On The Spire, Eris addresses the galaxy, and on Fuyoria, Keira hunts for information. (Jan's GC)
About this creation
#9; Let It Linger
All around Basher was darkness. He was surrounded by darkness. Not a darkness like that of shadow, but darkness like the pure absence of light. The pure absence of anything. No, not anything. He could still hear. In the distance, he could hear voices. Gunfire and shouting. Something that sounded worryingly like a countdown.
What did it mean? Where was he?
He had to remember, remember his mission. But it was difficult; the darkness that surrounded him seemed to be creeping into his mind, sapping him of his memories, of his sense of self.
What was he?
Somehow, Basher chuckled at that one. Even before he’d become…this, he hadn’t truly known what he was. Whatever he was now, it seemed simpler. He could just submit to the darkness, and drift into nothingness.
Drift into nothingness…
With difficulty, he forced himself to reconstruct his wandering mind. He had to stay himself, at least until the job at hand was done. Finally, he attempted to comprehend his surroundings. Everything was dark; everything was nothing. But there, in the distance, sat a feint light. It was like a pinprick, a hole pierced in a balloon from which all the helium escapes.
Basher started towards it, and found that putting one foot in front of another was difficult. His movements were slow and sluggish, nothing like the enhanced speed and grace he’d been used to. Was that what being a regular human was like? Somehow, he doubted it – as powerful as he was, he’d seen so-called ‘regular humans’ manage some incredible feats.
Humans. Yes, he’d known humans. What were their names again?
No! He couldn’t forget! Not yet!
The longer he walked, and the closer he got to the light, he found that walking became easier. He wasn’t sure if it was because he’d warmed up, or because the light was somehow restoring his strength, but he was moving quicker and feeling better with every passing step.
As he walked, the sounds continued. More shouting, voices seemed to be pleading, and above it all, the countdown.
5, 4, 3…
He kept going, almost picking up to a run. He had to make it.
He had to make it. Had to save the planet. Had to save…
Core aligned. Ready to fire.
Had to save…had to save himself?
Without realising, he had broken into a full on sprint. His limbs were screaming, his lungs working overtime, but he had to make it.
So close, so close, so close to salvation!
Basher reached out, throwing an arm forward. The light was so close now, almost blinding.
His fingertips stretched. The light was within reach.
In the distance, a voice he recognised muttered a single word.
Basher looked at the light, knowing not what awaited him on the other side. He didn’t know if he’d survive, if he’d remain himself. But he had a job to do.
Basher closed his eyes, and lunged.
Eris stood alone in the High Council Chamber, thinking on the events that had transpired. Tank had attacked The Spire, he’d rallied an army against her, turned friend against friend and waged a war to get Tracks back. And to spite her. He’d set out with the best of intentions, but so had she; she’d told him, time and time again. She’d warned him that Tracks was too dangerous, that One might still be lingering within the droid parts.
And not only that, but he believed he could bring his parents back? That was ridiculous, a fantasy he’d conjured up as just another reason she’d betrayed him. But if it was true? If Keira truly had been in contact with him? Eris knew it was something she’d need to face eventually. She sighed. She was only young, and she’d already faced so much. When would it end? And how many people would need to die before it did?
Because now Basher was gone. Basher, who’d been with them from the start. From their first meeting during the Battle for Regentis, to his arrival on Etrion. He’d fought with her to overthrow Azgoth, and then fought to rescue her from The Iron Maiden. And how he was dead. Gone, all so that Tank could have his friend back. It wasn’t fair.
Eris: “It isn’t fair!” she cried, slamming her hand on the table in front of her.
Almost on cue, Jay entered the chamber, his crimson cloak swinging behind him. As if he could read her mind, he took her hand and slipped his fingers through hers.
Jay: “He’s not really gone, not totally,” he said calmly, squeezing her hand gently in a gesture of comfort.
Eris’s mind swam with images, with memories. First, of One’s evil mechanical threats, and then of Tank, shouting, and then, finally, of Tracks’s familiar whirs and clicks.
