by SB Lynn
A story started long ago and never finished.
|This was written so long ago, I don't remember when....
Aero: Bloodlines: (2nd story, follows the ancestry of Asa and Solomin)
You’ve asked for images of our world. I understand your curiosity but believe it would be better to give you more than pictures. I would like to show you our world in words.
This is the beginning (at least a beginning significant enough to be recorded as fact and placed in our world’s historic volumes). Some would rather this information not be shared with unknowns from far away worlds. For some reason, I don’t feel as a stranger to you. It’s as though we are connected—perhaps that your world is our origin, or our world is yours.
I am a believer that all things within our universe are held in the hands of its maker. Even if these worlds are destroyed in the chaos caused by our intolerable differences, it will be restored, and perhaps realigned.
Allow me to give you some insight into our ancestral reaches. This is the precursor to our conflict, much of it passed on through time and kept in a knowledge base we refer to as The Resorse.
I will send more related documents as I find them. You’ll learn of the fine nuances of our being and how we are plagued by uncertainty even in our intimacies. Please take in all that you can with an open mind, and do pray for us. —Alec Sival
Here begins the tale of a man’s lineage, his place in history, and his promise. He came into this world a fighter, almost lost in his mother’s womb as she lay dying from wounds caused by the slashing forelimbs of a machine-breast crron.
The boy would never know his biological father. His mother had been a servant of the Mythicon ruler Padeaus, and in her service had been forced to bear children by the strongest soldiers—to breed powerful warriors in an age of endless, merciless wars. At the end of her life, she had given birth seventeen times. Padeaus, a strong, sturdy man himself, had fathered more than thirty, one with this woman, Aris, who he buried in the Temple of Helv.
The world itself, part of the greater Thei Sensei, coexisted with other modified zones in the turbulent ages of complete synthetic structuring. Blue sand pellets lined the basins of liquid cooled subsurfaces, a vast assortment of emrocks formed mountain peaks and valleys, magnaspores grew plants and trees. In Shior, Mythicons survived by allotments from the Empire of Mediators. Mediators invented Shior, Obius, and Tropa as stable, life-sustaining environments capable of lasting into the billions of cycles. As it turned out, their calculations had been wrong. The vehicle planets broke down gradually, cylinder by cylinder, gear by gear. But not only were the worlds dying, they were being attacked steadily by space demons known as machine crrons. These deadly predators from an unknown horizon consumed what little power was left to survive, and they did so with ferocity, engaging their whipcord tails into the power supplies to feed and charging through the valleys, snapping and cutting all who could not scatter or defend themselves well enough. Many Mythicons had wondered: Will the world disintegrate first or will the crrons kill us all?
For many, many cycles, the created worlds—a synthetic combine of habitable spaces—had never been quite stable, although fortunately for those descended from the Mythicon King Jata, a sect of magicmen and women known as Perniden and Edaisha Wists, managed sustaining the environment by trances and turns, at least until a terrible disease spread among them, practically wiping out them all. Among the survivors were an Edaisha and her daughter, and the orphaned son of Aris, discovered as a Perniden only after he had seen a clear vision of the god Jata, a vision seen only by those with the gift.
Time has passed, and the orphaned boy, now a man after being taken under the wing of Padeaus Helv, has become a leader of men, and a man of his word. It is so that he has seen visions of planets and moons and stars, and on his word, he has professed to save the future of his people with the power of his mind and strength of his soul.
It hadn’t been long since Uisz saw Terival in such a state of internal pain.
“Come here,” he said. Uisz followed.
Holding hands, they made a fine couple—roundish heads, elongated limbs, faces that were easy on the eyes of every similar species in the universe. Terival’s long coverings flared behind him as he walked, and Uisz climbed up to their private shelter with him, her featherlike wrap floating behind her as well, like wings on an angel. They had lived together not more than a few months, but she had become used to him long before that.
He was a strong Mythicon, intelligent and steadfast, the kind of male that could lead his sect in war and always win. There was proof of this: the Perniden Wists ruled over Shior and their highmaster had honored Terival Helv with rings of pure argog and the entire treasures of all the lands he conquered.
On this chilly evening, Terival escorted his mate, Uisz, to their quiet place above, and he took her close to him, and she lied with him, in love, and in trust.
“I want you to tell me what you’ll do here when I’m gone.”
Terrible thoughts dashed through Uisz’s mind. She gazed into his eyes as he did hers, and it was almost as though they were looking through to each other’s soul. Her radiant golden skin was soft to the touch, and his, a more matted shade of amber, glistened with sweat after making love with her. On a pillow like cotton, and beside him, she held back until the first drizzle of tears ran down her cheeks. She tried to say something but nothing came from her quivering lips.
