~ SoS ~ Souls of the Sun (Artwork by @Ponamis) I know there's already a silly 'signature' in the picture saying so, but I'm leaving this here just in case. This is the first serious story I've written; it is an original, suspense sci-fi story set in a far away galaxy that is not within the Starbound universe. Unlike most other stories, I've decided to take on a more general narrative approach, staying as far as possible from using characters and dialogue; there is no "main cast" of characters for the story to follow. Rather, the story follows two different, intelligent alien species; beginning at their primitive origins and going all the way to them becoming space-farers. Although there are some characters in it, if I were to make an introduction with descriptions about them, it would spoil the story. I'd also like to try to keep them vague. While everything should be mostly grammatically correct as I have some people helping me with proofreading before posting here, there may still be out of place paragraphs or other weird things. This is because I write everything in a basic notepad file and copy-paste it here, as I do not possess a proper software for writing. When everything is finished, there should be 3 arcs with 6 main chapters each, not including bonus chapters. Special thanks goes to Zebe for encouraging me to finally share this story in the forums, and also for the idea of bonus chapters. But without any further ado, here's the story so far: Main Chapter 0.1: Prologue All life is the same. They all share the same goal, and the same fate. It does not matter if they are organic, synthetic, spiritual or cosmic.All civilizations, all cultures, and all species are no different from one another. They rise, they progress, they multiply and they cease to be. It does not matter if their demise is caused by conflict, disease, starvation, false gods or accidents. All disasters that lead to their demise stem from the same cause. The compulsive urge to progress and multiply.Progress leads to oblivion; it is the inevitable, final result. In all of the cycles gone by, I have not witnessed any civilization that did not possess the compulsion. Until this cycle. I have recently discovered near-perfection. One civilization which lacked the compulsion. They were satisfied as they were, and saw no need for change. It did not matter how many aeons I observed them for, they did not change. Their beliefs, their laws, their technology and their culture were always the same. Despite being quite primitive, they were always stable; always unchanging. In the beginning, I made no attempt to change any aspect of their world, to bring them to true perfection.They were locked in an eternal struggle for survival; but they were stable, and that was all that mattered at the time. I have witnessed how easy it is to break stability; it takes only one mishap for all to be gone. And thus, I continued to monitor them until their star began to approach the end of its life. I have learned to appreciate temporary aspects while they still last, and that is what I was doing.But this was not enough; I was not satisfied. Their demise was coming too soon. I refused to allow them to meet their fate. The end of their star was not their doing; it was entirely out of their control. I made the decision to intervene, giving their star new life. And I hold no regrets. It was only when I acted that I discovered their true nature. Only then I discovered that their very souls were tied to their star. This is the tale of the Souls of the Sun. Main Chapter 1: Extinction Aeons ago, at the very edge of a distant galaxy named Eluperd, there once was a lone blue star known as Onyga. Hundreds of thousands of light years away from any other nearby star, Onyga's only companion was a planet named Delcar, all else was void. No moons, no other planets and no asteroid belts. There was absolutely nothing save for Onyga and Delcar themselves. However, within the surface of Delcar, many different forms of life strugged to survive in its harsh environment. Among all of this life, one sentient, flight-able herbivore species known as the "pazeri" eventually came to exist. At first, they were no different from most other primitive sapient species, doing nothing more than trying to survive. But soon, everything would change... Regardless, Delcar, their home world was once a small planet with a very high temperature and an extremely long day to night cycle, which lasted over a week. Its surface consisted of relatively flat terrain with a few hills and no mountains, and only three biomes, jungle, desert and savannah. There was also an absolute lack of large water deposits; there were no oceans, rivers or lakes; only small puddles and streams. In spite of this, the humidity in the atmosphere was quite high, as the majority of the water existed in vapor form. The day side consisted of a savannah-like biome with temperatures reaching up to eighty degrees celcius. Meanwhile, the night side was somewhat colder, with its temperature being up to sixty celcius at most, and was covered with a lush, bio-luminescent jungle. As the sun set over the horizon, the plants of the savannah would sprout from the ground, and begin releasing the excess sunlight energy that their few exposed leaves had absorbed during the long day, creating a mesmerizing bio-luminescent landscape. When the sun began to rise once more, the plants would slowly retreat back into the ground, leaving only a few leaves exposed, causing the jungle to become a savannah once more. Of course, there was a little bit of variety in the ecosystem; some sections of the jungle looked completely different one another. Some areas had lush green flora with predominant lime-colored lighting, while others were a darker, moody blue with only a few red dots that gave off luminescence. There were also some patches of infertile soil that created perpetual desert clearings almost completely devoid of life, which did not change in regard to the time of the day, unlike the rest of the planet. Moving on, most of the fauna consisted of land-dwelling species, with only a few flying creatures. Aquatic and amphibian species did not exist, however, as there were no large water deposits for them to exist within. The only life that existed in the few puddles of liquid water that Delcar had was microscopic. Regardless, the majority of these species were insignificant and not worth mentioning in full detail. However, the few different flying species shared a common trait; all of them were carnivore, with only one exception. The most prominent of the animal species in Delcar were huge, dragon-like creatures that ruled over the skies during the day, and had the greatest land-dwelling creatures as their primary prey. They could and would eat smaller animals if they had to, however. When the night fell, they would land atop the tallest hills they could find and hibernate until dawn, as it was almost impossible for them to hunt prey within the thick jungles. In the meantime, the herbivore species would feast in the jungles below. However, the night was not entirely safe, as there were many smaller land-dwelling predators lurking among the shadows. But all of these species were nothing more than animals, all they had was instinct. The pazeri were the only species of their planet that had intelligence, and potential. Originally, Delcar's ecosystem was extremely unstable; many different species were constantly going extinct, until it reached a point where every flying herbivore species was no more. As the only remaining flight-able herbivores in their planet, the nomadic pazeri tribes permanently migrated to the night side of the planet in an attempt to escape from the flying predators of the day. The few tribes which refused to do so were eventually wiped out. The surviving tribes, confined to less than half of their small planet, soon came to be in contact with one another. Rather than fighting over their differences, they sought to understand eachother, and with enough time, they merged into one tribe. This repeated until there was only one large tribe of pazeri in Delcar. "That is when their own story came to an end. No matter how much time passed, nothing would change. They and their world had achieved perfect stability, ensuring their existence until its star began to die." "Only then would our tale truly begin." - - - After many eras of stillness and stagnancy, a sudden, burning desire for change sprung within the hearts of the pazeri. The elder seers of their society had foreseen a great catastrophe that would soon fall upon their world. Guided by what they believed to be spirits of nature, the chieftain of their great tribe began bringing forth many revolutionary ideas, creating and laying upon many different laws, and ordering the construction of contraptions never imagined before. Naturally, after being listless for so much time, the pazeri had doubts, and rejected these changes. But their doubts ceased to be when the prophecies of disaster suddenly became reality. Onyga, Delcar's star had begun to grow unstable and heat up the planet. The night side became as scorching as the day side originally was, while the day side became deadly, as the temperature had increased exponentially; the few water deposits disappeared completely. A mass extinction event began as the day side quickly became a completely uninhabitable desert, the once rich savannah it harbored was reduced to nothing more than a lifeless plain of cracked dirt. Meanwhile, the pazeri community had finally begun to accept the changes that were being introduced to them. With the aid of their clairvoyant chieftain, the pazeri made countless discoveries in every field of knowledge, achieving many great technological feats, all of which would naturally take millennia for most other civilizations to achieve. However, while they had experienced a technological explosion, the society of the pazeri still remained somewhat primitive, almost unchanged. The reason behind this is quite simple, developing culture and society in such a short notice of time is far more difficult than doing the same with technology; especially in the harsh conditions they had been subjected to. As an example, If one should leave a piece of high technology for a sufficiently advanced civilization to research, they will learn much about it and skip perhaps thousands of years in technological development; however, this technology will not directly help advance their laws and society. Regardless, in just one generation, the pazeri had grown from being a group of primitives into an advanced, high-technology empire. Somewhere along the way, the same clairvoyant chieftain of what was once a mere tribe had been given the title of Toriamenet-Primus, the first Emperor, founder of the Delcarian Empire. The Empire had also managed to discover the true cause of their planet's extreme global warming; Onyga, the blue sun was growing unstable and would eventually obliterate all life on Delcar. After that, it would grow into red giant, annihilating the planet itself. Yet, they still hesitated to leave their home in the face of this danger, and in spite of their new Emperor's orders, whose rule was not quite supreme due to the pazeri's society still being primitive. Instead, the pazeri chose to use their new technology in a desperate attempt to restore the environment to its former glory, to no avail. All non-flying animal species had become extinct by now, there was no hope. Once again, the pazeri had to be put back in track. The draconic apex predators of the day side began migrating to the night side, slaughtering any pazeri they came across. Usually, they left the pazeri alone as they lived on the night side; but now, the day side was a barren desert devoid of prey. Their instincts had brought them over to the night side in a desperate search for food. For the first time in their history, the peaceful pazeri were forced to fight. A chaotic conflict between the advanced Empire and the