New Account Registration re-enabled - apparently the extension we use for ReCaptcha service had a configuration change and to utilize the more secure form it needed different parameters. We did not notice this when it occurred. Sorry folks!
A morphic black panther stands atop a high cliff, looking down at a large city, once more attempting to ascertain why they call it Crystal City. He peers at the huge concrete skyscrapers, the smoke stacks and the hundreds of miles of ash fault roads. He sighs softly,
“This planet is falling apart,” he mumbles as he wanders back towards his car, getting into the old, yet pristine vehicle. He starts the car and drives off onto a gravel road that leads back towards the city.
A few miles pass and the gravel road eventually merges into one of the ash fault roads that he could see from the cliff top. He was one of the few furs on this planet that believes nature was to come before technology, or at least work with nature, and one of the few that managed to keep it from disappearing completely. He frowns as the trees give away to small structures and then snorts unhappily as he spies a dreaded construction sign on the side of the road. Naturally, the traffic clogs up and slows to a crawl. The panther sighs at having to stop in the middle of traffic and then picks up a small device with a screen on it. It comes to life, displaying faces of his friends and family on it. He slides his finger across the screen, watching as the faces scroll until he reaches the top. His demeanor softens as he gazes at his wife, Adrei’s, picture a moment before tapping it. The screen goes blank for a moment, until a connected message appears on the screen, shortly followed by Adrei’s catlike face.
The face smiles, then speaks, “Joban! How are you doing, my dear?”
Adrei’s face wasn’t in time with her words; the com network was lagging again.
Joban’s smile widens, his wife could always make him smile, “I’m doing fine, Adrei. I just called to let you know that I will be late, they’re doing construction AGAIN.”
Adrei’s face lags again as the com signal dies out. Joban growls and beats the defenseless device against the passenger seat. He glances at it after a moment, the screen has gone black and the power indicator was flashing, signifying a dead battery. Joban tosses the com into the back seat and focuses on the heavy traffic ahead of him. He sighs and turns on the radio, moving through his preset stations until he finds something soothing. He tries to relax as he waits for the traffic to flow.
Adrei grumbles as the comlink with her husband dies. She doesn’t bother trying Joban again, chuckling as she imagines what he’s done to the poor comlink. She walks into the small kitchen in the apartment they live in and checks dinner,
“Good,” she muses to herself, “Should be ready by the time he comes home.”
She hums a soft tune to herself as she waddles back into the living room and looks quietly around the small apartment she and her husband lives in. It wasn’t too much; a small kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a veranda that looks out at the heart of the city. Adrei smiles quietly as she looks at herself in a full length mirror, her paws roaming over her protruding tummy.
She looks down at it as she feels the baby within her kicking, “Yes, yes… I’ll go rest for a little while, I promise!” She chuckles happily and strides to the couch, awkwardly taking a seat and purring quietly to her tummy, “You know, you still need a name, my son.” She leans her head back and sighs in contentment, her mind going back over the list of names she likes.
A low grumble floods thru a dark room, its only occupant barely lit by a flowing star field from an external window. The figure stirs, his hand smacking a button on a nearby table, the orange glow from the button illuminating the edge of what could be a military uniform.
He barks harshly, “Engineering! When the hell are you going to get that subspace unit online!? We need to get to our next target sometime this year!”
A voice responds, sounding a little scared, “Uh, it… uh… looks like we’ll be offline for approximately 4 more weeks, sir. But we are proceeding at warp towards our next targ—“
The figure stands, screaming at his com, “I don’t want to hear excuses! At this speed it will take us decades to cross that much space! Now get that unit online, before I use you as reactor shielding!”
“Y-yes! Yes, General A’reth! I’m working on it myself!”
The generals hand crashes down onto the button again, causing sparks to fly from the console. He closes his eyes, sighing as he picks up a portable com unit, pausing to take a deep breath. He manages to calm himself a little as he speaks into the com, “Repair crew to the generals quarters.”
Joban smiles over at his sleeping wife for a moment and then kisses her forehead softly, “I love you Adrei.” He slips silently out of bed, moving to the window and looking out at the city below. Most on his planet would love the view of the city core, claiming you could see it all. But not Joban. He would always argue that a view was a lake, trees or mountains in the distance. He watches a police car tear through the streets below.
“This city…” he sighs, “I hate this place.” He stares up at the faint, and very few stars visible through the glare of the city.
“Do you really want to leave the city, Joban?”
Joban turns quickly to see his wife sitting up in bed. He hangs his head a little, “Yes, my love. I don’t want our child to grow up in this…” He waves his paw towards the window, “he should know the forests, the ocean and the mountains! All the places WE used to go to, before this city’s growth exploded.”
His mate smiled, “I agree, that’s a good idea, but we can’t afford to move, my love. I promise we will show him all… of…” She pauses in mid sentence, her paw moving quickly to her stomach, “Oh my.” Adrei looks sharply up at Joban, and then winces in pain, as the bed gets soaked.
“Oh god!” exclaims Joban, “You- You… The baby??”
Adrei nods, looking uncertain, her paw still on her stomach, “I- I think so.” Joban manages to control his ensuing panic, running over to Adrei and helping her gently out of the bed. He leads her into the living room and helps her to get into her coat and shoes, grabs the already packed bags and gets her to the car.
“It’ll be okay, love!” he exclaims hysterically as he helps her into the car. Adrei can’t help but chuckle at her mates reaction. She gives up trying to calm him down as he zips out of the parking lot and whisks her off to the hospital.
“Sir? Sir? Please, wake up.”
Joban stirs and rouses, opening his eyes and looking around, “Wh- Why am I on the floor?”
A nurse is standing over him, chuckling, “You fainted sir, during the delivery. It’s okay, you’ll be alright, but I think someone wants to see you.” The nurse points over to the bed where Adrei is laying.
Joban focuses on the room now that he remembers where he is, the delivery room. He groans, “I fainted?” He stands and looks around, seeing his wife lying there, looking disheveled, but holding a little bundle. He strides to her side and kneels down, smiling and peeling back the blanket to see his son lying there.
He almost bursts into tears, “Oh, Adrei, we have a son! We have a son!!” he beams, then kisses Adrei happily. Adrei returns the kiss, being careful not to squish their new son, then as Joban stands, she holds out their new son for his inspection. He takes the newborn and peers down at him, purring happily as the child squirms around a little to get comfortable in his father’s arms. Joban sits on the bed next to his wife and snuggles with her and his new son. “You know, we need a name for him.”
Adrei nods and smiles, “Well, there’s always the name we decided on last year, before we were married?”
“What was that, your father’s middle name?” she ponders.
Joban nods, “Yes. We liked that name, and we haven’t had any luck otherwise, dear.”
Adrei hmms thoughtfully for a few moments, “Alright then, it’s settled.” She takes the baby, holding it out to look into his face, “Hello, little Zxarr.”
General A’reth grumbles quietly as he paces back and forth on the giant bridge of his ship, the Irisahnia. His gaze focuses on a floating hologram of a planet, slowly spinning in the middle of the huge room.
“Lieutenant Tu’vo! Time to— what did you call this planet, earlier?”
A wolf stands up, wincing in pain as he holds his bandaged side, “14 hours. The local populace calls it Auris, General.”
A grin spreads across A’reth’s face as the wolf winces. He turns to look at Tu’vo, “Next time, I’m sure you’ll get that drive operational a little faster?”
Tu’vo coughs, clutching his chest, “There will not be a next time, General.”
A’reth nods, “There better not be.” He strides to the command chair and takes a seat, glancing down at the control panel on the arm of the chair. He pauses, then taps a sequence of buttons, “All hands, this is General A’reth! 14 hours to target. I want ALL ships prepared and ready for the assault within the hour! All troops, report to your squad leaders. I want this planet, and I want it fast.” He smiles and ends his transmission, then looks over the technology report on the planet, smiling,
“This should be easy.”
“Oh! This is such a wonderful day, Joban! Look at the sky! I’m glad you convinced me to come back here!” Adrei gently bounces Zxarr in her lap, smiling happily as her new son giggles incessantly. Joban chuckles down at the two, “It’s been too long since we’ve come here, my love. Do you remember the last time we were here?”
Adrei nods happily, “Yes, of course! It was when you proposed to me. How could I forget that?”
Joban chuckles happily as he looks around the meadow. Nothing but grass for kilometers! He closes his eyes and looks up at the sun, letting the warmth wash over his black fur. A shadow washes over his face, making him open his eyes and look up as something blots out the sun. He peers up into the sky, then frowns, seeing no clouds… just something blotting out the sun. Joban looks to Adrei, who is also looking up, “What is it that, Joban?” Before the panther can answer a bright beam of light lances out from the shadow and strikes the ground to their west. Joban loses his footing and falls over as the earth trembles beneath them causing both adults to cry out in fear.
As Joban regains his composure, he looks to the west, where the beam struck, “What the hell was that?!” He can see nothing, so turns and helps Adrei up, “Come on, we need to get up higher.” He helps his mate to the car, which is parked next to a dirt road, buckling his child into a car seat. As he rounds the car to get to the driver’s door, he spies an orange glow coming from the west. He frowns and gets into the car, driving off down the road.
“Are you both okay?”
“Yes… Are you, Joban?”
Joban nods, “Yes.” He fiddles with his radio dial, but is unable to find any stations on the air, “I can’t find a station up…” He peers at his dead comlink, “Damn thing,” then looks back at Adrei, “Okay we should be able to see what happened at the top of this hill.”
A moment later, he pulls to the side of the road, his car coming to a stop. He and his wife stare out the car window in disbelief. Crystal City, their home, is gone. There is nothing left but a giant crater, with a few burning fires. Oddly enough the fires don’t seem to be emitting any smoke. The pair glance at each other, speechless as they look on, “Our… home,” Joban finally says, “It’s gone.” The pair sit and stare quietly for a few minutes, starting to come to terms with what they are seeing, when something in the sky pulls Adrei’s attention away.
Adrei rolls her window down and leans out, peering up into the sky. A monstrous ship was slowly making its way over them. She gets out, staring up. Joban looks over as his wife exits the car, “Adrei?” He leans over, to see her looking straight up, then leans forwards and looks out of the windshield to see what his wife is looking at. He exits the car as well, looking up, “What the hell is that thing?” Joban examines at ship, looking from one end to the other, but this attempt is futile, the ship is so long, it seems to disappear into haze of the atmosphere.
“Come on Adrei, let’s get ou—“
The radio in the car leaps to life; a strange language comes over the speakers for a moment, before gradually melting into their language.
“To the inhabitants of Auris Prime. This is General A’reth speaking to you on behalf of the Great Order. This planet and its inhabitants are now property of the Great Order. We have just devastated your largest city; any resistance will be met with similar force. Shortly, troops will be appearing in your cities and towns, obey them and you might just live.”
The transmission cuts out, the radio returns to static. The two panthers stand there momentarily, staring at each other.
Adrei finally exclaims, “It’s- It’s got to be a trick!”
Joban looks back up at the ship, “It’s… not a trick, love.”
He gets back in the car and looks from the city, to the bushes, then back again.
“We cannot go back, we’ve got to hide. Maybe we can find others.”
He starts the car, “Get in, Adrei.”
His wife nods, taking a last look at the city they spent most of their lives in, then gets back into the car and checks on Zxarr, who is sound asleep. She looks at Joban, leans against him and cries, burrowing her face in his shoulder. Joban pauses to look at the burning crater and then drives off and then finding the first dirt road that he knows leads into the forests, he turns down it.
He looks over at his wife, “Everything is going to be okay.”
He forces a grin across his muzzle before returning his gaze to the dirt road ahead. A tree, weakened from the quake, falls in front of the speeding car. Joban spins the wheel and jams on the breaks as he tries to avoid the tree, and then, blackness.
“They’ve done what?” General A’reth calmly asks.
“Uh, they’ve, uh… Set up a resistance, they killed a squadron of shock troops,” replied the com unit in A’reth’s quarters. A’reth seethed on the inside as he tried to keep his cool while he spoke to the lieutenant on the com, “Very well. Tell your troops to get out of that city.”
A’reth takes a few long breaths, then calmly presses another button on the com, a reply comes through almost immediately, “Bridge, how may I serve you, General?” “As soon as the troops evacuate the city they’re in, destroy it.”
The com crackles, “Yes sir!” then goes off.
The General stands and walks to a window, watching the planet below spin lazily. His face is dimly lit in the planets reflected light. He looks at his reflection in the window, tracing a hand over a scar on his forehead, he was getting too old for this, but the Order must continue. He steps back to his communications unit, tapping another sequence on the buttons. A moment later the com unit comes to life, “Security. How may I server you, general?”
The General holds a mute button down as he puts on his stern face, before grumbling into the com, “Go to the bridge, I want Lieutenant Tu’vo in Shock armour, he’s to be down on the planet in person. He’s in charge. Maybe he’ll be a little more effective if it’s HIS life is on the line!”
A’reth taps off the com lightly, then yanks his computer terminal off his desk and tosses it across the room. He sighs quietly as he takes his communicator from his belt, “Repair crew to the Generals Quarters.”
Joban groans and wakes up in a damp, murky cave. He coughs and holds his ribs, “OW!” He growls and looks over himself in the dim light. His chest is covered with bandages, as is his head and left foot, “What happened? Where am I?” He winces in pain as he tries to get up and then hears a familiar voice, making him pause and look up.
“You’re safe here, love.” Adrei steps into the light and smiles, holding Zxarr.
“We’re at a camp. A number of us found our way here and started making a temporary home in these caves. They’ve tried to find others and I think they are trying to form some kind of resistance.”
She lies down on the blanket with her mate and holds him tightly while her son snuggles between the two. She starts to cry. Joban holds his wife firmly despite the pain it causes his ribs,
“Shhhh… It’s all right, my love. We’ll be alright, I’m sure.”
They lie there a moment, and then Joban looks up as he hears someone enter the cave. A voice speaks from the shadows.
“Well, hello there, glad to see you’re awake.” Another panther steps into the light, “My name is Quroth, I’ve been designated the leader, though I don’t know why they picked me.”
He offers a paw to Joban. Joban takes the paw in his and shakes it, “Pleasure. What the hell is going on?” he asks flatly.
Quroth sits down nearby, looking a little sad, “Crystal City was destroyed. I was on a flight out of the city and saw the whole thing. The sun looked like it had been eclipsed by the moon, then a beam of light came down from the sky and the city just, collapsed into a crater. All the passengers were on one side of the plane looking out.” He pauses a moment and looks over at the sleeping Zxarr, “The plane landed on a nearby road and we all hustled asses into the forests.”
Joban sighs, “What about that… General, guy. The one that made that announcement?”
“Well,” Quroth replied, “We’ve heard from some furs that ‘they’ are rounding us up, but we don’t know who ‘they’ are! The description we were given is a large, black mechanized…. somethings. No one has been able to give us a good description.”
Joban looks around the cave, his eyes now better adjusted to the dim light. At this point, he didn’t realize just how much time he’d be spending in this place. Joban reaches over to Adrei and Zxarr, pulling them close.
