Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Uplift Protocol Blood Feuds: Issue 16


Issue 16: The Long Shadow of Ta’rammon


            We are already at the edge. If this is the only way to save a part of myself and her? I will do what is required. The long grip of the All-Father dogs us. We should have never allied with that one in the first place. His blood is tainted. To the point where it makes my wife seem angelic in response.—Ta’rammon

            I know they are watching. Those cherubs. Why they insist on remaining within those feathered forms is beyond me. I do wonder what an angelic creature would taste like.—J’anu

            A part of me knew, even then, how fixated the enemy was on children or babies. Each of our enemies was a puppet for him. That nameless dread in the middle of the night. There is evil that walks within those tight spaces. Ever searching. This is why we must remain vigilant. For if we fall? Those we protect fall with us. Into the Abyss. The House Orator wonders why I placed the Prison above homeworld’s orbit. It is a reminder. Of the Vigil. Of what could escape once more if we do not heed the words of the past.—Sleeping in Starlight: Upon a Dark Star

Eastern Cavern System

Paradise Falls

June 5th, 2136


            J’anu groaned and maneuvered to the hover unit. As the HUD came online it flickered in the corner of her vision. ///Terran Alliance medical unit online. Administering pain killers. Contractions detected.///

            The white canopy closed about her head. Great.

            Why had they agreed to this madness?!

            A flash of mottled yellow skin registered. The pod teleported.

            ///Unknown energy detected. Operation Mother Goose initiated.///

            J’anu gripped the sides of the pod.

            The Herald of Flesh. She would have to warn her father.

            The ruler behind Unity had made itself known.

            Mordred’s dark brown peered into her blood-red orbs. His voice rang out within her mind. A dark caress. She snarled silently at the intrusion. It shouldn’t be possible. Her face fell. He was gathering his Heralds. Unity thought it was taking command. It would be a rude awakening.

            >>Clothed in crimson. Guided by the Sundering. Brother against brother. Death is not an escape for us. You know this. Pale blood spilled. Urraden chained. No recourse. His eyes see into the eternal dark.<<

            The Herald of Flesh. That monster of Nyx’s making.

            The Orator of the Abyss. Rejected son of Chronos.

            The Eyes of the Void.

            J’anu hissed through clenched teeth, “My father would never….”

            Mordred laughed. The sound was as smooth as honey.


            Meathook prowled about the hidden cave system. Ta’rammon and his wife had been smart. Nothing of the bone, blood or flesh left behind for him to analyze. That medical pod had done a neutralizing burst as it escaped. No matter. Meathook inhaled. His nostrils flared as he detected the faded aura of Cherubs. Not just any lower angel. The Brothers of N’iavah.

            The End Cycle.

            Before the passing of Humanity.

            Meathook crawled over the rocky ledges. Yes, they had been here.

            They could hide no longer. What wonders would be in the orange bag?

            What traps did the Arbeiter of Light place within?

            Meathook cooed, “I am patient. Let the terror build. Sweet nectar!”

            J’anu had an idea of his true strength. He drank in her mental residue.

            Not even that Banner could save her. The flesh had already been offered.


            Ta’rammon held his knives at the ready position. They prickled his palms.

            Light Shaman weapons. How revolting. Necessary.

            A shadow fell across the clearing.

A gargantuan wolf appeared. Its coat was darker than the void between the stars. The orange eyes gleamed. “It is here. I can smell it.” The voice rumbled outward. Divine. Power rippled with each step. Cerberus. Ta’rammon stated, “What price shall I pay?” Cerberus replied, “The Red King has already marked you. That is price enough for anyone.”

Cerberus peered down at Ta’rammon. Pity in his lupine gaze.

“We shall save your son. That is all that remains untethered from his crimson grasp.”

The former ruler of the Eternal Empire asked, “How is that possible?”

Cerberus flicked his ears forward. They quivered as they detected rocks falling into the waters of the cavern system. “Not here. The Herald is present.”

Ta’rammon circled. Every muscle tense. “Noted.”


            Meathook giggled to itself as the mighty guardian of Elysium keyed in on the sounds. It couldn’t detect his steps. Provided it remained within the Red King’s shadow. The gift of ages. It did not need to hunt these two. It would merely observe. The knives held by Ta’rammon burned the ruler’s palms. How quaint! He was willing to bear the stink of the Light.

Meathook gurgled, >>Fe’tha’rahulk<<

Cerberus snarled, “Unclean wretch!” It howled. The sound shook the earth. Meathook slipped into the shadow of the treeline. Let them chase ghosts within the caverns.

