Chapter 7 To Quell the Cult
It seemed as though it was the end of the world. I stood in hangar eight and looked around at all of the Maidens working on their own vessels. It was as though they were already dead. Not one of them spoke and the expressions they bore were those of despair and hopelessness. No, the only life to be found in the room was in Edith who had not ceased from yelling at me since I began performing the Rhiannon’s system checks.
“I can’t believe you, Conrad! You promised me that you would never fight in a war again and here you are about to go on a suicide mission!” She yelled, storming about the bridge. “What will capturing one man accomplish anyway? Even if it ends the war, it won’t fix their culture! They’ll go on living empty and meaningless lives! Their scars won’t simply fade away, and who knows if the men are even willing to reintegrate into the Matriarchy? There’s no way to win this, Conrad! Fighting in this war is insane!”
“I’m sorry, Edith, but I cannot leave Mary to die!” I exclaimed. “No matter how bleak our situation may seem, I must fight!”
“Fine! If you’re so set on throwing your life away, then I’m coming with you!” Edith said with resolve as she grabbed my arm.
I looked up from my work and stared into her eyes. They were lit with the same fire I had seen in them last week on the night after we had finished designing the Rhiannon. Who was I to deny her? I made no argument but simply nodded in understanding.
“So be it, but are you prepared to take the lives of these Maidens’ husbands, brothers, and sons?”
“I’ll do anything to protect you, Conrad,” was her response. “Just as I know you’ll do the same for me.”
I smiled and embraced her. Mary then came aboard the Rhiannon. She gasped when she saw Edith.
“Edith, what are you doing here?” She asked. “You do understand that we’re going to fight the Gaelturi, don’t you?”
“Yes, I know.” She smirked. “I’m coming with you!”
Mary was stunned. She looked over at me as if asking what could have possibly possessed me to allow this.
“What is the plan, Mary? Are we truly going to capture Gael?” I asked, returning to my work.
“Yes, we will capture Gael,” she paused, “though it be suicide . . .”
I looked up at her and then to Edith.
“I-I’m sorry. I should not be so quick to despair.” Mary sighed. “It’s likely that Gael’s objective will be to destroy the satellite that emits Earth’s planetary shield. Once the shield falls, he can harvest the planet. We assume that that is his goal. Our objective is to apprehend Gael before he can perform the ritual and harvest Earth. My sister will engage his fleet while we fly the boarding party in on the Rhiannon.” She smiled. “An old friend of yours is leading the assault actually.
“Daiva?” I guessed.
She nodded. “If anyone can defeat Gael, it’s her. Anwen was quite confident in the mission, but . . .”
“Is something troubling you, Mary?” Edith asked.
“Well, it’s just that there are only twenty Maidens accompanying us on the assault and there must be hundreds of men stationed on Gael’s flagship. I cannot understand why my sister believes that we can apprehend Gael so easily. The way she was talking, it was as if we had already won . . .” She smiled cheerfully. “I apologize. I should not throw my concerns onto you both. Please, share your troubles with me so that I might sympathize.”
I paused and thought a moment, trying to find something that was troubling me concerning this mission.
“Will Edith be required to wear one of your uniforms?” I asked.
“What? I don’t suppose she would. Though, she may if she wishes.” Mary said hopefully.
Edith jumped in front of Mary. “Yes, I would very much like to wear one of your uniforms!”
I sighed and shook my head. I had never been so disappointed in my sister.
Mary looked down at me and crossed her arms. “Conrad, are you honestly not worried about this even though Edith will share in the danger?”
“I will do all that I can to protect my sister, Mary,” I laughed, “and this Gael has never before faced a German.”
“And you’ve never fought one of the Gaelturi. If you think we Maidens are strong, then you’ll never be able to overpower any of Gael’s men.” Her voice grew faint. “They aren’t human, Conrad. The seren gives them the power to deprive an entire planet of life, and one cut from their blades and they can steal a person’s soul, leaving them as nothing but a shell. They mock life and nature.”
“Then I believe now is the time to put a stop to their wicked crimes. Today, Gael will answer for the lives he has stolen,” was my reply.
However, if I had been honest, I would have told Mary that I actually pitied the Gaelturi. Whatever atrocities they must have experienced had to be unbearable to make them give up on life. After all, how else could one man convince every other man in existence that the human race was finished and that their only hope was to run away by reaching the Omega Point? Though, if this truly was some mad man’s attempt to become a god, then I would crush this rebellion without hesitation. Despite this, we cannot simply wipe out the Gaelturi as that would doom our race to extinction. Because of this, I was able to see the wisdom in capturing Gael, but would he really surrender if his and his people’s only desire is to leave this world forever? Could any amount of negotiation change them? It seemed that even this plan’s success did not guarantee victory.
“Conrad, Mary and I are going to look for a uniform that I can wear!” Edith said pleasantly. “We’ll return shortly!”