A light breeze blows through the forest as a band of panthers wait silently in the trees. Below them, a guard detachment from the Great Order marches through, in another attempt at locating an encampment. Joban holds up his paw, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. He watches the guards closely for a moment and then quickly drops his paw, growling as he and the others leap down from the trees, ambushing the guards. Startled, the guards pull their weapons up, but it’s too late for them. It was a quick fight as the panther’s fire with accuracy; each panther knew their target and took them out in a well executed strike. It was over as fast as it began, making Joban smile, “Collect weapons, and any tools you find. You know what to do with the bodies.” He pauses and looks down at one of the guards upon hearing a sharp breath. He kneels down, placing his gun to the guards head, “You will not have this planet. We are not your property.” The guard looks back, “The Order will preva—, “Joban fires, cutting the guards speech off mid sentence. The panther stands, looking around at the scene as the others dispose of the bodies. He collects a few of the tools and weapons, disappearing into the bushes as he and the others return to camp.
Joban and his detachment appear at the entrance to their camp a short time later. A rather large panther turns and smiles to them, counting to make sure they’re all there, before yelling, “Joban! So they still can’t hit you, hmm? That’s sad, an old panther like you outwitting the Imperial Guard.”
Joban smirks, “Awww, shut up Quroth…” He grins and gives him a hug, “Now, where’s my son? How is he doing at the target range?”
“Hah, like father like son it seems. I don’t think he’s missed a target by more than a few millimeters. He really seems to want to impress you, Joban.”
Joban smiles and wanders through some thick bushes into a series of caves. He navigates this maze of tunnels with ease as he makes his way to the target area. He quietly peeks into the cave, where a makeshift target range has been erected. He spies his 3 year old, nearly fully grown as he holds a sniper’s rifle, and with perfect accuracy removes a dummy’s head at the far end of the cave.
Joban sighs softly and closes his eyes, muttering quietly, “He’s 3 years old. He shouldn’t be using a gun; he should be playing with his friends, going to school, having birthdays…”
A paw comes to rest on his shoulder, “I know, my friend,” Quroth says, making an attempt to comfort Joban, “I know. Someday soon, we’ll free our people from slavery and reclaim the planet.”
“You always say that, Quoroth. I used to believe it, too.” Joban smiles at Quoroth as he walks away shaking his head, then looks back into the firing range, but Zxarr is nowhere to be found. He steps into the cave and looks down the other exit, “Must’ve gone to our tent…” he muses, then walks down the stone corridor to find his son.
Zxarr quietly sits down in their family’s tent as not to disturb his sleeping mother. He smiles at her sleeping form and begins to dismantle his rifle, putting it back into the case in which he received it. A moment later the tent flap opens and Joban crawls in, Zxarr smiles, speaking quietly and pointing at his mother, “Hello, father. You’ll have to be quiet, mom is having a nap.”
Joban grins at his son and reaches out to give him a big fatherly hug, to which Zxarr accepts, “I missed you, dad. Every time you go out I worry that I won’t see you again.”
“Zxarr, don’t worry, I’ll never leave you. I promise,” his father purrs.
Zxarr releases his father from the hug before putting the rest of his rifle back into its case. He beams, “Did you hear how I did on my marksmanship?”
Joban nods, “Yes! I’m proud of you, my son! One day you will be able to come with me, when I am away fight—“
Joban falls silent as he hears shouting echoing through the tunnels.
“Zxarr, stay here with your mother!” He runs off to see what the commotion is all about.
Zxarr looks out after his father a moment, glances back at his sleeping mother and then follows his father, keeping to the shadows. The young panther scurries through the tunnels, keeping a distance from his father until he watches him leave the cave system. He looks to make sure the coast is clear from the other direction, then just as he’s about to peek around the corner, a bolt of energy flies past him and impacts the opposite wall, creating a large crater. He gasps and flails backwards in terror, crouching down and breathing shakily, his body quivering in fright.
Joban rushes outside, weapon drawn, ready for anything… he hoped. He watches the scene for only a second, but it feels like a lifetime to him. An enemy troop transport has crashed through the trees at the entrance; there are literally hundreds of enemy soldiers flooding out of the trees, firing at anything and everything. Some of his people are fleeing, only to be killed in the process, others can be heard in the cave system, trying to get out their emergency tunnels. He notes several furs firing back, in an obviously losing battle. His anger boils out, “NO!!!”
He screams as he runs out firing madly at several of the enemy soldiers, his eyes wild with rage. He takes down four of them in his surprise attack before the others notice him tearing across through the trees. He feels something slam into his back, knocking him to his feet. His body feels numb, he can’t move. He looks up in time to see a soldier, who gives him a look of disgust before he slams the butt of his weapon into Joban’s head.
“Is he still alive?” a strange, metallic sounding voice speaks.
Another voice replies, both are unfamiliar to the panther, “Yes, sir. His injuries are healing and he should be ready for the experiment in a day or so.” Joban opens his eyes, squinting, as a bright light is shining down into his face. His head hurts, and he tries to get up, but something stops him. He tries to move his head to see what is going on, but finds that he’s been strapped to a bed. He struggles painfully against his restraints and cries out, then flops against the bed, panting and terrified, unable to see anything. He hears that metallic voice once again, “OH! You’re awake, are you? Good. How do you feel?”
“Who’s there?” replies Joban.
The light flicks off above Joban and he looks around the room silently, until he sees what he thinks is another of his species as its head comes into view. As his eyes adjust to the light he gapes in horror, another of his species is right, but he has been fitted with several metallic parts. Half his head has been removed, a chrome plate replacing it and his chest and arms are littered with bio-implants. He looks at the face a moment longer.
“G’thul? Is that you???”
”Yes, Joban! It’s nice to see you again. How are you?”
Joban panics a little, then looks over his body for similar replacement parts, before looking back up at his friend, “What? What happened to you??”
“Nothing!” He smiles, then looks down at himself, “Well, nothing bad, at least! I’ve simply been improved! Now I realize the importance of the Great Order and why they are here.” He smiles down at Joban, “and soon, you will realize this as well.”
Joban looks puzzled, “Wha-what are you talking about?”
“Rest, explanations will come soon, my old friend.” At that note, he departs from view, a moment later a door is heard swishing shut, then locking.
Joban calls out, “No! Wait! Come back, G’thul!”
He pauses, waiting for a response. He looks at the ceiling as two things pop into his mind, he worries, “Zxarr… A’drei…”
He closes his eyes and fights the tears that are welling up inside him.
Zxarr awakes and groans loudly, his head groggy. He attempts to see where he is, but his vision is badly blurred and his head is throbbing.
He sighs and coughs, “D-Dad? Mom? Are you here?”
No response. He tries to focus on an object, but can’t make out what he’s looking at. His vision slowly clears and the throbbing in his head begins to lighten. Finally he’s able to see enough to realize where he is and that he’d rather not have known. He starts to panic as he sees a metal bunk on the other wall, then turns and sees what he thinks is a door. Stepping towards it slowly, he holds his paws out until they make contact; cold, hard metal.
He shivers as fear settles in, “H-Hello? Is there anyone out there?”
He blinks a few more times in a futile attempt to get his eyes to work better, then perks his ears forward as he hears footsteps outside the door, getting louder. He panics and tries to find a place to hide, but just ends up cowering in the corner, shaking and starting to cry, “Mom! Dad! Please help me!” he shakily yells.
The footsteps stop and he hears the door whirr then slide open with a soft hiss, he blinks as bright light swarms into the cell.
“Is this the one?” a voice grumbles
“Yes, bring it along,” answers another.
Zxarr, terrified, screams, “Stay away! Who are you? Where’s my mother and fath—“
A sharp cuff across his head silences him, as well as knocking him out. The two guards at the door grab the little panther and drag his unconscious body down a long metal hallway.
One of the guards speaks, “Great! I hope you didn’t kill him, the Commander will be very annoyed.”
“Oh, he’s fine. C’mon.”
Zxarr wakes up, again with a headache, but at least his vision seems to have returned. He blinks and looks around the room groggily. He’s in a small room, it’s quite plain; the walls are some sort of metal and are perfectly smooth looking. Zxarr blinks as he tries to stand, but is held into his chair by… something. He struggles, but is only rewarded with a shock from the force field that holds him in place. The chair suddenly spins around to face the other wall, in which a window has been placed. Looking through the window he can see a large round room, about 20 feet in diameter, a similar looking chair situated in the center. Someone is in the chair, but it is turned away from him so he cannot see. Just as his fears overtake his curiosity, he sees activity in the other room. Two large soldiers all dressed up in large metal suits come tromping in, closely followed by some furless creature. It’s about 6’ tall and is furless, except for some on his head, and is wearing a plain gray jump suit. Zxarr quirks his eyebrow at this strange person, trying to figure out what he is, when the chair in the other room turns, pulling his attention to the occupant. His muzzle gapes in horror as the face is revealed to him,
“MOM!!” he cries out.
His mother doesn’t look, she barely moves for the fact she has spent the last few days being tortured for information and beaten and raped by the guards in her cell. She has no idea her son is watching unable to see through the thick, tinted glass between them.
Zxarr struggles violently against the force field, the pain it causes him goes unfelt as he screams, “Let her go! Mom! MOM!”
He watches helplessly, the restraining field making him quite sore as it zaps him repeatedly. The pain eventually gets too much to bear and he stops, panting heavily as he looks out the window at the furless man as he begins to speak to Zxarr’s mother. He strains to hear what he’s saying, but cannot.
Zxarr watches as his mother shakes her head to the question posed and then gapes in horror as she’s struck across the face with a short whip. He winces and starts to cry, yelling out her name until his throat fails him, “Momma!! MOMMA!!”
Inside the room the two guards stand silently by, occasionally looking at the window to which Zxarr is behind, then one of their com units bleep and some muffled words are spoken. The guard speaks to the furless one, “Commander Hovath, the General has issued orders concerning this female.”
Hovath looks at the guard in question as he is handed a small, electronic message pad. He reads it silently and nods, then hands it back to the guard.
Hovath smiles with a mock sweetness to Adrei, “Well my dear, we’ve been given final orders on what to do with you… So are you going to tell me where the other resistance cell is located in your area, or do I have to carry out my orders?”
Adrei spits in the Commanders face, splattering spittle and blood on his skin, “Go to hell, you bastard.”
Hovath pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and wipes his face off.
“Hmmm… I suppose you are going to be stubborn, unlike your son. He told us everything, just before we spaced him.”
Adrei looks at Hovath in horror, “You bastard!! He was only a child!!” She struggles violently, growling deeply, as the restraining field snaps and pops against her fur, starting to singe it a little.
Hovath chuckles quietly at the helpless panther, then sighs and looks at the two guards, “This one is… unresponsive. Carry out the orders.”
Both the guards salute and then all three walk out thru a nearby door.
Back in the other room, Zxarr tries once again to get up and stumbles forward in surprise, banging into the window with a thud.
“Ow!” he grumbles as he rubs his head, glancing back at the chair and wondering why he got out this time? He stands and looks out the window, then starts banging on the glass, “Mom!! MOM!!!” he calls out.
From inside, Adrei doesn’t respond, she still cannot hear or see him. He throws himself against the window repeatedly, and about the only thing that’s going to break here is his arm. He winces in pain and gives up, pressing his muzzle and hands against the window. He hears a loud thunk and then the entire wall of the room Adrei is in begins opening and his eyes slowly open wide as he sees what is going on. Behind the door is nothing… but a view of the planet from orbit and a few stars. He watches helplessly as his mother is slowly asphyxiated. The glass suddenly becomes transparent allowing Adrei to see her son banging at the window. The blood drains from her face as her heart sinks. She mouths the words, ‘I love you’ to Zxarr and then the restraints release her and she is caught in the force of the rushing wind and is blown out into space, flailing helplessly until she disappears from view.
Zxarr stares at the open door for a moment and then falls to his knees before collapsing in a heap. His face goes blank and he just sits there, unwilling and unable to move, staring at the floor. He doesn’t even blink when the guards come to take him back to his cell.
Almost four months had passed since Zxarr witnessed his mother’s death. Still trying recover, the Order had used this time to experiment on him, he didn’t know what they were doing and he didn’t care. He hadn’t seen his father since he was taken from the cave and assumed he had been killed as well. Every morning for the past week he obediently wandered thru the halls of their massive ship to the lab, a guard trailing him, for the daily injection, scan or implant surgery. He didn’t care; he couldn’t feel the pain anymore, he was numb all over. One morning, the guard did not arrive; he stood by the door, waiting for hours, then went and sat on his bed and had another silent conversation with himself.
“Why? Why am I letting them do this to me?” he thought, then sighed, “Because I don’t care anymore? Yes, that was it… wasn’t it? Yes. But, why?” He pondered a moment, then the memories flooded back, he saw his mother flailing wildly, that terrified look on her face as she was blown out into space. He put his paws over his face and cried, cried for what seemed like hours, for the first time since he witnessed the atrocity.
Commander Hovath smiled as he watches all this on a monitor, then slaps a button on the console next to him, speaking slowly into it.
“He’s ready. Bring him.”
Zxarr stands up suddenly as the door slides open, his usual guard, plus three others stood there.
“I’m not coming.” Zxarr stated flatly.
“Oh yes you are, my friend.” The guard replied as he stepped in and grabbed for his wrists. The guard had no idea what hit him next exactly, as Zxarr spun around and swinging out his leg as it made contact with the guard’s head. The guard stumbles backwards and collides with the wall, flopping to the bed, then blinking and looking up at the panther.
“What the hell?” He looks at the other guards, “Stun him, dammit!!”
The other guards raise their weapons and fire. Zxarr, trapped in his small cell, makes an attempt to get out of the way, but has nowhere to go and flops to the ground, unconscious. He is dragged down the hall to his usual lab and strapped into the table.
Hovath frowns as he sees his subject unconscious and snaps at the guards, “Dammit! I told you I wanted him conscious!”
“Sorry sir,” the lead guard replies as he rubs his bruised head, “He resisted.”
Hovath actually smiles, then laughs at the guards misfortune, “Get out of my sight, morons.”
The guards leave, grumbling as Hovath attaches several small devices to Zxarr’s temples.
“There we go, now you just need to wake up.”
He sighs and turns to look at a computer terminal, reviewing some documentation he’d been writing a few days ago, waiting for the panther to return to consciousness.
A few minutes later, Zxarr stirs and comes to, groaning and sighing as he sees where he is. Without turning, he speaks softly, “Hello Hovack.”
Hovath looks surprised, “Good morning, Zxarr, the name is Hovath, by the way. You know, this is the first time in months you’ve spoken! I think a celebration is in order.”
“Whatever,” came the reply.
Hovath sighs, “You know, you could’ve just joined the Orders guard attachment and gotten past all the experimentation you’ve been through.”
“Just… get it over with.”
Hovath shrugs, “Have it your way.”
Hovath turns and taps a few keys on his computer terminal, then smiles and looks at Zxarr, grinning as he speaks, “Bye,” then taps the start key.
Zxarr looks up at the Commander, “What do you mea—“ He winces momentarily and then his face goes blank, he lies there, staring at the ceiling, the machine slowly destroying his mind, filling it with the evil that is the Order.
The Commander looks at the status screen, “Four hours? Heh. I hope he survives this, I’d hate to have done all this for nothing.”
He sighs and returns to his reading.
