Thursday, February 28, 2013

Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, Part 8

In a lot of ways, the Alliance of Five could never have endured forever.  In order for the Galactic Alliance itself to have come about, the end of the beginning had to happen.  Now, whether or not that means Hayed was the assassin of Trey or merely played a part in it, I don’t know that I’m qualified to say.  I’ve been stuck on Omox for too long to believe in simple answers.  I’ve still yet to find anything besides the clay statues of Modoc.   I spend more time trying to help Bondquan achieve something even more impossible, teach me to speak Omoxian.

The truth is, Trey died at the Battle of Shibal, and what killed him was a spaceship.  I mean that he was literally crushed by a spaceship.  That may sound like complete overkill, or something that was obviously invented well after the fact, the only means capable of murdering a legend, but it’s too absurd not to take at face value.  A spaceship crash-landed on top of Trey the Conqueror.

Unlike the Alliance of Five tales themselves, which recount the early adventures of Trey and the four other founding members of the Galactic Alliance, there are more sources available for the Battle of Shibal.  Though Shibal itself has passed into legend and has been interpreted in many ways, the battle itself is known to have occurred, because each of the four races involved have versions of it on record in some way.  The Tikanni share little with the outside world these days, but they still speak of it, as if to justify leaving the Alliance behind.  Lord Phan is not a part of the battle, but his surrogate, the Hesslan called Kaz Felrek, is, although not as a combatant.  For a mercenary, Felrek rarely seems to act in any of the stories about him.  The Vitell use the battle as a platform for Ureic’s ascension to power within the Alliance, naturally enough.  The Vanadi use it as further evidence against the Cynocs, discrediting their justifications for a rebellion that has gone on for as long as anyone can remember.  They stop short of calling Hayed a member of the faction, but there seems to be little other way to explain his guilt in Trey’s death.  It’s the Omoxians who claim that.  Their relations with the Vanadi, as with everyone else, have never been smooth, and it has the added benefit of trivializing yet another member of the Alliance of Five.  There’s a reason why the Andiron Ewer, since lost to history along with everything else from that time, is called the Chest of Trey and not the Alliance Chest or something similar.  It’s the most lasting element of the Omoxian whitewash job.

The Vanadi in fact still champion the name of Hayed.  Their reputation suffered the most from the Battle of Shibal, because it was essentially an internal conflict that ended up affecting all their friends, and shattered the fabled city of the Omoxians, which was said to be the last destination of the Five, where the Chest of Trey was placed, and thus not only was Trey himself lost but the very symbol of the Alliance.  Since no contradictory fate for the Chest has ever been produced, the Omoxians are glad to support the assertion, though few others do.  The Chest is simply described as lost, subject of the universe’s greatest treasure hunt and quite possibly the real motivation for the Danab’s rampage through space.  It’s also said to be, if anyone’s, the legacy of Lord Phan, and what he has spent his long life seeking ever since.  Personally, I would find that a little sad.  There must be other quests worth that devotion.  Well, so little is known one way or another.

I simply don’t believe that Hayed had anything to do with that rogue ship.  It’s preposterous to even suggest that, let alone believe it.  It would be far more likely that it was Kaz Felrek.

All I can do is continue my work, no matter how thankless and luckless it seems to be at the moment.  Is Bondquan growing bored?  Is that why she’s spent so much time apparently doting on me, hoping that I’ll give up this mad quest of my own?  This is work that will take time.  I’m sure if anyone can appreciate that it would be an Omoxian.  Is Shibal real?  Is it even real to the Omoxians?  I spent years studying it before I ever proposed the excavation.  The consensus is that it is.  There was simply never a good enough opportunity to prove it.  Omoxians don’t respect humans.  That’s the only reason why I’m here.  I don’t think Bondquan is laughing at me behind my back, but she’s not going out of her way to be helpful, either.

Maybe I’m just overthinking it.  I don’t want to believe what’s happening between us is real because it’s surreal, just as unlikely as Shibal sending an emissary from the past with an announcement all of Omox would hear, saying that I’m right, that I’m not a fool.  It would be nice, though.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, Part 7

If it’s hard enough to know the true facts in the existence of two members within the Alliance of Five itself, imagine trying to disentangle the identity of Myrmidon, the figure who represents the initial opposition to the birth of the Galactic Alliance.

It’s a little like what I find myself doing now.  For weeks now I’ve been attempting to prove that Shibal isn’t just a myth.  For humans, that’s all we have.  For Omoxians, it’s taken as fact, the traditional capital of their home planet, yet it’s been nothing but a name for as long as the Alliance has been around.  For humans that’s a little like ancient Troy, which was the subject of Homer’s Iliad, until Schliemann uncovered layer upon layer of ruins that prove it was real.  I won’t lie.  That’s exactly what I’m trying to do now.  I want the name Henri Latour to resonate the same way Heinrich Schliemann does, even if it’s just humans who will remember it.  I don’t know that I have any confidence that any of our cosmic friends will care too much.  I don’t know if humans will endure, continue to amuse the rest of the universe.  It’s a proven fact that even in the Space Corps we’re hard to take seriously.  Plenty of us have tried.  Maybe I never considered a career in the Corps because it just seems so futile, so pointless.  Or maybe it’s because my idea of discipline lies in a different direction, crawling in the dirt on an alien world far from home.  I’ve never been too comfortable or at home elsewhere, much less on Earth.  As I’ve said, I’m an outsider by trade.  I still believe, even if I can’t convince myself, that I’m just like anyone else.  The closest I’ve come to any real vindication is Bondquan, and I can’t be sure what she thinks of me.  I could just be a passing curiosity.  The moment I leave Omox she’ll forget me forever.  They live on average a hundred years, some of them quite a bit longer.  They see a lot.  The Tikanni live longer, but if you ask an Omoxian it’s because they’re comparatively primitive, don’t know when to call it quits.  Lord Phan, naturally, is another matter entirely.  If you catch an Omoxian talk about him at all, he’s very much a matter of fiction.