I grunted, refusing to avert my attention from my work. Once I had finished with the Rhiannon’s system checks, I retired to my desk in the back room where I continued writing in my journal. At the time, I thought it would most certainly be my final entry. In my haste to write my last words, I dropped my pen and it rolled underneath my desk. I bent down to retrieve it when another hand suddenly took it and held it out to me. I looked over to see that it was Daiva. I quickly jumped up, hitting my head on the underside of my desk. She laughed quite joyfully, a surprising sound to hear at this dark hour. I stumbled to my feet and she handed me the pen.
“My apologies. I didn’t mean to startle you, Conrad.” She said, trying in vain to contain her laughter. All of these Maidens seem to find my behavior quite amusing.
“Yes, of course. It was my fault.” I rubbed my head. “Will we be departing soon?”
“Most of the blockade is already awaiting Gael’s fleet. We will not be leaving the surface until he arrives. That way, he will already be occupied with our dreadnoughts.”
“I see. Well, I have already performed the necessary system checks on the Rhiannon. You needn’t worry. It is well prepared for this mission.” I said, making no effort to contain my pride.
“That’s great, Conrad, but I didn’t come here to make sure that the Rhiannon was prepared for battle. I came here to make sure that you were.” Daiva said with more apprehension than her appearance would have suggested. She looked as though she was ready to kill.
“I am one with this machine, Daiva. If it is ready then so am I. Though, before we depart I must express my doubts.” She frowned, obviously unsettled. “I fail to see how capturing Gael will end this war.”
“How can you say that, Conrad?” Daiva exclaimed, her voice quavering. “It has to end this war! If it doesn’t, then what else can we do?”
I realized that I was wrong to share my pessimism and quickly tried to reverse the situation.
“Yes . . . I-I’m certain that he will surrender. What choice will he have? His men will be at our mercy and how could they continue their rebellion without a symbol to rally behind?” I said, attempting to console her.
Daiva laughed and shook her head.
“You are too kind, Conrad. Men like you never existed in my lifetime. I am glad to have met you,” she frowned, “even if our initial encounter was unpleasant.”
She looked down at her feet, her long hair denying me from seeing the slightest change in her expression.
“Is something troubling you, Daiva?” I asked. “Do you doubt our mission’s success?”
“I do not doubt our mission’s success, Conrad, but I must ask, what would you do if you had joined the Gaelturi upon arriving here?” A strange question, but an intriguing one nonetheless. “You would eventually have to fight and likely kill your sister.”
“Kill her?” I exclaimed. “I would never do such a thing, even if it meant my own death!”
Daiva smiled allusively. “Yes, I know how devoted you are to your sister, but imagine if you were raised in our time—”
“Raised! We were not raised by any term! Our father left us, left me with Edith when she was but an infant and I a child!”
“I-I’m sorry, Conrad. I had no idea you and Edith suffered so much, but I know that someone certainly would have adopted you both in the Matriarchy.”
Her attempts at comfort were wasted on a fiend like me and only served to intensify my wrath.
“I raised Edith and by the Devil’s hand was I brought up, brought up to hate the world and my Father, both on Earth and in Heaven . . . I fear that Edith shares my hatred. She may be feigning contentment, but who am I to judge another’s emotions when I cannot comprehend my own?”
Daiva sighed. “Listen to me, Conrad. You and Edith have no reason to hate this world, for you both love each other and are able to coexist peacefully, despite our war. That is a feeling that we might never know. Please, treasure your sister . . . for us.”
“For you, the Maidens? What is the meaning of your request?”
Daiva laughed pleasantly. “You are truly unique, Conrad. You see, the bond you and Edith share gives us hope, hope that our world may some day be healed and we can put an end to this maddening war. We’ve all lost so much, but you two show us what we have to gain . . . I believe that that was how Mary worded it during the briefing.
“What manner of briefing was this? You were supposed to be discussing the upcoming battle, not our relationship!” I yelled vehemently.
She laughed. “I’m sorry Conrad, but my fellow officers and I find the two of you very interesting. I mean, you and your sister are closer than any husband and wife ever were in the Matriarchy.”
I sighed deeply. “We aren’t as close as you might think, not since the war anyway . . .”
She raised an eyebrow. “Is that true? Anwen is planning quite a party to celebrate her expected victory. Perhaps you would like to go with me then?” Daiva asked hopefully.
“No, I’ll be going with Edith. Sorry.” I said flatly.
“Yes, of course . . .” she sighed. “Promise me one dance, at least, to make up for the trouble I caused you.”
“Uh–I suppose, but my expertise does not lie in dancing. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever danced before.” I said amusedly.
She gawked at me. “You’ve never danced? Well, then I guess I’ll just have to teach you!” She began dancing about the Rhiannon. I observed it methodically as I would any scientific phenomenon. “I love to dance! It’s in my blood, actually! I’ve learned dances that have been in my family since before your time, I believe! I can’t wait to show them to you!” Daiva exclaimed with more excitement than I had ever seen in her face.
