This Very Violent Epoch

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Summary

Ever since I was born, they’ve been trying to kill me. First the Medi-Bots, who surrounded me and my mother.Then the Medi-Crats, behind their Plex-Plated glass walls observing the Medi-Bots, Mid-Wifeing- my mom. I didn’t take the milk, so naturally, they assumed that I had the virus, that I was a blood sucking vampire mutant. Honestly, I can’t blame them. When I was born, the Tartari virus was first popping, I was among the very first generation of humans who were born into that Tartari generation. But I was not Tartari, I didn’t take my mother’s milk because I wanted blood, I didn’t take my mother’s milk because I was lactose intolerant. As crazy simple as that may sound, the Medicrats and Medi-Bots had no idea what to do. They assumed that my fangs would pop out at any moment and I would attach myself to my mother’s jugular to feed. But that never happened. I was a natural baby, that was the problem.

Genre:
Scifi / Fantasy
Author:
clavellazarre
Status:
Excerpt
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
13+

Chapter 1


PREAMBLE

“ALL LIFE IS SUFFERING; SUFFERING IS ALL LIFE.”

-Zildjan the Prophet

Earth Orbit 6620 C.E

INTERGALATIC SPACE STATION ALPHA-(I.S.S.A)

Science Observatory Auditorium

BIBLICAL SCIENCE 6101 : Advanced Creationism and Universal Dynamics

Level 111

Professor: Sorceress

#############################################################################

“In the beginning, God created the Darkness. And He saw that this was Good. And This was the First Epoch.

Then God Created Time, by Separating the Darkness from The Light, and He saw that this too, was Good. This was the Second Epoch.

Then God Cast His Gaze Upon the Deep, and Thus was born the Face of the Deep; and this was the Third Epoch. And God Saw that this too, was Good.

Then the Darkness cast about itself for war against the Light. Thus was Created Eternity; which includeth the Heavens and the Earth, the Space and the Stars, Matter and Anti-Matter, Protons and Electrons. This became the Fourth Epoch and God Saw that this was Good.

The Heavens and the Earth conspired with one another; creating the Nephilim, who bore within themselves, the seeds of men. This became the Fifth Epoch. And God saw that was Good.

Then God sayeth unto the Nephilim who vowed to be above God “The Darkness and the Light have cast their struggle, unceaselessly unto war, until one or another is gone, and now you too shall be cast unto that war for your disloyalty, to me.” This was the Sixth Epoch.

And then there shall be the Seventh and final Epoch; the Epoch of Violence. When Creation will be rent, all shall be destroyed, and the universe shall be torn asunder. And God shall see this, and say, that this too, is Good.”

“These are the words taken from the words of the Prophet.”

“All Praise Be to the Prophet” – rang multiple voices.

“Read from the Book of Biblical Science. Amen.”

“Amen,” said multiple voices.

A little girl raised her hand.

“Yes… Kee?” said the Sorceress, closing the great, sheepskin bound book. A server bot quickly floated over and took the book away.

“So…the Sixth Epoch is the one we should be worried about…right?”

“Well, we should be concerned with all of them, which is why it was written. But yes, the Sixth Epoch, otherwise known as the Great Crisis, is when the world as we understand it, will end.”

“Which world? We have like, ten thousand of them,” Kee answered back, respectfully.

“All of them.”

“All of them?”

“All of them.”

“But, I never understood that. How can all worlds be destroyed at once? The Empire is over a hundred light years across, with three hundred billion people, across ten thousand colonized planets and God knows how many planetoids.”

“Thank You Kee. I am well aware of the scope of the Empire, of which I helped create and its over five hundred billion last census, not three. But go on, you had a question?”

The class tethered on laughing, but of course, wouldn’t dare, and the Sorceress, ever patient, did not audibly sigh, but it was in there somewhere in the tilt of her shoulders.

“So, the expansion of the universe basically began at the moment that Darkness consumed the Light. Causing it to decay and eventually, since matter and energy are constants, the crushing of the Light, into a singular source, a sub-proton or Xenon as its called here, which is a form of observed neutrino with an extra ionized particle- and that caused it, the Light- to combust -sparking the universe?”

“That’s what we interpret it as. Yes. This created the Bing Bang and…well, everything else that came after.”

“Is there a different interpretation? I thought that the Face of the Deep could not be altered or further interpreted?”

“Many Theo-Crats have spent centuries interrupting the words of the Prophecies of the Prophet and have deduced that man’s interpretation may always be up to some debate. That’s why we have so many factions, the loyal Zildjianist who go by strict interpretation of text, the Imperialist who only see the expansionist revision of the empire building years, and the many other factors.”

“And Dark Seekers?”

“Anarchist. But yes, this is a philosophy class in its essence, then we must give all theories room to breathe and ultimately – dispel.”

“Yes ma’am, but ugh…sorry… the Prophecies strictly speaking say that in the sixth epoch the Universe will end,” Kee said.

“Yes, but if the universe ends, then by proxy, all worlds will have to end as well. So, for Theocrats, there is some movement in the text between worlds and galaxies, for our sakes, since we are mortal, when we die it’s the end, so as to the Universe.”

“Uh…ok…will we need to know that for the test? Cause that’s a lot.” Kee asked.

This time, the Sorceress did sigh. “Yes Kee. Almost everything I am teaching you… you will need to know for the test, and beyond.” The education recorders could almost be felt transmitting the audible sigh of despair to the two billion students watching on the Interweb. The little spheres of light followed the Sorceress’s every step, broadcasting to those seeking to one day be eligible to enter into her physical class, where only 300 of the best and brightest children of the Empire were allowed to enter.

“Okay, so, why don’t we take a peek huh?” The Sorceress said blightly. The lights inside the glass dome were sun-tinted and bright, but now were slightly dimmed as a large 3-D image appeared in the empty space above the student’s heads. The amphitheater where the students sat was in the style of ancient Greece, with row upon row built up from the bottom, and the Sorceress in the center playing the role of Aristotle. Resplendent in the purple robes of state, replete with the guilded walking rod of her order, the Sorceress flowed upon the dais like a gossamer, gliding from one end to the other to punctuate a sentence or illustrate a point.

No one knew here exact age, but many Outworlders suspected in the late hundreds, which is not rare for an Earther to reach. Her hair was snow white, it flowed long from the top of her forehead down to her shoulders, in one neat cascade. Sometimes she wore the imperial braids of her Sapphire Guild, but today her hair was down and natural. Her hands were leathery, strong, and more often than not, wrapped around that rod, which glowed with a purple ornament speculated to be from the Time Before the Prophet, some said it was the secret to unlocking the Data Mines of the Crystal Mountain, where all information found in the knowable universe was kept.

But now, she let go of the staff abruptly, it stood straight up at attention. “This is the moment of creation. absolute-zero time.. What you see here children, is not a recreation or an image, this is the actual event.”

The children all gasped in awe. “But…how is that even possible ma’am, I mean that’s not possible, you can’t time travel…right?” said a 12-year-old student named Julien.

The Sorceress smiled. “Our Earth technology must still seem like magic to you, even after all these weeks. Remember in ancient Earth archeology how they preserved the forgotten city?”

“Los Angeles,” the boy said.

