Interlude 2: The Red Planet Rises
Cradle matrix online. Decanting population. Please standby—Illarium Home Matrix
It was as before. Every tree, brook, and song. All the animal life is back. They were returned first. I never thought I’d get to walk the streets of Ha’ala once more. It was a distant dream.—Taleer.
Military credentials recognized, Welcome back to the Hive Fleet Leader Sul’sandra. Requesting reboot of outer defense systems. Analyzing. Colony Aden online. New elements detected. Do you wish to establish an embassy outpost instead? Native population detected.—Aden Central Hub.
At’lan remained hidden for some time. He wanted to purge the sleepers from his population. Not to harm them but to free them before they re-integrated with Markav society. The Ur Stone provided more for the Mars population. Since their home was lost. The next few months would prove vital for us and the Markav.—Sleeping in Starlight, a memoir of the 22nd century
The Surface of Mars
March 22nd, 2104
Anna gawked. The vibrant green surface of Mars.
The trees had orange leaves. Bright red fruits hanging low and succulent. The Markav resembling Easter Island stone statues. Their skin mottled yellow to a bright green. Star flew overhead. The power of the White pulsating with each pass. Healing the planet as it continued to regrow from the destruction of Chronos’ invasion. The city of Illarium took up a solid quarter of the planet’s surface. The former red dust of Mars had covered it. The research city of High Terra had been lifted from the ground by Dawnbreaker’s matter manipulation. Then placed in harmony with the area around it. With no need for domed protection, they recycled it.
Sul’sandra greeted the incoming civilians.
Many milled about: Connecting into Highmaker.
Searching for family. There wasn’t much time to have everyone enter cryosleep near each other. Various Terran officials, alongside Sir Avalon, were expanding outward. Placing Light Shaman wards all over. One couldn’t be too careful. One old Markav woman bowed, “I greet you. I am Lahan. The overseer of the Ur mentioned that this place could use my talents.”
I landed. Four Markav children in my arms. They yelled, “Grandmother!”
Sul was rubbing at her eyes as the children grabbed the elder’s robes. The Grandmother’s ancient features warming. “Starlilies!” They showered her with a wreath of the flowers. This was the one that made that black signifier, the Monitor, that protected the Leylines. Aether’s message spilled into my feed.
///The Leylines are all maintained. The Ur-Stone will transport more Markav to the surface. I am afraid I gave Chronos a clue to my existence. It was the only way to get more demis on-site rapidly.///
Sul ran to me. Embracing me with a ferocity that would break lesser creatures. I took her into my arms and I bounded skyward. Taking her back to that hometown that Taleer mentioned. I steadfastly ignored the tears pouring down her face. Mom was similar in a way. Didn’t want people to see that side. As I landed, Taleer bowed, waving his arms about. Like a parent giddy with his child's first birthday. “Welcome home!” Comet rounded the corner. The U-Markav probe trilled excitedly. The houses here were what I’d expect back home. If they were 3 stories high and shaped liked inverted U’s. There were no windows.
Dozens of civilians surrounded us. All touching my cape or my face. Making some sort of motion towards their foreheads. Sul reciprocated, “May the Blessings of the Three protect you all.”
High above, circling the former planet of War, was the Markav Probe network. It came online without much fanfare. At’lan ran the program that future Eliza had inserted into his databases a while back. Protecting the fledgling tech base from Sleeper malfeasance. It wasn’t their fault. He still wished it would have been easier for current Eliza but by the grace of the Weave and the Ur-Stone’s multiversal properties they kept Set’s forces at bay as well. Thoth had already done enough damage. He had been the one to set the charges that destroyed the mirror At’lan from the UEF universe.
It was a double-edged sword.
To have knowledge that mimicked information close enough was troubling enough.
To have a repeat of his demise would prove even more disastrous within this universe. Ripples would reflect outward beyond just a handful of Universes. It would affect all of them. Because this place was a copy of the Creation Universe. With very important changes to Magic. So another Unity couldn’t rise as easily. He hoped that Eliza would be able to resuscitate that place as well. To free all the souls remained trapped. But first, they had to survive the onslaught that was coming.
The Artock fleet.
They thought they were the only ones who could use “Weave Space” and At’lan would make sure that the Reborn Markav fleet would stand by humanity. As one Brotherhood. All they needed to do was free the Sleepers within At’lan’s heart. Then they could fully integrate it with the overall Hegemony networks.
Onboard the Jupiter Rising, within her private quarters, Anna picked up the glass tube containing Eliza and Dexter’s umbilical sample. She removed her white gloves. The remnants of memory flashing through her. She gave herself over to the Weave’s reflections.
Her shuddering sobs muffled in the darkness of the cabin.
The face of the marked Keeper haunted her waking dreams.
On the table, next to her bed a common pregnancy test read positive. Its lines marking her as a target for the hideous entity that fancied itself a collector of children.
Anna would put a bullet to its brain before she would let it near another child.
Teddy arrived later. Bringing her some chamomile tea.
He stayed with her until the tremors abated.
After a few moments, he said, “I set up the shootin range. Wanna practice?”
Anna, with a particularly deadly gleam in her eye, “You’re on. Best of 100 wins!”
Sister Nyx cooed.
Mimicking facial expressions human young found interesting. The baby had some basic demi abilities but no latent Light Shaman talents. She handed it back to its parents. Giving more inoculations. A simple procedure to mask her true purpose. To find magic. But most importantly: Find those who connected the most with this Weave.
The sign outside the New Ashbury downtown complex read, “Dr. Evenhalls Pediatrics for Demi Testing.” Her human face smiled brightly. Programed to be as inoffensive as possible. Coded to perfection to vent in private.
Taking those samples from Hilary and the other human subjects had been quite useful for mimicking behaviors. On her own, she would read as a psychopath to the human machines around her. It was all quite exciting. Every day more material to test. If any of those babies proved to be fruitful, all the better!
She sang a jaunty tune as another unsuspecting couple handed her their offspring to test.
She added insult to injury by planting a kiss on the infant’s forehead.
Why humans felt so protective was beyond her.
So she faked it until the right kind of babies arrived.
The ones with the power to channel Unity properly.
Issue 25: Here
Book 3 Mars Prologue: Here