8 - War Children
Geminorum 1st, Year 55 – Odyssea
" O Father, what should be done to end these days of misery?"
A heady scent of freshly burned incense floated in the air. A young nun dressed in a wide silver tunic knelt upon a fluffy carpet, hands joined in prayer: " They are dying by thousands, decimated by starvation and illnesses, chased after by the Empire's vessels..."
" Heavens have agreed they shall be punished for their incurable greed Priestess."
" I refuse to think they must be annihilated for the sake of the universe's balance!"
" Naive child, they condemned themselves to a point of no return by hurting and exhausting the planet that gave them birth."
" They were desperate in their struggle for survival... barely had peace been concluded between the most influential federations... that a cycle of natural disasters ravaged continents in a lapse of few years."
" All because of them and their insatiable thirst for expansion. You must bear in mind that they caused their own decline by destroying their motherland. But, if you so wish to save their miserable lives, I will entrust thee with a task."
" That's... that's not what I meant! I..."
In his palm shined a flask hung at a chain of pure gold inside which boiled a translucent liquid: “ Thee shall travel back to 2010, back to when it all began.”
Traffic jam roared below. Her auburn hair flew in her trail while Faeri leapt from one building to another at great speed in a graceful choreography. The sun was setting down. For a handful of seconds she admired the late afternoon sky coloured in purple and red. Her fingers clawed into the priceless pendant of crystal hung around her neck. She should not lose sight of her mission's objective. A couple of kilometres away from her position, her eyes caught glimpse of a wealthy mansion built at the heart of the city whose luxurious garden, adorned with flower bushes and fruit trees in abundance, offered a path to the river.
Crowned by verdant vegetation stood a property of brick and stone amidst this green haven of serenity preserved from the urban hassle by the venerable shadows of a centenary oak. Jazz music played throughout the windows, which added to the calmness of this warm summer evening.
A woman in her thirties read a book on the terrace, stretched out on a long chair. A little girl burst outside and ran to her mother with enthusiasm: " Mommy, Mommy dinner is ready!" The woman laughed lightly: " Did you prepare it with Daddy?" The child harboured a wide smile: " This is a surprise!" A man, her father, went out the kitchen: " Please behave yourself honey, let your mother in peace when she needs time for herself" he admonished his daughter. Bathed in sunlight, he cuddled a sleeping angel nestled between his arms. The more Faeri dived into their peaceful and carefree world, the more she could not help to empathize with them to whom God had reserved a ruthless destiny: soon he would steal away from them their right to happiness.
She took flight towards the business district with a lump in her throat conscious she was going to commit an irredeemable act: “ Right must be done, for the better or for the worse!”
“ Wishing you love and prosperity, and plenty of wonderful moments together!”
Faeri blinked, awakened abruptly by the sound of the tocsin, entangled in her half-slips. She reminisced the early days of her priesthood with sorrow. Her argument with the Divine brought back regretful memories. She cringed at her forty-five younger self for standing up to God with such disrespect. No one ever dared to contradict his teachings, may they endure eternal banishment from the Temple of Fortune.
Often at night, these reflections came to harass her in her dreams. She kept remorse at bay until she choked up at the idea she could have prevented the worst from happening. By the window nightfall wrapped skyscrapers in pitch darkness. She faced the country's most valued individual who stared at her with incredulity, holding between his hands the essence of the space-time continuum contained in a flask. The man entrusted with the nation's destiny doubted he held the course of the past, present and future in the curve of his palm. " Guiltiness is a vicious backstabber,” she thought while she rushed to the council room just in time for the session.
- You seem unwell lately Faeri, is something wrong?
Faeri startled and looked over her shoulder: Zoe walked towards her direction. Embarrassed the Priestess turned around: " Nothing for you to worry about."
- Your heart is conflicted, darkening as the threat of war narrows. Moreover there is a great pain you can't get over with.
-Mind your own business Zoe.