“Yes, after the Cataclysm, the lava flowed over Los Angeles and the Super Cities, but the heat and the pressure was so intense that it preserved some of the streets and neighborhoods. Well, this works in that same vein.”

“So this is sort of like an imprint?” Kee said.

“A portal. A gate across space and time, captured by our strongest tachyon emitters over centuries. We understand how to manipulate energies in order to have them cross temporal linear barriers between galaxies and over light years. Remember kids, the universe is bowl shaped and as it expands outward, all the information in it is not lost. When you know where to look, it isn’t so hard to transmit some information, or take some. Especially energy, which was made to be transmitted.”

“So, what are we looking at Professor?” Zed said.

“This is an expanse of nothingness, that is the best way to put it, punched with a bright white dot.” She made a hand motion and zoomed in closer to the dot. “As we can see here, the Darkness is emptiness personified. There is another word for it, and you should all write it down.”

Everyone snapped their fingers together to jot down using their cyber pens.

“Amaghiddo. Ghayoul. G-H-A-Y-O-U-L.”

“What does it mean?” Kee asked.

“It means nothing,” she answered smartly.

“What?”

“Ghayoul means no matter, no sound, no energy, not even time exist in this pit of hopelessness. An emptiness so vast, debilitating that it makes a black hole look like a lighthouse. And who knows what Amaghiddo means?”

Multiple hands shot up. All except one.

“Zed.”

“Ugh…yes ma’am?”

“Can you tell the class what Amaghiddo means?”

Shit. He had meant to study it, but in all fairness, there were thousands and thousands of pages to go over. What the hell was this? “Of course. Of course. Well…you see...Amaghiddo?” He thought about the word. There must be some meaning in the word itself. He could feel Kee burning a hole in him with her eyes. “Ugh…Amaghiddo means…the end. Its Aramaic for Armageddon.” He stopped there. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow, was that right?

The Sorceress smiled. “Good guess.”

He leaned back in his row, in relief.

Kee, rolled her eyes. “Ma’am, can I say something?”

“Of course, child.”

“Amaghiddo, Armageddon, that was supposed to be on Earth, right? But that already happened. That was the end of the fourth Earth civilization, that was period 4300 C.E. So if Armageddon was a time, how can it be a place and be a prophecy about the Big Bang? I don’t get it.”

“Time is mercurial and constant, but cyclical, if you know what to access. When the Prophet wrote the scrolls, he was dying, but he had been in alternate galaxial time scripts.”

“Like dimensions?” Julien asked.

“No, not in the sense you mean. All of you have heard of multi-dimensional theory. Alternate dimensions and universes, right?”

All the children shook their heads yes.

“Well, that’s all Outworld garbage. There are no alternate universes or dimensions. What we do have however, is an almost infinite number of galaxies. Last count we were approaching seventeen trillion mapped and counted. Each of those galaxies holds various modes and types of planets, life forms, time dilations and various things in between. But while we can’t travel to any of them physically, theory states we can transmit information through.”

“Like a complex transponder?” Kee said.

“Exactly Kee, Very good.”

Kee beamed at the compliment.

“You look confused Zed, do you have a question?” The Sorceress asked. She always seemed to call him and always seemed to know when he had no idea what in the hell she was talking about.

“We’ll, ma’am. I don’t get it. Didn’t the Prophet travel through Hel? Are you saying that was another galaxy?”

“When Zildjan wrote the final text he was in in a fugue state, and dying, but yes he had journeyed through Hel. And when he came out, the Great Migration was over, most humans had abandoned the planet. That time period would become known as Armageddon.”

“How long was he in Hel for?” Julien asked.

“Three Seculums.”

“Three hundred years?” Julien replied.

“Yes,” The Sorceress answered.

“How did he get to Hel if it was in another galaxy?” Zed asked, he couldn’t help himself. Kee smirked at him in triumph.

Crap, was he supposed to know that?

The Sorceress looked at him, he thought she was going to give one of her long stares, but she kept this one, only for beat. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

What was that supposed to mean?

But the Sorceress proceeded on with class with no further insight as to her statement. “We need to move on, we still have a lot to cover. Now class, look here,” she pointed to the image, “That is the super-force; time, gravity, energy mixed into a single entity. Since we cannot go faster than light, at least not physically, it would be impossible to capture Light as it is, by proxy, outside the realm of our physical universe. In essence, we are inside of the universe because Light deems it so, whom is the border of all our casualty. Einstein’s basic laws governing the physical universe state that expansion of the universe will end, as will entropy but…um,” she looked around the theatre, “Kee…I want you to take the next step, go deeper. Finish my statement.”

“Yes, ma’am. Looking at Einstein’s laws, we understand that physical thermodynamics are in place from the first moment of creation.”

“Go on,” said the Sorceress.

“Zildjan showed proof of God’s existence, the first time in human history. But that did not destroy nihilism or anarchy. If anything, afterward, the Prophet showed us the Truth, those who seek succor and temperance in the Darkness became ever stronger.”

“Was it the Lights intent to abandon us?” the Sorceress asked her.

“Wait, what about God, I don’t understand, he created all these machinations, then he just sits back and watches?” Zed said.

“No one asked you a question,” Kee shot at him.

“It’s ok. Zed, continue,” The Sorceress said.

“I’m just saying. Mankind’s been searching for God for a hundred thousand years. And then we finally find him, and he is a him, and he basically says to the prophet, go forth and fix this mess, all on your own or humankind will die. Meanwhile, the prophets been tortured, stabbed, his family wiped out, and everyone he has ever loved is dead.”

“What’s your point, Zed?” Kee said.

“My point is what role does God actually play as a mover in the universe. We know he exist but apparently that means nothing. The prophet literally went through Hel and came out and then died horribly. I mean what kind of God is that?”

The class went silent as if he had dropped a mine in the middle of the floor and if anybody moved it would blow. All the students looked at the Sorceress expectedly.

“We conquered the galaxy, but people are still starving, looting, killing. Nothing changed. We found God, and he turned out not to be very helpful. Is that your postulate Zed?” She said.

“Well…yeah.”

“We don’t worship God, and we don’t ask him questions. We worship the Light and we pray to Sol, our sun. This is Biblical Science class, science being the operative word,” she replied.

“Do our prayers get answered?” Zed asked.

“No, of course not. Prayers don’t get answered, prayers get submitted, because they help us to feel better and calmer and more adjusted. No one is listening to us out there in the universe.”

“So why are doing all of this for?” he bravely asked her.

The class appeared stunned. No one had ever spoken to the Sorceress like that. All of them on their own individual home worlds had all been taught to study and pray and be worshipful, this approached blasphemy.

The Sorceress’ blue eyes were shaped like an hourglass and they had a tendency to bore into your soul and when she was really angry, which was decidedly rare, they also glowed yellow, like they were now.

Maybe he had gone too far.

##KEE

This freaking guy always went too far, Kee thought to herself. He was going to ruin this chance for her.

She knew how the system worked; she would be painted with the same brush as he, when his crimes were discovered.

They would say she had known all along.

That she was in on it.

And the damn fool, instead of keeping his fool mouth shut, kept dropping grenades in the class. Now blasphemy? Damnit.

She should turn him in.

Better yet- she should kill him.

Strangle his dumb ass in his sleep.

His dorm room was adjacent to hers; he didn’t have a roommate.

