The Escalos Empire

You will be…

Tyan stood in his full Major's uniform within the Arch-admiral's office. Breathing deeply, Tyan clenched and unclenched his fists. Someone of his rank being called on by an Arch-admiral was a near unprecedented event. Either it was something really good or—or it was something really terrible, treasonous even. Tyan studied the room with the skill of a soldier. The room was mostly standard protocol; a display screen; personal communicator on the desk; a couple of non-important documents. Nothing to hint his being there. Not that he expected there to be: a visit of this nature would be confidential whether good or bad.

But why? Why am I here? He thought to himself. Tyan stood erect as the door behind him opened. It could only be one person.

Arch-admiral Toraiahn stepped through the doorway and walked calmly towards his desk as the door closed behind him. The Arch-admiral reorganized his papers before even glancing at Tyan. It wasn't until he has the small pile of documents in three meticulous piles that he motioned Tyan to sit in the chair in front of the desk. He sat.

"Major Tyan, you are no doubt wondering why you have been called from the MFS Erathia to here, Tarez Prime."

Tyan shifted in his seat. "Yes sir."

"Your quick ascension to the rank of Major after only twelve years of service within the Multitude has gained the notice of some of the more observant officers of influence." The Arch-admiral leaned back on his seat. "I have personally read through all of your files; all of the reports you have made; and, in fact, almost every document that has your name on it. And do you know what all of this has led me to believe?"

Tyan didn't move a single muscle. "No, I don't sir."

The admiral smiled. "This has led me to believe that you are the very kind of high-officer that I need."

"High-officer sir? I'm only a Major—"

"That could change. I have been given the authority to induct you into the ranks of the Elite Guard."

Tyan stared at the Arch-admiral in disbelief. "But—but only the Preceptor of the Legions or his Arch-secretary has the power to grant—" Tyan stopped himself.

"Yes Major Tyan Kriotae of the 112th battalion. The Preceptor's Arch-secretary has given me the authority to permanently admit you to the Elite Guard for the purposes of this mission should you accept. In the case of your acceptance you will be required to fulfil the mission to your fullest capacity in the name of the Multitude, the Imperial family, and the Gods themselves. Failure to comply will result in appropriate discipline. Only upon the acceptance of this mission will you be informed of all or any of the details therein. In the name of the Multitude, the Imperial family, and the Gods themselves, do you accept this mission?"

Tyan stood up facing the Arch-admiral. "I accept."

High on the edge of a red cliff Alex stared at the dusty plain below. He was on Hathoros, one of the many planets known as Hellworlds, waiting with infinite patience for his future companions to arrive. Silently he compared this red lifeless landscape to that of the shadowy chaos of Hell. Had he been a normal human, his lungs would have dried up in seconds and his body turned to ashes from the pyroclastic windstorms that scoured the surface regularly. But he was by far no normal human. His stormy blue eyes resonated power. Standing firm against the poisonous winds and tremors that was slowly tearing this world apart. To himself he guessed he could understand why they would call it a hellworld. Within his mind, he looked back through the weave of time to a time where his people were just beginning to learn how to reach the stars. On this world life once flourished: jungles, seas and woodland. Then Alex looked ahead in the weave of time. There lay chaos. Threads that might be, futures that might exist. Through all of the chaos and empty spaces of the future that he could not perceive was the world of Hathoros. Truly torn to pieces, having torn itself apart from the inside out. But that was as things were. And it would take a large effort to change that thread. Effort he could not spare at the moment. A flash of light emerged through the thick clouds, breaking his train of thoughts. The light of a crashing starship holding a crew of twelve people, two dogs and a bird. Alex smiled, it was three seconds early. It was never certain what the weave of time would exactly look like until woven. He waited for a few more moments watching the crashing vessel before disappearing in a blue flash of light.

"Emergency reverse thrusters initiated!" Cassidy struggled with the flight controls. "We're slowing down slightly!"

Taylor gripped the handrail near the entrance to the cockpit. "I'm going to directly manipulate the black-diamond mainframe with my telekinesis from here—it should slow us down."

"Not too much, or you will tear the ship in two," Cassidy shouted.

"Mainframe activated!" The ship continued to rock towards the surface of the planet.

Lykah entered possible landing sites into the main computer as she updated the situation. "We just passed the last layer of pyroclastic cloud, we haven't slowed down enough!"

Lykah looked to Taylor. His eyes were glowing with the brilliance of a lightning storm as he directed his psychic powers through the receptive network of metal within the ship called black-diamond. "Taylor, it's not enough! We have to slow down!"

