“And mine eyes fell upon him, Aali’Mkuu wa chuo’kikuu , the Great Bear, as he stood against the wolves. A wall of fire licked at his back, the wolves having trapped him in the deepest grove of the burning forest. Tongues of flame singed his fur, yet he did not cry out in pain. The Great Bear did not withdraw, his mighty paws swiping at the circling predators. They sought to devour him, to topple him, working their dark deeds together against this champion of the light. One foul creature lunged at the thick leg of the Great Bear whilst another latched onto an arm. The Great Bear roared his ferocious battle cry, dropping his full weight against the wolf at his knee, crushing its skull. A single, forceful swing of his forearm smashed the other onto the forest floor wherein it did not move again.
Resolve and sorrow filled his large eyes as he glowered at what remained of the pack, challenging them to continue their savage aggression, his piercing gaze moving me to shiver. The wolves growled with threatening menace, lowering their stances in preparation to pounce as one. It was then I did see the mortal wounds the Great Bear had suffered, and my heart raced, knowing he could not prevail, dreading the darkness that would consume this world with the loss of one such as he.”
– Kong’we prophecy
Dahlia continued quickly down the dark corridor, her breathing steady and controlled, her pace swift but sure. The cold, metallic grating of the station’s walkways would be painful to most Civires’ bare feet, but she wasn’t exactly a regular Civire anymore. She experienced no discomfort; her training had prepared her for far greater inconveniences than the sting of broken flooring.
“The implant will allow your brain to control the flow of pain, child.” Bikizee said. “You will not feel it stab at you, and it will not hamper your reactions, but you must be aware of the limits your body can sustain.” the old woman continued.
“But won’t the nanites fix me?” Dahlia asked, interrupting her teacher.
“Yes, impudent one, they will; but only if you survive that procedure. Many students have had their bodies reject the nanites as foreign invaders, resulting in the host’s immune system unsuccessfully trying to expel them. This is often physically traumatic and violent, and most assuredly always fatal. Many more still do not survive their novice initiation long enough to be tested for the procedure, having interrupted their mentors one too many times!”
Dahlia blushed with embarrassment, her shoulders sagging, giving her small frame an even smaller appearance. She looked away from Bikizee.
“Again!” the old woman yelled, and Dahlia slowly walked barefoot across the floor once more; the broken glass, the hot coals, the twisted steel shards, nothing distracting her concentration and focus.
“Very good, child.” Bikizee smiled.
Dahlia stopped abruptly, pressing into the shadows at the corner of the walkway junction as she had a thousand times in her past. She exhaled lightly, calming herself. The crescent moon shaped blade she held in her hand dripped with the blood of the two Amarrian Crusaders she had killed only minutes before. She held her breath, and closed her eyes, willing her mind to see more, to hear more. The specialized implants in her skull reacted to the command of her will. She opened her eyes, the entire length of the corridors laid out before her, bright as a midday sun. She turned her head, listening for signs of movement, her ears hearing far beyond their usual limitations. She had to filter out the sound of her own calm and shallow breathing, seemingly booming against her eardrums.
Dahlia tilted her head slightly, breathing in through her nose deeply, trying to catch the scents of other Crusaders that were undoubtedly lurking throughout the station’s corridors. It would be akin to a game of Hide N Seek were the stakes of losing not so perilously high. No, this was a hunt; whom was prey and whom was predator remained to be seen.
To anyone watching, Dahlia would’ve seemed to have melted into the shadows; another special implant responding to her subconscious desires. In this “darkened” state, she was virtually undetectable in any light spectrum, nor did she emanate any body heat signature; another testament to the unsurpassed nanite technology of the Sisterhood.
She invisibly brought the crescent blade to her mouth, her lips parting, allowing her tongue to lightly glide across the blood on the blade; the taste was metallic but distinguishably unique.
The nanites in Dahlia’s body easily processed all of the sensory input, and in under a fraction of a second, she knew which path was the one she would take.
She flowed more than walked down the side of the corridor, keeping to the shadows, not making a sound. The corridor began to bend, becoming brighter, and Dahlia slowed once more, weighing her options with cold calculation.
