Beyond this world, a darkness is rising. From the heart of justice, a new evil creeps into the stars, seeking to accomplish what a long-dead empire was unable to. Time is running short. Soon, war will return to the galaxy. And none will be spared its horrors.
A series of obnoxious buzzes roused Symon from his sleep as his alarm clock struck 6:45. With a groan, the teenager rolled over in his bed and groggily swatted a hand at the clock on his nightstand, attempting to silence its blaring cacophony.
“Silence, spawn of Satan,” Symon moaned as he smacked the alarm’s “off” button. Despite his efforts, the clock continued to sing the song of its people.
“Oh my God, shut the hell up.” He hit the button several more times before the clock was finally silenced. With the first challenge of the day completed, Symon threw off his covers and climbed out of bed so he could prepare for the school day.
‘I need a new clock,’ he thought as he walked over to his dresser. He more or less picked out and donned the first articles of clothing he saw: blue jeans, white t-shirt, black hoodie, and his pair of black canvas shoes. Once he was fully dressed, he took his iPhone off of its charger, slipped it into his pocket, and stepped out of his bedroom.
He made his way to the kitchen and powered on the Keurig coffee maker resting on the countertop beside the sink. The machine began to hum as it heated up the tank of water plugged into its side. While waiting for the water to get to temperature, Symon opened up one of the wall-mounted cabinets and pulled out a plastic travel mug. Since he had a bad habit of staying up well past midnight on school nights, Symon had come to rely on the caffeine his morning coffee gave him in order to stay awake at school. Today, however, he felt like the coffee wouldn’t do him much good.
He barely slept a wink the previous night. After getting in bed at 12:30 in the morning, he tossed and turned for just over two hours, finally being able to get some shuteye around 2:34, only to be rudely awoken by his semi-functional alarm clock four hours and eleven minutes later. Needless to say, he was dead tired, and he estimated the coffee would keep him awake for his first couple classes, but he would then promptly pass out during third period.
“God, I had the weirdest dream last night,” Symon said to himself. “What was it even about?” The details of the dream had quickly faded from his memory, but there were a few scraps that he managed to remember. He definitely remembered it involving outer-space in some way, and the words “darkness,” “empire,” and “evil” seemed to stick in his head. “Was I dreaming about space-operas again?”
The Keurig stopped its humming, a sign that the water was up to temperature. Symon opened the top of the machine and loaded it with a K-cup -- a small, air-tight, plastic container that held a coffee filter and enough ground coffee beans to make a single small, medium, or large serving. With the K-cup in place, Symon closed the lid, placed his travel mug beneath the machine’s nozzle, and pressed the button for the largest serving size allowed by the Keurig.
While he waited for his mug to fill, Symon took his iPhone out of his pocket and switched on its display. The first thing he noticed was he had two unread text messages in his family group chat. He opened up the messenger app and read over the texts.
The first was from his mother. “Our plane just landed at Heathrow Airport . Dad and I are working our way through customs right now,” the message read.
The message below that was from his sister, Candace. “Great! I hope you guys enjoy your trip! I’m leaving campus today to come home for the weekend so I can help Symon get settled into holding the fort while you guys are overseas.”
After reading both texts, Symon quickly typed in his response. “Can’t wait to see ya, sis. Mom, Dad, I hope you have fun in England. Wish we could be there, too.”
Symon sent the message and pocketed his phone. Once his mug finished filling, he took it from under the machine’s nozzle and added some additions to the coffee. After adding and mixing copious amounts of sugar and caramel creamer into the drink, he screwed the mug’s cap on and grabbed his car keys from where they sat on the kitchen counter.
With his coffee in hand and his keys in his pocket, Symon picked up his backpack and slung it over his shoulder. As he stepped outside, a cold autumn breeze blew by, causing him to shiver.
“Man, I am not looking forward to winter,” Symon said to himself as he closed the front door behind him and locked it. He then took his car keys from his pocket and remotely unlocked the doors on his car as he stepped towards it. The old 2002 Dodge Intrepid made a sound -- a sort of combination of a click and a clunk -- a sign that the vehicle had picked up the signal and had unlocked its doors.
Symon walked around to the driver’s side of the car, opened the door, and then slammed it shut once he was seated inside. He took a sip of his coffee, savoring the warm feeling it gave him, and placed the mug in the cupholder to his right. Holding in the car’s break pedal, he put the keys in the ignition and turned. The engine tried to turn over, but failed. Symon turned the key back and then tried again. Same result: the engine refused to start.
“Oh, come on!” Symon shouted in frustration. “I do not need this right now!”
He attempted to turn the engine over for a third time, this time applying a small amount of pressure to the gas pedal. The engine let out a series of chugs and turned over.
“Thank you! Decrepit piece of crap,” Symon grumbled as he shifted the car into reverse. He backed out of the driveway and onto the dirt road behind him before shifting into drive and speeding away.