"Something is wrong!" Sweat trickled down Taylor's face from the exertion. "The black-diamond is already saturated with energy, I can't control it!"

Cassidy still struggled with the unresponsive pilot controls. "Well bloody fix it or we're dead!"

Suddenly, the ship gave a titanic lurch sending all three of them to the floor. After another gigantic heave, the ship struck the surface of the planet and continued to skitter across the ground for a short time before coming to a complete halt.

All was silence except the ship's hull creaking and grinding.

Cassidy leaned up off the ground sporting a cut and bruises across her face. "Okay, everyone put your hand up if you're dead."

Lykah groaned. "I'll live."

Cassidy stood up. "Taylor?"

A tube full of wires swayed overhead emitting sparks.

Lykah sat up looking for Taylor among the loose debris that was the cockpit. "Taylor?"

A deep groan came from the back corner underneath a broken display panel. Lykah rushed to the corner, moving the debris off of Taylor.

He opened his eyes. "Just a headache. I think I'll be alright."

Cassidy looked to one of the functioning displays at the front. "By the gods…" She swore.

Lykah turned to the front of the cockpit. "What?"

"The engines, cargo bays, and passenger quarters. They're gone; half of the ship tore off. All that's left of the Nekara is the cockpit, crew's compartments, Psion chamber and the computer mainframe."

"Where did the other half land? What about the rest of the crew and the four passengers?"

Cassidy typed a few commands into the display. "Sensors indicate…they indicate signs of wreckage over a five mile area. No survivors."

Lykah took a deep breath. "Then how did we survive?"

"It must have been Taylor with the black-diamond."

Taylor stood up with Lykah's help. "It wasn't me. What ever it was, it wasn't me."

Cassidy wiped a single tear from her face. "That's the least of our problems. We have no supply of air, the ship's hull is fractured in countless places and it looks as though there is another pyroclastic storm coming soon. That will damage the hull even further, if not breach it."

Taylor rubbed his head. "What can we do?"

Cassidy looked to Taylor. "What? Besides pray?"

All three of them looked at one another. They were stuck on a Hellworld with no hope of getting off it. Suddenly the only working display began beeping. Cassidy looked at the message on the screen.

"What the hell? An incoming message." She entered a command to play the message. "Our audio is broken; I'll read it out loud. 'This is Alexander…Ruane in an abandoned imperial vessel in orbit. I detected three survivors and I am preparing teleportation procedures immediately. Prepare for imminent teleportation.'"

"Teleportation? Who is that?" Taylor asked Cassidy.

Cassidy moved to enter more commands into the screen but was stopped when the whole world around her went black.

Alex watched as the three of them materialised within a sphere of magical energy created by the arcane machinery. Alex was wearing black trousers, a white shirt and a long-sleeved black leather coat. His eyes were no longer stormy; instead they were a deep sky-blue. His short black hair sat in almost every direction.

Once the three survivors were completely corporeal, he deactivated the sphere with a voice command.

"Computer, disengage shielding." He stepped closer. Except for a few superficial cuts and scrapes they looked fine. "Hello. My name is Alex."

The female with black hair and brown eyes turned to speak but the male beat her to it. "Who are you? And how did you get this equipment, are from the Order of Arcana?"

Alex was about to reply but abruptly, he felt a miniscule intrusion into his mind. And then Lykah feinted. The male knelt to her side. "She's right, she just fainted."

Alex stepped toward her before being headed off by the female. "You stay right there."

"She is a telepath, is she not? I can help her."

"Not until you answer some questions. First, who exactly are you and what are you doing out here, thousands of light-years from anywhere?"

Alex smiled. "I suppose you are Cassidy." Her eyes widened. Her hand moved towards a weapon which would have no doubt usually stored there. It wasn't there this time. "Can I presume I am correct? I could easily ask you the same thing. However, I think I know already. You were smuggling people and goods to Ricta Five when suddenly, an unidentified Arcana vessel appeared from nowhere, attacking you. You attempted to escape by using your friend's psychic talents but something went wrong. The Arcana vessel and your Nekara were both sucked into some sort of wormhole, leaving you here. The Arcana vessel continued to fire and you were hit badly, causing you to crash on this world, Hathoros."

The male Alex knew to be Taylor stood up from Lykah's side. "Who are you?"

Alex took a quarter-of-a-second to evaluate his answer. "Are you a religious man, Taylor?"

He stepped back. "I never had time for fancies. Whoever you are."

Alex smiled. "Trust me, by the time this is over, you will be."