Authors: Jonathan Wedge
Before any world was born, the darkness of space lived alone for all of time, until from within the infinite shadows of dark matter there came a stone; a stone that gave us existence itself; a stone of all elements that overcame the forces of anti-matter to complete the universe with life. Such a powerful thing; a stone that holds the powers of all creation and all imagination; a stone that if ever uncovered by capable hands, should only be used for good. If the stone were to fall under the service of the wicked, life as we know it would not be any life at all. There is darkness and there is kindness that lives around us—evil does exist. It is those of the evil ilk that we need be wary, it is those of the evil ilk that should never have the power of the Elementis. The stone is everything; from the ground on which you walk to the stars at which you so longingly gaze. It created everything and it destroyed everything that was before it. The universe, as with everything is part of the cycle of life, there is birth and there is death. How death chooses you may not be a choice at all, but if the good can protect you from the evil, you may still yet have that choice. I cannot tell you if goodness can defeat the evil in this one blink of endless time, but does that really matter? For the universe will die and will be born an infinite number of times, no one or no thing can stop this. It is a fact that everything will end, though as life would have it, the end is not the end it is just the beginning…
A Lost Past
Uly's eyelids lay as still as resting water. Something beneath the surface disturbed his eyes into a flinch. Visions flooded his dreams with the realities of his past, stirring to life all of the things he had wished to forget. But there was no forgetting, his thoughts were alive whether he wanted them or not. Trapped memories pushed back into his consciousness, memories of how it was to feel the pain of water welling up in an aching eye with the bitter taste of salt upon his lips. Uly's dreams were as vivid as the day itself.
Venuk's soft-skinned throat reddened as her head struggled from side to side against the tightness of leather straps across her breasts, holding her body flat to the coldness of the stone birthing-table. The metal bindings around her ankles kept her squirming feet tied to the stone as the midwives uttered words of encouragement to calm her struggle. They had never seen a birth like it.
Modestly covered with sheets across her legs, her naked belly swelled from her petite frame, alive with limbs inside of her. Every muscle of her body clenched together as a clawing handprint pushed up, stretching the skin of her lower stomach. The natural born killer inside was hardwired to begin with its mother. The hand pushed further, Venuk screamed, filling the ears of Uly and the horrified midwives with a noise that would echo in their minds for eternity. Her skin began to tear, she wouldn't let it kill her, she wouldn't let something so beautiful as birth be as ruthless as the creator of the baby inside had intended. Droplets of sweat poured down her brow. She yelled, straining her mouth wide apart to let the sound of pain be heard. Her stretched mouth lessened somewhat as the handprint sank back down inside of her and with one final screaming breath she pushed as hard as she knew until the baby slid into the gauntleted arms of the midwife. The boy cried. Wailing a baby's song with a blue birthmarked jaw. His body was smeared with the silver-metallic blood of his dydrid mother.
King Uly took Venuk's hand in his own. The thickness of his forearm was decorated with a fine gold bracelet, a dull orange gem lay in the centrepiece between two linking crescents of golden moons; the golden moons of Uly's energy-star; the bracelet that was the medium between the man and the power of the orange stone.
Uly brushed Venuk's auburn hair behind her silver ear and looked down at her face lying still beneath him. The kindness of his eyes had turned afraid of the pains he had watched her endure.
"Venuk, look at me!" he begged, longing to see the whites of her eyes.
Venuk's eyes blinked open. As tired as they were she looked up at the ocean-blue eyes gazing down at her with worry.
"You've survived!" Uly said, with a smile.
"There is another," she whispered.
The king felt her squeeze. She crushed his hand as pain re-filled her body. Her back curved into an arc, stretching her leather straps beyond their range as both mother and second child fought for their lives. Silver-bloody tears streamed down Venuk's innocent face as the baby tore away her insides. A hand appeared once more, pushing metallic-veins through the skin of her torso. Two hands dug away, clawing higher and stretching her skin out further. There was nothing Venuk could do, her skin was broken and the baby was free. The loose skin of Venuk's stomach flapped over the baby's head. He took his first breath of air as his mother took her last.
Venuk lay dead as the baby writhed soundless in a pool of silver blood, its body half out and half inside of his mother. Uly stared at the new born. A watery tear ran down his cheek resting upon the crest of his lips until the next tear pushed the salt into his mouth; a taste he had rarely known. The midwives did their duty, cleaning the baby's body and covering Venuk's wounds. Uly looked over to the far end of the room where Witakker, an older, white bearded man had watched the birth in silence.
"You told me she would live," Uly said.
Witakker had never seen a weak side to his king, he wasn't sure if there could be one the man was so driven towards a life of protecting his people. He was glad to see a tear. Not glad in any way of the circumstances which had drawn it but glad to see that Uly, who he had always considered as a friend more than a king, was full of as much feeling as any other man. Even if this is what it took to show it.
Witakker, as always was clear and honest, "The second child was too strong," he told him.
Uly removed a rectangular stone pendant from around the delicate neck of his deceased love. He kissed her forehead, pausing his lips on her face to remember the last touch of her skin and he turned to look at his second-born son. He locked his eyes on the child, "Take him away," Uly said.
