Back to the Series & Stories Page Back to the Omega Home Page

Previous Issue TEMPEST Next Issue
Previous in Crossover Next in Crossover

Back to the Tempest Home Page
by Matthew Rossi

If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Brahma

Thou sorrow, venom elf.
Is this thy play,
To spin a web out of thyself
To catch a fly?
For why?
Edward Taylor, Upon a Spider catching a Fly

The council (A glorified title for a band of frightened Kaartha and Neysar) sat in their chamber and watched the orbital defense screen's report. Spinning in the velvet black was a Lokar ship, a vast metal mountain that spun and fired, but not at them. What it fired at was equally bad.

A fleet of silvery ships, triangular bubbles, none of which was a match for the Lokar vessel seperately, but together the thirteen Harrakin vessels were more than enough. The battle was a crimson nightmare, the faster ships darting about and flinging particle weapon discharges, the large ponderous Lokar ship soaking up damage and occasionally getting off a return shot.

As the Council watched in horror, Tatris walked into the room. They turned and regarded him with distaste. Wentsin, the Neysar represenative, stood and began to speak, his thick throat croaking out the words.

"Harrakin traitor, seems your people have come to call." The words were a slap to Tatris' face, and only a Neysar would have dared say them.

"I know. I also know that the Lokar are here. When they are done tearing each other apart, the victors will descend upon this planet and tear it apart."

"Think you we will not fight?"

"If you have brains, you won't. You have time, if you begin now, to evacuate this planet. You may have the twelve ships we brought to aid you in this."

"Why should we leave? And why you make this offer?"

"Because rebel or not, I and my people are Harrakin. And Harrakin die before they run."

Eric was leaning against the wall, his mind out in the ebon. He knew exactly what was going on in space; He knew, as an example, that the fight between the Lokar and the Harrakin was far closer than it appeared. The Lokar ship had disgorged thousands of Shock Troops, those huge winged beast-things, who had attacked in melee: The Harrakin, who were bound by their strange honor code, had followed suit, releasing troops in equal numbers. Strange that the Harrakin code of honor thought it was okay to roll over planets who couldn't possibly fight them, slaughtering millions, but they couldn't ignore a stand up fight.Now the Lokar were using their ferocity and the Madness Wave to great effect, neutralizing the Harrakin Marines edge in power and training...

[Eric.] The thought touch made him break off his psionic spying. [You're rambling.]

He looked at Sharra, who was wearing a black metal armor which clung to her, The helmet was in her hands, allowing Eric to see her face and her burning hair.

[Are the results of the test in?]

[Yes, but they don't make any sense. Your genome shifted hundreds of times during the scan...I can't determine what you are. Empirical evidence indicates that you are somehow related, but I can't say how...maybe your race and ours are related. If not, maybe you're the first of a new breed of Harrakin. But what does it matter now?] She tossed that wave of red out of her face, a familoiar gesture that belied the armored warrior she was portraying.

[Why do you say that?]

[Because we'll all be dead tomorrow. I hope we die well, at least.]

Eric felt a cold snake wrapped around his guts, squeezing until he felt a bit queasy. Sharra looked up at him then.

[How do you DO that?]

[Do what?] He started to pace about, wondering what she meant.

[Feel. All my life I was trained to feel nothing. They entered my mind every day, they did the same to us all, to make sure we are as cold and efficent as machines. By the time my father rebelled, it was too late for me, maybe too late for us all.] She gestured to the other Harrakin, who were methodically dressing for combat, pulling on their armor and preparing for what they thought would be their deaths.

[All of us, Eric, an entire race that can't feel. Now here you come along, just a boy. A boy who can feel. And you do it so easily, so effortlessly, you just give off emotions like Uranium sheds radiation or a star gives light. We rebelled for it, and can't do it, and now we never will, because we are going to die, and I can't even get bitter over it.]

[Someone once told me I was a gravity well into which mayhem fell...maybe you'll survive.]

She snorted at that thought. [ old are you?]

[Sixteen.] With that, he also sent over how long a second was, and how many of them were in a minute, and how many of those in an hour, and then a day, a year. Her eyes widened.

[By that scale, you are an INFANT to us. How did you mature so rapidly?]

[I was just like everyone on Earth until a few months ago. Then BOOM, I became whatever it is I am.] He felt a choking both like and unlike pain at the thought of Earth. [Two days ago I never wanted to see Earth again. Now, I want to go home.]