I laughed. “I did only promise one dance.”
She smiled and nodded, feeling not at all discouraged by my lack of enthusiasm.
“Thank you, Conrad. I will take my leave.” Daiva said graciously and began to leave the Rhiannon.
“Wait a moment, Daiva!” I exclaimed.
She stopped and turned to face me.
“Earlier, why did you ask me what I would do if I had joined the Gaelturi and had to fight my sister?”
Her expression suddenly changed to one of despair and hopelessness.
“I asked you that because my brother and I will soon face each other.” She sighed. “I do not wish to kill him, of course, but I haven’t seen him in twenty years! I’m afraid I won’t be able to recognize him and his blood will be on my hands.”
“Oh, come now, Daiva! I’m certain you could recognize your own brother!” I said, quite shocked that she would fear such a thing.
“I wish I had your confidence, Conrad, but none of the Gaelturi resemble us in the slightest, and most of them wear hoods to conceal their faces. I would never be able to distinguish him from the other men.” Daiva said as she stared down at herself.
“Oh? Then how do they appear?” I asked curiously.
“I’ll show you.” She said with a smile.
I could suddenly feel a large amount of energy gather around us as rapid vibrations shook the entire vessel. There was an intense burst of light and when I opened my eyes, Daiva had transformed into the appearance she had taken at the end of our battle. Her skin shone with a silver radiance, her hair became pure white, and her eyes shone with a starry luster. She was quite beautiful and yet terrifying all the same. Such energy radiated about her that it was as though her body had created its own magnetic field! Indeed, for her hair floated about her as if it was suspended in water. I could not help but be fascinated by such a phenomenon.
“I assume that you will explain how you acquired this power? You haven’t stolen the men’s souls have you?” I asked warily.
“No, of course not!” Daiva laughed. Her voice had even been altered. Upon hearing it, I associated it with perhaps a goddess or mythological creature, not a mortal woman. “I received this power through . . . scientific means.”
My eyes widened upon hearing this.
“Well, now you have piqued my interest. You must further explain the process.” I said, preparing to take notes in my journal.
“If you insist . . .” She sighed. “You see, seren does not come from the part of the Universe that we inhabit. The star crystal is created in Nerys, a realm between our universe and the Omega Point. From what we know, seren only entered our world some centuries ago and the amount has been increasing rapidly. It is a strange phenomenon. Our scientists have been discovering small breaches between this plane of existence and Nerys. As you can no doubt imagine, we began to eagerly search for ways to harness the power of Nerys itself. I’ve had a special connection to Nerys ever since I was born, so naturally, I was chosen for their experiment.”
“Fascinating!” I exclaimed. “Have you ever been to this Nerys? If so, is it like our world or a completely different dimension entirely? Is there any way that I might visit it as well?”
“Y-You do not want to see Nerys, Conrad.” She whispered, scarcely audible. “I wander there every night when I fall asleep. It is a terrible place, devoid of life and light. Screams and cries constantly echo throughout the darkness but I cannot find their source. Every night, I dread closing my eyes, fearing that I will never wake.” I pondered this vivid description for a moment. Could this Nerys be where the stolen souls are held?
“That is a disturbing image, and you say that there are breaches between this world and ours? Not only that, but you and the Gaelturi received your powers from this realm, powers that are capable of destroying an entire world?” I asked inquisitively while recording my observations.
“That is correct, though my body contains at least ten times the amount of seren as Gael’s. At least, that is what I am told. My body is constantly receiving the seren’s power from Nerys while his body can only hold as much power as all of the souls he has stolen.” Daiva explained.
“I see. Then I am concerned as to what lasting effects these breaches will have on our world.” I said uneasily.
“We’re still researching it,” she said nonchalantly, “but I would be more concerned about this war as its effects are far more pressing.”
I nodded and continued my writing. The energy around Daiva dissipated and the gray coloring returned to her skin.
“I must go and assemble my warriors. I hope that we can talk again, Conrad,” she looked at me over her shoulder and smiled, “and don’t forget about our dance!”
“Yes, of course . . .” I murmured and closed my journal.
Edith and Mary returned soon after. To my surprise, their uniforms were somewhat decent. They were sleeveless, but at least their ankles were covered.
“We’re back, Conrad! Is the Rhiannon prepared for battle?” Mary asked.
“Yes, I have prepped for flight.” I looked at them with disdain after observing the large broadsword strapped across Mary’s back. “You two appear ready to kill as well.”
“Thank you!” Edith said happily.
Oh, how much she had changed since we left the Reich! To my astonishment, the alarm began to sound throughout the hangar. Mary ran over to the radar.
“Gael’s fleet has entered the system!” She yelled over the tumultuous alarm. “Are you ready, Conrad?”