Eris: “You weren’t there. I held his body, Jay. He was dead.”
Jay: “Maybe he’s dead, maybe. But from what you said, it sounds like some part of him has survived. If that’s the case, then it’s better than most get. We’ve lost people before, and nothing of them has survived. Whatever Basher is, he’s better than dead. We can call that a win.”
Eris: “We don’t know what’s left of him. We don’t-“
At that moment, Commander Kendall Andreasson entered the chamber. Eris had not seen her since before Tank attacked the Spire and the Registration Act passed, and she had not been eagerly anticipating their next meeting. Jay frowned slightly.
Jay: “Commander. You’re early,” he said tersely.
Andreasson glanced slightly at Eris, wondering if the Archmage had anything to add. When Eris remained silent, the commander spoke up.
Andreasson: “Indeed. I wanted to speak with the pair of you before the statement.”
Eris nodded slowly. Much as she’d rather not, a discussion needed to be had.
Eris: “Thank you for coming, Commander. What did you wish to discuss?”
Andreasson: “Numerous matters. First, the Imperium wishes to offer its sincerest condolences for the loss of your friend, Basher Michaels. He was a good man, who assisted us on several occasions.”
This was news to Jay; he knew that Eris had had her misgivings about Ferris, but no more than that. He glanced at his wife, and then back to the commander.
Eris: “Commander Andreasson has been keeping an eye on Ferris for me. Keeping tabs on potential threats is always prudent,” the Archmage explained, “What news, Commander?”
Andreasson: “Well, as I’m sure you know, publicly his support for the Registration Act was somewhat…lacklustre. In addition, he promised to protect the rights of all Collective citizens under his authority.”
Eris: “Yes, progressive policies, apparently.”
Andreasson: “They were just words. In practise, Ferris seems to care little one way or the other. He’ll say what he needs to say, and it’ll be difficult to prove he doesn’t mean it, but he cares little and less for your people. I’ve grown…close, to the man. I have his respect, and, I believe, his trust. He’s let me in on his prejudices – with a little more effort, and patience, he may finally let me in on his plans.”
Eris sighed. It wasn’t exactly a surprise.
Eris: “I can’t deal with this for much longer. Keep pressing him, Kendall. Find something we can use, and we’ll behead this snake once and for all.”
The commander nodded, not missing a beat at Eris’s use of her first name. The Archmage had enough problems; if Kendall could help rest this one, she would. And the sooner Ferris was out of the picture, she herself would sleep easier too.
Andreasson: “The camera crew will be here soon. I implore you, Your Grace, you don’t need to do this.”
Eris: “I do. I would speak with the people of The Imperium. Maybe if I’d done this before the vote, they wouldn’t have turned on us.”
Andreasson: “Your Grace, I…I sympathise with you, I do. As you’re aware, I personally voted against the Act. But you must understand where this…resentment…for The Collective has come from. Azgoth, The Ambassador…many, many more. To go on live television and accuse the citizens of treachery…it would not improve your image.”
Eris’s nostrils flared, and for a moment her temper threatened to bubble up, but she regained control of herself with a sigh. Andreasson was right, she knew. There was no point getting angry at a loyal ally.
With a bustle from the doorways, a pair of Imperium soldiers entered. Given recent events, Eris was loathe to allow civilian film crews onto The Spire, and so the televised announcement was the responsibility of The Imperium military. Commander Andreasson shot a sympathetic glance at Eris, and then looked back to the camera crew.
One of the cameramen held up a thumb, and Eris nodded. She was ready.
Cameraman: “3, 2, 1 – we’re live.”
Eris took a deep breath, looked straight into the camera, and began.
Eris: “Citizens of the Imperium, I am Eris Arathon, Archmage of the Collective. I speak to you today, in disappointment. I confess that I am disappointed with the way you have chosen to vote. But I also respect your democratic right, and the legitimacy of your own governance. And so, I am disappointed in myself. Disappointed that I have been unable to fill you with confidence and assure you of my innocent intentions. I have tried to work with your governments, tried to provide you with whatever Collective aid and assistance I can. I have tried my hardest to foster a spirit of cooperation and friendship. I am sorry to see that I have failed.”