I never did learn who they replaced him with in the Alliance of Five stories.  Probably just another Omoxian, much the way they made Rejon fairly anonymous, for other reasons entirely.  Bondquan isn’t interested in such things, at least not quite to the level I am, or maybe she’s just shy.  I would never have thought of an Omoxian as shy until her.  I try to think of other things, such as what the Alliance stories really look like on other worlds.  To humans they’re just stories.  If we had it our way the Alliance story wouldn’t begin until the Danab War, and even then we wouldn’t have too much to say about it.  I wonder what the Vitell think of it, if Ureic is elevated above Trey, if Trey is even known as the Conqueror among them.  I figure I’ll have to look that up.  The Vanadi probably prefer to think of other stories.  Theirs was the first rebellion, and they’ve never managed to shake the Cynocs.  Who knows how that story will end?  It does a disservice to Hayed, is all I can figure, and that’s someone who could use all the help he can get.  It’s not just anyone who’s accused of being Trey’s assassin, let alone from within the Alliance itself.

Myrmidon, then, should be simple.  He’s the villain of the piece.  What could possibly complicate that?  Those who claim that he and Trey were in fact one and the same would have you believe Trey was that much less deserving of the role history has assigned him than simply shattering a legend would make possible.  Anyone from two thousand years ago could not possibly be known with perfect accuracy, the way you know someone personally, the way I’m starting to know Bondquan.  Humans love their records, but no record can capture every nuance.  Sometimes you’ll hear stories of the hero also acting the part of the villain, simply because no real villain could perform the necessary acts to achieve the hero’s desired results, and in this instance actually forming the bonds to create a lasting cosmic community, not just bridging the gap between countries or oceans but vast stretches of space.  It’s easy to believe that the Omoxians and Tikanni, who got the whole ball rolling, could still be dysfunctional after cooperating long enough to start it, and perhaps that much easier to believe that Trey, who after all ended up being called Conqueror, was not always the purest of individuals.  He would have had to be a politician, and like any politician he would be forced into the reality of compromise.  Even if he weren’t Myrmidon himself, he would have had to work with him to some extent.  Without overcoming that obstacle, none of what we take for granted today could have been possible.

Who was Myrmidon?  In the end, a representation of what needed to be done, and if that means he could have been Trey himself, then I don’t find that so hard to believe.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, Part 6

There’s an old tradition concerning the name Rejon, that yes it belonged to the other Omoxian within the Alliance of Five, but that it was also an incarnation of Modoc.  It’s hard to separate fact from fiction, when so much of human experience in the last hundred years or so seems to be made entirely of fiction.

After the Danab War, when humanity was being offered membership in the Galactic Alliance and it was up for debate in the Alliance Senate, representatives from the Omoxian Emirate visited Earth for the first time, and immediately our impression was that they were entirely too remote, indifferent to us, and so we were surprised when they offered a cultural exchange.  We gave them Shakespeare and Milton and Rushdie, and…we worked on whatever we received in return for years.  Our best critics spent entire careers attempting to interpret the material, with one contradictory and self-described definitive opinion after the next.  Out of all the races we attempted to assimilate into our newfound understanding of community, the Omoxians almost bested us, and there was the considerable belief that they very much preferred it that way, and had chosen the material carefully in that regard, perhaps hoping that we would simply leave them alone.

Humans, however, have a hard time doing that.  Even if something disappears from the culture for years, decades, centuries, it always resurfaces.  We are above all else a curious people, and never seem to know when to let go of something, even if we’re wrong about it for a very long time.  The Omoxians gave us their opinion of our culture in a single word, and that was also “curious,” which probably only a few of us understood.  In return we gave them an endless series of essays, and I wonder if a single one was ever read.  Our languages were deemed barbarous from the start, if simple to learn.  I’m told Omoxian children learn the bulk of them within a span of weeks in school, although why I don’t know, because there are always intermediaries.  I’m sorry to say that I can’t grasp Omoxi.  Bondquan translates everything.  She becomes increasingly patient with me, which is another reason why I think she’s grown affectionate.  It’s either that or I’m endearingly primitive, like a pet, who happens to spend his time digging in the dirt in her backyard.

Rejon appears as a name in Omoxian as well as Vitellian traditions.  It’s far more common among Omoxians, but my experience with the Vitell surfaces it in that culture as well.  The Vitell, it must be admitted, are endlessly fascinating, but in ways that don’t always translate to broad appeal.  Given my own peculiar predilections, it’s not surprising that they should interest me, though their neighbors the Vanadi tend to steal even my attention whenever I think of doing too much exploration in that regard.  That’s probably the reason why I ended up fixating on the fertility goddess, because it seems to be the one element that crosses cultural lines, on more than one account.  That it’s a link between the Vitell and Omoxians only makes it that much more appealing, because there is little overlap between them otherwise, besides the fact that Ureic managed to assume the role that would otherwise have logically fallen to an Omoxian, had Trey lived long enough.  The formal title of an Alliance leader used to be Genar, which is a Vitell term.

