The Eye of Jupiter awaited Ambriel in the chamber. When she entered the room, it floated down on a beam of light and hovered just above its receptacle in the Great Book of Power, one of seven such books intended to harness the energy inside a planet’s core and then use that energy to reshape the host planet in a form more suitable to the colonists, the Gods.
“The Eye awaits you, Commander Ona.” Cassiopeia’s calm demeanor seemed to be replaced with a bit of apprehension, as though she was ready to flee the room at any moment, even though she wasn’t physically in the room. “Please interface to receive new mission protocol directive.”
Ambriel stepped up to the pedestal that held the Book of Power. “Is something wrong, Cass?”
The lights in the chamber dimmed momentarily. “Forgive me, Commander. The Eye is a very powerful conduit. It is already affected by the vast untapped energy of the planet below, and its proximity to my own power stores are having a disorienting affect on me.”
“Is it affecting your higher functions?”
“Not at this time.” The modulation in Cassiopeia’s voice fluctuated slightly at the end of each word. “But I’ll feel better when that thing is finally taken off the ship.”
“Did it bother you during our journey at all?”
“No. It was housed in a protective layer during that time. I just recently had to access it so that you could interface with it.” Cassiopeia’s words sped up and then slowed down again. “And it didn’t have access to the kind of power that it does now. If you’ll excuse me, Commander, I’m going to busy myself shielding my internals while you interface with the Eye.”
“Very well, Cass. Thank you.”
Ambriel was a little reluctant to touch the Eye of Jupiter herself. She had not held it since before her mission training, and even then she’d held it only long enough to attune herself to its core functions. It had not been a pleasant experience. In fact, she remarked after the process that it felt as though her entire being had been ripped into millions of pieces and then reassembled. Her masters confirmed as much.
The Eye of Jupiter had inscribed millions of pathways and higher level command sequences across her very being, her soul. It was the only way for one to become an initiate of the device and subsequently to achieve attunement. She had been told that the process could very likely kill her if she panicked.
She never felt as though she was panicked during the process, but it had very nearly killed her all the same.
Ambriel steadied her breathing, pushed the fear aside, and wrapped her hands around the Eye of Jupiter. The electrical current pulsating from the crystalline orb flowed through her body, making the fine hairs on the nape of her neck stand on end.
Her vision blurred and the scene in front of her changed. She recognized her new surroundings, she’d been there before, only now that she had previously interfaced with the powerful artifact, she could take in what she saw free from the agonizing pain.
Eel like blue tendrils reached out toward her, gently brushing her temples and the veins in her neck. For a brief moment she saw herself holding the Eye, towering over her current form like a giant. Although she hadn’t realized it before, she now knew that she was inside the inner workings of the Eye, or at least a mental representation of it.
The voice that addressed her was familiar, comforting even.
Ambriel Ona, bearer of the sacred texts and most trusted servant of the Council, are you ready to receive?
“What am I to receive?”
A fail safe override of your mission protocols.
“What is the purpose of this override?”
Should your primary mission be compromised, this override will allow you to neutralize your fellow protectors and bypass their approval to access the higher functions of the Book of Power.
“What do you mean by neutralize?”
The Book is designed to collect and store an imprint of every living being on the planet once the beacons are deployed. If circumstances require you to initiate override Innova, the Book will track every imprint and then send waves of destructive energy through each being’s nervous system.
“Won’t that kill them?”
That probability is likely. In the event that all colonists are killed as a result of Innova, I will establish a passageway between this colony and Arcadia so that you may return and gather more colonists to populate and cultivate the planet.
“Wouldn’t Innova kill me as well?”
No. You are the only one of the seven to be fully attuned to my programming. My coding is inscribed within you. I am unable to destroy myself, therefore, I cannot destroy you because you and I are one. You will be shielded from Innova.
“That seems like a drastic solution.”
It is not in my nature to make such judgments. The Council of Gods has deemed it a viable solution should the need arise.
