14: Friendly Fire
The Seeker Complex, Karonne
‘…Thus sets the stage for the ultimate creation of the Sol Dominion. A Biological Weapon the likes of which enemies to the Dominion could never stand up against, or expect in the first place. It would be the ultimate weapon. A source of unlimited power and equipped to destroy entire worlds with merely one of their numbers.
‘It was to be based on Human DNA (Humans, already thinking themselves the perfect creation of the Gods), genetically altered to give them the powers of destruction. As a result of this, the living weapon was disturbingly human in form, aside from pigmentation of skin and slight bone structure difference. More elaborate distinctions from Humans came as the species evolved.
‘The Project was named “Lavoid,” taken from the old language meaning “Being of Fire.”’
Darrell Shanning looked up from his book, blinking. He had already basically known everything written here, but to actually see it spelled out… and in the ancient-looking print of the leather-bound book Lucia had given him…
He gently closed the book, marking his place with a small piece of paper, and got up from his chair. He was in Madam Kyra’s house - and had been for a few hours now - waiting for Cynewulf to awaken. He’d wanted to wait in the lab and watch how they went about awakening him from the process he’d apparently put himself through, but it hadn’t been allowed.
Glancing down at his watch, he decided he’d waited long enough, and set off out the front door of the mostly-empty house.
‘What happened to Terra?’ he found himself thinking as he walked along the mostly empty paths. ‘She acted like she was going to wait with me, but she never showed up.’ The young man shook his head, and inhaled the purified air of the Seeker Complex deeply. ‘Geez, we’ve come a long way in such a short time. It seems like just yesterday my only concern was checking out another book from the Asgard Library, and now… I’ve got the mother of all history books, and a weight of knowledge and power I never could have imagined existed.’ He sighed. ‘But what’s it all worth? This is a war, to stop one of these things from doing what it did to Zion to another planet… but there are hundreds upon hundreds of them… if not millions, from what I’ve read. What good does stopping one of them do?’
He already knew the answer… even if he recognized the thought as being part of his re-absorbed Id. ‘It’s not so much to stop him from doing it again, as to avenge the screams of my friends, and family, and… the entire planet. Vengeance. Funny how it can take over your entire life like this…’
His thoughts were sharply pulled away from himself as he reached the door of the lab, just in time to see Cynewulf, surrounded by other Seekers, emerge. He had been garbed in his old clothing, but one sleeve had been cut out due to the cybernetics, and various holes were opened in the back to allow for wiring. Darrell walked over to the man… did that description still fit him? Shaking his head, the young man walked over to Cynewulf hesitantly, and nodded to him.
The burly figure turned to regard him, his optic sensor glowing brightly as he did. “Hello again, Darrell. I trust everything went well on Dargaard?” His voice was strange, different. There was still a trace of the warmth and humor that had once been there, but now it almost felt like it was… synthesized or something. It was like comparing computer-generated music to a live performance.
“Y-yes, it did. Better than we could have hoped for. I’m not certain I’ll even need the Trance anymore.”
The man nodded. “Good. You have gained much in power, then.”
Darrell nodded, but didn’t really say anything. It was very uncomfortable, this meeting.
“I have gained much as well, friend.” The Seeker said after a moment had passed. “I can feel the energy of the Finori flowing through me. It’s quite an incredible amount of ether… Grendel won’t stand a chance against us.”
“About that.” One of the Seekers, who Darrell recognized as the same one that had questioned them so much a little over a week before. “Just how are you going to go about finding Grendel? I’ve been thinking a lot on this, and… it seems to me like an impossible task.”
Cynewulf turned to regard the man. “Some of the technology we have here can track an energy signature. We’d just have to recalibrate it.”
“Sure, but it’s largely innacurate. You could pick up a completely different lavoid, and even then only narrow down the search to a sector. It could take years.”
Darrell shook his head at that. “Quite the contrary. I know of a planet that has the technology to find Grendel… it’s already been planned out, actually.”
The man raised an eyebrow. “What sort of planet could know of such a thing? We’re one of the most technologically advanced planets in the universe.”