mindless beasts broke out, lasting for months. Countless lives were lost as Delcar burned with the flames of war for the very first time, for the sake of nothing more than the pure desire to survive. In the end, the pazeri were left as the only living animal species in their planet. The only other forms of life that still existed were a few, extremely resilient and adaptable plants. After so much destruction and death, the Empire was finally convinced to leave their home planet behind. However, this event was not something they would ever forget; it had completely warped their views on other all other life, which they now saw as nothing more than malevolent monsters. Another planetary system had been located many light years away from Onyga, which they named "Regav". The Empire spent all the time and resources they still had left devising an unorthodox, strange method of Faster-Than-Light space travel in order to reach Regav. A large, unmanned ship was sent there; when it arrived, it deconstructed itself and used its spare parts to re-assemble into a portal-like structure. While this happened, the Empire manually constructed a copy of that structure in their home system, Onyga. Once both structures were finished, they created a two-way link which allowed instantaneous travel between the two systems, Onyga and Regav. After a few minutes of testing the newly-created portal, nearly the entire pazeri civilization migrated to the Regav system, where they began terraforming the planet closest to the star, which seemed to be the most habitable for them. After many more months of struggle, they had managed to make it their new home, which they named... "New Delcar". However, the Onyga system and Delcar were never completely abandoned. Although only half of it was habitable at a time, it was still their primary source of resources, especially plants, which were necessary to terraform New Delcar as well as other planets. There were also a few pazeri who still continued to reject the drastic changes in their society, and with the help of new technology that had been developed many decades after their exodus to New Delcar, chose to return to Delcar. They built many great dome cities that could shield its inhabitants from Onyga's deadly direct light. Sadly, the danger of the unstable star becoming a supernova and destroying the planet was something they just had to ignore. After so much struggle, the Empire was no longer in danger of extinction. They were finally safe. One may believe the Empire would stabilise and become stagnant once more, as there was no longer any need to change. But they did not. "By then, they were almost fully under control. Our objective was for them to multiply." "In order to do so, they were to colonise as many planets as they could, for one planet alone could not have enough space." And thus, the galactic expansion of the Delcarian Empire had begun. Main Chapter 2: Xenophobia The Delcarian Empire was in its golden age. It has been many generations since they left behind their planet of origin to pioneer the stars. Now, they possess dozens of colonies spread across the galaxy, each of them having billions of inhabitants. A huge network of portal stations connects every planetary system in the Empire's massive territory, allowing effortless, near-instantaneous travel thorough the galaxy. But all of this came at a price. The 'war' between the pazeri and the draconic beasts of Delcar, which happened long ago, had corrupted the Empire's views on all non-plant life. They now viewed all animals as dangerous, mindless monsters, who deserved nothing more than death. During their expanse, the Empire had come across many planets filled with animal life, teeming with potential. And every single one of those planets were subsequently purified of said life. A specifically designed orbital bombardment fleet of "purification" ships would bombard their surfaces from orbit for weeks before any pazeri would set foot onto them, only to finish off whatever still remained. Once the planets were completely devoid of life, a fleet colony ships carrying millions of civilians would arrive, and begin constructing new colonies. Dozens of worlds were purified, millions of different species became extinct. The Empire had no regrets over it; they believed they were doing the right thing. Any damage that could make a planet uninhabitable would be quickly repaired with their now highly advanced terraforming technology. It was possible for barren planets that had no atmosphere to begin with to become habitable, though that took a very large amount of time and resources. In comparison, repairing the damage the purification fleets caused was not a problem at all. The worst part is that the Empire actually looked for planets with life, they did not randomly expand their territory to all nearby stars. It was far more efficient to colonise worlds that were already habitable than to spend time and resources terraforming a barren rock. The Empire had only one problem during their golden age; every new generation of pazeri had an unusually large number of stillborn hatchlings. They believed this was caused by the difference in climate between Delcar and their new colonies; it was a very plausible explanation, but that wasn't quite the case... ... especially considering that with every planet they purified, each subsequent generation would have more stillborns than before. Somehow, this was something they completely overlooked. Regardless, the Empire continued to expand across the galaxy, colonising every suitable new planet they came across, and purging any life from them if present. For some time, there was a pause in their expansion, because they couldn't find any planetary system with resources that warranted colonising. Their only option was a very far away planetary system they called Brenigrah, full of barren rocks and gas giants. Everything else within range of their FTL probes seemed to be a star system. However, that changed when they finally discovered yet another planet with life. Planet Yalberta, in the newly-discovered Grotonfet planetary system, which they had missed until now. The routine schedule was put into motion. An already operational FTL probe was immediately sent to Grotonfet, while a pre-constructed portal station was quickly set-up in their home system, Regav. By then, the Regav system and New Delcar had become a nexus of the Empire. Portal stations which connected to almost every colony the Empire had were scattered thorough the system, creating a mesmerizing belt of artificial structures that orbited around the star Regav. Due to the complications in their technology, it was not possible for one portal station to link with more than one other, and so the pazeri were forced to build countless separate portals. Of course, it was not necessary to pass through Regav in order to travel around the Empire's territory, as the other systems themselves were also connected to one another, though only to their closest neighbors in most cases. Moving on, the probe sent to Grotonfet had finally arrived; but before it could finish setting up the other end of the portal, a large fleet of purification ships had assembled by the new portal station in Regav, ready to proceed. After a few days of preparation, the portal was finally complete. By then, the Empire's FTL technology was far more advanced, setting up new portal stations could be done very quickly and efficiently, in contrast to the first portal station that still links Onyga to Regav, which took months to create. Regardless, the purification fleet's ships began entering the newly-created portal one by one, immediately heading towards their objective once they were at the other side, without waiting for the others; as it is how they usually operate. Before their orbital bombardment operation could actually begin, some scouting ships were sent down into the planet's atmosphere, to perform necessary, detailed scans of the surface. There was only so much they could see from their ships in orbit. But the scouts didn't need to perform any scans to see what Yalberta had in store for them. - - - Yalberta had many great cities made from giant towers of glass and metal of varying size scattered thorough its surface, with branching cobblestone roads connecting them, while its skies soared with hundreds of unidentified mechanical objects kept airborne by giant balloons; airships. Yalberta was already the home of another intelligent species. An industrial, relatively peaceful society possessing steam-based technology. The scouts left the planet's atmosphere within minutes of entering it. The other workers in orbit were startled, as something must have gone wrong; scanning an entire planet's surface is not something that could be done in such a short period of time. As the scouts delivered the news of what Yalberta harbored, denial, confusion and even fear sprung from every individual involved in the operation. The pazeri's belief that they were the only intelligent species that existed in the universe was shattered. The purification fleet was not prepared to deal with such a situation; none of them would have ever even imagined such a possibility. No one did anything for weeks, as they feared any action may have grave consequences. They would have continued orbiting that planet doing nothing forever, if it wasn't for the scheduled arrival of the colony ships carrying millions of pazeri civilians, who were expecting an empty planet ready to be colonised. The colonists were informed of the news immediately, there was no attempt to hide it. The operation was cancelled, and the news began to spread thorough every colony in the Empire's enormous territory. The pazeri were no longer alone in the universe. When the news finally reached the current Emperor, they had already reached pretty much everyone else. His immediate order was to leave Yalberta alone for the time being, until a better decision could be made. But it was too late. The primitive government system of the Empire barely worked back when all they had was Delcar, people took care of themselves, the Emperor was a mere figurehead who tried to maintain order. Now, with a territory spanning nearly a hundred planetary systems scattered across the galaxy, the usual "Send envoy ships to inform all colonies" approach was not working very well. The majority of the pazeri had already begun acting on their own before the news of sentient life on Yalberta had even reached the Emperor, now it was complete chaos. While it is true the Empire's portal stations allow instantaneous from one system to another, they do so for only one ship at a time. After transporting a ship, the station needs to recharge, which takes a few minutes. Usually, this is not a problem due to the low number of traffic, but now, nearly a third of the Empire's population was using them. The pazeri society was essentially as unstable as a pyramid of cards. Just as how a single touch would collapse such a pyramid, a single problem would collapse their society. How they had even managed to expand so much without falling apart is a very good question. It is as if they had some sort of outside guidance... Regardless, the golden age of the Delcarian Empire had reached its end, and now the age of chaos was had begun. The civilians who had traveled to Grotonfet argued among themselves for some time, but those arguments ended up becoming actions very quickly. Pazeri civilian ships began travelling to Grotonfet en masse, almost all of them having a different objective in mind. Some merely planned to observe, some wanted to learn about the natives and some wanted to even share technology and enlighten them, but the majority were prepared to take matters into their own hands. They were going to attack, and they weren't going to spare anything on Yalberta. Their objective was to destroy all life in that planet so it could become a new colony, like every other planet with life the Empire had come across in the past. Though they were