Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Uplift Protocol Blood Feuds: Issue 11

 

Issue 11: Mordred Enthroned

 

            I see clearly. It doesn’t matter what happens to my flesh. It has never mattered. The scales are already counted. Finding us unworthy.—Mordred

            What can anyone do against the weight of the universe? Let it pass through them? Take up one piece, one brick upon another, until that weight is borne by many.—Markav Proverb

            A splinter within the mind. It can be a boon. A distraction. Or a wound. All three at once. I am often reminded of that adage: One can only understand the Highest while sitting upside down, gravity lost, within a spinning tesseract. Now imagine that through the fractured Mirror of Unity madness and you touched the surface of where Mordred resided. Even all these eons later? The echoes of that place still haunt me.—Sleeping in Starlight: The Vigil Remains

Earth (Eternal Empire Universe)

Tower of the Eternal

June 1st, 2136

            Mordred pulled at the survators.

The machines that held him in place. It was a familiar battle. One that let him know his frail flesh was still present. Even as his mind wandered those Dark Mirror passageways. Crimson stars burned. Dark shapes drifted within his ruined landscape once called a mind. His throat convulsed as nutrients were force-fed into what remained of his stomach. He forgot the taste of food. Of simple joys.

Voices coiled about the edges.

            Yellow eyestalks quivered at the edge of his vision.

            The Red King had come.

            Unity thought itself the ultimate. It never suspected.

            Across all epochs, there could only be one to wear the mantle. Its coat was not the darkest.

            Mordred hissed through bloodied lips, “I greet you. Abbadon. Locust of Flesh.”

            Meathook circled the shadowed figure.

What little light within the chamber caught on the crimson gems that hung from the black cord. The All-Father studied the ruined form. He spoke. The black scrawl dripped from his mouth. His palms. Even in this diminished form. His current cycle host had been a pale imitation. His mind linked to Mordred. “I can renew your flesh. For a price.”

Brown eyes snapped to the shimmering form of the All-Father. “Unity is a child within the primordial playground.” The crimson shade waited. Its pitiless sockets were unwavering. Meathook cooed, “I already gave my flesh price. Across the River!”

Mordred beheld a lake of fire. The black flame danced against the lava flow. His mind’s translation for the River Styx. His mother’s plaintive beliefs had merit after all. The one that birthed him at any rate. He felt no pull towards his parents. Ta’mathon would burn just as easily as his insane forebearers. No matter what face or name she took. Renenutet. Lilith. She was an Amache Fallen. His flesh was human. Void Walker. His half-sister would sit upon the Throne of Bone. Buried alongside the rest of her corrupted brethren.

The Titans would consume them all.

If Unity had its way. He held out his hand to the All-Father. “I give of my flesh.”

Strength flowed through his limbs. Muscles knitted. Nerves burned. His shoulders filled out. Meathook put a finger to its lips. Pressed a black cord around Mordred’s left wrist. “This will hide you. Yes.”

Mordred blew out one long breath. The rictus grin spread. His features lean.

“Ahh. So that is what will be traded. So be it. I shall give you the locations of your mortal mirrored hosts.”

The All-Father pressed one spectral palm to Mordred’s chest.  The spectral hiss took on a harder edge, “Yes. For I shall be whole. One last request.”

Mordred replied, “It shall be done. That shell burned away. It’s flesh offered.”

The former son of Avalon and Earth would kill the clone. Bel’s soul no longer resided within that body. She never had. Not since Chronos came to Earth. So many empty husks in the name of progress. Mordred laughed. The sound warbled. Twisted within the dark of the tower. His fingertips touched the apparatus linked to his brain. “Make this a part of me. I shall see in between.”

The All-Father hooked his hands into Mordred’s flesh. Pulled the metals under his skin. They merged with his spine. Enthroned to the Dark Shards. Not Throne Sight. No longer a hybrid but a thorn in the Highest’s side. Able to tear through the Veil. The All-Father leaned in, “Find it. The one on high sees everything. So we must pursue the shadow that can cover that knowing gaze.”