It slipped past the warrior pair. No need to prove anything. Meathook wasn’t a warrior. It was a creature of shadow. It hungered to devour the innocent resting within J’anu’s womb. Those Cherubs had done the job wonderfully. For they were made to protect the unborn. That mandate from the Highest would be its undoing.


            The All-Father mocked me, “You adorn an empty Throne.”

            No conventional energy or ballistics weapons could tear through the necrotic ball. That baleful sun continued to stare. Volcanos of noxious green flame burst forth from the surface. Its disease-ridden eyes were glued upon the Jupiter Rising. Dexter’s voice linked directly to my mind. >>This is my burden. You have no dominion here. But I will need your help. He is fixated on you. Get the fleet to fire everything they have at these coordinates.<<

            My brother’s aura was different. I said nothing. Asked instead, >>After that?<<

            He replied stoically, >>Shield them all.<<

            Paradise Falls interjected cheerily, <<Arbiters! I have full augment shielding. I will activate when commanded!>> I nodded. Made sense. If I was Life? The flip side must be represented. The cycle of mortality. Soul Shards. I narrowed my gaze. >>How can I be Life? I cannot give it. <<

            Dexter’s response, when it came, was direct. >>That is why you have the mantle. If it was given to another? The Red King could manifest through you. He has attempted it before.<<

Nyx’s experiments with children. What she told me of the All-Mother’s pregnancy. Unity had tried to infect the baby. So the switch was made. Its aborted bones were cleansed within the other universe. Under the pillared temple of the Three. In return? We had protected J’irax. So many stories. I had read the accounts after my “death.” As Sunburst? He had been vital in holding back the Artock hoards during the Breach Wars. Unlike me, he could drench the enemy in cosmic fire via his hands.

That boat had sailed for me long ago.

        If Sunset Showdown’s reports were anywhere near accurate.

        I’ve always been the trusting sort. Strange things happen in Florida.

        Being that close to the Triangle.

        Auggie scampered onto the bridge. <<Need to give the Howling time!>>

        I took the controls. “Let’s play Chicken with the Evil Necrotic Sun of Doom then!”

        Jupiter interjected <<No further Artock presence currently detected on the hull or within the cargo bay. Proceed with Operation Looky Looky Ducky!>>

        I asked, “When did Trouble get into the OP files?”

        Mom strapped herself into the weapon’s station. Doc followed. The sensors pinged as Lorain’s hands danced over the console.

“Let’s get started. Show us those flying skills Captain!”

Auggie jumped into my lap. My seat conformed to secure us both for high-force maneuvers. O’rioh called out over the coms, <<The rest of us will aim the crew service guns. These aren’t Terran Alliance standard. Light Shaman special spec’d!>>

            Gwen cackled, <<Let’s give the All-Father a set of black eyes!>>

            Anna said, <<Just remember the Order mandates!>>

            My stomach dropped into my toes as I sent the Jupiter spiraling skyward.

            >>Paradise. Stand by for shielding bursts.<<

            The Shield World complied. I watched as the ancient wards around the sphere shifted. Their energy prickled against my skin.


            Ta’rammon froze as the subsonic crack echoed through the atmosphere. That flash of white, black, and red let him know it was her ship. Cerberus crept quietly through the opening. His fur bristled as he took in the myriad of scents. The sense of wrong permeated everything. He summoned the cleansing sphere bombs from his satchel. Hideous keening emanated from the shadows. Ta’rammon sent one dagger flying. It sunk deep into the blackened flesh. Four jagged claws shot out. He kicked one. Magical wards flashed silver within the semi-darkness.

Cerberus howled.

            The hunchback retreated. Metal clanged as the knife dropped to the rocky floor.

            Its flesh expanded. Leathered wings sprouted forth. Tipped with amber.

            “Promised sacrifice.” Black scrawl poured forth. Each fang was as long as Ta’rammon was tall. Not good. A chimera? Brood Hoard?

Cerberus snarled, “Nargus Samata.”

Ta’rammon readied his fire sigils.

Flesh Wraith.

Things were looking up!



            J’anu bit back a yelp as two feathered forms appeared on either side.

Those black eyes were equal parts cheerful and concerned. She snapped, “YOU!”

Gulliver replied, <<Indeed! We offer 5-star accommodations to innocent babies. Even if they come from one as lovely as you!>>

Trouble ducked his head. His orange bill ruffling about. J’anu wanted to kick them but the pod had immobilized her legs into birthing straps. Trouble announced, <<AHH! Here it is!>> He lifted a triangular object. The wards glowed. J’anu sagged against the cushioned backrest. “To clean his blood.”

