The Sacrifice

February 9, 2018

 

    Chapters: 6     Pages: 28    Word Count: 7,551    Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/War Story

    

      In the distant past, in a time long forgotten, the Elder Races numbered in the hundreds and ruled the Milky Way Galaxy. Now they find their supremacy threatened by an enemy capable of destroying universes. An encounter with one of these Evil Ones turns into a desperate fight to save a bunch of apes, apes destined to evolve into humanity. Witness the full might and fury of the Elder Races in this story about demons and demigods.

 

 

     Chapter 1: The Leviathan

 

    Our universe is 13.82 billion years old, with a radius of 45.6 billion light years. It seems incomprehensibly big. No one knows for sure what exists beyond it or what came before.

    Some believe that at the edge of our visible universe is another, only in this universe, time runs backward, with the future being the past and the past being the future. Others think we live in a multiverse and that our universe is but one of an infinite number, no more unique than the grains of sand on a beach. A variation of this theory is that we reside within a black hole, which lives within an older universe that too is trapped within an even larger black hole. Or maybe that older universe collapsed in on itself, creating the black hole we now call home.

    We might never know. No one has yet devised a means to see past the Big Bang, the point in which our universe came into being. There might not even be anything to see. But what if there was? What if something did come before? What if life existed in this previous universe, and it had evolved like we did, eventually becoming sentient and learning how to travel between the stars? How old did it get before its universe came crashing down? A few billion? A few trillion?

    Again, this might be all pointless speculation. Nothing might have existed before the Big Bang, but what if something had? And what if the life that had come before, ancient beyond counting and in possession of powers beyond imagination, found a way to cross over into our universe?

    A Zelturian, a centaur-like alien with a long tail and dark skin, indulged such thoughts as he made his way to a pedestal. It stood within the bridge of his flagship. Crystals studded floors made of gold and silver, as well as the walls and the rails that guarded the balconies; the latter required because the multi-level bridge dwarfed even the largest of aircraft hangers.

     King Brumah waved a hand, and the forward wall became transparent. It shifted and focused on a distant star: a red giant, which shrank at an accelerated rate.

     King Brumah thrust a finger, and the image zoomed in. Partly concealed within an inferno, an array of fossilized tentacles thrashed about; the Leviathan gobbling up the much bigger star.

    King Brumah fought back a shiver. The Leviathan was an Evil One. That was not what the creature’s people called themselves. Few would speak their real name aloud, either out of fear that doing so would summon a Leviathan, or simply because those two syllables were too terror-inducing to utter. Even King Brumah found saying their name unsettling.

    He examined a readout of the star. It had shrunk another solar mass, and yet the Leviathan showed no signs of growing. Most disturbing.

    “Is she refueling or harvesting more matter to construct yet another sphere, my liege?”

    King Brumah looked down at the halfling-size Retikkee that hovered beside him. “We still don’t know yet if Leviathans need to refuel, Warrior Ti.”

    “Nor do we know exactly what the spheres do,” Ti said telepathically.

    “In the last thousand years, the Evil Ones have consumed 3% of the Milky Way Galaxy,” King Brumah said. “Destroying every sphere we find delays them from obtaining their ultimate goal.”

    “A goal we are still ignorant of.” A blob of slime, shaped like a tongue, slithered forward. “Destroying those spheres is not a long-term strategy,” the Umamorph said. 

    “We have a strategy. The question is: can we hold out long enough to deploy it?” All turned. A Zee, a humanoid with a vertical slit for a mouth, levitated in the air. “My people, with the Shimmering Lady’s aid, are working on it. Again, we just need more time.”

    “We Vijics will do our part to see that you have the time to make your plan work.” Queen Spenta lumbered into view; a towering mass of muscle. “We Vijics enjoy a challenge.”

    “Better to play it safe, and nova bomb the star system from afar,” the Zee said.

    “A supernova won’t even stun the beast,” the Umamorph said.

    “True, but it will deny the Leviathan valuable resources.”

    “It does not matter,” Ti said. “Our sensors detect that the Leviathan has already extended an anti-polarity field around the star. Our nova bombs will have no effect.”

    “Then we have no choice but to engage the enemy,” King Brumah proclaimed. He got on his knees and raised his hands. He entered a battle meditation. With his telepathy, he strengthened the mental resolve of his warriors, as well as saw through their eyes. He tried to think of only victory, though just beneath the surface, fear of failure gnawed at him, reminding him that the Leviathan was power incarnate. It could not be killed, only banished, and they did not have…

     No, King Brumah thought, jerking his head sideways. He could not let himself succumb to despair. The Leviathan also existed in the dreaming realm and would undoubtedly hear his fears. She would make a play for him, hope to turn him against his people. He must be strong. He must—

    A slender hand came to rest on his shoulder. He turned to see an ethereal being, a creature of the dreaming realm, her arm little more than wisps of starlight.

    Everyone else on the bridge appeared to be oblivious of her presence. The Shimmering Lady smiled. “Take my strength and know that she won’t claim your soul. Not this day.”

    King Brumah nodded, sweat dripping from his brow and said for all to hear, “Move forward.”

