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THING OF DARKNESS
by Matthew Rossi
The Neysar created by Chad Imbrogno · The Lokar inspired by Marc Singer
This thing of darkness
I acknowledge mine
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Now I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair
Unless I be relieved by prayer
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
This story is respectfully dedicated to Joan Barbara Morgan Rossi, without whom the writer would be at a disadvantage due to his non-existence.
Space. It is in-between matter, it is everywhere, it is infinite. Right now a puzzled boy floats dazed in its grasp. He is tall, with copper-gold skin, black hair that trails almost all the length of his body, shredded leather jacket and tattered t-shirt stretched over a muscular frame. He had numerous gashes and cuts drying and healing on his face, chest and arms. Tight patchy denim jeans hug his legs, and his eyes are portals to green fire that dances and roils inside him. But the expression on his face was far from daunting...indeed, it was confusion itself.
Nothing looks familiar, not that I know much about where the stars should be anyway...but I'm sure that this is not the sky I know. There indeed was no way for him to know where he was...after the bomb had detonated, he had expected to be dead, but instead hed ended up wherever he was. And since he didn't know HOW he'd gotten there, he didn't know how to get back.
Without knowing how he knew, he knew that there were five stars within his range...he didn't know what his range was, but he knew that he could reach them. He also knew that none of the stars were the sun. He was very very far from home...and there was less chance of him getting back there than there was of his brother becoming a stand-up comedian.
That thought made Eric Anderson laugh. It was silent, but very real.
Finally he just flipped a coin in his head and headed what would be down in a gravity well. There was no appreciable gravity at the moment, so there was no down at the moment, but it helped Eric to think in that manner. It seemed logical. It was not, but it SEEMED to be, and that was all he needed.
The flight was a lonely one, and Eric had plenty of time to think. The Colony was wrong, Eric was sure of that already, and being out here convinced him fully. You couldn't live apart like Danny wanted, and if there WAS a war, the Omegas would lose. There weren't nearly enough of them to win it, Powers or not. And technology could go a long way towards duplicating that, as Kali had proved. That robot nearly killed me. Even someone like ME is vulnerable...the average Omega would have no chance.
The whole fight with Kali, his whole life now, seemed surreal. He was buffeted by two emotions, one being that he was afraid he'd never see Earth again, the other rampant joy that HE'D NEVER SEE EARTH AGAIN. It wasn't a very nice place for him, but it had been all he knew. He suspected that was why he hadn't left before, of his own free will...God, had he thought about it. He had landed on the dark side of the moon once and just stared into the black, at the dots in the curtain, and felt himself drawn to it, but then he was afraid.
Now he was here, wherever her was, and he wasn't afraid at all. He felt free. Free of his brother, whom he loved but was weary of, free of any duty to the world, free of restraint. He didn't have to worry about his own worst enemy anymore, namely himself. His power was great on Earth, but in space, where stars blazed with billions of fusion explosions a second and black holes crused even light itself, all he was didn't mean much. He was thrilled.
Ten hours later, he began to approach a blue white star. Unknown to him, he had entered contested space.
The Milky Way Galaxy, which Eric was now near to the center, contains millions, perhaps even billions of sapient races. The region of space he was in exists just where the spiral arm Earth and its solar system float in connects to the galactic body, and is known as various names to various races. The solar system that Eric was now entering was populated by a race of beings who called themselves Kaartha, after the rumored first of their race. And they were at war with a powerful enemy.
The modified ore freighter Maastra spun in its trace-path as it patrolled their system. The Kaartha were a fairly non-violent race, at least when compared to some, but when the Harrakin had begun expansion in their direction, they had adapted. Now there were tens of thousands of warships in their system. The Maastra had seen combat dozens of times, and had always fought well. But they were still losing. They'd have already have lost, save that the Harrakin had pulled half the ships and troops out of their system, and fifty others, and sent them elsewhere. No one knew where, and the Kaartha, and fifty other systems as well, had been given a respite.