Four hours later, just as Hovath is releasing the restraints, Zxarr wakes up. He watches Hovath until his restraints are removed, then sits up and looks at the commander.
“What are my orders, Commander?” he states blankly.
Hovath smiles, then looks over at one of his many monitors, “Report to Experimental unit 905, section 8. You’ll find it on deck—,” Hovath is cut off as Zxarr nods, “Deck 415, room 7488. Yes, Commander!” He slips off the bed, and runs out the door.
Hovath smiles, “Ah, another new recruit,” then taps his com, “General A’reth, Zxarr is ready and on his way.”
His com replies with A’reth’s voice a moment later, “Excellent. I want a report from you on my desk by tomorrow morning on your new procedure.
“Yes, sir!” Hovath replies, clicking off his com. He sighs, “Damn reports.”
Zxarr double-times down the hallway, trotting past several of his own people, all in cells, completely ignoring their cries of anguish and calls for help. His face is blank, his emotions solid, they had brainwashed him, trapping his old mind deep within him. It struggled, imprisoned in the depths of his psyche, able to see what was going on, but do nothing to control it. It screamed loudly as Zxarr was taken thru combat training, shown how to fight, how to survive and how to kill without mercy. It shrieked, trying to be free, wanting control of him back the day he landed on his home world, it looked on in horror, beating against its prison walls as Zxarr emotionlessly killed his own kind, destroyed towns and cities. It silenced the day Zxarr put a gun to a helpless child’s head and fired.
“Two years ago, you were just a runt in a uniform! And now look at you Zxarr! You’re a Lieutenant Commander!” Commander H’raal smiled, “I knew you’d go far!”
Zxarr smiled, “Thank you, Commander. I am happy you are pleased with my performance, sir.”
“Why wouldn’t I be? You crushed the resistance on three planets already! But we have a special task for you now, and we need someone we can trust.”
Zxarr nodded to the Commander, “That would be me, sir.”
H’raal grinned, “Excellent! Well, I don’t have all the details, but report to Commander Hovath tomorrow, aboard the Irisahnia. Dismissed.”
“Of course sir,” Zxarr bows slightly, turns and marches out of H’raal’s quarters, sighing softly, feeling a little tired, he calmly walks along the bunker corridor, wondering to himself why they’d want a seasoned soldier back on the command ship. He thought back to the way he used to be, two years ago, before he realized how the Great Order would bring the universe together, before he realized that all those planets out there were falling apart, how they needed Order. He arrives at his quarters and enters, looking around quietly; it is a small, metal room, with no windows. It has a chair and table on the far wall; overtop of them sits a metal bunk, with a thin mattress. There is a replicator for food and a computer terminal and com device set into the wall above it. Sitting down at the table he contemplated why he’d be reassigned to the flagship? Surely he wasn’t officer material of that stature, he was a grunt that was still alive after 2 years of battles throughout the galaxy and knew how to survive. He sighs, then climbs up into his bunk, and quickly falls asleep.
Zxarr awakes in the middle of a nightmare, screaming… Then sighs and holds his head in his paws and tries to relax for a moment.
He breathes deeply, “It was only a dream. It was only a dream,” he repeats to himself.
After calming himself down he hops off of his bed and checks the time, 5am.
“Well, no time like the present, I’ve always been told.”
He grabs his bag and packs his uniforms, then without looking back, leaves his quarters and heads to the shuttle pad. Along the way, he sees a child being taken into a newly constructed laboratory, kicking and screaming. He pauses, watching the child as something inside him seems to wake up, but only for an instant. He shakes his head then continues on his journey, a few minutes later arriving at the shuttle pad and boarding a transport shuttle.
The android pilot looks at Zxarr blankly, “Transit pass,” it states.
Zxarr slips the pass across the scanner and leans back as the shuttle’s engines power up and lift off the ground, taking to the skies. He watches out the window as the atmosphere dissipates and fades from view, fading into the inky blackness of space.
The pilot beeps, “Approximate travel time 1 hour and 42 minutes, distance to target thirty two thousand eight hundred forty one light years. Would you care to listen to som—?”
Zxarr glances at the pilot speaking quickly, “Mute!” The pilot ceases talking and returns to just flying the ship. Zxarr starts to nod off, his mind having forgotten the dream, but something inside him keeps bringing back images of the child being taken into a lab. He looks out the window, just in time to see a tear in the fabric of space and time form as the shuttles faster than light drive systems power for the trip. He closes his eyes and tries to fall asleep; eventually he manages to. The shuttle maneuvers into the tear and in a blinding flash, both the shuttle and tear disappear.
The trip is rather uneventful, as quad-space travel usually is, and as the shuttle comes out of a second rift into normal space, Zxarr wakes from the sudden jolt of deceleration. He yawns and looks out the window, spying the huge Starhavoc class cruiser Irisahnia in the distance; it grows in the window as the shuttle flies closer, until he can’t see anything except the massive vessel. A moment passes before the pilot turns the ship towards one of its shuttle bays, slowly sliding through the air shield and settling onto a landing pad.
The pilot quips quickly, “Have a nice day.”
Zxarr frowns at the android and exits the vehicle, looking around the hangar. He stops as he sees someone familiar, but can’t place him. He looks him over carefully, padding closer. He was a panther, just like Zxarr but has been modified by the Order, having a few metal devices attached to his body and a small plate on his forehead.
He steps closer, observing no rank insignia, “Do I know you, sir?”
“Of course you do, my son.” The panther states, without opening his muzzle
Zxarr blinks and cocks his head to the side, looking puzzled, “Son!? Why do you call me that? My father is dead.”
Joban shakes his head, “He is not, for I am your father. It is good to see you again, Zxarr. I am aware that you may not remember me.”
Zxarr takes a step back, finally noticing that this panthers muzzle did not open when he was speaking, yet he could hear his voice as plain as day, “How is it that you are speaking with me?”
Joban smiles, but doesn’t answer his question, “We have a lot to catch up on, my son. But that can wait; you need to get to your duties. I will talk to you again soon.” With that, his father fades from view, vanishing before Zxarr’s eyes.
Zxarr stands there for a moment, wondering quietly if it had just been a dream. He notices a guard watching him, which makes him vacate the area quickly, trotting off to the nearest exit that leads to the main corridor of the ship. His mind is still focused on the previous encounter as he bumps into a guard and prisoner while going around the corner, knocking them both flat on their rear ends. The guard starts spewing expletives as he gets up, then notices Zxarr’s rank, making him quickly come to attention,
Zxarr frows at the guard, then looks down at the prisoner. A female panther, not unlike his species is lying on the floor sobbing quietly. A memory flashes through his mind, something he hasn’t thought of in years. The face of a female panther? But who was it. He could clearly see this panthress in his mind’s eye, but couldn’t remember. The thought passes a moment later and Zxarr growls at the guard, “Look where you’re going next time!” He grumbles and storms off in the wrong direction, his anger causing him to push all the distractions from his mind.
He makes his way along the massive corridor made inside the central spine of the ship for a few minutes before stopping and looking back, realizing that he has no idea where he’s going. He steps over to the wall and taps a computer terminal, “Room assignment for serial number CA5488?”
The computer pauses a moment, then displays his assigned room, along with a map and directions. He sighs to himself and starts off in the opposite direction. A short time later, he arrives at his room, a lab. He frowns, thinking, “These aren’t my quarters.” He shakes his head quietly, not exactly what he wanted to see, another lab, but enters anyway and looks around.
A familiar voice speaks from the shadows, “Zxarr! Welcome back!”
Zxarr looks to the direction of the voice, “Commander Hovath?”
Hovath walks into the light and smiles as he strides up to Zxarr, “It’s nice to see you again; I’ve been following your career! You’ve done well, which is why I requested you back here.”
“May I know why, sir?”
Hovath grins looking like a true mad scientist as he speaks, “We are going to make you into the best soldier ever. We’ve known you had the right DNA for this procedure since we first saved you, but you had to be worthy of it! So we let you join the guard and waited to see if you survived.”
Zxarr raises an eyebrow, “I did survive and more than that, I became the best.” He adds, “Sir.”
“Of course, of course, but we are going to make you even better.”
Zxarr, being the obedient soldier he is, just nods, “I live to serve the Order.”
Hovath smiles, “Excellent, then I will see you tomorrow morning, 0800 on deck 451, just below engineering. There’s a new lab there you can’t miss it.”
Zxarr nods, “Of course sir.”
Hovath holds out a small data pad to Zxarr, “this is your assignment for quarters. Relax; you have a big day tomorrow! Dismissed.”
Zxarr accepts the padd and nods, turning quietly and trotting out of the room. He walks a few feet down the hall, and upon hearing the door swish shut, stops. He looks at the pad and sighs, looking to see what tiny place he’s being sent to now. He blinks in surprise,
“Officers quarters? Now that’s more like it!”
He walks quickly off, feeling a little better after seeing his room assignment, but he can’t help wondering what he’s in for tomorrow. He passes several others on his way and even smiles as he enters his quarters. A carpeted floor, a huge couch, a second room with a bed, tables, chairs, a holovid unit, even down to flowers. He steps farther in, allowing the door to close, “Yeah. Now this is more deserving.” He chuckles to himself and flops down on the couch, sinking into the softness. He looks at the holovid unit and then speaks, “Computer. Can you show me the technical specs for engineering, deck 451?”
The computer gives him an annoying error beep, “Engineering level, deck 451 is classified level 0 clearance.”
Zxarr doesn’t give up, “Can you show me a map of the engineering level?”
The computer responds by bringing up a 3D view of the engineering level, but where deck 451 should be, there is nothing; just a big empty space.” The panther frowns and then sighs, “I guess they really don’t want me to know until tomorrow.” He shrugs and then asks, “Just pick a random frequency from the entertainment net.” The computer starts showing a news style program, all geared to how the Great Order is helping lost planets find their way. He relaxes on the couch, somewhat happy to be where he is for the moment.
Zxarr finds himself floating in a round room. He looks around, but there is very little detail he can see. As he looks beneath him to the floor, he can see a chair, with someone in it. A panthress, not unlike the one he saw in the corridor previously. He tries to speak to her, but finds he cannot. Without warning, a door opens to reveal empty space. The panthress looks up at him, moving as if time had slowed. Her face is familiar, yet he cannot place it. Time starts to accelerate back to its normal speed as he is forced to watch this panthress be washed out into space, a scream echoes through his mind…
Zxarr wakes up in fright, still hearing the scream echoing and nearly falls out of his bed. He sits there, shaking, the dream still vivid in his mind, his eyes darting around the room as his wakeful mind tries to take over. He starts to calm down, glancing at the clock; 0655. He takes a moment to gather himself, pushing the dream back into his subconscious. The clock flips to 0658 as he gets up and walks to the replicator. He stares at it for a few minutes, shaking his head at the fact officers seem to get tons of other choices for meals, before replicating something and having his meal.
The computer reminds him at 0750 of his orders and the location of the lab. He gets up and pads out, having barely touched his meal. He finds the closest lift and enters it,
“Access required.” The lift responds.
Zxarr swipes his data card over a sensor and the lift makes a cheerful bleep and then begins accelerating.
“Time to destination: 2 minutes and 3 seconds.” The lift chirps cheerfully.
He looks over the Data pad he was given last night, seeing if there was any information he could get on what his assignment is. Nothing. He finds himself staring at the location marker on lift map, watching his little blip move through the ship until the lift comes to a stop and the doors swish open. Stepping out into the engineering deck, Zxarr looks around the massive room. It must be about 400 meters across, in the center is a pulsing white orb, a white hole, the power source for the ship and at the moment, is settled neatly within grava-metric clamps. It’s about half the size of the room. His pad chirps at him as it complains about being late and he runs to the engineering lift and hits the down button, slowly it disappears into the dark recesses of the floor, then emerges in a bright white room. It has a large transparent tank in the center of the room. Strange looking equipment is placed all around it, but nothing looks even slightly familiar to Zxarr. He does note that there seems to be a one way mirror on the wall, right next to a door, which is where Hovath is standing, speaking through the open door to someone Zxarr cannot see.
Hovath turns from the other fur and smiles at Zxarr, “Ah, excellent.” He steps over to the tank and waves Zxarr closer, “Come, come…”
Zxarr proceedes down a few metal steps and stops across the tank from the Commander. He looks into the empty tank and up at the Commander, “Sir? Why am I here?”
Hovath smiles, “You’ll see. I think you will like it, my friend.”
Zxarr holds back a frown as he wonders why Hovath is being so nice, “Yes, sir.”
Hovath aims a small scanner device towards Zxarr and looks at the readouts before proceeding back to the door and conversing quietly with someone in the other room. The Commander turns and smiles at Zxarr as he returns to the tank, “Please my friend, lie down.” He waves his hand over the tank.
Zxarr looks at the Commander a moment, then back into the empty tank. He considers his options; 1. He lies down. 2. He doesn’t lie down, gets into a fight and ends up in the tank anyway. He nods, then climbs into the tank and lies down, looking up at the commander,
Hovath looks to Zxarr, “Don’t worry, I’ll explain the process in a moment.”
“Process? What proc—“
His question is cut short as a transparent steel cover slams over the tank. He looks at the Commander, “What the hell? What’s going on?”
Hovath ignores Zxarr and starts going over a few readouts on a terminal next to the tank. Then speaks to the computer,
“Computer, begin sequence.”
The computer responds, “Sequence starting.”
Hovath looks into the tank as a flow of clear liquid starts to fill it up. Zxarr panics and starts banging on the lid of his coffin, “Let me out! I’m going to drown in here!!”
Hovath grins, “Don’t worry, you can breathe that liquid, it’s oxygenated. You’ll be fine.” He holds up a syringe, “Do you know what this is?” He shows Zxarr a syringe with a silver liquid in it.
Zxarr shakes his head as he watches the tank fill.
Hovath smiles, “No. We’re not really sure what it is ourselves, but we know where it came from; a being of great power. We’ve been searching for someone who can accept this, someone who has just the right DNA pattern coded into their genes. You have what we believe is the key.”
Zxarr bangs on the lid, “It’s getting too high! I can’t… I can’t,” he takes in his last breath of air and holds it as the liquid completely fills the tank. He can still see Hovath, who is preparing the liquid, injecting it into a device on the side of the tank.
Hovath speaks loudly, but Zxarr can’t hear, “You, my friend will be the first shapeshifting soldier in the Great Order. When this process is complete, we will have transformed you into a living liquid, capable of just about anything.”
Zxarr finally can hold his breath no longer and his body forces him to take a breath. He sucks in the liquid, then spasms and starts coughing as the liquid fill his lungs. After a minute of the unsettling feeling of drowning, he starts to get used to breathing liquid and calms down, a little surprised at still being alive. Hovath nods, “There will be some discomfort. The process will take about 4 months; you will be asleep from a sedative placed in the liquid in a few minutes.” Zxarr looks out of the tank and shrugs at Hovath, unable to hear him. Hovath in turn yells his last sentence at the tank, to no avail. He mutters and then turns a screen to face the tank. He points at the sedative level, then the timer which reads 4mo, 3d, 4:33:03 and is counting backwards. Zxarr blinks, “Four months?!” His words are silent in the tank, then he starts to feel a little sleepy, before he feels a needle jab him in the arm. He looks over in time to see that silver liquid flow into his body, making him wince in pain. A few moments later, he passes out.