She paused, giving the viewers a beat to digest her words. She owed the Imperium that much.
Eris: “I am sorry to see that I have failed, and that you have felt the need to ostracise us. While I respect your right to do so, I must also do what is best for my people. As such, from this day forward, all official alliances with the Galactic Imperium will cease. We will continue diplomatic ties, but will cease military pacts. The Spire will be moved to neutral space, and we will take no sides and no part in the ongoing conflict. Such is what I must do, to protect my citizens and my people, as regrettable as it is. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me. I pray that next time I have cause to speak with you, it brings happier tidings.”
Australis: “Meilswan has been the home of the Namori for years beyond counting,” explained Australis, as she and Keira strode through the sandy coloured palace.
Keira was awed by the simplicity of the life the Namori seemed to live; no one was rushing about, no speeders or ships zooming overhead. In some deep corner of her brain, she decided it might be nice to settle down here, but she knew that wasn’t going to happen.
Keira: “It’s beautiful,” she replied, genuinely, but slightly absent-mindedly.
Australis: “Ordinarily, newcomers to our city would need to seek an audience with the High Priestess before we would allow them access to our facilities, but thankfully, you’re here with me, and being the Ambassador has certain privileges.”
Australis: “It is highly irregular for us to return to records we have closed, but this particular one was closed very recently indeed, and so I believe we should not have trouble.” The Namori said, her voice floating in the palace’s airy halls.
Eventually, they reached a door set into a wall, guarded by a single chetinuek native carrying a long, ornate spear. His wide orange eyes watched uncertainly.
Australis: “This is the entrance to the halls of records, but I’m afraid outsiders are not allowed within. Wait here, or feel free to explore the city, I shouldn’t be long.”
An Undisclosed Location
When Father Ajwain awoke, all was darkness.
The floor beneath him was slightly damp, and when he laid a hand on the rough stone wall, he found that that was moist as well.
Ajwain: “These are not Deja’s eternal halls?” He whispered into the dark.
And the aches and pains he felt, and the way his muscles screamed with every movement as if they were starved of oxygen confirmed his greatest fear; he was alive!
Alive, and Har’Buc’s prisoner…
Selene and the Conduit waited in the line, huddled together, staring at the ground, saying as little as possible and trying not to draw attention to themselves. With her bleached white skin, The Conduit could’ve passed for a Namori, which was, at least slightly, less suspicious than being a secret Imperium superweapon. Selene, having ditched her Imperium armour, was just another drifter.
The line moved quickly, and soon they were standing before a man with a thin face, wearing baggy clothes that hid an equally thin body, with long, gangly limbs.
Man: “Names?” He rasped.
Selene: “Selene,” she said, before nodding at The Conduit, “and she’s Rose.”
The man noted their names down on a datapad.
Man: “By boarding the ship you accept that the full price will be paid in full before you disembark, or else you will be liable for any punishment up to and including death. Passenger numbers six-five-four and six-five-five. You’re in Block B Five. Follow the signs.”
As Selene and The Conduit headed off in the direction of the boarding ramp, a man with unkempt orange hair wearing rags to try and hide his tattered prison jumpsuit stepped up to the desk.
Man: “Name?” Asked the bookkeeper.
Deep in space, etched into the darkness beyond it, an Imperium cruiser sat silently. The cruiser was a Firebrand-class, a smaller frigate designation usually reserved for backing up larger capital ships. The fact that it had been sent this far into the galaxy alone showed just how thinly-stretched the Imperium military had become, struggling to police territories that once it had dominated.
Since its deployment six months ago, the INV Obliterator had, in fact, obliterated very little. A few skirmishes against pirates had been the extent of its action, and the crew was becoming restless. In a viewport, a single officer stood, as alone as the ship itself, contemplating the downfall of the Imperium.