“The explored sectors, maybe…” Darrell muttered, then sighed. “Look, don’t worry about it. Just know that we’re going to find Grendel, and it won’t take years.”
The Seeker shrugged, and turned his attention away from Darrell.
“What do you have planned, Darrell? What have you learned?” Cynewulf asked, his lone eyebrow rising curiously.
“Lots of things… lots.” He proceeded to tell Cynewulf the whole story of his journey into the past from Dargaard, and everything that had happened before and after that. As he spoke, the two walked aimlessly around the Complex, silently admiring the scenery.
When he’d finished, Cynewulf sighed. “You have gained much, my friend. Just how many spells do you know now?”
“I’m not even certain, Cyne. I’d have to catalogue them to know for sure, and even there could be some in me I’m not sure of. I mean, Lucia told me I’d been recombined with my Id personality, but sometimes it feels like there are… I don’t know. Little gaps. You know, kinda like when you get drunk, and lose the memory of the night before, but for bits and pieces. I feel like I’ve got a general idea of some events and spells, but the main part’s being kept from me.”
The large man nodded. “I believe I understand. But, you know… there’s only one way to unlock such forgotten memories.”
“What do you mean?” Darrell was confused, a point he accented with a raised eyebrow.
“How about a quick duel? I’m just dying to log all the various spells and things I can use now into my memory banks.”
“Memory banks? Just what all did you do to yourself, Cynewulf?!”
Cynewulf’s smirk disappeared for a moment, and he looked down at the ground, closing his human eye. “Far too much, I think sometimes, Darrell.” He shook his head. “Don’t worry about that, though. Just defend yourself!”
Without a further word, the man leapt back a step and crossed his arms. As he did, a red TAG beam extended from his cybernetic one, but it was obviously no normal TAG. A golden glow shot through it at intervals, and the entire array just seemed to give off an aura of power. The large Seeker’s optic nerve flashed violently, as he no doubt turned on various targeting systems, and he regarded Darrell curious.
“Tell ya what. So confident am I in the power of Zohar that I’ll let you have the first strike. Make it a good one.”
Darrell, taken aback, put his hands up in front of him. “What’re you doing, Cyne? I don’t want to hurt you!!”
Cyne shrugged. “That’s why we’ve got magic, Darrell. Healing. And besides, if you can’t even give the finori’s power a decent challenge, then we don’t need to be going after Grendel. Now come on!” as he yelled the words, he put his human hand out in front of him and gathered magical energy. After a moment, it shot out in a brilliant golden beam, knocking Darrell to the the ground in an instant.
The pain was bad, but nothing was bleeding or bruised, so Darrell figured it’d pass. ‘He’s actually being serious about this whole match-up?!’ he thought as he staggered back to his feet. ‘Then I’ve got no choice but to give him all I’ve got!’
As his instincts kicked in, he gathered a ball of energy from the ether waves surrounding the area and tossed it at Cyne. “Dark Bomb!” he yelled along with it, remembering it as the spell he’d seen Grey use.
To his great surprise, Cynewulf just ran right through it, and rushed Darrell with his TAG. Darrell just stood there for a moment, not reacting, until he realized that Cyne was actually going to hit him with the deadly blade. Just as Cyne brought his sword down in a brilliant crimson arc, Darrell’s daggers, the Ilinumbar, came into his hands. He crossed them over his head, and the TAG struck them with a resounding screech of sparks and magic.
Amazingly, though, they held, and Cynewulf fell back after but a moment. “Most impressive, those daggers. I didn’t think they’d hold up to a TAG assault.” Darrell opened his mouth to respond to that, but quickly change his mind as Cynewulf launched another spell, this one lightning of some sort, straight at his face.
Despite his quick reaction, the electricity still jolted into him, and his steely hair stood on end as several thousand watts coursed through his body. The grey-haired man couldn’t let the electrocution slow him down; Cynewulf was obviously readying for another strike with his TAG. Through the convulsions, he managed to say a single word.
Cynewulf blinked with his one eye and paused momentarily, scanning his memories for knowledge of such a spell. “What kind of spell is that?” he finally asked after a moment of silence.
