Captain Robert Dale Personal Log; 15 May 2642.
We're all alive.
And that is news, because we fought one of the most powerful members of the Order of Swenya, a member going mad with power, and we lived.
We've spent the night in the medical ward of the Great Temple having our wounds treated. The Order's healers are astounding with how much they can do without technology and most of our injuries were dealt with by their healing methods.
Although some wounds are not so easily healed.
The four crewmembers from the Aurora
stood quietly in the bedroom of the medical ward while an apprentice healer used both his senses and medical scan technology to check on the status of Mastrash
Karesl. He breathed slowly and weakly. Around his bed Meridina's mother and siblings had gathered, holding a quiet vigil.
"What have the doctors said?", Lucy asked Meridina. She was in a second set of civilian clothing, fetched from the Rio Grande
the prior night, and Swenya's Blade dangled openly on her belt.
"He was examined by a medical expert from Jantarihal early this morning," Meridina replied. She was back in proper tunic and vest as a full-standing member of the Order, with the blue robes of a field Knight. Her lakesh
hilt was on her belt even though it had yet to be repaired. "He suffered severe internal bleeding from Goras' attack. They are hopeful for his recovery, but depending on how his body heals, my father may be unable to keep up his duties with the Council Mastrasham
"I think he's strong enough to pull it out," Angel remarked. She was back in her civilian clothes, which hid the bandaging around her damaged ribs and the bruising from all of the pounding Goras had inflicted on her. There was no hiding the wince whenever she moved a certain way, though.
"Regardless of the outcome, we will be here for him." Drentiya looked up from her chair. "Thank you all for your bravery last night."
"Thank you for giving us the chance to be there," Robert answered. His left arm had been mended by the ministrations of the Temple Healers, but it still ached and he refused to move it unless he had to. Even rapid healing couldn't keep him from feeling pain from the injuries.
There was movement at the door. Gina stepped in and bowed his head respectfully. "I am glad you're all well," she said. "The Council has summoned you. All four of you."
Meridina looked from Gina to her slumbering father. She wanted to wait and see him wake up. She wanted to talk to him, to thank him, for being there for her, and for understanding her.
But she had duties still, and Karesl had raised her to fulfill duties above her own wants. "I'll be back shortly," she said to her family.
"We'll be here, Meridina," Drentiya said. "Take as long as you need."
A reception was waiting for them in the Council Chamber, as many of the seats were filled again with blue and green and cream-robed members of the Order. Workers had already put the Council's table back, but the scars of battle damage hadn't yet been completely removed.
Sitting in Maklir's place was another older Mastrash
with a balding head and a long, beakish nose. The seat for Karesl remained empty, but that of Goras was also filled by another Mastrash
, and woman with short graying brown hair and a light complexion.
"Knight Meridina. Lucilla Lucero. Robert Dale. Angela Delgado." The old man bowed partially to them from his seat. "We thank you for your bravery. I am Mastrash
Meridina made the same bow in return. The others bowed their heads instead. "You're welcome," Robert said. "What can we do for you?"
"There are a few orders of business the Council wishes to discuss with you," Tinaran stated. "The most pressing being the issue of Swenya's Blade." He directed his dark amber eyes toward Lucy. "You have achieved something remarkable, Lucilla. No one has ever imagined it possible to bring life to Swenya's Blade. Many of our greatest have tried and failed."
"It was a matter of thinking the right way, sir," Lucy answered. "I just had the right background in understanding technology."
"So you say." Tinaran folded his hands together. "It has created quite the stir among our people. Many in the citizenry believe we should offer you a purple robe. Alas, that would require you committing to the Order."
"I figured. I have a place already." Lucy looked to the others briefly.
"Yes. Of course, this means that Swenya's Blade must be returned. It is a relic of our Foundress and a treasure of the Gersallian people. It does not belong to any one person."
Lucy felt the others looking at her curiously. But she merely smiled and unclipped the ancient weapon from her belt. She used her power to gently levitate it over to Tinaran. "I understand," she explained to them. "I don't have any problems with returning it."
"Thank you for your understanding." Tinaran looked over the Council with some relief.
Robert tried not to frown. He got the feeling that the Council wasn't exactly about to throw them a ticker tape parade. As he contemplated the reasons, he asked, "Can I ask a question before we continue?"
Tinaran looked again to the others. Nods were the only answers he got, though not from all. "That is acceptable."
"Goras claimed his followers would attack the government as well," Robert said. "But I haven't heard anything about this."