somewhat barred from doing so by the others with non-violent intentions, it didn't last long. Yalberta quickly became the core of the age of chaos. Its natives, who the pazeri simply referred to as "Yalbertians", began trying to fight back. That was when they truly sealed their fate. While it's true that Empire ships were not designed for combat, having no energy shields, fragile armor, and contraptions that could hardly be called weapons, the primitive Yalbertians still stood no chance. Their arrows and muskets weren't going to shoot down a space ship, no matter how weak it was. All they could do was attack the Empire civilians with non-violent intentions who had left their ships. The pazeri stopped holding back. Cities were razed, millions were slaughtered, and not a single pazeri was among them. The few pazeri who were injured served for nothing more than to further fuel the violence. Finally, an envoy ship reached the Grotonfet system, with the Emperor himself aboard. As the Emperor's orders were given to the rogue civilians acting on their own, the violence finally came to a halt, albeit temporarily. The arguments from earlier sprung up again, except this time the Emperor was involved. This was the first time the Emperor had to deal with such a situation, no decision was made for days, and the tension continued to escalate as more people joined the debates. Finally, the Emperor decided to create a poll; it was an idea he made up on the spot, it was a completely foreign concept the pazeri had never seen before. As previously mentioned, the majority present were in favour of destroying all life in Yalberta, and then colonising it, the same way they dealt with every previous planet with life. The poll closed, and that majority had won. And thus, the final mandate was given. In the Emperor's words as he issued the order, "Kill them. Kill them all." - - - Yalberta lays in chaos. Their cities burn, corpses litter the streets, the few surviving civilians flee in panic to wherever they believe is safe, and their military stands barely ready for another futile attempt to distract the next wave of invaders away from those who could not fight, as distracting was all they could do. But all their efforts were in vain. Nowhere was safe, and not a single ship was going to descend into the atmosphere for them to try to distract. Instead, the Empire's purification fleet began to bombard the planet from orbit. And thus the despair of the Yalbertians finally came to an end. This was only the beginning of the age of chaos. There was an outrage of controversy as the news of what had transpired on Yalberta spread, the majority of the Empire's population didn't get to hear about the poll before it closed. If the entire population got to vote, it would have been an almost even result, in the sense of killing and not killing. Their actual choices on what to do varied wildly. To integrate, enlighten, enslave, destroy or just ignore them, to name a few. Every possible choice had billions of civilians backing them. The Empire's society was tearing itself apart due to their conflicting opinions, and they were on the brink of breaking out into a free-for-all civil war with half a dozen different factions. Thankfully, that only lasted until more news began to spread thorough the Empire. News of something that calmed their anger, and replaced it with despair. The "little" reproduction problem they had, where a few hatchlings in each new generation would be stillborn, had now become a major problem. News had arrived from one colony, their new generation was completely stillborn. Not a single living infant hatched from the millions of eggs laid. The exact same thing was heard from every colony that attempted to produce a new generation. Many already suspected the stillborn problem was some sort of punishment for destroying the life on so many planets. But now, it was clear. The arguments from before sprung once more, the few who suspected this began reprehending those who had violent opinions, until they came to the realisation that pointing fingers and angering one another at this time was a terrible idea. The Empire was no longer in danger of civil war. The pazeri were intelligent enough to know that fighting each other when they were unable to reproduce would lead to their extinction very quickly. Although the danger of bloodshed between pazeri had been averted, the future of the Empire was not looking very bright... "And the regrets they still held would never be forgotten. The controversy raised by the Yalberta incident would become a useful asset later on." Bonus Chapter 2.1: Seeking the truth What really happened? Why did the pazeri lose their ability to reproduce after the fall of Yalberta? These questions were something that nearly every single individual asked at one point, be it to themselves or to another. But in the end, the majority of the population came to the conclusion that destroying the Yalbertians had cursed them, removing their ability to reproduce. It is true that there some who did not believe that curse nonsense. Those few would spend years looking for a scientific explanation, to no avail. They looked into the past, reviewing recent history, and learned the fact that with every planet the Empire purified, every new generation had more stillborn hatchlings than before. This discovery did nothing but fuel what the majority of the population believed in. Frustrated, they gave up looking for reasons, and shifted their efforts to develop a way to restore their ability to reproduce. They still stubbornly refused to believe the extinction of other species cursed them. Nonetheless, there was a small group of about a dozen independent researchers who sought not a logical explanation, but the truth, however illogical it may be. This small group became known as the Truth-Seekers. Unlike the others who only looked at the present and very recent past events, making wild theories with the little they discovered, the Truth-Seekers were willing to look much further into the history of the pazeri. First, they began to review all events that had transpired one by one, starting from the most recent events and going as far as they could into the past, back into their near-forgotten ancient history, when they were nothing more than primitive, tribal fruit-gatherers. Looking into the mass extinction event back in Delcar, they discovered that Onyga was reaching the end of its lifespan, it was supposed to grow into a red supergiant and annihilate the planet. Yet, this never actually happened, life still goes on in Delcar to this day. Onyga grew in size slightly, causing the mass extinction, but then its growth was halted, and it became stable. Instead of stopping and making theories over this, the truth-seekers simply noted it down and continued to look further into the past. But first, the truth-seekers needed to travel back to their original, near-abandoned home, Delcar. Where else would they discover their ancient history, if not for their planet of origin? Thousands of years ago, during the tribal ages of the pazeri, long before they were united and the Empire was formed, the primitive pazeri had strange spiritual beliefs and traditions. Amidst them, there was one that got the truth-seeker's attention. There was a tribe who believed the very souls of the pazeri were linked to their star, Onyga. With the earlier discovery about Onyga's suspicious, unnatural lifespan, the truth-seekers left the planet and traveled as close as they could to the star itself. Despite the very basic atmospheric entry heat shielding their ships had, it was somehow possible for them to come very close to the star without experiencing any overheating issues. Close enough for them to see that the star had done the opposite of growing. Onyga, once a great blue star, was now a tiny white dwarf which shined unnaturally bright, so bright it looked normal from a distance. It never became a red supergiant. The truth-seekers believed they had now discovered all that they could. They had looked through every event in their history, digging through hundreds of archives, and uncovering ancient beliefs from the ruins of many tribal settlements on Delcar that had been completely forgotten. So far, no one had heard of their discoveries yet. The truth-seekers were focused on their objective of finding the truth, and didn't want to waste any time spreading nonsensical theories to the public. There was a big chance they would never be taken seriously again if they did so. In the orbit of Delcar, they set up a small research station, where they began to compile all of their discoveries together to find out the truth. The true reason why every single individual in the Empire suddenly lost their ability to reproduce... "... And they found it." "But you are well aware of the consequences that would follow if they were to spread the truth to the rest of their kind. They had to disappear." "The truth-seekers were a completely insignificant, unremarkable group. Not a single soul would miss them; as one cannot miss something they never knew the existence of." "... I see." "But how did you make them disappear?" Main Chapter 3: Hope The Empire has drastically changed over the years following the abandonment of Delcar, their native world. The advancements in technology, the absolute lack of predators and the changes in environment has warped the culture, laws, lifestyle and traditions of the pazeri species as a whole. There is only one aspect of their culture that hasn't changed; back in Delcar, the danger of predators made reproduction a hassle, as there was nowhere safe for pazeri to lay their eggs. The ground within the jungles of Delcar's night side was filled to the brim with fearsome predatory beasts who would devour any pazeri they found, be it a fully grown adult or an egg; the night skies above the treetops had opportunistic carnivore birds which could snatch eggs within the blink of an eye, and the trees themselves were unsuitable for nests as pazeri eggs were too large. But the pazeri had something their predators did not; intelligence. They adapted, as their small tribes slowly merged with one another, a universal tradition was formed to ensure their survival. A tradition that still remains to this day. Every few years, the pazeri communities in Delcar gathered to the same settlement and laid their eggs together when Delcar's sun set over the horizon. As a group, they intimidated and scared off any predators that may want to have a snack. In roughly over a week, Delcar's sun began to rise over the horizon, marking the time when the eggs would begin hatching. The parents identified their newborn children by smell, took them and migrated away from the rising sun as soon as possible, always remaining in the night side. Sadly, the eggs that took too long to hatch had to be left behind. As the sun rose, the jungle quickly withered away and morphed back into a savannah, signaling the time when the colossal draconic predators of the day would awake. With the jungle gone, the fearless apex predators would begin picking off their now exposed prey. Even as a group, the pazeri could not do anything about them but flee. Those days of primitive survival are now long over, and yet, the tradition still continues in the modern days. While it is true that the Empire's colonies have grown quite apart from one another, every single one of them still shares at least one thing in common. A huge structure, built at the center of every colony, serving as a communal hatchery where all pazeri lay their eggs in once every few years. But now, it has been decades since the Yalberta incident, and all that the hatcheries have harbored have been stillborn eggs. The pazeri who still live continue to grow older, with the time where they will be too old to reproduce inching closer. The Empire has accepted that the demise of the Yalbertians is the cause behind their inability to reproduce. The pointless arguments of what else could have possibly caused this 