Prologue

 

 

 

"The calamity from the skies. The Lavoid. The possessor of power. The creation of chaos, from both within and beyond our bounds of space and time.

 

"The Lavoid Grendel crashed upon our planet Zion in the intergalactic year of 1016, during the planet's medieval era. The calamity was soon all but forgotten, and by 1400, only a crater along the southern coast was left.

 

"The Lavoid race is an insidious one, an intergalactic race of parasites… but perhaps they are more than even that. There are rumors that they themselves are the dark Ethereal gods of our universe, and perhaps even of others.

 

"The Lavoid remained dormant upon our planet for millennia, harvesting nutrients and gathering DNA, to create a more perfect version of itself in it's offspring. Then, in the year 4500, at the onset of Zion's space age, it felt it had completed it's task. It was our own fault, really; we'd killed off so many of the planet's life forms in making a technological society that Grendel hadn't much work to do.

 

"We discovered his presence almost too late, and, in some ways, far too late…"

 

--Excerpt from Deus: Our Beginnings by Darrell Shanning.

 

 

 

Darrell Shanning sat on board a small space freighter docked in the fifth quadrant of Zion's main space port, searching desperately through a small manual for something vital. He was a man about 22 years old, with short gray hair and green eyes. He was something of a bookworm, as could be told from his somewhat slight frame, but the blaster pistol hanging at his side had obviously seen a lot of use. He wore a black set of pilot's fatigues, and was ready for the task at hand. With him was his best friend Terra Lyles. She was around 20, with long purple hair that flowed down to her waist and icy blue eyes. She wore a similar outfit to Darrell's own. Her hands gripped the freighter's control stick, her knuckles white from the amount of pressure she was applying

 

Darrell looked at the control panel before them, and, noticing something, frantically motioned at Terra..

 

"Flip the radio back on! We have to be able to hear if they let us go off-planet, especially if I can't find anything in here!" Terra, nodding, immediately switched on the device.

 

The city of Asgard was in a state of evacuation. The entire planet was in a state of evacuation, really. The worst of all calamities had been discovered, something unthinkable.

 

A Lavoid, which had been code-named Grendel by the scientists of Zion - scientists who were almost certainly already off-planet, Darrell thought bitterly - had been discovered beneath the planet's surface. Normally, this alone would be cause for no small amount of alarm. Even worse, though, the scientists had also learned that this Grendel had already begun his ascent to the surface. When he made it up… the entire planet would be wiped clean of life. The chances of survival were astronomical, Darrell knew.

 

And worst of all, the evacuations were being handled in the worst way possible.

 

At first, there had been a mass panic and a run for the ships. It had taken Darrell and Terra nearly an hour to get to their freighter alone. The cities had become incredibly dangerous, with people driven mad by the fear looting stores and killing innocent bypassers.

 

And then had come this insane amount of regulation on take-off. It hadn't existed for the first ten minutes after the evacuation signal was given, but there had been nearly 500 wrecks, all fatal, reported directly afterwards. Apparently the thousands of ships simultaneously trying to take off had caused too much traffic in the skyways, with nowhere to move, and no way to maneuver on-planet if there had been.

 

The regulations were worse, though, and the people left to oversee them knew it. There had been a lockdown performed on all ships, meaning that the engine of their freighter wouldn't even start itself until they were granted clearance. Also, they were only letting three ships go at a time. It was a ruinous plan, and a suicidal one. The time until Grendel surfaced could number in hours or seconds.

 

"That's it!!!" Darrell shouted, smacking a finger down on a diagram in the freighter manual he'd been looking over.

 

"What? What?" Terra asked, peering over his shoulder curiously - and desperately, to tell the truth.

 

"I've found the manual override to the government's control lockout on the ship!" Terra's eyes widened.

 

"That's in the manual?" She asked incredulously, scared to get her hopes up.

 

"Well, kinda. It tells where the chip's located, in a rather roundabout way. If we reroute power around engine four, it should cut it off entirely."

 

"That will give us less power to break free of Zion's gravity." Terra said, even as she began to move over to the control panels in the tiny freighter.

 

"If we have to wait on the beauracrats to let us go, I doubt we'll have to worry about our ship's power supply."

 

Terra nodded gravely at that, and set to work rerouting power. After a few minutes, they'd succeeded, as was made very apparent when a small light started blinking on the ship's console.

 

" Darrell yelled out, looking at the panel. The light meant that Zion security had been alerted to the fact that the chip had been shut down. "Terra, start the engines, and fast! If we don't hurry, we'll have a squad of soldiers on our backs!" Terra complied without speaking a word in return, immediately strapping herself in as she flipped several switches to launch.

 

After but a few moments, the launch was complete, and they flew straight up out of the docking area, the engines that were running pushed full throttle.

 

Just as they reached wide open sky, four ships appeared on the horizon. These were not evacuees, though. They were police squadrons, heading straight for Darrell's ship. For a moment Darrell relaxed, figuring there wasn't much the planet-bound ships could do, until they did something rather unexpected.

 

They opened fire on the freighter, laser cannons spewing green energy.