Mordred dove into the abyss. His body and mind renewed. A dark star pulsated. Ringed by flesh and metal. Tanarkan had been a ruse. A former shield world that was taken from the endless reaches of Elysium. This was the real heart of Abbadon’s power. Mordred asked, “Why did you take the form of a Typherian?”

The All-Father replied, “The Fallen House was the only one corrupt enough to house my soul shard. They are a pale reflection of the depths. Each side has its creation-level souls. That pass from one cycle to the next.”

The All-Father sneered, “The Highest thinks he protects his charges by allowing them to forget. They will make for easy pickings once I am through with them.”

Meathook rose to its full height. Its eyestalks drank in the crimson sigils flowing within the arched doorway. Every dome of the temple flared a dull vermillion. Voices cried out. Their spectral limbs a frigid air against Mordred’s skin. Blackened spires of ash and obsidian lined the walls as they entered. Craggy faces curled in various stages of decay. Their eyes burned with a madness Mordred understood all too well. A red throne with black sigils rose from the dais. One scarlet digit pointed.

“See into the space the Weave and Highest wish hidden.”

Mordred sat. His brown eyes filmed over. Going completely red. The pupils burned eternally by the sight of visions beyond Divine planes. Beyond Fallen constructs. He was the Seerer. Not a Thronebearer. That title was left for the good within the multiverse. Mordred howled, “Enthroned!”

Abbadon smiled. Unlike Unity, he would not betray his true followers. To think he had dismissed both Meathook and Mordred out of hand. Unity never knew what it had. A child conceived by two who held creation-level soul shards. A gift. Lilith and Ta’mathon. Their flesh gave Mordred the power needed to command this place. Abbadon was merely the architect. A builder for things to come. Once he gathered his scattered mortal selves across the infinite? His new form wouldn’t be burdened by the blood curse of the Urraden. There were many kinds of blood curses. Some served the Highest. Others?

The rulers of the Abyss.

Mordred’s soul basked in the demonic flow of Sy’taran.

*****

            Bel approached the machines keeping Mordred sedated. His form was emaciated. His muscles were thin. It was the mind that mattered. It would give Unity the information needed to survive. To counter the Light of Creation. In all its purity. Bel whispered into the dark, “Tell me, son of Man and Void, where should I aim little X’mil?”

            Mordred’s voice echoed through the coms system. Bel noted the frail quality. “Up the vitamins to his tank.”

Mordred gurgled, “A dead spot of flesh. X’mil will fail but open another door. One you can use to slip in.”

            Bel leaned in closer. She ran a finger down Mordred’s cheek.

            Excellent.

*****

            Meathook circled, “What is the real outcome?” Its fingers plucked at the plasma cutter on its belt. Father had given it a proper harness. Filled with salves that could augment its natural capabilities. Oh yes. To fade into the environment. Stalk its prey. Those activities gave it purpose. Father gave it purpose. Mother? She was a distant figure.

Go here. Do this. Father gave it more.

Mordred motioned with his right hand, “You shall go to the Paradise world. X’mil will fail but you can continue down the proper path.” Meathook bowed.

“Fresh meat to hunt!”

Its yellowed fingers placed the All-Father’s gem upon the Throne. Blackened tendrils encased it. Protected it. It was time to gather the flesh. Unity would never find this place. Mordred was free. Abbadon had promised. Meathook stepped onto the platform. With one flick of his wrist, Abbadon sent his creature to the marker. X’mil would be in for a surprise.

Mordred slipped into a deep slumber.

Paradise Falls (Shield World)

Southern Expanse

June 2nd, 2136

 

            I lingered over the treeline.

I knew Ta’rammon was directly below. The threads of the Eternal Empire corded about his cloaked form. To my Thronebearer senses, he was covered in cobwebs. Their yellowed strands stuck to everything. He was gathering food sources for J’anu’s pregnancy. Gulliver linked in, <<J’anu’s gonna burst soon. No owls or other foul things nearby. X’mil and his crew are making their way inland. Through the Southern Barrier.>>

<<Keep Paradise on them.>>

Gulliver quacked, <<You got it Hot Sause!>>

            While the Shield World AI couldn’t sense X’mil, she could track those near him, but I could understand why. His flesh was necrotic. Under the sway of….

