Authors: Eric McMeins
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Military, #Space Opera
The dwarf and the human stood side by side, soon joined by Jeth, and they dealt death to anyone foolish to come near. Then it happened. It was eerie how clear it stood out in Cole’s mind. First Sky had appeared from out of nowhere to stand next to him, somehow managing to force Jeth to take a step sideways. At the same moment, the swirling chaos and smoke to his front parted like someone drawing open a curtain. There it was. A creature that haunted his dreams to this day. Pyndingum, but this one was different. Bigger, stronger, and holding physical weapons in its hands.
For Cole, the battle fell away and he focused on the big Esii walking calmly towards him. He had no blaster, nor modern firearm of any kind. He too had a sword, and its tip was dragging a furrow behind him as he walked. Cole turned off his helmet and the frantic calls on his coms died away. The battlefield faded away to the background. He dropped his blaster and gripped his sword with two hands. Somewhere in the corner of his mind, he thought he heard someone talk.
“Finally this ends; one way or another.”
Cole screamed in righteous anger and leapt forward, sword held high. These were the creatures who caused all of this. These were the beings that killed his people, not once, but twice. These were the beings that took Thalo from them. These were the people that tortured him.
They came together in a shower of sparks. Cole really didn’t know much about sword fighting, but his battle senses were in overdrive and time slowed dramatically for him as his neurons fired as fast as they could. Still the Esii was fast, and Cole was hard pressed to keep ahead of him. The battle raged around them as if they weren’t there, and they raged at each other.
The fight shifted when Cole set his foot down wrong and lost his balance for the briefest of moments. The Esii doubled his attacks and pressed his advantage. The alien scored two strikes to Cole’s chest and slit the suit and the skin underneath. Cole took the hits and went from backpedaling to trying to push forwards. Finally, Cole gave it an opening it couldn’t refuse and it did a full extension thrust right at Cole’s heart. But Cole wasn’t there; he spun at the last minute towards the Esii and led with his sword. It entered the Esii’s neck and passed through it cleanly.
Time stopped—literally came to a halt. Cole found himself frozen, staring into the eyes of his hated enemy at the exact moment in time it knew it had lost the war, and its life. Suddenly Cole found himself tumbling to the ground as his movement was restored; the rest of the universe was still paused though.
“Congratulations, my boy, well done.” He saw a hand in front of his face offering him help up. He saw the face behind the hand.
“Jarrod? No, you’re something else.” Cole looked at the face of the man who had played the part of his ancestor for so long. Then a blur appeared right next to the man he thought of as Jarrod.
“You,” Cole said pointing at the blur. “You are the one who warped the Esii, turned them to this path.” Cole snatched the sword off the ground and managed one-step before he was frozen in place.
“Please, the time for violence is over. The matter has been decided. I won,” Jarrod cackled in glee. The blur shifted slightly, and to Cole’s perception, it didn’t look very happy. He found himself free again and dropped his sword.
“What the hell is going on? Who are you?” Cole asked, all the fight left in him draining away.
“As to what we are, well that is hard to describe with words,” Jarrod started.
“Try,” Cole said coolly.
“We are not from this universe. We are beings that exist on a more ethereal plane of existence. One that does not require a physical body or anything else physical, for that matter.”
“Are you gods?” Cole asked.
“Not in the sense you’re thinking of. While we did create this galaxy and everything in it, we do not respond to prayers, sacrifices, or whatnot. See, very difficult to be exact with the spoken language. We are two beings that had a problem. One we could not agree on the answer to. So we created this.” He held out his arms as if to encompass everything in existence. “We set rules, and we played the game. Several times in fact. This was, how do you say it, a tie breaker and I won.”
“What problem? What game?” Cole asked.
“It was an argument between myself and my counterpart, and the game was to see who won the galaxy. We have been at this for a very long time. He won the first, and I won the last two. Each time we played with different styles. He much prefers the chaotic to the ordered as I do, so I used that against him this time.” Jarrod turned to look at the blur.
“Yes, I do suppose it’s not over yet. You, young human, have a choice to make and a favor or two to ask. While I have technically won, you are the deciding voice. You must solve our argument. You have two choices. First, you must decide if you want to solve our argument or not.”
“If I choose not to?” Cole asked.
“Then we wipe this galaxy clean and start once again,” he replied. Cole hung his head.
“And if I choose to help with your argument?” he asked voice low.
“Then you will leave this plane behind and come home with us. Your body will remain behind of course, but your energy will be transformed into a higher life form. There, you will find the solution to our problem and settle this once and for all,” Jarrod said.
