The Planalto Hive, Hy Brasil
Costas Residence, Outer Spire, Upper Reach
There had been whispers of a man traveling through the high spires of the Planalto. It had been whispered that he came with promises of wealth beyond measure and influence to stretch far into a family's future. They said he had promised, that a new world was just beyond the horizon. All one had to do to suckle at his claimed infinite fount was to give the man one’s firstborn daughter. Miguel had laughed these frivolous claims off. They were nothing but the wives' tales told between the bored and the unhappy among the wealthy circles of the Planalto. A man traveling around offering wealth and power beyond what they already possessed? And all one had to do was give up a child? Nonsense.
Or so he had thought.
“Lord Costas, there is a… visitor for you.”
Miguel tore his concentration from the scrolling text of manufactorum output and shipping manifests to wave a dismissive hand at the servant, “At this hour? Nothing but brigands and thieves, peddlers in the night. Send him away from the gates.”
“He will not leave, and he is not at the gates, Lord.”
Miguel reeled at the tone of his servant, a man of some forty Terran years, all of it in loyal service to the Costas Family, rebuking him for the first time in his lifelong service.
“Lower your tone Sandova--” Miguel stood suddenly, his hand tearing open a drawer at his desk and pulling a masterfully crafted laspistol from within, “What do you mean he’s not at the gates?”
His servant hesitated a moment, looked behind himself, and shirked from the doorway without a word. Miguel raised his laspistol squarely at the open space.
“You shall not find me there,” a voice as rich as honey called quietly from a darkened corner of Miguel’s study.
Miguel spun in place, his laspistol spitting iridescent bolts into the darkness that had spoken to him. He stopped shooting only once the laspistol fizzled at every trigger pull. His eyes struggled to adjust in the dark, the flickering flames from books and tomes he had ignited with his wild shots only heightening the length of the shadows cast about his study.
There was a whisper of the wind to his side, and Miguel felt the presence of a being too immense for him to not have noticed earlier simply appear at his side. He felt the armored hand, far larger than any human should possess, close completely over his shoulder. He sat back down in his chair at the gentle insistence of the intruder, the laspistol slipping from his fingers as he keyed the silent alarm in the chair's armrest.
“It makes no difference, I have silenced all communication within the premises,” the intruder spoke before, finally, Miguel could see him.
“H--- How did you?” Miguel sputtered as he felt himself sink further into his chair at the sight of the being before him. Armored from head to toe in an impressive, if not overly indulgent golden plate, Miguel could see no exposed skin of the massive being from his quick, if not completely terrified, once-over.
The being shifted, the weight on Miguel’s shoulder easing as the golden giant walked around the front of the desk. “Unimportant, Miguel Jose Costas, what is important is that you listen to me as though everything you and your ancestors have built hangs in the balance,” the armored giant stopped squarely in front of Miguel and stood unnervingly still. Miguel felt as though he wished to disappear as he stared at the emotionless red lenses of the giant's helmet.
“Your family, your legacy. Everything that you and the countless Costas’ before you have toiled for, has led you to this exact moment Miguel,” the giant spoke through the helmet’s vox amplifier, though Miguel could not recognize any distortion from the device, a masterwork lost even to the technocrats of Planalto, “it has led you, to me.”
Miguel choked on his own spit, coughed for a moment, and with wild eyes searched the flat plate of the giant for any sign that he was dreaming, “To you…?” he eked out, sweat stinging at his eyes.
“Correct, Lord Costas, to me,” the giant gave him a nod of approval, “I am here to decide the fate of your lofty house, to offer you a place at the side of the Master of Mankind, and to secure the future of your lauded family in the golden age that approaches sooner than you know.”
Miguel felt his breath catch in his throat as the rich voice of the golden giant spoke the name of the tyrant halfway across the planet, “You come from the Imperials…” he stated as much for himself as for the golden statue of armor before him, “to decide my fate…?”
“Just so,” the giant agreed, “I am Amaranthus Gallus, Custodian of the Emperor of Mankind, and judge of all you hold dear.”
Miguel felt the weight of the words pressing in at his psyche. The overwhelming threat of destruction that the Custodian before him represented would have been enough to drive a lesser man mad. Miguel, with great effort, sat himself a little straighter in his chair. “I am listening, Custodian.”
The Custodian took a step away from the desk, satisfied with the little lord's answer, and began to walk about the study with steps far too quiet for the elaborate suit of armor he wore.
“My Master claims glory across the globe, he unites our disparate tribes into a cohesive whole once more,” the Custodian stopped to inspect a number of books on the shelves as he spoke, “he will not remain across the globe for long, Lord Costas,” Miguel watched as his gauntleted fingers plucked a book from the shelves and began to turn through the pages, “It is here, right now, that you must make the most important decision of your life.”
Miguel watched as the Custodian turned O Príncipe, by the 15th-century histographer Matcheveley, his lips going dry at the sight of the book.
“My Master will arrive here, and Hy Brasil will bend the knee, or it will burn. But the end will be the same, this land and its people will be united under his rule. Would you be ground to dust, or rebuilt anew in His light, Miguel Jose Costas?”
Miguel searched for the words to answer the Custodian, struggling to form coherent sentences in his mind as he felt his soul was being bored into by the red lenses of the Custodian.
“Is it as simple as a promise? As my word that I would join your Master?” Miguel stammered unevenly.
The Custodian shut the book and placed it neatly back in its exact spot on the shelf. “There is one condition,” the Custodian began before his helmet turned to face the doorway.
“Who is that Daddy?”
Miguel turned, his heart shattering at the sight of his daughter in the study doorway, “A friend, Clara, now go back to sleep.”
The Custodian watched as the child disappeared from the doorway and only seemed to speak once it was clear the girl was gone.
“It is a small price to pay, Costas.”
“I couldn’t, it’s beyond my ability to give.”
“Nonsense, it’s well within your right, to secure your future, and hers in the annals of history.”
“It’s what is right.”
Miguel felt fire in his belly, for the first time since he had dropped the laspistol he yearned to strike back against the unstoppable intruder, “You take from me my very heart, for what? Leverage? A hostage for your Emperor’s game?”
The Custodian didn’t seem to react behind his stoic helmet, only shaking his head lightly at the outburst.
“We will forge anew what you give to us. She will be perfected, she will outlive all you hold dear well beyond what you could ever imagine possible. Ten thousand years from now, she will walk amongst the stars and stand side by side with our greatest achievements, a perfect representation of all that humanity can be. And you, Lord Costas, will be nothing but dust. Yet your family will remain, by your sacrifice.”
Miguel could find no words. He slumped back in his chair and sighed, only a small whimper escaping his lips as he nodded in defeat to the golden giant. There was no survival here without the giant's blessing. He felt tears well in his eyes and keyed a personal vox that surprisingly crackled to life on the desk before him.
“Bring Clara back to my study, there is someone she must meet.”