    Beyond the flagship’s main viewer, hundreds of thousands of warships, each the size of a large city, appeared and accelerated towards the moon-size Leviathan. Their bows blossomed, a memorizing light show of red, yellows, and oranges. Beams extended from them, plasma trails that guided liquid metal at relativistic velocities and hit with world-destroying power.

    The first quantum beams struck the Leviathan dead center, and she howled, a horrific cry, but then the inferno that engulfed her expanded and the rest detonated harmlessly.

    “The beast’s hellshield is transferring much of the kinetic energy into an alternate reality,” the sensor officer said from his terminal. "Our attacks have little effect.”

    “Perhaps,” King Brumah proclaimed, “but doing so taxes her. Continue the assault.”

    Minutes passed, and more quantum beams exploded against the inferno. King Brumah eyed a monitor beside him. The firepower they were throwing at it would have destroyed a hundred stars and yet— A graph spiked, indicating that the creature was about to—

    Beneath the inferno’s surface, a tentacle whipped a crimson beam that moved in a wide arc.

    “The beam’s temperature is off the charts. I’m detecting multiple spacetime anomalies.” The sensor officer turned. “My lord, it’s burning holes in space.”

    “Order the ships to spread out,” King Brumah said. “Prepare for micro black holes.”

    The beam tore through a dozen motherships. Each hit created a short-lived black hole that sucked what remained of the ship in, as well as anything too close.

   “Moving the ship out of the beam’s path,” the helmsmen said. “There. We missed it.”

   “I’m getting abnormal readings from the red giant,” the sensor officer proclaimed.

    King Brumah and the others looked forward. Ribbons rolled across the star’s surface, then rocketed towards them like the fingers of a giant hand. 

    One solar flare washed over King Brumah’s flagship, tilting it sideways.

    “Aura fields are holding,” said another member of the bridge crew.

    “Don’t stop. Continue firing,” King Brumah commanded.

    Millions of quantum beams besieged the Leviathan until one penetrated the inferno and destroyed a tentacle. The creature recoiled.

    Cheers erupted throughout the bridge.

    The Leviathan moved away, plowing through hundreds of motherships, and went superluminal.

    “The Leviathan has escaped,” Ti said. “She is headed for Retikkee space.”

   “All ships, engage hyperdrives and pursue,” King Brumah said. The fleet bolted forward, and the swirling currents of hyperspace replaced the stars. 

    The Zee floated forward. “When will the Evil One reach your homeworld?”

    “That is not her destination,” Ti said. “We have calculated her trajectory. It will take her to a solar system 37.3 light years from ours. Behold.”

    A yellow star materialized before them, along with nine planets. The inner five planets were rocky, while the outer planets were made up of gases. Two had rings.

    “Correction,” Ti said. “The Leviathan is headed for the third planet from the star.”

    “We should destroy that world before she can create another Leviathan,” Queen Spenta said.

    “We cannot,” Ti said. He pointed to the world, and it grew and twirled, displaying seven continents. "Several intelligent species inhabit this world, but of note is the Orrorins. We believe they have the potential of becoming a Type Zero Civilization.”

    “How far along are these Orrorins in their evolution?” The Umamorph asked.

    Ti made a gesture. A bipedal creature with brown fur appeared before them. “They have yet to create stone tools,” the Retikkee said, “but as you can see, their five-digit hands, one being an opposable thumb, are well suited for complex manipulation.”

    “Hands are useless without a brain to command them?” Queen Spenta said. “When do you project they will have the cognitive abilities to fashion tools?”

    “Between 3.9 and 4.3 million years,” Ti said.

    “Or never.” Queen Spenta sighed. “We can’t justify the risk, not for them.”

    King Brumah closed his eyes and fell into a dreaming state. He envisioned descendants of the Orrorins, furless and standing fully upright, with smooth flat foreheads and dressed in garments, building cities and flying spaceships. The Shimmering Lady, who now took their form, rose over them. “The Orrorins are the key to your salvation. You must protect them.”

    King Brumah’s eyelids receded. “No, we must defend this world.”

    “My liege,” Queen Spenta said, “we Vijics value life above all else but—”

    “We are Elder Races,” replied King Brumah. “It is our sacred charge to protect the younger races. Besides, I had a vision.”

    “What did you see in your vision, my liege?” Queen Spenta asked.

    “That our fates are intertwined with the Orrorins,” King Brumah said. “If they die, so do we. We must defend them, no matter the cost.”

    “Something is happening,” the Umamorph said. “The Leviathan has come to a stop.”

    King Brumah returned to the dreaming realm. The Shimmering Lady floated over the world, beautiful and elegant. She reached out with her arms and prevented the Leviathan from getting closer. He gasped. “The Shimmering Lady is fighting the Leviathan!”

    “She has never confronted the Evil Ones directly before,” Queen Spenta said.

    King Brumah nodded. “No, she has not.” He turned. “The Leviathan might not be able to land, but she can still send her dark servants.”

    Everyone gazed at the unspoiled world.

   “Then we must deploy our ground forces at once,” Ti said.

 

 

 Chapter 2: Engineer Un

 

  Engineer Un hovered within the cargo bay of a Zelturian transport. Like everything the Zelturians built, it comprised of gold laced with silver and time crystals. Massive topazes laid embedded within the floor, a critical component of the craft’s transporter.