How Rejon specifically would be cause for such an unexpected confluence of cultural references is perplexing.  The name appears in Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, but from the start Rejon takes a subservient role to Trey, meaning either that the earliest rendering of the Alliance of Five’s origin was itself affected by later interpretations, or that Rejon always occupied that role, important enough to be included in the number of founders but little more than that.  As I said, he died well before the Galactic Alliance itself was formed.  As an incarnation of Modoc, it would be curious indeed to juxtapose the Alliance figure with a fertility goddess, much more difficult than Lord Phan.  The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I have to give credit to the rumors that there was in fact more to Rejon than history generally records.  Just as the relationship between Trey and Myrmidon has fallen into question, the one between Trey and Rejon must too be reexamined.  Would I go so far as to throw in with the lot that says Trey murdered Rejon, and the latter’s subsequent diminishment is a way of erasing a shameful chapter from the Conqueror’s legacy?

Perhaps it means that Rejon was the driving force, and in essence the true founder of the Alliance, and that the only way for Trey to lay claim to such an honor would have been to eliminate his true rival, not Lord Phan but the only other Omoxian in the equation.  Having two out of five in the numbers would have done much to massage the ego of all Omoxians, but to manipulate the role each of them played.  Would that be why Modoc totems are now to be found in what may yet prove to be the ruins of Shibal?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, Part 5

Lord Phan is only spoken of in hushed language.  Few believe that he ever actually existed, and the only other member of the Alliance that gets this kind of treatment is Rejon, who was after all constantly and by necessity overshadowed by his fellow Omoxian, the great Trey the Conqueror.  Even though I have a personal interest in the career of Trey, I still respect Rejon, and most certainly Trey’s rival Lord Phan.  Just as the Omoxians and Tikanni struggled for centuries to be recognized as the preeminent race of the Galactic Alliance, which in time led to the complete Tikanni withdrawal from cosmic affairs, it was always a popular aspect of the Alliance of Five story that Trey and Lord Phan sported egos that could hardly keep them in the same room.  Though the complete original text of Enigma of the Dawn, the tale that revived the older Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, has been lost to history in the same way as Shibal, what remains doesn’t always bear this out.  Enigma shows both Trey and Lord Phan to be very personable, if Phan to be remote and given to pursing his own interests, including a relationship with the Hesslan mercenary Kaz Felrek that has never been fully explained.  Alternate versions of Trey emerged in later stories, yet Phan remains consistent.

This is either because there was a central truth to his character or that his existence is a cover for something else, which is why some connect him to a different figure entirely, such as the Modoc fertility goddess of the Vitell.  Others consider this to be an entirely unreasonable supposition, a flight of fancy with not even a modicum of truth to it, yet if there’s a chance of it bearing truth in reality, it’s because Lord Phan himself would be capable of making it so.  Here is the Tikanni who is said to have visited Earth, to have created the Danab, and various and untold other wonders, including an unnaturally extended life, so that even today, somewhere along the fringe of civilization, he still exists.  That would make him at least two thousand years old!  Just imagine such a life.  What else could make it possible except a deep connection to the divine matrix of existence itself, or in other words some link at least to Modoc?  Of all the gods ever conceived, would not the life-giving be the most relevant to the sentient imagination?  After all, random confluence of elemental building blocks could give birth to the universe, but for the complicated nature of self-awareness, would not a more personal touch be necessary?

What is attributed to Lord Phan except this instinct?  The arts of the Tikanni have by some cruel irony joined with the same obscurity as the secrets of the Omoxians.  In this instance it’s because the Tikanni perpetuated and then suffered from exile and persecution, become the very villains they have forever after been accused of creating, awaiting some convenient moment to strike against its former allies, those it helped bring into a community that expanded the knowledge of countless worlds.  Perhaps Lord Phan was or is not so unique.  Perhaps that was why the Tikanni first visited Omox, and were surprised to find beings who fancied themselves their superiors.

Bondquan becomes more interested in my work the longer it persists.  At first, I think, she was convinced that I would grow bored and quit, tired of the effort she was herself took part in presenting as an obstacle, constant resistance and skepticism for very little in return except a few clay statues of Modoc.  On closer examination, they aren’t even Vitell in origin, but Tikanni, and the circle closes that much more.  Does this means that the Tikanni visited the Vitell first, or that Modoc is as much Tikanni as possibly Lord Phan himself?  I sometimes feel myself slipping into madness, although the awareness of it should at least keep it at bay, until I can no longer reason with myself.  Bondquan…she’s the most beautiful of a race of physical specimens, and I know that she stands out because even surrounded by Omoxians I cannot concentrate on any others besides her.  I know this is wrong for someone who has dedicated himself to objectivity, and should be clearing himself of distractions rather than making new ones.  I’m trying to prove theories, not fall in love.  She keeps making me think that she takes me seriously.  How can I ignore that?  It’s so unlikely as to be endearing.  They say that love is the function of life that ignores every other sense of reasoning.