Hovath smiles as General A’reth steps out of the other room, “Are you certain it will work, THIS time?” Hovath nods, “Yes sir. We were only off by one DNA marker the last time, this subject has them all.”
The general smiles and nods, looking into the tank, “It better be. I’m getting rather tired of this promise you keep of the ultimate soldier.”
Hovath nods, “I know sir. This time I will not fail the Order.”
Chapter 5 – Rebirth
Commander Hovath groans as he looks at the time while making his way to his lab, “Three in the morning. Mental note: learn to time things properly.”
He pauses on the engineering lift to regain his composure before pressing a button and descending to his lab. He walks straight to the tank in which Zxarr was placed just over 4 months ago and peers through the clear lid. He smiles as he glances at a computer display to make sure the process is complete. Satisfied, he punches in the sequence for the lock on the tank. The lid slides away, revealing a tank full of silver liquid. In its undisturbed state, it’s as smooth as a mirror, reflecting the ceiling perfectly. He smiles and reaches in, poking it with a finger. The liquid simply responds with little ripples that die off quickly. He pulls his scanner from his belt and checks for life signs, before taking a petri dish and dipping it in, trying to get a sample. The silver liquid flows out under its own power as he tries to separate it from the greater amount. He hmmms softly, it obviously didn’t want to separate from the rest. Hovath shrugs and decides to forego the sample for now. He holds his scanner over the liquid once more, squinting at the display as he maneuvers it closer and closer, until he accidentally dips it into the liquid, “Whoops.” He attempts to pull it out only to find that it seems to be stuck there. He looks a little confused as he lets go of the scanner, watching it just sit, partially enveloped by the liquid. As he reaches out to give it another tug, it vanishes, dropping into the liquid quite suddenly, making him snap his hand away. Moments later, the liquid ripples around the area where the scanner went, then begins to draw together, forming a shape; a humanoid shape - two legs, a chest, arms, a head. A silver figure molds itself out of the liquid, seeming to become solid. Colour flows through the silver, mostly black, as fur forms, followed by the rest of the features of Zxarr.
Hovath looks stunned for a moment, before speaking, “Zxarr? Can you hear me? Is that you?” He reaches to his belt for his scanner, pausing as he remembers where it went.
Zxarr grunts and opened his eyes, looking dazed and confused, “Yes? I think so.”
“How do you feel, Lt. Commander?”
Zxarr’s eyes open slowly, “I feel…” As things come into focus, something strange starts to happen. Like a mist clearing, a view of the entire room starts to appear to him, he can see everything in the room, everywhere, without having to move his head. Objects seem more detailed, brighter and defined. He stared at Hovath, who seems to be glowing with an eerie red aura, then starts noticing something in the walls… Power conduits were glowing with a blueish green aura. He slowly sits up,
“What… What happened to me?”
Hovath grins, “You… You have been altered to be the ultimate soldier of our day.” He looks puzzled, “But I wasn’t expecting you to remember me. I thought you’d be a totally new being.”
Zxarr looks up at Hovath, a futile maneuver, as he could see him quite clearly without having to move his head, but habits die hard.
“But, what… Why can I see everything, and why do I feel like I’m about to fall apart?” He starts to look a little angry, the hint of a growl can be heard, “What have you done to me?!”
Hovath backs off a little, trying not to look frightened, “Patience, patience! Answers are coming, Zxarr. Just try to calm down, please?”
Zxarr swallows his anger like a good soldier and steps out from the tank. He finds it hard to look around, hard to focus on one area, but manages to ‘look’ at the clock, “What? I’ve been here for four months already? But, it feels like just a few hours!”
“That’s how long the process took. Now, get used to your new legs, and I’ll try to explain what happened to you.”
Zxarr wobbles around for a short while, catching himself on different machinery. He doesn’t feel tired in the slightest, in fact, he feels stronger than ever. He does eventually get used to his condition as he starts to walk normally again,
“Tell me, what has happened?”
Hovath nods and taps a few keys at his computer terminal. The silver liquid that Zxarr has become appears on the screen, “We found this substance a long time ago and at first, had no idea what it was. It’s taken Great Order scientists years to realize that it came from a being; a powerful being that is as old as the universe. The theory states that this universe is part of an infinite multi-verse. Think of a loaf of bread; the bread is the multi-verse and each slice is a universe. So, if the multi-verse is infinite in size, then there must be an infinite number of universes.”
Zxarr manages to follow along, “Okay, that’s wonderful Mr. Wizard, but what does that have to do with me?”
Hovath nods, “Yes, yes, I’m getting to that.” He sighs and continues, “Most people believe that the universe was created in some fiery explosion, called the ‘Big Bang’, but how does it get started? We think that beings, like this one,” he points to the silver liquid on the screen, “actually start the big bangs themselves in empty universes.”
Zxarr stares at Hovath a moment, then states flatly, “So what you’re saying is that I can start a universe?”
Hovath shrugs, “I am not sure that YOU can, but these beings, these Universe Creators, have other abilities. And my hope is that you have some of those abilities.” Zxarr looks at his paws, “And those would be…?”
The human thinks, “Well, a few minutes ago, before you woke up, you were a puddle of silver goo. You’ve retained your shape as a panther because you still think you are one. So you can change shape, perhaps?”
Zxarr blinks quietly, looking himself over for a moment. He looks at his paws and then around the room, “Great, I can change into a puddle and make my enemies slip.” He hmms, “Well I do see everything without needing to look at it and all the people are glowing red while power conduits seem to glow blue.”
Hovath looks thoughtful for a moment, “Well, perhaps you see like that because you don’t use your eyes anymore, you are seeing through your body. And being a soldier, seeing your target glowing could be helpful.” He looks Zxarr over a moment, “Just try thinking about changing into something, see what happenes.”
Zxarr looks back at Hovath, “You have no idea, do you? You’re just guessing, aren’t you?”
Hovath looks awkward for a moment while he attempts to find something to say, “Er… Well… Yes.” He holds his finger in the air, “But they’re educated guesses!”
“I see.” Zxarr looks down at his arm and stares at it for a moment, trying to concentrate. His paw melts, changing slowly into a lump of goo, then solidifies again. He nods, “Yep. Goo.”
Hovath is still grinning, looking a like a cross between a new father and a mad scientist.
“Well, we have lots to learn Zxarr. Shall we begin?”
Zxarr nods, “Do I have a choice? Something tells me this is permanent.”
Hovath nods to the last part, “As far as I know, it is.”
Months pass as Zxarr slowly learns to use his new abilities. He would either find new skills, or new ways of using them, quite often irritating those on the Irisahnia crew, who started wondering just how safe they really were around this new creature. Scuttlebutt flew through the ship as it usually does and eventually some of it reached the former panther and his superiors. After a discussion with his commander, which was mostly him getting yelled at, he decided to take it easy around the crew, even picked new forms to walk about in, so no one would recognize them. One day, while Zxarr was flitting around the observation deck as a small bird, he was called to the bridge. He lands, reforming into his original shape, scaring the hell out of someone relaxing in a chair. He chuckles, “Sorry there,” before heading off to the bridge. He felt good. No, he felt amazing. He hadn’t needed to sleep since his change which meant he’d not dealt with any more nightmares.
As he steps onto the bridge of the Irisahnia, General A’reth calls him over to his command chair. He can see his fellow shipmates watching him as he passes, but he’s gotten over that. He stops next to the General, “Lt. Commander Zxarr reporting as ordered, sir.”
A’reth looks up at the panther, “Why do you insist in running around looking like that? Try looking a little more human.”
Zxarr nods sharply, “Yes sir.” His body and clothes turn to a silver liquid as he reshapes himself into a large, bald human.
A’reth nods, “Better. This is the day you prove yourself, Zxarr.” He stands up, “I’m sending you down to crush a rebellion on Auris Prime. Seems some of the slaves there have broken free of a mine and are now terrorizing my perfect little planet. Stop them.”
Zxarr bows his head, “It will be done, General A’reth!”
A’reth looks over the soldier for a moment, then snarls, “Dismissed!”
With that, Zxarr spins and walks away from the General. Upon entering the lift, he rolls his eyes, “What a hard ass.” The lift complains, “Destination unknown.”
“I wasn’t talking to you! Now, take me to the marine transport bay.”
The lift obliges and zips off to the requested location as Zxarr changes his shape back to the panther. He feels more comfortable in this shape, for some reason. Zxarr arrives at the barracks, where the rest of his team is assembling. The commander steps over to the panther, “Zxarr I presume?” The commander was a short man, but looked well built. It was hard to see while he was in his uniform. Zxarr nods in response, “Yes sir.”
The commander nods, “I’m Kareth.” He points down the line at another soldier, “That’s Eron, he’s your team leader. Suit up, we transport down in 5 minutes.” Zxarr shakes his head, “I don’t wear armour.” The commander shrugs, “Suit yourself,” then walks over to address the troops, “Listen up! We’re going down to Auris to crush a rebellion before it starts. There are approximately 25… creatures.” He looks at Zxarr a moment before continuing, “They’re hold up in the mine buildings they work in so they know the layout and they are armed.”
Zxarr hums quietly, thinking, “Auris? Auris… I know that name from somewhere.” He shrugs it off and looks at the transporter systems and at the soldiers, each standing on their own transporter pad. One of the soldiers pipes up upon seeing Zxarr looking at him,
“Hey look, it’s the freak! Why the hell is he on with us? We don’t need him! Get ‘im off!”
The others chant in agreement as Zxarr raised an eyebrow, then walks over to the soldier who started the commotion. The commander watches quietly, mostly from curiosity as Zxarr, who currently is a foot shorter than the soldier, rakes a claw against the soldiers armour, carving an ‘L’ into it. The others all start to laugh at the little joke as the soldier starts to fume. He stands and is about to push Zxarr, when the commander calls out, “Alright! Enough ladies! Keep it for the enemy on the planet!”
As Zxarr looks on from his transporter pad, he can see the soldier with the L on his chest make threatening motions about cutting Zxarr’s head off, which just makes Zxarr chuckle. The commander yells, “3… 2… 1… Transport!” In a flash, the team is on the ground in a clearing, a few miles from the mine. They immediately take up positions, fanning out and dropping to one knee to scan the tree line, weapons ready. One of the team seems to be using a scanner, “I’m getting interference, sir.” He smacks the side of the device with his hand, “I think we’re in a damping field!”
Zxarr nods, “You are. But they’re right over there.” He points to the north, “There are 18 of them. They have energy weapons.” He can see the aura of the weapons and the furs hiding in the trees.
Some of the team look between each other, then to Zxarr, just as a hail of plasma energy files past them. One of the soldiers is hit and flops to the ground, the rest of the squad all dive for cover, keeping low to the grass as they return fire, except Zxarr, who just stands there, watching quietly. The plasma is designed to burn holes in whatever it hits, as it strikes Zxarr, the plasma indeed burns, but just until it has burned itself out, it makes no mark otherwise. Zxarr picks up a fragmentation grenade from the dead soldier, arming it as he reaches his arm back, stretching it out like a rubber band until quickly throwing it forwards. The added momentum given to the grenade allows it to fly the hundred yards or so and land within a few feet of the tree line. He frowns thinking, “Damn it, not far enough,” as the grenade explodes, causing a few of the rebels to stop firing for a moment while they move positions.
Groups of the rebels keep moving positions and firing from other angles to avoid being hit by the soldiers, who do not have anywhere to go. Zxarr starts heading off towards the tree line to the west, his pace quickens to a run as he sails across the grass and disappears into the trees. His commander watches as the panther disappears into the trees, then looks around at his men, most of whom are still alive thanks to the armour on their helmets, “Grenadiers! Hit the tree line to the north!”
Once out of view, Zxarr scales up a tree and starts leaping through them from tree limb to tree limb, almost starting to enjoy himself as he watches the bushes below fly past him. He can already see a patrol that is headed his way to find out where he went, so he pauses on a branch to watch their approach. As they come into full view, he tilts his head to the side, his ears perk up. One of them looks familiar. He stares at the lead panther, knowing he knows him from somewhere, he just can’t place it. He drops from the trees about six feet in front of the patrol, who all react instantly; raising their weapons to aim at him. Zxarr makes no move, he just stares at the leader, “I… I know you.” The lead panther looks to his companion on the left, then back at Zxarr, “What do you mean, you know me? I haven’t seen you in my life!” He keeps his rifle aimed squarely at Zxarr, “Who are you?”
Zxarr pauses a moment before speaking, his mind still racing, trying to remember, “My name is Zxarr.”
The other panthers eyes go wide and his rifle slowly lowers, “What? That’s…” his eyes dart from left to right as he thinks for a moment, “It can’t be! Son of Joban and Adrei?”
Zxarr’s mind snaps upon hearing his mother’s name, memories falling into place as the panthress from his nightmares is suddenly given a name, Adrei. He stands there, staring right through the patrol as his past unravels before him, images of his life spinning past him. It takes him a moment to fully comprehend it all. He looks at the panther with intense pain and sadness in his eyes, “Quroth,” he then drops to his knees before passing out and slumping to the ground. Quorth steps over to Zxarr’s side, kneeling down and looking closely at his face, “I can’t believe it.” He glances at the others, who are looking mildly confused, “He was just a newborn when the Order came, his parents were both in the resistance until they were all taken. I haven’t seen any of them until now; I assumed they were all dead.” An explosion reminds him of what’s going on and he points towards the gunfire, “Take out those soldiers. You’ll catch them off guard. I’ll take him back to our camp.”
Zxarr awakes a few hours later, laying in a cave. He quickly sits up and looks around, but sees no one else there. Before he can think another thought, memories of his old life, once locked tightly away, come rushing back to him. His mind feels shattered, like he's been living a lie these past few years. He remembers the day they were taken, if he had only stayed with his mother, maybe she'd have gotten out with Quroth and still be alive today. His thoughts suddenly leap to his mothers interrogation; he can see his mother sitting helplessly in the chair while Hovath beats her, before finally ordering her death. His anger quickly boils and he starts to growl as he says a name through bared teeth, “Hovath.” Quroth pokes his head into the cave upon hearing him speak, “Zxarr? Are you… okay?” He steps into full view.
Zxarr takes a moment to calm himself down before nodding at Quorth, “I'm fine,” he lies. Quroth nods, “We managed to take out most of the soldiers, but they beamed down reinforcements. I need your help. You were always an excellent marksman.”
Zxarr stands up and turns to face Quroth, “Show me where they are. I'll help you deal with them, but after that, you have to find me a way back onto the Irisahnia. It's still in orbit if the soldiers beamed down.”
Quroth shrugs and nods, “If that is what you wish.” He still looks a little untrustworthy of Zxarr, having been hiding a weapon behind his back the whole time, “Follow me.” He leads Zxarr out of the cave system.
Zxarr pauses to look down other tunnels, then stops once he sees some old tents laying on the floor of a cave. Quroth continues on to the next intersection, before turning to see Zxarr has stopped, “You coming?”