    His head swiveled, noting the size of the hold, which was bigger on the inside than on the outside thanks to dimension manipulating techniques. A hundred Zelturians, each between fifteen and seventeen feet tall, filled it. Each carried a warhammer with a crystal head.

    Un spotted a few aliens besides the Zelturians and scanned for a particular Vijic.

    “What worries you, my friend?”

    Un turned. Standing at twenty-one feet tall, the Vijic princess Mithra stared back at him, her T-Rex-like head only a few feet from his.

    “Your husband to be honest,” Un said telepathically.

    “My husband is on a different transport. A Vijic transport,” Mithra said. “Why? Has he been picking on you again?”

    Un nodded.

    Mithra sighed. “I’ll have to talk with him.”

    “A good smack across that noggin of his should do the trick,” Princess Shakti said. King Brumah’s oldest daughter trotted forwards and brushed her long snow-white hair aside. “Or if you would preferer, I could zap him with some lightning.”

    Mithra chuckled. “I’m afraid I would have to hurt you then, and what would become of our friendship? Still, I need to speak with my husband.”

    Shakti turned to Un. "You two have known each other since childhood. Kamru Mazdah picks on you because he can. You must stand up for yourself.”

    Un slumped. “I guess so. I’m just so used to being walked on.”

    Mithra snarled. “Tell me who else bothers you, and I will eat them.”

    “She’s good for it. Trust me,” Shakti said. “I once saw her eat a baby pitt worm in one sitting. Didn’t even give her gas.”

    Mithra’s crest rumpled, and she hissed. “Watch yourself, or I might eat you.”

    Shakti laughed.

    Mithra bent down. “So, who troubles you?”

    “Everyone,” Un said. “My people see me as an embarrassment. That is why I am being forced to fight on the frontlines. I’m cannon fodder you see.”

    “And yet you have survived several battles with the Evil Ones,” Mithra said.

    “I don’t know if I would have made it if I hadn’t befriended you two or Angra Manta.”

    “Nonsense,” Mithra said. “You are a fine warrior.”

    “But I am not warrior caste,” Un said. “I am engineer caste.”

    Shakti shuffled sideways on her four slender legs. “The engineer caste might not have been the ideal fit for you. I’ve never agreed with your people’s caste system. While you Retikkees are less individualistic than we Zelturians, you are not mindless drones. For you to be consigned to a particular caste simply to meet a quota is an injustice in my mind.”

    “You have many strengths,” Mithra said. “For example, you are the most empathic Retikkee I have ever met. That is a rare gift.”

    “I agree,” Shakti said. “You would have made a fine communicator.”

    Un shook his head. “We Retikkees care more about order and obedience than empathy. That is why I was not made a communicator like my parents.”

    “Which is their loss,” Shakti said. “One cannot obtain true wisdom without empathy.”

    A musical chime played from crystals embedded in the walls, informing all that they would be landing soon. Mithra grabbed her spear, while Shakti drew her two morning stars. Un raised his hands, ready to fire thermal kinetic lances when the need arised.

 

***

 

    A portal formed in front of them, and beyond was a primordial landscape. Princess Mithra stepped through, then glanced behind her shoulder and eyed the dart-shaped Zelturian lander heading south. Other vessels descended, most of different designs, and troopers departed them until hundreds of millions of aliens gathered, their lines stretching as far as the eye could see.

     Mithra took her place near the front and looked forward. Meteorites fell from a red and orange sky. Once lush savannas burned. Winged Horrors flew in the distance, swooping down and igniting tall grass as they passed. They launched hellfire at them.

    Mithra raised her shield and deflected several. Then Gultians hovered forward, worm-like creatures with tentacles for arms. Masters of magnetism, they erected powerful magnetic fields around the host. The fields directed the incoming plasma away. Next, with a wave of their tentacles, the metal from the ground separated from the rock, swirled up, and formed balls. Another flick of their tentacles, and they streaked forward, and the sky boomed.

    Craters formed wherever they hit, flinging the ground forces into the air, yet the enemy didn’t move, even as the Gultians fired electromagnetic beams at them.

    Mithra watched, her concern growing. “Why aren’t they rushing us?”

    Shakti scanned the landscape. “We aren’t their primary concern.”

    Mithra’s irises widened. Orrorins fled to the forests. Winged Horrors plucked them up and tossed them about before ripping them apart.

    Mithra hissed. “They’re slaughtering the Orrorins.”

    “We must do something, or they will be driven to extinction,” Un said.

    “We will,” Shakti said, “but first, we must wait for the signal.”

    A horn bellowed. A Zelturian general lifted his warhammer, and lightning struck it.

    “There’s the signal,” Shakti said, and she trotted forward. “Charge!”

    The earth trembled as the host moved, an army comprising of over seven dozen Elder Races. Some carried swords, warhammers, and spears, a handful of which glowed. Others, like the rock giants, the Enju, readied their fists, and their stone hides absorbed hellfire. The Winged Horrors took notice. Some remained airborne, while others landed. The two armies collided.

    Winged Horrors rushed Mithra, their numbers seemingly endless. The tailed humanoid demons were enveloped in a dark, blistering smoke, which originated from a forge buried deep within their chests. Fire rose from their back spines and the bat-like wings that kept them afloat.