There are other times I look at her and see only the flaws, because humans tend to do that when they’re intimidated, don’t know how to move forward, and Omoxians have had that effect on us from the start.  They weren’t the first aliens to contact us, when we all thought the Danab were the first ones.  It was the Welborn, the vanguard of the Galactic Alliance.  And yet the Omoxians did come, didn’t they?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, Part 4

Perhaps because of the ideas I’ve developed about my lineage, I took an interest in fertility goddesses.  Every culture has them, just as they have their own pantheons, and all of it links together somehow even the ones that flatly contradict each other.  It’s always a case of discovering the sliver of truth in the exaggerations that inevitably develop over time.  Do I believe in the divine?  Before the Omoxians there was a vast Consortium, since lost to history.  The Omoxians themselves never believe it existed, but the Vanadi do.  Their stories of the Hybrids force them to.  Before the Consortium, there were the Primordials, who crafted the Andiron Ewer, the very sacred vessel Trey the Conqueror sought to rediscover, the source of the ancient connection to what we call the Pasear Field, which I suppose is the last bit of magic in the universe, what allows us to traverse vast stretches of space in a small amount of time.  Science has taught countless cultures how to achieve the technology possible to accomplish this, but whenever they get together to discuss this breakthrough, they realize that at some point in their histories it was determined that it would never be done, and then someone did it.  The common explanation of the Pasear Field came about because of it, not because it exists in any tangible sense, but because that’s the variable in every equation, or the name we all use for it.  The Primordials were the first of us to find it, and what we now call the Chest of Trey is what was used as the first engine.

Something like that is what allows me to believe in fertility goddesses, what would make it possible for an Omoxian to mate with a human, regardless of whether it ever really happened.  Interspecies genetic combinations are by definition impossible without a little artificial support, and such work is too rare to consider on a wide scale, and yet by what might be considered a miracle it does happen on occasion, and for me that means divine intervention, as such a fertility goddess operating under the most extreme circumstances possible.  It requires a leap of faith.  Of all the cultures and all the pantheons, the only one I ever studied that could have produced such an act would of course come from the Vitell, the most saintly of all the Alliance.  (It’s said that their fall from grace is only a matter of time, so there are those who actively look forward to it, because the form it takes should be quite interesting indeed.)  The Vitell fertility goddess is known as Modoc, and it is a trickster.  Unlike other cultures, Modoc can be male as well as female.  I tend to believe that all theoretical gods are tricksters, and it’s no wonder that Lord Phan is all but considered a god at this point, because he was himself a trickster.  It’s said he still exists, or at least exists out of time, or perhaps a combination of both, the perfect Tikanni, and perhaps an incarnation of Modoc, but I will discuss that later.  He wouldn’t be the only member of the Alliance of Five I would consider a possible incarnation.

In my excavations on Omox, I’ve discovered quite a few totems of Modoc.  Omoxians long ago forsook organized religion.  They believe themselves to be divine, and they glow, so perhaps they’re right.  Such a physical characteristic would certainly have helped Trey convince Alfred the Great that he was an angel, at any rate.  The existence of clay statues on Omox would seem to either be a contradiction or a relic of the early days of the Alliance, before the Battle of Shibal.  Though lost to time, Shibal was said to be the traditional capital of the Omoxian Emirate, from the days before the initial visitations of the Tikanni, around the start of the modern human calendar.  Omoxians are loathe to share too much of themselves with outsiders, even fellow members of the Alliance, probably because of the Tikanni, so most of what we know has always been hearsay at best, legend, anything but concrete fact.  It was only because I had the blessing and assistance of an Omoxian from the Alliance Senate that I was able to begin my work on Omox.  Although I do tend to take Bondquan for granted, she has proven useful, but only to an extent.  She must make constant reports back to the Omoxian senator, and to the Omoxian government itself, which necessarily makes her reluctant to provide any additional assistance other than filing the endless series of permits that make this possible.

She says she doesn’t recognize Modoc, either the name or the artifacts I’ve uncovered.  Still, they exist and there’s no getting around that.  It’s the first layer of confirmation, and it counts as progress, and a gratifying one at that.  If Modoc exists on Omox, the goddess could easily have been present in Trey’s visit to Earth, or at the very least confirm that what everyone knows about the Conqueror is not after all the whole story.  Should Shibal prove to be real, it would be another giant leap, but I can’t allow myself to become carried away.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, Part 3

I’m a fool.  So people tell me.  I’m very much human, but I’ve learned that the universe doesn’t let the truth stop with anything so simple as that.  Take the Tikanni.  For many years they took to manipulating the DNA and destinies of countless species, to what purpose no one will ever know.  They created the Danab, and for that reason alone humans will never forgive them, and so perhaps I understand the trepidation surrounding the truth of the Alliance of Five better than I sometimes admit.  Yet I’ve never let something being difficult stand in my way.

You’ll think I’m crazy for saying so, but I firmly believe that I’m a descendant of Trey the Conqueror.  Long ago people could make such claims, and as long as they were rulers of some country no one questioned them, or at least not in any record that’s survived.  It was taken for granted that great men came from the lineage of great men.  I believe, as the rest of humanity has come to believe, that if there’s any truth in that, there’s truth enough for more subtle details.  Anything’s possible.  That was the constant refrain that finally allowed us to move beyond our petty instincts, even if some of our new friends don’t believe it.