Zxarr kneels down next to the tent, “Just a moment.” He gently lifts up the tent, which practically falls apart in his paw, until he spies something. An old envelope. He picks it up and withdraws its contents. He almost breaks down into tears realizing what hes found; pictures. Pictures of the last day before the Order came to their planet. Adrei, Joban and an infant Zxarr having a picnic. He quickly places them back into the envelope, checks the tent one last time, then stands and follows Quroth, “These are the caves we hid in when the Order came.”
Quroth nods once, “Yes. We don't use them anymore, but I couldn't risk taking you to our new camp. I'm still not certain what side you are on.”
Zxarr pads up to Quroth, “They brainwashed me. Until I saw you in the forest, I didn't remember anything. Not my mother, father, or you.” He looks down, holding out the pictures, “I found these in the remnants of our tent. They're all I have left of my mother, but I saw my father yesterday!” He smiles, “I'm going back up to that ship to get him back.”
Quroth blinks in surprise, “What? Joban is alive?”
Zxarr nods, “He spoke to me. I didn't recognize him, but I do now.”
Quroth nods, “If he's alive, I'm coming with you.”
Zxarr shakes his head, “No. I can handle it, trust me. I want you to get as many of our kind to shuttles, get them off this world. We can find a new home, where the Order doesn't exist.”
Quroth looks over the panther for a moment, then nods, “Alright. I know where their main shuttle pads are, I used to serve at one of them. I was the lucky one that cleaned injector ports.” He points down a tunnel, where light can be seen, “Just up here is the way out.”
The two panthers pad off down the tunnel a short distance before emerging to the outside world, at the edge of a forest. Zxarr stops and points, “They're right over there, about 300 meters away.”
Quroth peers into the dense forest, unable to see or hear anything, “Are you sure its the Order?”
Zxarr shakes his head, “No. It could be the resistance. All I know is that there are life forms with energy weapons over there.”
Quroth puts his paws to his muzzle and makes the call of a local bird, which makes Zxarr look on in surprise, “I didn't know you were so talented.” He chuckles. Quroth perks his ears for a moment before a reply is heard, “It's the good guys.” He pads into the bushes. Zxarr follows after him. The resistance group hides themselves in the forest, waiting for Zxarr and Quroth to approach, making sure they're alone before emerging. A female panther steps up to Quroth, “Oh! Thank the maker, I thought we'd lost you, Quroth!” She hugs him tightly, giving him a soft kiss, before pulling back and giving him a slap, “Don't EVER do that again!”
Quroth places his paw against his cheek, “Sorry, dear.” He smiles, then makes introductions, “Zxarr, this is Vena. My mate. Vena, this is Zxarr. He's an old friend.”
Vena smiles and nods in greeting, “Can you fight?”
Zxarr blinks, then nods, “Yes. Quite well, actually. My father wa—”
He is cut off as Vena interrupts, “Perfect, get him a rifle.”
Quroth chuckles, then points at the other furs, “Xex, Enrie, Char, Jowal and Groy.” They each nod as they're introduced, the last one offers a rifle to Zxarr. He nods and accepts the weapon, “Perfect.” Vena looks on a moment, “Wonderful. We spotted the new team of soldiers trying to get into the mine, the guards there took them out, but another smaller detachment has been seen coming this way. Seems they thing there are caves around here we can hide in.”
Quroth nods, “Right. We'll take positions on the path, take them by surp—” He is interrupted by Zxarr, “They're over there.” He points off to the east, “That way, about 200 meters.”
The rest of them look into the bushes, then back to Zxarr and finally to Quroth. Quroth nods, “Trees now.” The group all dart up into the trees, save for Zxarr, who drops his weapon and takes a few steps in front of the group, waiting for the soldiers to appear. Quroth calls out to Zxarr in a harsh whisper, “They'll see you! Get up here!”
Six guards round the corner and spy Zxarr. They take cover and aim their rifles, “Get on the ground!”
Zxarr holds his paws out, showing that he has no weapons, “I surrender.” He takes a few steps closer.
Vena mutters silently, she can't get a clear shot from here. She wanted the guards to get closer.
The soldiers take aim at Zxarr as he steps forwards, “I said get on the ground! NOW!” Zxarr continues moving forwards, “I am unarmed.” The lead soldier fires a single shot, a bolt of plasma streams out from his rifle and strikes Zxarr in the chest. Zxarr looks down at the plasma as it fizzles out, a small silver dent quickly filling in. He looks back up, shaking his head, “Try again,” then makes a sudden run at the lead soldier. The entire squad opens fire, the plasma burns away at Zxarr, his body rebuilding the little silver pits, but does nothing to him. He leaps at the head soldier, one of his paws reforming into a knife, thrusting it into a gap in the armour as he impacts him. Before the first soldier hits the ground, Zxarr is already after the next two who are grouped together. The two fire madly at the panther, two screams ring out, then suddenly both stop, in unison as they both fall to the ground. By this time, the rest of the rebels drop from the trees and take out the remaining three Order soldiers, who were all concentrating on their other attacker. Zxarr stands up, his paws quite normal now as he waits for the silver holes in his chest seal themselves up before turning around. He nods, “Thanks. I was beginning to think you were going to hide in the trees all day.” Vena nods, then levels her weapon at Zxarr, “Mind telling me how you did that?”
Zxarr eyes the gun, “Mind telling me what you think that would do to me? Weren't you paying attention?”
Quroth presses his paw to Vena's gun and lowers it, “Zxarr was a guest of the Great Order, it's a long story I'm sure but for now, he just killed three of their soldiers and I promised him if he helped us kill them, I'd take him to one of the shuttle pads.”
Vena looks at Quroth, then nods, “Go. We'll meet you at our usual location.” Quroth nods, then pulls the panthress tightly against him and purrrs, “Be safe, stay hidden.” He kisses her cheek.
Vena smiles, her tough facade melting just for a moment as she embraces her love, before quickly returning as she orders the rest to move out. Quroth looks to Zxarr as the others disappear into the forest, “It's north east of here. It's not far, should only take us a few hours to get there.”
Lieutenant Tu’vo paces back and forth along in a small control room, constantly looking out a window as he watches several technicians’ word around a large, arrowhead shaped object. He pauses in his pacing as he goes over the scans of the object and then replays the sensor logs of the thing flying out of the sun without warning, approaching the planet and then plummeting through the atmosphere to its current location. A guard reports to the Lieutenant, handing him a small, electronic pad with a report on it. He blinks at the name the ship was given,
“Who’s idea was that name?” he mutters to no one in particular.
The guard speaks up, “General A’reth, sir.”
Tu’vo blinks and looks at the guard, “Who asked you? Shut up and go and guard something.”
The guard nods, “I am, sir.” He motions towards the craft.
Tu’vo looks back at the report before looking out the window, sighing. It’s a pointed craft, in fact it looks like a giant, jet black arrow head, with no apparent windows, or hatches. It’s perfectly smooth.
Tu’vo grumbles, “Where is the sensor technician I asked for?”
The guard checks something, speaking quietly into his comlink, “He’s on his way to the complex. ETA is 20 minutes.”
Tu’vo sighs, “The General is going to have my head if I can’t figure out what this thing is.”
Outside, several technicians wander to and fro from the craft, one of them seems to be trying to cut through the hull with a laser. Tu’vo ducks as the laser reflects off the hull and cuts a hole through the window, past his head and out the back wall. He stands up warily and looks out, his ears perking over the edge of the window, “What the hell are you trying to do?!” he screams.
The technician looks up at the wolf, “Sorry sir! I didn’t expect that to happen.” He looks back to the craft, touching the area the laser hit with his hand, “It didn’t even scratch it.”
Joban sighs as he is ushered onto a transport ship and pushed into his seat. He glances out the window at the Irisahnia’s shuttle bay, “At least I got a window seat this time.” he thinks to himself. He keeps staring out the window as the shuttle takes off, seeing his planet come into view in the distance as the shuttle turns. He closes his eyes and tries to find his son, then winces as an implant in his head causes him pain, stopping his telepathy attempt rather abruptly. He glances at the guard sitting next to him, who seems to be paying more attention to a female sitting across from him. Joban thinks back to te last time he saw Zxarr, projecting his mental image to him in the Irisahnia’s shuttle bay, before he was cut off. Shortly after that incident his implant was tuned to stop him from making connection attempts like that. He mutters a little, eyeing a drink as its set before him and then glances at the guard. He mutters, “Just water?”
The guard turns and cuffs him on his muzzle, “Be quiet. You’ll get what you get and you’ll like it!”
Joban grabs his muzzle, growling a little at the guard turns back away. His mind strays to thoughts of himself strangling that stupid guard, how he’d be begging for his mercy. He loses himself in the thought, before a strange gurgling sound pulls him from his dream. He looks on as the guard holds his own neck, unable to breath and gasping for air. Joban concentrates a little harder and hears a snap in the guards’ neck, while various others on the shuttle attempt to help to no avail. Moments later, the guard slumps in his seat, then falls to the floor, dead. Joban stares at the guard a moment, then closes his eyes and concentrates on various items in the ship. He finds himself able to see and manipulate objects with his mind, much to the chagrin of other passengers as their drinks and other paraphernalia fly about the cabin. He chuckles softly and then thinks about the implant in his head and is quickly able to see it with his mind’s eye. After a moment to examine it, he manages to shut it off and then disable it permanently. He opens his eyes and stares out into space before he touches the window, “Zxarr? Where are you?”
On the planet below, Zxarr comes out of the forest where Quroth had told him and scans the horizon. To Quroth’s word, he finds a shuttle pad, to which he heads towards in plain view. He pauses as the memory of his father, standing on the Irisahnia, returns to his mind.
He hears his father’s voice in his mind, “Zxarr? Where are you?”
He looks around, wondering if he’ll see his father as well, “Father? Can you hear me?”
His father begins to appear as a ghostly apparition before him, “Yes, son. I can hear you now. I am sorry we didn’t talk earlier, but they would not allow me.” Joban’s image steps towards his son, “I miss you.” He sighs adding, “And your mother.”
Zxarr tries to touch his father’s arm, but his paw passes right through him, “I miss you both as well. Dad, what happened to you? Where have you been?”
His father explains, “As what they considered a lowly sub-creature, they took me to experiment on. They wanted to give themselves psychic abilities, but won’t waste the lives of one of their own, so they chose me. But they went too far. They couldn’t control it, so they put something in my head to try to stop me.” He grins, “I managed to turn it off. But now I’ve got a headache.” He laughs a little, “Zxarr… I don’t… know what’s going to happen to me,” his image winces in pain, “without that inhibitor.”
Zxarr gets a worried look across his face, “Dad? What’s going on?”
His father smiles, “Remember your mother. I will always be with you.” The image doubles over in pain and then vanishes from view, “Dad!” he screams. His screams alert the guards at the shuttle pad, some of whom come running out to see what’s going on. They spy Zxarr, who by this time, has turned and is running full bore towards the base, both his anger and his terror at losing his father driving him. He leaps into the air, sailing easily over the rather surprised looking guards. He hits the ground running and bolts towards the only thing on the pad that looks like a ship; a large, black thing that looks like a giant arrowhead. He comes to a stop a dozen feet from the ship and stares at it curiously for a moment, before getting shot in the side. He glances down at his side, then turns and looks at the guard who shot him, “Do you mind? That’s kind of annoying.”
The guard pauses to look at the others and then they all look over to a building, where a morphic wolf is looking out and yelling into a com unit. Zxarr advances towards that building in the midst of rather pointless plasma fire from the guards, who eventually stop, they too now on the com to someone. Tu’vo watches the panthers approach, backing up to the rear wall of the small building he’s in, drawing his weapon in the other paw. As Zxarr pushes the door open slowly, Tu’vo drops his comlink and aims his pistol with both paws, “Stay away from me!” He squeezes the trigger repeatedly, each time a loud popping noise is heard as the gun ejects 11 projectiles, one after the other at the invading panther. Zxarr stands his ground as the bullets slam into him, denting his ‘flesh’ into small silver craters. Tu’vo continues pulling the trigger well after the gun has spent its ammunition, allowing Zxarr to approach. He finally drops the gun, watching in awe and fear as the bullet craters fill in as if they never happened, “No, please. Don’t. Just leave me alone!” He cowers onto the ground, covering his face with his paws.
Zxarr just stands there, looking a little confused. He remembers hearing of Tu’vo and his troops storming military bases, destroying everything in his path. Now that he’s no longer got a weapon, he’s just a scared little child, unable to fend for himself. He stands and watches the wolf quietly until Tu’vo finally peers up at the panther, “Wh-what are you doing?”
Zxarr shakes his head, “Nothing. You’re not like the others. You aren’t human.”
Tu’vo watches the panther, still somewhat scared, “N-no. I am not. They took my people like they took yours.” He starts to stand up. Zxarr just watches him, then turns to the window, “Then help me destroy them.” He points at the ‘ship’ on the pad, “Tell me how to fly that. I assume it is a ship?” He looks back to Tu’vo, who is now fully standing.
“I… I don’t know. We haven’t been able to do anything with it.” He points at the scans of the ship on the monitor, “See for yourself.” He is still wary of the panther, staying back near the wall. Zxarr looks over the displays, then sighs and looks out at it, blinking a little, “Wait a second. Wasn’t the ship pointing in the other direction?”
Tu’vo peers out the window and nods, “Yes. I should know, I’ve been staring at it for the past three months.”
Zxarr looks over at the wolf, “You’ve had it for three months and you can’t even get into it yet?”
Tu’vo nods, “We can’t even blow a hole in it with explosives, laser cutter beams just reflect off its hull.” He shrugs, “And when the general finds out, he’ll execute me.” He sighs softly.
Zxarr looks at Tu’vo, “And after what you’ve done, you don’t think you deserve it?” He growls, “This was a helpless planet in comparison with the Orders’ technology! You destroyed cities, killed innocents and made others into your slaves!” He advances at the wolf, his anger rising. Tu’vo backs into the wall as the fear builds back up his spine, as Zxarr continues,
“and you made ME kill my own kind!” He punches the wall next to the wolf’s head, denting it with a sick metal crunch, “you SHOULD die for it!”
Tu’vo cowers in fear, then screams as Zxarr punches the wall, “He’ll kill my family if I don’t!”
Zxarr calms down suddenly as he hears the wolf’s words, pausing with his fist half embedded in the wall, “Wh… Where is your family?” He withdraws his fist and kneels down before the wolf.
Tu’vo looks face to face at Zxarr, “On my home planet… Canis. I have not seen it in many years.”
Zxarr nods, “If I can get onto the Irisahnia, I can destroy it. Then we can go back to Canis and see your family.”
The wolf stares into Zxarr’s eyes for a moment, trying to decide what to do. He finally nods, “There will be a shuttle arriving in 10 minutes with some guards on it. Take them out and we can use that ship to get back.”
Zxarr stands up, “Why didn’t they beam down?” He offers the wolf a paw.
Tu’vo takes the paw and stands up, “This base has some strange field around it that seems to come from the ship. We can’t beam down here.”
Zxarr looks back out at the ship, which now has moved closer to the building. His ears perk along with his curiosity and he pads out of the building, stopping just outside to watch the black ship. Tu’vo follows quietly, stopping at the door to watch. Zxarr steps over to the ship and touches the side, watching his paw as it seems to bend, just like a straw appears to bend in a glass of water. He hmmms, then steps back quickly as he hears a deep voice speak, “Hello Zxarr.”
