“Man, do not pride yourself on your superiority to the animals, for they are without sin, while you, with all your greatness, you defile the earth wherever you appear and leave an ignoble trail behind you — and that is true, alas, for almost every one of us!”- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Tariz Mahaney had that engraved deep into his mind as he switched off his data-tome. There was something about the way this human defined the very essence of the destruction of nature, and the power humans themselves hold. But, it is not the humans anymore that matter. It is the greater power that has spread itself across the galaxy. The Vast Trade Collective.
Tariz placed the data-tome on the table beside him and walked outside. He stepped down off of his balcony, and then continued to walk. Tariz walked across his pastures. Walked through the empty fields, which cry out to him for love, for tenderness, some form of appreciation that told the fields that he cared. But he did not.
Filomena Meadows was nothing to him anymore. His homestead was once full of life, heart and soul, but now it is only a blank, barren blotch on a map. The only things Tariz could see as he walked through the fields that were animate and lively were the small wormlings in the soil; animals which have survived even before the Zurika and the Subjugation War, and the slight outline of the titanic buildings of the capital in the distance.
Visions of his two children began to arise. They showered over the fields, seeping into the soil and sprouting so that what Tariz was contemplating could become clearer. His children were playing with one another, running around, jumping over and sliding under the huntaki mousses without any cares in the world. They would jump on the back of Tariz’ tractor and pretend they were Systems Authority lieutenants bringing in the ‘bad guys’ and use oversized branches from the trees around the Nazura Dunes as rifles.
He looked at up Ulikar Peak in all its tremendous prominence. He cried.
Every inch of the mountain has some form of flora or fauna capped all across it. Tracks scattered around the edges of the rocks, leading up to the Shrine of the Veiled: ancient gods once worshiped by the Zurika whom were inhabitants of this planet before Tariz’ people and the Vast Trade Collective toke it from them and exiled them out into dark space.
He cried because that is where his children were last seen… Alive.
He would go over and over continuously as to what and why this had happened to them. Why not him? Do the sentinels have no mercy? He could not come to terms with their initial kidnapping. They would bug him every minute of every day to let them venture up the mountain and play. There would be days where he would let them go by themselves as long as they had their data-band trackers activated, and there would be days he would go with them. But the day they went missing, was the day he did not go with them.
Looking up at the peak of the mountain, he was determined to go back up there. Ever since his children’s disappearance, Tariz would hike up the mountain every day and go to the Shrine where he found his children’s belongings, trying to find some clue as to what had happened to them.
What made it even more agonizing, was the way Systems Authority were treating the case. Apparently, they have an even bigger case going on they have been investigating for months. Tariz recalled his interview with the Kelcorian officer. Tariz was adamant that the officer believed Tariz to be the one behind their disappearance. That he did this! Tariz did not further cooperate with him, which may have looked suspicious on his part, but Tariz is no human. He is a Lugrathon. A proud Lugrathon, dedicated to his race, his family. Why would he harm his own life and blood? The children he watched hatch from their eggs as his wivera lay there lifeless. All the more, why would anyone want to take his children?
He stomped up the hill with vehement speed. He noticed the clouds in a distance, forming over the beaches of Irch Banks, but ignored them. The storm would most probably reach him in a couple of hours, but he had enough time to reach the Shrine and hopefully make it back to the ranch in time.
Before Tariz knew it, he was half-way up the hill already. He did not even notice the struggle he had breathing, and when he finally did, he stopped. He bent over and leant on his knees, breathing in heavily as his view caught the sight of Cor Hydrae’s capital, Panilay.
All he could think about as he looked at the landscape was to spit all over it. Shit on every stupid ass-hole that believed everything was damned well fine. But Tariz knew that he was one of those ass-holes. He came to this world. He settled. He believed that for the rest of his life, conflict would not come. That all seemed like a pipe dream to him now. Maybe the death of his wivera influenced him to bring his children to the ‘Pinnacle of the Vast Trade’. Get them away from a home that brings nothing but bad memories, not only for them, but for him. He was not too sure. He was not thinking straight at all.
Tariz reached the hill with ambivalent triumph. He looked around the Shrine with equivocal intentions. What am I doing up here again? All the more, what am I looking for? He thought to himself.
Every time he would come up here, he would always be blown away by the exquisiteness of the statue positioned in the centre of the shrine. So accurate, so deliberate as if it placed itself there.
The statue itself was large and tenuous and made of a substance Tariz was not familiar with. The statue was carved in the form of a humanoid with a face well-crafted and distinct. The face itself was carved with tremendous detail, with reflections of what looked to be stars and planets on a face as smooth as the summer lakes in Darkolo Isles. Tariz had not noticed before, but the humanoid was holding some form of sphere in his hand, with patterns and what looked to be letters, sprinkled around, and a small metallic orb, deeply engraved.
He took a moment to forget the statue, and instead decided to stand where he was and scan the area around him. Maybe he were to find something he had not before. Maybe he could find some clues as to where his children are, or who took them for that matter. He scrummaged through the limited shrubbery that was around, hounding from left to right as the wind began to pick up.
He looked behind the pillars of the shrine for any objects which do not belong. He even gawked over the edge of the mountain top to catch a glance of anything that could catch his eye.
Tariz kicked the dirt into the air, and watched as the particles floated up into the sky like shuttles coming and going from the space port. He slumped hard onto his knees, ineffectual tears dropping from his pale pink eyes, down along his green, scaled face. What else can he possibly do?