[Why don't you?]

[Why don't YOU?]

[There is no escape from this for us, Eric...we have to fight. We chose this road. You haven't. You can escape.]

[I could...] How to put it? How to tell her that he didn't want to leave her? [On Earth, I'm alone. Even my friends are afraid of and your father have accepted me. How do I leave that?]

[Is that the only reason?] She seemed to be digging around inside him, he didn't know what to say. [Eric?]


[I can think of another reason.]

In the astral realm, a being born on the same planet Earth, thousands of years ago, smiled. His interference manipulated Eric's unskilled attempt at Teleportation, sending him on a trans- galactic jaunt. The exposure to the Harrakin would do nicely for a corrupting influence, and the uncertainty of his heritage will add to his anguish...making him easier to manipulate. And the woman will add a new experience, new obligations, tearing him further between home and her.

Typhon smiled on his promintory of rock. Nergal was in place for later, when I really need him. Shiva has been thwarted, his virus mostly halted...except for the small dose that has been released in Siberia, distracting Daniel Anderson and his Colony until later. Eric will find that his life no longer fits him when he returns to it. His world will be vastly different, as will he.

I love it when a plan comes together. He laughed at the pun, his human cultists influencing him. My cults are reviving, and the new worship makes me strong. Soon, even the overweening Black Circle and the Lyrenian Brotherhood shall be mine...and then, once Eric is mine, I shall gain my ultimatre revenge on he who imprisoned me, by slaying him.

You will die, you greek pig.

Typhon laughed, and the Astral Plane reverberated with his negative joy.

There are some things you just don't question. Some things you accept. Right now, Eric Anderson, sixteen years of age, found himself held in the arms of a woman hundreds of years older, minds open, sharing the totality of union as only telepaths can, and he didn't question it. He looked up at her face, green fire so bright that it lit up the room, although his own eyes didn't hurt, and felt himself sliding on a wall of sensation.

[So those are emotions.] Sharra's dazed thoughts brushed his core. He nearly lost control of himself, but managed to rein it back. He knew nothing...she was his first, but the joining meant that they were one. Her knowledge was his. His soul was hers.

Hands laced, naked skin to naked skin, soundless union.

[They must be here for me.]

[Not now.]

He closed his eyes and felt himself begin to lose control. So did she, and the rhythm adjusted. There was no breathing, as neither of them needed air. Eric felt a snippet of thought, Mirranda telling him his body was changing, he questioning if he would be able to do this.

[No reason to worry, Eric.]

[I love you.]

[I wish I knew what love was, so I could say the same.]

He saw her childhood on Harra prime, the beatings and mental violations of the H'tlart who ensure mental perfection, the wrenching decision to follow her father in rebellion, her fatalistic acceptance of death, how she thought the Lokar or Harrakin fleets above spelled her death.

He felt something beyond pain, beyond anything he'd ever felt, as even the words ME and SHE ceased to mean anything. They climbed, bodies sliding across each other, the peak burst upon them and then it ended, so slowly, so slowly that they were unsure of when.

Time passed. Slowly the individual returned to them. Eric felt his head where it had driven a hole into the metal beneath him. The cold, cramped and tiny room where Sharra had taken him seemed sadder now that he was alone again. He knew she was awake, and he didn't know what to do, so he did nothing.

[You amaze me, Gl'zyra.]

[What does that mean?]

[It is a small animal we keep as pets on the homeworld. I meant it as a term of...I guess the word would be affection.] She stood up and off him in an easy, sibilant gesture, and Eric looked at her perfect, slim body as she dressed. So different from the few girls I've known...what happened here? Eric stood as well, feeling a little awkward at her frank appraisal of his naked body, and so with a thought he was dressed.

[By Harra's do you do all that?]

[I don't know.]

[Is there anything you CAN'T do?]

[I don't know that either.] Eric let his mind range out to the Harrakin fleet and the Lokar ship slamming energy into each other. They would occasionally miss and hit the planet, but that so far wasn't all that was the waiting. [They came for me.]

[Full of yourself?]

[I don't expect you to old man once told me that I attract this kind of thing, that I'm a bringer of trouble.] He stopped scanning the depressing images of war and looked at her. [Somehow I ended up here, near you and your people, who it turns out I'm somehow involved with. And now this. I feel like a puppet on someone else's stage...and I don't like it AT ALL.]