"The Interdependency Security Force was prepared," Ledosh replied. "We are told they received word from the Alliance Government warning them of an imminent Dissenter attempt to overthrow our government. Curiously, it came from the Office of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations."
The four shared bewildered looks. The idea that Davies would help thwart a coup that was going to give him what he wanted was… bizarre.
"Either way, the attack failed to seize the Director or any of his subordinates, and the Assembly was unharmed," Tinaran said. "Goras' madness ended last night."
"And Goras himself?"
"Incarcerated," another of the Council members, a tan-skinned woman with graying brown hair, said. Robert felt Meridina's mind communicate a name to him: Hadisina. "We will decide his fate later."
"Testing Goras will be a difficult prospect.."
"Last night seemed like quite a test," Angel guffawed.
The Council didn't react to that.
"There are other points we must address," Tinaran said. "Specifically, the issue of the Prophecy of the Dawn."
"What about it?", Robert asked.
"We ask that you not speak on it in public," the old man said. "The Council once voted to investigate whether your existence and your actions were signs of the Prophecy's fulfillment. We encouraged the Gersallian government to resist your removal from the Aurora
on the strength of that belief. But in light of recent occurrences, we now feel that this issue is too potentially disruptive to the populace. The Council has made an official public ruling; the Prophecy is not coming to pass at this time, and we will no longer make policies based upon that calculation."
Meridina couldn't hide her disappointment. "We all saw them," she said. "None can deny what they are. Who but the Bearers of the Dawn could re-ignite Swenya's Blade?"
One of the other Council members answered immediately. "As Lieutenant Lucero herself pointed out, she merely used her technical knowledge. There is nothing of the swevyra
about her insight." Meridina identified him mentally for them: Verairos.
"I didn't mean it was just…"
Before Lucy could finish, Tinaran raised a hand. "This is our decision, Knight Meridina, and it is final. The Order, for the moment, holds that the Prophecy is not coming true. Its authenticity will still be debated until we see further indications that Swenya's vision is coming to pass."
Meridina bowed her head. "Yes, Master."
"Why?", Robert asked. "Are the Dissenters that powerful? Their leader just got outed to the entire Multiverse as having become a madman falling into darkness. Their coup
"Not all Dissenters were violent," Tinaran said. "Many rejected Goras' path. But they are still our people, and their beliefs and feelings must be considered."
"Even some of those who support the Alliance are not comfortable with the idea of the Prophecy," Hadisina added. "We must consider their views. If the Order, if we
, continue to follow this line, we will only further damage the balance of our people."
"And it is clear that others in the Alliance have their own concerns about our actions on the matter," Verairos added. "Even now, legislators for the Alliance Council are proposing an act that would bar members of our Order from serving in the Alliance Government while remaining in the Order. It is clear that we have invited hostility in the Alliance that we must act to dispel. And that means withdrawing ourselves from the Alliance's direct affairs."
"You're just going to what, go isolationist?", Lucy asked.
"No, not at all," Hadisina said. "But we will no longer show interest in the internal affairs of the Alliance, we will merely offer our services when and where it is needed."
"And this extends to the issue of the Prophecy of the Dawn, and of the Aurora
," Tinaran said. "Our people spent valuable influence in shielding you from the hostility of your own superiors last year. We cannot do so any longer. The Prophecy, true or not, must not dictate our approach to the future."
Robert couldn't argue with Tinaran. He didn't like the thought of trying to judge situations through things like prophecies. His own nightmares and dreams had been a mixed bag so far. They'd helped at Gamma Piratus, but 33LA had been a different story.
But he felt there was more to it than that. He thought he could feel something else in the Council. A nebulous sort of… fear? As if these Council members, given a reason, wanted to dismiss the Prophecy of the Dawn because something about it…
"Additionally…" Tinaran leaned forward in his seat and put his hands together. "There is the matter of your current position. The Council has debated the matter extensively."
"What is the Council's decision, then?" Meridina looked to Ledosh. He had lowered his eyes. Whatever was going on, he had been outvoted.
It was Tinaran who answered. "The charges have been cleared, as Ledosh informed you last night. However, in keeping with our decision on restricting our affairs in the Alliance, it is our choice to recall you from field service from the time being. You are hereby instructed by the Council to resign your commission in the Alliance Stellar Navy and to return to Gersal."
