldim's head, queldim blocked with his forearm and launched his knee into Serin's gut. The blow caued Serin to wheeze and hunch over. Queldim saw his oppertunity and hit Serin in the side of the head, ending him crashing to the floor.
Queldim - You're starting to sound like Teremva, we're all that's left Serin.
Serin - So we save who we can!
Queldim - Not when it threatens the safety of the rest of the group!
Serin - ...What are you talking about!
Queldim - I...don't know.
Queldim opened his hands with a twitch, gasping. He then looked at his hands before looking at Serin who had recieved a large purple bruise on the side of his face. He stepped forward and reached down to help Serin to his feet.
Queldim - Serin i'm sorry--
Serin - It's fine I ca nget up on my own.
Serin lifted himself up, plating a hand firm on the ground and pushed himself up and onto his feet. He sluched his shoulders and looked at Queldim wih a solemn frown before turning to look behind himself. His solemn expression becoming a strained squint.
Serin - Did you see something?
Queldim - No. Why, did you?
Serin - I thought I did...
Queldim - Where now though?
Serin - Hrmm, the drone headed south-west, any landmarks around there?
Queldim - Well if the map file I have is correct there should be an old shopping precinct.
Serin - Perfect, I could do with a new shirt.
Serin chuckled and lifted his hand to pat Queldim on the shoulder, before he did he stopped and lifted his hand a little away, feigning apology. Queldim gave him an knowledging look, a slight but weary smile, a slight noise of appreciacion escaping between his lips. As the two of them set out to walk towards the shopping precinct, Serin looked backwards and, for a brief second, thought he could see a vaguely humannoid shadow with three spots of light on the "head", forming a triangle. Something about the slympse caused Serin to shudder as he turned back around. He kept quiet to Queldim, subcosiously hoping that he wasn't slowly becoming crazy like Morin.
Centre Of Commerce
Serin and Queldim continued to wander though the empty city. The megalithicial scale of it bewildering as preserved spires of glass and gold rose high into the sky. Unused skycars lined the sides of the road. After several hours of walking the pair of them approached a gaping entrance way, lined with an arch plated in gold pillars and a brass-framed glass canopy. Detailing the golden pillars were highlights of white marble on the capitals with spiraling white marble detailing on the bodies. The entrance was large enough for giants, let alone Draconis, leading into a wide open material space watched benevolently by a holographic sky splayed across the ceiling.
The two scientists spun around with amazement and curiosity, this building a palace to the commercial might the Imperium once possessed. Their minds overflowed with mental depictions of entire crowds of aliens filling the cavernous hallway, browsing shops, meeting friends and family, even when the Imperium had long-ago abandoned the essential "need" for a single currency places like this were still focal points of society. Serin looked about, seeing rows of alcoves that would have once been shops, businesses, perhaps offices or exchange booths, the lifeblood of a consumer economy. Several in Minos'Drakon's history also served as memorials, this one for instance had a statue of a Drallivian, or at least, that's what it could have been; closer inspection and they saw Draconis traits. Held aloft from the palm of his hand was a long and bulky starship that appeared to fly away from the palm, a trail of silver that began on his hand. Below was a plaque that read "Paragavatus Veltimus V, the unifier. Through his wisdom, two species became one, we cast down our chains of baseline superiority and embraced possibility, and showed that even the craft of gods can be improved.
Queldim - Serin...I think this guy was the catalyst. You know, the one who started their genetics revolution.
Serin - I think you're right. One of Uriel the Sublime's third-generation spawn right?
Queldim - Yeah. Yeah. It's weird though. He's not Draconis and he's not Drallivian he's...kinda both.
Serin - You do understand how cheesy that sounds right?
Queldim snorted with a smile and took a brief glimpse at Serin with a knowing smirk, folding his arms as he returned his focus to the statue. As he turned to look back, Serin saw a figure darting for a passageway behind the statue, taping Queldim on the shoulder before picking up a brisk pace and running after the figure, down a partially-illuminated hall marked with the gutted interiors of empty shops and booths. He kept running, having little clue as to who it was in the poor lighting. With but a thought he switched his eye implants to observe the world in the infra-red spectrum and his eyes widened as, bathed in the glow of his new vision, he saw it was Teremva who took a brief glimpse and slowed down as she recognised Serin, panting with excitement to have finally reunited with them.
Teremva - I thought I'd lost you two for good!
Serin - Well we're tough to get rid of y'know.
Teremva - That's why I enjoy your company.
Serin - So...not because I have an archive of the complete works of Ariamus Tersorion in my cerebral matrix?
Teremva - Well...that too, but you two will not believe what I--
Serin - What you what?
Teremva went pale as she looked behind Serin, seeing three burning lights hovering within the shadow of a far wall. Her face turned pale and Serin quickly noticed, his calls to her attention drowned out by her distracted mind, the look was almost hypnotic, as if the gaze beckoned to her. She shook her head as Serin shook her, holding onto her shoulder but when she looked back the lights were gone.