            I shuddered. Shoved the memory away.

            I commed O’rioh, <<Set everyone to Condition 2.>>

            The Typherian warrior grunted, <<That close already? Another being has phased in near X’mil. I cannot track it.>> That worried me. I focused on the heartbeats around X’mil. The newcomer had three hearts! My skin hummed as I soaked it in then those beats were gone. I slowed my hectic breathing. I didn’t want that man anywhere near my mother. She had insisted on staying with everyone. My father had agreed.  A part of me knew why. She wanted to bait X’mil. To force him to act rashly.

            The Arcane Order calculations prevented me from arguing.

            Our enemies would attempt to take the baby. Beyond that my Ur-Flow remained silent.

            I let Ta’rammon continue his hunting.

*****

            Meathook prowled the area. X’mil had bit back a scream as the mottled yellow-colored arms had snaked around his neck. Meathook gurgled, “Your skin is forfeit.”

X’mil’s piggy eyes had expanded. The necromantic sigils rose in defense. The hybrid had plucked at the Typherian’s shirt. Human bio mimic features were unable to hide the truth for a split second. Meathook faded from sight as Snake Charmer rounded the corner, weapon halfway from its holster.

            X’mil snapped, “Flesh beyond the abyss!”

            Pyra strode over to X’mil. The tips of her fingers alight. She hissed, “Get your shit together. Even I felt the pulse of your Necro sigils!” X’mil scrambled around the building. His chest was heaving. “It was here.” He muttered hotly.

Meathook crawled within the shadow of the fallen ones. They would lead him to the child. The All-Father didn’t want the baby. He wanted Ta’mathon and J’anu. They would be vital to the vanguard. The tapestry would grow. Mordred had seen it. They feared their deaths. Abbadon would use that to bind them all tighter. Unity promised victory.

The Red King promised that pound of flesh they all desired.

*****

            A crown of red encircled my brow. It squeezed. The voices cried out, “There is no Highest. Only the mortal coil of flesh and bone.” A craggy path rose before me. Obsidian walls rose before me. Voices mocked, “You will fail!” As I climbed, the rock heated. It flowed over my hands. My mouth. It sucked me in.

            I awoke. My breath was heavy in my throat.

            A thin sheen of sweat on my brow. Exactly where that hideous crown had been. Thoth’s voice, no the All-Father’s had been low. Coy. Nearly reasonable.  Even as the palms of my hands had caught on fire.

            Jupiter’s calm tone interjected, <<Arcane systems picked up a necrotic splinter. The crew of the Little Italy is on the move. >>

I threw off my blankets and let the refresher head soak my back. “Get everyone ready.”

            Steam rose off my body as the ice-cold water flowed.

            Doc entered as I changed into my uniform. Her green eyes glued to my face, “That bad?”

            I nodded. The movement clipped.

            “Let’s go. I'll explain on the way.”

            How to tell them Mordred was Enthroned. Not by Unity but by an entity just as old as the Highest. Where he encompassed the Light? The other served the Dark. Unity thought it knew true evil. Not a chance. My dream was prophecy. A thread fed to me by my final future self. The warning was clear. The Red King of the Abyss. He was tied to the All-Father. To Thoth. I had to stop him. Chronos had fed into this force. I composed myself. It wouldn’t do anyone any good to see me panic. One head of the Hydra at a time.

            Doc punched in the keycode. The Arcane iris opened. Inside?

Mom and dad awaited us.

            I said, “X’mil is only the outer edge of the issue.”

            Dad replied, “The Red King.”

            I should have been shocked but the magic bracers forming along his wrists reminded me: He was the ruler of the Golden City. I nodded, “I already got the calling card.” Mom reached out to squeeze my hand. “What can we do to help?”

            Yellow eyestalks haunted my dreams.

            “The All-Father isn’t dead.”

