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The World of Eae't

A Change of Ideas
Part 3

The Darkness Between Worlds


It was, Asceal reflected, something she’d begun to forget. Between her children, Liana, and the mass of life the other gods had created, when was the last time she’d experienced it? Eons ago, and perhaps in this same place. The void.

Travelling through it brought back memories. Memories she’d thought sweet now tainted by a history she’d never anticipated. A chariot, Aelius, and a plan. On reflection it all seemed so naive, so… Pathetic. Even if they had managed to bring light to the whole of Galbar, it would have been pointless. Katharsos had already killed the souls they sought to comfort.

Once that revelation had nearly destroyed her. Now? The thought didn’t even stir her. After all, she was on a journey to find out if mortals were even worth saving. If they all held the same darkness in their hearts as Ovmo had, and if Katharsos had seen that, well then perhaps the monster in the pyres was no monster at all.

It was a chilling thought, but one that lingered. Neither she nor Azura had considered that some mortals simply weren’t worth saving. Even if Ovmo had been an aberration, by now the Alma would have crystallized dozens like him. Monsters, waiting to be unleashed. Of course, that was only if Ovmo was the exception.

If he wasn’t? Then she and Azura had done something unforgivable. That was why she was flying through the void, why she was seeking out the only person who could answer her questions. Abanoc, the god of Recording.

Asceal had never met him, but all the gods reflected their aspect. What they were, what they could do, it defined them. There was little chance Abanoc hadn’t been watching Galbar. As she streaked towards his Sphere she wondered what he would be like. Would he offer the information she needed freely, or would he strike a bargain?

She hoped he would be amicable, but in the end it didn’t matter. There was no price so high she wouldn’t pay to know. As the Observatory resolved itself in her vision, a vast platform ringed with grand pillars, she steeled herself for whatever might come.

A flash of light came into Abanoc’s view, distracting him from his work. He already knew what it was and wasn’t alarmed by its approach. He stood up from his throne to welcome his fast approaching sister.

The mass of light slowed down and entered the limits of the Observatory, stopping at ground level. After a moment the light took the shape of a woman covered by a dress, both looking as if made of diamond with a light shining through.

“Welcome, sister. What brought you here?” He said as he walked down the steps to meet Asceal.

The Goddess eyed Abanoc nervously, but didn’t shy away from the question, “What brings anyone here Abanoc?” She pursed her lips and closed her eyes for a moment before continuing, “I’m sorry, but as much as I wish I'd come for your company, there’s something I need to know. I suspect the only ones with the answers I need are you and the Architect.”

“If it is questions that you have then I will answer them to the best of my abilities. What do you wish to know?”

“The mortals. I have to know if-” Asceal’s voice caught in her throat and she took a deep breath, “I have to know if I made a mistake. I’ve worked, from the very beginning, to make things better for them. I have to know if that was a mistake.”

The Goddess dimmed as she spoke and by the time she fell silent she was positively faint. She all but whispered, “I need to know what they’re like. I need to see them Abanoc. All of them.”

“You can monitor all of Galbar’s activity through the mirror above us.” He pointed at said mirror above the pillars. Galbar’s surface could be seen clearly. “Alternatively you can read from my Archive for past events.” Then he showed Asceal the book. “I regret to say I do not have Galbar’s entire history recorded, but it should contain the information you seek. Do mind its usage, however. You may be divine, but it can still cause some discomfort if you use it too much. Is there anything else that you need?”

Asceal looked down at the closed book and shook her head, “No. No that’s all I needed. Thank you Abanoc.”

“If there is ever a new question you may simply ask me. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Abanoc then returned to his throne.

With that the Goddess threw open the book, and everything changed.

The Goddess of Light looked down at the book, its pages filled with shimmering golden words in a language that seemed like gibberish even to a god, and briefly wondered if she’d been deceived. That was not a long lived notion. Before she could even utter a word her mind was flooded with a torrent of imagery and sound.

If Asceal had taken Abanoc’s warning to heart she’d have stopped there, but even as she struggled to process what she was seeing she began unconsciously flipping pages. The sheer volume of information nearly drove her to her knees. That, and the things she was seeing. It seemed, at least for a moment, that Asceal’s worst fears were true.

She saw a Selka, one of the first to ever live, cave in the skull of his friend. She watched Ohannakeloi’s Ihokhetlani be twisted by Orvus into Ihokhurs, and she witnessed the atrocities they committed at the behest of no god. Through another perspective she experienced the Jotundar’s campaign of destruction.