A line of energy snaked across the crystalline floor and stopped at Ambriel’s feet. She followed its path with her eyes until it disappeared in a pulsating golden helix at the top of the Eye.
When the time comes, Protector, you may follow this line of energy to access the override and initiate Innova.
“You mean if the time comes?”
Of course. Do you have any questions before I return you to the chamber?
Ambriel looked around the interior of the Eye hoping to find a focal point to address, but the entity with her spoke from everywhere all at once. “What do you know of the possible treason? Does the Council suspect a particular protector?”
I have no direct knowledge of that. I can only surmise that they have reason to suspect your entire crew.
“What makes you say that?”
Because you are the only one who can initiate Innova, and I am only to disseminate this information to you. In turn, you are to speak to nobody else about it.
“And the decision to initiate Innova, should the need arise, is mine alone?”
That is correct, Protector Ona.
“Very well. I am ready to return.”
Ambriel’s vision blurred again just before she drifted back into her body. She released the Eye of Jupiter, watching the tiny blue tendrils lick at her fingertips as it sunk into the receptacle in the Great Book of Power.
It wasn’t the first time she had seen the Book, but it was the first time she’d been close enough to touch it. The Eye pulsed within casting cerulean shadows across the Book’s silvery surface. The cover of the artifact was crafted from the same metal used to construct the Cassiopeia. A part of her desired to open it and look upon the sacred texts written in the blood of the Gods within, but she had been instructed not to open the Book until the time came for each Protector to place their seal on it.
The thought of initiating Innova troubled her. There must be another way should my compatriots turn out to be traitors to the Council. Was the Eye’s deduction about them correct? Could all of them really be traitors, even Archon? She refused to believe it.
Cassiopeia drifted in orbit around the little blue planet, continuing her detailed scans of the surface and tracking various life forms. “Initial scans reveal several optimal locations for you to deploy the beacons, Commander Ona. Would you like me to show them to you while I make preparations to awake the rest of the crew?”
“Yes. Thank you, Cass.” Ambriel tried to busy herself with her mission, but her thoughts continued to drift to her crew mates. “Let me know when Captain Eris is awake. I want him to confirm a landing site as soon as possible.
“Very well, Commander.”
The expansive observation window brightened and then magnified the image of the planet. One by one various locations on the surface were haloed in blue light. Ambriel recorded the energy signatures for each location on the terminal in the arm of her chair. When all of the readings had been input, she placed her right palm over the translucent sensor and transferred the coordinates to her own memory. Cassiopeia chose well, she thought.
Again she tried to busy herself with the mission, diving into the oceans of information Cassiopeia had collected on their new home. It was a beautiful planet to be sure, but a number of large creatures had already been cataloged on the surface as well as in the oceans. She decided to petition Belial to touch down on a mountain top or a high plateau that would keep them out of the reach of predatory mammals...and out of view from any native beings who might become hostile. She knew their exo-armor would protect them, and their surface craft would keep them well out of reach, but there were only seven of them after all.
The scans revealed another piece of information that Ambriel found most interesting. The life record of the planet was segmented. As best as she could tell from her limited exposure to the data, life on this planet had started three times and been nearly completely driven to extinction by two separate catastrophic events. She hoped the beacons would be sufficient to amplify the energy field around the planet and its moon so that future extinction level events would be less likely.
If my fellow Protectors have treason in their hearts, I may have to unleash a catastrophic event myself in the form of Innova. I can’t let it come to that, there has to be a way to make them see reason.
Ambriel felt Cassiopeia’s presence in the room again.
“The Captain is awake. I’m afraid he’s a little confused about why he was not awakened first. He would like to see you in his quarters immediately. I attempted to--”
Ambriel stood up. “Don’t worry, Cass. I’ll handle it.”
“Thank you, Commander.”
Ambriel thought she sensed a bit of tension leave Cassiopeia’s voice. It was strange to think of the ship’s computer in such a way, but Cass had always seemed to be a more genuine being than most of her own brethren.