Monday, February 28, 2022

The Uplift Protocol Union: Issue 9

 

Issue 9: The Cerberus Flows

 

                My cousins will not be silent. Earth is the only home they have known. I will help them defend it. My brother and I haven’t endured these many cycles of rebirth to be denied. –The Howling

            In the past 40 years, the dog population residing on Earth has quadrupled. This doesn’t even cover colonial expansion as these faithful friends endure Mankind’s Expansion beyond our home star. We have had reports of some dogs developing demi capabilities. Much like the Yellow Bullet of the Golden Redeemers.—Terran Alliance Internal Memo

                We have much to be thankful for. The faith of Earth’s K-9s alighted my path in my darkest hour. With their songs, they reached all those who were closest to me. Drawing them to the crystal coffin. Hidden within my second death resting place. The Golden City itself. Deep within the Slumbering Core of Tomorrow.—Sleeping in Starlight: Convergence Vol 9

 

Earth (Edenverse)

West Corath Castle ( Northern England)

Summit of Dogkind

 

                The Howling greeted the King’s Corgis. By now Earth’s dogs had awakened to genuine sentience. Their voices joined Bardax. Only humans within the Arcane Order knew just how advanced their K-9 friends had become. Proctor Gansis had many Bardaxian protectors. But only one Earth dog found it his mission to protect the old Atlantian. A rather peculiar Golden Retriever.

            Mr. Crockett.

            The dog in question sniffed the air cautiously.

            <<One cannot be too careful sir.>>

            The golden’s head turned. One ear lifted.

            <<Hummph. Pugs. Such noise. Sounds like there is a riot over who gets to set out the greeting bones and ribs.>>

            Gansis adjusted his silver-rimmed glasses. Their magical energy measuring for any presence of unwanted guests. Even if they happened to be benign. This meeting was too important to chance outside interference. The general population wasn’t quite ready for this development. He’d find a way to thank that young man called Rune if he ever saw him again. The multiverse was filled with mysteries. Once Unity was dealt with perhaps the Arcane Order would have a golden age of discovery.

            That was his greatest hope.

                Shines-Within-The-Darkness barked, <<AH! Honored guest. We welcome you!>>

 The English Setter’s speckled body was a mix of black and white splotches. Unlike a Dalmation? This particular breed was renowned for its GPS quality when it came to tracking. Within the Weave? It was common to see scores of Setters protecting England. Gansis chuckled as Tobin rounded the corner with Lazurus. “Any word if Robin and Marion will be joining us?”

Lazurus’ gaze was drawn to the portable mirror on his left forearm, “Our sister is running late…”

*****

            Gwen Murphy dashed across the fields of Graywalk. It was a twist or “roadway” within the Weave. Color seeped into the world. A mix of purples, greens, and gold. Sparta and Valkyrie padded along next to Gwen. She would never walk alone. Not with the mark of the White Owls on her soul. Her connection to that unfortunate event could lead more Owls through into the Eden realms. Zanzibar himself magicked 3 Dreamcatchers. One to guard her soul shard against Entropy. The second to fortify her dreams. While the last helped her along special paths like the Graywalk within the Weave itself.

            Gwen squinted.

            The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.

            She sprang onto Sparta’s back. The giant Bardaxian wolf dashed off the path. His mate followed. They had to keep moving. The backway into the summit would be well defended within the Weave. The temple of the Three could cleanse Gwen. Long enough for her to be transferred.

Then it would be another series of loops around Earth’s Weavespace.

The final mystery revealed.

           

*****

            The white owl circled. The scent had been there. That mix of guilt. Terror and perhaps longing. Yes, his kind always infused mortals with that potent blend. His brother circled lazily, “We shall have her. We nearly did if not for that human woman. To think, one of that level of delicacy. Her soul shall be a tribute to Unity!”

            Yes, she would witness the sacrifice upon the Throne of Bone. It was foretold. Since the days of Elysium. They hadn’t listened then. They were blind now. Reborn into mortal bodies as punishment. The divine shield of the Star-Spangled Banner could prevent new enemies from arriving. Not ones already within its borders. Ghost white wings fluttered as a warm breeze carried them off deeper into the Weave. They had to be careful.