{The Binder is too literal, sometimes.} He was dead, but that didn't stop the being known to Allan Covenant as Free Spirit from transversing the void of space instantly. In fact, being dead made it a lot easier. Very few living beings can bend the fabric of the black tapestry as the fleshless can...and Free Spirit was seeking one of those few now.

In seconds, he closed in upon the timy ball of rock where his interest lay, passing the metal boats tearing into each other and the war-crazed hordes doing the same. War didn't interest a Free Spirit.

He found the boy lying in a chair of some kind that conformed to his frame, staring up at the sky. His eyes were locked on that place in the sky where Earth was, although Free Spirit knew that the boy was unaware of that. He's unaware of a lot of things he knows, and hides himself well in there. Time to begin waking him up, I suppose.

{Little Prince?}

[What?] Eric came up out of the chair as his etheral guest manifested. Then recognition clouded over his harsh look of concern. [You? You've come a long way from home.]

{Indeed. We both have, Little Prince. I bring a message for you from a friend. From ALL your friends.}

[You do?] Eric seemed thrown off by this announcement, and sat back down. [I wasn't expecting to ever hear from them again.]

{Would you care to hear it?}

He gave the ghostly shaman a naked look of bloody, desperate pain and confusion. Even his fleshless heart skipped at that despairing sidelong glance. Finally the boy looked away and shuddered. [Might as well. You came all this way.]

The voice of Allan Covenant flooded the chamber.

"Tell Eric that we all miss him. His brother especially. He was loved by many and we wish he could be back with us, godly or not." Then seconds of silence ticked by. The shaman waited and looked at the hair covering the boy's naked back.

{They think you dead.}

[I wish they were right. I sometimes think I'll never die. I don't know who I am, what I am. I've found out that I may be an alien, one of these Harrakin...I don't know what it all means. There's a war going on in the sky over me.]

{There is, indeed. I saw it on my travels. Will it comfort you to know the truth about yourself?}

Eric whirled. [You KNOW, don't you? You know what I am?]

{To a degree. I know of your parentage. I know of the fear that strangles you now. I know that you are the first, and that there will be others like you born on the world we left, a new class of gods. You are one of the first, one of the most powerful of the new age to come. This fight is beneath you. What is it you wish to know? I'll answer as best I think fit.}

Eric opened and closed his fists convulsively. He missed Danny, and Mirry, and the goofy joy he got when defying them, and the fun of escaping to blow off the day with Jimmy. He knew that he'd crossed a line that he'd never get back over.

[Tell me what I am.]

{You are half of these who you fear you are akin, and you are the son of a woman of Earth, and your destiny is written in the heat of the stars. You let fear hamper you, and that is not right. Respect your ability, be cautious, but do not fear it, and you will find what you must.}

[So I AM Harrakin.]

{AND human. And both and neither. You come from both.} Free Spirit was concerned for the boy who will be more. {There is much for you to learn about yourself, Eric. A vision-quest was possibly the right choice, but this place is too much for you yet. You have growing to do. You should go home.}

[Where is home?]

{That is a question you have to answer alone, Eric.} With a shimmering sabine shift, the astral voyager began to depart. {Where FEELS home?}

Eric didn't know the answer to that one. He waited alone in vain for it to come to him, but it didn't.

Tatris stared at the display holography, his daughter at his side, wearing her battle armor, complete with the featureless metal helmet, loaded with computer systems for navigation and targeting. Light scintilatted off of it, splintered by the harsh nature of it's metal purpose.

[It's not my place to ask you, Sharra.]

[But you'll ask anyway.]

[I need to know what's happening.]

[Not this time. You don't need to know this, and I won't tell you.]

[So there's something to tell?]

[I have had enough of this conversation.] Sharra turned away and began regarding the display from behind the helmet. Her ornate black armor swallowed the light from the display, save the sheen of the helmet. [You have a spare suit of armor?]

[You know I do, daughter.]

[Leave it out for Eric. He's decided to stay. Why are the Lokar closing the gap with troops rather than ramming the command ship?]

[So he's staying? Does that mean more than another warrior?]

[I told you I wasn't going to tell you what happened. I wasn't lying to you.]

Tatris smiled. [I love it when you get embarrased.]

[I am not embarrased. I don't have emotions.]