“A rash decision based solely on emotion will always end in regret.” Bikizee admonished her. “Control your passion; it makes you sloppy, prone to errors. Do what is required of you simply because it is; desire or fear have no place in the life we have chosen. Have we not, as a universe, learned the cost of unchecked emotion already?”
Dahlia exhaled, not acknowledging the truth in her mentor’s words with a nod. She maintained her state of meditation, reflecting on the recent history of New Eden.
It had been nearly twenty years now since the second apocalypse; since the darkness and chaos prevailed, plummeting all of civilization into anarchy and despair…
The Caldari had crushed the Gallente Federation; a devastating blow they had never recovered from. Pockets of resistance continued to fight, but the sheer unstoppable might of the Caldari war machine rolled forward without losing any momentum.
Amarr Empress Sarum Jamyl seized on this event, convincing Caldari leader Tibus Heth of the virtues to strengthening their alliance even more by turning their attention to the Minmatar Republic.
It was the Minmatar zealots whom had murdered Salvation Crusade leader Abel Jarek in cold blood, a priest of the Amarr beliefs speaking the truth of God to the hedonistic Matari on their own lands. Much to her surprise, many of those pagan slave dogs had opened their hearts to the truth, rejecting their pitiful lives and devoting themselves to a higher purpose, an enlightened existence. Jarek had been rewarded for his faithfulness and evangelism with a cold and heartless death.
While not a religious man himself, Heth could see both the threatening significance of letting this deed go unanswered, and the strategic importance of seizing the opportunity that had presented itself. The Caldari State had never been stronger, and combined with the mysteriously superior technology the Amarr Empress possessed, they could place all of New Eden under their control decisively, ending years of war between the empires, bringing peace to all citizens of the galaxy.
Empress Sarum Jamyl and Caldari State leader Tibus Heth were wed.
The Minmatar fought with all their might, the mysterious Elders even making their return to stand as champions for any and all whom would reject the oppressive yoke of tyrannical rule. Even they could not stop the combined power of the now official Amarr/Caldari Union.
Millions of Matari died over the coming months, as the Union systematically destroyed any Matari planet that would not comply and bow their knee to Union rule.
The Republic fell.
Concord, New Eden’s unparalleled policing force, pursued every channel of negotiation, and upon failing that, mounted their own substantial and technologically advanced forces against the Union in an effort to enforce their mandate, maintaining balance and order throughout the universe.
Even Concord could not stand against the Amarr’s technology and combined might of the Union.
Meanwhile, Gallente scientists had continued desperate scientific efforts to stabilize wormholes, a known source of unfathomable profit and technology, protected by the enigmatic “Sleepers”, a race of superior sentients imprisoned in these wormholes for countless thousands of years.
Their experiments backfired. While able to stabilize the wormholes separating normal space from wormhole space, they were unable to seal the wormholes once opened, repeating the very mistakes their forerunners had made years before; the very mistakes that had terminated the project initially. Finally free of their eternal prison, the Sleepers entered normal space, laying mass destruction to the Gallente systems of New Eden within weeks, intent on spreading their revenge throughout the rest of the galaxy.
They did not respond to any communication attempts, nor talks of negotiation or peace. They were consumed with the need for retribution, and the extinction of all life in New Eden was their only visible objective.
Concord and the Union entered into a ceasefire treatise none too soon, focusing the only remaining military fleets in the universe against this new and seemingly unstoppable threat.
Months of exhaustive war against the Sleepers demonstrated that New Eden was doomed. Thousands of capsuleers died in vain, their futile attempts to stay the enemy slaughter unsuccessful.
The Sisters of Eve refused to aid in the war effort, denying their coveted and unequaled research resources to expose vulnerabilities in this new enemy, despite quite verbal protests from Empress Jamyl. She cursed the Sisters for their arrogance, accusing them of blasphemy against all humanity, admonishing them for never having believed in the rightness of the cause of the Amarr people, and laid the blame for every death suffered at the Sisters feet.
In response, the Sisters of Eve disappeared, dispersing throughout the universe, never to be visible again as the foremost knowledge bearers of the secrets of New Eden’s history.
Unknowingly, Sarum Jamyl had been correct; the Sisters did know of a weakness in the Sleepers, but had kept that information to themselves, believing in an ancient prophecy written in the stars. They believed all of this was foretold, and that their role was one of neutral observation; to be the keepers of history, the bearers of knowledge for a new generation.