She could sneak in, easily. Even though she was only 13, she saw the way he looked at her legs when she stepped out of the dorm sonic showers in the morning and after physical education.

And he was good looking, and she had no problem with that or that they both felt whatever chemistry floated in the air between them.

They had a lot in common.

He was an orphan, like her, a criminal, like she had been, a street rat a thief, pickpocket, like her, like all of them from Helios IX.

From an early age, they had hustled together, for survival, in the in the moon cities dark underbelly, beneath the gleaming floating castles of casinos and hotels. At one point, they had even been friends. Maybe, in a normal world, it could have grown into more.

So, she knew that if she knocked, he would let her in.

She still had her steel garrote. It would be simple enough slip behind him, tie his neck up in the double bind she had learned.

Sure, he was bigger, but that wouldn’t matter when she crushed his windpipe, slicing through his Adam’s apple with the steel chord.

But then what?

There was no way to get rid of the body on ISSA. And if she, when she were caught, that would be her last chance of getting free. And he wasn’t worth it, but something would have to be done.

ZED

“Leave it to you to get the most powerful woman in the galaxy upset at you, moron” His father voice, in his head. Always mocking him, laughing at him. It had always been thus, even when he was a small boy and just trying not to get in the way.

“You idiot! That’s not a Phalange Ranger, that’s a Xenon Pup Ray. Get your head outta your ass boy, what you think this is… Earth? And you some high falutin dandy?... Hahah.” He ducked, just in time to miss the heavy iron wrench his father had angrily thrown at his head. Luckily, his father was already half drunk and the wrench crashed in the flowerpot behind him instead, smashing it to pieces.

Those were his mother’s favorite hyacinths, she’d be pissed, but probably less pissed if that had been his head. Either way, he felt sure his stepdad would blame him for it.

“Sorry pop. Sure, I’ll get it.” He picked up the dropped tool and carefully walked to the toolbox, while his dad glared at him with those shine filed eyes. He had been drinking the blue lightning, hard mountain shine made from fermented Hele Beans and citrus grinds. His complexion was already turning that awful, red, spidery color along the cheeks and eyes which happened when you drank too much of it. Zed figured he had maybe another twenty, to thirty minutes before his father’s passive anger turned to blatant rage. He knew from bitter experience that he had better be long gone by then.

“Hurry up!” His father bellowed, as he sat on the small stool by the Jet Bike. It was that bike that kept Zed in the garage. Helping fix it up was the only thing he loved to do with his dad. It was really the only thing they both loved beside his mom. Harley Davidson XJ-900 Jet Bike, Dual Engines, Quad-Exhaust, 0-900 in less than seven. It was a beautiful piece of machinery. Nu Steel anodized Uhura, a rare amalgam of metals, creating a durable and supersonic speedster capable of interplanetary travel as well as road work. Not that anyone was crazy enough to travel the stars on a motorbike, but technically it was possible, and that was the only thing that gave him the courage to stay in the garage. Even while his father swung down that clear liquid like it was water.

“Here, sir.” He found the tool, sitting on a pegboard and grabbed it, pulling it down and handing it to his dad.

“Bout got damn time,” he looked at his son, as if for the very first time, “Got Damn, you one ugly sumbitch you know that? Never seen anything ugly as you. Ugly black nigger boy, is what you are.”

He looked perplexed. “What’s a nigger?”

His father took another swig, “I never told you what a nigger is?”

“No sir.”

“Well..its kinda like a dog and armadillo. Ugly little creature. Scurries from town to town looking for garbage. Ugly as sin.” He took another swig. “It’s your hair.”

“My…hair?”

“What’s up with your hair?”

“What’s wrong with my hair?”

“Why’s it so nappy all the time? Don’t you see mine? Mines not like that, no one’s is. Just yours. Just your own ugly self,” He laughed at his joke. Zed was only 7, but he didn’t care, he didn’t say anything. What did he care what his crazy dad said? The only thing he cared about was that bike. That Bike was freedom, his freedom, and he’d take his momma with him.

“What are you thinking about?” His dad asked.

“Nothing.”

“Just standing there looking all stupid?”

“No sir.”

“You plotting on me, boy?”

“No sir, wasn’t thinking about nuthin.”

“Nuthing huh?…Wasn’t thinking about nuthin. You even sound like a dummy. An ugly dummy. Ha ha… that’s what you are, an ugly dummy. Thinkin I’ll call you that from now on, heh… ugly stupid dummy…haha….what yah think about that…son?” He said the son as a jeer, a rebuke.

He took another draught. It was unusual for him to be this bad, this early in the evening. Just then the entrance to the garage opened. Zeds mother stepped inside from the adjacent green house, carrying a tray of drinks, like an angel from heaven. She had been a scientist, a leading botanist one, from a mighty house, though she never admitted it or talked about it. For Zed, it didn’t matter where she was from or what she had done. She was perfect. Sweetness, in a life of bitter poverty and scarcity and fear. She made it all ok.

He hadn’t seen here all day; he forgot the bike and ran to give her a hug. “Hi momma!”

“Well hi fart bucket, how are you?” she put down the tray of drinks and gave him a mighty bear hug.

“Momma…am I nigger?”

“What?!” Her face went from happiness to shock, then she looked at her husband. “Who called you that sweet pea?”

“Dad. He said I was a nigger, but that it was a dog and an armadillo? What’s an armadillo? I don’t understand.”

She said nothing to that, but turned to her husband. “Is that what you do all day? Instead of looking for work? Call your son names?”

He stood up. “Ain’t no work on this god wasted planet.”

“The mines.”

He threw his glass mug, it smashed on the walls. “I ain’t working no got damn, shit hopping, methane mines, got damnit. I told you that! I’m an astrophysicist for got-damn sakes,” he burped loudly and sat heavily back down, like a deflated balloon.

“You’re a drunk and pathetic. That’s what you are. Jesus Christ Charlie he’s seven for god’s sake. Why would you call him something like that?”

“Look at im’, for got sakes, look at his damn hair and skin. How you explain that skin? Nobody has skin like that, not for a thousand years.”

“Plenty of people have different shades of skin, you know that. So what?”

“Shades of skin? He ain’t no shade, he’s midnight! That isn’t from some genetic anomaly in my family, or yours. We all mixed up now days, I know that. But that isn’t him. Is it?”

“Zed, sweetie, why don’t you go into the green room and help mommy clean up huh? Me and your daddy have to talk, Ok?” She smiled as she said this, but there was a fury and sadness behind her eyes that even he could see.

“But mom. We’re almost done with the handles; we were just about to revs her up.”

“No, sweetheart, not right now. Now, you heard me. But listen, maybe you could help me huh?”

“How?”

“The red robins are about to blossom, but they need more native soul and soft mercury. You think you could run outside and scoop some up, for me?”

“But mom, I was helping with the Bike.”

“Please? I could sure use your help cleaning them up, ok?” She gave him that special smile.

“O.K mommy.”

“That’s my boy.” She hugged him again and gave him a kiss.

“You turning that boy into a wuss.” His father said.

“Go.” His mother told him, not turning around. And he did.

Zed remembered all this as Kee stared at him from her lower bench. That was the last time he ever saw him mom, alive.

What did she know about it? What he had to do to get here? Sure, she had some trouble back in the day, but look at her now, she was fine. But…how much did she know? She probably knew enough to get him into trouble.