She saw countless mortals, and she saw all the evil in their hearts. Some were as bad as Narzhak, callous creatures who seemed to thrive on the suffering of others. Others… Asceal paused, even in the grips of Abanoc’s book.

Others stood tall in the face of everything. The Selka who’d first sullied that species innocence with blood and hate, Hoshaf, had not been unopposed. Asceal watched events long past and saw that even as Hoshaf spread his evil, others spread good. Panganeem, Gorpingu, Ippino, Juttyu. Selka who saw the wickedness rising among their people and chose not to ignore it, not to embrace it, but to oppose it.

To destroy it. In the face of better Selka, Hoshaf and his evil burned. It was a cruel fate, but Asceal’s heart only wished it had been worse. Hoshaf had stolen countless lives, subjected his fellow Selka to innumerable horrors, and his punishment? A quick death at the hands of the same evil he’d created. It was ironic, perhaps fitting, but it was insufficient.

Hoshaf had never been forced to kill, he had made a choice. As had Panganeem. It seemed perverse to Asceal that Hoshaf would be granted the same fate as the one who had stopped him. Not that they died in the same circumstances… Just that they had both died. It was unfair. Monsters like the Ihokhurs and Heroes like the K’nights all suffered the same fate, in the end. Both could burn in the Pyres, or be preserved by the Alma for a future that might never come.

Vaguely, she recalled Shengshi telling her that the world was meant to be balanced. That harmony demanded both good and evil. She had denied it then, but now she understood. It was not that there had to be good and evil, merely that the hearts of mortals were no better than the hearts of gods. There would always be evil, and good would always rise to fight it.

That didn’t mean that the scales had to be balanced like Shengshi thought. If evil went unpunished, and good unrewarded, perhaps that would be harmony in Shengshi’s eyes, but not hers.

Asceal considered all Abanoc’s book had shown her of the world, and she decided that perhaps the scales could be swayed. That they should be. Good would be rewarded. Evil would be punished. Her only concern was that she might not be fit to do that, that even now her perspective was limited, but perhaps even that could be addressed. She had once made a promise, after all. And what did she care for the supposed permanence of death?

Lost in thought as she was, Asceal almost missed Abanoc when he spoke.

“Have you found what you were looking for?”

The Goddess blinked rapidly and shut the book before looking back at Abanoc. She seemed almost unsteady on her feet, but with a look in her eyes that could make even gods hesitate, “I have, and I did make a mistake. Just… Not the one I expected. The mortals are as flawed as we are, but perhaps they can be better. Even if just a bit.”

“Mortals are reflections of the gods that nurture them. Just as there are good and evil gods there will be good and evil mortals. Their fragility can cause their spirits to waver, as was with the Selka, but given time and order they can accomplish truly magnificent feats.”

“They can be good or evil, on that we agree Abanoc,” Asceal began to glow again, and she gave her brother a weak smile, “But they are reflections of nothing. They weren't created with the memories or knowledge of their creators. Their good and evil are all their own, and they all have to choose.”

Her little smile gave way to a peculiar grin, “I think I’ll be there when they do.”

A Change of Ideas
Part 2

Two Years Later, The Coast of Atokhekwoi

Hate. It was something that Asceal had once struggled to imagine, something learned from cruel experience, and now? It was staring her in the face. The Selka before her glared at the Goddess and for the first time she understood what it was to be reviled. To be something worthy of nothing but disgust, contempt, and hatred in the eyes of another.

It was not something she had expected, and it shook her to the core. Worst still, the Selka man had paired his look with a veritable flood of insults. Each one had struck her like a blow. She’d come in response to a prayer unlike any other she’d received, one that cursed her name and accused her of bringing death and suffering to those she’d never even seen, let alone spoken to.

The invectives came as soon as she’d materialized before her accuser, and in the midst of his vitriol she’d learned why he loathed her so. Which left her as she was now, dim, tears streaking down her face, and a silent visage regarding her sorrow as little more than what she deserved. The worst part of it all was that she knew that was true.

She’d looked into the furious Selka’s mind and she’d seen the truth of his words. Her ‘chosen people’ the few Selka she’d blessed, had used what she’d given them in a way she hadn’t, no, couldn't have anticipated. They’d taken a gift of life and used it to bring death.