Trouble bobbed its head, <<Correct. We used this on one other of your House.>>

J’anu responded, “To combine our House to Ayeer. It was no mercy, you 2nd rate creatures!”

Gulliver peered down at J’anu, <<Lady Sy’mir requested it. We provided the means. As was proper. We aim to help our fellows here within the mortal realms!>>

J’anu seethed, “She is a traitor. Thoth should have beheaded her!”

Gulliver positioned himself over J’anu’s stomach. <<Now remember! Proper breathing!>>

Her face reddened. The pain hit a moment later.

The only pleasure she would have? A part of her and Ta’rammon would survive.

Even as the Universe burned all others within its cold grasp.


            Trouble opened the Cherub line: <<What did mom say about this part again? That woman wants to kill us and cook us.>>

            Gulliver responded serenely: <<Get the baby to safety. We must travel through the Path provided.>>

There was no humor in his voice. Trouble knew that meant only one thing. Whatever happened next? Would be a danger to them both. His brother loved to joke. Trouble glanced at the monitors. Gulliver pulled at the infant. Made sure to position the head for a clean delivery. The soothing aura of the duck brothers reassured the young bright mind within.

Destiny would take its course.

Trouble sent up a silent prayer.

May the Highest Guide us in all the dark places we must walk.


            I jerked the controls. Circled the false sun. Wraiths burst forth. Their forms collided with the shields. Not the normal ones. Arcane energy hissed. The purple hue lit up the void as each hit connected. The All-Father said, “Pathetic creatures of flesh and bone. Submit!”

            Ghostly flames shot out from the dead corona.

            I sent the ship into an evasive pattern. “Not today! Not ever!”

            O’rioh shouted, <<Let’s give the rest of the fleet an open shot! Force all the wraiths to one sector!>>

            Professor Nara chanted. The sound didn’t carry across space. The holy magic did.

            Bright golden flames danced around the ship. I let the Ur-Flow guide me. Jupiter Rising announced, <<A-Shield at 25%>> I pulled Jupiter back into a climb. Those ghostly tendrils followed. Just a bit more.

            Allied ships moved in. Their anti-grav missiles broke apart the necrotic layer simmering just under the garish white exterior. The All-Father spoke, “Your weapons mean nothing to the rites of Flesh. For it is the common commodity of the Universe.”

            Lorain exclaimed, “There!”

            On the display, a hole formed within the northern sector.

            Dexter immerged from the shadow of a Terran Alliance cruiser.

            His armored outer layer was golden. He burrowed within the break.

            The All-Father howled. I took the brunt of the assault. My ears bled. I signaled Paradise.

            Shields sprang forth. Triangular silver disks all across the planet. I formed a sigil against my palm. My finger moved quicker than anyone could track. The same protections encased the fleet. Super strength and speed would not win the day. I knew what my brother had intended.

            A bomb.

Issue 15: Here

Issue 17: Here

Saturday, May 28, 2022

The Uplift Protocol Blood Feuds: Issue 15


Issue 15: The Veil of the All-Father


            It was many years before I told my sister a fraction of what I knew of the male side of the burden. Our mission was the same but the avenues were highly divergent. Each side shoulders a different responsibility. Yes, the Highest is the ultimate form of good. The Red King? His counterpart for evil. Behind them? One more remained. –Dexter Murphy

            The Father of All. There is power in words. Later cycles gave me that title. It was not my mantle to wear. But it was required. For each layer of the world was shrouded. To protect us. To allow the Highest to endure the Long Vigil. To all of us, he gave a piece of that responsibility. A covenant to protect. –Azrael/Black

            By the Iron in our Blood. Our Crosses bared. Our Souls shall Endure. As the Wall Endures. As was commanded. From Father to Son. From Mother to Daughter. The Pact was Made upon the Cliffs of Forever.—the seal of the Arcane Order

            For a time? My world consisted of tracking Meathook. Its true name? I shall not utter here. For even now? Locked away as it is? I still awake. My heart pounding. Of all the enemies I faced? That one was the worse. It was a sly evil. Twisting the shadows. It is no wonder it was the Herald of the Red King.—Sleeping in Starlight: Revelations

Gate of the First Star

Dark Matter Cluster

Time Nullification Sphere


            Thomas Murphy circled the pinpoints of energy. His helm picked up the invisible layer. His son held the gem aloft. Thomas didn’t know the purpose of it. Only that J’ino said it would be for their son. The area around them crackled. Golden bolts of lightning collided with crimson. At the center of the battlefield were two figures. One clad in dark red wine armor. The other? A brilliant gold. Their swords clashed.