"You will be assigned to the Temple Knights," Hadisina added. "Knight-Commander Hajamar will assign you where you are needed while you work with the Healers to finish purging the darkness that remains latent due to your experience with the Goa'uld. In time, when you have served your proper time with the Temple Knights, we will see to a new field assignment."
Meridina drew in a breath. Her heart hurt at hearing their decision. She looked to the others, who all looked to her with worry and sadness, particularly Lucy. "I see," she said.
"You have proven a valuable and loyal swevyra'se
. It is unfortunate that your devotion to the Prophecy helped to cause this strife," Tinaran said. "We will do everything in our power to help you recover from what has happened."
"No," Lucy said. "Meridina, you…"
Robert set a hand on her shoulder. "Lucy, it'll be okay. You and I can carry on together." He looked to Tinaran. "The Council won't object to Meridina remaining in contact with us, will it?"
"Within reason, no," he answered vaguely. "She has a right to association so long as it does not impact the Order."
Angel rolled her eyes. "So basically, the answer is 'yes, but only if we like it'."
have responsibilities," Hadisina said. "Sometimes they require us to restrain ourselves."
Meridina had remained silent through this exchange. Her mind raced with the implications of what was being said. She bitterly imagined Goras would laugh when he learned; he might not have split Gersal from the Alliance, but the Council was certainly tilting toward his side of things. They wanted to pull away from the Alliance. And Meridina couldn't understand why.
But they were the Council. The Code required she obey them on matters like this, just as she would one day be obeyed if she sat upon the Council.
She turned her head to face her comrades. By the scale of her life, her involvement with them was not terribly long. Just a few years, and mostly the prior eighteen months. But that was enough time to build the bonds she felt toward them. To enjoy the wonder and delight of Caterina at seeing new things, Jarod's daily happiness at having a place and identity of his own, Zachary's confident growth as a commander, Commander Kane's curious mixture of straight professionalism and exuberant camaraderie…
The crew of the Aurora
had become more than colleagues. They had become her second family.
Meridina's heart threatened to split at the weight of the choice before her. She closed her eyes before tears could form in them.
"Meridina?", Robert asked. "What is it?" He could feel the turmoil within her as she weighed two parts of herself, and judged which she would have to rip away.
"You don't have to do this," Angel insisted to the Council. "Let her stay with us. We work well together. And we won't talk about this Prophecy or whatever."
"The decision of the Council is final," Tinaran declared. "Knight Meridina, you may say your goodbyes. We will arrange for anything you left on the Aurora
to be brought to your new quarters here in the Temple."
Robert and Lucy were both looking at her. Lucy could feel the pain building in Meridina's heart. Tears filled her eyes at that feeling. She said nothing about it; there was nothing to say.
Meridina had a choice to make, it was that simple. And her nature demanded she make it decisively, with no doubt, although either choice would almost demand such doubt. Because she had already known doubt, and felt what it could do to her. How it could undermine her and weaken her.
"Meridina…?", Ledosh asked.
of the Council," Meridina said. "I hear your commands. The Code of Swenya, the Code I have sworn to live my life by, to give my life for, requires I obey them." She turned to face them. Her eyes focused on Ledosh. "Mastrash
Ledosh, I can never thank you enough for your patience as a mentor and a teacher. You taught me to listen to the wisdom of my swevyra
. That is what made me the swevyra'se
I am today."
Ledosh was paling as he realized what was going on. "Meridina…," he began.
As he said her name, Meridina was already gripping the right shoulder of her blue robe. In a gentle, quiet motion, she pulled her right arm out of the sleeve, and then her left arm out of the other. In several motions she folded the robe reverently into a flat square and laid it gently upon the Council's table. They were all staring in disbelief as she took her lakesh
hilt and laid it on top of her discarded robe.
"My heart and my swevyra
lead me in the same direction," Meridina said. Tears were already pouring from her blue eyes. "My place is on the Aurora
. I cannot obey your order. I have no choice but to renounce my Oath to the Order of Swenya."
The air seemed to grow chilled. The Council members looked at each other in utter surprise. For all of their power, their supposed vision, they hadn't seen this coming.
"I will remember my service to the Order fondly," she said. "It was everything I wanted in life. And though I am compelled to renounce my place as a swevyra'se
of Gersal, I will still honor the Code of Swenya until my dying breath." Meridina bowed to them with genuine respect.
"You can never come back," Tinaran warned. "You have chosen this course to evade a proper Order from this Council. Therefore you will be regarded as having left this Order for selfish reasons and you will be treated accordingly."