The enemy’s power was strongest here.

*****

            Lazurus said, “What happened?”

The welcoming fires of the castle couldn’t offset his pinpricks of worry.

Gwen’s face was pallid. She hugged herself, “Anna was right. Those two Owls fly within the wake of my passing.”

He wrapped a blanket about his sister’s shoulders. “Can we stop them?” His features turned sour, “So that’s why the Order had you monitored. It's not enough that you made a mistake but they--”

Gwen held up a hand to stall her brother, “For my protection. This Throne of Bone is a piece of the prophecy that has only been mentioned twice within Golden City's tablets.”

She shuddered, “I saw Eliza and Dexter die. In so many ways that I nearly lost myself in the process!” Lazurus tilted his head to the side. A sure sign he was cruising INet to ping a certain contact. The Blue Blaze appeared in a burst of movement. “I’d recommend we call in Arthur as well. Might need a bit of Deus Vult to smite the white off those feathered demons.”

*****

            Arthur examined the three golden circles etched onto the old gateway into the realm of Camelot. The wood was a deep cherry color. Three cocker spaniels perked up as he turned away, “It’s not yet time for the round table. Soon. Where did Robert get off to?” The massive gray Great Dane was nowhere to be found.

            Dixie, the smallest of the Spaniels replied, <<He had an appointment with the Howling!>> Arthur tugged at his ashen blond beard. He’d have to shave it off. He had been out in the wilds of the Weave for so long that he appeared more mountain than man. That would amuse Gwuievere to no end. The Intez within chuckled, <<Even between reincarnations, some habits remain eternal, much to the designs of the world!>>

            Arthur mused, “It looks like my sabbatical is at an end. Wonder what those Murphy triplets got into this time. Blue Blaze doesn’t strike me as excitable but this message worries me.” He knelt. Pulled his longsword from his scabbard. Excalibur hummed.

            >>It will be good to see everyone. Just like the olden days.<<

            Arthur sympathized with the sapient weapon’s yearning.

            The round table would walk the realms once more.

*****

            The Howling dashed across the barren land. The Weave bellowed a warning.

            The enemy flew within the skies above.

Crackles of red lightning flashed overhead. Spears of light rose from the ground. The twin shapes of the owls fled. The tips of their wings were scorched by the flow of holy enchantments. The Howling’s orange eyes blazed. Righteous fury boiled just underneath. “Earth is mine to patrol.” He snuffed at the air.

Ancient bonds pulled at every fiber of his being.

He had a duty to the Highest and Arbiter.

*****

            Gwen cried out.

She shied away from her brothers. Glaive caught the pungent odor of burnt flesh. The Bardaxian circled. His dark brown eyes were unwavering. Murphy opened her shaking hands to find the palms reddened. Three black lines etched horizontally across the meat of both palms. They all jumped when the Howling phased into the guest room. His massive black wolf’s head just above Gwen’s outstretched arms. “I will join you. Sparta and the others must help the Summit. We must leave the bounds of Earth as you know it. You will see the Throne. But on our terms. Not Unity’s.”

Gwen gulped.

Then she jerked backward as two gauntleted hands guided her to a comfortable chair. Arthur smiled. Then took out some synth wraps. “Let’s take a look at those hands.

His touch was tender. She bit back a yelp of pain as he added salves to the wounds.

“Your brothers, even Zackary, will join us shortly. Howling is filling them in.”

All around her was a ship. Made of pure white crystal. “What about the White Owls? My dreams have been dark as of late.” Arthur turned as the Morrigan entered. The old sorceress said, “Where we shall go? We can sever your ties to the Owls of Ruin and Dispair. Each of them possesses the spark of old carrion eaters.”

Gwen responded, “Whatever it takes. As long as that vision….”

Morrigan said, “It will come to pass. Eliza shall die but the enemy does not see clearly.” Gwen stood. Then hissed as the pain shot up her arms, “I cannot  allow that!” Arthur blocked Gwen’s view of Morrigan. “It will happen. We must ensure Eliza comes back whole.”

Gwen slumped back down into the chair, “Is that why the Order sent my parents on that mission? To distract them?”