            Dexter gestured to the white-hot sun blazing overhead.

            Thomas hissed through clenched teeth, “Undead.”

            Under the spurts of cosmic energy, the Murphy duo beheld an ancient mystery, one older than all of creation. Endless scaled bodies.

Dexter elaborated, “The Ouros of the Living prevented their brothers of decay from escaping for countless cycles before the Amache arrived.”

            Cosmic flames. They watched as the two armored behemoths circled. Thomas brushed at the particles beneath their feet. His bracers hummed. Pure magic. Dexter crouched.

 “The Amache thought their cluster the only thing within the whole multiverse. It was just the start.”

Thomas refocused on the armor worn by the combatants. Three circles were etched on each breastplate. One denoted the Highest. The other made Murphy snarl, “The Red King.”

Three circular claw marks. That burned through the hellish armor. Open sores wept across the exposed chest.

White liquid ran down to splatter upon the cosmic tapestry.

Golden blood flowed. Where it touched? Suns appeared.

Vitality and Entropy. The eternal struggle.

One figure remained outside the battlefield. Cloaked within silver flame.

It called out, “There must be a choice.”

The Red King shouted, “Provide me the flesh!”

The Highest retorted, “That is not for you. My brother.”

He brought his massive slab of a sword around. It clanged against the golden armor. Sending the Highest reeling backward. To brush against the barrier between them and that cloaked figure. Its cowled head turned towards the massive coiled shapes of the Ouroborous Cluster overhead. It raised a chalice within its outstretched arms. “To you both, I have but one command.”

“One cannot exist without the other. Those who come after us must choose.”

The robe coiled tight about the figure. Then it split in two. One half entered the Highest.

The Red King howled, “I do not submit!”

That remaining half hung there. Waiting.

Endless scaled forms curled around the golden armor. The flesh turned to metal. Then the Highest flung those forms out into the dark. Where each landed? A universe was born. King brought his blade up to make one desperate strike against his brother, “I have the freedom to choose!” The metal cracked as it met resistance. The countless pieces hurtled into the dark expanse.

He fled into the Dark Matter Cluster.

Dexter walked towards the remaining piece. He pressed his palm to the cold surface.

It regarded Murphy, “Do you take up the burden?” It appraised him with one sliver eye.

Dexter nodded.

“For Life to endure. Death must chase it.”

It entered his body. A golden crow manifested upon his shoulder. “So recognized. Golden Defender. See what is wrought with death’s flesh. The responsibility that Abbadon rejects.”

The Highest approached. “Abbadon will have another role to play. Across the expanse of Time.” He placed a golden gem upon each of Thomas’ bracers. “He will seek to pollute life. We must stop him. Within each of you is a piece required.”

Dexter asked, “How long before he notices?”

The Highest rested his sword point against the ground.

Rivers of light sprang forth.

Dexter recognized the Golden City, the Gilgamesh Sector.

 Earth and Typha circled each other around an unfamiliar star.

Dexter waited.

The Highest bowed his head, “Do not use Throne Sight until after her 2nd Trial.”

They had been made for this. Their mutilated bodies were carried from Elysium. The first covenant broken had not been the cycle of creation.

Thomas rubbed his chin, “The Battle of the Brothers.”

He added, “That’s one way to break down the beginning of everything.”

The Highest smiled. Sadness radiated from him with each word. “Just so. The reality of it stretches forth. One cycle upon the next.”

That had been the real first betrayal. The sundering of the wall between immortal and mortal.

The Highest tapped his chest, “Yes. It is the burden I place upon you as well. Though you do not carry it alone. Never alone.”

Dexter’s old uniform faded. A black body suit formed. Then came the golden outer layer. His sash rippled. The crow spoke, “What shall be my name?”

He replied, “In due time. As my Sight grows.”

The Highest interjected, “It will be a proper name.”

Gold cawed. His eyes closed. “I am content.”

Thomas watched as his son threw the remaining Ouros out into the expanse. Each twin reflected within the shadow of the metallic living brethren.  A question sparked within his mind. He asked bluntly, “Why does Eliza have to go through these three deaths?”

The Highest replied, “To keep Abbadon off balance. He wishes to rob everyone of Life. Within the mortal realms? Who often gives that first breath of life?”

Thomas nodded sharply. “So that’s why she’s….”