    The Winged Horrors assaulted Mithra with claws and razor-sharp teeth. Her shield deflected them as she twirled her spear and beheaded any who got too close.

    The heat emitting from their bodies was smoldering, and it washed over her.

    Above, Retikkees, Gultians, Zees and other airborne Elder Races engaged the flying Winged Horrors. They shot fire, frost, lightning, gamma bursts, and light rays. The Winged Horrors hurled hellfire back. Gaps began to form in the electromagnetic fields the Gultians were sustaining. Sometimes the projectiles got through, and Mithra had to raise her shield.

    Tornadoes twirled in the distance, summoned by Zelturian casters. They besieged the enemy’s rear and pressed them against the host. Hail fell from the sky and coated the ground beneath the Winged Horror’s feet. Some slipped, even as their feet melted the ice.

    “The enemy continues to attack the Orrorins, despite our efforts,” Un said. He floated overhead, firing thermal kinetic lances and calling down meteorites.

    Shakti waved deeper and shattered her enemies with her morning stars. “They’re attacks are designed to distract us. We must break through.”

    Mithra jumped over a Winged Horror and landed on his buddy, crushing him. She twirled and brought her shield down on the first. He split in two and exploded like a fragmentation grenade. Mithra elevated her shield and deflected the blast.

    More Winged Horrors came at them, driven mad by bloodlust and their Leviathan.

    After beheading another, Mithra said, “We need to make an opening.”

    “Agreed.” Shakti raised a hand, and several lightning bolts lit the sky. They hit the enemy lines like mortar shells, creating a corridor for them to traverse.

    “Advance,” Shakti bellowed, and Mithra followed her, along with Un and thousands of others. Tornadoes moved in to prevent the Evil Ones from closing the gap. They reached open ground and galloped forward.

    They made it to the forest. Thousands of Orrorins hid in the trees and howled at them. As they neared, the leaves and branches caught on fire.

    The wind chuckled. “You cannot save them, little princesses.”

    “It’s the Leviathan,” Mithra said. “She mocks our efforts.”

    “Maybe, but she will not win.” Shakti gestured to the sky, as if beseeching a deity. An arctic breeze swept from the north and quelled the flames.

    “Amusing, but pointless,” the wind said. “The Orrorins will die, as will your universe.”

    The Orrorins shrieked and retreated at the sight of the Elder Races.

    “Un, use your telepathy to convince them that we are friendly,” Mithra said.

    “But they are not fully sentient,” he said. “I do not know if I can communicate that to them.”

    “Use your empathy, friend Un,” Shakti said. “Don’t try to speak to them in words, but with feelings. I have faith in you. You will not fail them or us."

    Un sighed. “I… I will try. Well, here goes nothing.”

    Un extended a hand. The Orrorins slowly approached them. One even walked up to Mithra and sniffed one of her toes.

    She bent down and let her feel her talons. She smiled. “You’re a cutie, aren’t you?”

    The Orrorin looked up and grinned.

    “It is done,” Un said. “I have convinced them we are all the alpha male.”

    “I knew you could do it.” Shakti leaned back on her hind legs and examined the landscape. “We need to find the Orrorins shelter and quickly.”

    “My brethren spotted caves with a lining of onyx a few miles north of our position,” Un said.  “Onyx is immune to the Leviathan’s transmute powers.”

    “Good thinking,” Mithra said. “We should hurry.” She cradled the Orrorin female in her palm and led the soldiers to the mountain.

    “You will never reach that mountain,” the wind said.

    The ground in front of them levitated and formed a giant, ten thousand feet tall. As rock turned to flesh, the horned, tailed demon roared and burst into flames.

    It took a step forward. The earth trembled, and trees became unrooted.

    Mithra readied her spear. “By the ancestors, it’s a Colossus!”

    “I’ll deal with it.” Shakti’s morning stars became maces. Twin tornadoes descended from the heavens. She swung one mace, and a twister battered the Colossus. She swung the other. The other twister hit the demon. It bellowed and brought its foot down.

    Fissures opened, and a rock formation erupted, catapulting Shakti into the distance.

    The Orrorins howled.

    Only slightly dazed, Shakti got to her feet and thrust her mace skyward. Lightning struck her weapon, electrifying her as well.  “Feel my fury!”

    Lightning shot out of her mace. The demon stumbled and crumbled.

    Mithra sighed. “Well, that’s one less problem to—”

    Two more Colossuses rose from where the first one died and lumbered towards them.

    Shakti turned. “Get the Orrorins to the caves. I’ll hold them off.”

    The wind heckled. “Run, little Elder Races. Run. Soon I will feast upon your souls.”

    Mithra led her forces and the Orrorins around the Colossuses. She glanced behind her shoulder.    

     As lightning forked around her, Shakti flew up a tornado until she resided within its chest. Smaller twisters extended from its sides like arms. Boulders swirled within them, the air elemental’s fists. The air elemental delivered blow after blow against the two Colossuses.

    The earth heaved when either Colossus stumbled. They retaliated with punches that could shatter mountains and battered the air elemental.

    Mithra led them towards the mountain, a single peak jotting out of the savanna. They reached the mouth of the cavern, and Mithra waved the Orrorins inside.