Arthur scratched his cheek, finished the bindings, then stood. “No, each part of the Order is entrusted with certain missions. Even if they don’t know the full scope. Operational security. IF we don’t know the full picture? It will leave Unity guessing.”

The Morrigan’s bright red hair, streaked with gray, hid the ancient demi’s reaction.  They would not have enough faith to bring Eliza back. Not on their own. Within Noah’s Ark, there was a cipher. To be added to the coffin. One that would anchor Eliza’s soul to the lands of those who had the faith to endure. It was within the deep fabric of the Weave. Beyond the territories that the Light Shamans traversed. There could be no doubt.

The Bardaxians never did. Neither did the dogs of Earth.

That is what would save her.

Gwen glared at Morrigan. “My faith is just as strong!”

Arthur replied, “It is not about the level of faith. Those closest to Eliza will doubt. Yet she will not walk alone.” Gwen crossed her arms. Valkyrie entered. Rested her white lupine head in Gwen’s lap, <<Others will protect you. The finest Earth has to offer. We will live to see the end of an era.>>

Gwen shivered. “I know.”

The young woman sighed, “I just wish…”

Arthur held out his hand, “Trust isn’t the factor. You will see, in time.”

Gwen smiled. It was a small spark. “Somehow I imagine Eliza would find this amusing.”

Arthur settled in. “We are set on our Path. So is your sister. In the end? We cannot change the current but we can empower it!”

            The ship phased out of Earth’s physical reality. All around them a golden glow flowed. Gwen realized that the ship was bobbing. Arthur nodded, “Welcome to the Sea.” The way he said the word made Gwen’s head snap around. In the distance, golden trees floated high above them. Situated along a verdant green mountainside. At the summit of the mountain rested a silver tower. With three points. The gentle rocking lulled Gwen to sleep.

            A woman dressed in denim overalls with a wide straw hat waved, “Remember, as long as you endure, the flame will not go out. The shadows may cast long reflections but at your core? Illuminate your fears, only then can you reveal them for what they are.”

            A man joined her. He raised his hands. On one palm was a silver ouroboros. The other was black as the void itself. “Time is known. It is vast. Dive deeper. Beyond the current cycle. The waters will flow.” 

            This was not the Weave personified by the Void Man and Silver Lady.

            The woman walked towards Gwen. “The Path is paved with Thorns. On the other side? Salvation.” The man took a silver vase. Water poured. Soaked the earth. “The flood rises.”

            Two golden orbs emerged from the damp earth. A face formed. Cruel. Perfect.

            “A fallen son arises.”

*****

            Arthur replaced the bandages. Black Scrawl continued to seep from them. This wound would not truly heal until the first entombment. He guided the Thread ship towards the forgotten shores of Earth’s true surface. Movement from above the treeline made the Intez within gasp, <<So that is where Noah….>>

            A hull of metal and pristine white wood gleamed through the expanse of trees. Arthur crossed himself.

The Ark had three main vital decks. The Lexicon, for seeding the tapestry of the multiverse with knowledge. The Helm, which contained the master key of the Throne. Useable only by the Arbiters of the Highest. The Requilary, home to all seedlings from Elysium itself. Within the golden wood of Earth’s Weave was the Helm.

Arthur frowned, “Then what do Chronos and his ilk have? If the actual Helm is here…”

The Howling jumped onto the console situated near Arthur’s right hand. “Chronos has the Lure of the Cyclops.”

Morrigan asked, “Care to fill us in?”

The Howling circled the air. His corgi form far less intimiating. All because the Arbiter loved that breed. His little legs paddled along. “Oh yes. Noah left many Lures. Bardax knows this but Unity thinks us dumb worthless creatures.” The corgi snarled. Then his ears flattened against his skull.

“Bardax always knows. We trust in the will of the Highest.”

Gwen yawned. Rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

“….then what are mom and dad after?”

The Howling responded, “The Lexicon. Evil cannot see the truth of it. But your father will.”

*****

            Thomas edged their vessel around the graveyard of pirate ships. Even a few Eternal Empire battle cruisers circled this plague-ridden sphere. J’ino tapped the deck with one foot. Nervous energy. “A ship within a ship….” Her eyes narrowed.