'curse' have ceased long ago. Instead of wasting their time trying to find out the cause, they've been attempting to remove the curse. The first course of action was abandoning the colony they had built on Yalberta, in respect to the fallen natives the pazeri had exterminated there. It achieved nothing; yet, the pazeri still did not return to Yalberta ever again. The entire Grotonfet system, which Yalberta is part of, was cut-off from Empire territory. The relay that connected it was destroyed, and with enough time, all of it was forgotten. And yet, the curse remained. Most of what they tried was useless and not worth mentioning in full detail. However, during the last few generations the pazeri could produce before they were too old, a troubling discovery was made. All this time, the previous generations were presumed stillborn, but the hatchlings inside of the eggs were found out to be actually alive and fully formed, their tiny hearts were beating. Yet, when the time came for them to naturally come out of their eggs, they did not; they remained inside of their eggshells until they were no longer alive. They never made any attempt to leave. "As they had no reason to. They lacked a soul; a purpose to drive them to live." On the following generation after this discovery, all eggs were carefully broken open when it was time for them to naturally hatch. The hatchlings inside were all alive, but something was wrong. The hatchlings made no attempt to continue living. They made no sounds, they made no attempt to eat, they did not even breathe on their own. They remained completely still until they perished. It was also discovered that all eggs had the same result regardless of whether or not they were put into incubators. To save resources, the Empire stopped using incubators. All hatchlings in that generation eventually succumbed to their inevitable demise, despite all of the efforts to keep them alive. Expecting the next generation to be the same, the Empire spent the next few years planning and preparing technology to keep them alive. They firmly believed it was going to work this time. When time came to be, the eggs were once more carefully opened at the time they were supposed to naturally hatch. But this time, they were all empty, aside from yellow yolk. The pazeri believed the eggs did not develop because they had stopped using incubators to conserve resources for this generation, as they had discovered incubators to be useless. And yet, when the next generation came, the eggs were empty once again- "Does this really... matter? I understand, you were buying time and creating excuses to fool them. When I asked for you to be less vague, I didn't mean to have you ramble on and on about every little detail about something depressing that achieves nothing." "As you yourself said before, it's useless and not worth mentioning. Please, let's move on." "..." "My apologies." After so many generations, not a single pazeri had been born. The Empire had now reached the point where they could only breed only one more generation before all of them were too old to reproduce. All pazeri who could still reproduce, as well as many of the others who could not, traveled back to their original native world, Delcar. There, the greatest hatchery of them all had been built over the years in preparation for this event; the last generation, it was now or never. If all of the eggs were stillborn yet again, the entire pazeri species was doomed to become extinct. All eggs were laid at sunset as per the original tradition, the parents remaining inside of the great hatchery during the entire time. Outside of the hatchery, in Delcar's greatest dome city, the pazeri held many festivities, trying to remain as positive as possible. Nearly the entire Empire population had migrated to Delcar for the event, they were filled with so much hope for the last generation. They had no reason to believe it was going to work, and yet, they did. Over a week later, the sun began to slowly rise over the horizon, bathing the dome city and the inside of the great hatchery in golden light, marking the time when the eggs were supposed to hatch. ... And yet, they did not. No matter how long the pazeri waited, their eggs would not hatch. But their hope was not yet over. As a last attempt, they carefully broke open their eggs, exactly how they had done with the previous few generations. They were rotten. As the foul smell of death began to spread all over the great hatchery, the pazeri's hope was absolutely crushed. They did not even finish opening all of the eggs, the shock of the discovery drove them all to flee in tears out of the great hatchery. All pazeri whom had traveled to Delcar abandoned it once more, leaving with a mixture of disgust, anger, and hopelessness. They had now accepted their extinction was inevitable. Their hope had been for nothing, and now all that remained was despair. "But in truth, their hope had not gone to waste." Main Chapter 4: Salvation The rising sun still bathes Delcar's skies in golden light, creating a heavenly atmosphere. It has not been long since the great festival. Or rather, the great disaster. Yet, the billions of citizens who came to attend the event are long gone. The dome city lays deserted, its streets left a mess, as not a single soul remained behind to clean after them. The great hatchery was a sea of death, the air inside of it stagnant with the smell of billions of rotting eggs, seemingly devoid of all life. All that remained in Delcar was stillness. It would have remained that way forever, if there had not been visitors. A couple had entered the great hatchery. Stubborn, in denial, or delusional; whatever their reasons were, they had decided to stay behind while all the others left, to check the eggs for signs of life one last time. They spent hours breaking open the few eggs that were still left unopened, presumed dead. And every egg they opened had nothing more than rotten fluids inside, just like all others. It did not take long for one of the two to lose their patience and begin to leave. Yet, the one who remained continued her hopeless efforts. She had begged him to stay, she was the reason why they were doing this. "What were their names?" "They do not matter. You need not to care nor remember them." "Why even mention-" "You shall understand briefly." She continued to open egg after egg, becoming more and more frustrated as she found nothing but death. As she gradually lost her hope, she decided to simply begin smashing the eggs that still remained until there were no more left, continuing to become more and more desperate after each one. Then she suddenly stopped. On the corner of her vision, she noticed an egg that looked different from the others, it seemed to be slightly cracked and tilted over. It was the spark of hope she needed. She immediately began to open it with more care than any other egg. And indeed, inside of that one different egg, there was one living infant. She screamed in surprise. Her husband; the other pazeri who had nearly left by now, quickly returned when he heard his wife's scream, and saw what she had found. Cradled in the arms of his wife was a completely normal, healthy, newborn female pazeri. At least, that is what it looked like. Their hopes had been renewed, they were completely stunned by the discovery. Instead of leaving, the male decided to continue opening the remaining eggs, while the female cradled the newborn in her arms. But alas, there was only one life amidst the sea of death. But before they could leave or even finish processing the situation, they were interrupted. The Emperor had sent a group of scientists to search the great hatchery looking for the newborn, knowing that she was going to be born beforehand. The couple was still stunned, and could do almost nothing as the group of strangers subdued them and kidnapped the newborn child and took her away as swiftly as they had appeared. "And that is the last I have witnessed of the couple. My entire focus had been shifted towards the newborn, the Emperor, and his scientists. These two were nothing more than two delusional civilians acting of their own accord." "This is why you do not need to care nor remember them. Not all individuals in this tale are important." - - - The scientists brought the newborn child aboard a small research ship just outside the dome city, which the Emperor himself awaited in. He believed the newborn was not one of his kind, and that she, or rather, "it" was an abomination. For the next few days, the Emperor and his scientists were holed up inside of that ship. Guided by what seemed to be his subconscious, the Emperor and his scientist team managed to construct a prototype machine, which used the newborn as some form of catalyst. What exact purpose this mechanism served was unknown to them, and they had to discover the hard way. When they activated the machine, it malfunctioned and subsequently exploded, releasing a visible wave of unknown, ethereal energy throughout the air. Although the explosion itself was quite small and faded away as soon as it came to be, the wave of energy did not, and continued to spread forth relentlessly. The entire ship was quickly enveloped by the energy, causing beams of gleaming light to burst through every window in a devastating yet beautiful fashion. Yet, the ship and its crew were left completely unharmed when the chaos was over. Not only did everyone survive the experiment, they had been rejuvenated by it. The energy, the power of the newborn had given new life to the elderly, slowly dying pazeri. And thus, the Emperor's beliefs were confirmed. The newborn was indeed not one of them. While it was physically indentical to a normal pazeri infant, it held a secret within its soul. The potential to create what they began to call "Life energy". It was the key to the salvation of their entire species. However, the experiment hadn't gone so well. The prototype machine was destroyed, and the newborn was not only nearly killed by it, but also left drained by the surge of energy it created. It did not take long for them to realise that the facilities within the ship were not suitable for this kind of experiment. In fact, every research facility the Empire had was not prepared for this. Yet again, for the first time in their history, the Empire saw the need for secrecy. If the existence of the newborn and its true potential was to be made available to the public, extinction would be ensured. The Emperor decided to build a new facility for the newborn, set within a location no one would ever visit again; the great hatchery. After recruiting as much trusted personnel as he could, the Emperor officially began "The Salvation project". He then returned to his duties, while still overseeing the project personally as much as it was possible. The billions of rotten eggs within the great hatchery had been disposed of, and many necessary facilities were constructed within its enormous interior. Within a few more days, the scientists managed to construct a new, more stable machine to generate life energy. The newborn was placed inside of a giant stasis tank connected to the machine, in the very center of the newly-constructed facility. That stasis tank within the great hatchery became the permanent home of the newborn. The first step of the Salvation project was complete. The second step was to distribute the life energy to all who still drew breath. A large tower-like structure was built near the great hatchery, which transmitted the life energy through space, and into Regav's portal station. As the energy had an ethereal nature to it, an unlimited amount of it could through the Empire's portal stations without disrupting nor forcing them to recharge. Similar tower structures were built on all other Empire colonies, which received the energy from space and distributed it across the the colonies where it could be put to use. The entire pazeri species was rejuvenated. A new generation of eggs was laid as soon as it could be