He should kill her.

He could wait for in the lavatory, disable the security features, then silently strangle her to death. He could do it too.

He had mastered all the codes and algorithms of the station, by know he could pretty much get in and get out of wherever he wanted without being seen by the surveillance, but to what end? How would he get rid of the body?

Murder was a rough business.

He had never done it, but Phagan had told him that he had better be ready to do it- soon.

Phagan had said that some boys started as young as six and seven, and if you wanted to advance you had to be ready to do what had to be done.

Zed sat back, defiant in his bench, the entire row of students surreptitiously scooted about three feet away from him on every side, as the Sorceress walked toward him.

“Let me answer your questions about the meaning of the universe Zed. And in doing, I want to explain our entire religious philosophy and that of Biblical Science. Our faith is not based on existential deities. We do not worship pieces of wood or stone, or man turned flesh. We believe in science, in proof, either seen or unseen. And this is the essence of the Light. The Light does not need you to believe in its existence Zed, in order for it to exist. It exist without you, quite well. It was created before you, it will be here long after. It does not need your prayers, your worship or your acquiesce. The Light is. And that is all. However, this is a good opportunity.”

“For what ma’am?” Zed asked.

“To end this class.”

The class looked shocked; it was early.

“I’m serious. Class, wonderful discussion, a lot to think about. But now, it is time to discuss other matters and that means that we will end class slightly earlier than usual today.” Though the Sorceress was speaking to the entire class, her eyes never left Zed. “Class dismissed.”

The look of shock was palatable on the faces of all the children, but they knew better than to argue. All the kids began to range out of the class, when the Sorceress stopped two. “Kee, Zed, please stay after class. I would like to speak to both of you.”

Key suddenly felt great anxiety. Oh lord, what had this knucklehead gotten her into now?

The Sorceress

When all the other students were gone Zed and Kee both stood just below the dais, awkward and uncomfortable as any pre-teens would be.

Any last words?” The Sorceress asked.

The kids looked at each other, “Ma’am?” Kee said trepidaciously.

The Sorceress smiled. “Just kidding kids. Relax.“ The children didn’t feel relaxed. “Kids, can you guess why I asked you to stay?”

Kee and Zed looked at each other again. “No.” They both said.

She stood on the dais in the empty room lit by the sun and stars. The Mistress of the Crystal Mountain, Lady Supremor of the Sapphire Guild, former Empress of the Empire, High Priestess for the Order of Light. She stood there, with her hourglass eyes, with the kids freaking out. Until know, the Sorceress had never even addressed them directly, nor privately.

“You children have any idea how old I really am?” She asked them from out of the blue.

Kee’s heart sank to the bottom of her shoes when she saw the boy opening his mouth, about to give an answer. Was he really that dumb? Was he going to say something stupid like “1000 years old ma’am?” God -she should have killed him when she had the chance.

“Umm...we don’t know ma’am.”

The Sorceress smiled. “Good answer. Mr.Cooper.”

“Shit.” Kee said, heart sinking.

“Who is Mr.Cooper?” Zed said innocently.

Kee put her hand up her mouth to stop from screaming, she definitely should have killed him. “Oh shut up! For Gods sake she obviously knows you, great big idiot!

Suddenly, two robo-sentries rose up slowly and silently from the floor.

“Jesus,” the girl said. “Ma’am, please I had nothing to do with it or with him, I barely even know him.”

The sentries were dressed in there all white armor and were each seven feet tall, rail thin and faceless. Robbed in white and crowned with head bands showing their rank, each automaton was armed with a large Nu-iron cudgel fitted with a solid metallic ball at the tip. That ball was capable of doing much more damage then its seemingly innocent appearance would have a person believe.

Zed shook his head but said nothing.

“Barely even know him? Hmm. So how did you know his sur name is Cooper?” The Sorceress asked lightly.

“I just, I just… I mean… …I…I knew of him…we are from the same planetoid…but.” Kee began.

The Sorceress raised her hand for silence. “The reason why I asked you how old you thought I was, was because I was wondering if you thought I was born yesterday. Or if you thought I forged an empire out of nothing, battled Amalek the Terrible -and won, uniting all of mankind throughout the galaxy, because I had no sense in my head and could be easily fooled by a pair of pre-teens. And now, you’re further insulting me. Is that right Kee?”

The girl looked downcast. “I knew of him ma’am. I know he was a pickpocket, a troublemaker. But…”

“And when you saw him on your ship, you didn’t wonder how he got there?”

“I wasn’t in his cohort on Helios IX ma’am. I didn’t…”

“She didn’t know ma’am, she didn’t know. You can take me… but she had nothing to do with it.” Zed finally confessed.

“I… can take you? That is so sweet that you think I need your permission, or that you have some say in this. I will chalk that up to your youth.”

“Ma’am, what’s going to happen to us?” Kee asked, looking at the guard.

“Well, if you are contrite, confess and I am lenient. Which in my dotage I find myself being. I don’t see why your punishment should be more than, thirty years on the Prison Planet in one of the Oort asteroid belts.”

Kee’s look of shock was transmitted all over her body.

“That’s not fair! she didn’t do anything.” The boy pleaded.

“Didn’t do anything? This is an Imperial crime- boy. The only reason you are only getting thirty years and not life in the arena, is because of your youth and my mercy.”

“Mercy? Ma’am...please…we’re…we’re,” Kee stopped, she didn’t know what to say, “But...What?.. Why?” she finally puttered out.

“Because the Emperor has been involved. And it is not in my best interest to dissuade him.”

“The Emperor? Ma’am, I understand that I broke the rules, but thirty years for us is not like for an Earther. That is a life sentence for us,” Zed said, staring at the sentries silent cudgels.

“I would say that those are the thoughts you should have had of before you committed your crime.” The Sorceress responded coolly.

“I don’t even like him.” Kee said.

“You know our laws. The fact that both of you came from the same planetoid, the only two who did, that means you knew of each other, that makes you an accessory Cherokee Raven Wing Blanco; even if it’s after the fact. Even if you suspected something, you should have said something. Now it’s too late.”

“But ma’am,” Kee began to plead.

“No more discussion. Now, there may be a way forward, where your lives will not be forfeit.”

“Ma’am?” The boy said.

“As I said. In my dotage, I have become more pliant. I have learned the value of human life, even if it took some centuries. I don’t wish to see both of your lives wasted. So, as I say, there may be a way. But we must hurry. So please….follow me.” The Sorceress turned from them and began to walk away, leaving the children alone with the guards.

“Did…she say please?” Zed said to Kee.

“Yes. But we should follow her.”

“To where?”

“Who cares? Do you want to die? Smashing rocks in the Oort belt?” Kee said angrily.

“No.”

“Then shut-up and just do whatever she says or wants. We have no choice.”

They followed behind their teacher, the only sound in the lectern the rhythmic banging of her rod on the marble floors. and as they took their first steps, into the hall where in she had entered, they saw the Sorceress, had stopped just a few feet, inside the hall and was speaking to someone.

“A Minder-Bot.” Said Zed, under his breathe. Only Earthers had them, only Earthers could afford them. The price tag on one Minder was more than a Methane Farmer would make in ten years. He had never seen one up close. It was bigger than he imagined, about the size of a large adult cat. They say that each was the bleeding edge of technology, a flying symposium of all the best technological gifts Earths Technocratus Elites had to imagine in a single, unique self-aware artificial organism.