"Uly, two princes is a blessing," Witakker advised.
"Take him away!" Uly repeated, gritting his teeth, shooting a look to Witakker that told the old man not to advise any further.
Uly dangled Venuk's pendant out towards Witakker, "If he is capable then he will return of his own accord," Uly suggested, meeting some way towards Witakker's urge to keep the child.
Witakker held out his hand as the king dropped the pendant into his palm. He bowed in high regard to the king, and the killer child began to cry.
Uly's eyes rippled open into darkness. He sat up in his bed, disturbed by the sound of a crying child. There was no crying. The night was as quiet as a buried coffins creak, the only sounds that he heard came from the storm in his mind. He was much older this night than in his dream, his brown hair beneath his golden head-band was less wiry in those days and his beard was not speckled with grey as it was now.
He looked beside him, reaching out a hand and stroking the cold, lonely pillow by his side. He wished she was there. He slid his legs out of the covers and sat in the silence of the night, looking out of the window up to the dusky brown moon in the night sky.
Uly would never forget that day, neither his conscience nor his dreams would allow it. A chain of events beyond his control had led to the death of a woman he should never have fallen in love with. Of all of the women in all of the systems he had visited, he fell in love with a dydrid, the enemy.
It was not intended to be that Uly would have feelings for this female, it was an arrangement that had to be made, there was simply no other way. When Venuk was taken for the purpose of cross breeding, Uly did not anticipate that the dydrid were capable of sweetness, of caring and of anything less than wanting to kill every cytherean they should ever meet. But he found that they were. And Uly soon learned that when a woman carries your child she becomes a part of you, your blood is connected within her veins, she becomes your life and there was nothing Uly could have done to have changed that.
Uly tried desperately not to wonder about the son he sent away all those years ago. And there was a part of him which had always wished he would have been able to look at his boys face without seeing the death of Venuk, but he knew he could not. He did not know where Witakker had taken the boy. He had not wanted to know. He did not know his name, or if he was alive or whether the boy looked like him or his mother or his brother, Calyx. Fifteen years had past and were it not for the dreams, Uly may just have been able to push these unwanted thoughts aside. But naturally, a father who sends a child away will be left to always wonder; where is he now? What is he like? Has he already discovered the power that lies inside of his mind?
Jonas sat on a flip-down chair against a warm metal wall, waiting in the stuffiness of the space cruisers vacuum chamber. It was noticeable that the air conditioning was broken and the ship was far too warm to be comfortable. A drip of sweat formed on the tip of his collar bone, finally gathering enough moisture to trickle down past the stone pendant which rested upon his chest.
An awkward silence had lingered for some time now between himself and young Hok who sat on the opposite side of the wall. With no windows and no form of entertainment in the chamber, it made conversation even harder work than Jonas usually found it. Hok was a tough-skinned lad, blessed with nothing in the way of looks with a complexion that looked like dry tree bark, the classic look of a Rilker.
Hok eyed up the fresh, smooth skin that covered Jonas's kind looking face and could see quite easily why the other spiders were jealous of him. His dark brown hair was a favourite with the girls back home. Hok had seen many a swooning female rubbing their hands playfully through his hair as Jonas shied away. Hok thought it was quite unfortunate for Jonas that he'd never found girls with muddy coloured skin and eye sockets in their foreheads that attractive. The Rilker girls couldn't leave him alone, what Hok wouldn't give to be Jonas for a day, the boy had a charm which even he didn't know, annoyingly this only made him even more so charming.
They waiting for some time, forcing out some chat about the all-important scoreboard that kept a running total of all stolen goods which every team of ship-spiders aspired to be at the top of. If this haul was successful, Jonas and Hok would make up two-thirds of the team that would take a clear lead at the top. And if luck was on their side, their cruiser; Spider 7 would be docking any moment with a million-ton cargo freighter carrying the blackfire that would make their points tally un-catchable.
The freighter was reportedly due to deliver the blackfire at the next satellite port of Nakunga where the plan was, as always to intercept the cargo before it reached the drop-off port, find the energy source they were stealing without a skirmish and be on their way home to Rilk just in time to join the other spiders for a few glasses of klag and the tales of the days takings.
The third member of Spider 7 sat alone in the cockpit. Ell was clearly from the same gene pool as Hok, only his tree like face was more rotten and more weathered.
Ell gently pushed and tapped the ships controls, being careful not to magnetize the cruiser to the freighters hull with a heavy contact. The balloon-bottomed windshield gave him the perfect view to see the surface of the cargo-ship below as he awkwardly bent his large frame across the controls and over the dash of his cockpit, watching the descent with a vigilant eye. He looked more clumsy than careful though, his oversized hands were not nurtured for delicate ship manoeuvres and even though he knew Jonas could land this thing without making a sound he needed Jonas's strength to load the blackfire onto Spider 7. Ell had always thought of himself as being one of the strongest Rilkers, being able to handle two cubes of blackfire at a time, but Jonas could somehow manage seven or eight without even breaking into sweat. Ell never would have thought it from looking at him, Jonas was muscular for a young lad but whatever flowed through his veins, it wasn't natural, Ell had always known that much.