    “Go little ones,” she said. “Get as far underground as you can. It’s your only hope.”

    Mithra scanned the battlefield. The two Colossuses were out of sight, but a legion of Flying Horrors, along with Vipers, Brutes, Catapults, and Hellhounds, approached them from the east. The vanguard were the Hellhounds, dog-like creatures engulfed in flames, with fiery tongues that acted like whips. Brutes followed them, muscular foot soldiers covered in spikes and wielding oversize swords. Smoke billowed from their helmet's eye sockets.

    Next came the Vipers. They had the head of a king cobra, the upper body of a man and the lower body of a snake. A mane of fire rimmed their heads, and they could spit out lava that was also extremely poisonous. The last were the Catapults, medieval siege engines manned by mischievous Imps. The Catapults could lobby fiery balls from afar, capable of not only dealing kinetic damage but broke apart upon impact and became swarms of locus, tiny, vicious insects that devoured everything in sight, as well as caused their surroundings to burst into flames.

    Mithra brought her foot down. The earth quaked and heaved and split the landscape into many. Lava burst from the openings.

    Mithra batted her shield and told her warriors, “Form a line. We let nothing through.” 

 

 

   Chapter 3: We Are Not Enough

 

    Engineer Un levitated in the air, one of five dozen flyers in the group. Trepidation threatened to overwhelm him. The legion of Evil Ones greatly outnumbered them.

    Un took stock of what boulders littered the area, which he could fling up in the air with his telekinesis and bring back down as meteorites, ideally against the rocks the Catapults threw. They were the greatest threat. Worrying, only a handful were within reach, and if he wanted to make more, he would have to carve them out from the mountainside.

    Not good. Not good at all. What were they going to do? How would they survive this?

    He sent a telepathic message to his Retikkee brethren. They replied that they were busy.

    “Reinforcements will not be coming anytime soon,” Un said.

    “I assumed as much,” Mithra said. She readied her spear and shield, her posture conveying both confidence and fortitude. She wouldn’t waver.

    Un couldn’t say the same. His anxiety ratcheted up.

    The first wave of Evil Ones approached them, mostly Flying Horrors, Hellhounds, and Brutes.  Un commanded lava to rise from the fissures Mithra formed earlier and forged a wall of molten rock around the mountain. The enemy hopped through it.

    Okay, that didn’t work. What other tricks did he have up his sleeves?

    An idea popped into his head. Un lowered his hands and grabbed hold of the roots that lived beneath the ground with his mind. They exploded out of the earth and trapped the monsters, but the vines burned against their skin and withered.

    The enemy bolted forward. Un fired thermal kinetic lances at them, while Mithra cleaved them in half with her spear. Their numbers blotted out the sky.

    A Winged Terror tackled Un and pinned him against the mountainside. The horned demon’s eyes and mouth were roaring furnaces. It exhaled, its breath hotter than the surface of the sun. The fumes threatened to overwhelm his psionic barriers.    

    Un clenched the fiend’s head and fired twin thermal kinetic lances. The demon resisted the fusion beams at first, but the heat built up, more than even it could handle. The Winged Terror’s head exploded, and the blast depleted Un’s shields.

    Un shot into the air. His breathing frantic, he flew away at hypersonic speeds. He covered hundreds of miles in minutes.

    He came to a stop and hovered over an ocean’s coastline.

    What was he doing, Un thought. Was he really going to leave Mithra and the others to the mercy of those monsters? But what could he do? He was just a lowly Retikkee, an engineer, and a bad one at that, pretending to be a warrior. Sure, he had survived this long, but was that because of skill or because he had the foresight to befriend powerful allies?

    Un turned and gazed west. He had just abandoned one of those allies to the enemy. What did that make him? Not a friend, that much was for sure.

    He couldn’t help Mithra, but maybe he could find someone else who could?

    Un jetted towards the last place he had seen Shakti. He spotted her sooner, his friend wading deep in a battle alongside several battalions of their troops.

    “Shakti. Princess Shakti. Princess Mithra and the others are in trouble.”

    Shakti slew her closest adversary and said, “I should never have left her.” She summoned lightning. It streaked through the sky and landed on the enemy, detonating and killing thousands. “Warriors, our friends are in trouble. We need to depart.”

    The army of sixty thousand disengaged from the enemy. Shakti conjured up a hurricane to slow the Evil Ones’ advance, along with snow and ice.

    Shakti’s army reached the mountain. Her mace shined brilliantly, its rainbow-colored rays blinding the Evil Ones. The host collided. Swords swung, warhammers came crushing down, lightning hurled towards the earth, and they slowly drove them back.

    Afterward, they found Mithra lying in a pool of her own blood, barely alive.

    “Oh no,” Un said. “We are too late.”

 

 

    Chapter 4: Aid from An Unlikely Source 

 

    King Brumah watched the space battle from his flagship. Seventy-one percent of his forces laid in ruins. More blew up every minute. The inferno that surrounded the Leviathan diminished, but still proved a potent shield against their quantum phase cannons.

    The Leviathan’s tentacles attempted to strike at the third planet. The Shimmering Lady stopped them. Crimson beams flew off into outer space.