“It’s not… a spell.” Darrell said simply. “Kenshin!!!!” he screamed the words as the last of the electricity left his body, and rushed Cynewulf. He flipped his daggers around in his hands so that the hilts were forward, and used them to pummel the large Seeker several times. Five or six blows went by before Darrell paused, and Cynewulf tried to back up a few steps, thinking the attack over.
He was wrong. Darrell launched into a new set of strikes, black light pouring off of his fists as he hit Cynewulf over and over again. Cyne was knocked to the floor, his TAG sputtering out as he fell. He tried to crawl away, but Darrell’s attack was still not finished. The dark energy that had gathered in the young man’s hands spread out into a funnel-like shape, and poured into Cyne’s body like oil through a seive.
When it was all over with, the former Zionite fell to the ground, panting. “You…had… enough yet?” he asked.
Cynewulf, after several attempts, managed to pull himself upright with his cybernetic arm. “…No. I didn’t do this to myself so that I could be bested by you, Darrell.”
The cyborg then lifted his arms over his head, not even bothering to reignite his TAG, and chanted strange words. As he did, his entire body took on the same eerie red glow that proceeded from his optic sensor. “Purifying Flame!” he yelled with a flair. He then brought his arms down in a wide circle, causing the red energy that covered them to explode outward in a wave of heat and fire. It proceeded outward for around until it covered a circle of ground about twenty feet in diameter, then lingered for a moment, dancing painfully over Darrell’s body.
Once the spell had dissipated, Cynewulf collapsed to the ground, looking in shock at Darrell. Somehow, the young man was still standing, albeit in a rather pained manner.
“I… didn’t put myself through everything I did to be bested by you either.” The young scientist said. He slowly staggered towards the burly man, his eyes seeming to flash silver at intervals, his knuckles white from the grip he had on his daggers. “Striker!” as he reached Cyne, he brought the Ilinumbar around in a wide arc, silvery energy trailing behind them, and pointed them straight at Cynewulf’s head. They erupted with a blast of pure light, pushing Cynewulf several feet into the already churned earth.
As the spell resolved itself, Darrell stood for but a moment more, looking anxiously at Cynewulf, who showed no signs of moving. Sighing deeply, he then fell to the ground, dead tired.
As his eyes closed in exhaustion, he thought he could make out a furious Terra coming his way…
“I can’t believe you did that.” Terra said again, shaking her head at Darrell and Cynewulf. “That had to have been the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen you do, Darrell.”
The young man sighed, and sipped at a cup of coffee. They were back in Madam Kyra’s home, preparing to tell her the story of the Hunters, and their new quest to Riven.
First, though, they got to deal with Terra’s wrath.
“It wasn’t Darrell’s fault.” Cynewulf said, holding a hand to his forehead. “I forced him into the fight.”
“And you got the crap kicked out of you. I know that… I’m just saying that Darrell should have known better than to do such a thing while a guest in someone else’s home… hell, he should’ve known better than to do THAT anywhere. You… I’ve come to expect this kind of stuff from.”
“I resent… that remark.” The large Seeker said, sighing deeply.
Before the former Zion pilot could respond, Madam Kyra entered the room, regarding it’s occupants curiously.
“You two had us most worried. The ether fluctuations from your duel were quite dramatic.”
Darrell looked down at the table, feeling very small. “I… I’m sorry, Madam.”
The woman shook her head. “Think nothing of it… simply inform us of your intent beforehand next time.” Kyra took a seat at the table with the others, and looked around. “Now, what was it you wished to speak to me about?”
Darrell, after finishing off his cup of coffee, related the entire tale of what had happened to him on Dargaard, and of their next destination.
Kyra shook her head in amazement as Darrell finished his tale. “Who could have imagined… another organization dedicated to wiping out the lavoid race.”
“I was shocked myself, Madam.” Darrell said, pouring himself another cup of coffee as he tried to drown his pounding headache.
“Do you realize what this means, Darrell?” the old Seeker said, her eyes twinkling as she looked out the window of her home. “If you can make contact with these… these Hunters, you could inform them of the Seekers. And if they were to join forces with us… we might actually have a real chance at taking out the more powerful lavoids.”