Unfortunately, just when it had seemed that the Neysar could aid the alliance in possibly, if not winning, then maintaining the situation, a new force had emerged. Attacking, destroying, insane and unable to be reasoned with. The Maastra was on patrol against this new danger.
#Report.# Hgreal was leader of the Maastra. Like all the Kaartha on it, Hgreal was what we would call female. The Kaartha males are not in fact sapient beings as much as they are living fertilizers...like an enormous genitalia with vestigal other functions. And that's all about that you need to know, really. It's kinda sickening to humans. The Kaartha on board the ship look like a cross between a stone, a bat, and a human...but they'd probably be offended if you told them that. Ever since the Harrakin attack, they've disliked Humanoids.
#Something has definitely passed our sensor battery on the fifth planet...unfortunately, it was too damaged during the last fight with...THEM...to determine what it was. But it was small...roughly the right size.# Tsth looked up from the scope in anxiety. #Could they be counter attacking?#
#You make it sound like they left because of us. They HAD us...it's taken us years to rebuild. If they were attacking, I dont see why they'd send ONE attacker anyway...but lets be ready. POWER UP! We go.#
The ship began to glow with protective screens as it slid forward in space.
#I have a contact. Small, fast moving...on scanner in two.#
The hex-field view screen clicked into light. On it was Eric Anderson, arms at his side, plowing on as he continued on his flight. The entire chamber sucked in the soupy fog-like nitrogen/oxygen mix they breathed.
#It's a...Harrakin. A Green, Kaart have mercy its a Green, we cant fight a Green.# That from the security and weapons officer Moori.
#We have to try.# Hgreal turned to her communications officer. #Contact home. Tell them everything...send our last known co-ordinates and what we're up against. Tell them it ISN'T the new but the Harrakin.# The officer, Darna by name, flew to her task. #Moori, arm all plasma drivers. Get us ready. When will it reach us? Is it male or female?#
#Male, I think...so hard to tell with the Haks. Hopefully Im wrong.# As a general rule Male Harrakin are more vicious in combat than Females...I pray you're wrong as well. You won't be, though. #Oddly enough, it is moving in awfully slowly, and in real space...maybe he's trying to sneak in?#
#Harrakin don't sneak. More likely he's contemptuous of us. As soon as he is in range, hit him with everything. Maybe we'll get lucky. He isn't wearing their combat armor, but then again as a Green he wouldn't need it.#
And so they waited.
Eric was wondering just how fast he could go. He was already going so fast that there were streaks of light next to him, slowly passing him. He didn't know how he could even be going that fast, and he didn't know (It occured to him how little he actually knew) if he was experiencing Time-Dilation like he was supposed to (The Time-Life book of Time, ironically enough, was the source of that knowledge.) but he knew he felt like he could somehow go faster if he wanted to...he just had to want to. And so he did.
There was a second where he'd thought he was going to fly apart...and then there it was, he was no longer moving, but the universe WAS. He stayed centered as he moved it over him like a bucket of cold water. In a minute he had penetrated all the way in to the second planet in the system , a yellow world it would have taken him an hour to reach if he wasn't moving the universe.
And just as suddenly he felt something shudder, and he stopped moving the universe as three red-orange bursts of light struck him, followed by three more, and three more, and three more, and three more.
#REPORT!# Hgreal's voice trembled.
#That was our entire plasma load.# Moori's voice was flat, but fear was a fever in her grey-black thousand faceted eyes. #All we have left are the lasers, and we know they don't even really affect the Reds...no way they'll hurt a Green. No way.#
#Arm them anyway. Tsth, what do sensors show?#
#The Bio-scanner...oh, this is not good.#
#WHAT is not good?#
#He's TOTALLY unhurt. In fact, the readings are...higher. 10% higher, in fact.# On the large screen, Eric's face was visible. In fact, it filled it, a case of seeing more than any of them wanted to. #I think he's upset, Hgreal.#
He saw the black ball about the size of a cruise ship with the corkscrew back-end now, and for a second, just a second, he was ready to destroy it. But he didn't know anything about it, like WHY they shot at him. They may have what they think is a good reason. In the end, that strange streak of wanting things to end positively won, and he didn't unleash the green fire. Instead, he shot forward.