 

"Evasive maneuvers, Terra! I'll log on the weapons systems." Terra glanced at him for but a moment, terror in her eyes. The protectors of Zion were attacking them, trying to kill them! What was worse was the fact that they'd likely succeed. The freighter had but a few cannons on it, and they were outnumbered four to one.

 

Terra sent the freighter into a barrel roll, thus avoiding the first blasts, even as Darrell pulled up the ship's targeting system. Getting a bead on the faster police craft proved difficult, though, as they zipped around the freighter at speeds a true spacecraft couldn't pray to attain while gravity-bound.

 

The four ships completely surrounded the freighter, and prepared another volley. Darrell whispered a silent prayer. He knew there was no way that even Terra could dodge bolts coming from four different directions at once, not while gravity-bound.

 

It was all over. Darrell closed his eyes, and prepared for the void, when a sudden noise shocked him. There was a rumbling like an earthquake coming from the ground below, but it was so loud that it seemed to cause even the freighter to shake with it.

 

"Oh my lord." Darrell whispered, as he jumped from his seat to a nearby port window. What he saw there would remain with him for the rest of his life.

 

About half a mile from the Asgard spaceport, Grendel had broken the surface, ripping apart about a quarter of the city in that action alone. He had a great, spiny shell, and would have almost resembled a porcupine, except for the fact that these spines were barbed and twisted in intricate patterns, giving the Lavoid a sort of dark beauty. He was a crimson color, the color of blood. It seemed all too appropriate to Darrell.

 

Forcing himself to look away from Grendel for just a moment - for the beast had somehow captivated him, like an animal stopped dead by the headlights of an aero-speeder - to motion to Terra.

 

"Hurry! It's started! We have to get off-planet, NOW!!!!" Terra didn't even nod, but hit the thrusters and gripped tight the controls. Her face had paled to the same shade of white as her knuckles.

 

The police ships made a rather pathetic attempt to follow, but it was mingled with their desire to flee to the far corners of Zion and failed almost immediately.

 

Darrell looked back at Grendel, horrified as he saw a number of the spines on his back pull backward, bending at hideous angles to each other, revealing only darkness beneath. As they did, an almost supersonic humming noise pervaded the atmosphere itself, causing Darrell to grab at his ears in pain. The freighter itself lurched as Terra felt the scream tear through her, but she managed to keep it aloft and on course.

 

Then… the pools of darkness on Grendel's back took on a fiery glow. Darrell's eyes widened as he realized what the Lavoid was doing.

 

"Hurry!!!!!" he screamed, though he didn't recall trying to do so. The cry had seemed to come from something deep within him, and the voice that had created it hadn't even sounded like his own. His entire frame shook with fear, which was odd, since Darrell wasn't a cowardly man.

 

The young man watched as the glowing areas exploded into fire, into rays similar in ways to a laser cannon, but somehow different at the same time. These rays didn't move in a straight line, but arced up and over, until they came back down upon Zion and seemed to splash like a liquid over the landscape. It was obvious that these rays were not liquid, however, as they rippled outward, setting aflame some buildings and disintegrating others. Soon the red glow pervaded the entire horizon, which was becoming ever-larger as the two came near to getting off-planet.

 

Just as his despair seemed to reach it's limit, another jerk inside the ship drew his attention. He turned to find Terra struggling to keep the control stick on target, even as he heard the engines sputter and whine.

 

"What's going on, Terra?" he said, even as he ran back to his copilot's chair and started looking over various monitors.

 

"It's that fourth engine. Without it, it doesn't look like we have enough power to break atmosphere." Terra's voice was grim and resigned, and Darrell realized that the woman could be going into shock.

 

"It HAS to work! Look, I'll reroute all power into the ship's engines. You just keep us in the air, okay? If we don't make it now, we're dead!" Darrell tried to sound calm for Terra, but he failed miserably, his voice trembling.

 

He then sprang into action, his fingers flying over a keypad before him. He drained every ounce of energy in the particle shields and wired it into the engines, knowing full well that this would likely cause irreparable damage to the shield systems, but not really caring. He then altered the laser cannon's energy flow-rate by 50%, and drained that into the number 1 engine.

 

By this point, the engines themselves sounded as though they would go into a stall, but the additional energy had overloaded them as well. With a final squeal, they burst free of the gravitational pull of Zion into the cold depths of space. Just as they pulled far enough away to avoid orbiting the ruined planet, the engines went completely dead. Darrell sighed in relief mixed with disbelief, and let his head rest on the console before them. Terra finally let her grip on the controls relax, and went limp in her chair.

 

"Zion… it's really happened." Terra said, mostly to herself, and looked over at Darrell.

 

"Our entire planet… wiped from existence. So many millions of people wiped out. So much raw… power." Darrell stood up as he spoke, and looked out of the porthole of their ship. The red glow which had encircled the entire globe of Zion was beginning to fade, leaving behind it fires visible even from space. The great forest of Shinare, last haven of ecology on Zion, was burning, the fires that dotted the 4000 mile glade burning with a cold light.

 

"What do we do now, Darrell?" Terra asked, tears gleaming in her eyes as she, too, saw the extent of the destruction.

 

"What can we do?" He said despairingly, still staring at the burning, wrecked planet he'd once called home.

 

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