Perhaps one of, or any of her siblings would have foreseen it. Give someone the ability to endure nearly any injury and they could act with immunity. They could decide to take what they wanted, and who would stop them? A tribe with clubs? Crude spears? If all it took was a moment to recover then an attacker could simply outlast any reprisal.

Which was exactly what Ovmo had done. Before her was a bruised and bleeding man whose only crime had been carrying his bounty of fish from the shore to his people. A bounty that others desired. His injuries were slight, but the food he’d lost was a greater blow that any club could deliver. Tonight his children would go hungry.

Asceal had taken his angry words, even the blows as he’d tried to exact his revenge on her, and known that it was infinitely less than what the Selka had endured. She knew, even without peering into his mind, that no words could soothe him, and no actions could restore his faith in gods, least of all in her. So she didn’t try. With a motion she healed him, and with a thought she evaporated.

She hadn’t followed Ovmo and Shufoyu to their home, but she’d heard their prayers and the prayers of their people. She was there before the furious Selka she’d left had even managed to blink.

She didn’t take the time to revert to her original form, nor did she take care to moderate her presence. Just over thirty Selka tried to scatter as a searing light engulfed them and rendered them temporarily blind, but each and every one halted as the voice of a Goddess boomed, “What have you done?!”

Most of the Selka were frozen in shock, some flinched, but only two tried to reply. Shufoyu, cradling a young child and covering its eyes with her hand, managed a halting reply, “My Goddess I- I don’t know what you mean, but please, please, there are children here.”

At the Selka’s words Asceal felt a rush of shame that almost eclipsed her fury. In the span of a moment the searing light faded to a soft glow and the red burns on the Selka around her all but vanished. Still, she asked again, this time with cold edge to her words, “Shufoyu. Ovmo. What have you done with the gift you were given.”

Shufoyu, busy fussing over the child she held, glanced nervously at her brother. She opened her mouth, but didn’t manage a word before Ovmo all but shouted to the air, “What you told us to do Goddess! Everyone in our tribe knows the magic you taught us. Some have taken to it better than others, but we taught them all! Isn’t that what you wanted?”

There was a moment of silence, and the next words emanating from the glowing air seemed calmer, “Yes. That is what I asked you to do. Tell me Ovmo, what have you, what has your tribe, used my gift for.”

The Selka seemed to pale, but it didn’t stop him from puffing out his chest and declaring, “We’ve used it to keep our people healthy, to keep them fed! We’ve cared for your chosen people!”

“My chosen people.” The disembodied voice of Asceal mused, “Tell me, Ovmo, how has my magic managed to keep my people fed?”

Ovmo deflated a little, him and a group of Selka exchanging nervous glances before he spoke again, “We’ve healed out hunters after their injuries. We’ve kept the children healthy and strong so they can help store fish for the winter. Your gift has helped us in countless ways Goddess! You have our- our greatest thanks!”

To Ovmo it was a clever evasion, but to Asceal? She’d looked into the Selka’s mind the moment she’d arrived. She’d known the truth before she even spoke. Asceal had hoped Ovmo would offer an explanation, hoped he would show remorse, but instead he’d lied to her. Perhaps to some it would just be an omission, but to Asceal? Ovmo had lied.

Her tone became biting and again the light surround the Selka seemed to grow unpleasant, “Your thanks. I gave you a gift Ovmo, and in return you lie. You lie and you thank me. Did you think I would never know? Or did you imagine I wouldn’t care? You used my gift, a gift of life, to bring misery and death. To abuse your fellow mortals and take from them what you could not manage to attain yourself. You do all this and you thank me. You thank me for giving you the strength to terrorize others.”

Ovmo tried to speak, but he found the task impossible. It was as if his tongue had been thorn from his throat, only worse. He opened his mouth to speak, to shout, to say anything, but he couldn’t even make a sound. Most of the Selka around him were staring at him with a mixture of shock and disbelief, but a few? They were only afraid.

It was a fear that was more than justified. Seven Selka, including Ovmo, found themselves incapable of making any noise at all. Their words died in their throats. As the Selka around them realized what had happened some began to panic, but not before Shufoyu, eyes wide, shouted, “Please! Ovmo- He couldn’t have! This is too much!”