The Sleepers continued to unleash the most massive display of recorded genocide in New Eden’s history, eventually destroying what was left of the Gallente Federation, bringing their people to the brink of extinction.
They didn’t stop there.
The Union continued to weaken under the ghastly might of the Sleepers, losing territories rapidly over the coming weeks.
It was when fewer than one hundred million beings remained in the galaxy that the unthinkable happened.
The Jovians returned in force; the ancient race that was shrouded in more mystery and contention than any other in New Eden’s history.
Scholars had argued for hundreds of years as to the origins and history of the Jovians. Did they seed the four empires of New Eden? Were they destroyed by their own arrogance, failing to find a cure for their supposedly incurable illness that drove them from New Eden space? Did they lock themselves away in unreachable territories as penance for their own sins? Were the Sleepers an ancient, unstoppable enemy exiled in wormholes for all eternity?
One argument that could be laid to rest was the question of their existence. Few capsuleers knew for fact that Jovians existed. Fewer still had encountered them and lived to tell the tale.
The Jovians quickly became the saviours of New Eden, driving back the Sleepers with surprising ease. A collective sigh of relief could be heard across the universe; a time of healing could begin.
But that was not what the history books would record.
The Jovians were not pleased with what the inhabitants of New Eden had become; with their divisions and animosities.
Peace was threatened once again.
Tibus Heth, Empress Sarum Jamyl, and Zila Plat, Commander in Chief of Concord, agreed to meet with the Jovian Ambassadors to discuss what, if any, future would exist for New Eden.
One unexpected guest to attend was Sister Alitura, reclusive leader of the Sisters of Eve.
It was during that fateful conference that it was revealed Empress Sarum Jamyl was under the growing influence of a secondary personality in her mind that called himself “The Broker”. This injected personality was outed as a rogue Jovian renegade, one whom had broken Jovian Law, and had seeded his own plan of rule and conquest for New Eden.
With outraged denial, Empress Sarum Jamyl declared war against the Jovians, Tibus Heth standing beside his wife, though not with the same strength of conviction.
That war was never to be fought. The Jovian ambassadors had come prepared. They sealed off the conference chambers, trapping everyone in attendance. Igniting a small spherical device, Empress Jamyl was driven to her knees in pain; Tibus Heth was beside himself with worry and confusion.
Within minutes, the Jovians turned off the device, informing those assembled that the Broker was of concern no longer.
The following weeks were ones of paradise for the Amarr people. The Empress had been restored; her personality and demeanour noticeably improved. No longer was she filled with the same blood lust and desire for wanton destruction of the other races; instead her focus was on the healing of the damage done by ignorant politics and the pursuit of personal power.
Her first law passed under a clear mind was the abolishment of capsuleer technology. Military might had proven to be the galaxy’s ultimate undoing, and Sarum wanted to leave behind a legacy of universal peace, focusing scientific research towards medical and communications advancement.
Tibus Heth was disgusted and untrusting of the woman whom was now his wife.
For the time being, there was a stable peace in the galaxy once again. Concord and the Jovians policed the universe. The Union set about rebuilding; without the capsuleers.
But nothing was ever as clear as it seemed…
Dahlia quietly maneuvered along the corridor walls, veiled in darkness. She moved quickly, but not in haste. She could feel her targets were almost within range, and she would strike without mercy.
Turning the corner, Dahlia stopped in shock, the nanites responding by nearly dropping her illusion of darkness before she could regain her self-control. Master Bikizee would have been irate at her will faltering so easily, but Dahlia could not have anticipated the scene before her.
He stood with his back against sealed bulkhead doors, the door controls visibly damaged and inoperable. The circuitry had caught fire, sending sparks showering in all directions. He was breathing heavily, his body covered in sweat, his muscles quivering with exhaustion. Surrounding him were seven Imperial Crusaders in heavy armour, armed with vibro lances, cautiously moving to box him in. An Imperial Crusader lay motionless at his feet, and Dahlia’s nanites confirmed there were no signs of life.
The large man gripped his Kandjal so tightly his knuckles were white. His vitals were in fluctuation; he was clearly injured, but not visibly showing any signs of weakness. His will was indomitable, even when facing certain death.