Dexter finished it, “Infertile.”

The Highest waved his gauntleted hand out towards the brilliant lights within the dark.

“You are both Thronebearer. Mortal yet not. My brother desires a way to escape his fleshly prison. He tried through Typherian means.”

Dexter hissed, “The All-Father.” He bowed his head, “Forgive my outburst.”

The Highest inclined his head. His tone strong. Measured.

 “He attempts it through Unity itself. Sending each part against the other. He is that small voice within their heads. Once you give your flesh to him he takes the soul as well.”

Dexter rubbed his left eyebrow, “That was why I couldn’t help with Gwen. With the Red King’s infection via the Owls.” The Highest nodded, “Correct. For that it has to be woman to woman.” Thomas observed, “But he was able to help Eliza because they are both Twin Thronebearers.”

Dexter hooked his thumbs into his belt, “Yep but even then? I had to be discreet. The Red King is always watching.”

Thomas pointed at his chest, “What about the Soul Shards?”

The Highest grinned, “It is why you have that advantage as mortals. Soul Shards call out for each other to be whole. It is not always a romantic pairing either. In your case, it is beyond a romantic pairing Thomas Murphy. It is fate.”

Thomas said, “Good. So if the Red King gets his claws into Paxton or another man?”

The Highest bowed, “Then you send other men marshaled of soul and valor within.”

Dexter nodded, “Some secrets should remain.”

Golden Crow winked. “Tis the way of the world.”

The Highest snapped his fingers, “Just so. Find the Maker. You know of whom I speak!”

A voice echoed through Thomas’ mind, >>Eliza is a conduit. She and Dexter can help one another withstand the Red King. But the barrier between men and women will hold. Must endure. Thus you and your wife shall be an anchor to them both.<<


Thomas turned.

His boots clanked softly as the soles linked to the floor within the room. Objects floated. No gravity. Lovely! His son pointed at the high archways. The industrialized ozone told Dexter all he needed to know.


The pounding of metal against metal drove both men forward. His son floated effortlessly off the ground. Thomas intoned a few lines. His feet rose a few inches off the ground. He reached out to take Dexter’s shoulder.

They floated down the corridor. Only a few thousand heartbeats thrummed against Dexter’s skin. Had everyone forgotten this place?  They rounded the corner. Half a dozen four armed men came to attention. At the forefront was a Gemini that stood 2 feet taller. His arms were scarred by long hours among the forge. He greeted them warmly, “For I see the mantle of Death. Thus rejoice. The dark has lifted.”

Dexter replied, “To the light above. Poured from the Chalice.”

Hephaestus replied, “I greet you Arbiter “

Thomas blinked as his HUD updated.

///Hidden Order Glyphs activated. First Knight of the Mirrored Eye.///

Thomas glanced at his son.

///Just how many layers with layers are we going here?///

It was Hephaestus who replied along the same channel.

///As many as needed to draw the Red Gaze of Flesh away.///

Dexter pushed past the group. His long stride carried him to the windowed corridor.

Down below, under layers of metal, trillions of men slumbered. Cryogenically frozen.

Hephaestus called out, “We shall ride with you. Into the Abyss itself.”

Thomas noted drily, “Those sigils and pods are from the Golden City.”

It would seem Dexter and Eliza had thought of everything.

Dexter nodded, “Within the past? She and Lanis collected as many uncorrupted Gemni as could be gathered. From across the multiverse.”

General Murphy marveled at it. “So as long as we keep her on course….”

Dexter clapped his father on the shoulder, “Good will endure the Vigil required.”


            I kicked the Artock husk backward. It careened over the lip of the cargo bay doors of the Jupiter Rising. The rest of my crew were in battlesuits as well. The grav boots kept them stable as the Jupiter corkscrewed through the air. The majority of the Hoard was after us. I had to figure out a way to get to that Necrotic Sun. It glared balefully down at us. I could sense its ire through my empathy nodes. I winced as the wrath washed over me. Sure as anything it was directing the fun on the ground.

            One problem at a time.

            A thick torsoed body flung itself over the barricade.

 Mom's mouth hung open. I could see past the visor.

 Her voice amazed, “X’mil is smarter without his head. Oh, dear!”

I would have laughed but the body aimed two wicked curved knives toward my mother. I launched myself at him. One hand about each wrist to prevent the blades from reaching my flesh or hers. A sickening crunch emanated from his body. Tendrils of muscles sharpened. I dodged as each spike attempted to impale itself past the battle suit shielding. ///Power at 56%!///

“Not helping,” I muttered.