            She snapped her fingers! “Like when that silver sailing ship was in the bottle above her bed on the Jupiter!” Thomas grinned. “Indeed. I just have to key in on where my battle sight draws a blank!”

            Without waking the zombie hoards that floated about.

            Auggie sat within the warmth of J’ino’s embrace.

She scratched his chin, “Who’s a good boy?” The corgi perked up. <<Joyous therapy!>>

            The Rivers of the Dead continued their course around the blighted Dyson Sphere. The dragon continued its slumber. Its gray-black claws curled tightly around the outer edges of the frigid metals.

            Thomas checked his Chrono, “Mondays.”

Issue 8: Here

Issue 10: Here

 

Friday, February 25, 2022

The Uplift Protocol Union: Issue 8

 

Issue 8: Splintered Sight

 

            We go forward. We go back. From the first breath of Creation to the last Dying Ember. Time is an illusion that keeps people apart.—Litari Proverbs of the Shattering

            Based on these charts? We could terraform this sector a few 100 Lightyears from us. Almost as if it was left there on purpose. I'll scout ahead to make sure the area is free of Urraden influences. Good thing X3 is situated inside a worldship. From what Lo’tar says? It was pre-built to jumpstart colonies. Perfect for our needs.—MT-155

            What tempted me the most on that climb from oblivion? An utterly normal life. You laugh but considering my circumstances? That was the greatest weapon Unity had against me.—Sleeping in Starlight: Death Cycle Memory

Alvara’s Eye

Eternal Empire Node:2254

Arsis (Black Rock Markav)

 

            Unity stretched. There were perks to having a mortal body that pleased it to no end. In their original forms, even among the plebs of Elysium, Amache aspects were denied the basic pleasures. Granted, Draken Nix was merely a hollowed shell but as this human Cathrine Bel? They could experience everything denied.

            Everything forbidden.

            She pushed the comatose pirate off the bed. Now, this was a Mars one could appreciate.

            It was everything dear Father denied his Creations.

            Every race within this universe walked upon the surface of this planet. All of them are devoted to the cause. Unity luxuriated within the waters behind the opulent chambers. She summoned Draken Nix, “It is time to see what little fleas walk within my borders.”

            Nix remained still as stone. His milky white eye stalks were devoid of free will.

            “Certain Demis are absent from HeroNet updates. My son has been monitoring feeds. Their reaction time has gone down by over 40%. These Golden Redeemers are fractured. Striker suspects that the Puzzler is what Alliance humans call a sleeve.”

            Unity brought up the feeds. While the sleeper program had faded, not all of Sister Nyx’s darlings had been found. Children, innocent and unspoiled, dreamed their lives away. Foes like Sir Avalon had found many. Cured them of Unity’s influence. Unity focused on Eliza Murphy’s team.

            Lightbringer, Doctor Impossible, and the Puzzler had been curiously quiet as of late. Murphy, under the auspices of The Star-Spangled Banner, was putting out fires within the UEF. Unity mused, “My Father wants Murphy at the forefront. Thinking that little thing can defeat me. I bested  Matarn. No matter what Murphy throws at me she will never see my counter coming.”

            Unity dived into Bel’s memories. Murphy could be many places. She was multitudes faster than that ship she used. Yet the last three engagements on the UEF boarders showed that her usual team was hardly present. One note made Unity’s toes curl:  ///Red Wave: Who is this Lady Adena? Oh High Prophet of Black Rock, how does she command Three of the Eternal Children?///

            Unity’s bright blue eyes narrowed.

            “I see. So that is why the Redeemers have come.”

            Bio signatures wouldn’t work. Doctor Impossible’s skills were growing. She must have shielded them. One other nugget made Unity lean back and grin savagely. “I can’t believe they’d be stupid enough to bring metals made of Eden?!”

            Unity linked to its dark mirror network. Morgana’s pale visage materialized. “Summoned I am. What is your will?” Unity sucked in a breath. Murphy would lose a pound of her allies' flesh.

            “We have insects to swat. Summon Karvax and Hilary. It is time to anoint the third of my vanguard.”