Meridina nodded in acknowledgement. "Mi rake sa swevyra iso
And without another word, she walked away.
Robert, Lucy, and Angel looked to the Council. "Have a good day," Robert said, and he managed some sincerity in it despite himself. Afterward he too turned, as did Lucy and Angel, and the three walked briskly to catch up with Meridina and joined her in exiting the Chamber.
The four Aurora
crew emerged from the central structure of the Great Temple and walked on toward the stop for the commuter service. Robert and Lucy shared uncomfortable glances; they could feel the pain inside of Meridina.
"Those sons of bitches," Angel growled. "That asshole Goras is going to laugh his ass off when he finds out."
"They're scared," Robert said.
"Of what? Goras' crazy supporters?"
"No." Lucy shook her head. "Something else. They're scared of something else."
As they approached the stop, an aircar pulled up. Its doors opened. "Please, come with me," Gina said from the driver's seat.
The four looked at each other, although Meridina barely glanced as part of that.
"Please hurry," Gina insisted. "We don't have much time, they're going to get suspicious."
"Well, since you put it like that," Robert sighed, climbing in on one side. Everyone joined him and within five seconds, the aircar was zooming away. "Where are we going?", he asked Gina.
"The countryside," she replied. "Mastrash
Ledosh's family still owns a small cottage in the mountains. He's going to meet us there in a few hours. Privately, away from the Council and the Order."
"What's going on?", Angel asked. "Why all the secrecy?"
"I don't know why," Gina said. "But I know he thinks it's very important." Gina glanced back at Meridina, who was squeezed in between Lucy and Angel. "I'm sorry, I didn't know you would be coming. I… well, Ledosh didn't think you'd actually leave the Order."
"I almost didn't," Meridina admitted. Her reddened eyes briefly looked to Lucy and then to Robert in the front seat. "But I felt I had to."
"Hopefully we're about to find out why they forced that choice on you," Robert said.
The Lookout was mostly empty when Julia arrived to have lunch. Even most of the usual staff seemed to be gone.
But not Hargert, of course. Never Hargert. He approached her with a tray, on which there was a steaming bowl of sausage stew and a plate of lunch finger foods that looked delicious as always. A glass of fruit juice rounded out the lunch. "Don't you ever take days off?", Julia asked him as he settled the tray before her. She smiled gently. "You always seem to be here at work."
"And what would I do with my days off, Commander?", Hargert replied amiably. "I would be here anyway. This is not work to me, it is pleasure." A smile creased his wrinkled old face. "That I am compensated for it makes it all the more enjoyable." He slid into the chair opposite from her. "I hear congratulations are in order to the Captain of the new Enterprise
Julia shook her head and grinned. She picked up a spoon and dipped it into the stew. "I'm sure Scotty's told everyone on the ship. Although I honestly haven't said 'yes' yet."
"Ah. You wish to discuss things with Robert, yes?"
"Among other things." Julia took a bite and savored the delicious, rich taste. "I swear to God, Hargert, you are the greatest cook I've ever known. You would have given competition to Rob's grandmother."
," he answered. "I suspect we learned the same way."
"Maybe." Julia stirred the spoon in the stew again.
As she took her next bite, two more figures walked up. Caterina and Violeta were in uniform too, wearing uniform skirts instead of trousers. They were holding hands. "Can we?", Cat asked.
Julia nodded. "Sure."
"I shall be right back." Hargert got up and walked off, presumably to get two more sets of food for the new arrivals.
Cat and Violeta took chairs beside each other. "I heard from Angel that she was okay," Cat said. "But I'm still not sure what happened. Something about a fight and a bad guy with mind powers?
"Apparently one of the leaders of Meridina's Order went nuts and tried to kill everyone. Rob and Angel and Lucy helped put him down."
"Lucy, you mean Lieutenant Lucero, right?" Violeta's face brightened up. "I was watching a video this morning over the IU extranet. She had some kind of energy sword!"
"Don't ask me, I'm still wondering about it myself," Julia replied.
"When are they going to be home?"
"Maybe later today, maybe tomorrow."
"Oh." Cat nodded. "Well, then maybe… well, actually…"
Julia crossed her arms and adopted something of a half-smile. "I can hear it in your voice Cat. What do you need?"
