Author’s note: This chapter not only continues the story, but should refresh everyone’s memories of certain important facts – I think that’s necessary, considering the hiatus, which I am still regretful of. If there are any inconsistencies in certain specifics, bring them to my attention. But honestly, I purposefully wanted to change some things, because I dislike certain things in this story in the past. I apologize if it is rather lengthy, but I think you will forgive me. And once more, it’s nothing like my older stories, and I hope you notice the change in my style. This arc is the beginning and the end: the beginning of a new phase of my writing and the end of what was my favorite project and first fan fic. I love all of these characters and the stories, but, alas, all good things must come to an end, my friends.
Now enjoy the first chapter of Requiem.
"Requiem," Chapter I:
Date: July 2011, 12:02am
Mary’s thoughts wandered since her and Alek left the D’Kari slave world - or, to be more specific, since she had regenerated. She was oblivious to the discussion taking place before her between Alek and Zack.
It felt like a year since she left the D’Kari slaveyards. She was drained of any semblance of energy; how much could a single person take?
What world have I entered? I didn’t expect any of this. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Was she regretting her decisions? Back when she was a teenage seventeen year old girl still in high school; No cares, no worries. No, that wasn’t true. She was unfulfilled. She wanted more, to explore more; to see more. Maybe she was wrong to think this way. She might have grown up to appreciate Earth, present day, for what it was. After Alek had left her, she tried to be ordinary. But that was a hard thing. When one has seen stars born, had a front row seat to a supernova, it was impossible to go back and read about such things and notice how the books could be so wrong in their facts.
Mary’s original intent was to see new worlds, new people, new things. She was heartbroken the day that Alek - for her own safety, she later understood - didn’t allow her to come with him on his travels. But now, she was revisiting why that was. Of course she wanted to travel; to see the stars. But was that all? She knew that she loved it for a time.
Alek had rescued her from the old woman, Sliri, who had kidnapped Mary as bait for him. She was twenty then. Alek had allowed her to travel with him again, as long as she trained with him. During one of their training sessions, they had a minor renewal of their old emotions. She didn’t deny them anymore.
Mary’s mother, Betty, paid the price for being affiliated with them. As did Chloe. They didn’t do anything wrong. At the time of both their deaths, Mary had cried. It hit her, all the death, all the destruction, on their way back to Earth from the D’Kari slave world.
Since Mary’s regeneration, she was constantly looking into every reflective surface to examine her appearance: still young, different hair color – brown, in sharp contrast to her shiny blonde locks - she was a slight bit taller, which she still wasn’t used to, and an oddly different taste in her mouth that she hoped wouldn’t always be apparent to her. The idea of a completely new body, one she didn’t completely accept as her own, felt… wrong to her. The most shocking of all her new features were her eyes. Color changed to green, but this didn’t bother her too much. It was the stare. Her eyes didn’t give off the warm appearance her old ones did. They looked… convicted. Determined. Whatever the meaning, it scared her.
Mary was pulled away from her thoughts when a third voice – Ashley – entered the conversation. She held a palm to her earpiece in an attempt to separate both the conversation she was having and the discussion before her.
“UNIT is currently attempting to cover up this incident. It was the ‘result of fanatics,’ according to their people,” Ashley said, apparently muting her comm. device.
Zack turned to face her, “Tell them we’ll handle the cleanup.” Ashley responded with a nod before turning away, going back to another conversation on her comm.
“This isn’t the end of it. The D’Kari will strike back again.” Alek said. He turned to Mary, “You alright? You haven’t said anything since we landed.”
She looked at him, barely moving her head, “Fine. I… I’m fine, really.”
“We can talk later, alright?”
Mary nodded her head, too deep in her own thoughts for a real conversation anyway.
“Zack, you said you had something to tell me before.What is it?”
Zack sucked on the inside of his cheek, a gesture of uneasiness, Alek had told her.
“Zack?” Alek prodded.
Zack lowered his gaze momentarily. “James Tailor. He… Alek, I’m sorry.”
Alek narrowed his eyes, but his posture waned, “What?”
“He was killed, Alek. The main gun artillery aboard our capital ship was destroyed by enemy fire. I’m really sorry.”
Mary grasped Alek’s hand; for an odd reason, things even felt different to her in this body, “I’m so sorry,” Mary said in a hushed tone.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a figure put a palm on Alek’s back. The figure spoke, “My condolences.”
Sliri. The old woman.