- I’m just trying to help you!
- No, thanks: I am fine with my consciousness.
- Do you? Listen Faeri: whatever displeases you, you should not brood over your concerns alone. You would rather lock yourself in your basement than confide to anyone.
Faeri kept her eyes half-shut to hide her uneasiness:
- I am worried about the coming of another Great War, that's all.
She made the Council’s gate slide open; Zoe grabbed her wrist: " Wait!" Emotionless Faeri broke free from her grasp: " I need to shoulder this burden by myself Zoe. I am sole responsible for the disaster that caused the demise of humanity. I should have followed through God's orders without objection, instead I failed to complete my mission and deserted the Temple."
- What made you reconsider your vocation?
- In my right set of mind I could not let a child's life be stolen, even for world's sake!
- We're encountering a serious issue.
- I'm barely surprised, Styx observed.
- Let me explain the situation in further details. Clearly their lack of offensive strategy is a blatant declaration of war. They expect us to avenge Chronos for the dishonour of banishment, only to give the deathblow to the rebellion afterwards. They might even use him as a diversion to lay their hands on us. But this is not the real problem. If it were that simple, we'd already have mobilised enough troops willing to battle. The omens portend the recreation of the Oblivione dynasty from the endeavours of a woman old enough to give birth to an inheritor.
- To know that sooner or later your predictions always come true worries me Styx intervened. Basically, it means we're doomed. Excuse me while I go to present my sincerest greetings to God in hope for his forgiveness.
- Faeri you mean, is it by chance related to the incident that occurred yesterday evening? Lancaster queried with anxiety. If that's the case, we must take in action whatever might come to us.
- The oldie! Styx acquiesced.
- Styx, her name's Mrs Mc Madonea, Lancaster hissed between his teeth.
- What are your conclusions about this matter you two? Faeri interrogated.
- Namely Danielle Heartfield, widow Mc Madonea, 75, lives away from the city in a quiet house of flats. Retired at 60 from the esteemed scientist circles due to the sudden death of her husband Mathias. Entrusted to the care of her only daughter after she almost died subsequently to a cerebrovascular accident from which she will keep irreversible sequels, Lancaster explained.
- They have been in bad terms for a long time due to old grudges, Styx added. She leads a relatively uninteresting life in appearance. Having introduced her, let us explain what happened yesterday evening according to what we've found out about their circumstances.
- Like you had predicted Faeri, Ophideus the traitor has returned from the underworld stronger than ever before. He has been sent on mission to the year of 2055 by his higher-ups in order to find and capture a Chosen One, unbeknownst by the concerned, who had been localised somewhere on Earth in possession of the power to rebuild worlds from their ashes. Which undoubtedly sparked the interest of malevolent minds willing to expand the Empire's territory to infinity and further. Their objective is set upon acquiring new lands in order to redeem their influence over the Confederation.
- It has not been proved there were other forms of life beyond the border, Sylvestre objected
- They believe so.
- Rumours saying that there are extra-terrestrial tribes out there are nonsense, given that another planet able to welcome life just like Earth has not yet been discovered. Not to mention human colonies established inside the Milky Way are affected by neutral status under protection of international law: if they overlook pre-existing treaties this is a blatant declaration of war to the Galactic Safety Committee who won't whisk away the matter like casualties this once.
- War again, Zoe concluded.
- Basically they used Mrs Mc Madonea as baitfish to trap her daughter into their nets by taking advantage of her vulnerability.
- I haven't heard of an eighth Chosen One out in the wild, what's so special about her? Faeri queried.
- They acted fast and found her before us; it is all that simple.
- This is not what I'm asking for Lancaster. If my interpretation of the omens is right, we'll be encountering great danger soon enough because of our reluctance to attack.
Lancaster pulled out a heavy sigh:
- I know right. However, of a kind-hearted soul, they have made a ruthless Empress envied for her incredible powers and her mesmerising beauty: the perfect pawn.