“Shhh...” He pressed gently on them with his fingers and smoothed away the wetness on her face. “I’ll not have this. You’ll be here for me when I return. But for now, we’ll be together for as long as it can last.” He touched the place where he knew she would weaken, knowing she wanted him to, each time a little more firm, more beholding.
It was night before long. Terival rose from their bed and lit one lamp, then returned to Uisz.
“I believe what we have here is terminal. Without you, I cannot be whole.”
“Your brother doesn’t know much about me,”
“He will, dear lover. He’s called upon me to meet with him but I’ll not go without a bargain. Anyhow I’m certain Decimus wouldn’t allow you to be without protection. You are the most vital asset in our world, and in any other we find. Not having you with us would be like a blind man swimming alone at sea.”
Dreamily glistening eyes gave away her love for him. The touch of her hand on his chest made him feel almighty powerful—as the strongest warrior, the greatest general, or the most revered king. Soon Terival would have to leave Uisz, and for the moment, he wondered where and when the pain of her absence would strike him.
For what does a man of Shior explore?
For his love of discovery, or his dreams of wealth?
If he keeps a lover, pleasing her will be first and foremost
And she will maintain his home, his belongings, and his heart
The great land of Cholor, south of Eposhna and west of Sersen, was the place where Terival Helv began his journey.
He plotted a course around and away from the Crron Ridges and Yola dustbowl valleys, where creatures frequently emerged from their holes, some large enough to take down an animal, or a commissioned soldier, or a Mythicon man, as was Terival Helv.
Terival, of pure Perniden Mythicon descent, blinked dust from his dry orange-yellow eyes and covered his lean body with robes and a headcloth. This was the customary attire among Mythicon men, women, and children. As a race, they were golden-skinned and strong, a species of humanus much like those before them—bound to soil and water for survival, and oxygen breathing, although able to go without for long periods of time. One sect of Mythicons lauded their skilled space navigators. Another sect built great houses and ships. Yet the one sect higher than any were the Perniden Wists, believed to have psychic abilities through the untouched spirit, Jata. The only ones more gifted than Pernidens were the Edaisha Mythicons, their blood tainted with the venomous hydris—near deadly to the unprotected species who touched it, also was the potent gel that produced magical abilities.
The Perniden Wist, Terival, led his brigade through the rough Sharlais Fields, inching along in a tri-unit, a machine usually accustomed to fast treks across the deserts and long hovers above the misty seas. More than a few hundred men had traveled this way before him, all of them members of either the Kunar sect, or ones appointed by the Commission of Space Ordinance and Annexing, as was Terival. Many seasons ago, he’d had one of his visions, seeing passed the outer rim into a part of space not recognized by the untamed eye. What he saw, he told to the leaders of Shior. Because Terival was known to have a special ability of seeing through space into future worlds, the governors sent explorers in search of this world, having all the confidence in Terival, that he had seen their prophecy, and the day of discovery would soon come.
“What do you say now, Teriv? You claim the power to see future worlds. Maybe what you really saw was a mass of space dust and those our governors sent to explore vanished in it.”
A few of the men behind Garved the spearslinger laughed, the rest grunted at his dishonor of their leader.
“I know you doubt me,” Terival answered as he poked at a patch of soil with his cane, testing it for firmness, then planted both feet and turned around to face his men. “There’s no proof. All we have is this terrible burden on our shoulders, taking a journey with the possibility of never returning home. To some of us the risk isn’t worth it. But you, Garved, must know as well as I, we have no other choice now. We know there’s a world beyond the Rim and it’s crucial to our survival.”
“Oh listen to the tales of our appointed Perniden!” Garved scoffed. “He dreams about the skies when the danger is right beneath the soles of his feet!”
The other men laughed more and shifted about, as they were restless and weary. So many days had gone by, so many nights without their women, and surely, Terival knew well enough of such pain.
Garved shoved forth, his eyes gleaming into Terival’s. “Why don’t you tell them the truth? You are given whatever you ask for... even a man’s only son...and a man’s dearest mate. You, King of the Pernidens; your every wish is granted by the untouched spirit, Jata, and now, thanks to our governor’s confidence in your leadership, all of your desires are fulfilled by the Edaisha grantress, Uisz.”
Torturous silence drew from Garved’s glistening eyes. A sudden brisk wind blew back his headcloth, exposing his bald head and the forked symbol of his tribe etched into his forehead by the governors. It wasn’t long ago that they reminded him of his place—as a servant given orders to relinquish everything he owned for the purpose of strengthening the race.
“You’ll get no apologies from me, Garved,” said Terival. “But I promise to take care of Uisz and your son with all of the power vested within me...”
“Ha!” Garved snatched the hood back over his head. “Your power isn’t that great! Uisz can turn the side of a ridge into dust with the touch of her hands! She can float on the wind and grow food in these dry craters we call soil. Her powers are tremendous in giving to her people. Your visions of a new world are nothing compared to what she’s done for us in this present day!”