"Not me. Violeta. She, well, she needs… she's new, so…"
With Cat clearly nervous about the request, Violeta spoke up. "I haven't been on the ship for longer than six months, so I'm not automatically eligible for a leave time I'm getting temporary assignment to the shuttle pilot pool at the end of the week. But until then… well, Cat was telling me she's never been to Paris or Venice, and she has a few days of eligible leave, and I was thinking…"
Both of the girls were blushing by this point. Julia smiled softly. "I think I can manage a few days of leave time for you, Ensign Arterria. You might have to do some extra duty once the ship's underway again, though."
"I'm fine with that," Violeta said. "Completely."
"Ah. Well. I'll have your leave papers arranged tomorrow. You'll need to be back in time to report to the Fleet Base Piloting Division, of course."
"Of course!" Violeta nodded and grinned. "Of course, I'll be back on time, I promise you Commander."
Cat let out a little squee and left her chair to give Julia a tight hug. "Thank you, Julie. Thank you so much. I'll make it up to you!"
"You always do," Julia answered. "And you can start by letting me get back to my lunch? Hargert's already on his way with your's."
And indeed, he was.
The cottage was small, a structure that at its largest was the size of the living area of Robert's quarters. Gina escorted them to the door and saw them inside. "I'll be waiting out here and watching," she said. The furnishings were spartan and simple. A pantry in the far left corner of the rectangular room included a small stove and an icebox or refrigerator. In the opposite corner, to their right, was a simple cot, and to their left were a couple of chairs and one small couch that looked like it could also be used for sleeping.
In fact, the only thing that made the cottage look like it didn't belong in the 20th Century was the technology in the far right corner. A computer system was present, beside a mantle with holo-image bases instead of photographs and what looked like a stand for a lakesh
hilt. Beside it was a big book.
But the final item was the real breaker of the image of quiet, pre-space age living. A transporter pad.
White light appeared in a burst on the pad. Ledosh appeared from within the burst. His purple-with-blue-trim robe was still over his white vest and brown tunic and trousers. He looked to them and nodded. "It is good to see you."
Ledosh." All nodded back in some way, although Angel's as more one of acknowledgement than any deference.
He nodded back. "Thank you for coming." Ledosh turned his head slightly to face Meridina directly. "Meridina, I am sorry. I tried to vote against it."
"I know," she said. "If Councilman Pensley has his way, I would have faced this choice anyway."
"Senator Pensley, now," Ledosh said.
"What?", Robert asked, incredulous.
"Admiral Maran and I have been sharing updates since the coup
attempt. Last night the Tetzelian National Assembly voted to appoint Pensley to replace Senator Marswell, one of those lost to Goras' madness."
Robert nodded. "I'm guessing Goras was behind the attack on the Senate, then?"
"According to the Temple Knights, yes. They found evidence on his computers of his collusion and Alliance Naval Intelligence corroborated it with the evidence they forwarded to the Interdependency this morning. Unfortunately the apprentice he used, Intalarai, was one that he did not have present at the attack. She has gone missing."
"I still can't believe Davies helped with that," Lucy said.
"I am fairly uncertain of his reasoning myself. But that is not the matter at hand. The Council will become suspicious if I remain here too long."
"Wouldn't they suspect you for leaving the Great Temple anyway?"
"No, Lieutenant Delgado. It is a practice of mine to come to the cottage and meditate when I am agitated by my colleagues. But I am never gone for very long in those circumstances."
"No, you wouldn't be," Meridina said quietly.
Ledosh's eyes brimmed with compassion when he looked at his student. "They were wrong to react as they did to your departure. Although even I wish you had stayed. Though the Council and many older Mastrasham
are in agreement on this policy, the younger ranks of the Order see you as a heroine. Many now believe the Prophecy is coming true and are upset by the Council's choices. Given time, I may persuade them, and with you to rally the field Knights…" Ledosh sighed and shook his head. "I will not criticize you for following your swevyra
's direction, though. I've trained you too well to have you ignore it."
"So why is the Council scared about the Prophecy?", Lucy asked.
"The real reason," Robert clarified. "Because I felt that fear. This isn't about society and politics."
"For the same reason Goras and Karesl are against it being true. They don't want/i] it to be true, and they are afraid it is."
"That makes little sense to me," Meridina said. Her voice became the most animated it had been since they left the Great Temple. "I have never understood why anyone would oppose the idea of the Dawn Bearers. It is a prophecy speaking of a new Golden Age, it is not something to dread!"
There was something in Ledosh's expression that made Robert realized there was more to this than even Meridina could see. "Is there more to it?", he asked.
Ledosh sighed. "Yes. There is."
Meridina stared at him. "What? I have read it, how could there be more?"