Where had it begun, he wondered? Not with The Shift, certainly. That had heralded a new golden age. Not with the Aurelian insurgency – all great empires must suffer barbarians at the gates. No, it had to have been something more. Something had truly decimated their armies and their fleets, and forced the most powerful military in the world to concede ground and to retreat.
The answer was suddenly immediately obvious; The Collective were the only force in the galaxy capable of rivalling the GI. The Imperium’s swansong, if that was what this was to be, had begun with them. It had begun with Silas Arathon, and his son, Azgoth. Now only the daughter was left – Eris.
Lieutenant Brax Ryder turned, his resolve hardened. When he spoke, his words were quiet, heard only by the small recording device he kept concealed in his lapel at all times.
Brax: “If The Imperium is to be saved, The Collective, and the House of Arathon, must fall.”
Australis wasn’t long; she emerged from the records room brimming with information.
Australis: “A Collective Mage, in hiding from his people, or so we believe.”
Keira didn’t need to be told twice.
Keira: “Great. I wonder what would push a Collective Mage into hiding…” she muttered, wondering if she needed to be worried.
The two began to walk away, and Australis mused on the possibilities, her voice high and floaty.
Australis: “An Azgoth loyalist, possibly. There are many reasons to be disgruntled with Eris.”
Keira: “Hah, don’t I know that.”
Australis: “She was your friend,” the Namori pointed out.
Keira: “She was. But where was she when those bastards killed Kaira? And besides, if this Mage, whoever it is, can resurrect people, why did she never tell me it was possible?”
Sophia hit the floor hard, breathing heavily. Above her, the green-haired man loomed, cold and imposing. In his hand he held a wooden rod, but Sophia’s own weapon was too far away, out of her reach. So, she was defenceless when he raised and lowered the stick, bringing it down on her exposed arms, showering her in bruises. The ones from their previous bout hadn’t yet healed, but she got no respite.
Eventually, Rat Norrit took a step back.
Sophia pushed herself to her feet and grabbed her own sparring sword. She’d been up for a matter of seconds before Norrit was on her again, flying in with a flurry of blows. This time she kept up with him, deflecting his strikes before flipping away.
Rat: “You were the Iron Maiden, a tool of vengeance. When they come again, you must be ready.”
He swung low; Sophia blocked, taking the full force of the blow.
Sophia: “When they come again, I’ll be on their side,” she replied, sliding her staff from the contact and swiping at Norrit’s head.
Rat: “It will be for nought. The plans of The Nineteenth have been in motion far longer than your involvement.”
Sophia: “And when do I get to meet this, Nineteenth?”
Rat: “When you have killed your father.” Norrit’s words were slow and measured, but oddly empty. He was devoid of cruelty or malice; the maniacal evil that he’d displayed when fighting Basher, or killing Kaira, was gone.
Sophia: “And what about when he kills you?” She replied, pressing on with a counter-attack.
Norrit took up a defensive position, and within three strikes, Sophia was on the floor. Norrit loomed over her once more, yet Sophia was undaunted. Norrit and his machinations had broken her once, had turned her against her father; she would not let that happen again. One way or another, she was determined that a Destino would kill the green-haired man.
And that’s episode nine! Thanks for reading everyone! This one had a lot of set up, and hopefully some resolutions to things we’ve seen before! This episode is followed up directly by this episode from Werewolff! Some interesting things to come – I hope you’re all excited!
Quoting Benjamin O
Very interesting. And very good. While I'm still getting back into it and all, I'm already rehooked. Can't wait to see what happens next. And Ig I missed the wedding, too. How long ago was that? ;)
Good one! Interesting move to unalign the Collective with the GI! That could bring up some interesting stories. Good to see Janus again and Brax is going to be interesting. All around good things! Good luck in the GC!
Ooh, another great episode! Loved Eris' speech to the galaxy, as well as what this could entail for the Collective people. The Lieutenant looks like an interesting arc waiting to happen, and I quite enjoyed Kendall's opinion on Uek. Great stuff as always, nice work!