I nodded. Though, how could I be prepared to send my sister into such a vicious battle? I myself had not known battle in four years, and to fight in space! I had never imagined such warfare.
“I’m diverting all power to the engines. Can you get us on that flagship, Mary?”
“I’ve got it, Conrad. There’s a small emergency hangar just above its engines that should constantly remain open. There should not be any men stationed there. With any luck, we can slip in undetected.” Mary said as she took the pilot’s chair.
Moments later, Daiva arrived with her band of warriors, all bearing swords of enormous size. I had never seen women so dauntless in the face of death. They boarded the Rhiannon and we flew off, leaving the world behind and entering that dark expanse that I thought would surely be my grave.
The mood onboard the Rhiannon was tense to say the least, and how Mary could fly under such pressure, I could not fathom. Suddenly, we broke through the atmosphere and entered that fantasized world of Outer Space I had always dreamed of as a boy, however, now I could not wait to leave it as a massive firefight raged all about us. I had installed the weapons systems into the Rhiannon, but my knowledge made witnessing its firepower no less magnificent. The rays of light issued forth by the Maiden’s vessels resembled the light blue glow of seren. Upon impact, the rays exploded with the violence of a miniscule supernova. How destructive Man had become in this age! Not only could they harvest entire planets of all life, but it seemed that entire systems could be obliterated by using the seren to create an artificial star, then causing it to erupt. Was there no end to the devastation of this war?
I carefully began observing Gael’s fleet. Their vessels were quite different from the Matriarchy’s. They were much faster and lighter than the Maidens’ dreadnoughts, some of which were larger than any city of my time. It seemed that the Gaelturi was equipped for guerilla warfare, typical of outnumbered rebellions, though it could plainly be seen that Gael had no intention of retreating from this battle. Fortunately, the Matriarchy’s fleet seemed to outnumber Gael’s, and I knew that the Rhiannon could evade any vessel of the Gaelturi.
To my surprise, Mary knew the attack patterns of the Gaelturi fighters quite well. She easily shook them off and executed brilliant counterattacks. She seemed to be much more than a simple engineer in this war. Though I suppose anyone could be driven to kill in such a desperate struggle.
Just as we cleared the chaos, Gael’s flagship came into view. The vessel was like nothing I had ever imagined. Until now, I had thought that weapons of war could only be fashioned from the Earth’s resources, but this weapon could not be from Earth or even this universe. Whatever science allowed it to function was no science I wished to study. The vessel was, as far as I could tell, alive! Its hull was composed of a black crystal that seemed to breathe and pulse with energy that circulated throughout its inner workings. Could this be what the Gaelturi use to harvest planets? Mary seemed just as surprised as I was by this horror, though Daiva was obviously well acquainted with it.
“This looks nothing at all like the schematics my sister showed us, Daiva. I can’t even see any sort of hangar!” Mary yelled in shock.
“The crystal and the vessel itself are two separate constructions, Mairwen. Anwen’s schematics were correct. Gael’s actual flagship is encased within the crystal. We can enter through its emergency hangar, but you’ll have to destroy the crystal and fly us through the opening.” Daiva explained cautiously.
Mary did not seem at all convinced with this plan. I could not blame her, for I had my doubts as well. The crystal looked as if it would fight back if we tried to destroy it, and, should the Rhiannon collide with it, I wasn’t about to bet that the crystal would give first. Nonetheless, Mary did as she was ordered and unleashed the Rhiannon’s full salvo on the part of the crystal that covered the rear hangar. To my relief, the crystal buckled under the heavy barrage of seren rays. We made for the breach with full impulse when the Rhiannon was suddenly pulled from its course! It appeared as if the crystal were trying to absorb us! Mary acted quickly and fired the aft and starboard rays, destroying the crystal as it attempted to engulf us. We flew into the hangar just as the breach closed behind us. We crashed into the floor and slid to a screeching halt, barely avoiding the hangar wall.
Immediately, Daiva and her warriors left the Rhiannon and assembled inside the hangar. Mary, Edith, and I followed them. To my surprise, there was no alarm or indication of our intrusion. Perhaps Gael’s flagship cannot detect damage done to its outer layer or Gael simply wants us to believe that he is unaware of our presence.
Daiva began explaining the mission to us, but I was too occupied in observing a broken piece of the crystal that had fallen into the hangar. It made no reaction to my touch, so I guessed that it could be considered “dead”.
“Conrad, pay attention!” Edith whispered sharply.
Unfortunately, the briefing was finished.
“This war ends today, either with our deaths or a peaceful surrender from the Gaelturi!” Daiva yelled as she began to take on her terrible Nerys form. “Remember that we shed the blood of our fathers, brothers, and sons in order to save them from themselves! In this hour we fight for all mankind! To the bridge!”
Her words were met with a resounding cheer and she flew out of the hangar, her warriors following close behind.
“Those are certainly some impressive powers Daiva has!” Edith exclaimed. “I’m glad she’s on our side!”