Zxarr looks around the base, before looking at Tu’vo, who shrugs, “Don’t look at me! I didn’t say it.”
The ship turns slightly, to ‘face’ Zxarr, the tip pointing towards him. Zxarr eyes it warily, “Who’s in there?”
The ship replies, “No one. I am the Stardiver. I am for you.”
Zxarr blinks a few times, “What do you mean ‘you’re for me?’”
“You are a creator, I am the vessel that will accompany you for eternity.”
Zxarr blinks a few more times, quite confused, “Wait… I’m a creator? What the hell is a creator, and did you just say eternity?”
The ship actually laughs, in its deep voice, “Yes. A creator of universes and again, yes, I did say eternity.”
The panther tilts his head, remembering something Hovath told him once about the ‘Universe Creators’. He looks at his paws and then up at the ship, “What are you?” The ship pauses a moment, then transports the panther aboard. Tu’vo blinks as Zxarr disappears in a flash of light, before he sits down in the doorway and waits for his fate.
Zxarr appears inside the ship an instant later, sitting in a chair, which makes him jerk back into the seat, in shock, “What the hell?” He looks around the interior… Even the inside of the ship is black, made of the same smooth metal as the outside. Controls and monitors aren’t embedded into the metal, they just seem to float, a millimeter or so, above it. He turns around in his chair to find that the ship seems larger on the inside; having four chairs in the current room he is in. He peers through a hatch into the rear of the ship, but can’t see too much without going back there. About then, the ship speaks,
Zxarr looks around, “Uh, thanks.” He peers at one of the monitors, which shows some form of tactical readout. He looks at it quietly a moment, seeing the planet as a large sphere, along with several dots all representing ships in the area. He leans back in the seat and looks around, wondering where to face when he speaks, “So… You’re the computer aboard this ship then?”
The ship rumbles, “I suppose in the same way that your original species was a brain aboard your body. The whole ship is me.” A screen appears before Zxarr, showing a shuttle coming in to land on the pad near the ship, “There are some more guards arriving now.”
Zxarr watches the ship land, his eyes suddenly catching the sight of Tu’vo as he slowly stands. He watches as the guards surround him, aiming their weapons at the wolf. Someone else exits the shuttle and steps towards the wolf. General A’reth. The wolf looks to the general, but doesn’t salute, just stands there and hangs his head. The General slowly takes off his gloves as he comes to a stop within striking distance of the wolf and then backhands him harshly across his muzzle. Tu’vo yelps and stumbles backwards, grabbing the doorframe for support. He hangs his head, his only thoughts of his family as the General speaks to him, “Tu’vo…” he sighs, “What am I to do with you? I brought you in, helped you see the light, trained you and even promised to spare your family.” He takes a few steps to the side and looks off into the forest, “And what do you do? You fail me every chance you get!”
Tu’vo opens his muzzle to speak, but gets a kick in the side by one of the guards, making him fall into a heap, “The General didn’t say you could speak, dog!”
A’reth turns towards Tu’vo again as the guard steps back into line, “Take him back to Canis.”
Tu’vo looks up at the General, a glimmer of hope returning to his eyes.
The General continues, “Then slaughter his family one by one,” he pauses to let that sink in, “and then kill him.”
The guard that hit him motions to grab the wolf, when a beam of energy strikes him; the guard vapourizes. The only thing left of him is a quickly fading echo of his scream.
Tu’vo, the General and the rest of the guards all turn quickly to see Zxarr standing there, looking quite pissed off, a strange weapon in his paw, “Get away from him,” he states flatly.
Some of the the guards fire on Zxarr, the rest protect the General, backing him away from the fight. This time, the weapons fire doesn’t even reach Zxarr, as it impacts harmlessly on a shield projected by the Stardiver. Zxarr chuckles softly, then returns fire. A beam of energy strikes a soldier in the chest, his armor just isn’t designed for this strange type of weapon and it, along with the guard within, vapourizes. The other guards stop firing, turning to flee with the others as Zxarr makes sure they remain scared, firing his weapon past their heads a few times, “That’s it, run!” He laughs softly before lowering his weapon and approaching Tu’vo, “Come on.” The pair look up as the shuttle takes off and streaks into the sky.
Tu’vo suddenly looks panicked, “My family! He’ll jump to Canis and kill them! How in the hell are we going to stop him now?!”
Zxarr aims his thumb over his shoulder at the Stardiver, “With his help.” Before Tu’vo can answer, the pair is transported aboard. Tu’vo has the same reaction Zxarr did on his first transport via the Stardiver; jerking back into his seat, startled, “Wow.” He looks around quietly as Zxarr sits down, “Okay, I have no idea how to fly this thing, so uh…” he looks up at nowhere in particular, “Stardiver? Can you follow that shuttle?”
The ship lifts silently off the ground and streaks into the sky, within seconds it catches up to the shuttle, then slows and maneuvers in behind and follows it, as asked.
Both occupants look surprised as they look to each other, “That was fast,” they chime in unison.
Tu’vo shakes his head, “Uhm, now what? Shoot it down?”
Zxarr thinks quietly, “No. I want to kill A’reth myself.” He looks around the ship, “Do they know we’re behind them?” The ship quickly replies, “No. I cloaked myself when I took off.”
Tu’vo looks sheepishly around the interior of the ship, “I… I’m sorry we tried to damage you.”
“Don’t worry about it, you didn’t damage me at all.”
Zxarr chuckles a little, “Follow them into their ship. If they go to Canis, we’ll stop them before they can do anything. After all, we’ll have this ship inside the Irisahnia. We could blow it apart from the inside out.”
Tu’vo nods, “But there are a lot of innocent furs sitting in the jail cells, from lots of different planets, even from yours.”
Zxarr nods, “Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.”
The pair watch out the window as the shuttle leads them towards the Irisahnia, it looms larger and larger in the screen until nothing else can be seen. Soon after, the shuttle passes into the shuttle bay and settles down onto its designated spot. The Stardiver passes into the shuttle bay unseen thanks to its cloak, maneuvering itself into an out of the way place. Zxarr watches as A’reth leaves in a hurry, still looking quite pissed off. He chuckles a little, “Alright Tu’vo, just wait here. I’m sure by this time most of the ship knows we’re to be shot on sight.”
Tu’vo nods, “You won’t see me arguing, Mr. Bulletproof. Just please, don’t let them get to Canis.”
Zxarr nods, “I have a few friends to visit here, and hopefully I can spark a rebellion if I can get to Hovath’s control center.” He looks up, still feeling a little awkward at not knowing where to look when he speaks to the ship, “Can you transport me anywhere in the ship?”
The ship notices that Zxarr seems a little uncomfortable speaking to ‘no one’, and so projects a little, anthropomorphic red fox on one of the control panels. The fox waves and smiles, “Call me Star.”
Zxarr blinks, “Uhm, alright… Star.” He shrugs as he looks at the fox, “I need to find Hovath. He’ll probably be in his lab, he likes to hide in there. Can I see a schematic of the ship?”
The little fox nods, as a 3D map of the ship appears in mid air between Tu’vo and Zxarr. The two look at the floating image a moment before Zxarr points at a room, “Right there.”
Zxarr waves at Tu’vo, “Be good.” He looks at the fox, “If he attempts anything against you, just beam him onto the bridge.” He winks at the fox before vanishing in a beam of light.
Tu’vo perks his ears as a little ‘eep’ escapes his lips. He smiles at the fox, “I’ll be good! Don’t worry. This is the safest place for me to be right now.” He watches on the screen as another shuttle departs, then leans back in his seat and looks around, his eyes eventually settling on the fox, “So… tell me about yourself?” A beam of light appears in Hovath’s lab and in almost the same instant, Zxarr appears as the light fades. He looks around and spies Hovath mere feet from him, staring into a microscope, completely lost in his work. He pads quietly over to the scientist, then leans over and yells in his ear, “HOVATH!”
Hovath jumps back, holding an arm across his chest, as he cries out in fright!
Zxarr laughs, grinning darkly, “Hello Hovath.” He pads slowly towards the human, his fur bristled.
Hovath lets out a breath, then frowns, “How dare you come into my lab unannounced!” He reaches for his comlink on the table,”I’ll have you—“he is cut off as Zxarr grabs him by his throat. Hovath beats against the paw holding his neck, still managing to gasp in a few breaths as Zxarr growls, his teeth bared, inches from the scientists face, “You killed my mother.”
Hovath’s face goes completely pale as his heart skips a beat. He stares at the jaws of the panther holding him, knowing full well what he is capable of. He attempts to speak, but just ends up gasping in some air, unable to speak. He grabs Zxarr's wrists as he feels himself being dragged out the door. As Zxarr exits, he makes certain not to squeeze too hard, he doesn't want to kill Hovath, yet. He comes upon few others as he travels through the ship, all the while Hovath struggles, managing to speak in a raspy voice, “Zxarr…” he coughs, “please, be reasonable.” He wriggles, pulling at Zxarr's wrists, “I was just following orders.” About all Hovath manages to do is anger Zxarr even further, “The only regret I have is that I can only kill you once!” He drags Hovath into a large, circular room with a chair in the center of it.
Hovath renews his struggle as he starts to realize where he is, “No! Please!”
Zxarr growls and slams Hovath into the chair and activates the restraint field, locking him down into the chair. The human struggles, banging against the forcefield despite being shocked and burned by it, “Let me go! Damn you!”
Zxarr laughs softly, “Gladly.” He strikes Hovath across the face, “Now… Tell me what I want to know and I'll let you go. How do I shut down the implants for all the furs you've taken?”
Hovath goes silent and sits still.
Zxarr chuckles and punches the human in the stomach, “Wrong answer!” Hovath doubles over in pain, his head striking the forcefield as he does. Zxarr smiles, a knife forms out of the palm of his paw, solidifying quickly. He circles his prisoner quietly until Hovath sits back up, then waves the blade before his face, “Now, what is it you don't need anymore?” He growls softly, pointing the knife at various parts of him, stopping finally at his crotch, “Now, how do I shut down the implants for all the furs you've taken?”
Hovath eyes the knife, “You won't kill me. I created you! You'd be nothing with out me!”
Zxarr thrusts the knife down, making Hovath push himself back and call out a profanity. His first strike misses as the knife digs into the seat, “Ooops. I missed.” Hovath stares at the knife, he can feel the blade against his thigh. He looks up at Zxarr, “Okay… Okay…” He watches as Zxarr pulls the knife away, “In the control center next to my lab, you need to give the shutdown command to the central nexus. That will shutdown the whole system.”
Zxarr flips the knife around in his paw, “And that command would be…?”
Hovath watches the knife warily, “emergency shutdown nexus, the password is 'The Order is perfect'.”
Zxarr starts to laugh, “The Order is perfect?” He chuckles, shaking his head as he heads for the exit.
Hovath watches, “Hey… What about me? You can't just leave me here!”
The panther stops and looks back at the human, “I'll be back, when I'm satisfied you told me the truth.”
Hovath watches as Zxarr turns and heads out of the room, before struggling against the forcefield, “Damn you!”
Zxarr heads back to the laboratory where he found Hovath, knowing full well by this time someone has reported he's on board. He makes it back to the lab, quickly making his way to the control center. He taps in his access code at the door, but the door simply replies with 'Access Denied'. He frowns at the display, then inspects the door, noticing a small gap at the floor. He presses his paw up against the crack, it melts into a silvery liquid, quickly followed be the rest of his body. He pushes himself through the crack between the floor and the door until his entire mass is in the other room. As he begins to revert back into his panther form, an alarm goes off inside the room, along with a computer voice, “Alert. Unauthorized access in Nexus control room.” Zxarr looks up as gas billows from the ceiling in an obvious attempt at killing the intruder. He chuckles a little and pads over to the only controls in the room, tapping in a command on the console before him. 'emergency shutdown nexus'
The terminal prompts him for a password and he types in, 'The Order is perfect' and presses the enter key. He watches as messages fly past the screen, before a voice asks, “Voice print identification required.” He raises an eyebrow, shrugs and then speaks in General A'reth's voice, “The Order is perfect.” The computer pauses, analyzing the voice before replying, “Thank you General A'reth. Nexus shutdown proceeding.”
He watches until the screen says 'Nexus Offline', then smiles and wreaks havoc on the terminal, tearing it apart with his bare paws. That feat accomplished, he exits the room in the same manner he entered it in. As he begins to reform, he hears shouting outside the door and instead of turning back into himself, he moulds himself in Hovath's image and heads for the door. Upon the door swishing open he is faced with a hallway packed with security guards. They all lower their weapons as they see who they believe is Hovath.
Zxarr points at the entrance to the Nexus control room, “He's in there!” He feigns an injury, grabbing his side, “I tried to stop him, but he just bowled me over.” He is quickly ushered through the guards towards the infirmary, helped along by someone that looks like a wolf from Canis, Tu'vo's planet. Zxarr watches the wolf as he is helped along, until half way there, just outside the armoury, the canid drops to his knees and grabs his head. He lets out a howl of pain as his implants start to fail on him, his mind for the first time in years returning to his control. After a few moments of disorientation, he looks around, finally looking up at the human he was escorting, “Wh— What happened?” He rubs his head, “I have such a headache!” He groans as a furred paw offers him help up. He accepts the paw and stands, still somewhat disoriented then finally notices Hovath no longer is Hovath, but a black panther,
“Wait a second, weren't you Hovath a moment ago?”
Zxarr nods, “Yeah, long story. The furred species on this ship outnumber the humans. I think you know what to do.” He smiles.
The wolf stares at him blankly, “Uh… No?”
Zxarr shakes his head, then pads over to a computer access terminal on the wall, tapping a few buttons until a whistle is heard throughout the ship. Zxarr speaks into the terminal, “Alright, listen up. All of you that have served the order against your will, you are now free! Your implants are permanently shut off. You outnumber them and you know their systems. Overwhelm them and take over the ship!” That said, Zxarr looks at his escort, “What is your name?”
The wolf replies, “What? Oh… My name is uh, V'ratta.”
Zxarr nods, “Very well, V'ratta. Go to the armoury and start arming for this little rebellion. You can use their transporters to beam weapons to the furs on the ship.”
V'ratta nods, “That I can do!” He quickly speeds off down a corridor towards the armoury, pulling out his data card as he quietly hopes they haven’t cancelled his access yet.
Zxarr watches the wolf run down the corridor and then slips off in the opposite direction; he makes his way back to where he left Hovath, Just the thought of that human makes him remember what he witnessed as a child. As he passes through the ship he can hear shouting and weapons fire down several of the corridors, and once even sees some furs quite surprised as weapons appear at their feet. For a moment, he seems quite pleased with himself, seeing the capital ship of the Great Order in such chaos. That thought of pleasure quickly passes as he arrives at his destination, stopping in front of the door, his anger starting to rise again as he steps through and sees the helpless human still stuck in the chair. He laughs, “No one came to save you, I see.”
Hovath looks up as the door swishes open, “No one monitors these rooms unless theres an interrogation going on.”
Zxarr chuckles, “Oh, but there is!” he smiles, “and thanks for letting me know the access codes for the door and how to shut off the other security systems, but I found a way past them.”
Hovath frowns, “Well, you got what you wanted, now let me go!”