Doc’s voice sounded in my left ear, “Ejecting phase shells!”

I held the body up higher. Six ballistics the size of golf balls thudded against X’mil’s fancy purple shirt. Even as an undead husk the man thought himself posh. Give me a simple set of jeans and a t-shirt any day of the week. His form went flying in a high arc. It clipped the cargo bay roof before exiting.

I heard the faint thump as it hit the ground below.

Gulliver’s strained whisper flowed through the Thronebearer network.

///Hot sauce! We got DEFCON Alpha Centuri up in here! Bad kinda family reunion! E’ratha’s back.///

I dashed towards the cockpit.

The Sun spoke, “What shall you choose? Arbiter of Life.”

I paled. That voice.

The All-Father.

Issue 14: Here

Issue 16: Here

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Uplift Protocol Blood Feuds: Issue 14


Issue 14: Pearls of Wisdom


            I allowed myself to get wounded. I knew that would bring Eliza back. She would wonder what could breach the solid defense of my wards. It does flatter me. She still thinks I am invincible. I know what she hunts is greater but I did find a use for X’mil’s body, I put a tracker on it. Not one of tech but magic.—Judgement

            Corpse set to near atmosphere orbit. Noted intended trajectory. Compensating Gravitational Fields to prevent Necromantic energies from escaping Shield World.—Paradise Falls AI

            Even after all I had seen and experienced? Meathook unrattled me. I am not ashamed to admit it. He? It was a force to be reckoned with. My equal but in the service of Evil.—Sleeping in Starlight: Echoes of the Abyss.

Gate of the First Star


Time Nullification Sphere


            J’ino opened one eye as they passed beyond the barrier. Thought better of it and wrapped her arms around her daughter’s neck. Flying within her battlesuit was one thing. Freefall was quite another. Eliza squinted, “There is a ground level. Everything else here is glowing cubes. Silver, white, black, and gold. For now.”

            J’ino noted, “Silver for you. I assume.”

            A few gold and silver cubes moved towards the pair. Eliza asked, “Gold for Dexter?”

            J’ino nodded. “He showed me the belt he wears now.”



            Mom glanced up at me. Her expression was equal parts curious and worried.

            I put her at ease, “I figured if I got an upgrade? He would as well.”

            She relaxed. I half grinned.

            Mom hugged me tighter.  I rubbed the back of my head.

“I know. I do have a notion of what the Highest intends.”

            Dad was within the Mirror of this place. With my brother. The same quest with different results. I muttered, “Are men and women really that different?” Mom didn’t reply immediately. Her snort was enough. She spoke after pulling one of the cubes to her chest.

            “Beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

It was white. I had the silver. I combined them.

White’s tiger form floated next to me.

            “…..furthermore….” She paused. Her massive head swung to face me.

            She floated. Her tail curled around my left forearm. “Those Merfolk know quite a bit. I hope it will help that Sunset fellow.”  

            I sucked in a breath as the cubes broke apart. The black and gold dived below. Burrowed under the ground. As if they never existed. Voices called, “Arbiter. For you? This shall be an answer. One of many.”

            The remaining cubes circled us. “Reach out with the Ur. You shall know a Truth of the World.”

            Stars whirled by. We saw the Amarche flee. The Curator stood defiant. As the red wind flowed through the Darkmatter. He shouted into the starless void, “Devourer of Flesh!” Tendrils sucked the Amache into its grip. No longer dark matter beings. They had twisted forms. Their pale bodies were familiar.

            The Lesser Owls.

            The Curator held his hands to the light that poured into the vast dark.

            “Help us!”

            It wasn’t the Highest. The energy prickled against my skin. A man with flowing white hair. Golden eyes and a shimmering silver-green tail emerged. A merman. He placed himself ahead of Curator. “You have rejected the Light. Take what is left of your people and hide.” There was no recrimination in the other’s voice. Just fact. His name flowed from my lips, “Poseidon.”

            The pantheon of gods. Each religion had a piece of the puzzle.

            I rubbed my face, “The Amache split into three.”

            The obvious question was paramount. How did the Highest and this Red King get here? To start the cycles as Mortals knew them.

            I continued, “The Fallen. The Curator’s Faction, the Merfolk. That dwell within the Weave. It existed before the Highest rose.” Mom shook her head, “I think you are right about the 3 parts of the Amarche but the Weave? I thought that came after. From the Arcane Records.”

            The Silver Lady placed a hand on my shoulder. Turned me from the vision for a moment.