[No, you don't know what to DO with emotions, thanks to the training corps. We all have them. I'm beginning to be glad we met Eric, if he can bring out this side of you.]

[Can we get on with the battle plan?]

[Anything you say.]

The evacuation went faster once the Kaartha figured out how to pilot the Harrakin vessels that Tatris gave them. As Eric watched the last of the ships depart, painting the sky a gold-red as they activated their reactionless drives in-atmosphere, he tried to get used to the feel of the armor Tatris had given him. It was all black, even the helmet, with two half-ovals that adjusted themselves to allow his eyes to peer out. There was a sort of computer in the helmet that monitored his thoughts and pulled up new displays all the time. What really made him uneasy, however, were the spikes.

It was covered in spikes. The hands were all spiky, and there were spike-pads on his elbows, knees, shoulders and even his feet. The helmet itself had a mohawk of spikes that started just above the eyes and rolled back so that he could just touch his back with them if he bent his neck. Harrakin are not the kind of people who believe in pure defense.

[We'll be going soon.]

[Thank you, Sharra.] He turned around to regard her, the helmet running all sorts of programs that he ignored. She was wearing hers as well. [I feel odd dressed like this.]

[For greens, it's more ceremonial than functional. The reds and violets depend on the suits, though.]

[I know what I am now.]

[Really? How?]

[A dead man came and told me.] She looked baffled, but he didn't bother to explain (How do you manage to look baffled in head to toe armor?) but instead he concentrated on the question that he'd been asked. {What FEELS home?} Is home here with her or is it back there? What do I do?

[Time to move.] Tatris' thought-voice came cold and clear and Eric followed Sharra out the door. His discomfort became unimportant, and he wondered what he was about to do, and what it would mean.

The halls were blacker now, and the hum of sentient life, normally always a kind of static in the back of his head, had faded. There were two hundred and seventy beings on the planet now, excepting himself. The Lokar and Harrakin had been so busy slaughtering each other that they hadn't even noticed. And now Eric was about to go with Tatris and Sharra as they added to the death toll? That may be the Harrakin way.

It's not a human way. It's not MY way.

[Goodbye, Sharra.]

Before she could respond, he was ghosting through the slabs of stone over the underground bunker and shearing the atmosphere as he rippled up into space. As before, he felt the boundless energy of space refreshing him, could see the power flowing all around and through him. The Lokar ship and Harrakin vessels were bobbing on a field of spectral emanations, and he could see everything.


The walls he built rippled out of him, shooting forth and surrounding the ships in cerulean fields, pulling the battling troops apart and holding them. They pounded and tore at the walls, but could not breach them, even when they brought the full power of their massive vessels against them. The third field kept Tatris and his people down on the planet. Sharra was not going to fight anyone. Nobody was going to fight anymore.

Waves of telepathic garbled arguments and cajoling and demands slid off his shields. Eric was alive with power, burning with his birthright, and not afraid to use it.

{What FEELS home?}

He concentrated, a second of thought to decide his course, and then he simply exerted himself, the alien skin of metal he wore no longer distracting him, every color flickering off and through him, and the Lokar ship was gone. A galaxy away, to be exact. Even at FTL, it would take MONTHS to return. The Harrakin ships were frantic to batter their way through now, and Eric felt the strain of directing himself beginning to show. If he wanted to go home, he'd have to conserve.

With another thought, the Harrakin fleet, commanded by proud Jakleth, was also gone. Back to Harra, and the emperor, who Eric knew he'd have to face someday. But not today. He felt the wonder rising up from the planet, knew that they'd seen but not believed, and knew from the pounding in his head and the dislocated senses that he'd done what Mirry had warned him about, he'd pushed too far too fast and changed himself.

{What FEELS home?}

Space ripped open under his will, and he flew through the void to begin his trip home.

The other side of the rip was not Earth. He was a little too tired and too young for that kind of control. But the display in his helmet told him where he was, and projected a nav-path for him to fly that would get him there within a few weeks of real-space flight.

Eric looked around the place he was at. He'd never studied astronomy, so he had no idea what the name of the Red-Orange star he was near was, but there was a shining planet a ways away from him. He decided, against his own better judgement, to check the place out.

Within five minutes, he saw that the reason the planet was so reflective was that it was made out of metal. A machine-planet. He stopped for a second and wondered what kind of power it took to make a planet...then his curiosity came back. That, and an attempt to get the dueling red-headed women (Sharra and Agony) out of his head. So he resumed his flight.