He was at the ship in seconds. Inside it, they had no idea where he had gone, and they were expecting the hull to rock and the void of space to blast in. But he ghosted and simply passed right through it. Where he came though was apparently some kind of domecile, a little dark chamber with a huge blob (The male Kaartha) hanging from the rounded ceiling and throbbing. He ignored it and scanned the ship.
There were nearly a hundred minds on the ship...and ten of the sack-things, which were alive but mindless. Twelve minds, in the core of the ship, seemed to be in control. He could feel emotions, but not intelligible thoughts...probably due to a language difference. He really didn't know THAT either. Time to look up the hosts.
#Where is it? Someone scan for him.#
#I'm on it...nothing. He isn't out there within range.#
#Could he have gone FTL?#
#He COULD have, but there'd be a trace, some disruption of the area, and there isn't...I have no idea where he is.# The bridge crew was now in a state only slightly removed from panic. Hgreal had spent years fighting (And losing...as much as she hated to admit it, she doubted she's managed to kill over a hundred, mostly Reds or Violets...never even an Orange, never mind a damn Green.) them, and they NEVER went without a counter-attack...it was against everything they held dear.
And then he floated RIGHT THROUGH THE WALL. No Harrakin had EVER done that to her. The bridge crew spun in panic as he seemed to shimmer for a second, and then solidified. He wasn't that big for one of them, but those EYES...those damn green eyes...they told her she was about to die.
Eric sensed a frenzied panic overtake them...they were beyond terror. It made him feel a little ill...they were slightly empathic, and it was making it hard for him to miss the obvious fear. He looked at them, and as his eyes met theirs they seemed to flinch, all except the tall one in the center of the room. She spread her wings and yelled.
#COME ON! DO IT, BUT DON'T KEEP THIS GAME ALIVE!#
"I'm sorry, but I can't understand you."
The crew's panic turned to puzzlement. That wasn't Standard, and it sure as hell wasn't that strange sibilant only half-spoken Harrakiel garbage. That was a language they'd never heard. What was he playing at?
"Can you understand me? Do you have, like, a translator or something?" Nothing but those puzzled afraid looks. "All right, I'll assume you do. That means I'll have to keep talking, like in Star Trek? Well, then, why shoot me? I mean, that was pretty rude considering..." Then it hit him. They were an alien race. This was a first contact! MAN! I'm Earth's ambassador...and I've already made them want to kill me, not the best way for an ambassador to be treated.
Finally, after ten minutes of guarded stares, something happened. Eric sat there, watched by wary black eyes...and then he decided. Alien or not, inhuman or not, they had brains...they had thoughts. He looked the fierce one straight in the face, black glittering orb to pulsating green.
Pain. Growth. Change. Words.
The bridge crew went into paroxyms of terror whe Hgreal seemed to convulse, but before they could react, she seemed to snap out of it. As Moori held her commander up, Eric opened his eyes.
#You have no reason to fear me. I am not your enemy.#
#LIAR! The Harrakin and we are at war!#
#That may well be..# Eric smiled. #But as I am not a 'Harrakin', what does it matter to me?#
Hgreal straightened. #What did you do to us? Why do I know things about you...that little planet, the explosion..what is your purpose?#
#I don't really have one. I'm lost, right now. My only purpose is exploration, I guess...#
#Hgreal, what is this?# Tsth spoke up. #Why are we talking to the Harrakin?#
#He isn't a Hak...at least, he doesn't THINK hes a Hak. We shared minds...I know his life like I know mine. And he knows mine as he knows his.#
#I'm sorry for the intrusion, but we weren't getting anywhere.#
Then, before any more could be said, something happened. The ship rocked...hard.
#Unknown gunship, Hgreal!# And there it floated, black and red, painted with obscene, twisted pictographs. It was half the size of their ship...and at least twice the power. It was centered on the Hex-Field View Screen.