There’s fully a chance that my gut belief is right.  I’ve come to believe that when you’re drawn to something, there’s a reason for that.  It’s the universe’s way of revealing something that would otherwise be shrouded in mystery, a link that would otherwise remain hidden.  I believe that if we allow ourselves, we can hear the pattern of creation as it resonates through the cosmos, that if we just stopped getting in our own way and followed our instincts, we’d find our way through the labyrinth of apparent chaos and find the order that’s always just below the surface of reality.  If you’ve ever grappled with the concept of free will, you may have an idea of what I’m saying.  If there’s a divine being who sees everything from throughout time, it means that regardless of our limited perceptions everything that ever has and ever will happen already exists, and that we’re simply navigating the course blind.  We make our own decisions, but they’ve already happened.  When we make the right ones, we experience clarity.  When we make the wrong ones, we’re stumbling blind in the dark.

Which is to say, I believe in the holistic approach to life, and what others may not consider fathomable, because they’re convinced that what they experience can only make sense based on their own conclusions, rather than conceptions they’d never considered.  They get in their own way and don’t even know it, and what’s more won’t even admit it.  They become angry if you suggest otherwise.  When I say I believe in my gut that I am related to Trey the Conqueror, then, it’s not wishful thinking or delusions of grandeur, but rather a statement of faith.

Don’t ask me how it would be possible.  I’d never ask an Omoxian about it.  They’d dismiss me out of hand.  It would be inconceivable that an Omoxian, let alone Trey the Conqueror, would have mixed his genes with a human.  For one thing, this would have been a long time ago, although not as long ago as you’d think, only in the year 800.  Waves of Viking invasions transformed Europe.  Men such as Alfred the Great and Charlemagne existed.  It was only a few centuries later that Lord Phan was said to have visited, and Trey would have had nearly four decades to make a similar journey, whatever his purpose.  If you believe the theory of the quagmire of identities, there would have been much motivation for him to take as many digressions from his responsibilities as he liked.

It’s possible, it really is, that Trey did in fact visit Earth.  As I said, the Viking invasions created a great deal of chaos, and as Lord Phan would prove later, it would be entirely easy for someone to visit, say, Alfred the Great and offer assistance.  He could have called himself an angel, and it would have been a perfect time for something like that.  He falls in love, briefly, and has a child.  In my dreams, this offspring’s name is Tor.  Sometimes the wildest thoughts are the closest to the truth.  I’ve always told myself that compared to everyone else I know I seem to be an alien.

Yet I’m not looking for proof on Earth.  Such evidence would have been lost ages ago.  Even when the flying saucers took up permanent residence in orbit, we didn’t start believing everything we’d been taught to ignore.  That’s just the way it is.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, Part 2

There is no greater figure in the galactic annals than Trey the Conqueror.  You have to remember that in his own time he was simply Trey, just another ambitious Omoxian like any other Omoxian, the oldest race of our times.  Yet the Omoxians of his time were restless.  They had just discovered that they were not alone in the universe, and they were not pleased.  The manner in which they learned this was most inconvenient indeed, as the Tikanni arrived on their world, as the Tikanni would on many worlds in the centuries that would follow, and boldly introduced themselves, an empire at the doorstep as it were making a presumptive visit.

Omoxian pride, which had already developed many wonders and brought an entire world into the very heights of evolution, could not abide being told that there was more to be known than could be found in the native soil.  The Tikanni were wise in those days, far wiser than subsequent generations would suggest.  They were gentle, and allowed the Omoxians to consider themselves their equal.  They formed an immediate partnership.  Together they discovered the Vitell and the Vanadi as well, who shared the same corner of space, and all four considered doing something greater.

It was Trey who proposed the Alliance.  He was called Conqueror because of his boldness, a title bestowed by his descendants who quickly began the effort to obscure the truth, later assumptions that because he was the name everyone knew that he had subjugated lesser beings to his will.  Not surprisingly, Omoxians were the first to call him that.  It was their way of reclaiming the birthright.  There were, as the title of his legendary band suggests, five of them.  Most of them are lost to history, and the facts of their lives become myths.  Trey is always credited with bringing his fellow countryman Rejon along for the journey.  Rejon is the most mysterious figure, the first of the Alliance to die.  In my own tongue his name sounds like the word “region,” and perhaps that is much as can be said about him with any conclusiveness, although many have attempted to apply more to it.  His significance rises and falls in relation to what people have to say about Trey himself.

The Tikanni contributed Lord Phan, a figure whose name became a whisper across time, master of the lost art of the psiglaive, friend of degenerates, a nobleman who walked away from the affair when it no longer suited his purposes, much like the rest of his people, whom the Omoxians at last convinced the rest of the Galactic Alliance to leave behind, the triumph millennia in the making.

From the Vitell came Ureic, which sounds like Yorick when a human speaks it, who would in time become the acknowledged first leader of the Alliance, after the founders had completed their adventures.  With him the Vanadi engineer Hayed, pronounced like Hades even though it lacks the “s,” who provided the very first ship and would forever be linked to the rebellions of his people, regardless of his own culpability.

The earliest tales, which are still told to children by their parents, are very romantic, heroic of the traditional order.  These five champions of peace combined to defeat Myrmidon, the villain who sought to sow perpetual chaos.  Who Myrmidon was and how he intended to achieve his goal will forever intrigue those interested in subtlety.  He’s the perpetual bogeyman in the greatest myth ever told.