Dahlia’s heart raced with excitement. She had found him, the Great Bear the prophecy had foretold would come.
Two of the Crusaders attacked; one striking low while the other struck high. The Great Bear chose to block the fatal attack to his head, the vibro lance of the lower attack sinking deeply into his thick and muscular thigh. He howled in pain, consuming it as fuel, unleashing it as rage against the Crusader striking at his head. His torso twisted at the last possible instant, moving only a fraction passed the incoming lance. The Crusader was unable to slow the momentum of his strike, leaving himself exposed for a counter attack, which the Great Bear took advantage of, driving a smashing blow against the Crusader’s helmeted skull. The Crusader collapsed. The Great Bear fell to one knee, his injured leg unable to support the weight of his effort.
Like a vengeful wraith, Dahlia pulled herself from her shocked observation; her training taking over as she moved more swiftly than the eye could follow. Five Crusaders remained standing.
Before they were aware of her presence, Dahlia slid her crescent blade across a sliver thin joint at the base of the neck of the first Crusader, and drove her foot into the back of the knee of the second Crusader, pulling his head back, slicing his throat. The third Crusader responded just in time to avoid having his femoral artery cut, but wasn’t fast enough to avoid the strike altogether. Tendons and muscle melted like butter under Dahlia’s blade, and the Crusader dropped to the deck, shrieking in pain. Dahlia spared his life for the moment, using the terror in his voice to affect the other combatants remaining.
Another Crusader turned for the briefest of moments to his comrade’s cry; the Great Bear seizing the opportunity to sweep his legs out with the Kandjal, following it with a driving blow to the Crusader’s sternum. The man visibly puked in his own helmet.
It was then the Great Bear collapsed.
Dahlia’s focus was lost a fraction of a second too long. She would not lose him; too much depended upon this man.
The remaining Crusader did not hesitate and attacked. She was unarmoured; she had no need for its encumbrance with her nanite advantage. The vibrolance cleaved her forearm neatly in half, her crescent blade dropping loudly to the metal deck.
“If your opponent breaks your arm, take his life.” the words of Bikizee played in her head.
There was no time to listen to injury, to register pain. Dahlia’s remaining arm glowed bright blue, as she willed the nanites to collect as much energy as they could contain. The Imperial Crusader was moving in slow motion compared to her perceptions, hoping to continue his assault against her. His vibroblade slowly completed its arc from having hewed her arm, and was now moving in a vicious arc towards her torso.
Dahlia thrust her body forward at an angle; to the Crusader it would seem at impossible speed. She easily bypassed his attack, and with the energy in her remaining arm threatening to overload the nanites, she clenched her fist and drove it through the armoured visor protecting the Crusader’s face, shattering it, driving pieces of glass into his face, his brain, even as the force of her blow shattered bone, burying her fist partially into the soft meat of his face.
He was dead instantly. The battle was over.
Real-time resumed. The Great Bear was wheezing with exhaustion, the adrenaline of battle quickly leaving his system. She turned to assist him. She needed to get them away from this place. Her mission depended on it.
“Are you, are you ok?” he asked, coughing up blood between words.
Dahlia blinked stupidly at him. She had never been asked that question before. Nobody had ever taken her well-being into consideration, and she honestly did not know how to respond. She would have to file that reaction away for future analysis.
She lowered herself under his shoulder, helping him to his feet. His leg wound was severe. She would need to tie off the wound to minimize blood less, but with one arm that would prove difficult.
Her severed appendage laid motionless on the deck. She left the man to steady himself uneasily against the corridor wall, and moved to her arm on the floor. Picking it up, she held it against the severed stump, and compelled the nanites to her will.
Bone, tissue, muscle, skin were all repaired before her eyes, as they had been before. She knew it would burn, and it did. She did not make a sound. Within seconds she was wiggling her fingers, her arm re-attached.
She tore some fabric from what little she wore, securing it around the Great Bear’s leg wound.
He winced loudly, swooning on his feet.
She collected herself under his shoulder again, supporting his weight with ease.
“Who, what are you?” he asked through clenched teeth.
“Sanmatar, I am here to help you. We must leave.”
Through broken sunglasses, Roc Wieler stared at her dumbly, then collapsed into Dahlia’s arms.