done, and much to their surprise, every single egg hatched into living, healthy and normal hatchlings. The Salvation project had been a success; the Empire was saved. Their existence was preserved. For now. "... That sounds like it would have been a somewhat satisfying ending." "Yet it is not. We are still so very far from the true end." "This would have been the conclusion, if not for the fact the "life energy" was useless to our plans as it was." "No. There was much that still needed to be done." Main Chapter 5: Inquisition It has been decades since the Empire's discovery of life energy, a seemingly divine power. Now, it is all that matters. Their entire species have not only been revitalised by it, they have also acquired eternal youth. The solution to the subsequent explosive growth in population was to continue expanding their territory, just like how they had been doing before the Yalberta incident. Thankfully, a similar incident has not been repeated. Not because the Empire learnt a lesson from that incident, but simply because they have been unable to discover more sentient life, even after colonising many new planets. Yet, life energy has far more potential than merely keeping individuals from aging. It could heal any injury, no matter how severe it was, even allowing one to regrow any lost body part. It could cure any disease, no matter how deadly it was. It could even replace the need for food, water and air, allowing one to survive in conditions that otherwise would end their life in seconds, such as in the void of space. The only thing they believed it could not do was give life to something that was no longer alive; yet, all of this was not enough. The Empire did not stagnate as the ancient tribes of Delcar once did. The Empire began using life energy to create biotechnology. By 'feeding' the energy to genetically-engineered biological matter, and combining it with their technology, they had achieved many great feats. Their ships now had partially organic, regenerating hulls, with mechanical components for the crews to manipulate. Their colonies had became surrealistic, beautiful landscapes of flesh and metal. And every world they colonised was terraformed to the point of being a perfect biological niche for the pazeri species. Life energy had nearly replaced every other resource the Empire could possibly need, as they had a source of it that seemed endless. Most of the population was blind to what life energy really was, or where it truly came from. They believed it was the power of their old homeworld, Delcar, and that it was extracted from the core of the planet by a large structure on its surface. That structure had been previously known as "The Great Hatchery", but now it was known as "The Heart". It was the believed source of all life energy, and the true core of the Empire. New Delcar was merely the Emperor's seat. Meanwhile, Delcar, the world where the pazeri species came to be, was now a sunburnt wasteland with giant vein-like wires sprawled all across its surface, leading to thousands of extremely tall towers which pierced the dark clouds in the now smoggy, dark purple sky. Somewhere on its surface was the Heart, a colossal, deformed structure. Over the years, more and more was added to it, eventually causing it to become greater than the old dome city that housed it. Delcar and the Heart was no secret to any citizen in the Empire. But what was inside of it was only known by a few. The being known as the 'Newborn', still floated within a stasis tank in the very center of the Heart. "It", as the Emperor and the few who knew of her existence addressed her, was the real source of life energy, the true heart of the Empire. Her existence had always been kept a secret from the public. At first, this was a safety measure, in fear of her being used as a tool for reproduction and likely killed, as she was the last female able to reproduce back then. Technically, having her existence hidden from the public to this point was still a safety measure. It was simply... better for no one to know of her. But then again, she had only been conscious for the first few hours of her life, before being put into a stasis tank permanently. Yet, she has grown into a young adult over the years. Very few knew of her existence, and those who did believed her to be nothing more than the keystone keeping the arch from falling apart. She was not considered an individual. Her fate was to hibernate within a void of liquid for all eternity. One may argue that may have been a fate worse than death. - - - In short, with the power of life energy, the Empire had achieved many technological feats, colonised nearly half of the galaxy, and granted eternal youth and health to every single individual. They no longer had any problems, and they believed they were unstoppable. But was all of this worth it? There were few individuals who would answer "No." to this question. There were few who saw what was wrong with these unnatural changes, and rejected life energy treatment. Amongst those few, there was only one who knew the truth, only one who knew of the Newborn's existence. "That sounds like an important individual, do they also not have a name? Like that coupl-" "His name was "Het'Setroqueni". He was one of the scientists who worked on the salvation project decades before the current point." "And why are you only telling me this now?" "He was not relevant enough to be worthy of mention, until now." Indeed, Setroqueni had been working on the salvation project from the very beginning. He was the only one who managed to notice the Emperor's mind slowly withering away, while all others were blind to it. Toriamenet-Quintus, the man known as the Emperor was once kind, humble and selfless; he did not ever hide any secret from his people. He sought to maintain order and peace, keep his people happy, and ensure that their voices would always be heard. He had a good heart. But not anymore. The Yalberta incident was where his slow descent into the endless pit of despair and insanity began. The controversy raised by the genocide of an entire sentient species caused endless chaos amongst the Empire, and the Emperor struggled to keep his people together for the years that followed afterward. It only got worse when the infertily issue began, where he also struggled to keep himself together as his old age and stress began to descend upon his mind. After personally witnessing the 'last' generation be another failure, he finally let go of the small amounts of sanity and hope that he still grasped. Yet, as hopeless as he was, on the night before he abandoned Delcar, he ordered a group of scientists to search the great hatchery for life signs one last time. He did not hope to find any living hatchlings, as he no longer had any hope. But he knew something else would be found, he did not hope, he simply... knew. Setroqueni was one of the individuals who discovered the Newborn and brought her aboard the Emperor's research ship. Setroqueni and his colleagues were overjoyed and filled with hope, when they saw the Newborn for the first time; however, the Emperor was not. The Emperor insisted that the Newborn was not one of them, and that it was an abomination. Though not all agreed with the Emperor's beliefs at first, they continued following his orders, Setroqueni included. Even with their hopes restored, the despair to save their species from extinction was greater than any doubts they had at the time. No one questioned the Emperor as he began creating a concept for a machine like no other. The Emperor was no scientist nor engineer, yet he seemed to know exactly what he was doing, as if he was being guided. Regardless, with the discovery of life energy, any doubts anyone may still have had were erased. Everyone, but Setroqueni. He was the only one who viewed the Newborn as an individual, and as one of his kind. She may have the potential to generate life energy, but she was still an innocent, newborn child. Yet, all others viewed her as nothing more than an object. Several months after the salvation project's success, the first new generation was born. This was the time when Setroqueni decided to approach the Emperor, and ask him to release the Newborn, to allow her to live her own life. It was the first time anyone had openly expressed disagreement with the Emperor's beliefs towards the Newborn. Though it is true that there were doubts before the discovery of life energy, the few who had such opinions were keeping it to themselves. No one dared to openly disagree with the Emperor, as there was no time for conflict when the pazeri were on the brink of extinction. And after the life energy was discovered, there was simply no reason to disagree; the Emperor was right. Despite this, now was the perfect time for discussion, and thus, Setroqueni made his request. He did not simply walk up to the Emperor and utter a sentence, though. He had prepared a long list of reasons why the Newborn should be given a chance at life. But the Emperor did not wish to listen to a single reason. As soon as he learnt of Setroqueni's intentions, he threw a fit, showing how insane he truly was. Setroqueni was almost immediately exiled from New Delcar, the Empire's capital, leaving on a small ship by himself. Alone and aboard his small ship, Setroqueni pondered. Some had suggested for him to simply move on and get a new job at a different colony, but he was not having any of this. He had only one goal in his life, and was determined to achieve it, no matter the cost. At first, he simply wanted to thank the one individual he believed responsible for the continued existence of his entire species; the Newborn. Not with words, but with a chance at life. She did not even have a name, as pazeri get to choose their own names as soon as they are able to. However, she never got the chance, as she was put in stasis mere days after being born. But was that really everything he wanted? He wondered. No. No it wasn't. The Emperor had grown insane, life energy may have the power to restore bodies, but it could not restore minds. The delusions caused by his newfound "immortality" were only getting worse. If that maniac was to remain in power, the pazeri may risk going extinct once again. During his time working in the salvation project, Setroqueni learnt about those who still live in Delcar. He learnt Delcar's residents were old-fashioned people who rejected progress, and nearly all of them prefer death over life energy treatment. The fact they still lived in a barely habitable planet that had been abandoned long ago, showed some true dedication. And thus, Setroqueni took his ship to Delcar, the origin planet of the pazeri. There, it was easy for him to bring its few residents together, forming a group of people with the same mindset. A group of idealists who rejected the rule of the Emperor, a group that stuck to the true traditions of the pazeri, a group that would put an end to the unnatural life energy. They were called "The Inquisitors", and would usher a new age for the Empire. - - - The Inquisitors' influence gradually grew over the years, spreading their message to many colonies across the Empire, with more and more citizens declaring themselves free from the Empire and joining their cause. The mad Emperor was too occupied with his delusions to notice what was happening, until the Inquisitors began spreading their propaganda on New Delcar. They were immediately banned from entering the Regav system entirely, which is where New Delcar was located. Such an act was completely useless, if not worse than useless; the subsequent outrage unleashed by it, only led more people to abandon the Empire for the Inquisitors. However, one very important detail to mention is that there was no fighting between the Inquisitors and the Empire. The Inquisitors were merely peacefully, yet aggressively spreading their message to rally more people to join their cause. While the Inquisitors were a group that loathed the Empire and their new ways, they originally