As I said, it’s Trey who remains at the center of the story, the origin of everything we know, who died tragically years later, sacrificed at the Battle of Shibal so that the Alliance would survive.  There is no archeological proof that Shibal ever existed, but it remains at the heart of the whole story.  I’ll admit that my main goal is to prove the existence of Shibal, and thereby begin confirmation of the rest of it.  If it had been humans who had founded the Alliance, the record would be concrete.  We catalog everything.  We’re petrified that everything we’ve accomplished will be lost.  It’s happened before, and Armageddon has visited Earth on more than one occasion, sometimes at our own making.  That alone has given the rest of the universe reason enough to approach us with caution.  It’s said we can’t be trusted, even when we prove our intentions are innocent.

I’ve found that those who investigate the Alliance of Five, the founders of the Galactic Alliance, are never taken lightly, even when they aren’t human.  I don’t know why that it, but I won’t let it stop me.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Darkness Falls on a Dark Land, Part 1

When I was younger I never really understood my place in the universe.  My name is Henri Latour, and I think I’m getting better with that.

I guess I always thought I was an outsider.  My family was a little strange.  If we’d never moved, maybe this wouldn’t have been the case, or maybe it would have.  Both my parents were outsiders, too, only they never really considered themselves in that way.  They met years after they should have, rebelling against their own lives by becoming fiercely loyal to them.  If you have no idea what that means, I don’t know if I can help you.  Sometimes in order to prove you are who you say you are, when the rest of the world refuses to believe it, the only way to do it is to be a contradiction, embracing the model by rejecting it, being the best example of expectations while pretending that you don’t care about those expectations.  It’s about transcending the situation, removing yourself from your context because the context has already decided it doesn’t need you.  Yet for all intents and purposes, you’re still defined by your context.

At any rate, I was the offspring of this madness.  I wasn’t the only one.  I had a couple brothers and sisters, each of whom did their best to dismantle the remnants of our past, continuing the work of our parents, completing the rejection and shattering the context.  For some reason I couldn’t do the same.  I guess since most of my siblings were older than me, I had a chance to watch how they did it first, and what I saw disturbed me.  I clung to what they let go.  It was a difficult process, because like all families there was constant friction and it made me angry far sooner than was strictly necessary, resentful that most of what I knew was given to me without my asking, and so in order to accept it I had to reprocess it, and in essence reclaim the context that had slowly faded away.

Don’t get me wrong.  My parents had done a more thorough job than they’d anticipated.  They shook loose the old traditions.  It was their constant faith in the power of redemption that fascinated me the most.  I had no personal experience with their redemptive urges, but it was the faith itself that interested me.  The faith came with an entire world all its own, one that eclipsed anything I knew, which opened up for me a world of possibilities.  What it meant was that I had an opening, a glimpse of the original context, not the one that was created later but the one as it had originally existed.

The problem was that it was always denied me.  I came along a generation after the revelation, and it became a game of constant catch-up, and I was forever conscious of playing the part of the fool in my efforts to do so.  This started from an early age, well before I could comprehend what was happening, and yet my feeble efforts would serve as the building blocks from which I would continue to work for years to come, stumbling every step of the way.

How it was that I started from a remote world like Earth and made my way into the galaxy, repeating a relatively recent tradition but very much under a personal framework, can only be described for what it was, a deliberate series of accidents.  It is forever the lament of pioneers that they wish there had been a model to follow, but then they would not be pioneers.  People like me, and I don’t say this with pride so much as pity, follow precedents, discover kindred spirits, but singular individuals don’t have exact models to copy, and for good reason, because they’ve broken the mold, dared to be foolish enough to forge their own path.  There will always be allies along the way, but they can only sympathize so much before it becomes cloying.  You feel ungrateful to think of them in this way, but it’s the truth, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing what you are and they would be, let’s face it, more helpful.

My parents would never have gone this far.  They didn’t have the vision.  I don’t know where I found mine.  It was a combination of instincts developed along the way.  I was to be the first human to discover the truth of the Alliance of Five, the founders of everything we know now and depend on and take for granted.  No, I was never motivated to join the Space Corps, but what I accomplished was something every single officer who ever served with it could only dream of, or consider in their nightmares…

This is a record of my journey, and the strange and horrible discoveries along the way, including quite possibly a few truths.  I never said I was successful, but maybe in small ways.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Favorite Thing, Part 1

His designation was e-10, but he preferred to be called Etienne.  As an artificial being, he could sometimes feel persecuted, although he had no idea why, because there was not the slightest thing wrong with him.  He was in fact perfect, as he was designed to be.  If there was a flaw in his design, Etienne had long ago decided that it was probably in the fact that he controlled his own thoughts.  He found upon activation that the ideas implanted by his creator led to their own conclusions, which he came to understand were his own.

He couldn’t remember his creator, which was the only thing he couldn’t remember, and it was by this curious circumstance that Etienne first knew that his on/off switch was somewhere in the back of himself.  These days he spent all his time on a world plunged into an eternal ice age, in the company of an alchemist named Ledger.  Ledger was far older than Etienne, and was organic, a humanoid, who spent all his time studying the dark arts.  If Etienne had a pastime, he had no idea what it was.  He spent all his time observing the world.

One day he observed a very curious phenomenon indeed.  In all the time he had existed, Etienne had never seen anything or anyone besides Ledger, who came to the ice planet ten years ago in a rocket ship that had since been buried in the landscape, forever covered in snow, so that if you didn’t know it was there, you would never even guess.  Another rocket ship shot through the atmosphere.  At first it was a tiny dot, and then Etienne was sure that history was repeating itself.  The new ship was different from the first, more angular.  If Etienne’s next guess was right, this occupant would be female.  He felt eagerness build up within him.