"Well, what [i]is
the Prophecy?", Angel said. "I mean, is it something like the Book of Revelations? Or some of the prophecies the old Hebrew Prophets would give?"
"It is best described as a poem, reciting Swenya's statement on what the future held," Meridina said. "I memorized it years ago. I shall attempt to render it into your English." She drew in a breath and began to speak.
"In the final days of Swenya
The Grand Foundress felt the future.
The ones who would come
Kin of the Lost People
The Bearers of the Dawn
She cried onto her people
"Seek them, children of Gersal
Their Light shall bring salvation!"
The forger and the leader
The commander and the sage
The builder and his teacher
The healer and the gifted
The unforgiven and the redeemed
And the sisters of fire and heart
United by the Light of their bonds
That none shall break
Their travels will be many
Their trials will be great
Their triumphs will be grand
They shall find the wanderers and the shepherd
And the explorer and the emissary
The masked one stands as their ally
The timeless one shall be their friend
One with a Spirit of Light shall guide them
As generals and rulers alike stand beside them
The forces of evil shall shudder
When faced by the Light they forge
Their Light a holy shield
Driving away all that is horrible
And bringing forth the golden rays of the Dawn
Under which all of Creation shall flourish
Seek them, children of Gersal
Let nothing deter you
For with the Bearers of the Dawn
Comes Hope and Victory"
When Meridina finished, the other three looked at each other. "'Sisters of fire and heart'," Lucy said, looking to Angel. "Well, I can see that with you and Cat, I guess."
Robert smiled gently at Angel. "You're definitely the sister of fire. It's one of the things I love about you."
She returned the little smile, but there was an edge to it. Angel clearly felt uncomfortable with all of this.
"And Julia and Zack are both Commanders," Lucy continued. "But then again, I get the feeling it means something else."
"It would," Ledosh said. "These words were written in the High Gersallian dialect of Swenya's time. We are fortunate that they survived the Uprising of the Brotherhood."
"The Brotherhood of Kohbal, you mean."
"I know they caused a lot of destruction in that era, but until last night I never realized how much," Lucy continued. "I mean, I'm betting they're the reason that the Order went from something like Swenya's Blade to the memory metal blades in a lakesh
. It was the best replacement the survivors could find after they lost the knowledge."
"It would appear so. And undoubtedly the Council will spend the next several weeks deliberating whether to allow technical examination of Swenya's Blade or avoid the risk of damaging it."
"The power cell lasted for three thousand years, I'm not even sure that naqia devices could manage that."
"I'm more interested in this issue with the Prophecy," Robert pointed out.
"Oh, yeah." Lucy sighed. "Okay, so that sounds… I mean, it talks about evil, but it says we'd beat it. I'm not scared by it "
"That is because it is not the original version," Ledosh revealed.
Meridina looked at him with surprise. "Mastrash
Ledosh, there's more?"
"Not much," Ledosh said. "But the original version has an extra line in the final stanza. A line that we have kept hidden for thousands of years."
"Holy crap," Lucy said. "What does it say, something about the sun dying out or something?"
Ledosh nodded grimly. "Something worse. Simply by telling you this, I place myself at jeopardy before the Order. But I believe the Prophecy is coming true, and that you must be informed of what it truly means." Ledosh turned again to Meridina, who was staring at him in horror. "I'm sorry for not telling you, Meridina. I argued for it, but the Council refused me. Just as they demanded we hide the existence of the Prophecy from you and your crew, Captain."
"I'm guessing the Prophecy is why Meridina was assigned to us in the first place," Robert replied. He looked to her. "And she was ordered not to tell?"
"And she was ordered to avoid any act to promote your knowledge of swevyra
should you have power with it," Ledosh confirmed.
"I am very sorry," Meridina said to them. "It was thought necessary while we determined if the Prophecy was actually coming true."
"And since I am certain that it is, I am ready to reveal the true version of the Prophecy to you."
"Well, okay then," Angel said. "Lay it on us."
Ledosh drew in a breath and spoke the final stanza, adding a sixth line.
[quote]Seek them, children of Gersal
Let nothing deter you
For with the Bearers of the Dawn
Comes Hope and Victory
When the Darkness come again
There was a gasp in the room. It came from Robert. His mind flashed back several months to Gamma Piratus and the Darglan Facility there. A Facility filled with the wreckage and damage of an ancient battle, and in its secured databanks, a partial message left by the defenders.