Teremva - W-we have to go.
Serin - Wait we do? Now? I thought--
Teremva - No time I'll tell you once we get somewhere safe.
Serin - Teremva there's nothing here, just a mass of empty shops and maybe a statue.
Teremva - No...No something is here. It's watching us Serin!
Serin - And Queldim?
Teremva beckoned out to Queldim, drawing his attention. He turned around with a smile and nodded assuredly. As he paced over Teremva saw it again on an upper level, those eyes always present, always watching. Their baleful glows piercing into her heart. Teremva gasped for air and as Queldim approached she gripped the hands of her teammates and turned around, pulling them down a dimly-lit corridor, looking for an exit, more lights and now she heard the buzz of those chitin-plated drones. Eyes widening she saw a door and tugged for Serin and Queldim to join her. She broke the door open with a strong elbow and pursued her way inside.
As she passed though she felt a strong tug, something was trying to pull Serin back, she pulled back as hard as she could, the other end pulling stronger. There was no hand, no physical connection. Whatever was tugging did so without physical grips. Serin's eyes were wide with fear, his mouth open and teeth bare afraid of what was happening and shook his head in disbelief. The grip on the other end became to strong, even with Queldim now supporting her by the waist. Teremva presnted a tear-filled shake of her head and gripped Serin's hand more firmly before letting go, a hasty sign she still cared for him before he was pulled out of the passageway and out of her grip.
Heartbroken, Quedim had to help her the rest of the way up, kicking a door open so they could fully escape, eventually making it to an upper tier of the city, she looked out at the new landscape as she fell to her knees, panting and with perspiration, her skin becoming glossy as a waxy sheen seeped over it, a side effect of her species' method of perspiration. Queldim took a few more breaths, drawing strength before standing on his own feet, walking up to Teremva and helping her up by holding her hand.
Queldim - What. In all infernal dimensions. Was that.
Teremva - I-I d-don't know but i'd hazard a guess...Draconis.
Queldim - Wait what?--
Teremva - Well. Not entirely but-- They're not like they used to be.
Queldim - No shit Teremva they were shadows with lights for eyes!
Teremva - I don't know what has happened either. They've changed somehow.
Queldim - I think...this city has become a relic. They were here once, they grew out of it but they didn't want to leave it behind completely.
Teremva - So...they think we're trespassers.
Queldim - 'In the simplest terms, yeah. That's why they're so determined to remove us; I don't think we fit in with their plan.
Teremva - Mertorius...
Queldim - Come again?
Teremva - Imperial literature. It was a tale about a prefect who had a single vision, he was driven insane by power and stratified his planet. In the novel anyone who stepped inside his capital who was not allowed was either shot or imprisoned undergrund.
Queldim - Fiction right?
Teremva - Umm little of both.
Queldim - And where do we fit if this were an analogy?
Teremva - Well...we're the slikkids.
Queldim - ...And what did Mertorius do with those?.
Teremva - Killed them.
Queldim - Wait why did you compare us to vermin again?
Teremva - Well we're tiny, we crawl around everywhere and we're at a lower level of sentience than them.
Queldim - How nice.
Teremva - The book's not exactly charming. An interesting read, but not charming.
Teremva scanned the horizon, nearer to the city's surface she could see more of the landscape. Her eyes turned to the mountain to her left on the rim of the city's basin and she smiled deviously.
Teremva - The palace.
Queldim - You want. To go. To the palace.
Teremva - Safest place really.
Queldim - Yeah for them. We are talking about the Imperial Palace here; a fortress, a bastion, the home of the royal family, in other words, the last place to be.
Teremva - See those structures above the city? They look like a better point of administration to me. The palace is most-likely a museum, an antique or a symbol of times long gone.
Queldim - Still a fortress.
Teremva - Even an impenetrable redoubt has secret entrances.
Queldim - And do you know where they are?
Teremva - Sort of.
Queldim - You're winging this aren't you.
Teremva - Its's a fortress, and traditionally it is private to the royal family and any guests.
Queldim - So we're hoping we won't get swarmed because they wouldn't want to break tradition.
Teremva nodded and beckoned Queldim towards a ramp, the fist step on the sizable trek to the Imperial passages or one of these "secret entrances" Teremva talked about if they at-all existed. She seemed sure of herself so QUeldim trusted her, constantly looking back to the door they entered, hoping Serin had somehow escaped the clutches of his captors. The further they were from the exit however the more desperate he became, eventually giving up on Serin running out and catching them up on the trek to the palace.
- The primary inspiration for the story came from talks between Monet47's and Wormulon's discussions on the Draconis' possible "ancient" status.
- One of the early inspirations was an artwork by Monet47 entitled "The Star Dragons", detailing an image of Draconis in the future as potential Ultraterrestrials.
- While much of the story was written by Monet47, OluapPlayer and Lucario of the Gods (LotG) provided major contributions in the form of storyline ideas and character dialogue.