Silence again. Terival heard his men stirring behind him and realized the ones in his sight awaited the challenge with intense impatience.
“Go ahead, challenge me for your dear Uisz, then strike me, right here, right now. May we mend our differences beyond this world.”
Dark clouds crossed the sky as the two men took their places at the center of the ring. Shior’s sun soon disappeared behind those clouds; the first large drops of rain pelted the dirt inside the circle. Garved immediately unlatched his spearis and drew it to his chest, then chanted the words of Mythicon strength as done before all battles.
“Dichel amatror ak...” for “Crush thine enemy.”
Terival released his spearis from its back harness and took it to his chest the same. Then the men encircled the two, willing to take Garved’s head if it was so ordered by their highmaster. Another factor was the rain presenting an extra challenge as it started coming down harder, drenching them, slicking the swords, blinding the eyes; because of that, Terival knew this match was more of an even one. The thought soon came to him that his men would do as they pleased if he lost to Garved, as they would either take Garved’s head, or declare him as their new highmaster.
The battle began.
The young one’s first strike whipped through empty air. Terival answered back, slashing his opponent across the left shoulder of his tunic, drawing the first sliver of golden flecked blood.
“I’m done playing with you, Terival! Fear your maker now!” Garved took to the fight with his spearis ablaze, “Stand up to me, you fool!” The iron tip glowed red-orange, and he lunged forward with his spearis, catching Terival’s side, slicing through the dark weathered robe into the flesh. “Aha! If I win, I’ll be her master and their leader, while you’ll be nothing but beaten and forgotten!”
Pain grazed Terival’s side just after realizing what had happened, that Garved’s spearis was a branding sword, outlawed by the planetary league of Shior. But of course it was like Garved to carry an illegal weapon, and Terival saw the faces of his men, ready to pounce when ordered. He wouldn’t command them though, because he wanted this battle, to bring an end to war between him and this scoundrel, and so he made a rigorous effort, slipping underneath the shear of Garved’s sword when it came around and cutting into the menace’s left thigh.
“We’ll leave you bleeding here...” Terival panted as he watched the firing tip of Garved’s blade recede. “No healer will come for you, none of these men will bow on these sands in honor of your name....”
“Quiet! You old minion!” Garved stomped forth. “Your time’s up!”
There were tricks with a sword Terival knew but never used in battle, and those were the ones he used to force Garved’s hand to slip from its aim and his body to twist out instead of in, as learned by the teachings of the Sra Dul. He might have been the finest student but not so well that he could outsmart the wit and command a sword’s magician to quit. Terival had been ready for Garved’s loss of footing, and when it happened, Terival lunged forward and tore his spearis into Garved, the blade’s edge cut into the skin, through the inner organs, and pierced the spine.
Garved went down on his knees then slumped, fighting death, clinching the blade embedded in him, struggling to pull it out. He soon rolled over onto his back, breathed for the last time, coughed up a pool of blood and died with his eyes open. The branding sword had gone down with him, landing hard on the rugged terrain, its tip snuffed out.
Not until one of the men pulled out the extinguished sword did Terival realize how much energy had been drained from him. He anticipated other battles against much stronger enemies and without the hand of his dear Uisz to perform her magical restorations of his health would surely be defeated somewhere along the way. Do I not press on? She is my angel but I must do what’s been commanded of me. This pain may as well be from my denial of her presence here.... I could not allow her here though, not with these men. I would not want her to bathe in the rivers with them or stay near them for very long. Garved was a threat, but now he’s gone. I can’t let anyone else touch my angel.
“Your spearis, Terival...”
He accepted the blade from Neyko, carefully balancing each end on the palms of his hands then raised it just above his shoulders, completing the ritual by gripping its handle and pointing its tip toward the heavens.
Suddenly, a charge of lightning flashed downward from the sky, struck the point of Terival’s spearis, sending a powerful charge through his skin. The men stood in awe of a miracle and watched their leader absorb this new energy, until finally Terival lowered the blade and looked down upon the slain soldier, and earnestly, he chanted, “A weak warrior’s soul dies, as he had not truly lived. My time has just begun, and when I die, my spirit will live on.”
Pride Of A People
Neyko knelt beside the slain soldier just for a moment, then he stood and retrieved the spearis; as a loyal follower, he placed the weapon in Terival’s hands. The blade’s tip was still warm, the grip well broken in but shiny as the day it came out of the knifemaker’s shop. All spearis grips were clote, a small but aggressive snakelike creature encased in a transparent shell that were captured by armsmakers and frozen inside the cocoon. Clotes attached themselves to rock barriers to molt, usually in clusters, but the ones near the ground made the best grips. By the looks of this one, Garved had either paid a hefty price or won it in battle with one of the best warriors. The encasement was made of finest pearl and the shell so delicately harnessed that the clote had died with its beady steel marble eyes open and its fangs extended from their shaft.