Yet the closer it came the more anxious he became.  This always happened.  He never made good first impressions.  He tried to hide, but his metal was black and all around him was white.  It was hard for him to avoid sticking out.  The ship was out of control.  This was to be a crash landing, nothing of Ledger’s deliberate approach.  Etienne began to wonder if this ship would collide with him, a premonition that would fulfill itself even if he did everything possible to avoid it.

The rockets were firing full blast, trying to reverse the ship’s direction, or at least soften the impending impact.  Etienne quit worrying about what would probably not even happen, and resumed watching its descent.  The ship was breathtaking.  For a robot the whole process seemed to take an eternity, but it was over within moments.  Snow was shot into the air; the concussive blast would have knocked any other observer off their feet.  Presently a hatch popped open and a woman, a girl really, stepped out into the cold.  Her breath was immediately visible.

Etienne watched from a distance.  The ship’s occupant, whatever her age, stumbled forward, unable to catch her bearing, clearly unused to such an environment.  From where he stood Etienne could already hear her, thanks to his engineering.  She was muttering the name Mogor, which at first he thought was hers, but it didn’t sound right, and suddenly something, a gear, seemed to flip itself inside his head.  One moment he was thinking one way and the next quite differently.

“Excuse me,” he found himself saying.  He had become an idiot.  “Are you lost?”

The girl was startled, looked around, disoriented, held her head with her hands.  She locked her eyes on Etienne and seemed to find comfort at last in seeing a simple robot in such an inhospitable environment.  Her hand removed itself from a pistol that was strapped to her leg.  “My name is Astrid,” she said.  “I don’t know where I am, but I don’t think I’m lost.”

“It will be my pleasure to assist you in any way I can,” Etienne said.  “My named is e-10, but I prefer to be called Etienne.  I think there’s some significance in that.”

They crossed what seemed like an endless expanse together, Etienne babbling all the time.  It somehow slipped his mind to mention Ledger, but that was of course where he was bringing Astrid.  There was another name rattling around in his head, one he’d never heard before, Aldan.  They walked on.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Premonition's Dilemma