    His radar officer turned and said, “My liege, that last beam is heading for the fifth planet.”

    All gazed forward. The beam hit the world, and the planet heated up until its surface temperature went beyond the theoretical maximum or 1.46833(85) x 10^32 Kelvin. This caused a rupture in the spacetime continuum, a portal not to another point in space or time, but an entirely different universe. Monitors on the bridge wailed, screaming about temporal paradoxes, while also informing the crew that what remained of the planet, which at this point was nothing larger than quarks and gluons, were being sucked into the tear before it resealed itself.

    King Brumah closed his eyes. A moment passed before he said, “Was that world inhabited?”

    Warrior Ti waved a hand, and a race of elven-like beings appeared.   “Yes, the Arwarians. They had just learned how to use coal to make steam.”

    “Do you have their genetic information on record?” The Umamorph asked.

    Ti turned to him. “Yes, we do.”

    “Well then, it’s not a complete loss. We could clone the Arwarians and repopulate them on another planet—" The Umamorph’s hologram shimmered, then vanished altogether.

    “The Umamorph’s flagship has been hit,” King Brumah’s son-in-law, Prince Kel, said from his console. “My liege, that was the last Umamorph vessel.”

    King Brumah burned with sorrow. The Umamorphs’ homeworld had been destroyed by the Evil Ones a few centuries back. What remained of their people had been on those ships, and unlike the Arwarians, they had kept their genetic information a secret. They were gone. Forever.

    “My liege, we don’t have enough ships left to stop the Leviathan,” Prince Kel said.

    King Brumah considered his son-in-law’s words. “The Orrorins are critical to our survival.”        

     King Brumah turned to the third planet. Somewhere done there was Prince Kel’s wife – his daughter – fighting to save the Orrorins. He frowned. “Then we have only one other option. Set the Infinite Harmony’s reactors to overload and ram the Leviathan.”

    “While part of me would enjoy seeing you die, that will not be necessary.”

    King Brumah glanced left. Xen, High Admiral of the Nymphs, appeared in hologram form.

    “We’ve received your call for aid and are here to render assistance,” the spiderman said. “My fleet is large enough to kill a single Leviathan.”

    “He’s correct,” Prince Kel said. “I’m detecting over a million warships.”

    Spiraling cone-shaped vessels materialized beyond the bridge’s viewer, seemingly made of spider silk. They fired on the Leviathan. She thrashed her tentacles.

    King Brumah ordered his ships to do the same and added their firepower to the Nymphs’. The inferno surrounding the Leviathan vanished, and she exploded.

    “The Leviathan is dead,” Xen said. “The Zelturians have once again been saved by their old-time rivals. Tell me King Brumah: can you live with that?”

    “I am eternally grateful, Xen, but you did not kill the Leviathan.”

    Xen’s mandibles rustled. “We just destroyed her, or did you not see that?”

    “I did, but Leviathans cannot die,” King Brumah explained. “They are beings of energy. All we destroyed today was the shell that contained the Leviathan’s essence. It’s like shattering a bottle of water. You haven’t gotten rid of the water, just dispersed it. Still, it will take the Leviathan centuries before she can manifest again in our universe.”

    Xen waved his head. “Nothing will ever please you, will it?”

 

 

    Chapter 5: A Blood Feud That Shall Last the Ages Is Born

 

    When the Leviathan’s shell was destroyed, her dark servants on the planet crumbled. They were sentient and were as real as you or me and yet they were also figments of the Leviathan’s imagination, nightmares granted physical form through a science not even the Elder Races understood. They couldn’t exist without her, so they turned to fossilized dust.

    Beside the lonely mountain, Engineer Un hovered over Princess Mithra. Her armor was torn in multiple areas, and acid blood gushed out from those spots.

    Un and Princess Shakti tried to stop the bleeding, careful not to get it on them.

    A shuttle landed a few yards off. King Brumah and Queen Spenta departed it.

    King Brumah walked over to Mithra and placed a crystal on her body. It revealed shattered bones beneath her skin. King Brumah sighed. “Her regenerative powers should have kicked in and stopped the bleeding. They do not because of the Evil Ones’ magic. I am sorry, but there is nothing that I can do for her, other than to dull the pain.”

    Shakti looked up. “How bad are her wounds, Father.”

    King Brumah frowned. “I fear the wounds are fatal.”

    Mithra groaned. “I assumed as much. At least I’ll die for something worthwhile.”

    Un approached her. “You are going to die because of me. Because I’m a coward.”

    “You went to get help,” Mithra said. “The Orrorins are alive because of you.”

    “No, I panicked and flew away,” Un said.

    “But you did come for me later,” Shakti said.

    “All warriors feel fear, including me,” King Brumah said. His beard blew in the wind, his voice a soothing melody. He bent down and added, “Yes, you fell prey to them, but ultimately, you overcame them and sought out my daughter. You did not dishonor your friend.”

    Mithra reached out to him. “I’m so very proud of you. So very… proud… of you…”

    Mithra died. Un lowered his head and mourned, as did the others.

    “What have you done?”

    Everyone turned. Kamru Mazdah towered off in the distance. He lunged at Un, grabbed him, and squeezed his chest with his thumbs.