“Very nice weapon, Terival. Was it given or earned?” asked a friend in passing.
Times and places sliced by, unfolding events that led up to Garved’s murder and the place where Terival and his fellow soldiers had arrived.
He entered the meeting hall at Dagar So’j, feeling a strong cool air rushing above him. Ahead, in the center of the grand edifice were two ornate chairs, one occupied by the Supreme Highmaster, Maulice; seated to his right was Terival’s brother, Decimus Helv.
Maulice raised a hand. “Come,” he said. “We were expecting you.”
Earnestly, Terival moved forward.
“Master,” he bowed at Maulice’s feet then slowly rose up again. “Resorting to violence is not my usual way. I was challenged and therefore I answered that challenge as a threat to my Uisz. She had been harmed....violated. Master, it was...”
Terival raised his head to see the governor’s face. “What?”
“I know you well enough. And I knew Garved...” The master shook his head and frowned. “An idle fool, he was. Gifted with ideas but useless with any sort of implementation. Matching him with Uisz was....a mistake. I committed the crime, not you. I sent Garved into this mission while knowing he wouldn’t adhere to protocol. If not you, it would have any one of us.”
Guilt. Anger. Repulse. Maulice was not usually so acknowledging of his errors, and now Terival couldn’t help but wonder what was becoming of the old governor. Decimus stayed silent on the side, and his pale brown lips trembled to form a smile.
“Tell me how many men you’ll take into the rim.” Maulice pressed on.
“Forty, sir.” and Terival thought, These men are not afraid.... they are the finest, handpicked by our generals and approved unanimously by the clerics. I have unyielding confidence in each one of them...I would put my life in any one of their hands.
“Well then, which one of them would you have pilot the ship?”
Terival immediately began the process of elimination. Lukite Tual, son of a bridge builder, hardly looked the part of a mean army soldier. He was tall and weedy, fit for slithering through the vines as he would demonstrate soon enough. Han Ager was stocky yet agile, built with a sturdy cage. Alowas Veh, Respal, and Manteg—three brothers from a remote part of Shior usually wrestled tough old lizards and fast four-legged predators; they were fast and fearless but not one was the type to handle the guidance systems on a starship. The youngest soldier, Jaremei, had been raised by his father, a master swordsman in the dry docks of Landcastle, which was home to more than a million Mythicons, as was Terival’s lover, Uisz. She often referred to Jaremei as her favorite cousin.
Charge of the troop’s progression fell to the hands of six navigators from Gon. Neyko Som led them, his expert knowledge of ground control systems and structural safety a viable asset. Eight men held the responsibility of equipment maintenance, three others maintained records of weapons issuance. Twelve expert shooters joined as the troop completed training missions—all prepared to recruit as many men possible at every site they traveled. The last three were junior officers of the elite guard, assigned to the mission in the capacity of fighter pilots against enemy soldiers of Crron.
Finally Terival answered, “I would choose Neyko Som. All of the men trust him, as I do. Flying abilities are level A. Superior weapons knowledge. Solid temperance.”
A look of contentment eased the cleric’s outward chin. “My choice as well then. A landraider will be out to retrieve your men from Cholor and bring them here until it’s time to join the units at Kather Sone. Your men will be safe here. You have my word.”
Your word? Thought Terival, and Decimus warned with his eyes to err of caution.
“Yes, of course,” Terival nodded and pressed his palms together in front of his chest, willing himself and his men to duty. “However, there’s one request...”
Decimus glared, sat up straight and rigid. The cleric Maulice seemed more patient.
“Uisz,” Terival carried his voice without hesitance. “I’d like accommodations provided for her. She’s a vital asset, clearly worthy of your consideration for—”
“I....” A lump formed in the throat. “....I didn’t...”
“Offering you residency free of cost to you and your men and you add to your debts by inviting yet another? An Edaisha?”
“More than an Edaisha... A weapon,”
Maulice shunned at Terival’s claim. “Trickery and trances, hardly what I would use to fight the crrons.”
Terival knew the look on his face must have expressed the sharp anger that had suddenly rose from within. He could look no more to Decimus for hints one way or the other. This was his personal battle against the forces standing against him. So many now.
“I trust in your decision, Sa’ruk,” he said with a humbling spirit although his heart pumped with fierce pride.
In the silence Terival knew Decimus wanted an approval, because if they got it, he could take his own woman, and perhaps some of the others could take theirs...
“She cannot go, that is my decision.” Maulice said, and there, the matter was resolved.