Perhaps if the young woman had held her tongue things might have gone differently, but she spoke precisely at the wrong moment. Asceal’s voice boomed, “Too much!? Your brother deserves worse than that. And you, you. How is it Ovmo did all he did and you didn’t notice? How is it you didn’t tell me? Were you not my ‘chosen people’? Is your Goddess only worth addressing when you want something?”

The light began to consolidate, and before long Asceal stood before Shufoyu. The Selka held the child, her child, as close to her as she could and all but whimpered, “I didn’t know. I just- I knew he was coming back from the hunts quickly but I didn’t think-”

Asceal cut her off, disgust on the Goddess’s face and in her words, “You suspected. Almost all of you suspected. Some of you even knew. You cannot lie to me, you cannot hide from me, I have seen you.”

She turned around, her wings flared, “I have seen all of you. I have seen how you turned a blind eye, how you let evil into your homes because it wasn’t your evil. If you didn’t help them it wasn’t your fault. I can see you thinking that. And I can tell you this: You are wrong.”

It was at that moment that some of the Selka, all of the ones rendered mute and some of their families, tried to run. The Goddess didn’t chase them, she only waved her hand and turned back to Shufoyu and the few that remained. Her expression cold, but no longer furious. “They cannot run from what they did. From this day forward they will hunger, but they will never be full. They will love, but they will have no children.”

Asceal met Shufoyu’s eyes, “And along with you, they will no longer have access to my magic.”

The Selka woman fell to her knees, and she begged, “Please. Goddess. Asceal. I should have said something, I should have asked Ovmo or prayed to you, but please. My daughter is only alive because I used your magic to save her a winter ago. She… She’s done nothing wrong.”

Asceal paused, and her walls shattered. The Goddess’s expression shifted to one closer to sorrow than rage, and her voice was low and regretful, “No, she didn’t. All the children that weren’t taken by your brother’s people will be able to use my magic, Shufoyu. Teach them how.”

Shufoyu nodded, even as she wept, and the Selka who hadn’t fled with her brother slowly edged towards her. Shufoyu had talked the Goddess down, or at least it looked that way before Asceal continued, “But remind your daughter Shufoyu. Her Goddess will be watching her.”

A warning, a threat, and a promise. It was the last thing Asceal ever said to Shufoyu. Luminous wings sprang into action and the Goddess was high above Galbar. Higher than any Selka could see. She was angry, she was sorry, she was disgusted, she was ashamed, and she was terrified. Not because of what she’d done, but because she’d had to do it. The gods had raged against each other, they’d been wicked, they’d even killed one of their own. She knew that.

So why had she been so certain mortals were better? Ovmo hadn’t had a reason to hurt anyone, and yet he did. Just as Sartravius and Katharsos had. Asceal shook as she realized what might already be happening, what might already have happened. She felt sick as she considered what would happen on Galbar if the mortals her siblings had made were even a quarter as flawed as they were. As she was.

A part of her hoped against hope that it was just Ovmo, but deep inside she knew it was not. Perhaps katharsos had done something to the ash that grew into new souls. Perhaps it was just the natural way of life. Perhaps it had all been a mistake. Perhaps she should have never come to this universe, and perhaps she shouldn't have tried to help anyone at all.

Asceal was paralyzed by the thought, but she had to know. The time for ignorance was over. There would be no more assumptions. She thought back to the moment she’d emerged in the Architects palace, and with her mind ablaze with question and doubt the Goddess went to the one place she could get her answers.

She went to the observatory.

A Change of Ideas
Part 1

Many Years Ago, The Coast of Atokhekwoi

The Goddess floated above the ground, the trees, the birds, even the clouds. Golden wings beating slowly she surveyed the vast expanse of creation below her. The wind blew, the rivers meandered, and for a moment she wished she could bear witness to the beauty before her without knowing its origins. For the rivers were carved, the wind crafted. Even the simplest life had been designed, constructed from scratch using the basest of components.

Her features contorted into an ugly frown and she remembered. It hadn’t always been this way. Once she had marvelled at what her fellows, and she herself, had wrought. Now though? Now she couldn’t help but see them in their works. Azura’s wind was wild and free, but even so it was easily moved by the world below. Hot sands and cool oceans directed it as much as it controlled itself. Shengshi’s rivers, for however beautiful they were, reflected the best and worst parts of their creator. They could be placid, accommodating, and in the span of a moment they could turn into a torrent that swept away all in its path.