“Impressive is one word for them . . .” I murmured. Perhaps unholy or inhumane would have been a better way to describe her.
Mary ran over to a nearby computer terminal and accessed it.
“It’s obvious to me that my sister isn’t telling us everything.” Mary said speculatively. “I’m going to get all of the information I can on the Gaelturi.”
“Splendid! I will attempt to analyze a sample of this crystal when we return.” I displayed the fragment. “I believe it is some type of anti-seren, like the material that you said makes up the Gaelturi’s weapons.”
“Perhaps it is.” She observed the crystal. “I, too, would like to know what that . . . substance was.”
“Will you be safe in here, Mary?” I asked warily. “Gael might send someone after you if he is able to trace your point of access to that terminal.”
“I’ll be fine, Conrad. Gael won’t hurt me. Just look out for Edith,” she sighed, “and please be careful.”
“I assure you, Mary, the only ones who warrant your concern are Gael and his occult followers! They shall never forget the day that the Reich crushed their rebellion and made them answer for their sinister crimes!” I shouted and charged out of the hangar.
Edith laughed joyously and followed me. It was not long before we encountered the first bodies of the Gaelturi men. Daiva and her warriors were quite efficient in their killing as most of the bodies only showed signs of a single wound.
I knelt down and observed their uniforms, though they resembled robes more so than any combat attire. They were mostly white with purple, Greek Omega symbols woven into their sleeves. I was surprised, however, to find that their blood was a silvery liquid, much like Daiva’s. Just what had these men done to themselves? Their appearances were hardly human, the result of some dark practice, I wagered. We continued down the corridor. It was eerily quite, but I was relieved that Edith was safe from danger for the time being. I certainly wished to avoid as much combat as I possibly could . . . at least while Edith accompanied me. At last, we reached the door to the bridge. I could hear the sounds of a vicious foray echoing from within.
“Perhaps you should wait out here, Edith?” I suggested.
She gripped her sword. “I’m staying with you, Conrad, until the very end.”
I smiled and nodded.
“Then let’s be done with this.” I said as I charged through the door.
Our ears were met with cries of hatred and wrath. All about us a horrendous battle raged. The ferocity in the room was unbearable. The Maidens were locked in a fierce clash against the Gaelturi. Daiva stood alone, facing a man who I assumed to be Gael. This man was the most fiendish I had ever seen. He was dressed as I would imagine any leader of a cult. He wore a white robe along with several ornamental garbs. His starch white hair fell down over his face, giving him the appearance of a savage beast. This was countered by his high, aquiline nose that gave him the look of a cunning leader. Though, what truly completed his aura of evil was the wickedness in his eyes. They were deep-set into his cursed skull and filled with malice that could pierce one’s heart with a mere glance. His brow was high, yet displayed hard creases of fierce struggle. Indeed the man seemed timeless as if he could have been living for several millennia.
Gael shoved Daiva aside and displayed for us a cruel and twisted smile.
“Greetings, engineer!” He exclaimed, his voice reverberating throughout the room. “I am honored that you have taken such an interest in my glorious creation. This vessel is only the beginning of the power that awaits you in the Gaelturi!”
How did this man know of me? Did this power he spoke of give him an omniscient quality, or had he heard of me from another source?
Daiva jumped down from the observation deck and landed in front of us.
“I sent two of my warriors down that corridor to the reactor chamber! Go and assist them in disabling this monster so we can end its destruction now!” She ordered, indicating the corridor that led to the reactor.
I nodded and we ran off down the corridor. Eventually, we caught up with the two Maidens, but we were too late. We arrived just in time to see them cut down by a stout Gaelturi warrior. We watched in horror as their spirits left their bodies and the man inhaled them with great pleasure. He looked at us and his joy dissipated. Then, he, promptly sheathing his sword, walked off down the corridor. We made no hesitation as we charged after him. The man quickly drew forth his weapon and our blades clashed. Upon closer inspection, the man’s sword was actually a katana, and it was made from that same, terrible crystal that coated the vessel. His eyes conveyed a look of cunning intelligence as well as a lack of self control. They were quite familiar, though I couldn’t recall where I had previously seen them.
“Leave me, engineer. I do not wish to harm you or your sister.” He said sternly and shoved us back with a simple flip of his blade.
“And why is that? We are your enemy, coward!” I shouted and swung at him once more.
He stepped back, narrowly avoiding my attack.
“Are you truly? Your destinies say otherwise.” The man laughed amusedly. “According to Brother Gael, you two are the ones who will get us to the Omega Point. You are our bridge to a perfect world. Why would I want to destroy that?”
I faltered. Just what exactly was he saying? “Are you insane? We are not the least bit concerned with your fantasies! Gael has fed you and the rest of the Gaelturi nothing but lies!” I yelled defiantly.