The star compass, a small navigational device invented by the Cosoc skyroamer, Fen Thuros, amazed all those lucky enough to view it with their own eyes. Word spread around the villages and sects that Thuros had created the thing that could estimate the best paths and compose “riding links” across space, throughout uncharted frontiers.
He had indeed solved a most vexing dilemma in the future of Mythicons, but the spacecrafts....now that was another issue.
Terival went with Thuros to a shipyard in Borgain shortly after leaving Maulice and Decimus. It was Terival’s first visit to Borgain, and the first trip to see a sky vessel in its infancy.
“Your first?” Thuros joked. “Man, Teriv. I’d figured you’d built your own by now.”
The young and eager Fen Thuros sat on the outer seat of the rail transport, his hair wild and his eyes glistening.
“Insane!” He laughed in that very way, his cackle carrying throughout the cabin as he pointed out to the massive extended cranes and robotic hooks. “Those men look so small and the machines so big!”
Terival frowned and crinkled his lips. “That amuses you, Thuros?”
“Yes,” the younger man turned suddenly serious. “There could be a war against them...right here... the machines... I’ve heard of it before...in other worlds...other times...”
“Far worlds. Much different than ours.”
“You mean like where the crrons come from?”
The one thing Terival had kept from his mind had been crrons—ugly predators with snake heads and powerful legs rotating, cutting into soil like knives on spindles. It seemed that killing one was to give birth to ten more. They were destroying Shior, shredding all things that grow, burrowing into the greenspaces, stripping the skin right off of living, breathing men, women, and children.
“Beast-machines. We’re at war with them, right?” Thuros came again. “We’re losing. We don’t even know where they came from.”
Fen Thuros was a younger man but Terival was also young, the eyes clear and skin taut, the thoughts sharp, and motivation strong.
“In this case winning takes the skill of killing,” said Terival. “That takes precedence over these ships or the compass...a greater need than all of our advanced technical resources. We’ll have enemies. We’ll have to kill them to stay alive out there.”
“I hear what you say, but see the only way to beat a beast-machine, Teriv, is with an effective man-machine.”
Terival rested back and watched a huge crater in the soil open up to a large deck surrounded by many movable platforms and supply cages as the railcar crossed over a bridge then looped around the building site. He’d thought maybe Fen Thuros could have been right after all, about beast-machines against man-machines. Still there had to be training of the current fighters, many who had all but already sacrificed themselves to save their families.
The railcar stopped at its first destination and let off a few worker passengers, then proceeded to the next stop where Terival and Thuros detrained. The autoramp detracted and the doors slid shut behind them. A sign glowing “To Sitelevel Three” hung above the nearest exit. Terival had started in that direction when Thuros pulled him back by the sleeve.
“Not our stop. We have to catch another into the low spaces. That’s where you’ll get your clearance and whatever else there is waiting for you.”
Terival looked out to the platform in the distance to the big ship’s carcass. “A vessel, I hope. Completed.”
“Yes, my friend. I assure you. Your eyes are about to see the greatest vessel ever born.”
Journey Beyond the Rim
When it was time to go, Uisz packed things that were essential to take from her world. Lines of ancestry. Writings of the Great Masters. Seru plants and an assortment of elixirs made from them.
“How much time?”
Lingering inside of her own small world and gradually coming back, Uisz heard her mother’s voice not so far away. They had been sharing a private dwelling for a few days. It consisted of little more than an open room surrounded by storage space. The bath was partitioned behind a flowing blue oil screen.
“Did you hear me, Uisz? I asked...”
“I heard you.” said the newly bloodrited girl with a slightly mean spirit. “The time....you want to know the time...”
Liania, the mother, shook her head. “I didn’t ask that at all. I asked how much time.”
Uisz straightened up from where she had been working steadily and looked around. “I assume you’re referring to Terival in some way. Time with him...time without.....”
The mother breathed in, then out heavily. Shell-green eyes glimmered from an unbeautiful drawn face. Uisz had those same eyes, although nothing else about her was the same.
“If I’d wanted to ask about your partner I would have asked it. I’ve no need to hint around.” the mother snapped. “I was speaking of you...how far along you are with your packing...and Duases.”
“I’ve packed everything we need.” said Uisz.
Liania wasn’t at all finished with her packing, neither was she finished with her questioning of Uisz about time and money and the boy, Duases. Oh yes, that bothered her. She had adored his father and loathed his present legal guardian. How close the name Terival sounded like terror and evil, she had once said. He had sought to replace the boy’s father. One day, the boy would sear with hatred for him, she had said.
“Look out there.” Liana went to a front window and peered out from behind the drapes. “A transport is here. They’re young. In brown uniform. Doesn’t look like Maulice’s guard....”
Uisz hurried to the window and saw two men come from a ground transport just large enough to carry them and a few more. They were all broad and walked like soldiers, wore military hats and by their fight-ready gait, they concealed weapons.