The Minder spoke to the Sorceress, while the kids waited a respectful distance away, mindful of the fact that the Sentries had not followed them into the hall. After a few minutes, the Minder seemed to turn, though it was an orb so it was impossible to tell, and then surreptitiously flew over to the kids.

“Chris-Anne seems to want to bring you indoors, against better judgement. I just want to make sure that you creatures have properly cleansed yourselves of all Outworld bacteria and germs and dirt… assuming of course, that is actually possible.”

“Gem!” Said the Sorceress sharply.

“Sorry, I mean, if that is ok.” It spoke in a crisp and posh voice, as if it had grown up most of its life in ease and wealth.

“What?... Who is Chris-Anne? And what dirt?” Kee said to the robot.

The Sorceress turned.

“I am Chris-Anne, at least that is my given name.”

“Oh,” said Kee.

“What, you think when I was born my mother named me, The Sorceress?”

Zed looked at the floor and mumbled, “Sort of.”

Kee nudged him hard with her elbow. “Don’t you ever just shut up?” She whispered.

“Stand still, Out-Worlders. This shouldn’t hurt. Probably.” The robot burst into pure light; waves of energy cascaded over them. “Your tunic is infected with Out-World germs and bacteria, they need to come off.” A red beam shot out from the Bot, disintegrating their clothing. Before they could say a word, they were both nude. A ringing noise came out from the floor, a new cascade of energy washed over them from below. Zed looked at his feet, to discover he was no longer naked. His tunic was gone, but now he was clothed in a unitard, which covered him from his head to toe, leaving only his face exposed. It reminded him of the medical tunics Medicrats made patients wear before surgery. He turned and saw Kee’s outfit was different. Kee was clothed in the Robes of White, the designation usually spared for acolytes, but instead of the near-shining white color, her robe was purplish red.

“Why are dressed like a Sapphire?” he couldn’t help exclaiming.

Kee gave him the same puzzled look. “How the hell would I know?”

“Done. That’s the best I could do I’m afraid. I’m not a miracle worker.” The robot said in a sarcastic manner.

“Gem! That is quite enough.

“Chris. Don’t you think this has gone on long enough?”

“Not now robot.”

“Stop this foolishness, before it gets out of hand.” Gem said to her, who stood with confused faces.

“No. I think we have what we are looking for.”

“These children will be he hurt. Either way. Just stop.”

“Since when do you care if Outworlders get hurt. Gem??”

“I prefer to call it prudence, not care. And I’m much more concerned for you. This obsession is just…”

“Obsessive?”

“Don’t be coy Chris-Anne. This is very dangerous.”

“Gem, I’ll be fine.” the Sorceress responded.

The robot said nothing else. Just rotated maybe, and flew away - leaving the Sorceress, Zed and Kee, alone in the long corridor.

“What did we do to him?” Kee asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” the Sorceress said.

“What did he mean that we could be hurt?” Zed asked.

The Sorceress did not answer, just turned, and walked away what else could they do? They followed. Zed looked wonderingly around the surrounding, no Outworlder had ever been inside the inner sanctum before, as far as he knew. The occasion was marred however, since he was about to face a lifetime of imprisonment. He would have liked to ask where they were going, why the sentries hadn’t taken them and if they would have a trial.

But the Sorceress said nothing, just kept walking silently, beating her rod against the floor with each step like a wizard hiking through middle-earth. It wasn’t until at least half a kilometer, that she, the Sorceress finally took a left turn into a closed chamber, which when opened, revealed another set of corridors. Then she walked into a adjacent corridor filled with orange lights, and came to a standstill in front of a large circular door. The door was thick and inlaid with intricate carvings of something which looked like a monolith, casting a beam into the sky. Zed couldn’t make much else out of the design.

“You know what this is Kids?” The Sorceress asked standing in front of the door.

“A door?” Answered Zed.

The Sorceress smiled. But Kee rolled her eyes.

“It looks like a image of the Obelisk of the Abyss, Kee said.

“Very good Kee, very good. My, what a brain you have. No one less than three thousand years old or not from Earth, has seen this image in real life. You really took your studies very seriously, to earn your place here, didn’t you?”

“Yes ma’am, I did.”

“And you boy. Thought that cheating was all it took.”

Zed felt his skin heat. “You don’t know me ma’am. No offense. But I did what I had to do to survive.”

“Survival. Yes, it always comes down to that, doesn’t it?” The Sorceress said. “Girl, do you know why this obelisk is so important?”

“Well, it is when the Angel of Death ascended to the Heavens, to judge the guilty or the innocent in the galaxy. That was when the Great Prophet leapt into the Abyss and descend to Hel, in order to save mankind from the demons.” Kee said.

“And do you believe that?”

Kee shrugged. “Its what we were thought to believe ma’am. Metaphysical demons and hellscapes and biblical messages aside, I think that there is some kernel of truth in there, like all myths. But, I’ve never seen a demon and I don’t believe in deities. So…”

The Sorceress seemed to ponder Kee. “What keen mind for one so young. After all this time, to find the two of you, here, on one planetoid, and for both of you to come to ISSA. When so many centuries has passed. Stunning.”

The children looked at their teacher like she had gone mad.

“Ma’am?” Kee said, with hesitation.

“Forget it. All will be revealed in time. Back to business. You, boy. Touch the door- if you know what’s good for you,” the Sorceress said to him.

“I don’t really feel that will be good for me,” Zed said.

“Do it,” the Sorceress responded.

It wasn’t a choice, and it wasn’t a request. He put his hand on the door. At first, nothing happened. Then, slowly, the door seemed to grow around his hand, silver metal wrapped around his forearms and went up to his shoulders and around his necks. “Keep calm, it will be over soon,” the Sorceress whispered. A moment later the door swallowed him whole and he was gone.

“What… just happened? Did you…did you... kill him?” Kee asked.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I haven’t killed anybody in decades. But even so, do you care? I thought you didn’t like him.”

“I don’t but…not liking him and wishing him dead are two different things.”

“No one is dead. But, weren’t you just plotting to kill him- just now in class? Steel garrote around his Adams apple, correct?”

“How did you?...” Kee said, but she stopped, seeing how the Sorceress just stared at her with those cold, dead hourglass eyes, like a judge weighing a sentence. “What do you want from me?” she said finally.

“I’m deciding. Right now is the most important moment in your life Kee. Right now is when all future moments in your life will be decided. And while you do have certain choices, a majority of those choices are in my hand. And right now, I am deciding what to do with you.”

“Could one of those choices be, not sending to the Penal Planet?”

“Could be. Tell me Ms. Blanco, why did you come to ISSA?”

“Earth. To have a chance. Become an acolyte on the Crystal Mountain.”

“That’s never going to happen now. Your survival instincts may have led you astray with the boy.”

“I know. I see that.”

“Do you? Kee, you are obviously very special. Just to earn your place here, out of the billions who try is amazing, and from such a home world as Helios IX? That’s truly remarkable. You have been touched by the Prophet, which is why I think you have survived so long and come so far….But…” The Sorceress trailed off.

“But…now my life is over.” Kee finished for her.