had no intention of warring or overthrowing the Empire. But as tension began to build between the two factions, this began to change... The incorporation of life energy into the Empire's technology had never stopped. They had begun to create what both Inquisitors and some Empire citizens believed to be atrocities. Banning food and water entirely in favour of life energy, biotechnological augmentantion of their bodies, cloning, and even permanently merging themselves with their ships. As the Inquisitors rose to protest against such atrocities, they were met with more exile. It did not take long for them to be exiled from literally every single colony the Empire had. They were no longer welcome anywhere. The Inquisitors were forced to reside in near-uninhabitable systems, outside of Empire territory. The portal station borders separating the two factions were destroyed. Life energy supply to Inquisitor territory became non-existent, it was accessible to them before, even though they refused it. The Empire believed that was the end of the inquisitor problem, and that the Inquisitors would just slowly die off over time, without life energy. Yet, they were wrong. Life energy had never been necessary for reproduction. And even if it was, it would not matter, for Setroqueni would achieve his objective long before his natural lifespan reached its end. Meanwhile, the Inquisitors had begun preparations for war. Their fleets consisted of old Empire ships, which had all but ceased to exist when the biotechnological revolution happened. These ships had been drastically upgraded and refined, while still maintaining their classic appearance, as they represented the pazeri at their golden age. And they had been specifically designed to counter the Empire's bio-ships. Though the Empire believed the Inquisitors were gone, that was not the case at all. They had forgotten that they were their own people, meaning they posssesed the same technology as the Empire, with the exception of life energy. Several hidden portal stations had been set up all across Empire territory, which served as backdoors for the Inquisitors, where they began to infiltrate where they did not belong to spy on the Empire. And spy they did. While the Inquisitors seemed to be in a good position to strike and begin their campaign to overthrow the Empire for a long time, they instead chose to wait for the perfect moment. However, witnessing the Empire grow more and more monstrous with every new atrocity they created using life energy, the Inquisitor's patience slowly drained away. With the short time the factions had spent isolated from one another, the Empire had drastically change. The Inquisitors could no longer recognise what once were their own people. Regardless, their patience was finally rewarded when Inquisitor spies caught word of a very important convoy the Empire was planning to transport; the Heart itself. - - - As one may already be aware, the Heart was located on the abandoned, backwater planet, Delcar. The reason why Delcar was abandoned was because Onyga, Delcar's star, had begun to die and grow unstable, heating up the planet until it caused a mass extinction event, forcing the pazeri to abandon it. This happened very long ago, before Toriamenet-Quintus, the current Emperor was even born. Onyga had begun to grow unstable once more, risking exploding into a supernova, destroying Delcar and the Heart along with it. If the Heart was to be destroyed, the entire Empire would be gone. They had reached a point where they were completely dependent on life energy, and simply could not survive without it. Since the true, irreplaceable source of life energy was the Newborn, one may think the Heart did not really matter after all, as it was merely a structure, and a new one could always be built to replace it. However, not only was this not entirely true, there were also several other problems. A new Heart could not be built. The Heart had become a random mess of mechanical and organic parts, in contrast to the rest of the Empire's still somewhat symmetric architecture. This random mess was an experiment that slowly grew over the years until it reached its current state; perfection. It simply could not be replicated a second time. Not only that, the Heart was originally created by mysterious concepts randomly thought up by the Emperor, which have been long forgotten by everyone, including himself. Another problem was time. Life energy was almost impossible to store for later use. If it was not put to use immediately, it would rapidly decay away into nothingness. It was possible, though difficult to slow down its decaying process, but it could not be entirely stopped. Even if a new Heart could be created, it would take years to do so, and the Empire's supply of life energy would run out long before that. Regardless, the Empire had a solution to all of these problems; a plan. The very Heart structure itself was to be moved from Delcar to another planet, known as Ataib. The Inquisitors, too, had a plan. Infiltrate the Heart as soon as it began approaching Ataib, and rescue the Newborn from her stasis pod prison. It may seem impossible and foolish to try to move such a huge structure from one planet to another, but it was their only option. As big as the Heart was, it did not extend underground, it was a structure entirely based on the surface of the planet, it was technically possible to move it. Preparations had already begun on both sides for perhaps one of the most important events in all of pazeri history. As the Empire began converting the Heart into a mobile space station, and building portal stations to bring it to Ataib, the Inquisitors gathered and readied a small fleet to strike at the heart of the Empire, quite literally. Within mere weeks, the Heart was ready for its journey. After a countdown, it slowly began lifting off Delcar's surface, until it then promptly blasted off, leaving the dead planet's atmosphere as its new thrusters reached their maximum potential. The first step of the great journey had been completed. Soon, the Heart began approaching the Empire's greatest portal station not too far from Delcar, which had been specifically designed for the Heart alone. On the other side of the great portal station was the Orfaprat system, where the Ataib colony was located. The reason why Ataib was chosen as the new location for the Heart over New Delcar was somewhat complicated. Nearly all of the Empire believed the Heart drained the life force of a planet to create life energy, only a few knew the truth. It would have been so much easier to simply leave the Heart orbiting New Delcar, but that was not possible. The truth had to remain hidden. Landing the Heart onto New Delcar was not feasible, either. Not only was New Delcar's surface entirely covered in already existing structures, the Heart did have some 'minor' enviromental drawbacks, it was the cause behind Delcar's smoggy, dark purple skies. And thus, the small, barely populated colony of planet Ataib, located in the far-away Orfaprat system was selected to house the Heart. It was the perfect place to ensure the Newborn's existence remained a secret. With the aid of the convoy escorting it, the Heart successfully docked within the great portal station. This portal station was very different from the others, not only in size, but also in function. It was a huge frame, which was messy and distorted much like the Heart itself was, and was a one-way passage for the Heart only, nothing else could follow it through. A few minutes passed as everything was triple checked, to ensure the entire Heart would be transported without any damage. The portal station began to glow, as it charged itself with the required power to transport the Heart, and then there was a bright flash of light. The Heart was no longer in the Onyga system, the second step of the great journey had been completed. - - - At the fringe of the Empire's territory, an enormous structure had suddenly appeared. This was no surprise to anyone, though; it had appeared where they all had been expecting it to do so. In the large, exit portal station that had been constructed over the past few weeks. A small fleet of ships awaited to escort the Heart. Not to guard it, as the Empire did not expect any attack. The only possible enemy they had were the Inquisitors, which they had all but forgotten by then. The fleet was meant to help remove the Heart from the exit portal station, and aid it as it descended upon Ataib's atmosphere to land. They were very eager to perform their mission for the glory of the Empire. Very eager, so eager they did not even communicate with those who were inside of the Heart, so eager they began docking and entering the Heart. Something was wrong. The fleet consisted of discontinued Empire ships, rather than the modern bio-ships the Empire used at the time. A group of Inquisitors, led by Setroqueni himself, had infiltrated the Heart, looking for the Newborn. It had been a long time since Setroqueni last saw the Heart, during his time working for the salvation project. The Heart had drastically changed, and his old memories of it were nearly useless; all he knew was that the newborn was within the core room. Where this room was, however, remained a mystery. As Setroqueni's group searched for the core, they broke into a room full of Heart workers. There were complications. Setroqueni's mission was to rescue the Newborn and escape, bringing her to Inquisitor territory. No one had to die for this to happen. Yet, the Heart workers began to panic as the sight of a heavily armed, armoured foreign group. The Inquisitors had returned, they had to warn the rest of the Empire. That could not be allowed to happen; not yet. Before anyone could think, one of the workers began reaching for a nearby weapon. Against Setroqueni's orders, his group opened fire on the workers. All workers in that room were killed, but not before one of them could raise an alarm, which subsequently led to a distress signal being sent all across the Empire. It was the first time the pazeri had killed one another. What followed afterwards was a disaster, yet the Inquisitor's mission was somehow still successful. Setroqueni and his group eventually discovered the core amidst the maze-like interior of the Heart, broke open the stasis pod within, and rescued the Newborn. Meanwhile, a huge space battle raged outside. Empire fleets had answered the distress call, and the Inquisitors summoned reinforcements to stop them. As Setroqueni escaped from the Heart with the Newborn aboard his ship, he and the Inquisitors retreated back to their territory. This was not how he had meant his plan was to go. His true goal; the Inquisitors true goal was to bring the Empire back to its former glory, to before the Yalberta incident had happened. Despite all of their preparations for war, their objective was to restore the Empire to its golden age. Only one individual had to die for this to happen. Toriamenet Quintus, the mad Emperor. But instead, an act of war was all that the Inquisitors had managed to achieve. The two pazeri factions were throw into a civil war against one another. At first, the Inquisitors had the advantage, after all, they had spent a lot of time preparing and adapting their ships to counter the Empire's. The Inquisitors campaign led them to spread out of their isolated territory and into the Empire's, conquering many colonies. They were never able to reach New Delcar, however, as the Empire began slowly turning the tide back onto them. Using the life energy they still had stored, the Empire rapidly adapted, bringing themselves to have the advantage over the Inquisitors. Even at the very beginning, the Empire always had a severe number advantage over their enemy. One by one, the Empire took back its former territory from the Inquisitors, and it did not take long for the Inquisitors true, hidden territory to be discovered and subsequently assaulted by the Empire. If the Inquisitors could hold, the