“It is,” she said. “Everything is changing, mother. There’s more danger. We all must be prepared.”
By the time Uisz stepped from the window, a few loud knocks made her jump and twist immediately toward the door.
“Get it,” said her mother. “I’ll go after Duases.”
There wasn’t any hesitation. Uisz went and opened her door, greeted her visitors with a kind welcome, saying, “Nuanta,” a common Edaisha expression that meant ‘Good new day.’
“Nuanta,” the one on the left said back and respectfully removed the cap from his head before speaking again. “Maulice sends a message with his deepest sympathy.” He reached into an inner pocket and pulled from it a small guide device with the screen on and an image of the lifemaster clear and still, then he clicked a button on the side and the image came alive with movement and sound.
“Uisz, special child of ours. You have not been here in a long while. I think it’s time you come. An unfortunate incident has happened. Garved is dead. I know this for certain.....”
Everything seemed suddenly shaded with gray—the profound look in the soldier’s eyes, the quickness of Uisz putting a hand to her mouth. Then all seemed quiet although the message from Maulice kept playing. Garved is dead. She had heard nothing else. Those words pinched at the place that had been empty within her since the day he left her and his son for the dangerous mission appointed him by Maulice as a poison seeker in the crron ridges. Did some deadly poison from the seeping snakes get into his blood and kill him? What a terrible way to die... I no longer loved him. He turned into an angry hateful man....but our son....
A chill crossed her shoulders and she looked back, saw that her mother had returned from outside and the young boy stood beside her with glassy glaring eyes.
Terival was crying, truly crying. The tears ran down his face, drizzled from the mid-line of his jaws. He wiped his skin dry with a small white cloth.
Fen Thuros watched the sensational work of art and sweat rise with elegant curving wings and graceful body. Thousands of workers dotted about the floor beside the tremendous vessel’s undercarriage.
“Our home for as long as we will make it.” said Thuros.
“This is greater than I could’ve ever imagined,” Terival spoke above the mumblings around him, and suddenly they all faded off and quieted.
He said more.
“Such a great ship deserves a great name. I have one. Saturis.....”
The mumblings started again and another man came up to his left, “Nothing to lose with that one for sure, Teriv. The brightest cluster of starlight in our worldzone.”
He nodded to the craftsman Nixet Hames. The man was small and old. His hands were always chapped from the endless shifts of metals grinding and frame sheeting. Every vessel ever made in modern times held his signature. The Saturis—if named by vote—would be his eighty-first.
“Also known by our ancestors as the Great Rim,” said Nixet. “Always the dream. Never yet the reality.”
“That’s because it’s been assumed too far the distance and too great the risk.” Fen Thuros butted in. “No more with our compasses and the ship that’s going to get us all to it.”
“You’re sure of this gadget?”
“Not a gadget, Nix. A requirement for finding the true paths. Trust me, this compass will show us the way there and lead us the way back.”
Nixet’s eyes darted to Terival then back to Thuros. “Now why would we want to find the way back? This ground is crumbling beneath us....there’s no stopping....”
“And that ship holds a tiny fraction of our population.”
“Fen, The maiden voyage will be the only voyage, my friend. It can be launched from our atmosphere and its reusable fuel maintained throughout the journey. But once landing, we lose our ability to regenerate power well enough for a return here.”
Thuros’ voice dropped to silence and the eyes grew round.
“I don’t believe this.... Terival, did you know this? Did you know...”
“Yes....yes, I knew,”
“But you’ve accepted it? You’ve accepted that our mothers and children, brothers and sisters will be left back?”
Terival began walking down the ramp, heading toward the building dock.
“Another ship can be built.” Nixet hollered out.
Thuros swirled to see Nixet among the others then hurried after Terival before yelling back at Nixet. “And how long will that take! By then this world and everyone left with it will be dead!....” he quickened his pace until catching up with Terival on the ramp over a river of molten metal. “A plan of escape for some of us but not all? You say you knew, but I don’t believe you, Teriv. You wouldn’t hold that kind of truth from me. Not even if the great god of our sandfields Maulice himself commanded it.....”
Terival’s stomach churned and knotted. He felt the heat on the bridge steaming as strong as the pressure from Fen Thuros.
“I thought we were designing a useful retriever that makes a full pass every quarter shift. We were going to do it. What happened to those plans, man? What could’ve happened?”
“There were never any concrete plans to build a retriever,” said Terival. “It couldn’t be done.”
“You want me to believe that?”
“Yes, I want you to believe that....”
Fen Thuros stopped for a moment and glared directly into Terival’s eyes, and Terival, breathing hard, did not look back.
“....I see....” said Thuros. “A spin of the political wheel. Only those called are granted access to it. You’ve been called, ‘eh Teriv? Not by any god. You’ve been chosen to lead us by the governor who was given his rank by the father who raised you.”