            Morgana bowed. Lilith’s hunger sparked, “Shall I?”  

The eternal chain tore at that one’s soul since Elysium. Unity never trusted her. The 7 within it never trusted themselves. Each desired the heat death of everything the Highest ever touched or molded. Lilith remained useful. Reborn into the Eternal Empire as the sorceress queen Renenutet.

            The Highest thought that would have taught humility to those who caused the shattering of Elysium.

            Unity raised one perfect hand, “Oh yes. Join them. We must anoint the Third properly!”

            Lilith pouted, “Why not me?” She had to consume one body per day to maintain her ethereal beauty. The cost kept her chained. Just the way Gluttony loved it. Satan snapped within their shared mindscape, “Who is the third. Has our final Gray Herald arrived?”

            The thing wearing Catherine Bel’s skin pushed off from the edge of the bathing rung.

            “Shhh. All will be revealed.”

            The 7th within Unity controlled the rest. Its silky voice rang through their putrid souls. It had supplanted Lucifer. Since the Fallen Son of the Golden Host rejected their offer.

            “All will come to pass. Father may control the roads of Time but we can divert that river to our purpose.”

            Lucifer may be powerful but the 7th was beyond the Highest. Lightbringer was broken. Because he was of the Highest. The 7th had never been born. Never saw the plains of Elysium. It was beyond the sight of the Highest. It was why Unity would devour them all. The Seventh sang. Its voice brought them all together. Shared in a singular purpose.

            Perfect. Whole.

            Sublime.

Beyond the Edge of Time

Shores of Infinity

The First Throne  

The man walked.

I ran. My legs were heavy.

My breath was hot. I could only perceive his outline. A bright spark against endless darkness. In one hand he held a spear of silver light. The other pulsed with dark energy. At the apex of the tunnel was a starburst. A gleaming bone-white throne rose before us. He ascended the steps, “There must always be the Light. “

He turned. His face was blank. No earthy features.

“Without Light? The Dark will devour all.”

A great black Ouroboros rose before me.

“You must remain. The Vigil must be passed down.”

I awoke to Doc’s shout, “We got company!”

            The crystalline walls of the Tower parted. I took to the skies. Above us, the shield walls around Typha glimmered bright orange. Sister Nyx was throwing more Keeper Drone ships at us. Spears of blazing golden fire bisected those dilapidated silver saucers. The Tower hummed. It was firing at the enemy!

*****

            Sister Nyx launched the probe. It was a tiny thing. Dozens of her ships exploded around her as she sent her flagship on automation. The dark mirror flowed about her. The heat faded. This was not the only divine pillar that had manifested. It flowed across all Typhas not corrupted by Unity.

Troublesome.

            Dominion across the multiverse.

            She would consult Chronos. The Highest and the Weave wasn’t as dead as Lucifer wished. Or reported. She found the data on the Fallen One quite incomplete. He could have been anyone during his time as a mortal. Those who originated within the Elysium cycle, even within such a shell, had advantages others didn’t possess. Memory of the first Universe.

            Nyx had yet to find a way to detect these “reincarnations.”

            Lucifer had found a way. The Word of Old told her as much.

            She would take it from him. Willingly or not.

            The pinprick of blood that connected her to Eliza Murphy pulsed against her skin.

            Nyx cooed. “Soon my dear. I'll inject you with the 2nd half of my serum. The results should be quite illuminating.” Unity watched within the recesses of the Dark Mirror network. Interesting. It would consult the 7th. The Keepers couldn’t mask their thoughts. They were all clones of Chronos. It was why he had no soul left. Why they would all fade to ash upon death. That cherry explosion of mist. Unity clawed at Nyx’s ear, “Now my dear. Find out everything that Lucifer is hiding. It’s the only way to preserve Chronos.”

Arcane Battle Scout Vessel Lone Ranger

In Route to Standby Beta Site

Eternal Empire Territory

 

            J’ino read the message for the thousandth time.