Bitterly, Asceal recalled that the last things in Shengshi’s path were her children. He hadn’t hurt them, but from what she’d gleaned from their accounts the threat had been clear. She’d considered confronting the River Lord, forcing him to explain himself until she was satisfied that he hadn’t been ready to act on his threats, but what was the point?

Shengshi was like the rivers he created. His nature was both rage and calm. She could extract endless promises from him and have the same thing happen. He couldn’t help it, she realized. He was what he was, and that was something Asceal only barely understood. Reflecting on her encounters with her siblings she had realized that, on a fundamental level, she didn’t truly understand any of them.

It was a frustrating epiphany, and the one which had brought her here. Looking at the world and seeing something that, suddenly, had depths she wasn’t sure she wanted to explore. Nevertheless, here she was. Tired of frowning, and not truly feeling the emotion it conveyed, Asceal sighed and rubbed at her luminous eyes.

At least some parts of existence weren’t so complicated or frustrating. Her children were off exploring the world in their own way, and all were safe. Eline and Akam were exploring continents away from the perilous Dragons Foot, and Makab was accompanied by Kalmar. She was glad for them. Not glad enough to smile, though.

Her children’s happiness was their own. She would have to find hers as they found theirs. The issue was, from her vantage point, she wasn’t even sure where to look for it. At every turn there had been tragedy or discord. At every moment there had been a crises or the beginnings of one. It was only now, above it all, that she realized she wasn’t just tired of it all, she was miserable.

As if in reply came a welcome distraction. A faint voice in her head, much like others she’d heard before, but this one with an air of urgency.

”If... If anyone out there is listening. Please. It’s my brother, he’s dying and I just. Please, if anyone is listening, please help.”

She hadn’t bothered replying to prayers before. There had always been something greater happening, something that demanded her attention, but now? Asceal realized, for the first time since the very beginning, she had no obligations to fulfill or jobs to do. There was a mortal in pain, and she could help.

It wasn’t even a choice. With a thought she broke herself apart, scattering her essence until she flowed with the light that came from Heliopolis, until she was part of it. She collided with the planet, scattered, and then gathered herself. She moved ever onwards, for there was no option to remain still, and before any in the world could have uttered a reply to the mortals prayer she was around them.

She couldn’t stop, but she could let herself scatter. She could pull the uncounted pieces of herself back together and let them fall apart. On and on, until it seemed she was going nowhere at all. Of course, the Selka below her saw none of that. What the mortal did see was a glow around her and her brother.

On a desolate beach lay a bleeding Selka man, gored by whatever animal he’d been hunting in the waves. That he’d managed to drag himself to shore was a miracle in of itself, but what happened next was far beyond anything willpower and resolve were capable of.

The dying Selka’s wounds seemed to absorb the hazy glow in the air and without prompt began to pull themselves closed. Months of healing in the span of a second. The Selka man’s eyes widened as the searing pain he’d felt dissipated, and his sister began to weep at the sight.

The soft voice that seemed to come from all around them was far less shocking than what they’d both experienced, but it was still enough to cause them to jump. “He will live.”

A simple statement of fact, but one that should have been impossible. The female Selka hesitated, but managed to wipe away her tears and speak, “Who… Who’s there?”

“A Goddess,” a soft chuckle echoed around them and the voice went on, “One of a number. My name is Asceal. Might I ask for your names?”

“Ovmo,” The male Selka all but whispered, still feeling at his uninjured side in awe, “My name is Ovmo.”

His sister more articulate, “I’m Shufoyu. Th- thank you. I didn’t really believe anyone would come, I hoped maybe Kirron would hear but… I didn’t believe.”

The light began to concentrate before the Selka, and both watched wordlessly as over the span of a few minutes Asceal pulled herself back together. When she was done the luminous woman stood a head taller than either Selka, and with her wings towering far higher than that she struck what would have been an intimidating presence had she spoken so kindly to the pair. She knelt down and looked over Ovmo’s side, “I brought a magic into this world to help with things like this, but now that I think of it, I only ever taught Shengshi’s folk.” The Goddess sighed and murmured, “Another mistake.”

Shufoyu had been entranced by the Goddess’s true form, but the glowing deities words stirred something in her. Hesitantly she asked, “A magic to, what, heal? Even wounds like Ovmo’s? And it can be taught? Would… Would you teach me? Us?”