“You mean you have not yet realized it, engineer?” He asked, taken aback. “Your work in the past is what creates this future. If I were to kill either of you right now, this entire world would be changed completely. The two of you are the ones who discovered the Omega Point and it is through your writings, engineer, that Brother Gael found it in the first place. You are the cornerstone of this entire rebellion.”
It was unfathomable! My original plan was a success. I influenced this future greatly, but I did not simply create its technology. I created its society! A thousand curses upon this expedition of mine! If I had only stayed in the Reich, content with my humble workshop, this war would have never happened! Surely there was still some way for me to stop this. When we return to the Reich, I’ll simply pretend that I never took this journey. Would that really work? Perhaps the damage has already been done, or maybe Edith will write about it as well. I could not have imagined how she felt about this.
“Snake, I’ll cut off your tongue!” Edith shouted as she brought her sword down upon him.
He caught the blade in his hand and threw her back.
“Snake?” He laughed. “You deceive yourself, girl! I have no time to counsel you through your denial. I must hurry to the bridge and defend Brother Gael.”
“How convenient,” I said pleasantly. “We’re here to capture Gael, so you’ll just have to kill us if you want to protect him.”
He scowled. “Do not test me, engineer. Now, stand aside.”
We held our ground silently.
“So be it.” He grinned madly. “I suppose no harm can be done to our timeline if I just severely wound you both.” The mad cultist said as he unsheathed his katana. “I’ll make this as quick and painful as possible.”
We both swung at him with all our might, but he dodged with astounding speed.
“How can you defeat me, engineer, if I move too fast for you to make any of your observations?”
Our blades clashed and I was knocked back by the force of his blow. He knew of my methodical fighting style. Could it be that the Gaelturi possess some degree of foresight?
“I’ve made enough observations already.” I said under my breath. “Get behind him and slow him down, Edith.”
She nodded and we charged together. I swung at his legs, but he easily intercepted the attack.
“You disappoint me, engineer,” he sighed. “I expected more from such a brilliant mind as yours. Perhaps Brother Gael is in the wrong.”
I was astonished when Edith suddenly jumped off of my shoulders and then flipped over the man. He brought his katana up to block her attack. I seized the opportunity and bit my blade into his hamstring while Edith drove her down his spine. Who would have thought that a little over a week ago, she had been naught but a violinist.
The man screamed and fell on his face.
“You monster!” He yelled shakily. “I should have known better than to challenge you, Edith!” He spat at her. “That name has forever melted the hearts of my brethren! Why must you bind us here? Can you not see that we want no part in this world?”
Edith and I stared at each other in shock.
“What are you talking about?” She asked. “I’m not keeping you from reaching the Omega Point.”
“Maybe not now, but you will! You shall imprison us in this world of suffering forever while you and your brother live a life of luxury in your Reich!” He yelled, struggling to rise to his feet.
To my surprise his body began to glow with a white light and his wounds began to close.
“If I cannot defeat you with my own strength, then I will use the seren’s. No mortal can contend with our power.” He said, his strength returning.
As we braced for his attack, Daiva suddenly emerged into the corridor from behind us.
“Conrad, forget the reactor! We’ve captured Gael! We have to get out of here now!” She yelled urgently as she flew towards us. “I’ll take care of him. Just go!”
Daiva brought up her sword to strike the man. She gasped and dropped her blade. It crashed to the floor, its clatter echoing throughout the corridor.
“It can’t be . . .” she murmured. “Is that you, brother?” She smiled and reached out to touch his face. “Is that you, Saulius?”
Daiva gasped as his katana pierced her abdomen.
“If you truly wish to be reunited with me, Daiva, then let our souls be joined as one.” The man named Saulius said and removed his blade.
She managed a painful smile. “Better that than be separated forever.”
She embraced Saulius and gave to him her very soul. He released his sister, allowing her to fall to the floor. I could not believe what I had witnessed. This man had taken the life of his own sister without a moment’s hesitation. Nay, worse than that, he had taken her soul, leaving her body to never find rest, for his blade had not claimed her life. No blood had been spilled from her body, as though it had merely cut out her soul. Mary was right. These men defiled nature.
I grasped my sword and charged at him once more. “You have no right to claim my sister to be a monster when you take your own sister’s life with no remorse!”
I looked over at Edith and stopped abruptly. She was crying like I had never seen before. To this day, I have never witnessed more bitter tears shed in all my life save perhaps once. Even on the day I left for the war, she had not wept this severely. At the time, I thought that she was quite proud of me for serving the Reich. This was much more serious. It seemed as though she would collapse at any moment. I had to get her out of here.
“That woman was my enemy, not my sister,” Saulius laughed. “Now, I suggest you listen to your friend and leave before you arouse my wrath again.”
I kneeled down to Daiva. She was still breathing and to my surprise, she had not reverted back to her original form. Her skin remained its silvery color, though much paler than before and her hair was still white as snow. I carefully picked her up and ran down the corridor with Edith. I turned around to face Saulius who had already turned his back and was walking in the opposite direction.
