The Dark Empire, Page 67-77 by Wolfenshire ()
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The Dark Empire, Page 67-77
He rounded the corner and found everyone gathered around the door of the computer terminal room. Moeth was at the doorway with Roael and Raen, but they weren’t making any attempt to enter. He looked for Jasai, but she must have gone into the room already. He pushed through the crowd until he was at the doorway, and froze in surprise. Aestar was at the long flat table they had thought might be a battle command table – it was not.
The entire room was filled with a three-dimensional map of the entire Crystal universe. The Crystal Worlds rotated in the air at some unseen command from Aestar. Thin golden connecting navigation lines ran between all the worlds with silver pulses of light running to and from the crystal planets.
Sern took a step into the room. Roael grabbed his arm. “Stop it,” said Sern, shaking his brothers hand off. “And check your pockets, Aestar gave you something – Koael and Boae also.”
Jasai was tracing the golden lines with her hand. She saw Sern and pointed at a world towards the edge of the room. “We’re on that one over there, and the farm is over there.” She waved a hand to the other side of the room.
Sern dodged a few planets and went to the long flat table. Aestar was at the table dissecting a planet. Dozens of pieces of the planet floated in the air, but not like if you just pulled chunks off the planet. The oceans were floating off to one side, the mountains to the other, and the tectonic plates floating above. Aestar was turning a polar cap over in his hands and inspecting it.
“What are you doing?” asked Sern.
“Is everyone here?” Aestar looked up. “Okay, good, I won’t be able to repeat myself. At the end of this block of instruction, your assignment will be to build your own planet.”
“We’re going to build a planet?” asked Sern.
Aestar held a finger up. “A test first to see if you’ve been paying attention for the last several months.”
Sern shrugged. “Okay, sounds fun.”
“We’re not building any worlds, or taking any tests,” interrupted Roael. “We know your plans and we’re not falling for it.”
“Yes, yes, I heard Moeth’s analysis, it was brilliant, if mostly inaccurate,” said Aestar. “I have never portrayed myself as a god, those are legends and myths that grew up around me despite my every effort to squash them.”
Roael stepped into the room. “I’m done with your games. You either give us full discloser right now, or this is as far as we go.”
“Has it ever occurred to you to wonder who Batheba’s true Rider might be?” asked Aestar. “Gaevin could never have bonded with Rieka if he had been Batheba’s true Rider. Ever since Batheba left your mind is clouded and your decisions poorly thought out.”
“You are twisting events,” said Roael.
Aestar’s face turned red with anger. “You want me to reveal the truth, perhaps you should reveal the truth first,” replied Aestar.
Roael’s hand dropped to his dagger. “I am nearly at the end of my patience with you.”
Raen tapped Moeth’s arm to get her attention, then silently signed to her. ‘Did Aestar just say what I think he said about Roael?”
Moeth signed back. ‘Yes, and there are some clues to support it, but I’d be very cautious to ever repeat it. Aestar could just be redirecting attention.’
Raen shrugged. ‘That’s true, still, it would make sense why he wouldn’t want to return to Darai. The Temple was executing people like Seran and Lane during Roael’s time.’
Moeth moved closer to Raen to ensure nobody could see what see was saying. ‘Let’s leave it alone, I think Boae is the only one that picked up on what Aestar was alluding to, and Boae has turned five shades of purple. I’ve never seen Boae angry before.’
Raen nodded. ‘Agreed, but something’s wrong with Aestar, it doesn’t make sense for Aestar to lash out like that, I think he was telling the truth about being tired. I see exhaustion around his eyes, he’s making mistakes.’
Aestar waved a hand dismissively at Roael. “I have no more time for your rebellions or Moeth’s conspiracy theories.” Aestar looked back down at the long table. “This is the Crystal Generator,” said Aestar, sweeping his hand across the surface of the table. “The geologists used this device to design all the components of a planet and program them into modules for the computer. Normally when a new Crystal World is needed, the quantum paths scan the new arrivals as they pass through the Gates of the Dead, then the appropriate modules are chosen from the tens of thousands of choices and automatically forms their new world. However, you have very specific needs and will be manually building a world.”
“What specific needs?” asked Sern.
“We’re not building any worlds,” interrupted Roael. “We know his plans and we’re not falling for it.”
Aestar didn’t even glance up at Roael. “Jasai and Zil will need a world balanced between deserts and forested mountains. Sern and Saeber will need a world of forests and plains. Koael will need a world free of avian predators. Boae’s world will need to be located in the Shadow Realm, and Roael will need farmland. Test your world first by pressing this button.” Aestar waved a hand over the far corner of the table. “When you are certain you have your world the way you want them, press here.” Aestar indicated another button the table.