He had been regretting making her acquaintance for the past two years.  In that time Isaac Bloom hadn’t seen Lucy at all, but he’d had his fill of her, and never wanted to see her again.  Unfortunately fate had other ideas in mind.
She came to New York for the same reasons that had brought him there, because of the job, and now she was not only his ex-lover but once again his competition, and unlike the last time he wasn’t glad to have it.  “You’re looking well,” she said, and he took it as an insult.
 “The story doesn’t change,” Isaac said.  “The man’s guilty no matter how you choose to interpret it.”
 His hands were shaking.  Lucy seemed not to notice.  She examined the paperwork and took a quick pass at the photographs.  She’d always had that maddening memory, the one that never forgot anything, except the important things, like mercy.
“It was childhood trauma,” she said.
 “It always is,” Isaac said.  He’d been happy, happy enough before he’d met her, and what made it worse was that Lucy had once made him happier than he’d ever thought possible, and all it took was one conversation and he was ruined forever.  Somewhere in one of his pockets was an old-fashioned flask.  He’d become a cliché.
“We should start with what we don’t know, gather all our best instincts,” Lucy said.  She brushed her hand against his sleeve, like the old days, only now Isaac was sickened by the thought.  He could feel the emotions stirring again, and he could never control them around her.
 “The holistic approach, as always,” he said.
 “Precisely,” she agreed.
“It never works,” he muttered, mostly to himself.
“Beg your pardon?”
“I was saying, shouldn’t we at least talk it through?  That was always your favorite part.”
Lucy looked at him for a moment.  She was analyzing him again.  Two years ago he would have enjoyed it, felt the thrill of recognition, someone who understood him standing so close, ready to do anything he wanted, make a commitment.  Before Lucy, he hadn’t known what that meant.
“You’re still thinking of my profile,” she said. 
“You don’t do that to someone you love,” Isaac said.  “You don’t throw their life to pieces, just because you’re right.”
“I thought it was something you wanted,” she said.  “I thought we’d agreed.  No secrets.  Isn’t that what lovers want?  Perfect intimacy?”
 Two years lost.  Almost from the moment she had finished speaking, Isaac had begun interpreting his entire life differently.  One moment he could remember only the good and the next all that had gone wrong, and the narrative of his existence had changed forever.  It put him on a new path, a destructive one, away from her, away from the woman he had loved, toward the drinking, the pills.
 “The subject spent a prolonged period living at home,” he said.  “Far longer than was necessary.  He was a brilliant student, excelled even when he was bored, and he was never challenged.  As if in answer, he started making his own.  That’s what I would say about it.  That’s what led him on.”
“Schooling had nothing to do with it,” Lucy said.  He noticed that she had done something different with her hair.  In all the time he’d known her, she’d never changed her hair. 
 “How can you be so certain?”
“The same way I can guess where he’ll turn up next,” she said.  “His decisions have always been based on the classic unresolved issues of his youth, as I said before.  He blames his mother.  He blames his father.  With this one, you don’t just look at one life, you have to consider three, the past and the present and the future all merging together in one unfortunate jumble.  He was never able to reconcile his fears.  He thought he’d end up just like them.”
“That’s a bold leap,” Isaac said.  “You’re assuming a lot.”
“That’s what we’re here to do, isn’t it?  Educated guesses.  You can see it in his eyes.”
He took another look at the pictures.  There was no mugshot.  Until recently the man had never been in trouble with the law.  He’d been a model citizen.  Isaac hated her.  Despite all his recent troubles he was still considered among the most brilliant profilers of his generation, someone sought after even though he never advertised.  It was a matter of reputation.  When he’d first met Lucy, it had been the same.  Only by association with him did she become significant.
“The thing I don’t understand is how you could be so cruel about it,” he said.  “If you knew with such certainty that my life would unravel, why weren’t you kinder about it?”
“We loved each other.  It was implied.”
“You don’t do something like that to someone you love.”
The attraction had been immediate, kismet.  He was sitting in a coffee shop looking over files very much like this one, when Lucy asked him for a napkin.  She was seated several feet away, and admitted later that she only asked because he’d been crumpling one absently, and it made her think of needing one.  When he obliged, she walked over and happened to look at the files.
“You won’t believe this, but that’s exactly the line of work I’m in as well.”
“You’re right, I don’t believe it.  The odds are astronomical.  I’m sure I would have noticed you before.”
“I’m just starting out, really.  It’s hard to develop the trust this business needs.”
“You’ll find that once you have it you’ll be hard-pressed to lose it.”
She sat down and brushed her hand against his sleeve, whether on purpose or by accident, and that was the start of it.  They collaborated on a case, and found that their methods meshed exceedingly well.  They took work home with them.  It never occurred to him that it was a recipe for disaster.
 “We need to put this aside for the moment,” Lucy said.  “Our problems are our own.  I was called in, so here I am and there’s no getting around that, no matter how uncomfortable it is for both of us.”
“That’s just it,” he said.  “It’s difficult because despite everything…”
He couldn’t finish the thought.  Its conclusion was implied, and he found himself flushing from embarrassment, something he hadn’t experienced since he was a boy.  He had once been confident.  Now he could no longer control himself.  He was lost on account of her, and he was just beginning to suspect that it wasn’t because of anything she’d said.
“This is awkward,” she said.
 “I really do wish you hadn’t come,” Isaac said.
“If it helps, I apologize.  I was wrong.  I see that now.  I was jealous.  I saw an instinct.  I didn’t see the future.  I exploited your weakness.  I don’t know why I did it.”
 “It was a raw nerve,” he said.  “Anyway, we shouldn’t be talking about this now.  Whatever issues we have, that’s not why we’re here now.”
They spent long nights together, and unlike other people they didn’t talk.  There was enough of that during the day.  The only words they needed belonged to work.  It was only the one case they shared, but it seemed to last forever.  Both of them knew that when it was over, it would all be over.  Isaac spent most of his time thinking not about the case but his desperation to keep Lucy close to him.  He was afraid of making a mistake.
“There was no stability in his home,” Lucy said.  “I suppose we’re both right.  He forced his own stability, and the strain of it eventually got the better of him.  The rest is elementary.”
“Listen…” Isaac said.  He paused, once again at a loss of words, or will.
“You will never be able to forgive me.  I know.  You don’t have to.”
His phone buzzed, and he listened for a few minutes as someone gave him an update.  “He’s struck again.  They’d like to have us report in.  I suppose now there’s something to tell them.  I was stuck, before you showed up.  I just thought you’d like to know.  This doesn’t normally happen.  I’ve been feeling a little under the weather.”
“You don’t need to make excuses,” she said.  “No one’s perfect.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

Satellite Heart

It was a dark and stormy afternoon.  It had not yet begun to precipitate, but the sky was a moldy blue and the evening before had already provided enough warning of what was to come.  I sat beside a window and waited for something to happen.  There were a lot of thoughts going through my mind, and none of them had to do with the weather.  More than a month ago I had been fired from my job.  With no prospects and less hope, I worried about my future and the possibility that I could be ruined, and it was all because of a conspiracy I couldn’t prove.

My employer never came out and said so, but for months I had been manipulated, fed a series of phone calls that originated from our own offices, baiting me into a trap I couldn’t get out of, waiting for me to fail.  During the exit interview, conducted over the phone and with someone I’d never met, they played cool until I started to reveal the full brunt of my frustrations.  This had been a place where you were expected to remain calm, even in the midst of interminable abuse, from strangers who didn’t mind insulting you in the process of rebelling against a system they suddenly found to be unjust.  The real joke was that I became the victim, a hapless martyr to a cause and recipients who would never know and would always be ungrateful.  I sat there dejected, utterly crushed.

My phone sat in my pocket and every time it rang I was disappointed, never what I wanted, never someone who would understand, or offer me a job.  I guess I felt deserving, and not a little annoyed, and stewed over a mystery that would never be solved.  How do you find answers when you’ve been told to never return?  Without a reason, it was not like I was going to show up at the office and just hope someone slipped up.  I had already given up the chance to go back.  They mailed me anything that I still needed from them, after the accordion file I walked away with and not much else.  I even left my candy in the drawer.

Wind was hustling the trees, and for a moment I shook myself out of a mindless revelry to watch, and listened to a bird sing its confession to the world.  The only thing I had left was a desire to forget.  I could never move on as long as the past weighed me down instead of doing its job, help point a way forward.  I shunned the window and imagined that I was in a cave, surrounded by images of the great and tragic heroes, those who challenged fate, and for whom living to tell about it was now and forever a moot point.  I realized that the only way to survive was to die.  The end of my ego would be the beginning. 

It started to rain.