“Do I get to come back?” Cole asked.
“No, that will not be possible.”
“You said something about favors?”
“Yes, if you choose to leave this physical world and journey home with us, you may make a few requests as to the disposition of the galaxy after we are gone. Though we really look at this galaxy and its inhabitants much the same way you look at germs or viruses, I, as the victor, realize that there is merit to allowing this galaxy to continue,” he said.
“Fix the Esii, the Roche, everyone that he,” Cole pointed at the blur, “ruined here. Put the Esii back on their planet the way they were before. Give my people a home to live on and leave this galaxy to its own fate. No more interfering,” Cole replied.
“I hear it in your voice; you do not think it is over for you. Let me assure you, there is no escape from our realm. Once you are there, you are there for eternity, we do not die. But if you must hold onto something, so be it.” The two beings turned towards each other but Cole interrupted.
“Can I speak to Sky before I go?” he asked.
“No, that is not possible, I’m afraid. No one must know of us or that there are other planes of existence,” Jarrod said.
“Can I at least say goodbye.”
“Yes, she cannot hear you now, so there is no harm.” Cole turned to walk back to Sky. He saw her with a look of horror on her face from the false opening he had given the Esii. She would never know he had survived. He quickly reprogrammed his nanites while he walked and stopped just short of Sky’s outstretched hand. He leaned in close to her ear.
“Sky,” he whispered, “I love you and I do this for you.” He looked behind him and saw the two beings standing close, quietly talking. “I don’t care what they say. I will be back, I promise.” He kissed her on the lips and then backed away. When he turned, the battlefield was empty of Roche and Esii. Even the bodies were gone, all except the last Esii, the blurred one’s champion. He was still frozen in time. Waiting to die.
“I am ready,” Cole said.
“Good, we have met your requests and are ready to finally leave this place for good.” The blur was suddenly gone, disappeared.
“Is that all it takes to go?” Cole asked.
“For one of us, yes. For you, no. It is much more painful.” His hand shot out and entered Cole’s chest. Cole felt the very fibers of his being ripping apart. Then suddenly he was detached from his body, he saw it fall to the ground. A voice, no not a voice, but something imparted the knowledge into him of what he was supposed to do. It was all so simple, but at the same time he could have never grasped the concepts being forced upon him with his human brain. He took one last look at Sky; he locked that image of her inside of him for all of eternity and was torn from this reality into another.
Sky was disorientated, confused really. She had seen Cole stumble in his fight against the Esii, and she had screamed out in horror when she saw him lunge, but Cole had slipped on purpose and twisted out of the way at the last moment. He had spun and his weapon had sliced through the Esii’s neck but now she was watching as Cole slowly toppled to the ground in front of her.
She lunged forward, tripping over a dead Worlder in front of her, and went crashing down on her stomach a mere foot from Cole’s unmoving form. She was so focused on Cole that she never saw the Esii’s head finally roll of its shoulders and his body fall limp to the ground. It hadn’t registered that the fighting had stopped, simply because there was no one left to fight. The enemy was gone.
She had eyes for one thing and one thing only. She reached out, grabbed the dirt, and pulled herself forward as tears streamed from her eyes. She felt it before she could touch him. He was gone—dead. Pulling herself to her knees, she rolled him over onto his back; his lifeless eyes stared into the sky. She deactivated her helmet and turned her face skyward as well. She let loose a soul rending scream into the sky and held Cole to her chest as tears streamed down her face.
The army surrounding her on the plain took up a lonely vigil, forming a circle around the pair on the ground. Helmets were removed and faces turned to the ground. More than one of those battle-hardened soldiers shed a tear when they heard the news about Cole’s death. No one really knew what had happened to end the war so suddenly, or why it had happened, but they did agree on one thing. Cole had somehow sacrificed himself to end it, and sent their enemies away.
The Nomad’s, who had come late to the battle but had fulfilled their promise to the humans and had turned the tide of battle enough to force a confrontation, took up an ancient song. It was a ballad of victories won and heroes lost. It stirred the souls of everyone present, and was forever sung on that spot on that day of every year. Beings from all over the galaxy came to watch as the nomads from the planet orbiting Nixa arrived like clockwork to sing the song of Cole’s death in battle.
Sky heard none of it; she cried and rocked her love on the ground. She knew in her heart that Cole had done whatever it took to save her and her planet, quite possibly the galaxy as a whole as well. But it wasn’t fair. He was hers and she kept losing him. She cried for a long time, and was finally taken from the battlefield by Jeth. He carried her in one arm and Cole in the other. A line of soldiers, tens of thousands deep, followed them back to the landing ships of the Nomads. Sky sat with Cole’s body as they flew to the temporary capitol of her planet. There she was met by her mother and father in a somber moment. She didn’t speak or do much to acknowledge their arrival. As she moved to exit the ship, she looked around at the battle-scarred landscape and stopped.