“Is this what you believe, Thuros?”
“Then you don’t see.”
“I do.....clearly. There’s the matter of payment to the mediators without whom we wouldn’t be traveling at all. They extend knowledge. We hang by their threads and they don’t even allow us the privilege of meeting with them. Some are land negotiators and the sources they bargain with are beyond our reach. You do understand this now, Teriv, don’t you? World bargaining is a precise talent. One mistake too many, everything gained is everything lost.”
Gazing at the cleanly lined oblong disk vessel, Terival kept in mind the origins of its flex glass and tensile metals that almost every ship building substance Mythicons used these days had been provided by outerworld sources and approved by the mediators. Mediators. He thought. Unheard, unseen. Yet the most powerful living entity before us.
“And so you see our world lost?” he asked.
Thuros took a moment, then answered. “Maybe Shior has been bargained off for some promised land. I bet they’ve seen that far rim....even been to it. They want us to cultivate something there.”
“Cultivate something? Be more specific, Thuros. Materials? Plants? What?”
“Either one,” answering with a simmering smirk. “Maybe even more than that....”
A long pause, then Thuros said: “Might be—”
The boom of a horn cut him off and down in the pit where the workers looked like small pins against the huge ship, there was a sudden shift from right to left. On the right, a pair of large doors swung open, light glowed from the other side, and a group of inspectors and subsidizers flooded through. Terival could not see individual faces yet knew them all. Vingo Abric, a supporter of Maulice’s and real connection to the mediators, would head the pack into the depths of the vessel and give the grand tour. Terival was not jealous, but knew the choice of Vingo was for pleasing the arbiters at the last session of peacemaking.
“You look as though you could spit in his face from here.” said Thuros.
In spirit of the moment Terival drew his lips, harked up saliva and he did spit out over the bridge, but the fluid evaporated immediately upon its descent to the hot orange river.
“I know you’re angry like I was, Teriv. I’ve learned that anger works against the soul. Clouds the perspective. We all know his noble mother got his image sculpted on gold pillars and his voice heard from all the grand podiums....Of course, you’ve got Uisz. She’s helped you get much further than you could have alone....”
Thuros stopped talking, cut it quickly when Terival turned, frowning deeply.
“I’ve had Uisz for as long as Maulice would allow. The arrangement is over. He’s decided against letting her go along.”
“What?” Thuros went up on his toes like he could’ve jumped out of his boots.
“He wishes healers and grantresses and some of the serengs to stay here. Only they can ease suffering, turn sand into water, mold hardened clay into soil that produces fruit. He wants fighters going out beyond the rim,”
“Fighters without their mates? For a journey longer than seven full shifts? What will that make of us?”
“Angry killing machines.....”
“Who forget the ones we fight for?”
Terival sucked in a breath, then exhaled loudly. “We won’t forget. Neither will they.”
Below, the horn sounded and the pit doors closed again. Above, Terival saw that Neyko Som had arrived, and he looked at the great ship with bright enthusiasm shining in his eyes. It was almost the same as just three days ago when he joined in bloodrite with Seara Nis. In three days, he would be leaving her for the journey beyond the rim.
The Lost Souls
Worlds away. Habitable. If only to reach out and grasp it. Terival looked ahead, then back, from what he would gain and what he had lost.
Silent, it was, on the day the Saturis left. Shior didn’t seem to be dying, or under siege, as those who had proclaimed the end drawing near. However, lifting up toward the black sky had been soothing. The vessel’s roundpoint nose gently scored the planet’s natural protective screen, the large inner ball rotated as it performed atmospheric and navigational checks. Every upper and lower encasement adjusted individual air exchanges and internal temperatures. The decks were long and wide, mobile spaces and storage large. In some of the smaller rooms, men listened to assorted music and played spot games such as rihbow and fret.
When it was time, Terival sent back a message telling of his successful first stage of the mission. Just as he had retrieved from his visions, Neyko Som, the tall, slender man in all black, led the seven-level ship with seven levels of shipmen, and Jaremei, the young soldier who hadn’t lost a sword fight since the day he became old enough to grip one in his hands, led the fighters.
Terival had positioned himself with the main crew, to the right of Neyko, the ship’s captain. Just a few times had Terival had been in wide-open space. He recalled his travels in two single compartment skyships and a hex-wing glider. Uisz had been with him in the glider. It was where they first met. She had flown him on a tour of Landcastle, the most beautiful isles of Shior, yet her beauty had captivated him, and when it came time for a decision of gifts from the governors, he had chosen her over anything else in his desires. Uisz, a true Edaisha Wist, held the power of projecting dreams into facets of reality. She was as well a distraction to every healthy, breathing man in her presence. For this reason Terival knew she could not come. The men would be tempted to arouse her into building their dreams and no telling what they would reveal—surely not anything significant as Terival’s real and attainable visions of the Great Rim.