            “Greetings Arbiter.”

            I responded, “I imagine Dexter and father are getting the other piece to the puzzle.” The cloaked woman bowed her head, “The Weave rose around the Amarche. They did not perceive it at first.” She waved a hand at the scene before us. “The Red King infiltrated the Weave. To reach the dark matter reality of the primordial.”

            I opened that part of myself to the Ur-Flow.

Endless echoes of myself rose around us.

“He was made to control. Take the flesh? It provides avenues to the soul.”

My reflections fell silent. We all watched as Poseidon shouted, “You shall find no purchase here.” He aimed his trident. It flickered in the dark matter cluster like a lantern within a deep cave. Beams arced. Dark Matter shifted. The crimson cloud surrounding the merman dissipated.

The tendrils sank deep into the pale bodies of the first owls. Poseidon was only delaying the inevitable. He held his trident aloft, “You who seek refuge within the shadow! Not all are blinded to your ways. Of three deaths shall the Arbiter come. To cleanse the First Shadow from all!”

The owls writhed within the semi-dark of the newly birthed universes of creation.

They fled from the light cast by Elysium. No, Elysium’s suns.

Planets had yet to exist. The crimson reach of the Red King did not reply. It dug itself deeper. A hidden side of the Weave! The Silver Lady pulled me away from the vision. “That path will be for your brother to find.”

            We passed through the dark matter cluster. My mom pointed out, “The first stars of creation.” One glimmered blue. The other was white-hot. While the final? Made of Dark Matter itself. The Highest had known the Amache had existed before all others. The Silver Lady pulled us forward. We passed through the Dark Matter star.

            The Curator shouted,” Who or what are they!?”

            The surviving Amache of the Threads murmured, “They were us. The Pale Ones. The Trident wielders!” Curator expanded. I could see the outline of his dark matter form encompass miles of space. The dim glow of constellations formed around the pocket cluster. Beyond those cosmic shores, gold and crimson light clashed.

            The Highest vs the Red King.

            Silver Lady tugged at my hand. “You cannot go there. That is for another to learn.”


My father.

Just as mother had joined me here.

            She continued, “Energy flows from all things. The will of the feminine. The will of the masculine.” She gestured to the tear that Poseidon had climbed through. Other Amarche forms twisted. They flowed alongside the Hatheon ruler. As we passed through the tear my mind expanded. Poseidon turned and rallied his people.

            “Even now the Arbiter sees us! We must prepare. The Oversoul will endure! Just as the Ouro endures beyond the grasping claws of destruction!” Their word for the Highest gave me pause. Oversoul. What did it mean?

Mom nudged me, “That temple over yonder. It has some unusual shapes, wouldn’t you say?”

            Instead of the three perfect circles entwined, each point of the temple had three Nonagons. A nine-sided polygon.  The temple was made of Weave threads. Pure energy! The oldest civilization within the Weave. Poseidon intoned, “First there was naught but the dark matter. Then came the Weave. But the Amache ignored the Weave. Thinking they were the only things to exist. It was the breath of the Oversoul!”

            The ruler thumped his trident against the threads crisscrossing the space.

            “We shall hold here. For those who will come after. Those of flesh and bone. The excess soul within shall guide their path.” Ur-Memory flowed. That was why we had to cleanse the arcways. We weren’t just purging Unity’s influence. That had always been the cover. The deeper wound was the Red King. The vibrant green trident passed through my chest. This was the past. Yet Poseidon's glowing eyes locked onto me. “Arbiter, the voice of the Mortal World. Entwined by past, present, and future. Guide us through the Veil. “

            I tested his senses, “What is the Veil?”

            He replied, “The connection between mortal and Oversoul.”

            Poseidon stroked his blazing white beard. His face was lined yet eternal.

            He pointedly stared down at my mother, “So shall the Links carry across time.”

            I blinked. We were back aboard the Jupiter Rising. The gem melded to my left palm. Entwined itself within the three circled tattoos resting there. The golden rings blazed for a moment. “So shall you see the Threads of Life. Not just within the Ouro and the Weave. But into the deeper dark. Into the Dark Matter itself.”

            That last statement rolled through my mind in Thronebearer speech.

            Everything tied into that.

            I would walk through the echoes of the Golden City with new eyes.

            Alert klaxons resounded throughout the ship.

            <<Incoming Unity thralls. Fleshwalker.>>

            I dashed for the cargo bay. My spare uniform hung within suspension near the exit.

            The cargo bay doors opened seamlessly.