Issue 10: Here

Issue 12:

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Uplift Protocol Blood Feuds: Issue 10

 

 

Issue 10: Twilight Dawning

 

            I am not strong enough to take on the Banner one-on-one but I can isolate J’ino. I just have to gain a hold on something or someone she cares about. –X’mil

            It is not likely we can take someone close to J’ino hostage. They will be looking for such an opening. X’mil is nothing but predictable. I have files on his training with the All-Mother and her assessment is key: He is a man with one drive. That need to dominate J’ino Ayeer will destroy him. Might as well make use of the chaos around that.—Snake Charmer

            All the parts of the whole were converging upon us. From friends to enemies. Each thread reached out to draw in blood, bone, and body. Our spirits. Our souls would prove stronger. Such is the future.—Sleeping in Starlight: Shield World’s End

Paradise Falls

Seaside City of Kalum

April 30th, 2136

 

         I circled the city.

The wind was a special treat. Yes, it was artificial but the way it hit my face? It was like drinking in sunlight. I landed next to my ship. My parents descended via mid-lift. Another added feature. No longer a mid-range scout ship but a midline ship of the wall. I walked towards them. A welcoming smile was plastered on my face. Lorain noticed first. She dropped the black case she was holding. Mom was faster.

My mother paled. Her arms reached out. She cradled my face. My HUD went wild.  

//RII\\

//O\\

//V|V\\

Past. Present. Future. It repeated endlessly. I clutched my head.

Phase upon the Endless Shield World. My mouth opened. A silent scream pushed from my chest.

Three sets of hands held me in place. My fingers clamped onto the metal of the lading bay. Warped it. I wanted to yell at them. To tell them to back away but Doc’s power flowed through me. My muscles silenced. I could only hear the dull thud of my heart. A face rose from the mist between life and death. I blinked. Watched as he stalked my mother. I knew that form. Each line. X’mil’s muddy dark eyes glinted yellow along the edges. All at once: The Past beckoned. The Present terrified. The Future filled with promise. I saw all this in a blink of an eye.

Within the halls of the old Area 51, he whined.

//RII\\ burned through my brain.

 

*****

            X’mil flushed. He waved one fat finger at the holoscreen, “I demand that we recall Ambassador Ayeer back to the homeworld. “ The golden and black eyes of the Coms Officer glazed over. From boredom or loathing? X’mil couldn’t tell. No one respected him. He shoved the traitorous thought away. Paced about the room. A caged ra’tat.

He whirled as the officer replied stiffly, “As noted by the rulers….”

            X’mil cut the holo mid-sentence.

            He shivered as a cold wave hooked into his spine.

*****

            I followed X’mil through the shadowed corridors of Area 51. The past was a pale illumination against the brightness of the present. The future often came to me in wispy threads. I could hear X’mil’s mutters. Not audibly. Not through Typherian means. I realized with a shock that I could hear him by phasing through his corrupted shell.

Eliza Odessen’s remark came to me then, “Whatever we Weave Speakers touch? We get echoes. Impressions. Some, like myself or Anna, are highly sensitive to such things. With you? Once awakened? Only the Highest can tell.”

I slid into X’mil. Watching through his eyes.

*****

            X’mil threw himself at the All-Mother’s remote droids. Tanarkan’s oily air burned his lungs. The holo image on its metallic face changed. He giggled. J’dax Ayeer lay dead at X’mil’s feet. He twirled his knives. Bowed towards the doorway as the All-Mother smirked. Her voice warmed, “You have potential.”

            X’mil’s chest heaved. His face twisted. It was a requirement. He could no longer mind speak. Damn that J’ino. The remembered pain along his spine. As they took all ability from him. He presented his arms. The hot brand marks rose on his wrists as she clamped down on him. Those black whips marked him as one of the Dark Shamans. There were other layers. Just as their side had the Light. The deeper dark would open up to him.

It spoke to him. He would take all that J’ino loved. Burn it to ash! He would become one of the Aspects. Of the Undying Realm. A necromancer. This was the first step. He would be a dark star among pale listless clouds. Greater than the All-Father. Unity would serve him. He embraced the pain as his wrists wept Black Scrawl. His soul was forfeit. J’ino had made it so. His cousin. Those who controlled Typha would pay. All of the matriarchs would pay. Ayeer most of all. He prostrated himself before the rulers of Tanarkan. All of it was lies.

He would burn them all.