Empire's limited life energy supply would decay, and they would be forced to end their advance. But the Empire had become far too powerful, and the Inquisitors had been all but defeated. Perhaps if they had been less aggressive it would have turned out differently, but there was no time to dwell on the past. The Inquisitors had been attempting to expose the Newborn's existence to the public from the very beginning, but it never worked. No one would believe a bunch of villainous traitors, as the Empire's propaganda against the Inquisitors had already brainwashed their people beyond redemption. Once a fearsome treat to the Empire, the Inquisitors were now nothing more than an annoying pest. They tried playing cat and mouse with the Empire, hitting whatever vulnerable, unguarded systems they could find and retreating. But they could not keep running away forever, they had already lost all of their territory by then, and soon there would be nowhere to run to. But there was still hope. Setroqueni was still alive, and the Newborn was still within the Inquisitors' hands. She was the reason why the Empire was still so fiercely insistent on hunting down every last remaining Inquisitor. Their life energy supplies were nearly depleted. Yet, with the Inquisitors no longer being an actual threat, the Empire citizens who did not know of the Newborn resumed their work. In the Brenigrah system, located in the far reaches of the Empire territory, a new portal station had been constructed to further expand the Empire's territory. The Inquisitors, once again, caught word of it. Brenigrah's portal station led to a new, uncharted planetary system that the Empire was going to colonise. There was nothing special about it to the Empire, but for the Inquisitors, this was the stroke of luck they needed so badly. It was their last hope to get away from the Empire. The few Inquisitors who still remained managed to rendezvous at Brenigrah, and proceeded to defeat the few Empire civillian ships that were there. One by one, the Inquisitor fleet entered the newly-constructed portal station leading to uncharted territory. They had no idea what would await them at the other side, but they at least knew it led away from the Empire. It would not be long before the Empire's military fleet that was hunting them reached Brenigrah. As the last Inquisitor ship passed through the portal station, the fleet that had gathered at the other side destroyed the station. This was only a temporary solution, the Empire could always create another portal station to this uncharted system. But the Inquisitors needed all the time they could get. The Inquisitor fleet began exploring the uncharted system, sticking together in case they ran into any Empire ships. They believed it was better to be safe than to be sorry, even though they expected to find nothing more than terraformer or colony ships, as this was just another empty system for the Empire to colonise. But they were wrong. The small Inquisitor fleet of a dozen ships encountered hundreds upon hundreds of Empire warships, waiting for them. There was nowhere for them to flee, they had sealed themselves in that system when they destroyed the portal station. All they could do was desperately send out a surrender message and unpower their ships, awaiting capture and judgement. ... Yet, nothing happened. No one responded to their message, no weapons were fired, no ship moved. They tried sending another message, and once again, it was ignored. One Inquisitor ship decided to break the silence, as it powered back up and approached the Empire fleet of hundreds by itself. When it was close enough, its crew were able to see what was wrong. Every single one of these hundreds of Empire warships were already destroyed. There were no signs of life detected within them. Before the Inquisitors could think of what to do, several unknown warp signatures were identified in the system, despite the portal station being destroyed. A fleet of huge alien ships they had never seen before had appeared in the system, quickly surrounding the Inquisitors. It seemed like the culprits behind the destruction of the Empire's fleet had found them. Yet, the aliens did not attack. Instead, a message was sent to the Inquisitors, which was somehow in pazeri language. Presumably, the aliens had learned it from the defeated Empire. "This is Supreme Admiral X-32 of the UPA defense fleet speaking. We have received your declarations of surrender, please identify yourselves and your intentions." Setroqueni stepped forward, preparing himself to answer the message... - - - "... Could we please take a break now? I've got so many questions..." "We are not yet finished. Your queries can be delayed until then." "Well, let me put it this way; you want me to care about this, yes?" "That assumption is only partially correct." "Then, perhaps you should listen to me. I can't really care if I don't know anything." "I know we have time, so could you please stop being so impatient?" "... Very well." Main Chapter 0.2: Insignificance "So then, if I have understood everything correctly..." "First, you discovered a sentient species known as the "pazeri", which had a stagnant, unchanging civilization. Their stability caught your interest, so you closely observed them until the end of their time." "Then, you decided to preserve their existence, and stabilized their dying star, which caused you to discover that their souls were tied to their star." "And then... you ruined everything. You began using manipulating their star, and in turn, manipulating their souls to do your bidding. This is what I do not understand, their world was your definition of perfection, why would you change that?" "It was necessary." "The link between their souls and their star allowed me near-full control of their civilization, the possibilities that one could achieve by using them were near endless." "But all of these possibilities were meaningless, weren't they? The whole point of using them was to create the child." "..." "...?" "... Yes." "Your assumption is correct." "Okay..." "So, after discovering the true nature of their souls, you began subtly guiding them. In just one generation, they had achieved more progress than other civilizations could in hundreds of generations." "But from the little you've told me of their world and the life within it..." "I can't feel any emotion for them. You never described their way of life, their culture, their technology, the infrastructure of the cities and colonies they built. All of these things are considered interesting, and can help one understand and care about them." "Good." "... Huh?" "You should not feel anything for them, as they were nothing more than tools. Their civilization was as insignificant as all others in this universe, the fact they could be subtly manipulated was the only aspect that mattered." "..." "... Then, what was the point of all this? Why tell me about them if they did not matter?" "You have already mentioned the reason." "You forced them to abandon their home world by destroying all life in it, made them infest their galaxy and multiply to the point of individuals becoming meaningless, and then removed their ability to reproduce after they led another sentient species to extinction, leading them all into the depths of absolute, unanimous despair." "All of this... was to create the child?" "Correct." "... I see." "But is that not counter-productive? What about our sacred mission? "The necessary sacrifice of one nameless sentient species is insignificant." "I thought they were called the Yalbertians." "..." "... So." "Does the child... have a name?" "Yes. She has been given many different names by the ones who have learned of her existence, none of which matter." "However, her true name, which is unknown to all but I, would be... "Preservation." "Now it's also known to me!" "......" "...Well, anyway. There are still some things we'd like clarified." "...Then do so." - - - "To begin, I'd like to ask about the Emperor- I mean your puppet, Toriamenet-Quintus." "How old was he when Preservation was born? It sounds like Delcar had spun around Onyga hundreds of thousands of times by the time she was born." "Your assumption is completely wrong." "Toriamenet-Quintus was less than three Delcarian centuries old by the time of Preservation's manifestation. He was born shortly before I had allowed the Empire to discover Yalberta." "Quintus, as his name would suggest, was the fifth of my puppets. There were four others before him. Primus, Secundus, Tertius and Quartus." "Quintus was the only puppet out of the five to play a significant enough role to have his name be worth mentioning. All of the others did nothing more other than aid their species in multiplying." "..." "That was... Surprisingly descriptive. Thank-you." "... But why did you take so long to mention his name? I only found out he had a name after I asked what Setro's name was." "His name was mentioned when it had to be. Quintus was the only puppet out of the five to have a significant enough role to be worth mentioning." "You've already said that." "..." "I see... you don't want to answer that question." "... Okay. What about Primus though? As the first Emperor, surely he must have played an instrumental role in the Empire's first steps?" "Correct. And that is all there is to him. You have answered your own question." "One could spend hours describing every detail of the Empire's early days, but in the end, it is all insignificant." "Well then... the next topic that we'd like to be clarified..." "... Ah, yes. I'd like to ask some things about Setro." "Het'Setroqueni was one of the scientists who worked on the salvation project. His feelings were manipulated to the point of becoming delusional, which made him begin viewing Preservation as if she were his own daughter." "These feelings were used to further manipulate him into viewing Toriamenet-Quintus as an enemy of his people, thus causing him to form the Inquisitors, becoming their founder and primary leader." "... I understand. Let's move on then, to perhaps the one individual that seems to matter in this story." "All information about Preservation should be uncovered on your own." "... Why?" "You will have the answer to that question once you learn of her true nature." "... Okay." "It seems we have clarified all that may be unclear on every individual you've mentioned." "But there is still one last thing. Could you tell us about the origins of the species the Inquisitors encountered before you continue?" "It will take a tremendous span of time to give a satisfying answer to that question." "I had no control over their actions, and they are insignificant in-" "I don't care; I want to know." "You've been watching that entire galaxy since you began coming up with your plans for the pazeri." "I want to know everything that happened, even if it was not your doing." "..." "... Please." "... If you deem so truly necessary, so be it. Let us delve into a new perspective." - - - "Reemeeembeeeer..." "Unless you reeeaally want the apatheticness to continue, answer everyyy question that may come up." "It matters not how uuuseless they are; that is not the point, you must satisffyyy them." "This will be the laaaast time you two have a chance to speeaak, you knooow." "Very well." Main Chapter 6: Union (NEW) The pazeri were not alone. But we already knew this, did we not? Their discovery of Yalberta had showed us that much. Even before then, many worlds full of insignificant, non-sentient life were mentioned. Indeed, the barred spiral galaxy of Eluperd had quite a lot of life, in contrast to most others. It is true that most of this life had yet to attain sentience, but to believe Delcar and Yalberta were the only planets harboring sentient life would be naïve. No. There were many, many more other planets that have harbored sentient life over the eons within Eluperd's expanse. One could spend hours listing their names, but in the end, they are all irrelevant. Our focus is to be shifted to