Omega and I ran side by side. Our destination was my private room, and the landing pad which connected to it. My starship was docked there, ready for take off at any moment. Even though I was waiting for the investigator to jump me, I hadn’t anticipated that she was part of the Brotherhood, or that I would be compelled to take off from Astraloth so soon.
I was deep in thought, and after a few minutes of silence, Omega spoke as we rounded a corner and continued up a flight of stairs.
“The Brotherhood must be stopped,” they said. “If any member of the Brotherhood remains, the chance for peace in the galaxy is zero percent.” Their skirt trailed behind them as they deftly ascended the stairs, gun in hand.
“I get what you mean,” I said, eyes narrowing. “And that’s exactly what we’re gonna do.”
I thought about what the investigator had said. “If the Brotherhood isn’t stopped, then pretty soon our entire galaxy will be living in a controlled, dystopian society.” I shuddered to think of it... The Cardinal of the TAU, replaced by a puppet. Myself, replaced by an agent of the Brotherhood. Where would they stop? Military officials? School teachers? Police officers? They won’t stop...
I ground my mandibles together. “Ryner never believed the world needed fixing,” I growled. “That’s just the lie he told his followers to ensnare them. All along, the only thing he wanted was control. Absolute domination over everything.”
“Then Ryner sounds like Duhrnan,” said Omega.
At last we came to the doorway of my private room, and I froze. The door was ajar, and soldiers equipped with E-rifles and TAU armour were searching the place, checking drawers and inspecting the furniture. I was angry at their audacity to invade my personal space... but there plan had been to steal my identity and kill me, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. One of them held a small silver orb in their hand; it was the device to send Astraloth to the future!
Beyond them was a glass door to the outside, and beyond that was a thin bridge to my private landing pad. The white sphere of my ship waited with four landing poles sticking out from the bottom to stabilize it. It was just out of reach, shining in the moonlight that snaked through the clouds. Rain pelted the ship and the platform outside.
Before I could react, the Brotherhood agents saw me. They lifted their rifles, and red energy flitted from the ends of their barrels. Electric hums shrieked, and I dove away from the doorway. Lasers burst into smoke on the wall behind me, and I grunted in pain as I landed on my bad arm. I seized up for a moment, curling into a ball and breathing heavily.
One of the soldiers whipped a hand to his helmet. “Don’t let the king escape. Converge on his landing pad-”
Omega leapt straight into the room. As they soared through the air, they pointed their gun to the farthest soldier, the one making the call, and shot him in the chest, sending him to the floor, silent. As they approached the ground, they curled their legs up to their chest, leaning back, and coiled their tail. Then they pushed off the ground with their tail, maintaining their forward momentum and bounding straight at another two soldiers who stood next to each other. Laser bolts flew past Omega, blasting the walls. They planted their bare claws onto the chest of each soldier. The Brotherhood agents slammed onto the floor, pinned by Omega’s feet. Two other soldiers remained standing, and they whirled to shoot Omega, who continued in a roll, ripping the rifle from one of the prone soldier’s hands as they somersaulted with their tail. Then they righted themselves on the other side of the soldiers near the glass door, spinning as they ended their movement in a crouch. In one motion, they shot one of the standing soldiers, and using their tail threw the rifle straight into the other’s head.
My mandibles dropped.
Omega killed another soldier who tried to rise, and the room went still. Once again, I felt incredibly glad that they were on my side.
I scrambled to my feet, and ran into the room. Omega waited with perfect posture, eyeing me expectantly as their tail flicked to the side. I saw the rain outside, and my eyes fell to my coat rack. My eyepiece hung on its spokes; without hesitation I grabbed the familiar device and fitted it to my head.
The black cloak Joëlle had given me lay crumpled on the floor in the corner. But when I saw the cloak I didn’t feel a horrible, twisting, sinking sensation in my chest like I had for the past several months. Instead I felt the opposite. I knelt beside it, and my fingers gently brushed the textured cloth, and I caught sight of the rips and tears I knew so well. Nothing had changed... why did I feel different? I grabbed the cloak and threw it over my shoulders. I pulled the hood over my head, and pulled my ears through the holes I had cut into it. I felt like my heart lifted.
Then, cloak billowing behind me, I rushed over to one of the soldiers. In his hand was the silver activation sphere; the device that could activate the hidden underground spheres of Astraloth, and send the planet forward in time once more.
I lifted it to my eye level, and gazed at it, eyes sparkling. “I can’t leave you lying around, in case more Brotherhood agents arrive,” I said to myself.