Zxarr starts to look a little angry, “Let you go? LET YOU GO?” He growls as he slashes his claws across Hovaths' face.
Hovath's head snaps to the side as the claws leave a deep wound across his cheek, making him cry out in pain. He tries to move his hand up to touch his bleeding face, but the restraints prevent it. He looks frightened as stares up at Zxarr, blood dripping down onto his chest.
Zxarr leans over Hovath, “Tell me how to destroy this ship. If what I started doesn't go well, this ship cannot survive.”
Hovath laughs, then shakes his head, “Not a chance, panther.”
Zxarr growls, for now he manages to control his anger, “Tell me.”
Hovath shakes his head, then looks the other way.
Zxarr nods, “Have it your way.” He pads over to the door and taps at a few buttons before returning. He spins the chair around to let Hovath see a door opening to reveal only space behind it, a forcefield holding the air in for now. Hovath's eyes go wide as he watches the door open, then looks up at Zxarr,
“If you kill me, you'll never know!”
Zxarr chuckles as he walks away from the human, “I'll live with it.” With that he steps out of the room, the door closing behind him.
Back inside, the outer door finishes opening as the room goes completely silent for a moment, before the shield snaps off and the air rushes out of the room. Hovath screams as he clings to the chair, for the moment his restraints keeping him from being blown out into space. He knows the restraints will fail and momentarily he'll experience what he's done to countless others. He stares out into space, frozen in fear, the wind screaming past him until the restraints fail and he is swept out into space. He does what he imagines most do, holding his breath as he spins out into space, flailing his arms pointlessly. He can see the ship floating away from him for a moment before his eyes begin to blur as they bulge out along with the rest of his body. He opens his mouth to scream and feels his lungs completely empty of air. He flails his limbs and gasps hopelessly, as all goes dark. Within seconds, he is dead.
Zxarr has already walked away from the interrogation chamber, his mind focusing on the task at hand, to either take over the ship, or to blow it to hell. As he pads through various corridors, he sees various human bodies laying around along with the occasional fur. As he passes a computer terminal he pauses to ask it a question, “Computer, where is General A'reth?”
The computer replies, “General A'reth is on the bridge.”
Zxarr chuckles and then trots off towards the nearest lift. He wonders where everyone is as no one impedes his progress. He enters the lift and calls out, “Deck One!” The lift obeys and zips off to its destination, along the way he can hear weapons fire come and go between decks. He thinks to himself, “They must really be storming the decks, I guess they understood the message.” He watches the lift map as it approaches the bridge, which in reality takes a few minutes. To Zxarr however, it can’t come fast enough. Memories of what A’reth ordered him to do flash across his mind, his anger starting to boil over again. The lift comes to a halt two decks below the bridge,
“Unable to continue; lift is offline,” the lift chirps.
Zxarr snarls at the map and punches it, his fist smashing through the screen in a swarm of sparks. He looks up at the escape hatch a moment, before reaching up and pulling off the safety catch. The door swings open, allowing Zxarr to see the two dozen or so meters up to the top of the shaft. He leaps up, grabbing the edge of the hatch and pulls himself onto the roof, then moves quickly to the escape ladder and starts to climb up. As he passes the doors to the next deck, he bumps his head into a force field, making him stop and look up. He grumbles something under his breath as he reaches out to feel the snap from the field, before slipping off the ladder at the previous deck. As he grabs the emergency door release, he hears the mechanism in the door hiss as it releases its hold of the door. That done, he pulls the doors apart, stopping half way as he sees a corridor filled with security guards. He smiles at them,
“Uh… I have some flowers here for one General A’reth?”
A few of the guards exchange confused glances before stepping cautiously towards the panther, weapons raised, “On the ground! NOW!” one of them screams. Zxarr kneels, then lays down as the guards rush up around him, grabbing his paws and quickly locking his wrists in shackles, “Tell the General we have one of them.” Zxarr watches as a guard speaks into his com link before nodding, “Yes General A’reth.” He approaches the guards that are holding Zxarr down, “Take him to the bridge. The General wishes to use him as an example.”
Zxarr chuckles quietly to himself upon hearing that, thinking to himself, “Whatever works.”
Tu’vo looks up at a screen full of information pertaining to the Stardiver before looking down at the holographic fox, “You know, you’re quite a remarkable ship, Star.”
The fox smiles and nods, “I know. It’s strange. I know everything about myself, I know what I can do and what I can’t do, but… I can’t explain how I came to be here. I just know that I am for Zxarr.”
Tu’vo nods and then shakes his head a little, “And both you and Zxarr will continue existing… forever. I just can’t wrap my head around that. Forever; it’s a long time.”
The little fox nods a few times, “Yes. But whether he likes it or not, he’s now stuck with it.” He frowns, “Hm, it seems someone has just been ejected into space.” Tu’vo eyes the fox, “What? It wasn’t Zxarr, was it?”
“No, it was a human.” The fox looks off into space a moment as Tu’vo’s screen flips to a picture of the human.
“That’s Hovath! Zxarr must have spaced him.” He laughs, “Good riddance!” His laughter quickly settles to a solemn look, “He’s done that to too many of us…” The little fox nods a few times, “I think Zxarr feels some resentment to him.”
Tu’vo raises his eyebrows at the fox, “Ya think? Hovath killed his mother in that same manner.”
Star sighs and shakes his head, “I did not know.”
Tu’vo presses a button, making the screen before him vanish and then looks to Star, “Where is Zxarr now? Can you find him?”
The little fox nods a few times, “He’s on the bridge. I think he let himself get caught, because those weapons these guards use are pretty useless against him.” Tu’vo chuckles, “That’s probably where the General is. I think he’s in for a bad day.”
Several guards drag a limp Zxarr onto the bridge. His head is hanging low and he looks as if he’s been roughed up. The guards dump the panther unceremoniously onto the floor behind the captain’s chairs, “General, we have one of the furs as ordered!”
The chair spins around to reveal General A’reth sitting in it, his elbows leaning on the arms of the chair, his hands templed before his face. He chuckle quietly before speaking, “My silly little panther. What do you hope to expect to do by capturing this ship? Do you really think we would allow it? I have standing orders stating that if I believe this ship will fall, I am to destroy it before it happens.” The General watches the panther curiously for a moment, as he lies there, motionless on the floor. He glances up at one of the guards.
The guard catches A’reth’s look and kicks the prisoner in the side, “Answer the General!”
A’reth nods at the guards reaction before glancing down at the panther, who groans and finally stirs, his paws pressing to the floor as he tries to rise up to face the General. A’reth watches as the apparently weak panther manages to get his knees under him, his head still bowed. The general grabs the panther by an ear and jerks his head up to face him.
Zxarr growls, his teeth bared, “Hello A’reth.”
The General jerks back in his seat in fear, then screams at the guards, “KILL HIM!” as he tries to scramble out of his seat, “KILL HIM!”
Before the first guard manages to pull the trigger, Zxarr has disarmed and knocked back the guard to his left. He spins and attacks the guards, balls of plasma energy striking them in various places, burning quickly through them. The guards scream in pain as they each attempt to fire upon Zxarr, some miss, striking bridge equipment; others manage to hit Zxarr only to find out how useless the weapons are. A’reth feels a plasma bullet rip across the skin on his arm as he cowers behind his seat, watching the rest of the bridge crew dive for cover. Silence falls as the echo from the final shot fades. A’reth can see the terrified faces on some of his crew, all staring at something behind A’reth’s chair. The General sits behind his chair, looking left and right, terrified to come out from behind his chair as his mind convinces him that doing so would mean his certain demise. A few more seconds pass before A’reth feels something move in the seat behind him. He cautiously looks up as Zxarr’s face appears, lined with a rather insane looking grin, “I’m ba-ack!” the panther chimes.
A’reth scrambles on all fours away from the panther, as Zxarr swings himself out of the chair and follows him, “Get away from me!” the General screams.
Zxarr laughs, “I’m afraid not, dear general.” He continues to walk towards the human until he backs him up against a control station. He cowers in fear, covering his face with his arms, but Zxarr just strides past him, being watched closely by the crew. He stops in front of one of the bridge stations before tapping a few keys on the console. A familiar whistle is heard over the ship intercom, followed by Zxarr’s voice,
“Fellow furs, I have taken the bridge. Get off the ship, back to the planet. Take anything you can with you. Once you are gone, this ship will be destroyed. This will be your only warning.”
A’reth gets up and storms towards Zxarr, “Get off my bridge you worthless—“ he is cut off rather sharply with a simple kick to the torso, making him collapse to the ground with a grunt, doubling over in pain.
Zxarr watches the general go down, “You can’t do anything to me, old man. You’ve taken everything from me and countless others. My only regret is that once I kill you, it’ll be over. You should die once for every atrocity you have committed!” He brings his paw up to his shoulder and then brings it harshly down, the back of his paw colliding with the side of the Generals head; he lets out a cry of pain as he is thrown to the side.
The General looks up at Zxarr as he props himself up on an elbow, “The Order will not stop until you and your entire planet have been turned to dust!” The rest of the crew left on the bridge have taken this moment of distraction to slip past the panther, in an attempt to escape. Zxarr just lets them go, knowing they’ll either flee to another Order controlled planet, or be destroyed by his people on this planet, he does shout to the stragglers,
“For those of you who return to the Order, let them know their time is limited. I will be coming.”
He isn’t certain if they acknowledged the message or not as he looks back down to the General, who is trying to crawl silently away. Zxarr laughs, “Where do you think YOU are going?” He gives the General a swift kick in his ribs, making a dull crack as a rib breaks. He is flipped onto his back, wincing in pain as he holds his chest, now taking in somewhat painful breaths. He looks up at his captor, “Leave me alone. I’m just an old man following orders!”
A’reth’s comment strikes Zxarr as funny, making him laugh, “Oh, that old card, hmmm? Well, I have an old saying too. The Captain goes DOWN with his ship.” With that said, he reaches out to A’reth’s uniform and tears off his General markings, stripping him down to Captain. A’reth coughs a few times, a little bit of blood dribbles from his lip as he tries to stand up, but the pain in his rib will not allow it. Zxarr walks away from the General, heading over to one of the dead guards. He stoops down and picks up one of the plasma rifles, turning to survey the now empty bridge. He takes aim at a console and fires, watching as the controls erupt into sparks and flame and then targets the next console. A’reth watches as his bridge is disabled, his hands covering his head as the console above him throws sparks into the air. The noise soon settles into silence, prompting the ex General to look up. He finds Zxarr standing over him, rifle still in his paw as it dangles next to his leg.
“If you kill me, someone else will just take my place in the Order. You can’t defeat the Order!”
Zxarr chuckles, “Maybe not, but I sure as hell can take out as many of you as possible.” The gun slowly starts to rise, from where it’s dangling, A’reth’s eyes start to go wide as he realizes his death may be imminent. Without any warning, Zxarr fires a volley into A’reths left shin before quickly taking aim and doing the same to the right. A’reth screams in pain, cowering away from Zxarr as he grabs his legs, mind numbing pain shooting up from his wounds as the plasma burns through his legs.
Zxarr watches curiously for a moment, “How does it feel, A’reth? To know what your other victims knew, to know you are about to die?”
A’reth says nothing in response to Zxarr’s question, he just holds his legs, trying to find some way to stop the pain. Zxarr watches the General, then turns and disappears into one of the lifts. Time seems to jump for the former General, the intense pain numbing his senses, but at some point he looks up to find Zxarr already gone. He tries to regain a little control as he looks around his bridge, now rendered useless. He tries to move, pulling himself along one of the damaged consoles with his hands, but any movement in his damaged legs causes him to scream in agony and once more, he falls to the floor. His mind starts to wander as memories of his life flicker before his eyes…
Zxarr departs the lift and steps into the main corridor of the ship, marveling at the bodies laying about on the floor. The corridor, usually filled with conversations, footfalls and other noises, is eerily silent. He notices someone hiding behind a partially closed door and brings his weapon to bear. Through the door itself, he can see the red aura of the being and the blue aura of the weapon. He takes aim at the ground next to the door and fires, the plasma striking the floor and melting into the metal, “Drop the weapon and come out.” He states flatly.
The weapon appears in the doorway, butt first before it is thrown into the hallway. A furred paw sticks out, followed closely by another. Zxarr lowers his weapon as V’ratta’s face appears, “Okay, okay… I’m coming, don’t sho—“ he stops mid sentence, “You!”
Zxarr chuckles and nods, “I thought I told you and all the others to get off the ship?”
The wolf nods a few times, “I tried, but the transporters I found were damaged and the shuttle bay is a ghost town. I was on my way to check the emergency transporters when I heard the lift and hid. Uh, what did you say your name was again?”
Zxarr smiles, “Zxarr. And forget the transporters, I have a much better way to get out of here. Follow me.” He jogs off down the hallway, quickly followed by the wolf, “I have a ship in the shuttle bay.”
V’ratta glances behind him, then back to Zxarr as he speaks, “But I was just there, the bay is empty. Completely. Well, unless you count that shuttle in the corner that’s in pieces.”
Zxarr runs through the doors of the shuttle bay and comes to a stop a few feet inside. He looks around the bay quietly, “Wow. Empty indeed.” V’ratta runs in moments later, “See? I told you. Now, come on we can get back to the transporters and get to the planet.”
Zxarr grabs his arm, “No no. Trust me.” The wolf turns and looks at the panther as he calls out to the empty room, “Stardiver, you still here?”
V’ratta looks up and down the length of the bay wondering who Zxarr could be talking to, then falls back in surprise as a ship uncloaks just feet away. He yelps as he lands on the ground, his weapon comes up to take aim at the black ship, “Woah!”
Zxarr turns and looks at V’ratta, chuckling quietly as he leans down to help the wolf up, “V’ratta, meet the StarDiver. StarDiver, meet V’ratta. Beam us in, please.”
V’ratta has no time to protest as he suddenly finds himself sitting in a seat inside the ship, without his weapon. His head darts around as he looks at everything, before they finally settle on Tu’vo. The two stare at each other for a moment before Tu’vo smiles, “Hello.”
V’ratta nods, “Hello…” He smiles a little before a screen near the front of the ship catches his eye, showing a picture of outside as the Stardiver takes off and heads towards the closed door of the shuttle bay. The three furs stare at the screen as the door approaches and then look at Zxarr, who finally speaks, “Star? Are you going to open up the door anytime soon?”
Star projects himself on the console infront of Zxarr, “Nope. Where’s the fun in that?”
The three all look between each other and then at Star. V’ratta eyes the fox curiously, then looks back at the screen as Zxarr calls out, “Oh crap.”
The ship impacts with the door, or rather the ship cuts through the door, tearing the door apart as it sails effortlessly through as if nothing was in its way.
The three furs inside watch as the door just disappears from view and a starfield can be seen on the screen, they feel nothing inside the ship, not even a rattle. Zxarr looks at the fox on the console, “What the hell was that?”
The fox chuckles, “My way of getting out. I’ll explain it all in time… So we’re outside, how long until the ship explodes?”
Zxarr shrugs, “I don’t know, I didn’t set any timer or anything, I was going to use the Stardiver to destroy it. But first, I need to find my father, I was hoping he’d contact me again, but I haven’t heard from him.”