Asceal turned to face the younger Selka woman, and as she smiled her form seemed to glow brighter, “Of course. I should have done so as soon as I was able.” The Goddess paused for a moment and pursed her lips, silently regarding Shufoyu before speaking again, “But you’ll have to promise me something, Shufoyu.”

The weight of a bargain with one of Kirrons ilk made the Selka pale, but to her credit Shufoyu didn’t hesitate, “Me? What could I, no, what do I need to promise you?”

“Just this,” Asceal reached out and placed a warm hand on the Selka’s shoulders, “That you’ll teach others what you know.”

Shufoyu didn’t need to answer, Asceal had already seen the Selka’s reply forming in her head. Without warning or preamble knowledge flooded into Shufoyu and Ovmo’s minds. Visions of the Lustrous Garden above, of glowing pools of water, and of magic running through their blood bombarded them. It was over in a moment, but each Selka felt as if whatever had happened had changed them forever.

Both struggled for words, but Asceal spoke first, “You both have what you need. Remember your promise, Shufoyu.”

With that the Goddess was gone. In one flap of her wings she soared out of sight, leaving the Selka behind in a cloud of dust. The siblings looked to each other, awed. Shufoyu helped Ovmo to his feet and, still grappling with knowledge he’d been given, he simply said, “We have to go home. This is better than any catch we could bring.”

Shufoyu nodded, and the two set off along the coast carrying knowledge few others held. It would change everything for their tribe.

Classified Installation - Agdemnar

“Damn,” Emile started, “Looks like they’re not phoning it in this time, huh?”

Arthur took his eyes off the hologram of the fleet battle overhead to shoot a glance at his partner, “No shit. Still, I wouldn’t count on a lightshow tonight. One of them will pull out before anyone else gets involved. They always do.”

“Maybe,” Emile muttered, “But that’s a distraction if I ever saw one. Think a shipment is on its way?”

Before Arthur could voice a reply the bases own comms chimed, “Attention all personnel. An incoming spacecraft has been detected. IFF and encryption key identify it as friendly. All members of the tactical team are to report to the main hanger.”

“We’re up,” Arthur groaned as he pulled his helmet on. Emile switched off the portable hologram and pocketed it before doing the same. In the time it took the two to jog down the narrow corridors to the hanger, which was more of a hole in the ground with a retractable roof than a proper landing zone, they were joined by four others. Six people, and fully half of the bases staff.

All six lined up in the hallway outside the hanger, and not one bothered to speak. At least, not until the whole base shook from the stealth shuttle’s landing. Once it was down the tactical team funneled into the hanger with weapons drawn. It wasn’t that they didn’t trust their IFF’s, or their encryption keys, or the subtle warmth that alerted them to the Utopians in the shuttle, it was just that not a one of them wanted a lecture from the base’s commander after this. Physical punishments were uncommon among Utopians, but perhaps as a means of compensating for that the species was known throughout the Galaxy as being capable of some rather creative, and horrendously long winded, scoldings.

There were limits to procedure, though. Once the shuttles cargo ramp was lowered and a pair of friendly faces greeted them the soldiers lowered their guns on instinct. Utopians were capable of a great many things, but threatening each other? Even unintentionally, it was something that just didn’t happen. Emile was the first to pull his helmet off, but the rest followed suit.

“Welcome to our fine hole in the ground gentlemen!” Emile grinned, “Here’s hoping you’ve brought us some moving in gifts.”

One of the other soldiers, a woman with short cut chrome hair slapped the back of Emiles head and stepped forward, “Apologies. Outpost 3 welcomes you. Our commander is occupied monitoring the battle, so I’ve been granted the authority to receive your delivery.”

One of the men stifled a laugh while the other nodded and gestured for his companion to retrieve their cargo, “That’s no problem. I trust you’ve got the authentication key?”

The woman held up a small card and stepped up to hand it to the pilot, who slotted it into the heavy looking box on antigrav plates his companion had brought out. Almost at once the box’s lid popped open with a hiss, and the soldiers crowded around it. Emile and the woman pulled the lid off, but it was Arthur who whistled when he saw that was inside, “They’re not fucking around. You seeing this Jess?”

The chrome haired woman’s faintly glowing yellow eyes widened, “Nukes.”

The pilot who’d actually appreciated Emile’s humor smiled at the soldier, “Hope you like the present.”