“Is that logical?” Cynewulf asked, his optic sensor shining especially brightly. “I mean, Darrell’s information on them is a good twenty years old now. It’s impossible to say how these people on Riven are faring, or if their organization even still exists.”
“No… I think they’re fine, Cyne. I’ve already told you about the spells my parents used in the battle with that Wanderer… and the spells that I inherently know are because of my origins with the Hunters. They’d have to be fine, with that kind of magic.”
“I don’t know, Darrell. Like that Terin guy proves, there’s always a higher level of energy.” He sighed, and closed his eye. “But… there’s no reason to be a pessimist, I suppose.”
“Right.” Terra said, cracking her knuckles nervously. “No point in assuming things until we get there.”
“Speaking of that…” Meryl said, surprising everyone. She’d kept rather quiet to this point. “Just where is this Riven place, anyway?”
Darrell closed his eyes and thought. “Well… from what I can tell, it’s near the border of the Unexplored Sectors, nearest to the 565 border of the Dominion.”
“Right on the edge between the Dominion and the Union… better location than our own base, certainly.” Kyra mused. “But then, from all you’ve said of them, they have more resources.”
“Actually, this presents something of a problem…” Darrell said. “The only accurate way to get into the system’s going to be to pass by the Dominion border fleet. Last time we tried that, we had a rather… unpleasant experience, as I recall. We’re going to need something special to pull this off.”
“Like what?” Terra asked, leaning back in her chair. “It’s not like we can just throw them something and hope they ignore us.”
“And bribes are out of the question…” Cynewulf said, his internal processors chugging along as he thought.
“What about a fleet of Seekers?” Kyra said suddenly. Everyone in the room turned to her in surprise.
“What?” Darrell was the first to react.
“Well, Terra gave me an idea when she said you couldn’t just ‘throw something at them.’ What if we took five or six of our ships, and had Seekers fly out there with you… to serve as a diversion while you go by.”
“That… might actually work.” Darrell admitted, crossing his arms. “But are you sure you can spare the people? I mean, there won’t exactly be a guarantee of their return…”
The old Seeker shook her head. “They realize that. Shanning, you must realize that we’re all dedicated to fighting the lavoid race. Our lives have never been guaranteed. But… nevertheless, the pilots I’m sending with you are the best. Unless the Dominion’s gotten much better troops in the past few years, I don’t think they’ll have too much trouble getting in an attack, then escaping.”
Darrell allowed a small smile to come on his face. “Well, if you’re certain… thank you.”
“It is the least we can do. You are, after all, Seekers.”
Terra grinned with that as well. “Like he said. Thank you very much.”
“You know, Darrell, it’s funny, but it’s starting to feel like we might actually pull this off.” Terra said half an hour later, just as they were exiting Karonne’s atmosphere in Meryl’s ship, alongside no less than a dozen specially outfitted Seeker fighters.
“What makes you say that?” Cynewulf asked, completely serious.
Terra looked back at him for a moment, then shook her head. “Well, look at the whole situation as it currently stands, brainy. You and Darrell discover you have superpowers… though your discovery took a little bit more work than Darrell’s, from the looks of you… we’ve got a fleet of Seekers at our backs, and we’re about to go to a planet full of people who actually kill lavoids on a regular basis. How would you say it looks?”
“I guess it looks okay.” Cynewulf returned.
Terra sighed. “I swear, those computer things have made you way too literal for my liking…”
“Ah, get over it, Terra. But you’re right. Things are finally starting to look good for us.” Darrell leaned back in his chair and yawned. As he did, a small voice in the back of his head, one that was him, and yet not quite him, sounded. What it had to say made him sit straight up in his chair and goosebumps break out over his flesh.
‘Don’t be quite so sure, Darrell…there are lavoids in your future.’
“The black wind howls again…”
Authors’ Note: The excerpt from Darrell’s book at the beginning of the chapter was actually a quote taken from a joint paper Mox Jet and I are doing on theories based around Lavoids and the Multiverse. The passage used was some of Mox’s writing.
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