- And the hapless victim of greater going-ons, Styx added. You already know that the Almighty One's strongest assets are his mind-control abilities, which he uses to erase people's memories in order to keep them under his leadership.
- One reason to think we should save her whatever it will cost us is that I saw in Lady Danielle's memories a woman of two faces, a headstrong physician who lives up to her ideals and loving spirit who wishes for long to get engaged with the one she loved to found a family despite of her mother's refusal, Lancaster developed hands clasped over the table. Last thing but not least fact, they have quite a complicated family background. One can't bear the sight of the other, although obligated to visit her, because of an old dispute that sealed their irreversible separation.
- Does it weight in her favour or disfavour? Faeri asked.
- She was in a love affair with someone Lady Danielle disapproved. It aroused fire between them, not to mention the lovers were forced to break up for that reason. It deeply affected her personality. A pragmatic and composed person, she turned into an emotionally driven character easily manipulated by anyone willing to make use of her sensitivity to better trap her.
- You quite overstepped your boundaries Lance, didn't you? Styx objected.
- If it were a teeny adventure, I would not have carried out further investigation about the matter Styx. It appears that we're encountering a much more serious issue.
- What kind of trouble? I haven't seen that look on your face since Chronos' kidnapping has been officially rededicated by the Black Knights.
Lancaster leaned back in his chair: " Two birds with one stone, Time and Immortality would be a perfect match for the Empire to take down the Confederation and rule over the space-time continuum."
- Wait, what? Who was that chick's suitor back then?
- If the Empire has abducted them, we shall come to their rescue!
Six looks focused their attention on Hitori. Him usually impartial and collected was overwhelmed by anger and anxiety, as shown by the Judgment boiling red inside its silvery container. Lancaster waved a hand at him with reproach:
- Calm down your spirits Judge, let’s not jump in conclusions too quickly.
- What of it? We must move in action, whatever it takes! Is it not the purpose of the Council to maintain international peace and security across and beyond the galaxy?
- If we trespass on their territory, it will cause a fourth Great War, is that what you want? Mind your brashness, we cannot afford to lose more of our troops! Styx yelled.
- Have you no sympathy? Have you forgotten what makes you human? Hitori bit back.
Styx clenched his fists and shot glance at him:
- When you’ve lost what’s most precious to you, you can no longer trust your own kind!
Sylvestre interposed herself between the opponents:
- Whatever happened, seeking for revenge consumes your life force Styx! Why to wallow in a desperate quest for the truth, when you cannot go back in time to change anything?
- You don't even know what you're talking about! In your lifetime, you’ve endured half the burden I had to shoulder on my own! You don't know me well enough to judge me too quickly on circumstances!
He did not like to talk about himself nor his past, Alys noted. He lost control when his emotions took over his apparent coldness. " You don't know anything,” he uttered between his teeth. He appeared to be underneath a loving person who cared for his cherished ones. A great pain, what pain, enchained his heart filled with bitter and angst against the human race. There was a traumatic event he was unable to get over with. " Huh?" He took a quick look around at the room with anxiety. His eyes were burning with anger when he stood up from his chair: " Who is the intruder? Who dares to skim through my thoughts?" Lancaster frowned: " It must be the mere fruit of your imagination, or you are a patented paranoiac, be assured there is no one else than the seven of us in this room Styx!" The concerned raised an eyebrow. He shrugged his shoulders, sat down and shot glance at the assembly: " Never mind. I take it that someone must be in possession of extrasensory or advanced mind-control abilities, just my intuition." Having sorted out this issue, the reunion went on about the best strategy to defeat the Empire without causing another worldwide conflict for the sake of the Confederation's welfare. Not everyone was concentrated on following the course of the debate however: unfocused, Alys meditated about the earlier incident that left her puzzled. She might be the one who caused it. She briefly had access to Styx's mind, unable to hold back her curiosity. She saw through the intervention of his memories a latchkey lone wolf traumatized by an arduous adolescence away from home, which outlined that there was more than meets the eye behind his aggressiveness. " Be more careful in the future and learn how to dyke up the source of your newly acquired powers" she thought to herself.