    “I always knew you were a coward,” Kamru Mazdah said. “Now you’ve got my wife killed.”

    Un’s vision blurred.

    Shakti jolted Kamru Mazdah with lightning. “Leave him alone.”

    Kamru Mazdah dropped Un and snarled. “I will rip you to pieces. I swear—”

    A hand lowered and plucked Kamru Mazdah up by the back of his neck. “And I will do the same to you. Do I make myself clear?”

    Un shook his head and again, looked up.

    At twenty-two feet tall, Queen Spenta almost doubled the height of Kamru Mazdah. Her neck crest flapped, and her sail spines rattled. Her muscles flexed, her biceps the size of boulders. If she wanted to, she could rip her son in half without straining a muscle.

    Kamru Mazdah hissed. “But my wife is dead because of this cowardly—”

    “My daughter-in-law is dead because she sacrificed herself for a greater cause.”

    “What? To save a bunch of dumb hairy apes?” Kamru Mazdah asked.

    Queen Spenta bared her teeth, each as sharp as a katana. “Don’t forget to whom you are speaking to. I am not just your mother. I am your queen.”

    Kamru Mazdah lowered his head. “Yes, your Majesty.”

    Queen Spenta tossed her son to the ground. “Now, apologize.”

    “What? To that coward?” Kamru Mazdah asked.

    Queen Spenta placed her foot on top of her son and pressed down. “Apologize. Now!”

    Kamru Mazdah stared at Un. “I’m… I’m sorry for assaulting you.”

    “Good.” Queen Spenta released her son and moved toward Mithra. “Now, I must decide what to do about my daughter-in-law’s remains.”

    “I believe that decision has already been made,” King Brumah said.

    Everyone watched as the Orrorins exited the cave and shuffled up to Mithra’s corpse. They clutched piles of dirt and sprinkled them on her head. Some poured dirt on her blood, while others chanted a series of grunts. More danced in circles.

    “Do you think they realize that she died to save them?” Un asked.

    “Yes,” Queen Spenta said. “They honor my daughter-in-law, and I leave her to their care.”

     Kamru Mazdah gasped. “But that goes against Vijic tradition—”

    “Silence,” Queen Spenta said. “I am queen. I am above tradition.”

    “And what about me?” Kamru Mazdah asked. “Don’t I get a say?”

    Queen Spenta snarled. “After your disgraceful behavior, I should leave you with nothing…”  She sighed. “Fine. You can take her armor, spear, and shield.”

    Kamru Mazdah approached his wife’s corpse. He hissed at the Orrorins. The apemen howled back. He collected her things and departed.

    A female Orrorin came up to Un and kissed him on the cheek.

    Shakti giggled. “I think she likes you.”

    Un blushed. “She’s not my type.”

    “Perhaps not today,” King Brumah said, “but a few million years from now, who knows? Love is a mysterious force, even to one as long-lived as me."

    The group chuckled, though Un continued to blush, then one by one they left.

    Un eyed Mithra’s remains and reminisced. She had died fighting for what she believed in. She had died believing in Un, even when he didn’t. He realized then that her greatest asset wasn’t her godlike strength, or her almost impenetrable hide, or even her fantastic fighting prowess.  It was her indomitable will. It existed regardless of her superpowers.

    She didn’t hold her ground against the Evil Ones because she thought it would be easy. She did it because it was right, and she was prepared to pay for it.

    Un laid a hand on her forehead. “I swear that I’m going to earn your faith in me. I’m not going to let others push me around. Not anymore. I’m going to stand up for myself. I’m going to stand true to my ideals, even if it means going against the world. I don’t care.”

    He turned to see King Brumah gazing down at him. “It takes courage to confront one’s flaws, to recognize that there are things about yourself that must change.”

    “I just want to be worthy of the tremendous faith she placed in me.”

    King Brumah bent a knee and said, “If you stay true to the vows you’ve made today, then you have nothing to fear. You are already deserving of it. Now, let’s depart this world.”

    King Brumah got up and walked away. Un glanced at Princess Mithra one last time before following him towards the shuttle and the horizon beyond it.

 

 

***

 

    August 7th, 2047.

    “Professor. Professor. You’ve got to come and see this.”

    Professor Edward Clarke rubbed his eyes and stretched. His assistant, an undergrad student from Oxford, stood over him, full of energy and excitement.

    “What on God’s Green Earth compelled you to wake me?”

    “Come,” his assistant said. “You’ll want to see this.”

    Professor Clarke got out of his hammock and walked under the African sun. Dozens of undergraduate students worked the ground with brushes, being extremely careful as they separated rock from fossil. He passed them and headed for a large tent.

    “We’ve been using our portable MRI to scan that strange chest cavity within the dinosaur-like skeleton we found at the Orrorin burial ground,” his assistant said.

    Doctor Clarke yawned. A dinosaur-like skeleton? His assistant must be raving about the theropod, though what for? The only thing unusual about it was where they found it: beneath an Orrorin burial ground, one of mankind’s earliest non-homo ancestors.

    How the Orrorins, which translated as ‘Original Man,’ managed to dig up a dinosaur skeleton was a mystery. Why they would have buried it among their dead was another.

    Did they worship the creature as some kind of god? Was this the earliest example of religion? 