Earth (Eternal Empire Universe)

Tower of the Eternal

May 21th, 2120

            X’mil peered into Mordred’s brown eyes. He was emaciated. His chest was hooked to the walls via implants. Tubes. Probes. Medical syringes were forced into his flesh. A mass of scar tissue bisected him from chest to stomach. Those hooded orbs locked onto X’mil, “You will suffer in silence. Death one step behind. That which you hate most will unravel you. That bright spectacle.”

            X’mil snarled. “Seems to me you have it worse. Human.” He spat the last word. All of his spite poured into it like a second skin. Mordred wheezed. X’mil’s face reddened. It was laughing. At him. He reared back. His fist angled to strike Mordred’s jaw. The Typherian howled as bright sparks of pain brought him to his knees. A blonde woman glided in. She gripped his chin. His feet dangled. A hideous strength flowed through that feminine host. X’mil’s necromantic senses revealed the hideous truth. Unity’s madness glittered within. It hurled X’mil from the Tower.

            His eyes rolled to the back of his head.

            The power of a Dark Shaman failed him.

            Instead of a bright white light? A hellish red landscape met his screams.

            Pitch black bones gripped his arms and legs and carried him under.

            Mordred’s faint laughter followed.

            We are all damned.

            You most of all.

*****

            I bolted upright. A wet cloth fell into my lap.

            The lights of the medical wing were darkened.

I expected Lorain. The heartbeat pulsing against my senses said differently. My father took the cloth and placed it on the shelving unit beside the medical pod. We didn’t need to submerge into blue gel anymore. Now? I could be bombarded with healing bursts. He pushed me back onto the medical table. I was still in my Banner uniform. Dad noted, “You’d figure you wouldn’t be the number one patient yet….”

I snorted, “My home away from home. It's like my invincibility isn’t an asset.”

I know I shouldn’t complain but a small part of me needed to vent.

Dad leaned back in the chair by the pod. “Not when it comes to astral projection.” He tapped my arm with a plasma cutter. Not even a mark on my suit. The cutter died with a snap-hiss. The metallic blade retracted into the hilt.I stuck out my tongue, “Just think, it all started with the Cabal! Those were the days!”

Dad shook a finger at me. Admonishment etched across his features.

I got the point and replied, “I know! I wasn’t as immune then either!” Those silver disks of Thoth’s came to mind. We were dealing with demonic forces. Magical-based demis were well aware of such activity. Via the Arcane Order. My future self. I heard Lorain enter. Mom alongside. I pushed myself off the pod. X’mil’s screams were fresh within my mind.

I said, “What does the Order have on Necromancers?”

Dad moved to pull mom into an embrace, “Nothing good.”

I linked into ArcaneNet. Used my clearance level.

Proctor Gansys’ worried tone filled the pickup.

<< It's bad enough Sunset Showdown has a minor dispute with one.>>

Data followed.

///Necromancers: Soul Shards so depleted they are slaves. Where High Clerics may call upon the Highest form of Divinity? Necromancers are the broken coil of Unity’s dominion.///

The next line made the blood drain from my face.

///To the flesh golems of Unity. I’kathan of the Lidless. The soul is bound. To be tormented upon true death. As payment for unnatural long life. A price in flesh is the least of a practitioner's worries.///

My mind flashed to that gangly pulsating ring of flesh around the caged Earth. The construct that Unity had kept me enthralled. Lorain's arms wrapped around me. She set me back down on the pod. If there was anything left of X’mil? They were made to bore into the flesh. Past the body. Down to the soul shard itself. Dad’s voice reached me, “He made his choice. You cannot prevent all Evils.”

I replied, “Choice. I wish this power had not come to me.”

It was a reflexive statement. I knew what I wanted deep down. Dad said, “I know but I am glad you have it.” The honesty and faith of that statement were a balm. After I had awoken within the Crystal Coffin? I had worried. That same thought ran through my head. Why had the Highest given me all this? Besides the baseline demi powers. In every instance, my brother had greater control. Knowledge. Battle prowess.

I shook my head,” Dexter would have been a better choice.”