Omega replied. “It would not be good if Astraloth were sent to the future unintentionally.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, shoving the orb into my pocket and making for the glass door. “I really should have hidden it in a safer place. There are only enough underground spheres for one more leap to the future, anyway. Gotta make it count.”
“You have no weapons,” said Omega, as I pressed a button and opened the sliding glass door. They gestured to the Brotherhood bodies.
“I have some on the ship,” I said. “Come on!”
My heart burned with a righteous fury. Maybe it was just the adrenaline and endorphins, but I felt so alive sprinting onto the rain slicked bridge. Omega was right behind me. The sky was full of clouds, and rain stung my eyes, but there were a few patches of open stars, and I could see the violet glow of the Toru nebula. My gaze lingered there for a moment. I felt my mother’s presence with me. You will not be alone. My legs pressed powerfully into the floor, propelling me forward with splashing steps. I looked back over my shoulder at the verdant pyramid, and Omega running just behind me.
Then a spray of explosive bullets cut into the bridge between us. Heat and light scorched me, and I stumbled back, shielding my eyes. The lasers came from a Titan-class cruiser that loomed over the temple.
I crouched low to keep my balance as the ground shifted beneath me. The explosions cleared and left only the white noise of rainfall. The bridge collapsed, and Omega was thrown back toward the slope of the temple. Standing on the landing pad, I strained my eyes and saw them catch onto a tree branch in the darkness below.
Then my stomach lurched. The landing pad was held up by a thin tower, which was beginning to sway and creak. The platform was tipping.
Heart pounding, I ran for my ship. My foot slipped on the tilted, wet flooring, and I crashed onto my left arm, crying out in pain. I heard the sound of TAU fighters swooping in to capture me, and willed myself to stand. I glanced up at the Titan-class cruiser, and saw its weapons begin to glow.
I activated my holo-gauntlet, and the white sphere’s bottom opened up into a ramp. Bright blue explosions chased me to the entrance of the ship. My ears were ringing as I stepped inside, and the ship began to screech as its landing pads scraped against the tilting platform. The ship was sliding off.
Without hesitating I dashed toward the cockpit. I could hear my heartbeat in my head. The ship was accelerating, screaming as it slid towards the edge of the skewed landing pad. The front of the ship was leaning forward, and I braced myself on the door frame of the cockpit just as it slid off the tower.
My ears shot behind me. I gazed down into the cockpit. The ground rushed toward the windshield. I couldn’t swallow. The ship was falling face first to the bottom of the Great Temple where civilians panicked, staring up at the chaos suddenly erupting above them. Not knowing what to do, I clenched the door frame with my fingers, my feet slipping on the vertical flooring. I felt weightless; I needed to start the engines...
I pulled myself through the door with both arms. My left shoulder screamed with pain. I misjudged my angle, and bounced against the central chair with a grunt, rolling over onto the windshield. The activation sphere fell out of my pocket, drifting through the air as the ship fell. No time to look down- I reached for the controls from a backwards angle, bracing myself for impact.
The engines hummed to life with a click, and I felt myself press hard against the windshield as the ship decelerated to a steady hovering position. The activation sphere clanked to the floor, and I laughed wildly. Not today, Brotherhood!
The ship began to rotate, levelling itself out, and I climbed off the windshield and the controls, and into the pilot’s seat. I shook my body, then grabbed the controls, and looked outside as the front slowly lifted up. A skyther man stood on the sidewalk a meter in front of the window, staring at me with a look of utter surprise on his face; his mandibles were open and his ears had shot backwards, flat against his head. The ship was hovering just inches from the ground.
I lifted my ears awkwardly, and waved a hand to the skyther. Then I activated the window’s shield so it turned solid white from the outside. I rose to the sky. I needed to get out of here. I would have to leave Omega behind for now...
The Temple fell away as I approached the clouds. I inhaled deeply. I pulled the soaking hood from my head, ears dripping onto my chair. The scent of fresh plastic filled my nose. Several TAU fighters looped around to intercept me, and the Titan-class cruiser turned ominously to face me. But I had dealt with worse.
“Is that all you got?” I mocked, feeling unstoppable.
Then my shoulders tensed. One by one, twelve more Titan-class cruisers emerged from the clouds. Dazzling darts of lightning lit the sky, and thunder rolled over me. Muffled raindrops rapped at the window. Hordes of starfighters took off from the hangars of the battlecruisers, and set their sights on me. I sighed and shook my head.
“Okay,” I said, my voice strained. “Fair enough.”