Alek whirled around at the voice, grasping the woman by the neck and pinning her to a nearby wall. Mary didn’t even blink in surprise at the act, and her only thoughts were of the woman.
“Who the hell are you?!” Alek demanded through gritted teeth. Mary felt an angry ball of fire swell in her chest, burning through her esophagus and threatening to light up her skull. She thought of her mother, of Chloe, of what she and Alek went through.
She released a cough, weakly attempted to pry Alek’s tight fingers away from her throat, but to no avail. “Wasn’t my fault,” she struggled, almost as if she was reading Mary’s mind. “I need you. It’s why I took the girl. I saved you from the D’Kari in the dream world. I had nothing… nothing to do with your captures – at any time,” she inhaled deeply, “I… I was h-helpless when you were enslaved. B-but you escaped, which proves my motives correct.”
Alek loosened his grip slightly, but Sliri’s body language showed that she didn’t notice a difference in the pressure on her windpipe and neck muscles. “Please, release me. I w-will explain everything – everything.”
Alek complied with her wish. She dropped to her knees, grabbing her own throat for a moment, attempting to regain her lost oxygen. “Alright, talk.” Alek. Zack and Ashley holstered their weapons, but remained on alert – Mary had not even noticed that they had drawn the guns to begin with.
Sliri straightened herself, bracing herself against the brick wall. “What is your query?”
“Who are you?” Mary inquired.
“And who the hell are we up against?” Zeck asked.
Sliri grinned, “Who am I? Well now, an interesting question. If you have the time to humor an old woman’s drawn out tale, I would be happy to indulge your curiosity.”
“Get on with it.” Jake scowled, one mechanical arm crossed over an organic limb.
Sliri smiled, “Very well.” She closed her eyes, as if reminiscing a brighter time. “I was born on Earth; I am one of the only human cultists. I was taken when I was a very young woman; thirteen, perhaps. I think it was in the year of eighteen eleven. Oh, but it has been so long… my mind is becoming… hazy.”
“Enough with the act,” Jake scoffed, “None of us buy it.”
Sliri cast her eyes upon him, “Hold your tongue, boy,” she chastised.
Jake made a motion, as if he meant to strike her. Xian put a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to calm him. Sliri ignored the entire affair.
“Now, the D’Kari, whilst exploring the universe, sent scouts to find samples of other lifeforms. I was their first human, you see. I became a slave, like most of their ‘samples’ – the unlucky ones became test subjects. I dreamed of one day reuniting with my family, but that was simply the youthful optimism of a child. I met many beings, none I could truly call friend. They came and went; either killed, died of numerous “natural” causes, or were transferred to another slave yard.
“For years, I was without hope. I lived day to day, only surviving, but I sealed my self away from others, for fear of further torment. But one day, I met a D’Kari slave master. His name was Abaster Silat. Unlike others, he wasn’t a cruel man – at least, he was not for me. Somehow, I had touched his heart. He was lax, gave me special treatment not afforded to the common slave. A year after I met him, we began a… secret affair. If the D’Kari cultists knew, they would have killed Alester and me both, but no – they never discovered.
“He saw something in me. To this very day, I cannot fathom what, but he did. I was nothing unique, but he thought otherwise. One day, he chose to take me to the Cultists, bringing me into the fold, presenting me as a unique slave, pretending we knew nothing of one another prior. He warned me of what the process would entail, but I cared not for pain.
“Ten years. Ten years of tortures and ritual. The torture meant many things; they were meant to test the conviction of the subject, to teach them how to endure pain, and a very… unique and painful ritual was meant to imbue one with special power. This was the last piece of the ordeal, and I was welcomed. I abandoned the name given to me by my paternal figures, adopting “Sliri” as my new name. The name was… oh, I have forgotten,” she smiled for a moment, but it was look of sadness, not joy – lest one may confuse the two.
“You mentioned powers?” Zack pressed.
Sliri looked up, her face appearing as if she had awoken from a trance. “Each cultist is given a unique supernatural ability, which cannot be undone nor changed. Some, the legion of guardians whose only purpose is combat, choose offensive abilities, most including a suicide strike that will unleash unless they are killed before they get the chance. They will die taking as many enemies with them as they can. This, unfortunately, is what killed the girl’s maternal figure.”
Mary stiffened at the crude remark. She clenched her fist, restraining herself.
Alek stared at her with curiosity, “What is your power?”