“No, not necessarily. Kee, I don’t like to waste human potential, like I said. It is the one thing in this universe which is the true irreplaceable. No one wants to see you waste away on the Prison Planet.”

“Well…that’s good.”

“Let me ask you a question, I’m sure you have heard of the Sapphire Guild. What do you know of them?”

“They are amazing. They run the entertainment for the Empire. Interweb shows, dance, music, holo videos, art, live performances- all go through the guild and to be a Sapphire is to be the best.”

The Sorceress scoffed. “Yes, the Sapphires do all that. But they are much, much more. Do you know what I mean?” she gave her that look.

Kee didn’t think lying would help. “Rumors have it they are a secret spy ring.”

“Yes, that is part of it. But again, only the tip.”

Kee stared. Why was she telling her all of this? Suddenly, two sentries rose majestically from the floors.

“You could face the rest of your short Outworld years as a prisoner on the Prison Planet. Or you could do something great for the empire. Kee.”

“Me? Like what?”

“I would like you to join the Guild.”

If someone had thrown lighting, at her, Kee would not have been more shocked, she stood there, mouth agape, for a full minute, staring at the Sorceress.

“Hello?”

“Yes ma’am, its just, its just, its just.”

The Sorceress raised her hand. “Don’t start acting stupid now. I am not prone to last minute decisions, so don’t make me change my mind again.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“This isn’t a vacation. And you may well wish you were on the Penal Planet many times over by the time your are done.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“The apprenticeship is 25 years, then you serve your lifetime.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“You understand? There is no getting out. You will commit the rest of your life to the Guild. In that time, you will belong to the Sapphires -and to me. You will do as you are told, behave the way you are taught and perform to the best of your talents at all times.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“This is not Phagan’s pickpocketing crew on Helios. You will be given real skill, real power.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And do you know what happens to Sapphires who fail?”

Kee shook her head. ”Sapphires don’t fail ma’am.”

The Sorceress shook her head. “Yes. Good. Good. Then you understand?”

Kee sank to her knees. “I pledge my service and my fealty to you, Great Sorceress. Dowager of the Empire, Mistress of the Crystal Mountain, Lady Supremor of the”

The Sorceress waived her off…”I got it. I’m very important. Now get up.”

Kee stood.

“Follow these sentries. You will not be returning back to class. They will take you to your dorm. Say your goodbyes, tall them what you want but do no tell them the truth. Your shuttle leaves in three hours. Get your belongings be on your way.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Any questions?”

“Is it…well…why me?”

“You’re brilliant. Your tough. You survived the Human Hunters, even if your parents did not. You raised yourself on a hell hole and survived long enough to be taken in by missionaries. And your Pure Blood, Native American, from ancient Earth bloodlines even further back than my own. And truth told, you wouldn’t survive a day on the Prison Planet before some gang or roughnecks tried to make you their own because of that.”

“But, in the amphitheater, you said..”

“In the amphitheater there are eyes and ears always watching. Those education spheres are not only for prospective students. Here, we are in my inner chambers. I can speak as I wish without thought. And I would hate to see a potential such as years wasted in the Darius the Emperor’s stupid prisons or in the Human Hunters mad games. Frankly, this is the only way I can legally save you, Kee. And even now, I fear time may be short in order to do so. Or is this not, something that you want?”

Kee burst into silent tears. “Yes, ma’am, I want it. So much. And thank you. But…”

“Yes?”

“Will he…be O.K?” she nodded toward the door.

Before she could answer, Chris-anne was interrupted by a doorbell ringing in her middle ear. Only the emperor’s chimes were that annoying, which is why she had chosen it for his tone.

“Damnit.” She said out loud. “There is no time. Go.”

The sentries began to float away. Kee did a deep curtsy, said no more, and followed them into the bend of the next corridor.

Alone, Chris-Anne the Sorceress blocked everything out her mind, cleared her head space. Then pressed her thumb and forefinger together, activating the Thumb-Phone and making the connection. The next instant, emperor’s image appeared- less than three feet away from her.

He waited, she nodded.

“Chris-Anne.” He said.

“Darius.”

He grunted his dissatisfaction. He hated the fact that she was the only one in the Empire who could treat him this way, making him speak first, using his first name. He grunted again. “Is this how you look in your classes?”

Right. Her face. “I was on my way to my Solarium when you called, I hadn’t had time to take it off.”

“Why bother? Why not let them see who you really are?”

“We’ve talked about this Darius. I’m almost 3000 years old, if these kids saw a 3000-year-old woman who looks like she’s thirty, they wouldn’t understand it.”

“Who cares?”

“it would be bad. Don’t you think we have enough problems with the Outworlders without them thinking we’re immortal?”

“I don’t give a flying anything about what they think.”

“They are your subjects Darius. You’re charge.”

“They’re a bunch of leeches. We should just get rid of the whole lot of them.”

A shiver went through her spine, because she knew he wasn’t joking, and that he could do what he threatened. “You want to exterminate half a trillion people?”

“We could. We have the technology. They offer us nothing.”

“They’re still people.”

“Bah. Barely. They’re like Neanderthals. Cro-Magnum man at best. It’s better to just cut them off from the evolutionary tree…”

Chris-Anne raised her hand to cut him off. “Darius, that’s just. That’s…let’s not do this now. I am very busy today, what can I help you with?”

“Fine. What news?” he said gruffly.

“The outer sectors of Planet Nine are out of Barium and Methane. In fact, there’s a Methane draught going on all across many sectors. There was a food riot on Rigell 7, apparently the local magistrate turned on his own troops and...”

“That’s not what I meant. The boy, do you have him?”

“No.”

He shook his head. “I don’t understand, you said that you had found him.”

“No, no…I said my contacts may have intel on his veracity.”

“And this boy, this one in your class.”

“I never said he was in my class. Who are you talking to Darius?”

“I speak to anyone I choose to Chris-Anne. You forget I am the emperor.”

“And your forget, I am the one who made you emperor.”

“That was a long time ago.”

“Okay. Fair enough. But I also remember wiping your butt when you were a baby. So, don’t go pulling rank on me. Understand?”

He sighed. “Yes. Fine. No one is disrespecting you. I, we, just need to know if this boy is who -or what -is being claimed by the genegineers.”

“I know.” Was all she said, then remained quiet.

“You know what?”

“I know what we are looking for. Whom we are looking for. Why do you think I’m up here?”

Darius shook his head in annoyance. “I rule with an Iron Fist over ten-thousand world across the galaxy. One puff of my breathe can decimate entire civilizations.”

“That’s great.”

“You understand that anyone else in this galaxy, who spoke to me the way you have, would have been executed long ago?”

“Well, good thing I am who I am. Is there anything else that you need, Darius? I had a long class and I wish to retire.”

“You haven’t given me anything I need. Nor have you answered any of my questions.”

“We will find the boy. I promise.”

“But when?”

“Soon.”

“I was made to understand there was an imposter in your class. Is that not the boy we seek?”

“No.”

“I’m sending one of the Imperial Guards to investigate.”

“No.”

“Detective Thompson. I’m sure you have heard of him?”

“Yes and no. He will not be allowed on ISSA and besides, that boy is no longer here.”

“What, where is he?”

“Banished. To the Prison Planet.”

The emperors eyes raged fire. “Who authorized this?”