            ///Arthon will get At’lan’s twin out of danger. What you three will do will require the greatest challenge. Taking Noah’s Repository out of the Eternal Empire. A ship within a ship within a ship. How’s that for irony? I know what you’d say right now: Why plant this part of the Ark within Unity’s backyard? Because it wouldn’t think to look here for it. Helps that the Ark’s main power source isn’t within the Repository section. Noah left a whole bunch of false leads as well.///

            Thomas leaned back. “I know.  But remember? This Eliza is both her future self and situated all across time. Specifically when and where the Highest wants her.”

            J’ino flicked through the databases. Her fingers tapped against her leg. Nervous energy, “I still hate it. How are we supposed to have enough numbers to keep it?!”

            Thomas popped his knuckles. One finger at a time.

            “Simple. It won't be active. It will be nestled within a ship that no one would expect to have any value. Made from materials of this universe. Which are more malleable to Typherian matter manipulation. “

            J’ino crossed her arms. Stretched her legs out so they rested on the sensor console. This ship wasn’t on any network but the self-contained Arcane node. Augustus jumped into Thomas’ lap. Murphy gave the corgi’s ears a gentle pat.

            Thomas handed his wife another mug of coffee, “Made to order. It’s a midnight roast. Just the way you like it.” J’ino took it.

            The warmth flowed through her.

            “What about your demi ability?”

            Thomas grinned, “I can see where all the enemy ships and personel are. Within a 20 Light Year radius. We are the only ones besides the rest of our infiltration team that my senses cannot register. According to the Arbiter? It’s because Eden filters and deadens my abilities.”

            J’ino brought up the file. “Useful but what’s the catch?”

            Thomas replied, “I am vunerable to detection if I focus too much on any one person or ship.”

He brought up the holos of Ta’rammon and J’anu. “I could concentrate on them specifically but after a minute or two they’d know someone with locating power was keying in on them. Magic can detect my battle sense. Ride it back to the source. I’d be possessed in a hot minute if they had someone of that caliber.”

He paused. Poured another beverage into his thermos.

“They could ride into my body and use it to locate us.”

J’ino asked, “So you have to use it in small bursts. Like a sensor net?”

Thomas nodded. “Just so. It's how I’ve made sure we’ve bypassed all the pirates in the area. Granted they are focused on various skirmishes but one cannot just rely on that.”

J’ino’s brow pinched. Her expression hardened.

“Eliza Elizabeth Murphy!”

Thomas grinned as his wife read the rest of the dossier on his power. “Yes, we can always ground her later. No matter the age!” He prayed it would remain so. To know just how much she had hidden from everyone else in this Windmill quest to save the multiverse….

He shook his head. Bemused.

“It's not Eliza’s fault. It was pre-planned before any of us existed.”

J’ino rolled her eyes, “If you say that corny line one more time…..”

Thomas pressed a hand to his chest. “Me? I’d never torture you that way!”

Ranger’s VI took a moment to proclaim, “We go forward! We go back, Along the Golden Path, so sayeth the wise Arbiter. So as it was made in Texas. Forgive me for my temporal transgression for they make the brain swissed. I’ll take the complaint to my manager.”

The VI had used their daughter’s voice patterns.

J’ino muttered, “She is so grounded into the next cycle.”

A cold wave rushed through the Typherian. If her daughter survived.

The console beeped, “Destination reached!”

As the expanse of stars slowed, they exited FTL, under the cloaked operating procedures inherent to all Arcane vessels. Arrayed before them was a gleaming red Dyson sphere. The carcasses of ancient hulls circled it. Sorchmarked with ancient battle.

Thomas noted sardonically, “A ship within a ship within a ship.”

J’ino deadpanned, “All we have to do is get past the sleeping Living Stone Wyrm curled around the outer edges of that sphere.” Augustus tested the air. Then leaned over to nose the port side display.

His nub of a tail tick tocked happily, <<YAY! We don’t even have to go into the sphere. Let’s check the ships circling it!>>

J’ino sighed, “Anything else out here? Or just old grayscales?”

Thomas noted the corpses that circled like specks against his senses.

Then pulled back the burst as dead eyes opened.  Iced hands twitched within shredded spacers suits.

He said, “Its not just the dragon.”

Endless Hoards of the undead.

They hungered. Not for flesh. The bright sparks of soul.

Issue 7: Here

Issue 9: Here