There was a ripped plastic-like sphere around the planet that atmosphere was leaking out of. His armor scanned it but it didn't matter to him what it was anyway, since he no longer breathed, so he ignored the result. He realized that it was handy that the armor was powered by using HIM for a battery. Then he saw it.

Death. Death everywhere. Beings that were machine and flesh at once were dead, and littering the surface of the planet.

He landed near the largest pile of the dead. A few were not all the way there, but Eric could see the black energies of some kind of attack all around them. They were doomed. And even if Eric could save them, what then? He reached into their dying minds.

[What happened?]

<It did. All this. Race dead. We last.>

[What WAS it?]

<God Killer.>


Writer's Notes:

My Influences.
Since I haven't gotten any email for any of the books I write, and I really like Pontificating, I've decided to write another of my WRITER'S NOTES about the comic book writers who've influenced me the most as a writer. I'll be doing a WRITER'S NOTES in PULSE 10 and Cruxadier 8 as well unless I get some email. Just make sure to put the title it's for in the subject line, and then we'll be getting somewhere. (Blackmail? Naaah.)
Anyway, if you don't see your favorite writer, I want you to keep something in mind. These are the biggest influences on me, not my favorites, although the line blurs. But Jeff Smith isn't on here, and I like him a lot more than half of the guys who are. He just doesn't influence me. Along with the name of the writer, I'll be putting the book(s) that he or she has done that has influenced me the most. Okay? Okay.
11. Grant Morrison (Animal Man, Spawn): I loved the early issues of Animal Man, and his three issues of Spawn are the best that character has ever been written. Grant has a talent for making characters act like people.
10. Peter David (Aquaman, Hulk, Dreadstar): I still get the feeling that he personally dislikes comic-book fans, but I have to admit he's a deft character writer, and knows just when a quip is needed. Also, he isn't afraid to get dark.
9. Karl Kesel (Adv. of Superman, Superboy): Funny, smart, concise, and just plain cool. Karl managed to even make Rob Liefeld look good.
8. Christopher Priest (The Ray): Okay, he changed his name on us. It doesn't change the fact that in THE RAY, Chris has always managed to keep me interested. He's a deft scripter and shows me new ways to deal with old saws.
7. John Byrne (Iron Fist, Next Men): When John gets his mammoth ego and Neal Adams artwork under control, he has written some damn fine comics. That's all I need. And he always respects the characters, even LAME-O's like the Sub Mariner, who was interesting under John's tenure.
6. William Messner-Loebs (Johnny Quest, Flash, Hawkman): Bill deals well with plotting, something a lot of writer's skip. He also seems to CARE about doing a good job. The earnest nature of his writing is something a lot of people could learn from.
5. David Michelenie/J.M. DeMatteis (Tie: Spider-Man, Dave did TUROK, J.M. did SPEEDING BULLETS) These two are equally influential for different reasons: David for the simple joy he brings to characters like Peter Parker and Turok, and J.M. for explorations of the negative in heroic people.
4. Barry Windsor-Smith (Archer & Armstrong): His twelve issue run on this title was amazing. It proved that a quirky non- superhero title can be a fun read. Satisfying. Plus, the guys the best artist in the universe, but he hasn't gotten egomaniacal about it. Good grasp of style and pacing.
3. John Ostrander (Grimjack, Spectre, and I admit it, Firestorm.) I LIKED Firestorm, ok? John has done an outstanding job with the Spectre, and before that he and Tim Truman made Grimjack a real person in an unreal place. Excellent combination of Style, Plotting and Characterization.
2. Frank Miller (Daredevil, Elektra-Assasin, The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City: The Big Fat Kill, The Man Without Fear): Frank's version of the seamy underbelly of life is the second most influential vision of life on me. Frank brought noir back to comics.
1. MIKE BARON (Badger, Nexus, Flash, Archer & Armstrong): Mike has done it all, from cosmic epics to Norbert Sykes to the first issues of the Wally West Flash to Archer & Armstrong. Mike has consistently proved to me that there is room in one man for ANY type of storytelling that you want. And Mike has also proved that one writer can have fifty different takes on one character. He's the man to me.
Well, that's them. You can agree or disagree, but they're the guys who have most influenced the stories I want to tell in comics. You should check them out if you haven't already.

Back to the top