            Shields pulsed as half armored artock flung themselves against the defenses.

            The coms network was chaotic.

            <<How?! All units report!>>

            <<They didn’t drop pod in!>>

            <<….they are coming in from everywhere!>>

            Golden Bulleteer flashed in next to me. “This didn’t come from space. It's like…”

            I finished, “…they are phasing in. The Dark Mirror network isn’t just a counter. It's embedded into the old world….” My grandfather grunted, “I'll ask later. Can we stop them?”

            A garbled voice reached my ears. One I hadn’t heard in a long time.

            “Heya big blue girl scout. X’mil was just the start.”

            Striker Nix.


            Nix waved his father’s thralls forward.

He didn’t owe anyone any loyalty.

This was just a means to an end. While his shipmates had caused problems out there in the forests? He had been working on the side. For a resort planet this place had quite a few unexpected defenses. Planting all the dark mirror nodes had been a chore. Each one couldn’t be placed near any active buildings. Too many Light Shaman wards. So he had traveled from pole to pole. To find gaps in the networks. Both tech and magic were quite formidable here. He was a pirate. So he did what he knew best. Recon, hold in place, spring the traps. Eternal Empire tech was more up his alleyway but even that place had its drawbacks. It was known as Emir’s Folly. After the destruction of Eternal Mars? The remains of the World Eater had caused an unusual virus to burst forth in its wake.

It began as a red mist concoction that was infecting various pirate sectors. Many had maimed their faces or bodies in response. A strange symbol seared onto their flesh. It was a bloody infinity pictogram. Three long vertical lines through it. Ragged as claws. Encased in a black circle. It unnerved him. The eyes of those fanatics gleamed within the darkened holds of ships, spheres, and distant dead world.

All hummed the line, “In service of the Throne. Flesh given. Flesh Consumed. Fingers grasping the corpse of the Father and Brother to All.”

Nix felt the ring shift under his flesh.

It had been given to him by his father. Draken Nix was a hollowed-out zombie. But he had connections. Those ghostly pale eyes lingered on Striker for a moment longer. His father had said, “It will hide you from greater foes. Do not go near the Uncovered.”

Striker asked, “Uncovered? What the hell is that supposed to be.”

Draken Nix’s four additional eyestalks had swiveled to stare out into the abyss.

“It is not for you.”

Nix responded sardonically, “Of course not. I am not one on one with your zombie god.”

The younger alien didn’t care for Unity. Or its fatalistic viewpoints.

Draken said nothing else. The Dark Mirrors had swallowed them whole.

In the end, it wouldn’t matter. Each of these fighters phasing through to this shield world was infected. Nothing would save them. Absolutely nothing. The ring coiled tighter about his middle finger. A faint pulse matched his rapid heartbeat. He grimaced.

“Ashes to ashes. As the human book says.”


            Lorain’s voice crackled over the defense net, <<I repeat! Don’t let them touch you! Unknown viral presence detected. Sealed suits only. That goes for all demis. ALL DEMIS!>>

            Mom motioned towards the Arcane Null room, “Mary left you a present.”

            I missed the days of super-powered monkeys. The threats of common thugs. Bank robberies. Those were mundane. Putting an end to a tech demi’s plans for world domination. I bet Sunset Showdown’s adventures were tame in comparison.

            Mom grinned, “That Floridian would surprise you. I’ve read a few reports.”

            I emerged with my very own battlesuit.

The helm clicked into place. Hissing as all the seals clamped shut.

I said, “How does the line go? Locked and Loading!”

Mom aimed. Her battle mech suit locked onto three dozen Artock forms.

“Locked and Loaded. Commence fire pattern beta!”

The suit opened up with micro missiles that batted the invading force away from the Jupiter Rising. The thumb-sized silver spheres adhered to the necrotic flesh. Igniting it in such a way that limbs went flying. My Thronebearer senses caught on before the first missiles hit. There was nothing there. Only flesh husks. No soul to be found. This was one part of the Red King’s forces. Not the Living Stone. The endless might of Artock from all across the multiverse.

My duty was to find the souls entrapped by the Red King. Unity would be the bridge.

If I survived it. It was not a certainty.

The Ur-Flow took me. I zeroed in on red ligaments surrounding the brain and hearts.

Burned it away with Thronebearer speak.

A horrified voice came over the com net. <<What kind of star is that?!>>

            High above. I spotted it. That pulsating cosmic fire. It wasn’t fire. It wasn’t a star at all.

            It was necrotic. 

Issue 13: Here

Issue 15: Here