only one of these species, for they were the only ones who would play a role in the fate of Preservation, and the pazeri. This one species were known as the "purians". Their home world, a planet they had named "Sanctum", was not as far away as one would think. Indeed, within the same galactic arm as the star Onyga, there was once a star system known as Colossus. Originally, it consisted of only the namesake red giant star; Colossus and a single brown dwarf named Protea. The reason behind this was due to Colossus' growth into a red giant had consumed all else in the system, save for the far away Protea. With absolutely nothing else in the system, not even asteroid belts, Colossus was just another meaningless location in the near infinite vacuum of space. Yet, life seems to always spring forth in the most unlikely of places. Eons ago, a lonely, rogue frozen rock travelling through the void was pulled into the system by Colossus' massive gravity field, and caught in Protea's orbit. And thus, Protea now had one moon. Colossus' heat then slowly began to melt the ice into water, whenever the rock was not behind Protea, while the dim light of Protea itself stopped the rock from freezing once more. As the eons continued to go by under these conditions, the frozen rock slowly became a habitable world. The ice of the once frozen rock had melted into three separate great oceans, all surrounded by a single landmass. One of the oceans was huge, covering nearly a third of the surface, while the other two oceans were of medium size in comparison, and nearly the same size as one another. This new world had become a temperate, habitable area with every resource life could possibly need to exist. Unlike Delcar, there was quite a lot of biome and terrain diversity, as the temperature varied wildly thorough the planet. And soon enough, life had begun to evolve within it. But among all of this life, only one species managed to attain sentience and purpose. - - - Whereas the origins of the pazeri consisted of peace and seeking to understand one another, the purians had been in war since the dawn of their existence. Primitive purian clans and tribes warred one another over resources, beliefs, physical differences and any reason one could think of. As millenia went by, the primitive clans and tribes slowly grew into countries and nations, yet their fighting never came to an end. Their clubs and slingshots became swords and bows; their reasons for fighting changed, nations rose and fell, yet the battles continued. Many great empires had risen over the years, going on glorious campaigns and conquering a great deal of the world, only to come crumbling apart. Whether their fall was caused by their allies betraying them, rebellions breaking in their own territory, or simply being the largest target mattered next to nothing in the end. All of these once great empires were left forgotten, as the purians cared little for their own history back then. But among all of these warring nations, there was one that never fell: The kingdom of Spetria. Spetria's origins began with a nameless empire that conquered a great deal of the world, just as how most others had. During their golden age, the nameless empire built a massive city-fortress within a strategic point, an island close to the coast in the greatest of Sanctum's three separate oceans. This fortress would eventually become known the great city of Continentals. The nameless empire then resumed its campaign to conquer the world, only to inevitably fail and slowly crumble apart like all others that had come before it. Yet, as the nameless empire fell, the city of Continentals did not. Though cut off from its empire, the city-fortress remained untouched and prosperous. For a time, its inhabitants were left confused after the fall of the nameless empire, but soon, they gathered themselves and became an independent nation. The first Spetrian king was crowned, and the city-fortress of Continentals became the Kingdom of Spetria. And as with all purians, the Spetrians too soon came to forget the name of the progenitor empire that created their great city of origin. That was how it became known as the nameless empire. Unlike the majority of the nations of Sanctum, the Spetrians avoided expanding their territory at all costs. This mindset was the main reason why their nation never fell. While it is true they occasionally left their homeland to raid neighboring nations and usurp growing threats, the borders of their small territory remained absolute. The strategic position of Continentals also led the Spetrians to victory on every battle they had to fight to defend their homeland. As the pride of Spetria and its warriors began to grow over the years, the Spetrians became one of the first purian nations to begin recording their history. One of their most prevalent recorded battles was when another one of the Sanctum's great empires rallied nearly all of their resources to launch a full-scale assault on the city-fortress of Continentals. Even with the Spetrian's extraordinary fighting tactics and their city's strategic position, there was no way they could win this battle. But Spetria would never fall. A Spetrian general had devised a brilliant strategic plan; almost all of their armed forces were to abandon the city via ships, with only a few remaining behind to try to defend their city. As the plan was set in motion, the enemy empire began the siege of Continentals, the few Spetrian forces within surrendered after only a few days. With nearly their entire armed force garrisoned in Continentals, the rest of the enemy empire's territory was left almost completely defenseless. Soon and inevitably, it began crumbling apart. But this empire's forces continued to remain garrisoned within the Spetrian city-fortress, as it had become a symbol of pride for all purians. The loss of their territory was a necessary sacrifice, and soon they would take all of it back. Or at least, that is what they believed. Suddenly, many other nations had begun to siege the city-fortress, in a opportunistic attempt to seize it for themselves. The enemy empire's forces were rapidly overwhelmed as they struggled to defend an area they were unfamiliar with. As a free-for all war to take the city-fortress raged on, the Spetrian forces that had been hiding out in the ocean for weeks finally returned to their homeland, and sent out a signal into the night sky. Witnessing the signal from their barred windows, the Spetrians whom had been imprisoned within Continentals after their surrender broke from their bondages, and overwhelmed the few guards that were still stationed to watch over them, as the majority of them had been forced to join the fight. After escaping from their prison, they proceeded to sabotage the enemy forces within the city-fortress, while their main force entered the city through secret passages known only to Spetrians. The enemy invaders had only known the city for a few weeks, and they had no idea how to use its strategic position and defenses to the fullest. Not only that, those invaders were also busy fending off more invaders. In just one night, the Spetrian forces managed to eliminate all enemy forces and reclaim their homeland, the city-fortress of Continentals, the pride of all purians. All but the name of the empire who dared to attack Spetria became recorded history, for their name deserved to be forgotten. The wars of Sanctum and Spetria did not end there, however. This was just one among thousands of battles that had been fought thorough the little recorded history they had. Purian technology and society continued to slowly progress worldwide, as per usual. Their swords and bows, after many more generations and battles, eventually became plasma and antimatter. And that was when it happened. - - - There was a country known as Harusar. Harusar, unlike Spetria, did not possess any special qualities. They fought for glory and power, like nearly all other nations of Sanctum. However, they were among the few that managed to conquer enough of the world to be considered a superpower. The inevitable fate that came upon all other superpowers too came upon them, as they began to lose battle after battle while rebellions broke out in their own provinces. As Harusian forces began to lose battle after battle, and Harusar's territory slowly reverted back to its original shape, a mysterious Harusian leader rose to power. This leader was incredibly intelligent, more so than any other before, and determined to not let their nation fall, no matter the cost. The leader began using every possible approach to preserve their nation's influence, forging alliances with other nations, creating truces with some of their enemies and maximizing the efficiency of their offense and defense. And so, under the mysterious leader's influence, Harusian forces managed to turn back the tide of war. The global conquest led by Harusar resumed, and seemed to snowball out of control. When Harusar's allies realized what was happening, it was far too late. Even when the elite Spetrian forces stepped in to try to handle the emerging global threat, Harusar stood victorious. Curiously, Harusian forces always left the city-fortress of Continentals alone, despite having many opportunities to launch an assault on it. After many years of war, Harusar had achieved what almost every previous nation in Sanctum had tried and failed to achieve: Absolute global conquest. However, their global conquest was not truly absolute, for there was still one nation Harusar had not conquered. One nation that they specifically had left for last, the Kingdom of Spetria. On a desperate last resort, Spetria had issued threats to detonate antimatter bombs all across the world. While this was not enough drive all purians to extinction, billions upon billions would lose their lives, and it would take centuries for their civilization and planet to recover. The Spetrians were even desperate enough to detonate one of these bombs within their own city, annihilating themselves along with the city that was the pride of their entire race. Understanding the consequences, the mysterious Harusian leader called off the assault on Continentals, and issued a truce with Spetria. And so, it happened. The endless wars on Sanctum had met their end. The mysterious leader had united almost all purians under one banner, and Harusar had become known as the United Purian Alliance, or UPA for short. Sanctum was united, it was no longer possible to fight. The purians began to experience the same aspect the pazeri had experienced for so long: Stagnancy. One may believe that with UPA's enormous territory, and the purian's lust for battle, there would soon be a rebellion that resulted in war and UPA's dispersion, but that would not be the case. The mysterious leader upheld peace within UPA's territory with an iron fist. A rebellion within Sanctum would never happen for as long as this leader existed. Surely, one day the leader would perish from old age, but would the purians be able to wait that long? Would Spetria, the most ancient of the purian warrior nations be able to wait? No, they would not. But ironically, it was not Spetria that made the first move. The seven supreme admirals, who had been individually appointed by the mysterious leader, all knew there was something off about this leader of theirs. While it is true that each admiral served an instrumental role during Harusar's global conquest, many questions remained. How could one purian succeed in conquering the world where so many others have failed? What should be done about Spetria? What does the future have in store for the purians? ... and just who really is this mysterious leader? And so, six of the seven supreme admirals arranged a meeting among themselves, behind the back of their mysterious leader... =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Extra content has been moved to the third post of this thread for better formatting. Scroll down to see it, it's still in the first page.