THE KEY, THE GATE, THE SEED.
Eons before the dawn of man, when amoeba were the only life on the Earth, in the darkness between the stars a battle raged. A war so fierce that
suns are destroyed and planets reduced to rubble. Two races are annihilated, their essence scattered, great works disintegrated, their homes ashe.
Between the gulf of galaxies a vessel glides inexorably onward, on board the sole survivor, asleep in a vault of wondrous design, kept alive. Ready to
be revived at a specific moment in time, a time when man would be ripe, when the final shot would be fired in a war that no longer existed in this
space or time, when the seed of that final assault would bear fruit or die.
BAB-ILU somewhere near the galactic rim.
Aidjen knew it would be close. Still he ran, the sound of blood pumping through his veins was singing in his ears, the sting of enhanced musculature
strained to the physical limit bought tears to his eyes, unbidden. The chasm ahead was closing inexorably, teasingly close. Maya's breath was hot on
his shoulder, she was faster and would pass him by in moments.
" We cannot fail ", the thought rang clear in his mind, banishing the dread, albeit momentarily.
Maya's lithe form intruded on his peripheral vision, a svelte, dark goddess in figure hugging nano armor. As she drew level she flashed him a
hopeful smile, at any other time his heart may have melted. The gap between death and freedom was closing, and he realised that it was closing too
" For me at least ", he thought as Maya forged ahead.
" Go ". Aidjen dived and his hands met Maya's familiar rump, he pushed, and she was through.
He turned to face the wrathful fury of the pretre de desespoir.(priests of desperation)
Aidjen sighed resignedly as the storm cloud approached," my love is safe from these devils at least ".
Eye's closed to the coming demon's," eternal fire can not compare to the love i've lost ".
Maya saw the chasm closing and knew she would be too late, just as those familiar hands closed on her rump and pushed. She would have screamed " NO
" if she'd had the chance.
Slowly her senses returned, grief, hit her like a bullet through the heart.
Maya stretched stiffened bones and rose gingerly to her feet." That was some bitchin trip ".
There was very little light, after a few feet there seemed to be an endless night shrouded in echoe's. There was a vague greenish black pattern
swirling on the wall behind her, the gate had closed and its final emissions were discharging into the bare rock. With a conscious effort she forced
her vision to adjust into the infra red. Above her head, forty feet or so, there were low emission heat sources, seemingly hanging from the ceiling.
Ignoring the lower life forms she made her way towards what was obviously an open heat source.
Maya looked out on paradise, a tear ran from an eye. Aidjen's smile registered as a brief gust across her nape, his sigh whispered through the
boughs of the greenest tree's she had ever seen. His kiss was the dew forming on her cheek. Her soul screamed silently in such majestic beauty "
where is my love ".
Silent programs ran. Data crossed neural pathways and communicated. Senses registered. Vision returned, sound, smell, taste and touch. Aidjen awoke.
Cold stone surrounded him on all sides, except for one wall, which contained a door, steel, hard and heartless, the gaze of its bars relentless. There
were guard's of course, robed and hooded, minions of The One.
The priest's were slow, without guidance from above they believed their captive to be just another man caught in the flow of time. It was Aidjen's
Maya stood halfway up a shale covered slope overlooking a verdant green valley. A large river snaked its way through the lush forests that covered
the valley floor. She looked back into the slash in the mountain side from which she had just emerged. Above the opening, sculpted into the rock face
were symbols of, to her at least, an unknown language. Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of Aidjen, lost to her now, perhaps dead, light years
Wiping away the tears she focused on checking her equipment. Her nano armor, though dusty was virtually indestructable, it rippled across her torso
as she moved, seeming to both reflect and absorb light. Her Argus hunting knife was still strapped to her left leg, it nearly bought the grief of her
loss surging back as she remembered when Aidjen had presented it to her before their departure from Homeworld iv. The military issue survival pack was
still upon her back, though it seemed that her communication equipment had been lost in the headlong rush from Bab-ilu. Lastly, she was relieved to
see that her N77 pulse rifle was still three quarters charged and extra power clips hung from the equipment belt around her waist.
" Well " she thought, " may as well get moving ". It looked as though the sun would be setting in a couple of hours, though she had no real idea
what hours this planet kept. Or even where in the hell it was located.
Aidjen pretended to sleep, all the while watching the guards through the bars in the cell door. Occasionally they would move out of sight, though he
could still hear them talking in the gutteral pidgin that passed for a language here. Sophisticated language, like writing and science was not
tolerated on Bab-ilu, the One and his priests kept a tight reign on any thing that may influence or detract from their total control of the
population. A gutteral, primitive language was all that was allowed.
As the hours passed Aidjen continually monitored the movements of the guards through half closed eye's, seemingly a morose and dejected detainee but
in reality a scheming, focused killer and agent provocateur. Soon a pattern emerged and a plan began to take shape in his mind, beneath his peasant
garb Aidjen felt the familiar smooth form of his nano armor, it had taken on it's chameleon form, flesh colored and soft in the moments before the
priests had shackled him before the closed gate. With a deft touch to an area just above his hip the armor began to change, within minutes it had
become a deep blue black color that began to absorb visible light.