    “The chest cavity?” Professor Clarke asked. “You mean the tumor?”

    “No. That’s just it. It’s no tumor, nor does the bones belong to a tyrannosaur.”

    “Of course, they don’t, boy. This is Africa. T-Rex was native to North America.”

    “No, I’m saying that it’s not even a dinosaur.”

    “What are you talking about? Of course, it’s a bloody dinosaur. What else could it be?”

    “Just look.” His assistant entered the tent and activated the holographic projector inside. It displayed a 3D recreation of the fossil’s skull and spine. The skull’s shape and size made it clear to Professor Clarke that it was a distant relative of tyrannosaurus rex.

    “See what happens when I magnify on the ‘tumor.'" His assistant fiddled with a nob, and the outer layer of the tumor peeled off, revealing a well-designed cavity, not irregular, as would be the case if it was a tumor. The back of the cavity was fused to the fourth theoretic vertebrate.

    “Now, watch this.” His assistant panned on the spinal cord and zoomed in.

    “Lord Almighty, the Queen just gave birth to kittens.”

    A tube, separated from the other spinal cord, ran from the ‘tumor’ to the skull’s brain cavity.

    “We have seen this before,” his assistant said. “In stegosaurus. It has two brains.”

    Professor Clarke frowned. “Are you saying that this tumor is actually a second brain cavity?

    His assistant nodded, his smile expanding.

    “But it’s bigger than the other brain,” Professor Clarke said.

    “I know. We’ve measured the cavity and noted that proportionally, it’s larger than our own.”

    “Wait. This thing is… well, was sentient. Like us?”

    “And that’s not the crazy part. We’ve dated the fossils.”

    Professor Clarke looked at the image and back at his assistant. “How old are they?”

    His assistant grinned. “Five million years, professor. Five… million… years.”

    Professor Clarke blinked. “It’s not a dinosaur.”

 

 

    Chapter 6: Epilogue

 

    January 12th, 2052

    A man dressed in a trench coat walked through London's Natural History Museum after closing hours. The lights were out, but the moon shined through the windows. The faint tap tap of boots on tile echoed further down the halls, a sign that security guards were patrolling the building. They would no doubt take exception to his presence. He couldn’t care less.

    He passed one exhibit after another, including an eighty-two-foot-long diplodocus skeleton. His destination turned out to be the humanity exhibit, specifically a new fossil, one that was generating a lot of controversies. It looked like a blend between a man and a T-rex.

    The man came to a halt and read the sign beneath the display case. “Reptilian Sapiens: The greatest mystery of the 21st century. Were they men like us?”

   “Reptilian Sapiens?” The man’s eyes changed color, his skin protesting that it needed to return to its original shape and size. “As if we are as stupid as you humans.”

    A flashlight shined in his face. “Sir, the museum is closed. You have to—”

    The man grabbed the security guard by the throat and lifted him high into the air. He drew him closer. “You don’t deserve her. You never deserved her.”

    The man grew, becoming a thirteen-foot-tall lizardman.

    The guard stared at him. “You’re… you’re just like the fossil.”

    “That ‘fossil’ was my wife. We are called the Vijics, and you are my dinner.”

     Kamru Mazdah swallowed the security guard whole. Then he shrank and resumed his human disguise. He turned to the fossilized remains of his wife.

    “The Evil Ones.” Thinking of the extra-universe entities caused his blood to boil, so much so that he spoke their true name. “The Sh’qua are imprisoned. Not dead as I would like, but sadly, you cannot kill something that cannot die. Still, even that took us Elder Races ten thousand years, along with the destruction of one-third of the Milky Way Galaxy. But the War of the Ancients is over. Only we Vijics, the Zelturians, and the Retikkees survived.”

    Kamru Mazdah scanned the room one last time. Humanity’s ancestors lined the display cases, including a recreation of the Orrorins. The three-foot-nine-tall manikins were an almost perfect replica of the hairy critters he encountered five million years ago.

    “You shouldn’t have sacrificed yourself for them.” His fists clenched. “Mom died a million years ago. Killed by my sisters, but with her death, I am free. Free to do with humanity as I see fit. I have plans for them. Plans that will change the nature of warfare.”

    Kamru Mazdah’s gaze lowered to the flashlight the security guard had dropped.

    He bent over and picked it up. “To humanity, we Elder Races are creatures of myth and legend. We Vijics are the Lizard People, while the Retikkees are known as the Roswell Greys. The Zelturians go even deeper into their history: the centaurs of Greek mythology. Makes me wonder if they didn’t come back and give humanity a helping hand at some point, all because King Brumah thought mankind would be our salvation. What a ridiculous notion.”

    “As for the Evil Ones…” He pictured a mural he'd seen a few hallways down. "The Sh'qua are the demons spoken of in the Bible, but they're not demons. If man only knew the truth: that aliens control this miserable dung heap of a world.” He crushed the flashlight in his hand. “Humanity will suffer, a thousand times what you did, as will Engineer Un. I promise you.”

    He eyed his wife, a part of him yearning to remove her from this collection of old bones but stopped himself. Taking her now would draw undue attention.

    Kamru Mazdah twirled and walked out of the museum. He had an interstellar war to start.

 

 

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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