Emile, at least for once, had no reply to that. Jess straightened and pressed a finger to her temple, “We’ve got the package Commander. Yes it’s been opened, you want us to move it? Alright.”

With a sigh Jess regarded the weapons, each one of them capable of leveling a city, and each one weighing half a ton. She shared a knowing look with the other soldiers and relayed the order, “We’re moving them to the armory.”

Beyond a few groans, the soldiers didn’t bother to voice their complaints. After all, they had a job to do. Even if Nukes were heavy.

Worldplate Elysium - The Utopia System

Adriana read the report projected in front of her with a wide grin. It wasn’t that she’d expected anything different from the Commonwealth, of all nations, but whoever said you couldn’t be pleased by the fulfillment of your own expectations? One speech and Treaty of Detente was dead. It seemed half the galaxy had followed the Commonwealth’s announcement up with their own.

Not that she would be making any such announcement, or letting the other Chosen make one for that matter. She’d been Chosen to coordinate the application of the Compromise as it pertained to military and intelligence matters, and in her mind this counted as one of those. Of course, Dejan would disagree, but it was fitting for the leader of the diplomatic Chosen to epitomize their most aggravating tendencies.

Then again, Dejan was fun. Especially when he was being a thorn in her side. Adriana spun her levitating chair around to gaze out her window at the rows upon rows of ship wombs that surrounded Elysium. With a smirk she tapped the hologram being projected from her own collarbone and opened a communication line to the diplomatic Chosen’s office.

Scarcely a second later none other than Dejan answered, “Adriana? What a surprise. I hadn’t expected you to try and complicate my job for at least another day.”

“Oh Dejan,” Adriana pouted at the projection in front of her, “You wound me. You should know I’d never miss a chance to ruin your day.”

Dejan rubbed at his temples, his hands appearing in Adriana’s projection just as they touched his head, “I know what you’re going to ask Adriana. We’ve deflected for years now, but if you activate all the ship wombs the major powers are going to notice. We can’t hide our mobilization and if we don’t withdraw from the treaty we’d be attracting far more attention than I’m willing to accept.”

“Attention? From who?” Adriana mocked playfully, “Dejan within a week the only members of the treaty will be those violating it or those too impotent to dare. I’d like to try passing for the latter, but even if that’s not possible what do we gain from announcing our intentions to the galaxy? Besides, you know I like attention. It’s been so boring pretending to care what the galaxy thinks. I can’t amuse myself killing illiterate telekinetics forever, you know.”

“Thanks for that, by the way. The monthly Asrian demands we better police our people are my favorite to deal with,” Dejan sighed, “Fine, we’ll deny it for as long as we can. I assume you’ve already had your pilots upload their designs to the ship wombs?”

Adriana put on an innocent face, “Before calling you Dejan? Never,” She winked, “But if a few pilots have decided to jump the gun, well you know how they can be?”

The look on Dejan’s face would have made Adriana’s week, if it wasn’t for the fact that she was finally getting her fleet back. The man pursed his lips, opened his mouth to issue a retort, and gave up before a breath passed his lips. He asked resignedly, “Do we have the materials to cover rearmament, at least? If we have to solicit another nation for resources I’d rather know now.”

The impetuous smile on Adriana’s face vanished and the insolent Chosen grimaced, “We have enough stockpiled for a fleet. Maybe two, if we’re lucky. When it comes down to it though? No. We’ve mined nearly all our systems dry. At least, that’s what Elaine tells me.”

“All right,” Dejan paused and leaned back before replying, “We might be able to negotiate with the Federation, it’s always easier dealing with Humans. No matter how far we’ve come they at least think like us, for the most part. If I have to deal with the Lokoid…”

Adriana could only nod sympathetically. There were few species as aesthetically offensive as the Lokoid, and that didn’t even cover their psychology or habits. She let the silence linger for a moment before shaking her head and signing off, “Well, it’s been a pleasure as always Dejan, but duty calls. Fleets to build, operations to coordinate, days to ruin. You know how it is.”

Dejan took the opportunity to glare at his counterpart before terminating the link wordlessly. It was enough to elicit a chuckle from Adriana. Difficulties or not, interesting times were ahead. She’d been bored long enough.
And here I am, wishing he'd just banned all FTL inside within 40 or 50 AU of a star.




Posting this here because fuck, the mil section is hhhhaaarrrd. Everything that actually matters is (mostly) done.
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