Before he could understand what he was doing, Eric was through the walls, ghosting till he passed through the hull of the ship. Then he interposed himself between the attacking ship and the one that had so recently tried to kill him.
<Lifeburn skates through space. Matches our accursed family tree, the scythes of the triwrapped matix.> The voice was like the high sweet laughter of a child mated to the grunting of an ape. <The skein tells it true...a brother masters the void to defend our prey, a golden child unlike this blackened form.>
<No doubtlings spired in my ken...and power. Muchly power, moren moreso.>
The grunting assonant voice keened out in that cramped chamber. Laughter, twisted, freakish laughter.
<At last. Angel to Devil, the left hand of the makers to their right...Kill our wayward rentath, shall us?>
<Blessing always dance the spiral.> The laughter spread.
Eric floated their for a few seconds, unsure of what to do. Then a door cycled open on the ship, and a chitinous black metal shape, six arms and wings like a razor blade, leapt out and angled for him. Riding ahead was a telepathic shriek...too powerful to shield against.
The colors of the stars ran. Space wrenched, folded, folded again. Time ran backwards. Chaos burned in his brain. Then the impact of those massive metal fists brought him out of the delerium...and he managed to bring his shield back up. He blocked another shield, and realized with mounting concern that whatever this obsidian thing was, it hit hard...almost harder than Kali. He was too burned out to feel fear, however, and so instead just concentrated his frustration with the way things were going in a single word.
The shape attacking him couldn't hear what he said...but the Emerald Plasma that seared through its shell conveyed the message quite nicely. Driven back, Eric could see the face and form of what he was fighting, and it concerned him.
A) It was apparently unbothered by naked exposure to space.
B) Its eyes were a blazing white, its face an unholy combination of ape, man and reptile, and it shrieked an unheard laughing scream as it flew at him under its own power.
C) It WAS stronger than Kali. He found that out as it smashed a hairy paw into his face. Space being what it was, he had nothing to brace against, and so flipped away end over end. The thing leapt at him again. This time, he swung, hard, harder than he ever had in his life. The impact felt satisfying riding up his forearm...like he was meant for this.
The ape-alligator beast lost a tooth as Eric pressed his attack. Meanwhile, the Kaartha ship was being slowly dealt the death of a thousand cuts, as the unknown ship bombarded it methodcally, obstinately refusing to do the honorable thing and kill it outright.
<Childling mighty...Moorgrath now dying. Cannot beat him.>
<Potent indeed. Deliver message, we go...tell them all we come. Tell them we come in force and flame and unquenched laughter. Tell them we have huddled long enough.>
Moorgrath was amazed as the fight progressed...the elder brothers of exile had become known as warriors, but in truth the Lokar had always doubted that the children of Harrakiel could fight. This was an error. The black-furred nightmare found himself trading blows with an enemy who seemed to get stronger, and at the same time his inbred ability to broadcast his thoughts was being blocked...and that was impossible. As the boy drove his fist into Moorgrath's face, causing his nose to implode in an ebon jet of blood-like ichor, the eventual winner became apparent.
As the roaring beast swung again, Eric simply caught its arm and snapped it in three places. He was tired of the fight already. He felt stronger out in the void than he had on Earth, and was tired of needless battles against weaker foes...even an insane weaker foe. He was tired of fighting.
Again the shearing as time and space danced along lines of twisted fire and bent itself...this time not coming from the monstrosity he was battling, but from his ship.
<Stonebugs and boyling...the Lokar send their greeting. Your space to be ours...your flesh to fill our teeth. Come back to see you soon...bring whole race. Goodling grips the day.>
Space snapped back to normal, but the black daggerlike ship was gone. The still, lifeless body of Erics opponent drifted away. It was all over and had just begun.
[I think maybe I'd rather fight Shiva.]
The Lokar make their move! The Allied Races decide what to do!
Eric meets the Neysar! Possible family reunions!
Who are the Harrakin? All this, and an attempt to settle this Cosmic Identity Crisis.
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