“We’ll meet again, Saulius,” he glared at me over his shoulder, “and when this war ends you will return your sister’s soul to her and truly be reunited. Then you will see how wrong you were and you will be too ashamed to ever face her again!”
Saulius turned around and unleashed a blast of light that hit the floor between us, unleashing white-hot flames that covered the expanse in a blazing inferno.
He laughed, the malice heavy in his voice. “Yes, we will meet again, engineer, and if Brother Gael should allow it, I will kill your sister. Then you will be devoid of all hope and have no choice but to join us. Only the well being of my master stays my hand. Once he is safe, there will be nowhere for you to hide her.” Saulius said as he walked off down the corridor.
I decided not to waste my energy on idle threats as I was fortunate enough that he let us live. Edith and I returned to the hangar with all speed. Fortunately, most of Daiva’s warriors had survived. Mary had ceased her work and was simply staring at Gael. I could not fathom how her eyes could tolerate his wicked face as he returned her gaze. Mary gasped when she saw us.
“What happened to Daiva, Conrad? And what’s wrong with Edith?” she demanded as she grabbed my arm.
I sighed. “Daiva’s brother struck her down while she hesitated and I don’t think Edith took it very well. Is the Rhiannon ready to depart?” I asked hastily.
“Yes, Conrad, it’s ready, and you have to hear some of the things I found out about the Gaelturi!” She said, clenching her fists with excitement.
“That’s wonderful, Mary, but right now we need to get Gael down to Earth and Daiva to a medical facility as soon as possible! She hasn’t returned to her normal state. I fear she may be in great danger!” I said urgently.
She nodded and walked over to Gael. She took his hand and escorted him onto the Rhiannon. It was quite an unnerving sight. Once we were all onboard, the vile crystal blocking the hangar door suddenly receded.
“The Nerysite will not harm us. You may proceed.” Gael said solemnly.
I eyed him warily. He smiled but remained silent. It was strange that he had come so quietly; especially, now that Daiva was no longer able to fight. Once we were at a steady speed, I took Daiva into the back room and laid her on one of the beds. What could we do for her now save pray?
I returned to the main hold and walked over to Edith who was still crying, though not so intensely as before.
“What’s the matter, Edith?” I asked, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I know it’s disheartening to see a friend’s life be taken in such a vile way, but I never thought that you and Daiva were that close.”
“How could you not see it, Conrad?” She shouted over the roar of the Rhiannon’s engine. “That could have been us! If you had joined the Gaelturi, the same thing could have happened to us!”
Mary and the other Maidens stared at us in alarm. Gael simply looked away and pretended not to notice.
I smiled and stroked her hair. “Edith, you know I could never harm you. No matter what you do, I will always love you.”
“Don’t lie to me!” She yelled and slapped my hand away. “You know that it would only take one mistake for me to become your enemy!”
“Edith, what has come over you?” I exclaimed. “Are you unwell?”
“Don’t you remember anything, Conrad?” She yelled, grabbing me by my shoulders. “You used to ask me, ‘Why don’t you do something more beneficial for the Reich? Why are you still Catholic? The Church is holding the Reich back!’ Do you have any idea how that made me feel? All it would take is for me to hurt the Reich or impede science and I’d be no different from any Frenchman!”
I was completely silent. The guilt was unbearable, though I had never said these things. It was the engineer who had offended my sister with these harsh words.
“I may have said those terrible things to you, Edith.” I began. “Since we took upon this journey, the Reich has grown more and more distant by the day. You could destroy the Reich, Edith, and I would love you no less!”
“You’re lying, Conrad!” she shouted. “You just want me to stop crying!”
I took her hand but she pushed me aside and ran into the back room.
“Curse my stammering tongue . . .” I murmured under my breath.
I felt a hand suddenly clasp my shoulder. It was Mary, of course. She smiled at me and indicated the pilot’s chair.
“Take the helm, Conrad. I’ll talk to her.” She said, trying to comfort me.
Why must these women always settle my disputes? Edith was constantly getting me out of trouble with Mary and now Mary was attempting to do the same with Edith! Would I ever be able to have a conversation without offending someone I loved?
Once Mary had gone into the other room, I set the Rhiannon on its course for the Maiden’s compound and leaned up against the door to eavesdrop on their conversation.
“You know it’s not his fault, Edith. I was able to cope with his issue. I thought that you certainly could as well.”
There was a long pause before Edith spoke.
“Yes, I know, Mary, but you didn’t know him before the war like I did. It’s not him I’m angry with, Mary. I’m mad at God for allowing this terrible thing to happen to him, and I hate the Reich. If it weren’t for the Reich, he would still be the brother I remember. I’m terrified that we might be separated forever. I know it’s hard to believe, but back home we were so distant. He spent every day in his workshop and even when I visited, he would hardly speak to me.”