"'Stop the Darkness
'," Robert murmured. When all eyes turned to him, Robert explained in a louder voice, "It was the only line left of a message left by the Darglan in the Facility on Gamma Piratus. The end of a spoken sentence with those three words. '...stop the Darkness.
"So what is the Darkness?", Lucy asked Meridina.
"I do not know," she said. "Although.." A memory came to her mind. "Years ago, Caterina showed me the holographic chamber in your Facility."
"Which is when it told you about a prize for the Gersallian species at a blue sun," Angel said. "I remember. Looking for it is how we came into contact with the Galactica
and the Colonial Refugees."
"Yes. But there was a message with it. A warning about the use of the Darglans' drive technology, and how we must always respect the limitations of the drives, or we might be exposed to a 'darkness' that dwells in the deepest voids of the dimensions. And that if we did so, 'Ancient Ones' would punish us." Meridina shook her head. "I reported this at the time, but no one spoke to me of it."
"That is because the Council restricted this knowledge long ago," Ledosh said. "One of the surviving writings from Kohbal's Uprising spoke of an ancient war. All that we know is that Swenya led a group of devoted swevyra'se
to fight at the side of the Darglan against the Darkness, and that few returned alive with her at the end of the war. Not everything from her account survives, sadly. From what we have left, we know that the Darkness could not be reasoned with, could not be negotiated with, and indeed never even communicated. They only strived to destroy all Life that they found, and Swenya claimed to have watched them annihilate entire stars."
An image flashed in Robert's vision. An image from his dreams, of stars dying out in never-ending waves until entire galaxies had gone dark.
"If they could destroy stars… why weren't they listed as an Omega-level threat by the Darglan?", Lucy wondered.
"Maybe the Darglan never had time to update the list?", Angel speculated.
"Or maybe there was no point in updating the list once the war was over," Robert said. "We know the Darglan were from E5B1, and that the First Ones of that universe's Milky Way banned them from ever using the IU jump drives again."
"This explains the warning they left in their message to us," Meridina added.
"And why they asked the Asgard for weapons technology." Robert shook his head. "And Thor's warning to me about using the IU drives. The Asgard knew something of the Darkness, even if he didn't say anything about knowing their name. Thor said they even allied with the Goa'uld at the time to resist them."
"What I want to know is how the Darglan could beat something that destroyed stars
," Lucy said. "That's.. I mean, it's nearly impossible."
"That mad scientist Tolian Soran could do it," Robert said. "He destroyed one star and almost took out another."
"He didn't destroy the stars, actually, he just changed them," Lucy pointed out. "I wouldn't call that annihilation
Ledosh spoke next. "We know Swenya spoke of beings who came to the Darglans' aid due to the threat the Darkness posed. Ancient races and species that sided with them, some just as terrifying as the Darkness in their power. Races that could manipulate space and time, races with enormous mental powers, even beings made of pure energy."
"And they what, beat the Darkness by blowing them up before they blew up suns?", Angel asked.
"We do not know." Ledosh shook his head. "Which only serves to feed the fears of the Council. This is why they wish the Prophecy to be wrong, and why they do not want it revealed. The fear it would generate among people to imagine such a powerful enemy returned to threaten us could make our current upheaval even worse."
Meridina nodded. "I… I never knew, I…" Her eyes fell. Her face was pale. A tear started falling from her right eye as she closed them. "This is what Father meant when he said I would be broken if the Prophecy came true. He knew that I was hoping for this horror to return to threaten us without knowing it."
"Yes, that is like him." Ledosh bowed his head. "I cannot give you access to the writings right now. The Council would be suspicious of my access at this time. But when I can, I will do more to teach you about this threat, while I hope and pray that the Prophecy is in error."
"Yes," Meridina said. "I hope so too."
"I have told you all that I can. I'm afraid you must go, and go quickly. As it is, the Order may suspect you were up to something if they realize how long your ship has remained," Ledosh said. As he did so he walked to the side and concentrated.
The door opened. Gina stepped in. "You're done?", she asked.
"You can't tell me what was said," Gina remarked, and this was aimed at the others. "If the Council found out I was informed, Ledosh and I would be punished."
"Well, we won't," Robert said. "Just us knowing is risk enough for him."
"Yes." Meridina was staring off into space. "Let us depart."
"I have contacted an Order vessel equipped with an IU jump drive, they will provide you a jump back to Earth L2M1 upon your arrival to orbit," Ledosh said. "Gina is more talented with the transporters than I am, she will help you transport back to your ship."