“I did.”

“But...”

“I have full legal authority. He used another’s algorithms to steal onto the ship and pose as a classmate. We still can’t find that other boy. No, he’s going to PP8.”

“Fine…but when Thompson comes….”

“Thompson is not going to be let onto my station.”

##ZED

As he awoke, he could hear a din of mechanical whirring clinking from the walls, being rolled back like a portcullis, as if someone were opening up the roof of a building or raising a drawbridge. He opened his eyes up groggily, to see open air sight of a blazing red sun and tons of stars in the infinite dead of space, starlight streamed from the heaven’s and he was greeted with an unobstructed view of the Milky Way galaxy and he could tell, that these stars did not belong to Earth.

“Zed, welcome to Proxima Centauri.” The Sorceress said brightly.

“Where am I?” He was strapped to a dentist chair, or what it appeared to him to be and he was leaned back so he as to prone and almost flat. “My head feels like someone used it as a drum. I don’t feel good at all.”

“No, I wouldn’t think you would. Molecular decomposition and auroric reconfiguration are never easy, especially when you’re a virgin to it. ” A giant floating screen descended behind, lit with lights and an image of what looked like his anatomy.

“Who shot who in the what now?”

The Sorceress sighed. “Sorry. I forgot. When you touched the door, your atoms were spread apart and sent through a laser transmission to Alpha Centauri via the Interweb. From there they were relayed your conscious here, to an uplink in my lab.” She said simply, as she twisted nobs and checked gauges.

“That’s… impossible.”

“Really? O.k.”

“Wait, why. Who in the hell are you?”

The woman looked at him. She wore the robes of the Sorceress, but she was young, with blonde hair and shapely. The robes cut a sharp silhouette. “This is me, Zed. The true me, this is what I look like when I’m not hobbling around the lectern.”

He shook his head. “I’m so confused.”

She stopped dialing nobs on the panels next to her and scooted in. “I know. It’s a lot to take in.”

“Am I going to the Prison Planet?”

Her blue hourglass eyes were the same, that hadn’t changed. “Not unless you want to.”

“I don’t want to , but I don’t understand. Why am I strapped to this dentist chair?”

“It’s a submersible. Do you know what a Yehuvapool is?”

“A who?”

“Jesus. Do you have any knowledge of Earth or Biblical Science whatsoever?”

“Look, I am sorry for what I did. I promise to never do it again. Can you please let me go now?”

“No Zed. We have a lot of work to do and we don’t have much time. The emperor is sending troops and God knows what else. I had planned on taking a little longer to explain things to you, but we haven’t got the time. So, I’m going to make this quick. I need you to do something for me. Something important, but dangerous. But not as dangerous as 30 years hard labor, you understand?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

She sighed. “I need you to undertake a mission.”

Wires rose from the floor and attached themselves seamlessly into his body suit. His chair was reposed to a flattened positioned. A bowl emerged around him, which began to slowly begin fill with a neon blue liquid, which quickly submerged in up to his neck.

“Please…stop. Don’t hurt me.”

“I’m not going to hurt you love. I need you.”

“I don’t like this. I don’t want this. Why should I help you?”

“Because you are desperate, poor and alone. Because you were caught impersonating another student on Earth territory on an Imperial station no less, because you thought you could imposter this other student in my class and for six weeks have been lying to the face of the empire.”

“Because I don’t have a choice,” he finished.

“Everyone has choices. As long as death is an option.”

“I don’t want to die.”

“Then let me ask you a question, what was you plan? What were you hoping to accomplish?”

“I just needed to get away, I didn’t want to hurt anyone.”

“And the boy you replaced?”

“Do you care?”

“It adds to your crime. But honestly, how long did you think you were going to get way with it?”

“It had worked so far, hadn’t it?”

She shook her head. “Right. You really think that you hacked your way onto an imperial cruiser, headed to ISSA no less, on a false bio-rhythm, then spent 6 weeks in my class, because you were just that brilliant. And no one was the wiser?”

He looked pained. “You knew?”

She shook her head in wonder. “No one wonder you guys lost the war.” A helmet began to descend from the ceiling with spikes on the inside.

“Wait! Wait! What the…what is that?!”

“This is an epigenetic pincer helm.”

“A what?”

“Your showing very high anxiety levels, I need you to calm down… until full prep is over.”

“Prep?”

“You think I’m talking to you for my health, boy? We need you calm for the transpose to work.”

“Please, let me out of this thing.”

“I need your help.”

“Kidnapping me, tying me up is a funny way to ask for help.”

“Well, I’m in a hurry. See that red sun above us?”

He looked up to the open skylight. It was just them in the stars, and the red sun beaming down. “In about seven minutes it’s going to send out a burst of gamma rays, that massive amount of radiation will create a particle wave emission and more importantly, the right harmonic I need- to send you where you need to go. So, I am going to put this helmet on you, you understand?”

“Wait, so your mission is to fry me with gamma ray’s?”

“No. Now shut-up and keep still. This shouldn’t hurt a bit- much.” She put the helmet over his forehead and dropped it down around his face. He felt the spike poke through his skin. She was wrong, it did hurt. He screamed, but the sounds just echoed back into his skull. He felt his body rise toward the sky. A intercom opened. “Don’t squirm kid.” A display came on inside his helmet, it was the Sorceress, but with her image came a sent, a hiss of some sort of spray, he began to feel calmer, more relaxed.

Suddenly, this all didn’t seem so bad.

“How you doing kid?”

“Mum…I’m O.K.? What a weird dream.”

“Listen, since you’re feeling better, there’s a couple things you need to know. But I warn you, it’s going to be a bit of a shock.”

“Ugh...mm, you look like candy. You’re very pretty. You know, I never kissed a girl?”

“I’m going to shoot your consciousness back in time nine hundred years in the past.”

“Umm…I don’t think I heard you, can you repeat that please?”

She brought up an image of a cube like object. It was cut with jewels inlaid with hieroglyphics. “This is what I want you to find. It’s a power source called the Cube. Think of it like a nuclear engine. It was lost some time ago. And we need it -now. You have a causative genetic link to the only man who knows where it was -the last time it was lost. We have no other way to retrieve it. Go back there, find out where it is, and then I will pull you back to our time.”

She waited for a response, when there was none she sighed. “Can we pull back the gas please, take it down 8% per volume inch? I need him lucid.” She spoke to someone off screen.

Another hissing sound. He felt his fear returning as he began to sober up.

“Kid? Can you hear me? Did you understand all that?”

He laughed out loud. “This is a hell of a dream.”

“You’re not dreaming.”

“I thought you said you’re sending me back in time?”

“I am.”

“Like time travel? Or something? That’s impossible.”

“This is true. But not your corporeal body. Your consciousness. To be more specific. You will inhabit the consciousness and body of another man. You will be a passenger, in the background, unable to do or say anything, but you will be able to see. Everything you see and hear will be recorded in your memory, and that is what I need.”

“Oh…ugh… no thank you.”

“Excuse me?”

“That sounds horrible, I don’t want to do that.”

“Review your choices here Zed.”

“My choices are to help you, or die on the Prison Planet?”

“Yes.”

“Well. I choose the Prison Planet. Now release me. I’ll take my chances.”

“Well, that’s too bad. I lied. You don’t have a choice, you will do this.”