Terival was of course not an ugly man. Yet neither was he fancy and debonair. He was rough and rugged, sometimes coarse with his actions and with his language if a man so dared to push him far enough. There was his prominent crooked nose and strong chin, his cutting amber eyes and features of a man who had grown up without privilege, perhaps had spent his life sleeping in the caves and craters of the Yola Basin where he was born. These men needed his kind now, as the journey took them through light storms and galespins, and close to a subplanet of Obius, known to be inhabited by the treacherous Obimen.
“Look up,” said Neyko. “They’re sending off shields just in case we decide to be unfriendly. Actually there’s no reason for us to be that way. They help our ships avoid the crron terminals. It doesn’t take much. They despise crrons as we do.”
Obimen. Terival recalled an adaptable species, blackened and broad. Information systems described them as non-invasive tradesmen.
“There’s so many of them.....” Neyko continued. “Not only here but all through many of the gateways. They’ve got those lungships that I suspect would carry well even past the outer rim. I don’t doubt that they’re very interested in our missions.”
“Then we should expect them to follow?”
“Perhaps lead. We don’t really know if they haven’t tried searching space as we have. I’ve heard they’ve accessed information on your foresight beyond the rim. Of course, you had the visions and they’ve believed.”
Terival looked again at Neyko. “They believe only in what they can see, not the vision.”
“Ahh, Terival. You’re a decent and determined man but never take credit for anything.”
“Credit....” he rubbed a hand on his chin. “No....no credit.....I have no visions without her....”
The conversation lapsed. Then came Neyko.
“I know it. I should’ve pushed harder. I should’ve demanded to let her come.”
Neyko looked once and again. “I meant it’s frightening that you’d let a female coax you with such powers. You didn’t need her to confirm your visions by using her imagery. Edaishas are demonesses. She could have masked your vision if she’d wanted. Remember Palana who tricked Ceorm into believing a vault of fire was an island paradise...”
“An old tale....and deserved for his selling her child after believing that she was too sick to care for it.” Terival recalled.
“Not his child, Teriv. The child belonged to her deceased first lover.”
Terival cut his bright eyes and flashed his teeth with a minor sneer. He’d wanted to grip Neyko by the neck and fling him, shout from the skies that his Uisz knew only love and not deceit, that she had warned of every weapon the enemy would use to bring Terival down. Since being without her, he’d had no more visions. That was frightening.
I think of you, Uisz,
Every waking moment
Every turn in my sleep
My heart is heavy now
Because you are not here
In your absence I am weak
Apart, away, separate, lost
I feared this day would come,
Prayed that it would not
My Uisz, My Love, My Strength, My Sight
In you, I have Fate,
So much Fate,
Even when apart, We are not alone
The gates to all of the worlds seemed to be opened. One grand ship, the Saturis, destined for glory, navigated the world ahead. Time extended in streams and sectors, through light fields and black holes, circled blue/gray orbs zipped along the knotted, twisted currents of celestial flow. At times, Terival dozed off into a deep sleep within an enclosed singular module. His dreams, for several days now, had gone black.
Lukite Tual was there. So were the three brothers, Alowas, Respal, and Manteg. Han Ager was there. Fen Thuros, Nixet Hames, and all those under direct command of the first officer held designations on every level.
Soon enough, things changed.
Terival had no awareness of a distress signal cast out from the Saturis when his vessel became entangled in a storm beyond a storm, and beyond that, a light stream that shifted them off course.
“This isn’t good....” Thuros panicked with the floor rumbling beneath his feet. “He should’ve felt this and come out of it by now. Something’s holding him in wait. Do you think your physical attendants might know what’s happening?”
“I suppose,” Neyko replied calmly. “We’d best see what can be done…Leave him here for now while you get them and I do whatever it takes to stabilize this vessel.”
A long while later, after running the necessary communications tests and issuing fail warnings without any response, Neyko saw his fate as well as all of those aboard the Saturis, and briefly, he thought of his bloodrite, Seara, and his son, Kur. On the main deck, his pilots fought a giant galestorm. Within moments, any chance of getting to the rim died.
Yet it was still there, reachable. But now, destiny came like the hand of some great god stopping them.
“We can’t go any deeper into this system I’m afraid. The spotters have located a few fringe weapons…saboteurs, they suspect.” He told a small gathering of his crew. “We’ve veered into Obius. The pull of its atmosphere is so strong we can’t escape. So I’ve decided that we allow it…on my terms.”
“Give a hint, Nekyo Som?” asked a small, young, male pilot.
Neyko smiled and nodded. “Get your breathemix and ready your modules.”