- Do we all agree on a thoughtful intervention? Lancaster asked. Have you anything to say in regards to the matter, Alys?
Interrupted in the trail of her thoughts the young woman looked confused, which did not go unnoticed by her interlocutor who crossed arms over his chest:
- Were you even listening to what's been discussed during today's session?
- If by thoughtful you mean that we should think twice before we act, it will lead once again to a status quo where both sides expect each other to attack first, in which case a head-on conflict is inevitable, she replied. With the support of the Galactic Safety Committee, we'd be able to mobilise troops from all over the galaxy, willing to revolt against the Empire but outnumbered in men and weaponry to do so. I agree to intervene strategically, nonetheless we should move in action at some point in this cold war between the Black Knights and us. On a different note, we should work together under the same flag to make the universe a better place to live in, you better not forget you're a human being too with his strengths and weaknesses all things considered Styx, despite of the fact you've acquired supernatural status by reaching eternity.
The concerned clenched his fists out of anger:
- How dare you...
Lancaster cut short their dispute, his eyebrows furrowed in disapproval:
- Beware whom you're talking to, better not say out loud what everyone think inside.
- Styx might seem to be a blunt individual; he's a loyal comrade during battle though.
Alys looked up from her meal. A silver-haired young lady holding a plate of synthetic vegetables took a seat in front of her and harboured a friendly smile:
- If you have any trouble adapting to your new life in these walls, feel free to ask for help. Understanding is the key to overcome culture shock, snatched away by force from your homeland. We all went through the same wonders. You'll get used to it pretty fast if you come to accept it as a new beginning instead of a duty forcefully bestowed upon you.
- I was far from expecting I would embark on a whole new adventure across space and time a few days ago. I have little knowledge of what's going on, moreover I don't even know what my mission consists in, be it orchestrated by whomever rules heaven up there!
- In this era of time, it is commonly admitted that nothing happens by chance. Whether or not you're a believer, God is watching over his children with justice and equity from above, seconded by Fate.
- If so, why has the Council been created?
- It brings us back to the Era of no Return when Earth started to lack of resources. Solutions found to slow down its downfall were not effective and, in the lapse of one thousand years, the planet ran to its early destruction. Therefore, someone had to prevent this cycle of disaster from happening prior to when our world reached a point of no return. A gentle soul unscathed by the wanders of a decaying society had to endorse this cruel destiny...
- Indeed, we had to pick up the pieces from the mess caused by the greed of some, which led civilisations to war for a puddle of fuel or a drop of drinkable water! Styx interrupted her. I must admit you're a quite good judge of character, he said to Alys. By the way, we haven't introduced ourselves yet. My name's Styx, and she is Zoe.
- Nice to meet you I guess, though you quite put me off by your rudeness.
- Uh, you seem to be an immature crybaby by your annoying character at first glance...
- Still at it? What of your so-called maturity if I may argue Styx, you still haven't gone through that awkward teenage phase yourself!
Followed by Hitori, Faeri and Lancaster, Sylvestre barged in the refectory and shot glance at Styx in disapproval when the four of them sat down at the Council's table:
- Quit fighting, how old are you?
- Who's the child, huh? She is the one who must grow up, by all meanings!
- Blame on you for not bearing your load of responsibility.
- Why do we even argue over this matter if the will of God must prevail?
Lancaster munched on a piece of meat with weariness:
- Again and again, you two will never get along... Anyway let's enjoy these peaceful times before another cycle of war restarts, he added. I'm Lancaster, master of storms; Sylvestre controls nature and Faeri is God's messenger. Lastly, you already know Judge.
- Nice to meet you all.
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