Tu’vo nods to Zxarr, “Fine, then let’s go find him. Where did he last contact you from? The Irisahnia?”
Zxarr shrugs, “I don’t know. He just seems to talk to me, as if he’s in my mind. I’d say telepathy, but I don’t want to look like an idiot.”
Tu’vo blinks and looks at Zxarr again, “Your father is… Joban?”
Zxarr’s head snaps around to face Tu’vo, “Yes! Joban! You know him?”
Tu’vo nods, “I know of him. I kept up with that… uh… experiment.” He looks to Zxarr, “Sorry.”
Zxarr nods, “It’s alright. Do you know where he is?”
The wolf nods at the panther, “They were taking him down to the planet, to… field test him.”
Zxarr looks at the fox, “The planet! Now!” He looks back to Tu’vo as the ship takes off towards the planet, “Is there any way we can find him?”
Star pipes up, “I can scan for DNA patterns that are close to yours. That should narrow the search down considerably.”
Tu’vo looks at the fox, then back to Zxarr and shrugs.
Zxarr nods at Star, “Do it.” He takes in a breath and tries to calm down and then adds “Please.”
The ship tears across empty space, passing several shuttles that left the Irisahnia earlier and surprising the passengers aboard. Soon the Stardiver arrives at the planet, streaking straight down through the atmosphere in a firey ball before pulling up to level flight. Tu’vo tries to explain to V’ratta what he learned about the ship while Zxarr watches the sensors for any results. A few minutes pass before Zxarr’s silence is broken, “There!” He points to the screen in front of him, “Right there.” The ship has already turned and is heading in that direction when Zxarr calls out, so it changes the screen to show a close up view of the life forms in the area. Zxarr inspects the scene, one fur and a half dozen guards next to a crashed shuttle. The fur is kneeling on the ground, holding his head while the guards stand there, motionless.
Joban looks up as the Stardiver arrives and settles down near the ground, just floating a few meters above it. He frowns and stands up, his mind taken elsewhere as the guards flop to the ground like ragdolls, their necks already broken. Zxarr appears on the ground beneath the ship in a sudden flash of light and quickly approaches his father, “Dad?”
Joban’s gaze is drawn to Zxarr, his face melting into a smile, “Son…”
Zxarr approaches Joban, eyeing the dead soldiers as he passes before stopping and looking over his father, “Dad. What did they do to you?”
Joban smiles at his son, “I did not think you would find me.” He looks frail, his fur has started to turn grey and he looks hunched over as he stands.
Zxarr steps over to his father and hugs him as tightly as he dares, “Dad. What did they do to you? You look so old.”
Joban returns the hug, holding his son in his deteriorating grip. After a moment, he releases him, “They used me as their guinea pig. They were testing ways of increasing someone’s telepathic ability, but they went too far with me. I can move objects with my mind, but it has taken a toll on my body. I am not long for this world, my son.”
Zxarr looks over his father again and even after this short time, he can see that his father’s body has degraded even more. He feels the tears welling up inside him, “Dad. I… I don’t want to lose you. You can’t go. You can’t.”
Joban smiles, then coughs a few times, his body starting to tremble as he strains to remain standing, “I will leave you with part of me, I promised that I would never leave you, now I can keep that promise.” As he reaches out to touch Zxarr’s face, he collapses to his knees, the panther looking almost like fur and bones. Zxarr quickly kneels down to catch his father, unable to hold back the tears any longer as he holds him up, “Father…”
Joban finally manages to touch his son’s forehead, sending a wave of warm thoughts through his sons mind. Zxarr gasps as memories of his father’s life pass into his mind, everything from birth to the present. The older panther manages a final look at his son before he starts to spasm uncontrollably and with a slow sigh, goes limp and falls against his son. Zxarr holds his father gently, “No… You can’t be gone. Father? FATHER!?” His tears soak through the fur on his face as he just sits and cries, holding Joban in his arms. The Order took his mother, and now his father, away from him. He looks up at the Stardiver, using a paw to sweep away the tears, “Star…” He looks back at his father, “Is there anything you can do?”
The ship replies, “No Zxarr. I am sorry. His body is too degenerated to allow for resuscitation.”
Zxarr nods once, pausing to touch his father’s face one last time, “Then can you…” He fights the tears back, “…please dig me a grave.”
The ship uses its teleporter to remove a large chunk out of the land, creating the requested hole. Zxarr picks up his father’s body and steps down into the grave, lowering the old panther down to rest. He looks at him one last time, touching his muzzle lightly before climbing back out, then without turning around he states, “Fill it in.”
The Stardiver transports the dirt back onto the grave, removing the dirt necessary to keep the ground level. He also replicates a head stone with the words ‘Joban – Loving Father’ on it.
Zxarr turns after a moment, a little surprised by the marker, but nods, “Thank you.” He takes in a deep breath, “Let’s go take care of the Irisahnia.” He holds his paw up in a motionless wave towards the burial site, and as the teleporter beam engulfs him he speaks, “Goodbye, father.”
Back on board the Stardiver Tu’vo and V’ratta both bat Zxarr on either shoulder, chiming in unison, “I’m sorry, Zxarr.” The panther nods at the pair, “It’s alright. At least I got to see him one last time.” He looks over at the fox standing on the controls, “Take us to the Irisahnia.” He looks around as the ship flies away from the ground and heads into space, “Do you have manual controls, Star?” The little fox nods as a flight stick and throttle appear, “Of course.”
Zxarr nods, “When we get there, see if you can download what’s in their computer core and then give me manual control.”
Star nods, “As you wish.”
Tu’vo looks at Zxarr, “What do you plan on doing?”
Zxarr turns to face the wolf, “I’m going to fly this ship through the Irisahnia, to let A’reth know that his death is coming.”
The two wolves glance at each other, before sitting back and trying to be silent for the moment. Zxarr returns his gaze to the screen before him as the Irisahnia looms in the display, “Lifeforms? Are there any furs left on the ship?”
The ship replies, “There are 42 human life forms aboard. No other biosigns detected. I’ve also managed to download their computer contents. I now have star maps of this universe.” The fox looks up at Zxarr, “and as requested, manual control is yours.”
Zxarr nods as he grasps the throttle in his left paw and the stick in his right, “Alright… Here goes nothing.” He looks back at the two wolves in the rear seat who seem to be now searching for some kind of restraints on their seats. Zxarr pushes the throttle forwards, the ship smoothly accelerating, closer and closer to the Irisahnia. Zxarr watches a distance meter quickly count down to 0 meters, bracing himself as the ship pointed Stardiver through the outer hull of the larger ship, ripping a hole in the side and tearing up crew quarters as it passes through the entire 3 kilometer width of the Irisahnia, before piercing the hull on the opposite side and returning to space. Zxarr looks back at the Tu’vo and V’ratta, “Wow.”
V’ratta laughs,”That was like a knife through water!”
Zxarr pulls back on the stick and sends the craft into a hard loop, pushing the stick back to center as he bears down on the Irisahnia once again. This time, he takes aim at one of the weapons arrays on the top, slicing through it with ease as Star brings up another monitor with a view of the Irisahnia on it, just in time to see the weapons array explode, taking part of the ship with it. Inside, the remaining crew flee in all directions, trying desperately to find a shuttle, escape pod, or working transporter, but it is useless. Transporters were destroyed in overthrowing the crew and all shuttles and escape pods have been used. Zxarr flies in loops around and through the Irisahnia a few more times before looking at Star, “Can you locate the General?”
Star nods a few times, “I thought you’d ask that, so I’ve been scanning the crew. There is a single life form on the bridge. From what I can tell, he has wounds to his legs.”
Zxarr nods, “That would be the General.” He pulls the stick to the left and turns the craft back towards the Irisahnia, pulling the throttle back to approach slowly. A red reticule superimposes itself onto part of the Irisahnia as someone onboard manages to power up a weapons array.
Star peers at the screen, “Some form of energy beam weapon has targeted us.” The weapon glows brightly as it charges, before sending a red beam of energy out towards the Stardiver as Star continues, “And they are firing.”
Zxarr pushes the throttle to full and pulls back on the stick in an attempt to dodge the weapons fire, but nothing happens. The three furs aboard clamp their eyes shut, preparing themselves for the worst as the beam strikes the Stardiver… but nothing happens. A moment passes before they open their eyes.
Tu’vo glances around the cockpit, before his eyes rest on the screen before them, which shows the beam glancing harmlessly off the hull of the Stardiver. Zxarr starts to laugh, then reaches out and pokes Star, “Don’t scare us like that!”
Star laughs as he bats his paw at the invading finger, “Hey, I apparently have a sense of humour.”
Zxarr nods at Star, then blinks, “Hey. I thought you were a hologram?” He pokes the fox again.
V’ratta and Tu’vo do the same, reaching out to touch the apparently real fox.
Star chuckles as he is poked again and then bats at the other two furs, “Okay, you can all stop that now. I’m an avatar. I am real, but my mind is still here, on the ship.”
Zxarr hmms, “Well, we can talk about all that later.” By this time, the Irisahnia has ceased firing and is attempting to get alternate weapons online. Zxarr pushes the throttle forwards, the Stardiver again accelerating towards the Irisahnia. Zxarr makes a few adjustments to his trajectory until the ship finally impacts the hull, tearing another diamond shaped hole in the armour. As he passes into the ship, he pulls the throttle back harshly, coming to a rather abrupt stop right inside the bridge.
A’reth yells out, fearing the end for himself and covers his face with his arms as the Stardiver crashes onto his bridge. He only has a moment to open his eyes before he can feel the air rushing out into space. He makes a mad, and rather painful, scramble for something to hold onto, finally managing to find a chair to grasp. He looks over at the ship on his bridge, recognizing it as the one Tu’vo was ‘working’ on down on the planet. He screams at the ship, “Damn you Tu’vo!” The air suddenly stops rushing from the room as a force field appears, closing over the hole in the bulkhead. A’reth stops and watches the ship as it just hovers motioneless and silent, his mind wandering as he wonders what will happen to him now. A’reth’s aggravation and fear build up his anger and after what seems to him like an eternity, he screams at the ship, “What are you waiting for! Just end it!” But the ship just floats there, silently mocking him. He releases the chair and using his hands, drags himself up towards the back of the bridge and eventually finds what he’s looking for; one of the guards rifles. He rolls onto his back and aims the rifle at the Stardiver, then starts firing, rather oblivious to to the fact the weapons fire is just bouncing off the hull. He starts to scream in anger, pulling the trigger again and again, even as the ammunition is depleted. He starts to sob as he flops back against the floor.
An few moments later Tu’vo appears next to A’reth in the flash of a teleport. He looks down at the General, “How weak you are without your technology; just a sniveling little human.” The General looks up at Tu’vo, his face soiled with his tears as he reaches out towards the wolf’s ankle, “Please. Just let me go.” He looks over at the hole into space.
Tu’vo jerks his leg away from the General’s grasp, holding his leg back as if about to kick the human. He stands there for a moment, anger in his eyes as he thinks of his family before finally placing his foot back down, “Very well.” He looks up at the Stardiver, “I’m ready to go back.”
Zxarr turns to face Tu’vo as he reappears in a flash of light in the seat next to him. He looks at Zxarr quietly a moment before speaking, “Can we go to Canis?”
Zxarr nods once, “What about A’reth?”
Tu’vo looks away, shaking his head.
Zxarr shrugs and nods, “Star, do you have the co-ordinates for Canis”
Star walks across the console to stand in front of Zxarr, “Yes. The course is laid in.”
Zxarr nods, “Take us there, please.”
A’reth pulls himself a little farther towards the back of the bridge, stretching out to grab another rifle. He rolls over, gasping for breath, exhausted mentally and physically. He watches the Stardiver spin silently to face the gash in the bulkhead as he puts the barrel of the rifle under his chin. The ship darts out of the hole and as the force field collapses and air again rushes out of the bridge, A’reth fires.
The Stardiver exits the Irisahnia from the same hole it entered, turning towards the general direction of the Canis system, before coming to a halt. Aboard the ship, Zxarr looks at some of the displays, then to the ships avatar, “Why did we stop?”
Star shrugs, “Do you want to leave the Irisahnia intact?”
Zxarr taps a few buttons below the floating screen, managing to angle the display to see the Irisahnia, “I suppose not.”
Star nods, “Targetting power core. Firing.”
Outside, a rather unimpressive looking sphere of energy streaks from the nose of the Stardiver, making a wide turn as it bears down on the Irisahnia. It enters through the hole the Stardiver left behind, making its way through bulkheads to the engineering deck. It quickly strikes one of the gravity devices that hold the core in place, causing the core to start to drift very slowly from its confines.
The three furs aboard the Stardiver watch patiently for a moment before looking at Star, “What’s supposed to happen no—“
An explosion rips the Irisahnia in half, sending a shockwave out in all directions. The wave washes over the Stardiver harmlessly as the rest of the Irisahnia flares up, smaller explosions following down the power systems until nothing is left but chunks of debris.
The three watch as the debris field expands, before Zxarr finally speaks,
“Take is to Canis.”
The Stardiver speeds off in the direction of Canis, its hull starting to glow as an eerie green energy flows over the hull. As the ship is engulfed in the energy, it begins to brighten, moving faster and faster until it suddenly streaks off into warp.
Zxarr looks at Tu’vo and V’ratta before pointing to the rear of the cockpit, “Maybe we should check out the back half of the ship.”
V’ratta nods a few times, “Plus… I’m getting kinda hungry.”
Tu’vo chuckles as he gets up and disappears through the hatch, followed by V’ratta. He stops and looks back at Zxarr,
Zxarr nods, “I’ll be there in a minute.”
V’ratta nods and disappears, the door closing behind him. Zxarr looks over at Star, “So… We’re stuck together now, are we?”
Star chuckles and nods, “Yes. You and I, forever, roaming around…” The fox walks over next to Zxarr and sits down on the console. Next to him a panel opens to reveal a yellow and black covered button, “This… is how we roam. You press it and bamph! We’re in another universe.”
Zxarr eyes the button, “Another? How many others are there?”
“Theres an infinite number of universes in the multivers—“
Zxarr cuts the fox off, “Right. Hovath told me that when he— when I woke up,” he looks at his paws a moment, “like this.”
“Zxarr, no matter how you came to be, you are now a Universe Creator. From what I’ve found in my memory, UC’s are just a normal part of the multiverse. They evolved as part of the multiverse, to ensure that universes always exist within it. Without a multiple universes, a multiverse cannot exist. That’s all I know.”
Zxarr perks his ears, “But… how do you know? Who told you?”
The fox shrugs, swinging his feet over the console, “I don’t know. Whoever created me, I suppose. Perhaps a supreme being or maybe some alien race. Heck, we could just all be part of one really strange multiverse. Things that look convenient in nature aren’t truly convenient, we’ve just gotten so used to them we see them that way, as if they were created specifically for us. Maybe this is just the multiverses’ way of being convenient.”
Zxarr shakes his head and then chuckles upon hearing some laughing from the rear compartment. He gets up and pads towards the back, “You coming, Star?”
Star nods, smiling as he hops onto the floor, “Yes. I think I will.”
This story, and all its characters are copyright © 1994 – 2007 by Colin Mackay (Zxarr’s player)