“Mine? Oh, I am not so violent. I cannot be seen or noticed if I don’t want to be, and I have the power to travel anywhere with a thought.”
“So why not go to this Kilam Asari man and slit is throat?” Zack asked.
Sliri turned her attention to him, “Have I gotten to Asari yet in my story? Hm? Patience. Is that something none of you understand?
“Anyway, we are also granted longevity. I am around a thousand Earth years old. The D’Kari live in the past, present, and future. I am not immortal; I simply age very slowly. But I wonder how long I have… perhaps two hundred years more, I think. The highest ranking in the cult – yes, that is Asari – will live much longer and given the gift of eternal youth. He will die in his prime.
“Me and my love, Abaster – who went from slave master to a Cultist leader – rose in power and grew to hold great sway over the highest ranking. We were happy, and the D’Kari were simply a nomadic cult. Slaves were fewer then, working on small mobile stations.
“But things always change. The cult changed, desiring power. Complete power over creation. The universe would bow before us. I heard grave things while wandering where I was not meant to, hearing that which was not intended for my eyes and seeing what wasn’t for my eyes. I pled with Abaster to believe me. For reasons unknown, he did not heed my warnings. I tried to get others to come to me and, for a time, I had some followers. It was ill-conceived. We were discovered, and they were all executed. Abaster… I never heard from him again. I did what I do best, and I vanished. Since then, I’ve hidden in the darkness, searching for a way to bring down the cultists.”
She walked closer to Alek, carefully placing a hand on his shoulder, “I have been watching you. You are the only hope this universe has of saving itthe D’Kari.”
Alek thought over Sliri’s story with some skepticism. “Even if this is true, why me?”
Sliri sighed, “There was another man I had considered; a man similar to you. The Oncoming Storm, or so he was called. But it is not his destiny, for he has other enemies to face, other adventures to be had. This is your destiny, Alek.”
Mary turned to Sliri, “What makes you believe it’s his ‘destiny?’ “
Sliri snapped her head in hostility to face Mary. Her face softened as she spoke, “I have seen a vision. The one with many faces, traversing time and space in their dark craft.”
“And you think it’s him?” Xian queried, stepping up to them. The group had become much tighter as the discussion continued.
“Who else?” Sliri turned her attention back to Alek, “I’ve been watching. You are the one we need.”
“Why should I – or any of us – trust you?” Alek scoffed in contempt.
“Because I have never given you a reason not to. I have done nothing but attempt to get your attention. I’m sorry for what I did for the girl, but understand that she was in no true danger. I knew that she would live; I knew you could save her.”
Alek released a breath that he had seemingly unconsciously held. “And what would you have us do? Did you not see? We could not defeat them. We lost good people today! I lost a… a good friend. Mary lost her mother. This… this is something we can’t face.”
Sliri chuckled, “It’s not like you to give up. If you believe this will be done without sacrifice, you are gravely mistaken. But if you do not, those you love are doomed to death regardless. Choose, assassin.” She bit out that word as an insult. Mary saw it visibly pain him, and she hoped Sliri would not notice.
“And if we agree?” Zack inquired, accent thick this time, “What then? It’s obvious that what we just tried won’t work. Do you even have a plan, do you?”
Sliri sneered, “Of course I do.” She reached into her jacket pocket and retrieved a square holographic projector. The light morphed into the shape of a cube, “They’ve been working on it for years. The purpose is to absorb all light in the universe. It’s called the ‘Dark Storm,’ quite appropriately. It remains unfinished. Destroying it will strike a blow against the D’Kari.”
Ashley inspected the image, “How did you discover this?”
“My abilities, dear. But I am not alone. My servant, Iralis, has spied for me for decades. He is how I discovered you and young Mary were in the mental prison.
“Do you trust him?” Jake said, injecting himself into the conversation.
“I trust his information, but I am not foolish enough to tell him my whereabouts. Should he be captured, they would indeed break him, and I cannot risk it. His chosen ability is to communicate telepathically; it is the only way we contact one another.” She flicked off the hologram, replacing it back in her pocket. “One thing you cannot use is your black box. The Dark Storm’s defenses make it impossible to get close without being snuffed out. Simplistically, it would be like dropping a match into water.
“So how do you propose we get there?” Alek asked.
Sliri smiled, “It would have indeed been very difficult without that,” Sliri gestured to the transport Alek and Mary had used during their escape, “All you have to do is change the codes. Can you handle that?”