“Thank God it’s Friday,” he muttered under his breath before taking another drink of coffee.
Space above Corneria, 3rd Age of Stability: Year 388
The Harbinger wasn’t the workhorse it used to be. After seeing multiple decades of service and being issued to several different pilots, it was a wonder how the old Phoenix-class freighter still ran. But it could fly and was capable of interstellar travel, and that was all the reason that the Order needed to hold onto it. But that didn’t mean it could fly well, as its current owner, Auran Knight Veda T’mara, learned very quickly.
The ship had particular trouble with atmospheric flight. The previous owners had worn the engines down so much that getting up to speed in atmosphere took far more effort than it should. And even when the ship was airborne, keeping it level was a constant battle; the repulsorlift generators on the right-hand side of the hull were almost completely burned out. While in atmosphere, the pilot had to continuously compensate for the ship’s constant rolling to the right.
‘At least flying this tub through vacuum is manageable,’ Veda thought as she brought the Harbinger into low-orbit above Corneria, the capital world of the Galactic Federation.
Initially colonized just over three centuries ago, Corneria was a pristine world of expansive green continents and vast blue oceans. When it was first discovered, it was often used as a neutral meeting ground to settle diplomatic disputes. Only a few years later, the Federation’s Senate voted to establish the planet as the new galactic capital. Over the next few centuries, the continent-spanning metropolis of Corneria City was built up. And housed in the heart of the city were the Senate Building and the Sanctuary Temple, the home of the Knights of the Auran Order.
Unlike Corneria, the Auran Order’s history dated all the way back to when intelligent life first began colonizing worlds beyond their solar systems, back when the Knights served as royal guards of the ancient Draak Monarchy. When the Federation was founded over two millennia ago, the Knights of the Order became its peacekeepers, using their diplomatic skills to serve as mediators and negotiators in times of peace, and using their martial prowess and special Auran powers to serve as fierce warriors in times of conflict.
Free of Corneria’s atmosphere, Veda quickly checked the ship’s active systems to ensure nothing had gone wrong during her flight from the surface.
“Deflector shields are holding,” she announced to herself. “Reactor and engine temperatures are stable. Navigation computer...” she paused to smack the small, blank screen directly to the right of her control yoke. After sustaining two blows, the display still remained black. “ ...still isn’t working,” Veda finished irritably, striking the nav-computer again. After the third blow, the screen’s display finally winked on.
‘That was far more frustrating than it should have been,’ she thought irritably. She had done what she could to keep the ship maintained, but there were simply too many of the Harbinger’s components that had been worn down to the point where they needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, Phoenix-class freighters weren’t designed with user modifications in mind. Simply put, the ship didn’t function properly with third-party components installed. The only way to bring the Harbinger back to its former glory was to find replacement parts from the exact same model of a Phoenix-class, which overall would be far more expensive than just going out and buying a new ship. Unfortunately for Veda, she didn’t have the money to do either.
Pushing her annoyance aside, Veda punched a set of coordinates into the nav-computer. A handful of seconds later, the computer had calculated a travel path that would take her from Corneria to Venausa, a planet on the edge of the galaxy’s Mid-Rim. Recently, issues between the upper- and lower-classes of Venausa’s population had arisen, issues that could lead to armed conflict if left unchecked. Fearful of a civil war breaking out, the Order sent Veda to meet with another Knight already on the planet. The two would then act as mediators in order to find a diplomatic solution to the issues on Venausa.
Coordinates set, Veda initiated the jump to lightspeed. Outside of the ship’s main viewport, the stars appeared to smear and elongate against the black. Suddenly, the whole craft lurched forward as the Harbinger was propelled out of real-space and into the spiraling blue tunnel of warp-space. Veda let out a long sigh. From here on out, the ship would fly itself directly to Venausa, not requiring any input from her.
She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes as she ran a blue-furred hand across her head. Veda was a Cerinian, an evolutionary cousin to the fox-like Vulpid species. Her appearance was very much like that of a bipedal Cornerain plain fox. She had a vulpine muzzle, a long, bushy tail, a pair of pointed ears atop her head, and a coat of blue fur covering the entirety of her body.
She opened her eyes and looked to the nav-computer. She had a little more than eleven hours before reaching Venausa.
‘May as well get some sleep,’ she thought as she stood up from the pilot’s chair and stepped out of the cockpit. She made her way to her personal quarters in the center of the ship and unclipped the dull-gray hilt of her aurasword from her belt. She placed the weapon down on her nightstand and then proceeded to remove her brown-and-tan tunic and her white pants. Left in nothing but her undergarments, Veda tossed her outfit aside and crawled into the twin-sized bed against the room’s back wall. She shifted around until she was comfortable and then closed her eyes. A couple of minutes later, she was fast asleep.