My brother took a moment to interject along the Family line, >>You are mistaken. We are a pair remember? You have the compassion. I deal in death. You bring about life. Balance. I am a Sword. You are the Shield. Or didn’t all the iconography of the Highest get through?<<

I bit back a laugh. Mom interjected, “He’s right. Can’t have one without the other!”

I blurted out, “All I wanted was to pilot my ship. Explore the cosmos!”

Create a legacy. Add one more light to the world. The Universe.

Mom ruffled my hair, “You are. We just have a few Demonic Beach Heads to cleanse.”

Lorain dragged me from the medical unit, “I am taking her to the mess hall. Call back in about 6 hours.”

Dad raised his hand, “Mind the balloons.”

I pursed my lips. The puzzled expression made Lorain crack a faint smile, “You’ll see!”

*****

            Gwen retreated as Teddy brought his mace down. Both weapons hissed as they bounced off one another. The energy was in the form of an ancient style fail mace. When fully ignited it could eat through metal, flesh, and bone. Anna noted the bout with critical eyes, “Gwen. You overextended.” Teddy was going easy on her. Now that her Weave Speaker abilities were uncorked, they could proceed with the finer points of training. Anna chewed on the inside of her lip.

            Why had the Highest let the girl stew within the shadow of those Apex Owls for so long?

            Eliza Odessen limped forward, her voice quiet, “To sharpen her senses towards that particular pair.” Anna grimaced. “When did you get here?” The older woman cocked her head. “Only within the past hour. Here to help create a proper buffer for our newest allies.” Anna tilted her head back until the bones cracked. Odessen observed, “Might want to get that checked out.”

            Anna noted, “I have quite a few rain checks to cash in.”

*****

 

            Lorain pounded the table.

Her wheezing laughter brought a goofy grin to my face.

Cakes.

Nothing but cakes on the Mess Hall table. One for each year I had been inside the Crystal infused garden. She held up a fork. The chocolate-covered triple-layered whipped cream monstrosity threatened to encompass all the calories known to mankind. I had globs of cake on my white shirt. My black sweatpants were dotted with white cream. Doc had opened this scenario with one swift throw of confectionery delights. I opened my mouth and she tossed another morsel toward me. She had one slice. I consumed the rest. Her smile widened when she brushed that last bit of cake off my lips.

Hands on my hips I blurted out, “Nothing like having 20 years of birthdays….”

Lorain took my hand and guided me from the Mess Hall.

To our quarters.

She pushed me towards the refresher.

Happy birthday to me.

*****

X’mil drank.

The unnatural concoction burned his throat.

The stimulants kept him from sleeping. Dreams were the mind-killer. That fall from the tower danced behind his eyelids every time he attempted a natural cycle. The tradeoff had been worth it. The soft call of seagulls combined with the tranquil crash of waves made his eyelids heavy.

I’kathan’s bloated flesh flowed over his body.

His soul shard quailed from the trespass. Its oily appendages coiled tighter, “Servant. Find the Urraden. Kill her. For us.” The flesh tightened. Burrowed behind his eyes. Into his lungs. Like a glove. A violation.

He leaned forward. Jerked awake despite the regulated breeze.

This planet was kept at a pleasant 70 degrees. He shivered. The black scrawl clawed about his stomach. Find them. Destroy them. For us.

For Mother.

Desiccated hands coiled about his spine.

Twisted.

He doubled over as the pain took him. Voices melted together. Tar dripped from the callused mouths, “You are forfeit.”

*****

            Pyra observed from the terrace above. Her eyes darted to the entity clamped upon X’mil’s scarred back. It left black marks. In the shape of fingers. No bigger than hers. She covered a hand over her mouth and dashed for the refresher. Some gifts were not worth the trade. Medusa leaned over. Her mouth tightened. Her brother’s plan would work. It had to. She’d hide behind Eliza Murphy if need be. That’s what girl scouts like that were good for. They had mercy. They’d protect.

            Enemies. Friends. Family.

            She counted on it.

            Because Good, with that Capital G, had standards.

            Snake Charmer fiddled with the blaster at his hip.

            Soon this charade would be at an end.

            “One way or another.”

Issue 9: Here

Issue 11: Here