“But are you not close now?” Mary asked rhetorically. “You should accept him for who he is, Edith. He still loves you and nothing could ever change that.”
“Yes, you’re right, Mary.” Edith said happily. “I was foolish to think that one bullet could tear us apart.” I gasped and placed my hand on my chest to control my racing heart. “I will love him no matter what he becomes, but I’ll be sure to do what I can to help him return to his normal self. I know that is what he wants.”
What was this about a bullet? Had one shot during the war really changed me this drastically?
“That’s right, Edith!” Mary exclaimed. “The love that you two share is stronger than any I’ve ever seen. . . . Though, he does fear that you are both drifting apart. I know that much.”
Edith laughed at this.
“He doesn’t remember it, but before the war, we were much closer than we are even now. I believe that it was our mutual hatred for the world that brought us together. I would have never survived without him nor him without me. I don’t even think he remembers those days. That accident during the war caused traumatic damage to his brain.” She sighed. “I suppose I should just be thankful that he still remembers me at all. He has right to fear the rift that is ever widening between us. I feel as though he’s running away from me, Mary . . .”
It was as if Edith were talking about someone else entirely. The engineer certainly could not relate to the man she spoke of with such passion and sorrow. To him, he had never changed. What he had become after the war was all he ever was.
Mary gasped. “Is that true, Edith? Then I think it is you who needs my help!
She paused. “You’re already helping me perfectly. Just keep loving him. I know that he’ll return it eventually. I believe that you are the only one who can heal him. You can give him that joy that he’s been denied all his life. It’s obvious that I can’t do anything for him now. He has fallen too far. I have no doubt that you can bring him back.”
“Then I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll give him everything I have.”
Edith sobbed. “I can’t thank you enough, Mary!
I stepped away from the door and sat down in the pilot’s chair. From all that I had heard, only one thing mattered to me: Edith still hadn’t found happiness. She remained trapped in that shadow of hatred, and I had to find a way to bring her out of it.
Their conversation continued until we returned to the compound. Mary and I took Daiva to a medical center while the other Maidens escorted Gael to a confinement facility they had especially prepared for him. For some reason, Edith accompanied them. I guessed that she was not yet ready to speak with me again.
We entered the medical center where the Maidens took Daiva into a room similar to the one Edith and I had found ourselves in on our arrival into this world. Mary and I sat outside the room in silence.
“What did you discover about the Gaelturi?” I asked, hoping to lighten the mood.
“Oh, how could I forget? I found their headquarters as well as what they’re planning to do with that crystal,” she sighed, “but I suppose that isn’t necessary since we have Gael in our custody.”
“Still, I am interested, and if you tell me what you found out about that crystal, perhaps I won’t have to analyze this sample I took.” I said as I observed the ebony crystal.
“The crystal is from a place called Nerys. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it before, but it is where we get our seren.” Mary explained.
I sighed and looked back through the window at Daiva’s lifeless body. “Yes, I’ve heard of it . . .”
“Well, apparently the Gaelturi have been using that crystal to harvest planets of their life to increase the crystal’s power.” She smirked. “They had planned to use the crystal to reach the Omega Point, but I guess they can’t now.”
“Yes, the Gaelturi are finished. We needn’t worry about them any longer.” A familiar voice sounded from down the corridor.
It was Anwen, and she appeared to be in a very good mood. She sat down next to Mary and put her arm around her.
“We’ve already begun negotiations of surrender with Gael.” She embraced Mary. “I’m very proud of you, sister. Thanks to you, this war is over and the human race will not be lost.”
I never thought that I would hear her speak in such a way. She seemed to truly be praising Mary.
“Well, thank you . . . sister, but of course I couldn’t have done it alone. Conrad and Daiva did most of the work.” Mary said embarrassedly.
She may have been uncomfortable but I could easily tell that she was very happy to be so close to her sister.
“Yes, where is Daiva? I wish to thank her as well.” Anwen asked excitedly.
Mary and I looked at each other and sighed.
“She fell in battle.” I said at last. “She is being treated right now, but I doubt there is much to be done. Her brother stole her soul.”
Anwen’s eyes widened, but she managed to keep her composure. “Well, she will have it again soon enough. Gael has already promised to return all of the souls that the Gaelturi have stolen.” Anwen assured us. “There is no need to weep. In fact, I am preparing a little celebration tonight to commemorate our victory. It will be held at our family’s estate and you’re both invited of course. Bring your sister as well, Conrad.”
I nodded and she rose to her feet.
“Once again, I thank you both. I cannot wait to tell Mother all about your success, Mairwen. See you tonight!” Anwen said and skipped down the corridor.
“I suppose we need to get ready for the party. What do you think I should wear, Conrad?” She asked.
I looked back through the window at Daiva, still lying unconscious and alone.
“It doesn’t matter . . . I won’t be dancing.”