"I'll go back and beam the rest of you at once," Lucy said.
While Gina and Lucy worked, and Robert and Angel stood to the side holding hands, Ledosh stepped up to his student. He felt her turmoil and sadness and frustration and it made him feel shame and guilt. The Council had repaid her devotion and faith with narrow-minded cowardice… and he had repaid it with deception. "I am sorry," he said. "I lacked the courage to defy the Council. I feared that Goras and Karesl would prevail if I did defied the Council's instructions."
"I know, and I understand." Meridina shook her head.
"I feel your pain, student. Please, don't hold it in this time. Give it release."
Meridina didn't reply to that.
"Will you say goodbye to your family?"
Meridina nodded. "I wish to. But I will not be welcome in the Temple, and they are with my father."
Lucy heard that and looked over to her. "I think I can make the transport work," she said. "The Great Temple's got passive anti-beaming fields, of course, but Ledosh's systems are tied into them with the frequencies that aren't blocked, just let me get the right frequency and I can send you over once we're on the Rio Grande
"We'll send you as soon as we're back," Robert said. "And you can take all of the time you need."
"Thank you," was her quiet reply.
"And I've got us ready to beam over," Lucy said. She stepped over to the pad. "I'll go first. I'll signal when I'm ready to beam you over." She nodded to Ledosh. "It was nice meeting you again, Mastrash
"The same to you, Lucilla Lucero."
With a press of a key, Gina beamed Lucy away.
"Good luck with the Council," Robert said. "Let us know if we can help you with anything."
"I will," Ledosh said. "And be mindful. The knowledge I have given you is disturbing, but do not let it weigh down your heart. The Darkness can be stopped, should they return. Continue your training in the meantime. Your visions may give us further insights into the path we are treading upon."
"We'll keep that in mind," Angel said. Robert felt his heart twist a little at the tone in her voice. She would not take him continuing training very well, not when he had promised it'd be over soon.
Before he could say anything about it, his multidevice chimed. "Lucy's ready for us."
Meridina looked to Ledosh. She bowed and, with a tear in her eye, she gave her farewell. "I hope to see you again, Mastrash
. Mi rake sa swevyra iso.
Ledosh nodded. "I wish the same, Meridina. Mi rake sa swevyra iso.
Robert pressed a key on his multidevice. They all transported away.
Nobody said anything when Meridina beamed into the hall of the Great Temple's medical ward, just outside her father's room. Inside she found her family gathered. Despite everything, her heart felt lightened at seeing Karesl's eyes open.
"We heard," Drentiya said. "I can feel your pain, Meri. I am so sorry."
"The Council are a bunch of kenyakam
," declared Leniraya.
Meridina stifled a chuckle that would have been full of pain. "We're preparing to launch to return to the Aurora
," she said. "But I wished to say goodbye, and to see how father was doing."
"I am recovering," Karesl said weakly. "The healers tell me another minute and I would have been beyond saving." He turned his head in a stiff motion. "Tinaran told me what the Council ruled, and what they have done." He frowned. "And what you have done."
"I am sorry, Father, for disappointing you."
Karesl shook his head. The motion was as stiff as his movement earlier. "Do not concern yourself with it. I can sense the hurt in you, you do not need more from believing me angry with you." A sour look came to him. "Ledosh told you, didn't he? He told you about the Prophecy."
Meridina didn't reply. She knew Karesl could only be hurt if their family found out.
"I am sorry," Karesl said.
"Whatever it is, what's done is done," Drentiya said. "Please, Meridina, come home again sometime. We wish to see more of you."
"I am no longer in the Order, but I still have duties on the Aurora
," she said. "But now that things have changed and my presence will not bring any disruption… I will return, and I will visit you whenever I can."
That brought smiles to her family. Qalkrsl spoke up next. "We're proud of you, Meri. Always. Even though you're no longer in the Order, we know you're a swevyra'se
and always will be."
"Always," Karesl agreed. He reached his hand up and Meridina took it. "I have always loved you, daughter, but know that I am also proud of you, Meridina, and I always will be. You are following the calling you feel within, and I hope it brings you the destiny that you seek. May the Light of your swevyra
always guide you well. And if the Prophecy is true… I will be there to help you, in whatever means is necessary."
"Thank you, father." Tears welled up in Meridina's eyes. "Thank you very much."
And she embraced him gladly, comforted in the knowledge that regardless of how things had turned out, despite all of their disagreements over the prior two years, her father still loved her and was proud of her.