“No, he will go home,” she said out loud and took him back onto the ship. Split was walking out of the cockpit and stopped when they saw her boarding the shuttle again. They raised an eyebrow and looked to Jeth.
“She is taking him home.” Was all the big Worlder said, and Split nodded his head in acceptance. They returned to the cockpit and readied the ship to rejoin the fleet. The transport took off just as the sun was cresting the eastern hills, painting the sky reds and pinks. Sky never looked back and never again returned to the planet of her birth.
10 YEARS AFTER THE END OF THE WAR
Sky sat on a padded bench on the back deck of her home. Her hand absently stroked the great swell of her belly. She was humming a soft tune and attempting to calm down the little ones inside of her. She never took her eyes from the brood playing in the backyard, always protective, always watching. Ten twins, some identical and some fraternal, played in the backyard under her watchful eye. Their ages ranged from the oldest at eight to the youngest at one. She glanced at the older human male sitting on a rocking chair a few feet from her. He smiled at her and nodded.
The oldest boy, Jace, came running in at full speed and vaulted with ease up over the railing and onto the deck.
“Grampa, Rain says that she saw a wolf in the woods. Tell her to stop lying,” Jace said in the high-pitched voice of youth. The old man chuckled, leaned forward, and put his hands on the boy’s shoulders. The two shared many features, as they both had with Jace’s father.
“Tell Rain she’s right. They just released the first wolf pack back into the wild to thin out the game animals.” Jace’s eyes grew wide at this and without a sound, turned and fled back to the pack of playing children. He immediately started to whisper to them and they all took up weary stances, staring into the woods.
“You forgot to tell them that they did it on the other side of the mountains,” Sky said absently. James chuckled again.
“If it makes them more wary, all’s the better. How are you?” he asked the expectant mother.
“Not bad considering, but will be glad when this is over.” She patted her belly again.
“Is this the last?” James asked her.
“Yes,” she said with a hint of sadness in her voice. “I pushed the limit storing as many fertilized embryos as I did. We Nixa can delay the growth of a few at a time for years, but not this many for this long. Frankly, it took all my medical training to get them all.” Cole’s father nodded and went back to watching the children. He had finally woken from his coma nearly a year after Cole’s death. He hadn’t taken it well, and Sky had insisted he live with her. He had been helping raise his grandchildren for the better part of the last decade.
Sky levered herself off the bench and turned to head back inside. Cole’s father gently grabbed her arm as she walked by. He looked into her eyes as she glanced down. He knew where she was going and it made him sad. That she was a devoted mother, there was no question. She, more than any other being in this galaxy, had helped humanity colonize the planet that she had found occupying the space once held by his own planet before it was destroyed. But she had her demons, and this was the worst.
“Don’t,” he said. “You should let him go.” Sky looked at him and shook her arm free of his grasp. She continued on inside, knowing he would keep an eye on the other children. The house was bustling with aides, planners, servants, and others involved with her life. She ignored them all and walked through the spacious house and down into the basement. At the bottom of the stairs, she halted at a massive steel door with multiple locks. She entered the correct codes, passed the DNA scans, and opened the door. It was two feet thick and so were the solid steel walls of the room she entered. It was a room designed and built to house the most important treasure in the galaxy, at least to her. Cole’s body lay on a hovering medical gurney with a shield fully enclosing him. It hummed with electricity when she got near.
He lay there, looking exactly as he did the day he died. Well not technically died she thought. His brain had zero activity but his body lived on. She had discovered, once she realized his body showed none of the classic signs of death, that Cole had reprogrammed his nanites to keep his body alive. So they did. They moved his blood around, brought in oxygen, and kept his body in an eternal state of health.
Sky had nothing to do with it except the permanent IV drip of nutrients and minerals for the nanites to replicate. That’s what others didn’t understand. She wasn’t keeping him alive; he had wanted his body preserved. She could only think of one reason he would want that. He wasn’t dead and he planned to come back. She was obsessed and checked on his body two or three times a day. She had built this room to protect him and would make sure that when he came back, he would have his body. She felt a kick then a flutter of activity in her belly.
“Yes my sweets, this is your father. You will get to meet him one day, I promise.” She smiled and began to hum softly to soothe the small ones growing inside her. Yes, one day they would all meet their father.
THE END OF THE INHERITED WAR TRILOGY