“Okay, we’re done here,” said Roael. “You’re just going to keep playing games.”
Aestar continued to ignore Roael. “The computer will deploy your worlds and link them together with a new type of gate I’ve just finished,” said Aestar. “I wish you hadn’t fought me so hard on all this, there was enough time before to teach you what you needed to know, but now, you’ll have to do it on your own.”
“Wait, what about the test,” said Sern. “I wanted to take the test.”
Aestar smiled. “I’ll give you a single question, you can give me the answer when I return. You have discovered five realms within the Crystal Universe, of which each of you will govern one of them. What is the sixth realm?”
“Where are you going?” asked Sern.
Aestar cleared the displays off the table and walked over to the side wall. He waved his hand across an area Jasai had been fairly certain was an access panel, but hadn’t been able to activate. The wall slid aside to reveal an empty alcove. He stepped inside and turned around.
“My current physical body is now three-hundred and forty-two years old, and I find myself frequently too tired to deal with the many requirements of the Crystal Universe. I will sleep now for at least six years while my body returns to a more youthful state. I do not have an Orb body as your Raven Goddess has, I must sleep occasionally to rejuvenate my body, and it is now time. Jasai, the Crystal Universe is yours, you are on your own, good luck.”
The alcove filled with a crystalline-like substance. The wall slid shut again, and Aestar was gone.
Roael waved a hand at the wall. “There you go, he weaseled out again without telling us anything.”
Sern shifted to his black tiger form and leaped at Roael with a roar, his fangs bared and fully intending to rip Roael apart. Roael got his cloak up just in time to avoid the first attack, then Saeber, Maseth, and Tarabeth were there to push Sern back from the lethal attack. Sern continued roaring in anger for a few moments more before shifting back to his Darai form.
“I told you to check your pockets,” shouted Sern. “He gave you full disclosure. You have a master key. If you want to read three and a half billion years of history, knock yourself out. He was an old man, he was at the limit of his life expectancy.”
Moeth held a hand up. “Hold on, there was no…”
“Shut up!” screamed Sern. “You actually had me thinking he might be the bad guy, but all he ever did was give us everything we wanted. We should have been able to have a last breakfast together, but he used up the last of his strength dealing with your stupid conspiracies. I’ll never see him again because of you.”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” said Roael. “He said he’ll wake in six years.”
“What is wrong with you?” said Sern. “He won’t be the Aestar we knew when he wakes. He’ll be twelve again as he was when he first arrived, he won’t even remember any of us. He’ll be able to read what happened during the last cycle, but the love he had for me as a father will be gone.”
“What we should do is dig him out of that wall and make him answer our questions,” shouted Roael. “I want to know what he’s done to Batheba.”
Sern lunged at Roael, and this time got his hands around Roael’s neck. The two brothers went to the ground with both frothing at the mouth and trying their hardest to kill each other. Moeth grabbed Sern while Raen and Boae grabbed Roael. The brothers continued to flail wildly, striking anything they could get their fists on. Sern managed to draw his dagger and Roael followed suit. Moeth, Raen, and Boae struggled to hold the two.
“It’s DOP syndrome,” shouted Raen. “Get the Tarlocks in here.”
The hatchlings watching from the door closed their eyes and began singing a woeful song of grief and pain. The young tigers, not understanding what was happening, but knowing their Riders were in pain, lifted their own voices and let out a horrible keening sound. Farmer Seth and his family stood outside the door holding their hands over their heads and trying to block out the waves of telepathic grief spreading out in every direction.
“Papa, we have to help them,” cried Little Seth.
“I agree,” said the farmer’s wife. “These aren’t demons, they’re like us.”
“It’ll take all three of us,” said Seth
Seth raised his hands and borrowed from his son and wife’s own limited telepathy and sent comforting waves outward. Sern and Roael became sluggish, but still continued to fight. The song of grief tapped into something Seth caught a glimpse of for only a moment. He saw in his mind as their song joined a river of billions of other minds. A new song rose from the river, a song of deeper grief, of loss multiplied by all those minds. Seth desperately tried to pull his mind back but the river was too strong and pulled him towards it.
“Papa, what is that?” shouted Little Seth.
The two Tarlocks ran into the hall from outside where they had been talking. Tarlock Malic shouted. “They’ve reached the River of Consciousness, we have to stop this before it spreads.”
The two Tarlocks faced each other and held their hands up with their palms pressed together. The two Tarlocks shouted a single word that exploded like a thunder crack and echoed across the island and out to sea.
“SLEEP!” the Tarlocks shouted.
Everyone fell to the ground unconscious, even the tigers, the wolf, and the raven bird. Only Zil was still standing.