Am-hotep paced down the dungeon corridor, disgruntled at another shift in this damp, dank cesspit in the bowels of Bab-ilu, as his friends cavorted
forty floors above, celebrating the imminent return of the Eternal One. As he passed the cell of the recent captive a high pitched squeal caught his
attention, like fingers on a chalkboard. Curious Am-hotep peered through the bars into an empty cell, his first reaction was that he was looking into
the wrong cell before he realised too late that the cell wasnt empty, as a shadow detached itself from the wall by the door. Before he could scream an
iron grip was thrust through the bars, encircling his throat and crushing his windpipe, through fading sight Am-hotep watched in horror as the
darkness before him slowly solidified, then he saw no more.
Wearing the hooded robes of the priest Aidjen walked the labyrinthine halls beneath Bab-ilu, whilst in a corner of a cell back where he had been
minutes before a human form in peasant garb seemingly slept in a corner, its face turned away from the cell door, contorted in a richtus of agony,
Soon Aidjen came to an ascending spiral stone staircase, writhing up into the darkness, only briefly illuminated by torches every so often.
HOMEWORLD IV, the Crystal City of Light.
Ra-Amon stood at the podium, directly beneath the apex of the crystal pyramid, the centre of government for over three hundred worlds and the de facto
government of another thousand worlds that didnt know they were being governed, some that didnt even know that life beyond the stars existed.
Ra-Amon scanned the sea of faces seated at terraces all around him, the Elders.
" I come before you this day my lords to deliver dire news," He paused momentarily to gather his thoughts and continued,"the dark one and his
priests, as you know, have recently surged across a hundred and forty light years, their rate of progress astounding us all. The reason is now known,
they have a key."
There were gasps of disbelief from the assembled dignitaries, even a few spluttered curses, almost as shocking as the news itself thought Ra-Amon
before he quickly resumed, "My lords, if you please" his arms outstretched, " The news just arrived from Bab-ilu from two agents we had sent there
through a gate we thought unknown to the priests, but alas it is apparantly not so according to the communication we have received " He paused again
momentarily to wipe the sweat from his brow " we are no longer able to communicate with these agents so it must be assumed that they were unable to
complete their mission as the gate has been used again."
Now came the part he feared most, " my Lords we believe it is time to mobilise our forces and turn our efforts towards repelling this menace once and
for all and liberating those worlds that we had sworn to protect, worlds that have been turned to slavery and depravity by The Dark One and his
priests. These worlds that know nothing of what lies beyond the vault of night above their heads, still in many cases worlds that are only now forming
coherent societies. We must fight ".
Ra-Amon bowed and left the podium to scattered applause and intense whispering, the Elders obviously shocked.
Aidjen came to another door at the top of the stairs, he had passed four others that merely opened upon more cell blocks, and now contained four
corpses. This door however was at the end of a large well lit corridor at the other end of which there stood a marble arch, the interior of which
shimmered. Another gate. Aidjen rushed forward setting the key which dangled loosely from the chain at his throat, hoping as he ran that it's
coordinates were still set to wherever Maya had been sent. Behind him he heard shouts of surprise, but he wouldn't be stopped this time, he checked
the numbers on the key as he neared the arch, they meant nothing to him, the numbers read -666-. He dove forward in to a black abyss.
Maya started a fire in a clearing by the river, the sun of this planet setting below the mountains to the west. She thought of the hope that this
might be a world within the Empire, but it bought her no real comfort. She and Aidjen had learnt in their time on Bab-ilu that the priests now had
access to a gate key, bad news indeed, she hoped fervently that their last communication had reached their master Ra-Amon. Maya lay back on the grass
embankment and looked to the stars, so much light surrounded by so much darkness.
She felt herself drifting off when a noise from the undergrowth bought her instantly awake, she was on her feet in an instant, whirling to meet the
menace, her pulse rifle thrust forward.
" Whoa my love ", Aidjen entered the clearing arms outstretched, a gentle smirk upon his face.
"Aidjen", Maya dropped her rifle and rushed headlong into his waiting arms, for a while they both just stood there, entwined, silent tears mingling
on their cheeks.
Morning came and the sun peered down on the two lovers as they sat facing each other across the dying embers of a fire.
"It is as we feared love", Aidjen said " they have a key and at least two of the doors are tuned to this world".
"What significance could this world possibly have, it seems to me from the constellations that i observed last night that this place is far from the
empire, and even further from the Dark Ones demense".
"I know not Maya, but we must find a way to get these coordinates to the Elders".
"I lost my communication equipment in our flight from the priests and there is surely nothing here that we could use" Maya said in some
Suddenly from above there was a roar of air being displaced, black craft were rushing from the mouth of the cave halfway up the shale covered slope,
the priests had arrived. Maya and Aidjen rolled into the bushes by their campsite as the first of the craft swept by overhead. For the next hour they
lay side by side as the skies were filled, blocking out the sun.
"What now", asked Maya.
"If we can gain access to one of their craft we may be able to send the coordinates home, this world obviously has some part in the Dark Ones
With that decided the two moved off to the west following the direction of the sun and of the swarm of dark craft sent by the Dark One, the man that
had arrived from out of the interstellar darkness two thousand years ago and built his home in a tower on the world now called Bab-ilu.
The return coordinates for Bab-ilu were also 666, these two worlds, Bab-ilu and Earth, joined at the hip like siamese twins, with more in common than
anyone could possibly believe. One light, the other dark, connected by a number decreed by the Beast, the Dark One, the Eternal. The battle has just