He grabbed a handful of dirt and held it in his hands. He brought the dirt up towards his nostrils and smelt it. It smells like incompetence, he thought to himself. He began dissing and biting back at his conscious thoughts of ending his life here and now. It could all be over in a heartbeat. He would be able to see his kids again… his wivera.
NO! He screamed to himself internally, jumping at his own deafening clamour. He knew that doing what he intends would make him a coward. Tariz recalled his father saying to him when he was younger that the only way to go out of this world is if you fight and lose, or if nature has other plans. But doing what he thought, was not one of the proposed.
Tariz watched as the dirt seeped through his fingers like sand in an hour-glass. One thing that did seem out of the ordinary, was that the dirt was not hitting the ground as it fell. Instead, it was floating upwards, high above his head. He was bewildered. Tariz stood up from the ground, with another handful of dirt in his hands. He slowly opened his palm, the dirt fluttering through the air with motions of eccentricity. What the shindai?
The specs of dirt that are drifting through the air all came together in one group, a likeliness uncanny. The particles began to reverberate as did the floor beneath Tariz. The vibrations were slow and calm at first, but as Tariz watched further along, the vibrations became more hysterical, like they were spooked. The particles bashed outwards, spreading apart in one swift motion. They held their stance for a moment, than in an instant they slammed into one another, exploding on impact.
Not only did the dirt explode, but a bright, blue flashing light blazed from behind Tariz. The flash of the light was so bright that it had blinded him even though he was facing away from the impact.
He turned, dumbfounded as to what had just occurred. The vibrations from underneath him were still present, but only vaguely. He glanced around the Shrine, but found nothing. He may see nothing, but he damned well feels something. A presence maybe? He did not know, but he did not like the aura that had arisen in the minute this had all occurred. He had a deep gut-feeling that was telling him to get going, to leave this place and never return. So he did.
He traced his steps back to the dirt track he came from. As he was walking towards the track, he noticed the shrubbery around him, and how motionless they were. Not even a hint of movement, they were as still as a cement block at the bottom of a pool. Then in a blink, an uproarious boom erupted from behind him, and only then did the shrubs begin to move. Only they moved inward, as if they were being pulled into something from behind him. He could feel his loose pants pulling themselves back, so soft yet so briskly that it was going to stretch the material even more.
Tariz glanced back behind him, stunned as to what he was witnessing. What he saw, was round. It was illuminating, with no metals or substances bordering around it, just a round, natural, illuminating circle sitting in front of him. Tariz walked closer, intrigued. Within the circle, Tariz saw something he never would have thought possible. Within the circle was a view of great proportion. A view which consisted of stars, planets, moons, and galaxies, sitting right in front of him. As he walked closer to the circle, it began to get colder. Colder to the point where his breathing would be followed by a cold breath puffing from his mouth.
The sight was incredible. He could blissfully see the eclipse of a red planet in the distance and witness the illumination of the white sun. The glare reflected upon him, a light unnatural to his setting, but within this circle, it was made possible. Tariz could not believe what he was seeing, and the first thing to come to his mind was that this round, natural, illuminating circle sitting in front of him was a portal. Or a gateway to another part of his galaxy. Or another. He did not know.
Tariz wanted to slot his hand through this gateway. See what would happen. So, he grasped a handful of dirt from the floor once again, and chucked it at the gateway. The dirt morphed through the blue, luminescent field like paper touching fire. It synced through, and Tariz could easily see the dirt particles through the other side of the gateway, floating and crisply hardening with every centimetre it wafted through space.
Tariz was blown away by what was sitting in front of him. It had, for a few minutes, distracted him from what was around him. For a few minutes, he had forgotten about his children and let his imagination run wild. And for a few minutes, he had not noticed the metallic beast stalking in the shadows behind him, as it looked him up and down as if he were a child playing with its toy.
The metallic beast had armour coating his entire, powerfully built body, with shoulders as broad as a ship’s hull. The metals from the armour were cauterized onto its humanoid figure, forcing slabs of infected skin to seep between the seals of the shiny armour. The metallic beast’s helmet shielded its face from its unfamiliar prey.
As the metallic beast sprung closer to Tariz, a pebble beneath its tanked boots sprung off them as the metallic beast kicked it. Tariz was now out of his trance and paying attention. He turned around to come face to face with the metallic beast.
Tariz gawked as the metallic beast thundered moderately towards him, towering over his limp, idle body. He was shaking his head furiously, aware and well-knowledgeable as to who and what this ‘thing’ was.
He gulped. “N-No… It cannot be.” He sniffed, his eyes still fixated on the tank in front of him.
The metallic beast nodded with attentiveness, with a passionate tilt of his head towards Tariz. The beast said something in a language not known to Tariz. The language was mechanical, almost digital with some form of soul behind it.
“We thought you were dead.” Tariz exclaimed, tears blubbering within his eyes. The metallic beast shook its head calmly. It said something else in its alien language, making obscure gestures with its sharp, imposing hands, clenching them and throwing them around with monstrous force.
Then it finally said something. Something Tariz could understand. “WE HAVE RETURNED.” The metallic beast pushed Tariz with force through the gateway. Tariz’ body slipped through the luminescent field, his body freezing over slowly as he drifted through space. The view that he thought before was beautiful, now was deadly. As he drifted away, he could see the metallic beast staring at him callously as he slowly perished. More of the metallic beasts began to form up behind him, each varying in size.
Then, the gateway closed, and as it dissipated, Tariz saw a fleet of shadowed, splintered ships forming in the distance.
Sentinels, help us all. His breathing had slowed, and ultimately, stopped.