“It’s a good thing we are so far out from the mainland,” said Malic. “That could have had devastating effects on the population.”
Zil raised an arm and pointed. Malic turned to see the gate, still open to the mainland from Moeth’s trip there and back.
The Medo King pushed himself to his knees and looked for his General. The large man was already back on his feet and barking orders to his soldiers.
“General, what was that?” asked the King, scanning his court – a full half of the court was on the ground unconscious.
“That was a psionic attack, but I don’t think it was directed at us,” replied the General. “I caught a glimpse of billions of minds. There’s nobody strong enough to do anything on such a scale.”
“My Lord.” The Court Priest stood on wobbly knees. “There is someone that can do that, it is written in the Book of the Medo. I believe the Jinn are back, and they are warring with someone.”
The Medo King rose to his feet. “The Jinn are back, after so long?”
“My Lord, the Geoggs have been burning hundreds of Elic farms and towns for months now,” said the Priest. “Surely the stench of such death rising to the heavens has drawn the attention of the Jinn. I think the Jinn may be answering the Elic’s pleas for help.”
“We will honor our treaty with the Jinn,” declared the King. “General, prepare the fleet, we sail to the Crystal Isles at dawn.”
The Lord Protector of the Aomo looked up at the sky from his place on the ground. He had been on a hunt when something not felt in ten thousand years had blasted him from the saddle.
“My Lord Protector, are you alright?”
The man blinked his eyes a few times and his Knight Protector came into focus. He sat up and put a hand out. The Knight clasped his arm and helped him to his feet.
“That was a psionic attack, we should get back to the Castle,” said the Knight.
“I know what it was,” said the Lord Protector. “I have studied the Holy Book of Atomoicks since I was a boy. It was foretold by the Great Hydro Jinn that he would one day return. He has called, assemble the army, we march for the coast.”
“My Lord Protector, should we uncover the Urimumon Holy Relic and take it with us?” asked the Knight.
“No, it was written by the Great Hydro Jinn himself that we must never remove the Urimumon Holy Relic from its crypt unless he is present and orders it. To disobey would bring a plague to our people. We will heed that warning.”
The Santi Governor crawled out of the fountain where the psionic blast had thrown him. He shook the water off and looked out across the courtyard of his mountain palace. There were many of his citizens unconscious on the ground.
“Governor, are you okay?” shouted a man.
“Stop shouting,” said Governor Santi, fingering the necklace he wore.
“Governor, I think we’re under attack,” said the man.
“No, we are not,” replied Governor Santi. “Perhaps you should spend more time in Temple, then you would know what it was.”
Another man ran up to the Governor. “Sir, the Council needs your permission to seal the mountain.”
“Tell them, no. And go find me Driver Daniel. Tell him the Jinn have returned and to prepare the Santi Crawlers to roll out.”
The man ran off while the Governor climbed up on the wall of the palace and looked down at his mountain city. The psionic blast had come from the east, but the Crystal Isles were to the south. He looked down at the unconscious bodies lying below him. There was a tight pattern to the way they were lying. The blast had been a directed attack, as if from a psi-canon. But that blast had been a natural blast, not tech-made.
The Santi were arguably the most tech advanced of all the factions on New Aiden. They had carefully obeyed the laws the En Jinn had given them, passing that knowledge down through the generations. The governor had been to the Medo city; it disgusted him how far they had allowed their tech to deteriorate. He wouldn’t have let one of their surgeons put a bandage on him, let alone cut him open or even set a bone. The Geoggs, however, had maintained their digger cannons, and that gave them leverage over most factions, but not the Santi. The highly polished walls of Santi city deflected their lasers as easily as if they were throwing handfuls of water.
“Governor,” said a voice.
Governor Santi jumped down from the wall. “Daniel, how many Crawlers are working?”
“Fourteen, Sir,” replied Daniel. “Another five if you give me a few days.”
The Governor shook his head. “Only nineteen out of two-hundred still working.”
“Maybe another five, but the rakters are red-lined,” said Daniel. “I’d only chance starting them up if the city was under attack.”
“I understand, and with so few Mekan left with the knowledge to repair, even what we have left will soon be gone. I fear we may fall into the dark times as the other cities have.”
“That was a psionic blast wave, the En Jinn are back,” said Daniel. “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t want a war with the Geoggs, but we need the En Jinn to fix our Crawlers. We will again align with them, and perhaps they will reward us.”
“I can be ready to crawl within the hour,” said Daniel.
“I will drive one of the Crawlers.”
“Yes, Governor, I’ll get the Crawlers ready.”
Tarlock Malic looked at the gate and back to Zil. “Go ahead and close the gate. I’m sure no damage was done.