“Then I choose death. I’m not having my brain fried by your Frankenstein machine.”

“I promise you, that I will kill you if you don’t do this. But not quickly Zed, very slowly. I’ll send you to the emperor, you do know that he is looking for you?”

“The emperor is looking for me. Why?”

“It’s a long story Zed, and we are running out of time. For all I know ISSA may already be destroyed and me an outlaw.”

“What?”

“There are forces at work kid that you don’t understand. But understand this and listen well. When the emperor is through with you, there will be nothing left. You are familiar with the punishments he metes out to Outworlders are you not?”

He was very awake now. “I don’t believe you. What would the Lord of the Galactic Realm want with a street punk like me?”

“You’re a little more than a street punk kid. You haven’t seen how people follow you? How your able to get out of one jam after another? Your fighting skills? Your ability to survive.”

“You’re describing half the kids on Helios. We all had to do anything we could to survive. And no one is following me.”

“The girl?”

“Pretty sure she would kill me if she could. Especially now.”

“Maybe, but I wouldn’t be too sure. Even at the last, she wondered after your welfare.”

“The last?”

“Don’t worry, she hasn’t been harmed. But Zed, we’re running out of time.”

“Then release me. I’m not going through your micro-cellular regeneration machine or whatever it is..”

“No..that isn’t”

“And I’m not going to be time zapped. So, forget it. Let me go.”

“And the emperor?”

“I don’t believe you. He rules the freaking galaxy lady. I doubt he give two shits about a no-account low life like me.”

“Lady?”

“The Sorceress is like, two hundred years old. Your not her, even with contacts lenses. So…I don’t know what game your trying to pull, but I’ve been involved in too many cons to believe this schtick. Your barking up the wrong tree.”

“In all my plans, I never thought that you simply wouldn’t believe me.”

“Really? Well believe it. Let me go.”

“I’m joking. Of course, I planned for this.” She brought up her palm. And image appeared. It was his mother.

“Hi sweetheart. How are you? Umm..I don’t have a lot of time. If your seeing this, its probably because, they found me, and I’m dead.”

“What is this?” Zed asked.

“Just watch.”

“There is so much to tell you. First, I am so sorry about your dad. He wasn’t always such a monster, you know? When we met, he was a astro-engineer. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the socket, but he was decent and honest and kind. I don’t know, the years on Helios and the shine, changed him. But..that isn’t what I want to say to you. I want you to know the truth sweetheart. The real truth.”

“I don’t understand, when was this taken?”

The Sorceress paused the recording. “The night she died.”

“That’s impossible.”

“Really? What do you remember about that night?”

“Nothing. The Medicrats said I blocked everything out. That someday it would come back.”

“Well, todays the day. Your mother was stabbed in the gut by your stepfather. Right now, as she’s talking, there’s a shive protruding from her abdomen, not to mention multiple fractures. She’s doctored her avatar so you wouldn’t see them.”

“But..”

“Your father was a bit of an asshole.”

“That much I remember.”

“Well, your mom recorded this, for you, the night she died.”

“Where was he?”

“She knocked him out with a wrench. He’ll wake up in a couple hours, hung over, not remembering either, at first. But, then he does. He feels sorry and yadya yadya yadya. But the damage was done.”

“Why didn’t she send this to me then? Why do you have it?”

“You want answers kid? Watch.” She began the recording again.

“Son, you are very special. What your father said to you, tonight? That was mean, but there was truth in some of it. Not the degrading part, but the part about you being different. You are not part of the genetic mix taken from the Gengineers. You’re special. I took your matrix son. I put you inside my womb. Your weren’t conceived from me and Charlies genes. That’s why your skin is so different than ours, and why they consider you pure blood. Because you are. And…”

The Sorceress closed her fist. “Well…That’s enough of that.”

“Wait, what? No, what was she saying, there was more to the message.” Zed said.

“Oh, yeah. Way more. But..I guess you’ll never see it. Its time for you to go to the emperor now, then, depending on what’s left of you, prison.” His heart beat very fast in his chest. The emperor was madly xenophobic and his hatred of the Outworld was very well known as was his cruel and evil punishments. But more importantly, his mother. She had the only communication from his mother to him. He shook his head in disgust. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t send me to the emperor, please,” he finally whispered.

“Choice. Right?”

He was silent for a full minute. “And how do I know you will bring me back?”

“I physically need you here, alive and conscious to be able to access your memories.”

“You’ll give me my mother’s message?”

“Yes.”

“And what do I get out of this?”

“Your freedom isn’t enough?”

“I’m not free, and I won’t be free. What you are offering me isn’t freedom- its slower death. Coming back to my old life isn’t exactly a winner for me. Why do you think I risked stowing onto the ship in the first place.”

“Fine. But then… you have chosen?”

“What do I get?” He repeated.

“What do you want?”

“Kee. Promise me you will help her, even if I die and this doesn’t work out.”

“Why do you care about the girl?”

“What’s it to you? Aren’t you on the clock?”

“You are correct. Done. What else?”

“My Jet-Bike, it’s on Helios, in a garage. Pay for it, protect it. The whole thing. I owe Phagan 70 thousand Dinars. Pay that.”

“Done.”

“And a Lair, when I get back, I want my own place to live, in the Irradiated Desert, no more rattraps. And somewhere to work, to make a living. Someplace cool and fancy. Like a hotel, I always wanted to work at a hotel-buy me a hotel!”

“Done, anything else?”

“Why me? If you knew about me all this time, why let me stay? Teach me? Why not just arrest me a long time ago?”

“Son, I wanted you here. That is why you are here. And I needed you to learn what you have learned, which is why I thought it to you.”

“You planned this, from the moment I got onto that ship, didn’t you?”

“Mr. Cooper, I’ve been planning this for centuries before you were even born. Now. Is there anything else? We have less than two minutes before the storm.”

“Yes.”

“Speak.”

“My father.”

“You want me to free him? From his imprisonment on the Penal Planet for his crimes?”

“No. I want you to kill him, whether or not I return. ”

She nodded. “Wow. You really are who I am seeking. Very well. Done. Anything else?”

“How can I trust you?”

The Sorceress shook her head, a Major Domo Bot coasted to her. It pulled out a key card, the Sorceress took it and pressed her Thumb on it, a dot of red light displayed on his helmet.

Metallic Voice: “Verbalize Signature Agreement.”

“I agree and consent,” he said to light.

“I agree and consent” the Sorceress repeated. The light turned green.

“It’s done. A copy has been sent to your secure server in your Red Box. We have eleven seconds- you ready?”

“Wait! What the hell am I supposed to be doing again?”

“Just relax and keep your ears open. Zildjan will be leading you to an artifact, known as the Cube. When you find out where and when it is- the mission is over, and I will bring you back. That’s it.”

“Wait, did you say,…”

His words were cut off by his screams, as a massive energy wave tore his body apart.

CHAPTER 1

The Awakening

Ever since I was born, they’ve been trying to kill me. First the Medi-Bots, who surrounded me and my mother. Then the Medi-Crats, behind their Plex-Plated glass walls observing the Medi-Bots, Mid-Wifeing- my mom. I didn’t take the milk, so naturally, they assumed that I had the virus, that I was a blood sucking vampire mutant.Start writing here…

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